Mandi sat waiting for Khanya under a tree in the school yard. She felt emptiness in her heart….
When Khanya came out of class after the bell rang, Mandi recognised her immediately. She hadn’t changed. She was still voluptuous and pretty.
Mandi stepped out in front of her, and Khanya made a startled sound; her hand went to her mouth. “Mandisa! What are you doing here? Is it really you? I haven’t seen you for years.”
“Is everything OK?”
They sat on a bench outside, chatting, as children played around them.
Mandi told Khanya how she’d come face to face, in church, with Pastor Lungelo. How she had recognised him. How it had brought everything back. Khanya was sympathetic. But Mandi didn’t get the response she expected from her.
“This is not about him, you know. It’s about you, Mandz.”
“So now that he’s converted his life we must forget the past, act like it never happened?”
“I’m not saying that.”
Mandi sat, swallowing back her tears, trying to hide her emotions, as she asked, “What are you saying then, Khanya?”
“I’m saying the first step to moving on is to forgive them and then forgive yourself. You need to talk about it to someone who can help you. Don’t let your resentment ruin your life; don’t give them that power.”
“Resentment? They took my life from me! They took my life as a teenager.” Mandi’s voice broke as she wiped away tears. “And to think that I was just beginning to turn my life around – when I saw him and it all came back, Khanya. I don’t even know if I have a job any more, you know that?”
Khanya responded boldly. “The difference between you and I is that I chose to find help. You need to too. You can’t keep it buried Mandi.”
Khanya scrolled through her cellphone’s contact list. “I have an excellent social worker’s number. She helped me so much.”
Mandi looked at Khanya’s swollen belly. “When are you due?”
Khanya put her hand instinctively on her stomach. “In three months. Have you got children?”
“I can’t have children, at all,’ said Mandi.
‘While you’re basking in the glory of having a crèche full of kids, I recently had a miscarriage, and I probably wont ever have kids again – there’s a problem with my uterus and fallopian tubes. I had to call my boyfriend who’s overseas with Mr Sutherland and tell him that I’m incompetent, that I’ve lost our child. He doesn’t even know about my past, and I’m not planning to fill him in.’
Mandi paused momentarily as if she wanted Khanya to absorb her words. ‘So how do we sort that out? Who must I forgive, talk to, and give power to solve this issue? I’m unable to have a single child! And all because of those . . .’
Veins protruded from Mandi’s skull. She clenched her jaws tightly as she tried desperately to hold her tears back.
Khanya was dumbstruck, with her jaw on the floor.
‘I’ve had the most horrifying nightmares of that day, ever since it happened. My body literally goes in shock sometimes. I sweat like I’ve just gone swimming. Anyways, keep your phone numbers, girlfriend. I don’t need them. I know what I have to do.’
Mandi stood up and kissed Khanya on her forehead. ‘Goodbye, my friend, I’ll be seeing you. All the best with your pregnancy.’
“I’m so sorry,” Khanya said.
“Don’t you dream of them, Khanya, those men in that forest? I have nightmares still.”
She stood up and kissed Khanya on her forehead, as her old friend shook her head. Her school friend had moved on; she was living in a different place to Mandi; she couldn’t help her.
“Goodbye, my friend, I’ll be seeing you. All the best with your pregnancy.”
Tell us what you think: Is Khanya right? Should she have tried harder to get through to Mandi? What is Mandisa up to?