“Thobela Mmane (Hello Auntie),” Ace greeted nervously, sidling towards his bedroom.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“To my room, Auntie.” Ace’s voice was quivering.
“Just listen to him: ‘To my room’,” Mampe said, her hands flying in the air. “You say it as if this is your house. Is this your house? Mmm?” she continued, fuming.
Ace shook his head, glancing at Lefa who was sitting at the table next to his mother. The triumphant smile on Lefa’s face sent a sharp arrow through Ace’s heart. Had he revealed Ace’s secret? Could Lefa do that after he gave him so much money?
“Come back here!” Mampe snapped, stepping towards the broom that was lying next to the door.
Ace shuffled towards his aunt, fearful. “Is there a problem, Auntie?”
“Yes!” Mampe yelled. “A big problem. You! You don’t want to listen to me, right? You think you’re the man in this house?” she continued, gripping the broomstick in her hand.
“What did I do now, Auntie?”
“Don’t ask me nonsense, fool! I thought I told you to stop playing soccer and focus on your school work. Didn’t I?” she fumed, stepping forward towards Ace.
“You did, Auntie,” Ace said, nervous.
“But you played anyway. You want to fail Grade 11 again next year?”
Ace shook his head, silently.
“Speak up, idiot!” Mampe tried to hit Ace with the broomstick but he ducked in time. “Oh! You’re fighting me now?”
“Come Lefa. Hold him!”
Ace dashed into his bedroom, Lefa on his tail. He tried to push the door closed, but Lefa and Mampe overpowered him. As soon as they were inside, Mampe started beating Ace with the broomstick, mercilessly, all over his body, shouting insults. Lefa sniggered, sitting on the bed as Ace begged for mercy.
“Mampe! Stop it! You want to kill my child?” Ace’s father’s voice interrupted them. He was sitting in his wheelchair in the doorway. His thin, frail body was trembling in anguish.
Mampe stopped and glared at Ramello. She snorted like an angry bull.
“What did this boy do to deserve this terrible beating? Why are you so heartless?” There was sadness in Ramello’s sunken eyes.
“Oh! Now I’m heartless. Me? The woman who has taken care of you for six years. Six years since your wife died in that car accident, and you were left a crippled dog? I take care of you and this domkop of yours. But today I’m ‘heartless’ – when I’m trying to help this boy pass his Grade 11?” Mampe shouted, glaring at Ramello.
“Do you call this helping him? Beating him like this? This is not helping but trying to kill him. No! I can’t keep quiet and watch you harm my child anymore.”
“How can I kill my own sister’s child? Mmm! This is my sister’s child and I’ll discipline him as I wish.”
“But this is not the right way to discipline a child, woman. This is child abuse,” he explained, watching Ace who was tearfully sitting on the floor, leaning on the wall. “This boy is now eighteen years old. What will you do if he fights back?”
“Oh! Now I see. You’re the one who is teaching him not to respect me anymore, right? That’s why he behaves like a man in this house. You tell him he is old enough. Right, today he will sleep with an empty stomach. I can’t feed a man. So will you. You’ll wake your wife from the dead and tell her to give you food. I’ll teach you a lesson. Fool!” Mampe snorted, heading towards the door, kicking Ramello’s wheelchair out of her way. “Come Lefa. Let’s go and eat.”
Lefa followed his mother, looking smugly at Ace.
“Mampe! Mampe!” Ramello called. But his sister-in-law ignored him. He pushed his wheelchair and stopped in front of his son, stroking Ace’s shaven head with his shaking hand. “Don’t worry, my son. One day things will be fine.”
Tell us: Do you agree that Mampe is abusing Ace, not disciplining him?