Mandi rode in the taxi to the church, thinking of Sindiswa and her lifestyle, and how simple it was. Sindiswa was probably the happiest person she knew. If she had the means to get herself a meal, put clothes on her back and read her Bible, everything was OK.
Mandi then thought of the scripture that her friend had preached: “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. If someone strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other. Forgive and move on.”
“It’s easier said than done, Sindi. Much easier said than done,” she said out loud.
She found the Pastor’s house. It was nearly midnight. There were only a few lights on. They’re all sleeping, she thought. But unfortunately they must wake up.
She knocked on the Pastor’s door. Getting no answer, she knocked again, repeatedly, and even harder this time, until a light from inside was switched on.
“Who is it?” a faint female voice asked.
“It’s me, Wendi, Mama. I’m in Pastor Lungelo’s cell group, and I have a problem with my child. Please could I see him for a second?”
A woman in a wheelchair opened the door. She looked to be in her mid-forties, stunning, with short hair. “How can we help you, Wendi?” she asked.
“I just need the pastor please, ma’am. I’m so sorry to come at this hour, but it’s really important.”
The woman studied Mandi and could feel her desperation. “Come inside, come inside. I’ll go call him. Take a seat, my dear.”
There were ramps inside the flat. Could she be his wife? thought Mandi. She waited in the lounge, studying the room. There were several framed photographs on the wall. The first was of Pastor Lungelo donating food to underprivileged children in a rural community. Picture two was of him and his handicapped wife enjoying themselves at a church camp with other associates. There were also certificates displayed, that showed that he was a member of the Red Cross Foundation.
Then the pastor appeared in person, dressed in a nightgown. Mandi panicked; immediately she pulled the gun from her waist band and aimed it at him.
Her eyes pierced into his face for a short while, examining – it was definitely the right person. Mandi could never forget those eyes; the ones that had mercilessly bored into her as she lay helpless on the ground.
He took a step back and nearly tripped from fright. “Wait, wait … hold on, what do you want? What do you need?” he stuttered. “Money? I have a little in the room.”
“Stop talking, you piece of shit and get down on the ground!”
Lungelo fell to his knees with his hands up, seemingly a bizarre caricature of a man praying.
Mandi had no plan.
“What is this about, my girl?” Lungelo asked, trying to pacify her.
Mandi kicked him hard, in the stomach. “Don’t you ever call me your girl, you filthy bastard. Now keep your hands up.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” the pastor pleaded, struggling to breathe after the blow to his stomach.
His wife wheeled herself closer, frantically. “What’s going on? You must be mistaken, my dear – my husband’s a reverend,” she said loudly, staring up at Mandi from her chair.
“Listen, lady, I don’t want to hurt you, but I’m sorry, I need you to get off your wheelchair and down next to him, with your hands behind your head.”
The woman cried, “We don’t have much, my child. We just–”
“Keep quiet, Sisi, and do as I say. Just sit beside him with your hands up. I don’t want your bloody money.”
Mandi trembled a little, still pointing the firearm at Lungelo.
“So, does the congregation know what you are? Does your wife know?” she demanded, and looked straight at the pathetic, frightened man in front of her.
“Yes, I don’t hide my history,” he replied, still shaken.
“So they know the kind of animal you were … twenty years ago?” Mandi probed.
Lungelo’s wife jumped in. “My child, that was a long time ago.”
“Shut up!” Mandi shouted angrily.
As she turned to her rapist, she heard a noise coming from a bedroom. She straightened her gun, aiming directly at the pastor. “Who else is in there?”
They both kept quiet. She asked again and held the gun close to Lungelo’s head.
“Call them over, nicely,” Mandi whispered.
“You don’t have to do this, Wendi,” the pastor pleaded.
Furious now, Mandi hit him over his head with the gun barrel and turned to his wife. “Call them, dammit!”
Lungelo’s wife shouted, “Mkhuseli, Mkhuseli, come here, boy.”
Moments later, a bare-chested young man came into the room, with his scrawny hands up, as if he knew what was going on.
“Sit next to your mother, boy, and keep your hands up.”
He obeyed. Mandi was soaked in perspiration. “Is there anyone else in there? Don’t lie to me.”
“No, there isn’t,” the pastor answered.
“This is really difficult for me. I’m not a violent person.” She took a quick break, breathing deeply, then she turned to Lungelo. “Do you remember, twenty years ago, at Kwazakhele village, one rainy night …” Mandi stared into his eyes, close-up. “You and two of your friends approached from Gomora through the forest going towards Ezinyoka village.”
Lungelo studied Mandi, looking puzzled.
“Let me refresh your memory, wonderful man of God! There were three young girls, coming from the opposite direction …”
“Listen, my girl,” Lungelo interrupted.
She hit him again with the gun, on the forehead now, causing his wife to scream.
“I thought I told you not to call me your girl!”
Mkhuseli sat like a statue, staring at the gun in Mandi’s hand. He looked from it to his father, but his gaze was uncritical. Whatever his father had done was done. He simply sat, waiting.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Wendi,” Lungelo pleaded. His head was bleeding badly. “In those days, I truly was a servant of the devil. My objective was only to kill, steal, and destroy. I must have wronged you somehow I know, and for that I’m sorry. I truly apologise, madam.”
The pastor continued to mumble, “My calling came when I was in prison, sentenced to six years for various counts of robbery and assault. I should have been given sixty-six years considering all my–”
Mandi interrupted, “You’re sorry? Your ‘calling’ … you were bad back then … You’re sorry? Is that all you have to say for turning the lives of three innocent teenagers upside down – you’re sorry? Am I supposed to turn around and walk away with a forgiving smile because you’ve apologised? Do you know that one of us died of AIDS from that rape! Come on, let’s go apologise to her on her tombstone.”
“We can solve this another way, my dear,” Lungelo’s wife whispered in desperation.
Mandi ignored her. “I mean, you are a big pastor of the Baptist church now. Perhaps I should understand your side of the story and let bygones be bygones, right?” Her voice was scathing.
“I’m so sorry, Wendi. You must believe how sorry I am.” The pastor was in tears now; he looked frail, his eyes focused on the barrel of the Beretta. He looked as if he was expecting to be shot at any time.
Mandi found that she, too, was crying, involuntarily. Her face was soaked in sweat and tears. She walked over to Mkhuseli, but still speaking to the pastor. “I believe the only way we can be even is to take something or somebody that you love.” She raised the gun to Mkhuseli’s head.
Lungelo’s wife screamed, “No! No! Please.”
Mkhuseli stared back insolently at Mandi, as if to say, ‘Do it’.
“Take me, take me, Wendi. Leave my child,” the pastor pleaded.
Mandi walked back to Lungelo and once again trained her gun on him. He was still kneeling, with his hands in the air.
“Nothing takes away what you did. You raped three young girls. You destroyed lives, Mr Pastor!”
His wife’s face suddenly became slack, blank, startled by the news.
He replied, “My child, the only way to heal is to forgive.”
Mandi cocked the firearm and was about to pull the trigger, when Mkhuseli suddenly leapt up to grab the weapon. Mandi swung around, startled, and involuntarily fired a shot.
Mkhuseli fell to the floor.
Mandi dropped the gun.
Lungelo’s wife screamed, crawling to her bleeding son, while the pastor put his head down on the floor and seemed to be praying.
Mandi kneeled down beside the injured boy and his mother as he bled profusely, gasping for air.
“You’re gonna be all right, boy. We’ll take you to the hospital right now. You’ll be fine, I promise.” Mandi fumbled for her cellphone to call an ambulance.
Mkhuseli took his last breath in his mother’s arms.
Tell us: How do you like this twist in the plot? What’s the lesson here?