“I just don’t know what to do anymore,” her mom said wearily to Lesego as they cleaned up the kitchen together.
“Sit down, Mom. I’ll make us some tea.”
Her mother sank gratefully onto the kitchen chair. Lesego made a pot of tea and rummaged in the cupboard for some biscuits.
“At least Nomsa didn’t get a hold of these and crumble them up,” Mom smiled weakly. “You know darling you are stronger than Nomsa and I put together. And you don’t bury your head in the sand like an ostrich.”
Mrs Seoke drank a whole cup of tea very fast and Lesego poured her another cup.
“Thank you, darling. I’m so sorry for the way I treated you before. I realise now that it was … like … like I had to have an outlet for my anger. I couldn’t take it out on Nomsa so I took it out on you instead.”
“It’s OK, Mom. I know you were worried.”
Mrs Seoke sipped her tea. “I have tried to do everything to make her better. But now she hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you,” Lesego said and put a comforting hand on her mother’s arm. “She needs to see a doctor, Mom. She told me the doctor in Cape Town said she should see a counsellor. Something is wrong. If she can’t talk to us she needs to talk to someone professional.”
Suddenly her mother dropped her head onto the table and began to cry. The tears just rolled and rolled out of her eyes and down her face. Once she started she couldn’t stop.
“Oh Mom,” Lesego said, and jumped up and wrapped her arms around her mother.
After a long while Mrs Seoke’s crying died down. “I’m just going to wash my face and lie down for a while, darling. Will you be OK?”
“Will it be alright if I pop over and see Khosi, Mom? I’ll check on Nomsa first and see if she is still asleep. I won’t be long.”
“Is she the girl who’s mom died not so long ago?” her mother asked as she wiped her eyes with the corner of her skirt.
“Yes, she is. It’s been hard on her. It’s hard on the whole family. She understands what it’s like to have someone really sick in your family.”
“I’m glad that you are her friend, darling,” said Mrs Seoke and hugged Lesego close to her. “I’ll see you later. Maybe we can order a pizza. Nomsa might like that for a change. No more soups for a while at least.”
“Pizza sounds great, Mom. I’ll order one when I get back.”
Zanele walked slowly to Khosi’s house. She was deep in thought. There was something bothering her – well, besides worrying herself sick over Nomsa.
She had never seen Nomsa carry on like that before. Usually she herself was more the drama queen of the house: the ‘Miss-Know-it-all’ as her sister so cruelly pointed out.
Nomsa always had a great zest for life. She was somebody Zanele had aspired to be like for as long as she could remember.
Now she looked gaunt and thin. For the life of her she couldn’t understand why her sister thought she was fat. Nomsa had told Lesego before that if she had any chance of becoming a model that she needed to lose a lot of weight. But this was absurd.
Now she couldn’t understand why Nomsa was refusing to go to the hospital for a check-up. How otherwise could she know what was wrong with her? Maybe it was HIV that was making her so thin and weak. But maybe it was something else. She couldn’t stop thinking of how Nomsa had crossed out those models in the magazine, and how she looked in the mirror and saw a fat person.
All you had to do was go to the hospital and listen to the advice the medical staff gave you. They were trained to help people like Nomsa – sick people.
For sure it wouldn’t be easy, but she had to go.
Lesego and Khosi were sitting on Khosi’s bed. Their friendship had deepened after Khosi had readily accepted Lesego’s apology for her sudden rude departure the previous week. Khosi understood how illness in a family sometimes made one behave badly.
Khosi had a huge photo of her mom mounted on the wall. Lesego gazed at it for several moments. Then she said, “Your mom was very pretty. You look a lot like her.”
“Thanks,” Khosi said as she looked up at her mother. “Dad said I remind him of her. I thought that might upset him but he’s cool with it. I know he misses Mom very much. They met at high school and neither of them ever had anybody else.”
“I’m sorry, Khosi. It must be so hard on all of you.”
“It is, but we are coping. I never thanked you for coming to my rescue that day when Mpho was taunting me.”
“I’m only sorry I wasn’t your friend earlier. I was just so caught up in my own life and worrying about my sister. I’m really worried about Nomsa. The other night I heard her tell her boyfriend on the phone that she’s even lost more weight. She sounded happy when she told him this.”
Khosi looked at Nomsa quickly. “She likes being so thin?”
Lesego nodded her head. She wanted to cry.
“Tell me more about your mom,” Lesego asked. She didn’t want to talk about her sister any more. “That is, if it does not upset you.”
“No,” Khosi nodded her head. “I like talking about Mom. She told me later – that was near the end – to never hide my face in the sand. That she now knew she should have carried on taking the ARVs the doctor at the hospital prescribed her. She said that a friend at her work place persuaded her to go to a faith healer, telling her they knew more than any doctor.”
“What happened then?”
“For a short while she began to feel better but Mom said she had just convinced herself that she was getting better. But really she was getting worse.”
“Then she found out that her so-called friend was a brother of the faith healer on Fourth Street. They are not there anymore. I’m sure Dad had something to do with that. This friend persuaded everybody that her brother was a miracle worker. She even had some of her relatives testify that they had been cured of AIDS.”
“What do you mean that the faith healer no longer lives on Fourth Street?” Lesego asked, in a small voice.
Tell us: Do you believe diseases can be cured by prayer and ‘faith’?