Running on to the stage when Die-Mond announces me, I feel a rush of strength. It comes from the support they’re giving me, Banzi and my friends.

I look out at the crowd, and I’m feeling them, their expectation. Excitement and terror both have hold of me as I hear the start of the track Die-Mond is giving me. It’s a good one. I can do this.

Try this for size – I had lyin’ eyes
But you got a mouth mendacious
Theft so audacious, tongue so loquacious
Spoutin’ your shit, make me wanna spit.

I’m not protecting Mongezi any longer, and the roar from the crowd tells me plenty of them know about him stealing my song. Not surprising; my eyes clear, and I see some familiar faces down there, Giraffe’s Neck regulars. They know who owns My Lyin’ Eyes.

You lied, you lied, you lied in July
You were lyin’, now I’m tryin’
To forget, get, telling you to get
Outa my mind, you not my kind.

The ache in my head is fading, and I’m enjoying myself. My right hand is holding the mic, but my left is gesturing, helping me express myself and keep up a rhythm. I see Banzi smiling, and my friends are screaming.

I shut up, sucked it up
Eye-roll, I rolled with the blows, let you pick my clothes
Pretended not to see you were gaslightin’ me.
I know, oh no, I know, no, no,
No freakin’ more, I’m showin’ you the door.

I march to the front of the stage, lean forward towards the audience. My voice is loud.

Soft answer they say, not my way
My voice is loud, gotta be proud
Speakin’ my truth, mine all mine
Now is my time, listen to me rhyme.

People have their hands up in the air as I continue, they’re jumping up and down, and the noise is incredible.

I’ve got this, the reaction is louder than it was for the others, even for that young boy with his amazing talent.

As I finish, it gets even louder, not dying down, even when I start to leave the stage.

“On fleek, Khali-L!” Banzi shouts as I pass him. Then I’m down the steps and my girls are hugging me, not caring how I’m sweating.

There’s only Mongezi left to go now. Die-Mond announces him and I watch him go up on stage. I feel nothing.

He starts to sing – My Lyin’ Eyes – because he hasn’t got a new song. Then he stops.

“That girl who was on before me,” he says into the mic. “She’s mentally ill. She needs treatment–”

Die-Mond and Banzi move towards him, but they don’t have to do anything. The crowd is booing so loudly that Mongezi can only stand there for a few seconds, before leaving the stage.

Now it’s for Die-Mond to announce the winner, but we all know. We’ve heard the applause.

“Congratulations,” the schoolboy shouts at me over the whooping of my friends.

I look up at the stage, straight at Banzi. My heart is full of wonderful thunder, and we’re still looking at each other when Die-Mond shouts my name.

Now is my time, I have my inner song back, I’m me again, and the future is sweet.


Tell us: What do you think Khaliso has learned about herself? After reading this story do you think you can define the form of abuse called ‘gaslighting’? Give us your definition.