Bebenya feels afraid, and angry at the same time. They’ve taken her away from The Daddy. What have they done to him?
Is this woman really her mother? This woman clapping her hands in delight and exclaiming, “Bebe? But yes, sometimes we called you that. Come, let me hug you.”
Bebenya shrinks into herself, standing stiff and still, enduring her mother’s hug.
“No, it’s Baby,” she says clearly as her mother releases her.
“Come, greet your father.”
Bebenya looks at the man and sees how uncomfortable he is.
He says, “Leave it, Estere. It’s too soon.”
“But you’re so thin,” Estere is carrying on. “Have you been kept hungry, my poor child? Not to worry, we’ll put flesh on you. Those clothes hang on you. We must go shopping.”
The social worker, whom Bebenya knows as Ms Khumalo, says, “The clothes were the best we could do. Those she had were … unsuitable.”
She means revealing, and sexy, Bebenya knows. She was often cold in those clothes, but now she wants them back. She wants something familiar.
“We’ll get you some pretty things before the visitors start coming. Family, friends, all so impatient to see you. But your father, he says we must give you time.”
“Who are you, really?” Bebenya asks, because she can’t quite believe they are her parents.
“We told you, Bebenya,” Ms Khumalo says. “These are your parents.”
“Do you really not know us, child?” There’s hurt in the words. “We know you, don’t we, Pitso? You’ve grown, of course, but I can still see my little girl.”
“Our firstborn,” the man – really her father? – says.
“Are we so changed, your Mama and Papa? That’s what you called us,” her mother adds.
“Maybe she has grown into one of these modern girls and wants to call us Ma and Pa? Or Mum and Dad?” her father suggests.
It’s too much for Bebenya. Fear and loss are tearing her apart.
“I have a Daddy, The Daddy!” She turns to Ms Khumalo and the policewoman. “Why have you taken me away from him?”
“You know why, child. We explained.” Ms Khumalo looks at Bebenya’s parents. “She has been mildly sedated, which may be affecting her right now, but she does understand that she has been brought home to her family.”
“The Daddy is my family.” The wet warmth of tears floods Bebenya’s eyes. “He looks after us; me and the other girls.”
As she speaks, a young boy comes sidling in. He stops, staring at Bebenya.
“See, here’s your brother, Bebenya,” her mother says. “You must remember him at least? Your little brother who called you Ausi?”
Bebenya looks at him for a moment. “No.”
Tell us what you think: Has Bebenya really forgotten all about her family?