“Run Beauty!” shouted Nandi as she ran as fast as she could down the alley. She didn’t look back, but she could hear the sound of Beauty sobbing, running behind her.

The main street was completely deserted on a Sunday afternoon. There were papers blowing along the pavements. All the shops were shut, with steel bars and sliding metal doors pulled down over their windows.

Their panting, out of breath, and the clatter of their shoes on the tar road were the only sounds Nandi could hear.

Nandi stopped when she couldn’t run any more. Her sides were sore. Beauty stopped next to her. Beauty was still crying and the tears and snot from her nose were streaked over her face. Her hands were clutching her shirt together where her blouse had been torn open. Her turquoise bra was exposed.

Nandi reached out her arms to Beauty and her cousin collapsed against her shoulder, sobbing. The two of them stood in the middle of the road, supporting each other, their hearts thumping in their chests

“Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!” said Nandi, when she could catch her breath. And then, “Idiots! Idiots! Idiots! What idiots we are!”

The two girls carried on, Nandi limping now because she had snapped the strap of her shoe. How can we go home looking like this, she thought to herself.

When they felt safe and sure that no one had followed them, Nandi stepped into a shop entrance and slipped off her shirt. Beauty took off her ripped shirt and put Nandi’s shirt on. Nandi was wearing a tight vest and she felt cold and exposed in it, but here was nothing else she could do. Beauty had R500 in her pocket, but there was not one shop open in which she could buy a new shirt.

In the taxi Nandi could not stop shivering. She clutched Beauty against her and they sat in silence. Nandi didn’t want to think about what had happened at Fernando’s house. She didn’t want to think about the scenes that they had glimpsed being acted out in two of the rooms.The lights, the cameras, the naked, writhing bodies.

It was not what Beauty had come back to Fernando’s for. It was all a terrible misunderstanding. But Fernando hadn’t wanted to hear that.

Nandi closed her eyes tightly, but she could still hear him shouting at them.

“What game do you think you’re playing with me?” Fernando had shouted. His smile had disappeared very quickly. “Do you think I pay good money to play silly games with two silly girls?”

Nandi realised they were at their taxi stop and she urged Beauty to get up and to get out.

Nandi’s aunt was still sleeping when they crept quietly back into the house. Both girls climbed under Nandi’s favourite blanket and lay there until they felt warm again.

“I’m so sorry,” said Beauty, over and over again.

“It’s all right,” said Nandi, holding her tight. “At least nothing happened to you. At least we got out of there. At least we are safe.”

“Thank you,” said Beauty. “For being so brave. For saving me. For standing up to that awful Fernando, like I never could have. Thank you so much!”

And then they both slept.


Tell us what you think: What did Beauty and Nandi learn about themselves due to this frightening episode?