Nobuhle runs all the way back to the church. She locks the main gate and the door to her room. Only then does she check if she has been shot. No, but adrenaline pumps through her body, keeping her awake all night.
She relays what happened to Mrs Nkwanyana when she returns from the conference.
“Stay as long as you like. God will provide,” says Mrs Nkwanyana. “You also need to reach out to your family. Do you have a number I can call?”
“You know, Mama, my father is a pastor at the Stanger branch. Pastor Luthuli,” says Nobuhle.
“Luthuli from Stanger?”
“Yes,” Nobuhle nods.
“I know him very well! He is a good man. I’ll call him to come get you.”
“It’s a long story, Mama. He disowned me. I need time before I’m ready to see him. Besides, I don’t want him to see me like this. He’d be so disappointed in me.”
“That may be, child, but if he knew your situation he’d have a change of heart. He is a good man.”
“I’m ashamed, Mama. I can’t see him right now, not while I’m like this. I’m just not ready. Please understand.”
“I hear you, child. It will be as you wish. Anyway, I also need your help with the upkeep of the church. You just let me know when you are ready,” Mrs Nkwanyana says and hugs Nobuhle.
It takes months for Nobuhle to physically and mentally get back to herself. Every afternoon after she has finished her chores in church she goes for a walk. She climbs to the top of the hill and looks into the distance. She focuses her eyes and in her imagination she finds Sqiniseko’s house. She focuses even more and sees a child playing in the yard. Her heart pumps pure love for her baby boy.
“God, please keep him alive for me. God please reunite me with my boy,” she prays, standing on the hill.
The long term damage inflicted on Nobuhle’s mind by Sqiniseko’s abuse is so severe that it takes ten months for her to fully recover. But one day, she is washing the church windows as usual when she feels her heart melt for the first time in years. The first thing she does when she feels this happening is sing. She run joyfully singing to Mrs Nkwanyana.
“Mama, I’m ready. Call my father,” she smiles.
“Alright, child. We have to tread carefully. I’ll have to disguise this as a meeting of the pastors,” says Mrs Nkwanyana. She makes the call.
“Is he coming?” Nobuhle asks with childish glee.
“Yes, child. He will be here next Sunday.”
In these ten months a lot has changed in Sqiniseko’s life as well. Ntombi has recently given birth to Sqiniseko’s baby, and named the child Nkululeko, which means freedom. The name was chosen because after Nobuhle left she had found freedom with Sqiniseko.
Sqiniseko dotes on Ntombi. Without fail he calls her when he knocks off from work to ask what he should bring. He has not touched a drop of alcohol since they got back together. Ntombi believes she has attained true happiness.
In fact, Ntombi is so happy she has forgotten to pay the sangoma the money she owes for the muthi that helped her acquire this happiness.
And today Ntombi is worried. Sqiniseko has not called as usual. She checks her cellphone to see if it is on. It is. She calls him but it goes straight to voicemail. She holds the phone in her hand and waits for the call. Hours pass.
It is late in the night when Sqiniseko finally arrives. He does not greet Ntombi. He is in a hurry. He picks up Sthembiso and tucks him in bed. Ntombi is confused.
Sqiniseko gets back from the bedroom. He stands in front of Ntombi. A scowl is etched on his face. “Ntombi!” Sqiniseko shouts.
The baby screams, alarmed. Ntombi gets up from the sofa. She holds her newborn close to her chest. “What’s wrong, Sqi?” she says and rocks the crying baby.
“You better shut that thing up! It’s driving me crazy!” Sqiniseko spits on the carpet in disgust.
“How can you call our baby ‘that–’”
Sqiniseko slaps Ntombi before she finishes her sentence. She falls to the floor with the baby cushioned on her chest. Sqiniseko goes out to his car and returns with a plastic packet. Ntombi stands up, confused. The sound of the slap still rings in her ears.
“What did you bring me today, my love?” she asks, stunned.
“What did I bring you?” Sqiniseko rages. “Did you give me money to bring you something? Do I look like your plaything? Do you think I’m stupid, Ntombi?” he says and locks the door.
Ntombi is trying to grasp the situation. She looks on, stunned, as Sqiniseko takes out a rope and a parcel wrapped in newspaper. He opens the parcel to reveal a bundle of dagga.
This adds to Ntombi’s confusion and incomprehension because Sqiniseko doesn’t even smoke cigarettes. “What will you do with–”
Sqiniseko slaps her again. Seeing she has not fallen, he kicks her legs. Ntombi falls on her back. Sqiniseko snatches the crying baby from Ntombi and dumps him in the cot next to the sofa. With speed and what feels to Ntombi like superhuman strength, Sqiniseko grabs a chair. He lifts Ntombi to the chair, binds her legs to the legs of the chair. He ties her arms to the back of the chair.
“My love, what’s wrong? What did I do? If I did something wrong, I apologise,” Ntombi pleads.
Sqiniseko does not utter a word. He sits at the table, watching Ntombi. He takes out a handful of dagga and rolls it into a long blunt.
“I am getting rid of you once and for all, you Jezebel!” he shouts and strikes a match, lighting the blunt. He points to the baby in the cot, “When I finish smoking this blunt it will mean the end of you and that thing.”
Tell us: Do you like this turn of events? Are you surprised?