Mama comes back from taking a call on our neighbour’s cellphone. She bears the grim news that utata has lost his job. His boss went to Botswana. His boss’ friends told them the boss is not coming back. He just decided to leave and not pay a cent to his employees of thirteen years. We say nothing to each other after she has told us this news. We just eat.
“Who will support Tata in Cape Town, Mama?” I ask.
“Hayi, no he did not say mntanam. I think he will come back if he does not get another job.”
Luxolo eats his food. He gets up and goes out the door without saying a word.
I know he is thinking the same as me. Probably Mama is thinking it too. We don’t want him back! He must never be allowed to beat my mother. Never Again!
“Mphumeleli, Mphumeleli,” a voice calls from outside. It is Bongeka. She leans on the gate with a smile. She is wearing bright red shorts and yellow sandals. Like all us village kids, dust covers her ankles.
“Hey, it is you,” I say, cheering up at the sight of her.
“Well, I was here yesterday for you,” she says smiling at me. I don’t answer immediately. Her smile is too beautiful to interrupt with words. So I stand there smiling back at her.
“Hey, I wanted to ask you if you are going to my cousin Sivuyile’s celebration spree before he goes for initiation?”
“Yes, I am. And you?”
“Yes. But look Mphum, there is this boy from kwaNtsela. He thinks he is ‘all that’ and more. He is pretty much forcing me to date him. Please can you pretend to be my boyfriend? I want him off my back.”
“Who is this boy?”
“His name is Mbongeni.”
“Oh, the one they call ‘Gqabagqaba’?”
“Yes, I am sure I have heard his friends call him that before.”
I invite her to come inside my house. I don’t think she knows how Mbongeni got the nickname of Gqabagqaba. I don’t know what to tell her. We are dealing with a ‘crazy’ boy here.
* * * * *
In the morning I wake up thinking about Bongeka’s request. Then a Toyota Hilux pulls up in front of my house. The driver gets out and goes to open the back. I look through the lace curtain. I can’t believe my eyes. I go and stare from the doorway as my father and a girl of my age get out of the bakkie with their bags. The bakkie drives off.
We take the bags inside. I want to ask if the bakkie is coming back for the girl. Why is she left behind? I ask myself.
“I need to speak to your mother alone first. Go and play outside,” my father says, without greeting Luxolo or me. He just orders us.
I walk outside without saying a word. The girl follows me. I sit on one side of the mud stoep outside. She sits on the other side. Luxolo angrily walks out the gate.
“Hey, unjani, how are you?” the girl says.
“Ndiphilile unjani, I am fine; how are you?”
“Uhlala apha, do you live here?”
“What is your name?”
She draws with a stick in the soil. I don’t pay much attention to what she is drawing. She leans against the white paint on the wall.
“Ah no! My extensions! What is this?” she says in dismay, fingering her hair that is now white with the chalky paint.
I don’t answer her. It is clear that she has not even heard of ikalika.
“Aren’t you going to ask me who I am?” she asks, tying her hair to the front. She looks at me questioningly, then goes ahead and tells me: “My name is Faniswa. My father gave it to me.”
“Where is he?”
“He is inside.”
I feel weak in my knees. But I get up and start walking away from the house. I don’t know exactly where I am going. I just walk into the veld. I stop when I find a thorny acacia tree and sit down under it. The thorns prick my skin.
What is happening to us? As if making us go without food on the table were not enough, my father has decided to burden us with his secret life.
Tell us what you think: What would you do if you were suddenly presented with a new brother or sister you did not know existed?