I slept at Poppy’s house that night and she walked me home in the morning so she could help me explain everything to Aunty Resego. I felt so exhausted. From the police, we had gone to the hospital where they checked me and prepared a report. They gave me ARVs just in case Bonolo infected me with HIV. Through it all I felt nothing. Nothing at all. Like it was all happening to someone else.
“Where were you?” Aunty Resego said when we arrived. I walked past her and sat down on the sofa in the sitting room. Bibi was there, still in her nightgown, eating breakfast in front of the TV like a normal Saturday morning. She looked at me but said nothing. She put her coffee mug on the table and waited. She knew something was about to happen.
Aunty Resego followed me into the sitting room. “How do you go on a date and never come home? I hope you didn’t do something to embarrass us.”
“Why don’t we all sit down and discuss–” Poppy started.
“Bonolo raped me,” I said, interrupting her. Saying those words to Bibi and Aunty Resego suddenly brought me back. The words brought me back into my body and all the pain that waited for me there, and I began to cry. Poppy sat next to me and put her arms around me.
“Raped you? How do you know?” Aunty Resego asked.
“What do you mean ‘how does she know’?” Poppy asked. “She was there. He raped her.”
“I mean maybe he was just showing her love and it went a bit too far. I don’t think Bonolo is the type to rape a girl.”
“What does that even mean?” Poppy was getting angry but I just listened. I knew what Aunty Resego meant. We all knew what rapists were like and they were the opposite of Bonolo in every way. Maybe I had misinterpreted what went on.
“I mean … Bonolo can have any girl he wants. Why would he rape someone?” Aunty Resego said.
“Because he’s a sick fuck that’s why!” Poppy said.
“Are you sure, Vivian? Maybe you didn’t get him or maybe he didn’t hear you when you said no,” Aunty Resego said to me.
“He heard me,” I said.
“OK. OK, if you say so that’s fine and I believe you, but I think it’s better we keep all this between us, in the family and all. We’ll go to the doctor; we’ll see what he can do. But its better we just keep it all quiet,” Aunty Resego said.
“Why?” Poppy asked.
“You know this place. You know this place and how they feel about that boy. They won’t believe it. They won’t accept that it’s true, and then what?”
“It’s too late anyway,” Poppy said. “We’ve reported the rape to the police. And she’s already been to the hospital.”
Aunty Resego sat down on the chair opposite us. I looked at Bibi sitting quietly, listening. She was upset, I could tell. “It will be OK Bibi. Everything’s going to work out,” I said.
“It’s horrible isn’t it? It’s awful,” she said.
“Yeah, but we’ll get through it,” I said.
I said it and I hoped it was true.
Saturday I spent in bed. Poppy stayed and kept me company. Aunty Resego tried her best to apologise for not believing me at first, but still I could see she wished we hadn’t reported it. She feared it would make everything worse.
Sunday morning I woke up and dressed for church. “Do you really feel up to going?” Aunty Resego asked. “I understand if you want to stay home today.”
“No, I’m going. This is not going to end my life. It happened. I’m doing what I can to sort it out, but I will not let Bonolo change who I am, make me into ‘that girl who was raped’. I’m Vivian – I was before and I am after.”
It was good to be in church, better than I expected. It was good to hear the minister speaking about acceptance and God’s acceptance of all of His children, even the broken. I felt stronger because of his words.
After church, as we made our way out, I soon realised something different was happening. As we walked down the aisle to the back of the church to leave, it became quiet. I looked around and people were staring at me. Bibi took my arm and we walked together outside.
Usually after church people lingered to talk a bit with church members who they hadn’t seen for a week. To catch up on gossip, to make plans for the coming week. But not today.
“You know, we need to rush home,” Aunty Resego said. “Didn’t I forget to take the chicken out of the freezer?”
I knew the Sunday lunch chicken was sitting on the sunny part of the kitchen counter as she spoke, but I said nothing. I just turned to follow her, but then I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see a group of girls I had known from school. They were a few years older than me. The tall one at the front spoke.
“So who do you think you are, spreading lies about Bonolo? And then coming to church like lying’s not a sin?”
Before I could answer, a girl with cornrows, I thought I remembered her name was Kelly, said, “What? You think you can get Bonolo to make you pregnant and he’ll marry you? You’re sick! He can’t marry some whore like you. Sleeping around with people and then claiming rape. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
People were crowding around us. Angry faces and pointing fingers and then it all went silent. I felt dizzy and confused. Then I heard Bibi.
“Do you people know what happened? Do you think because someone is successful and rich they can’t do something like this? What if it was you? What if it was you, Kelly? Don’t speak of things you know nothing about! Have some compassion in your cold hearts!”
Bibi held my hand and we headed toward home. The crowd parted and kept silent as we passed them. I wasn’t sure if they listened or really heard what Bibi said, but they could see she was angry, so they had sense enough to keep quiet.
Tell us what you think: Do rich, successful people have it easier when it comes to police cases and crimes that they’ve committed?