We took my mother to the place where we left my brother. The boys who had attacked him had long gone. There were police vans, but no ambulance. Zanoxolo lay motionless with a yellow tape surrounding his body. His face was covered with his bloody blazer.
“I want to see if that is really my son!” My mother tried to force her way through the yellow tape but the police stopped her.
She cried when she recognised him. “No! Zanoxolo! No! You can’t leave me, my son.” She collapsed against one of the policemen who was blocking her way.
I couldn’t believe what was happening; minutes ago I was talking with my brother, then Poof! he was dead. If only I had pulled him by the hand when we were running, maybe he’d still be alive. Zanoxolo didn’t deserve to die like that.
“He was a gangster. These kids should know where the kind of life they are living will take them.” I could hear people who knew nothing about my brother talking in the crowd.
I hoped my father would return home, from wherever he was, after hearing the news of Zanoxolo’s death. My mother and I needed him now, but he didn’t come to the evening prayers, or the memorial service that was held at our school.
Zanoxolo was buried in Centane, Eastern Cape. That is where I saw my father again. He arrived in the middle of the funeral service, but he was not alone. He was with a woman who was holding a young boy by the hand – he must have been about six years old and looked very much like my father.
“Phumlani, my boy, come here,” Father called me after the funeral. He was standing next to his car which was parked near the gate entrance to the cemetery. The woman and the young boy were inside the car, waiting for him.
I stood in front of him and said nothing.
“You have grown up, son,” he said. Again I said nothing and stared at the car, then at him.
“Listen my boy, I had to leave but I never stopped loving you, my son. And it hurts me to see you again under these terrible circumstances after all these years. What happened between your mother and I had nothing to do with you, and I shouldn’t have let you suffer for it. I want to be part of your life again, Phumlani, my son.” His hands were on my shoulders when he finished his last sentence.
“And Mom?” I asked him.
“What about your mother?” he asked.
“Is she going to be part of your life too?” I said.
“I am afraid that won’t be possible, my son,” he said. I took a few steps back.
“Eh, come and greet your younger brother.” He opened the passenger door. “Come, Phumlani, say hi to Sizwe.” The woman in the car smiled nervously.
I glared at them and walked back into the house.
“Phumlani! Phumlani!” my father called after me, but I ignored him. I didn’t want anything to do with him and his new family. The only brother I had was dead, and the only mother I had was grieving.
* * *
Tell us: Phumlani had wanted his father, but his feelings change when he realises he has a new family. Do you think Phumlani’s father was fair to expect him to accept the new wife and brother at this time?