“You hardly say a word to the child,” Estere complains to her husband.

They’re in their lounge, in the middle of another of their endless, worried discussions about Bebenya.

“I told you, I feel uncomfortable trying to talk to her.” Pitso sighs heavily. “Because she’s not a child, is she? Not my innocent little daughter. Yes, she was always going to grow up, hit her teens and have boyfriends. I’d have dealt with it, not easily, but I’d have faced it. But those people who took her and trafficked her to that man she calls The Daddy … What they did to her, what he turned her into! I talked to that social worker again–”

“What for?” Estere cuts in. “We don’t need–”

“I needed. I told her how awkward I feel, how I can’t connect with Bebenya. We were talking about what those people did to Bebenya, and Ms Khumalo used this phrase, ‘sexual grooming’ … Those words, everything they mean – I can’t bear it, Estere.”

It’s the closest to tears Estere has seen him since the year Bebenya was taken.

“No, Pitso,” she says quickly. “We’ll be fine. Bebenya will put it all behind her.”

“You’re still in denial,” Pitso accuses her. “She will never fully put it behind her. It will be with her for the rest of her life.”

“Would you prefer our child had died?” Estere flares.

Pitso shakes his head unhappily. “Sometimes I just … I don’t know – Bebenya! What’s wrong?”

Bebenya has erupted into the room.

“I’m what’s wrong! I heard what you said,” she tells Estere tempestuously. “I wish it; I wish I was dead. You made me into a freak.”

“What are you saying?” Estere is bewildered. “Bebenya, what is this? We never–”

“You! You especially, my so-called mother!” Bebenya rages.

“Child, we don’t understand–” Pitso begins.

By now Bebenya is sobbing angrily. “You lost me, didn’t you?” she challenges Estere. “The careless Mama.”

“No! No, I never …”

“You sent me to the shop for you, right? For bread and milk, was it? It usually was.”

“You remember?” Estere falters.

“It was late already,” Bebenya continues wildly. “Starting to get dark, and you sent me to the shop. You, you, you!”

“I’m sorry!” Estere has begun to weep. “I’m sorry, I …”

“I was a little girl!” Bebenya howls.

“My child,” Pitso tries to intervene.

“I’ll never forgive you! Never! I’ll never belong here again. I’ll never belong anywhere. You did this to me.”

“But if you’ve started remembering … That’s a good beginning, isn’t it?” Determined to be positive, Estere sniffs and uses her fingers to wipe away her tears.

“I’m remembering the bad stuff,” Bebenya corrects her, still shouting and crying, both at once. “And you know why? I trained myself not to remember the good. Because it made me cry, it made me homesick, and crying was being a bad girl, The Daddy said.”

“Oh God,” Pitso groans, just as Tsietsi follows Bebenya into the house.

Tsietsi looks round all of them, his expression worried. Then he tries a smile.

“But you always sort of remembered the good bits, Bebenya,” he says. “You said. Like being the big sister, holding my hand, right?”


Tell us what you think: Can this troubled family ever find peace, and how?