Mihlali lay in silence on her dorm bed. She had nothing more to say. She had said it all now.
The matron continued to stroke her gently. Opening her eyes Mihlali saw that Matron was frowning and looking out the door. She slowly turned to Mihlali and smiled softly.
“You must come with me now Mihlali,” she said gently. “Get yourself up and go and splash your face.”
Then the woman stood up and left Mihlali, saying as she went, “Meet me downstairs in five minutes.”
Mihlali did not say a word in the car as the woman drove her through the streets of the town.
“I have to report everything that you have told me Mihlali. Do you understand that? We have to go to the police right now and you have to repeat everything to the people at the station. I have already phoned your mother. The farmer is bringing her in from the farm. She will meet us at the station.”
Mihlali felt numb but her heart was throbbing and pounding in her ears. A huge part of her wanted to open the car door and leap from the vehicle and then run, run, run. She didn’t know where.
But there was another part of her that felt still, and peaceful, and finally silent. She turned her head towards the glass windscreen next to her and watched the white lines churning out from under the wheels along the tar. They were taking her forward now, and nothing could stop it.
At the station she was taken through to a room where there was a welfare worker and she waited there for a while until her mother came. The welfare worker gave Mihlali a bag made of material. She said she gave a bag like this to all rape victims.
“Is that me? A rape victim?” thought Mihlali to herself, as she unpacked the contents of the bag into her lap. There was a bar of soap and a face cloth. There was also a tub of body cream, a can of body spray, and a teddy bear sewn out of bright purple material, with button eyes.
Mihlali packed everything back, but held onto the teddy bear which sat on her knee, and seemed to listen and watch everything that happened with its beady, black button eyes.
Mihlali had to tell everything over again to a policewoman. The officer was dressed in civilian clothes, and told her that it was her job to listen to stories such as Mihlali’s. She wrote everything down and took notes. Mihlali spoke and the policewoman asked questions and then Mihlali spoke again. Sometimes a deep sigh passed through Mihlali’s body and she paused before continuing. And all the while Mihlali’s mother held her hand and dabbed at her own eyes with the corner of her handkerchief.
Senazo told Mihlali later that she had seen Abram greet the policemen who came to pick him up like the old friends that she knew they had always been. She stood amazed when she saw them taking him away.
Later Senazo had also had to go to the police station to tell her story about what Abram had done to her over the years. Senazo’s mother could not be found, but her father had gone with her, averting his eyes and then covering them with his fingers, but she had seen his tears.
The farmer was shocked and horrified when he was told what Abram had been up to. He provided valuable evidence about the friendship between Abram and Mr Casa, and how, with all the best intentions he had enlisted their help in trying to do the best by his workers’ children.
Mr Casa disappeared from the school. There was another teacher in his place the next morning. Mihlali did not like him much, and there was a lot of whispering in the school and some fingers pointed in her direction.
Everyone left her alone for a few days, even the large, handsome rugby player. But Mihlali did not care.
There was a hearing at the school a little later, when the police had taken charge of Mr Casa, and a number of other girls came forward then and told about the ‘extra classes’ Mr Casa had given them at break. No-one else had ever had the courage to speak up before. Before Mihlali.
A counsellor started coming to the hostel to see Mihlali, and she looked forward to her visits, when just the two of them sat in Matron’s office, and talked about so many things.
For Mihlali each word pushed another cloud away. These days even she was beginning to feel the sun, warm on her skin.
Senazo came to the school the next week and Angelique helped them to pull a fifth bed into the dorm she shared with Mihlali.
The girls still whispered in the dark before they slept. Mihlali and Senazo listened silently and sometimes they stretched out their arms to each other in the dark. And when their hands touched they held on, and gripped their fingers together, tightly.
Tell us what you think: What will happen to Mr Casa and Abram? What will happen to Mihlali and Senazo? Will they be able to succeed at school now?