“My childhood was stolen – I’ve done adult things, and yet I’m not an adult. I don’t know what I am.”
Bebenya shakes her head and tries to smile at Gosiame. At least she has this now: two people she can talk to, in Gosiame and her brother Tsietsi. They don’t see her as a freak.
She and Gosiame are sitting on the massive stump of a sawn-off tree at the end of their road. She’s seen other young people sitting here, so at least she’s doing one normal thing.
“You’re a teenage girl,” Gosiame says in a way that’s gentle but firm at the same time. “And do you know how many teenagers don’t know who or what we are? I swear, it’s like we hit our teens and turn into a wild mess of questions about everything.”
“I’ll never fit in here.” Tears leak from Bebenya’s eyes. “But like I said to them – to my parents – I can’t run away, because I’ve got nowhere to run to.”
“You could run next door to me,” Gosiame quips, and she gives him a very small, very shaky smile.
“And what prospects have I got if I do leave here?” she carries on. “My education is another thing that was stolen from me, so no-one is going to give me a job.”
“Maybe you’re being too impatient,” Gosiame suggests. “I mean, it will take time for you to settle down and … like, make peace with your situation.”
“Make peace!” Bebenya almost snarls the words as her angry resentment rises again, pushing out the forlorn, hopeless feeling. “I’ll never make peace with her – with my mother. I’ll never forgive her. She lost me – let me go, to the shop, in the dark. I was a little girl.”
“And she must feel so terrible.” Gosiame speaks softly, looking at her with warmth and sympathy. “Imagine it, Bebenya. Knowing what happened to you, all those years, because of that one thing she did.”
“Why do you have to be so … so understanding? Of everyone? She doesn’t deserve it. Estere.”
“I dunno. Understanding people just makes … everything easier.” Then Gosiame laughs. “But I’m pretty sure I get it wrong most of the time.”
Bebenya looks at him. No, she reckons he gets it right. She hates admitting it, but she knows he’s right about how bad her mother feels about what she did. She’s seen it for herself, and heard it; the guilt her mother feels.
She glances back towards the house where her mother is inside, and sees Tsietsi coming out. “Here comes my brother.”
“He is.” She hesitates. “He thinks I should walk the way I took to the shop that last time. My counsellor also suggested it when she came to the house.”
Gosiame pats the rough space between them on the tree stump.
“This is as far as you’ve come out since you’ve been home, right?”
“Yes.” She picks at the edge of the flowery yellow top she’s wearing, another thing her mother has bought for her. “I’m scared to go further. The way I went. What if I start remembering and it’s so terrible, I have some sort of meltdown and start screaming or something, and everyone stares and thinks I’m crazy?”
Tell us what you think: Why should Bebenya be afraid of the memories that might return to her?