“Mama, wait … Please wait!” I shouted; the sound of heavy rain made it hard for my voice to reach her. I watched as she vanished down the foggy gravel road.

A buzzing tone disturbed my sleep. It was six o’clock in the morning. I managed to open my sleepy eyes, still attached to the dream. I stumbled to the kitchen, looking for the candle that I had to blow out last night so that I could have light in the morning.

Why would she leave me here, how could she? I asked myself. But no reason could validate a mother leaving her child, leaving me with him. The morning mist made it difficult to prepare for school, but school was the only place I felt safe, the only place to escape too. I had to go, I needed to be far away this place.

As I was approaching the school gate, I heard a familiar voice. “Chommie, wait … Are you ready for the weekend? Ziyawa today,” Asanda said. “It’s Friday today, mngani wam!” Her face lit up at those words.

“Hi, Asanda. I’m good too,” I mocked her with a smile. “I know it’s Friday, trust me, I do.” I couldn’t smile at that thought.

“What’s the problem, Simi. Are you okay?” she asked, looking straight into my eyes.

The school bell came to my rescue, ringing out the start of the school day.

Asanda sighed. “Damn, friend, there goes our freedom, but I will see you at break time!” she said and disappeared around the corner of the building as she said these last words.

Asanda was so different to me, but I was attracted to her. Opposites do attract, after all, I thought going to Ms Mthembu’s math class.

“Good morning leaders,” Ms Mthembu greeted, “I would like to think that everyone did my homework.”

Ms Mthembu was notoriously known as the “Early bird”. She sure got the worms. The “worms”, the Grade 12B students, were her favourite class and I was her favourite in that class. “Simthandile, please do the honours my child,” she commanded; I knew what was required. I stood up.

,p align=”center”>*****

“Simi, Are you okay?” Ms Mthembu asked.

The bell for break had already rung; a noise that was the most beloved among us learners.

“I’ve noticed you didn’t put any effort into your homework, and I have finished marking your assessment. I’m not happy,” she added, looking at my arms. “What is that? Is that blood.”

I couldn’t talk to Ms Mthembu, I may have been her favourite, but she wasn’t mine. She had a reputation for telling other classes about students’ secrets, I couldn’t trust her with this. I couldn’t trust anyone.

“Simthandile, I would like to know what’s happening,” she continued, “I think you not talking to me may lead to the fall of the ‘Great Simza’. Your schoolwork will suffer.”

I did not respond or make any promises. I simply looked down at my shoes and nodded.

“I want you to go to the principal’s office after school, I’ll arrange it. You can go and enjoy your lunch break now,” she dismissed me from her classroom.

I didn’t argue with that, I left not looking back. I didn’t want to talk about my father’s horror.

Asanda was waiting for me under our favourite tree. “What was that about, chommie?” she asked, looking at the small sandwich she had bought. “I wasted my money on this, here’s a piece friend,” she said, handing me the other half.

I took it; I was hungry. “Nothing, friend, she wanted me to go to the principal’s office after school,” I replied.

“What for? Are you in trouble?” she responded, holding my arm. “Did she hit you? Is that the reason why you have this bruise? We’ll need to report her.”

“No friend, she didn’t. I fell last night,” I lied, “I need to go now, see you after school,” I said. I needed to be alone.

“Okay Simza, see you then,” she said, in a disappointed voice.

I had no choice; I had to lie to her. Asanda has been through so much herself, she was raped when she was only twelve years old and impregnated by a man she never knew. Yet she was the most bubbly and motivated student I knew. I was not. I wished to die. I needed to.

*****

I went to the principal’s office as instructed, near the end of the school day.

“Hi Simthandile, please take a seat,” Mrs Qambu motioned me to a seat. “Ms Mthembu has been told about your performance in your schoolwork. Are you happy with your work?” she asked.

“No, ma’am, I am not,” I replied, “it’s been difficult.”

Mrs Qambu had been like a pillar to me over the past years, she was the one who motivated me to enter the Maths and Science school competition, and I won. I was at ease with her. She is one of the reasons I felt school was home.

“I know you, Simthandile. I had the opportunity to see you grow over the past few years,” she told me. “I heard your mother has left, are you coping living with your father?”

The thought of him made me emotional. “I am … I …” I tried, but I wasn’t able to say more.

“How is your father?” she asked.

“He is not my father, I hat … I don’t have a father,” I responded angrily.

***

Tell us: Why do you think Simthandile has such anger towards her father?