Thandi leant back, stretched and yawned. She’d been working for hours on her Maths. It was beginning to get dark. She stood up and took a paraffin lamp down from the top of the wardrobe. Avile was still sleeping. She could hear his soft breathing as she pulled the blanket up to cover his little clenched hands where he lay on the bed. Then she struck a match. The yellow glow of the lamp filled the room.
At least Themba hasn’t come round this afternoon, she thought to herself. He was beginning to scare her. The way he showed up at any time of day or night. “To see his baby, Avile,” he would tell her. But she knew it was really to see her. She saw it in the creepy way he looked at her. She had tried to tell her sister, Nomsa. But Nomsa wouldn’t hear anything wrong about her boyfriend. She thought it was great the way her baby’s daddy wanted to spend time with him while she was out working.
All Themba did was jiggle Avile on his knee for a few minutes and then hand him back to Thandi when he started to cry. Then Thandi would sit with Avile on her lap and wait for Themba to leave. But he wouldn’t. He sat there staring at her with a stupid grin on his face. Sometimes he licked his lips. She hated it when he did that. The room seemed even smaller and hotter when he was in it. When she told him she was busy he just said that he wanted to spend more time with Avile. With her, more like, she thought. Sometimes it felt like she couldn’t breathe and she would take Avile and push past him out into the yard.
Since he left his job at Mr Delivery Themba had come round nearly every afternoon. Since Nomsa had got a job, Thandi was left to look after Avile.
It was hard to come home from school and still have to pick Avile up from Pinky next door. Nomsa paid Pinky to look after Avile till then. But Thandi took over his care for the afternoon. It was the least she could do to help Nomsa. The two sisters had had to be there for each other over the years. Their father had died many years ago. Their mother was away working all day. She had a sleep-in job, so they only saw her when she could get off. Thandi didn’t really mind helping with the baby. She did love Avile. Who wouldn’t? He was pretty adorable, with his dimpled cheeks and little kissable mouth.
But she was sixteen. She needed to get out too and have some fun. She also needed to study. Nomsa didn’t know all of Thandi’s dreams. She didn’t listen when Thandi tried to tell her how she longed to leave this one-room shack. How she needed something better than this.
She had managed to avoid falling pregnant herself. It wasn’t so hard to do. But here she was stuck with looking after her sister’s baby. It wasn’t fair. She didn’t want to be a mother yet, to her own, or anyone else’s baby. It was Nomsa that had messed up after all. And in her Grade 12 year as well. And with an arse-hole like Themba.
Themba had thought he was such a big deal, with his Mr Delivery motorbike, and his take-away pizzas. Thandi had been really surprised that Nomsa had fallen for that one. Nomsa must have thought Thandi was stupid to not know that her ‘staying home to study’ stories were nothing of the sort. Staying home to have sex with ‘Mr Delivery’ more like!
Even though Nomsa had tried to burn those pizza boxes in the yard, Thandi had spied the curled up remains amongst the ashes. That and the greasy cheese stains on the sheets.
“Sis man, Nomsa,” Thandi had said more than once. She had to share a bed with her sister. What was worse was the thought of what else had happened on those sheets while she was at school.
So what? Of course a baby happened. True story! What a surprise.
“How could you be so stupid!” That’s what Thandi had said when Nomsa told her. She was furious. Their mother had said much more. But most of it had been lost in snot and tears.
Anyway, Themba was still around.
Far too much. Far too close. Far too friendly.
What Thandi wanted more than anything was for him to be far, far away. She needed to get rid of him. It was getting dangerous. If he didn’t stop looking at her that way, and trying to touch her, she would have to tell Nomsa.
Tell us what you think: What advice would you give Thandi?