In the September holidays that year my parents took leave at the same time. They both went to the Eastern Cape. It was the first time we were left alone at home, me and Zukile. We had the time of our lives.

It was during this time that Bhekifa and I had the most fun. Zukile had great fun too. He would leave and come back home late. Our neighbour, ‘ Gertrude hired movies, and Zukile spent three nights in a row at her house watching ‘til late at night. No-one shouted at him – our mother was hundreds of kilometers away in the Eastern Cape.

On their return Mama and Tata disagreed a lot. I would hear them arguing behind their closed bedroom door at night. Many times they mentioned my name and I would hear Tata say, “Maybe we should not.”

Mama would not tell me what it was they were discussing. Instead she asked me if I would like to spend the coming December holidays in the Eastern Cape with them. I agreed.

Makhulu had now come to live with us. Zukile would have to remain behind to give her medicines and cook for her. Mama promised Zukile that he would go to the Eastern Cape the following year.

I was looking forward to our journey, though I knew I would miss Bhekifa terribly. I would have to spend as much time with him before I went as I could. Mother had stopped me from going to Angel’s place after school or at night, so I couldn’t meet him there anymore. But we found time to see each other after school and my netball games.

One Saturday afternoon, after a netball game, I was walking with Bhekifa to my house. He had his hand around my waist. Two boys came from across the road behind the field, and I noticed Luthando walking behind them. As I saw them I realised that they had come to hurt us.

“Lovebirds!” Luthando shouted at me and Bhekifa. The boys laughed hysterically. One of them approached and hit Bhekifa’s hand away from my waist. Another came, and they got between us. One of them gripped my left wrist.

Bhekifa told the boy that we were indeed lovers and that he should leave us alone. The boy pulled out a knife.

“No Bozza man, let’s just bring Bukiwe to my place,” shouted Luthando. He had now run up to where the boys were taunting us.

As they pulled us down the road, Luthando followed. But when we came around a bend an older man saw what was happening and shouted at the boys to leave us. The boys pulled out their knives. Luthando’s was the biggest.

“Let her go!” the man repeated, walking fast towards us. He was adamant. They let go of my hands and walked away, swearing and cursing at the man.

The boys must have suspected the man had a gun, but I thought he would be able to squash the three of them. He was much bigger than they were.

When we got to my house, we did not go inside but sat in the dying light in the yard. We spoke about what we needed to do to be safe in Masi, now that we knew Luthando was a gangster.

Telling my parents that I almost got raped and injured would bring me closer to telling them that I had started dating. I would also have to tell them that because of my turned-gangster, ex-boyfriend I would remain a target. I simply was not ready to do this.

If going to netball games and practices meant my life was in danger, for me quitting the game was the easiest thing to do. I knew it was not netball that I was quitting, but the walk home with Bhekifa, along the quiet road between the fields. It was not safe for people who were not in a gang. Now that we were found out by Luthando, we had to be extra careful. Before walking the streets we had to check if they were clear. It was our lives we feared for.


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