Bebenya looks at the family she has been brought back to. Tsietsi, he’s okay. Her father, so distressed every time there’s talk about her Durban life, and her mother, desperate to believe everything is going to work out fine. The pressure is too much.
“I can’t stand this,” Bebenya mutters and stumbles back to the door that leads outside.
“Where are you going?” Estere asks, sounding frightened, and Bebenya sees the same fear on Pitso’s face.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to run away,” Bebenya tells them, with bitterness rising like vomit. “I’ve got nowhere and no-one to run to, have I? No friends, nothing.”
With The Daddy either on the run or in the custody of the police, she can’t even turn to him.
As she steps outside, slamming the house door behind her, there’s a click over to one side. The boy next door, Gosiame from earlier, is coming out of his house.
“Hey girl,” he says before she can drop her eyes and pretend not to have seen him. “This is good timing. I was thinking about you.”
“Waste of thought.” Bebenya looks away, aware that he’s coming over to her.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry.” He stops when he reaches her, and she darts him a quick glance.
“Sorry I’m a freak?”
“Sorry about earlier.” His voice is friendly, but also full of regret. “I think I tried to move too fast – came on too strong, as some people call it. Asking you out, all that. It was too soon, after what you’ve been through.”
Bebenya looks at him properly. He has changed into running clothes, and looks truly athletic in them.
“What I’ve been through?” she repeats. “I suppose everyone around here is talking about it?”
“That’s how people are. But they’re not talking in a bad way, mostly.” Gosiame’s smile is warm. “Most of them are happy you’re back with your family. They also feel sorry for you, for your people, because it can’t be easy.”
“No,” Bebenya admits. “When they first brought me here, all I wanted was to go back to the man who looked after me and the others, and stopped the clients from hurting us. But, I don’t know, I’m starting to think he was bad … an evil person. He did this to me, stopped me from being able to have a normal life back here … He was kind, but at the same time, if you did something … He used to give us magazines to look at, but he didn’t like it if he saw me reading them instead of just looking at pictures like the others. You see, I could already read well when those people stole me, so I practised every time there was anything around with words on – even things like cereal boxes.”
“Has …” Gosiame hesitates, clearly troubled. “Has what happened made you hate all men?”
She can sense it’s important to him. She thinks about it.
“It might have, but now I can see not all men are the same. That man, my father, I think he’s probably a good man. And you and Tsietsi … well, you’re just boys, but you’re all right.”
“Just boys?” Gosiame pretends to be offended, but then he laughs and strikes a manly pose. “I’m not just anything, girl.”
Bebenya is surprised by the laughter bubbling up inside her. It feels so good.
Tell us what you think: Clearly Gosiame finds Bebenya attractive, but after what she’s been through, how should he handle things?