Masego’s parents arrived home from work, unaware of her near-death experience with the chicken. Her father pecked her on the cheek and her mother gave her a high five. Their pastor had recently preached about showing one’s children affection and her parents were trying hard.

Her mum and dad were also trying to show each other affection. They would often peck each other on the mouth while watching TV, or hold hands while driving. The pastor had said that it was important for parents to model a happy marriage for the children.

But Masego knew that her parents were not as happy as they appeared to be. Her father had had an affair with a woman from church a few years ago. Afterwards, Masego’s mother closed herself inside herself. One would have to dig deep to know what she was really feeling. During the first years of the adultery she would wait for everyone to go to sleep before she called her older sister in Taung. She would cry for what sounded like hours to Masego, who listened from her bedroom. Her father’s guilt paralysed him, and he would never get up to go and comfort his wife.

“How was your day?” her mother now asked Katlego from the lounge, as she checked his homework. Masego was washing the dishes after supper.

“It was fine. You know, school is school,” Katlego said, sounding polite, bordering on apologetic.

“Masego, where is your homework?” she asked, as she gave Katlego’s books back to him.

Masego froze and said nothing for a while. She had spent the afternoon fantasising about her date with Odwa and had completely forgotten that she had homework. She had to lie, and she had to sound convincing.

“We didn’t get homework today,” she said, and took a deep breath.

“Please bring me your books so that I can see for myself,” her mother said calmly.

There was no getting out of this, Masego thought. They had maths, English and accounting homework and she hadn’t touched any of it.

“I’ll bring them when I’m done with the dishes,” Masego said, trying not to sound nervous.

“So I’m telling you to do something and you are telling me to wait? What is this disrespect?” her mother said, walking from the lounge to the kitchen, until she was standing right in front of Masego.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t do my homework. I came back from school with a headache and I took a nap before I started with supper,” she said, crossing her fingers in the sink water and asking for forgiveness from God.

“Liar,” her mother said, staring hard at Masego. “Katlego!”

Katlego came running from the lounge where he had been saying a silent prayer, asking that tonight not end in conflict.

“Finish washing the dishes. Wena, Masego, go to bed!”

Masego and Katlego stood glued to the kitchen floor as their mother stormed off. Just before leaving the room she turned towards them and said, “Did I stutter?”

Masego dried her hands and Katlego took over from her, giving her the ‘I’m sorry’ look they shared at such moments.

Masego threw herself on her bed as she had done in the afternoon, but this time unhappily. She decided to do her homework and put the crazy day behind her. But then she heard her father’s heavy footsteps down the passage.

“Your mother will check your homework before you go to school,” he said, and switched off the lights.

“Oh, so now I must do my homework in the dark?” Masego thought angrily to herself.

Her father closed the door and she heard his footsteps receding. Seconds later her phone started vibrating. Odwa! She didn’t answer it. But as soon as it stopped she texted him back.

I’ll see you tomorrow at school.
Goodnight handsome [kiss face]

Just after pressing Send, she hatched a clever plan. She got out of bed, tiptoed to get her school books, and continued to do her homework using her cellphone flashlight. She felt victorious that her mother hadn’t thought this far.

 * * *

Tell us: What do you think about this very strict style of parenting?