Aunt Rosy met her at Cape Town station. Her face looked sad. Linda didn’t know if it was because her sister had died, or if it was because she was worried about looking after another child. Maybe it was both.
She was shocked when she saw how poor they were. Their shack in Siyakhula was very cramped, much smaller than her house in East London. There were two small bedrooms, with no space for cupboards. There were clothes strewn everywhere. The third room was both a dining area and a kitchen.
Aunt Rosy, at forty, was still young at heart. There were times that she went out the whole night. Some days a middle-aged guy in a red van would pick her up. She referred to him as, “Jwarha wam”, affectionately calling him by his clan name. The kids could not ask where she was going, it would have been rude.
“Linda, please look after the kids. Jwarha and I are going to the night vigil in our church,” she would say. A night vigil? What sort of night vigil, Linda would think to herself?
She wondered if Jwarha was using Aunt Rosy the same way her father had used her mother.
“That bastard left me alone. He used me and then threw me out of the window like a bubblegum that’s lost its flavour. You weren’t even born yet,” her mother would fume, when Linda was younger and curious to know more about her father. “If you want to know your father, you can go to ‘Khumbul’ekhaya’. His name was Mathanda Dlubububi.”
These and the insults that followed, made Linda lose interest in meeting such a monstrous demon of a man. But the void in her soul was still there. Maybe she would search for him when she was a bit older, she would think to herself. Perhaps once she was at high school.
Aunt Rosy came home tired and worn out most days. After a long day’s work, she found solace in her home-brewed beer. Just to put her mind at ease, she would say. She and one of her friends would sit in her dark bedroom washing down cans of beer until they were themselves washed out.
Years passed and life was harder than ever. Jwarha had left Aunt Rosy and she was drinking more than ever.
“I wish I could help Aunt Rose, but how?” Linda would ask. She was seventeen, in Grade 11, and it would be a year before she could look for a job.
And then Sipho appeared on the scene. She was at the spaza shop to buy bread and a bag of chicken feet and heads. The chicken feet and heads were to make soup or gravy for supper and would be eaten along with the bread.
“You have such a pretty face. What do you use on your face, baby girl?” the man behind the counter said as Linda counted the coins she got from her aunt.
“Vaseline,” Linda answered cheekily, somewhat ashamed by the coins she was counting. These were the brown coins known in the township as “soldiers”. Most shop owners do not take the brown cents when customers want to pay with lots of them.
“What else do you want? Juice? Yoghurt? What?” the man asked.
Linda stopped counting and looked up at him. There was something intriguing about this man. He was in his early twenties; tall and kind of handsome.
“If only his teeth were not that yellow,” Linda thought as he smiled and gave her a R100 note. It was enough to pay for the things in her basket and more.
“No, that is not right. That is not my money. Please take my coins. I have enough money.”
“Take it, baby girl. I like you. I can give you more if you want,” the man answered, stretching his hand over the counter to touch Linda’s hand between the hard iron bars separating him from the customers.
Linda hesitated, and then took the R100 note.
“Thank you. I will pay you back,” she said. “This will help my aunt very much.”
She would pay him back as soon as possible, she thought. She would find a way.
But as the weeks went by she realized how difficult it would be to save R100 with the “soldiers” she got as pocket money from her aunt. Meanwhile the man would slip into her bag slabs of chocolate, chicken pieces, fruit juice and other yummy things.
“Thank you,” she would say appreciatively.
“Please call me Sipho,” he said one day.
“Thank you, Sipho,” she said and smiled, thinking how kind he was.
Tell us: Have you watched ‘Khumbul’ekhaya’? What do you think of it?