Nobuhle is quiet for a while, trying to think of an answer that will not anger Sqiniseko further. “The thing is, my love, there is no–”
A slap from Sqiniseko stops her mid-sentence. “Why are you hitting me, Sqiniseko?” Nobuhle is confused.
A fist knocks her to the ground, adding to her astonishment. She weeps while Sqiniseko stands over her, fuming. He is especially disgusted by her tears.
“What have I ever done to you, Sqiniseko? What crime did I commit that makes you never forgive me? Let me know so I–”
Sqiniseko trembles with rage. “You are asking? You are asking, Nobuhle? Don’t you see what you just did? Whose child are you feeding this rubbish?”
“What was I supposed to do, Sqiniseko? When you get paid you don’t come home for days. If I ask you to buy food you hit me! I’m tired of this, Sqiniseko! Enough is enough!”
“So you are trying to kill my child because you are tired of me? Who has whispered sweet nothings in your ear? Have you found another man?”
“Is this how you thank me? I took you in when your family disowned you! I fed you. Now that your stomach is full this backchat is the thanks I get? You haven’t been hit, Nobuhle. This is nothing. I’m going to give a proper beating!”
Sqiniseko drunkenly hits Nobuhle until he’s tired. She cowers behind her own arms and hands; Sthembiso screams. She cowers still, even when Sqiniseko is no longer hitting her. Then she hears him snoring and looks up to see him sleeping, dead drunk, on the sofa next to their baby.
Nobuhle painfully rises from the floor and takes Sthembiso to his bedroom, making sure to move silently. She attempts to nurse her bruises and split lip in the bathroom, then goes to sleep next to her baby.
The next morning she is ashamed to even step outside the house. Her face is full of bruises, her eyes swollen shut. She rolls a handful of ice cubes up into a towel and heads to the bathroom.
“I regret ever meeting Sqiniseko,” Nobuhle whispers to her own reflection in the mirror. “My parents took good care of me, I never wanted for anything.” She runs her hands over a burst lip thinking about how she got to this miserable place in her life. I was their beautiful princess. But I thought I knew better … and fell for Sqiniseko. She winces as she presses the towel with ice cubes over her eyes.
And how has disobeying my parents helped me? This is what I get for being in a rush to grow. My father sold his cows for me to get an education, but that all went to waste. I embarrassed him before the members of the church.
She forces her eyes open, wincing as she says a little prayer aloud. “Please God have pity on me. I know I’m a sinner, but I don’t deserve this!” Tears pour from her eyes. She had started out whispering to her reflection but now wails loudly.
“Nx! Nonsense!” shouts Sqiniseko, coming in. “Don’t you see you will wake the baby with that noise you are making? You wake up so early, only to make noise? You can’t cook, you don’t clean. In fact what am I keeping you around for, Nobubi?”
Sqiniseko’s eyes are red with rage.
Tell us: What should Nobuhle do?