A year later, Mom and Dad adopted Germaine, a sturdy, six-year-old boy from the Home.

From the start there was bad blood between him and his new big sister, Claudette. There was endless arguing and fighting. Sometimes the battles got physical. I cowered in the corner, afraid. Sad too, because I could see how their constant battles upset our parents.

“Ma,” Claudette would yell. “Tell Germaine to leave my stuff alone. He’s taken my kokis. Again! If he doesn’t give them back, I’ll smash his face in.”

“Pa,” Germaine would whine, “Claudette won’t let me go to the mall with her. It’s not fair. I’ll cut up her jeans – then she won’t go anywhere!”

I saw the pain on Mom’s face and the strain on Dad’s. The fighting hurt them both badly.

“She’s your sister, Germaine,” Dad would say. “You need to treat her gently and with respect.”

“He’s your brother, Claudette,” Mom would beg. “Brother and sister shouldn’t fight. You should have each other’s backs.”

That set Claudette off. “No, he’s not! He’s not my real brother! He’s just some kid who got dumped in a Home. Why did you ever bring him home? I don’t want him. I don’t want Faheema either. There’s not enough space in the house. It was much nicer when it was just me.”

By that time, Ouma Plaatjies had passed away. So at least she never got hear those arguments. That was something to be happy about.

Sometimes when the shouting got loud, I sat at the piano and played: all the pretty little songs Ouma had taught me. The music wove a little circle of calmness around me. The music helped Mom and Dad too, I think. They would turn away from Claudette and Germaine and all their fighting, and smile a gentle smile in my direction.

The older that Claudette and Germaine grew, the worse the war became. Sometimes I believe it was the heartache from all that fighting that sent Mom and Dad both to early graves.

Mom was only 55 when she passed. Two years back now. “Her heart just gave in,” explained the doctor.

And then, last year, Dad joined her in the family plot at Greyton Cemetery.

Standing around Dad’s grave, Claudette and Germaine and I were adults now. Living our own lives. We’d all three moved out of the family home. I had a tiny flat and a job at the local library. But every Sunday I’d returned to visit the grave, to spend time with Mr and Mrs July. After all the love and kindness they had shown me, I wanted to give something back.

Claudette and Germaine didn’t visit often. They were both busy, Claudette with her new husband and Germaine with his wild friends.

Even at Dad’s graveside, Claudette and Germaine began arguing. They argued in hissing whispers so I couldn’t hear what the problem was. But still, I was horrified. What on earth could they find to argue about now? I mean, they’d both gone their separate ways. They both had their own lives. Surely they were too grown-up to still be fighting?

“Please don’t,” I begged them, tears streaming down my face anew. “Please, just for today, just out of respect for Dad, can’t you get on peacefully with each other?”


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