“I’ve never told anybody this before,” said Khosi. “Mom and Dad were close. Dad had to work overtime one night and he asked his friend to drop by our house because the washing machine was leaking water all over the floor.
“Mom had been doing extra shifts at the accounts department in Russell’s furniture store. She was saving up so we could have a holiday. My brother was staying over at a friend’s house. Teko came in like he had done countless times before. He fixed the washing machine and even helped Mom mop up the floor.
She made him tea and they sat out on the front stoep. Mom was getting anxious for him to leave, as she wanted to catch up on all her chores.
“They walked into the kitchen together and when Mom turned to thank him again he just grabbed her and raped her.”
Khosi took a deep breath to calm herself down.
“Mom was lying curled up in the corner of her bedroom when I got home. She was shivering and shaking like a leaf with her hands held over her face. Dad got home just after me. He lifted her up and took her to hospital. Teko died before the case went to court. He had felt he was under a death sentence so just did whatever wild thing… Mom said if it was the last thing she was going to do it was to see him go to jail for what he did to her and our family. But it all took too long.”
Khosi put her hands over her face and began to sob loudly.
“Shush now, sister,” Lesego said and cradled Khosi’s head in her lap. “Thank you for sharing this with me. I’m so sorry, Khosi.”
Khosi looked up into Lesego’s face. “When we first got the news we were all in denial. It’s like… you think… ‘This can’t be happening to us’. My parents convinced themselves that there had been a mix up in the hospital with the results. Teko didn’t look sick, not then anyway.”
Both girls were quiet for a moment. “You do realize your sister is very sick, don’t you?”
“Yes, I know,” Lesego, said with a faraway look in her eyes.
“I hope she is taking her antiretroviral’s. She must take them before she gets full blown Aids. She does not look well. HIV can be taken care of if you do what they tell you to do at the hospital and clinic.”
Lesego stopped breathing for a moment. Then she had to force herself to take some deep breaths.
“Whatever gives you the idea that Nomsa is HIV-positive? She’s not. She’s not! I think you better go now, Khosi.”
Lesego jumped up and ran into the house. She was crying hysterically.
“What on ea–?” her mom started to say but she took one look at her daughter’s face and stopped. She took a step closer to her.
“Leave me alone!” Lesego yelled at the top of her voice. “Just leave me be.”
It was a week later. Life had settled down a little in the Seoke house. At least there wasn’t so much tension in the air. Lesego was in her bedroom doing her homework when Nomsa came in.
Lesego marked the page she had been working on and looked up at her sister. “Where were you all evening?”
Nomsa didn’t answer her. Instead she went and stood in front of Lesego’s mirror.
“You know how badly I want to be a model, sis,” Nomsa said.
“Yes, I know,” Lesego, said.
“I’m too fat,” she said, and turned her body around as she looked in the mirror. “You have to be as slim as a rail to be a model. The competition is fierce.”
“Nomsa – you are thin! Far too thin,” Lesego said.
“A woman can never be too thin,” Nomsa said.
Lesego shook her head and said, “I don’t think that’s true at all.” Then she asked again: “Where have you been?”
When Lesego had returned home from school her mom was at work and Nomsa was out. It was the first time her sister had left the house since she had come home.
“I went to the faith healer on Fourth Street,” Nomsa said.
“A faith healer?” Lesego echoed. “I thought we had talked this through.”
The day after Khosi’s visit Lesego had talked to her sister. Well – tried talking to her. She had never realised until then how stubborn Nomsa was.
“I know I said I’d go to the hospital but I’ve already been to one in Cape Town.”
“I know,” Lesego said, “but I’ll come with you. Surely you need to follow up on what they did for you in Cape Town.”
“Well they were not very helpful. They said I need to see a counsellor. All they do is talk. I’m tired of talking. I’ll get better with the help of the faith healer.”
Lesego decided to play along with her sister. “What did the faith healer say, Nomsa?”
“He said I’d be OK. I’m young and strong.” Nomsa spoke as if there was nothing wrong with her.
“He gave me some herbs to take. He told me to eat well and get plenty of rest.”
“You need to get a second opinion,” Lesego said firmly.
“So you’re an expert now,” Nomsa sneered. “You’re just as bad as Mom. No wonder I’m not getting any better with you two breathing down my neck all the time. You and Mom are making me sick. I should never have come back here.”
Lesego saw her mother standing in the doorway. Nomsa looked up and saw her too.
“I think you should apologise to your sister.” It was the first kind word Lesego had heard from her mom since her sister had come home.
“Apologise for what?!” Nomsa shouted at the top of her voice. “You two are like wicked witches.”
She pushed past her mom and ran out of the room.
“Nomsa,” Mom her mother called after her sternly. “I know you’re sick but that’s no reason to behave like this.”
“Well I had a good teacher in you.” Nomsa was past caring what she said. “I’m sick to death of you trying to force-feed me. Don’t you get it? I don’t want to eat! I never feel hungry.”
Nomsa stormed into the kitchen and began throwing the pot of chicken soup Mrs Seoke had made for their evening meal into the garbage.
“This is what I think of your food, Mom. Lesego thinks she knows everything. Well – let me tell you little sister that you know nothing. Nothing!” she yelled. Nomsa ran around the kitchen as if she was crazy.
“I hate soup. I hate chicken. I hate food! I hate you. I hate Lesego. She thinks because she reads so much that she’s an expert on everything.”
Lesego and her mother were too stunned to say anything. They just watched Nomsa as she then opened the fridge and began taking out all the vegetables that had been bought earlier.
Nomsa began piling them on the kitchen counter. Next came cheese, yoghurt, jam, butter and fruit.
Nomsa grabbed a black bag and began to pile the food into it.
Mrs Seoke finally grabbed her by the arm and stopped her.
“Why do you think I work nearly twelve hours a day to put a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs?”
Nomsa looked at her mother but then just fell over. She had passed out on the spot.
Lesego helped her mom lift Nomsa up. She was as light as a feather. She could have carried her with one arm.
Gently they laid her down on the bed.
Tell us what you think: Have you revised your opinion of Nomsa’s illness? What might be wrong with her?