“Wassup?” Tsietsi asks, joining Bebenya and Gosiame at the tree-stump.
“Just your sister stressing big time about ever retracing her steps to where the shop used to be.” Gosiame smiles at Bebenya so she knows he’s not making fun of her. “What if this, what if that, you know?”
“What if we both go with you, Ausi?” Tsietsi proposes. “You know, hold your hand, sort of thing?”
“Not literally?” She’s surprised she can joke, however feebly.
“It’s not … how did you describe my hand? Not so ‘hot and sticky’ these days.” Tsietsi grins.
“Just not always so clean, I’ve noticed,” she says. “Like you’re leading a secret life as a gardener.”
“My hands are clean,” Gosiame joins in, holding them up, and it’s true, they look well-scrubbed, and his fingernails are beautifully clean and softly gleaming with health.
“I’ll let you both know if I need any hand-holding.” Bebenya pauses, and then gives in to an impulse. “But let’s do it now; walk the way I went to the shop, and see what happens, what comes to me. All three of us.”
Gosiame’s face has lit up. “You’ve got a brave sister,” he tells Tsietsi.
“She’s OK.” Tsietsi is super-casual, but something in his face tells Bebenya he might just be proud of her.
She doesn’t feel brave at all. In fact, she was on the point of saying she’d changed her mind, but maybe these two guys have given her a tiny spark of courage. She won’t back out now.
“Let’s do this,” she says, standing up.
Fear returns as they start to walk, the boys on either side of her. She’s breathing scarily fast, and nothing she tries can slow it down. Then there’s the way her heart is hammering in her chest.
What is she so afraid of? Remembering too many details?
“This way,” Tsietsi says as they reach an intersection, and they walk round the corner, into another, busier street.
“I don’t know if I can do this.” Bebenya forces the words out, all uneven and breathless.
“Do you want to turn back?” Gosiame asks at once. “There’s no rush, you know. This is a journey you have to make at your own pace.”
“No.” She straightens her back. “We’ll go on, but … well, maybe I do need to hold on to you guys.”
She holds out her hands to either side. They take hold of them, these two boys, her young brother and the boy from next door. Tsietsi’s hand feels gritty and slightly damp, but Gosiame’s is cool and dry, and she likes the feel of it.
She also likes the feeling of having their support. She’s not alone in this.
“The shop used to be there,” Tsietsi says, slowing down as they get near to a panelbeater’s.
“So close?” Bebenya is shocked. “I was … taken – stolen – from so close to home?”
Disappointment and relief come in equal measure. The walk, this road; they stir no new memories.
Tell us what you think: Is Bebenya starting to heal, and how important is the support of Gosiame and Tsietsi?