“When can I go back to school?” Khanyiswa asks the policeman who’s taken her statement.
“As soon as you’re ready. We’ll open a case against your teacher immediately, and have him removed from the school. Possibly arrest him,” advises Officer Owen.
After a shower and change of clothing, Nurse Carmen escorts Khanyiswa and her mother to the lawyer’s office.
“Brenda, this is Khanyiswa Sibewu, and her mother, Mrs Lydia Sibewu. This is our legal eagle, Miss Magele,” she introduces them.
“Thank you, Carmen. Please, take a seat, and do call me Brenda.”
“Enkosi,” mother and daughter reply.
“Can I get you anything before I leave? Coffee, tea?” Nurse Carmen asks.
“Nothing for me, thank you,” says Mrs Sibewu.
“I’m fine. Thank you for everything, Nurse Carmen,” Khanyiswa replies.
“You’re most welcome, dear.”
“I’m not going to lie to you and tell you the difficult part is over,” says Brenda. “In fact, this is where it starts – and that’s where I come in. I’m here to help and prepare you for what lies ahead.”
Mrs Sibewu nods.
“Do you understand, Khanyiswa? You won’t be alone. And as long as you speak the truth, you have nothing to be afraid of,” says Brenda.
“Ewe, Sis Brenda,” Khanyiswa replies.
“I know you’ve given a statement to the police, but I’m going to ask you to tell me everything that happened. Everything you felt. Everything you remember,” says Brenda. “For the record – who is the alleged rapist?” she asks Khanyiswa.
“Alleged rapist?” Khanyiswa asks, her eyes blazing.
“He has not yet been proven guilty so –,” Brenda starts explaining.
“So!” Khanyiswa shouts, interrupting her. “Does that make you an ‘alleged lawyer’ because I haven’t seen proof of your qualifications?” she demands. “Does it?”
Brenda stays quiet and looks calmly at Khanyiswa. She gives her the time she needs to offload her feelings.
“Does it?” she repeats meekly, a fresh dam of tears forming at her eyes.
“There’s a reason why I do what I do, Khanyiswa. Do you know the expression, Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili?” Brenda asks.
Khanyiswa nods. “It means, if you want to know about something, you should ask someone who’s experienced it.”
“That’s correct,” Brenda says, a faint smile on her face.
“Does that mean … were you also … ?” Khanyiswa stutters.
“Yes, I was also raped as a young girl,” Brenda confirms. “And I won’t say I know how you feel, because we’re unique individuals. But I do have a good idea.”
Two hours later, Khanyiswa and her mother exit Brenda’s office with her promise to keep them updated.
“How are you feeling?” Mrs Sibewu asks.
“I’m tired, Mama. I want to go home,” says Khanyiswa.
“Very soon. Once you’ve spoken to the social worker, I’ll take you straight home,” Mrs Sibewu promises.
At the social worker’s office, they are greeted by a woman with a head of brilliant white hair.
“Hello. I’m Wendy.”
She’s so old, thinks Khanyiswa. And she’s white. How can umfazi omdala womlungu help me?
“Let’s step inside, Khanyiswa,” Wendy says. “Mommy, you stay here for now. I’ll call you if we need you,” she addresses Mrs Sibewu.
Stepping into the office, Khanyiswa’s shoulders relax. Directly in front of her, on the wall, she reads:
Every mother on earth gave birth to a child; except my mother.
She gave birth to a legend!
Never allow a person to tell you NO who doesn’t have the power to say YES. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Looks like Mother Hubbard has skills, she thinks.
And Wendy does. She has Khanyiswa opening her mouth, and her mind.
“Let your words serve as currency, Khanyiswa,” Wendy says, grinning. “Use them to get what you want. Maybe you want a willing ear to listen to you? Maybe you want your message to reach – and change – the life of at least one person.”
Tell us what you think: Why does the lawyer, Brenda Magele, tell Khanyiswa that the ‘difficult part’ is only beginning now?