The wild child of the family, yes. Well, the wild teenager. And I was enjoying a wild December day, that day the storm first broke inside my home.
School was closed for the summer. Not a cloud spoiled the bright blue sky. The three of us: Thabo and Tshepiso and I, were ready for adventure!
First we spied on my brother and his girlfriend, Mmegi. They sat under a tree, far from the village houses. Yet still there was a wide space between their bodies. No holding hands. Definitely not a single kiss! That is the way couples in our community must conduct themselves. The people of Boseja do not hold with modern permissive ways.
But I saw that Mmegi was crying. I saw that Larona was speaking to her sternly as if he was already a husband. And what was that about? Thabo and Tshepiso and I exchanged glances. We crept nearer to hear their words. But a stick broke beneath Tshepiso with a loud crack.
My brother spotted us. “How dare you? This is private. Go on, clear off!”
So we cleared off, down to the orchards of Rra Diko in the western valley. And what fine orchards they were! Peaches hung ripe and golden in the dark trees. “The highest ones are the sweetest,” Tshepiso announced.
He was right! There we clung amongst the highest branches where the wind was quite strong. Sweet peach juice ran down our chins and onto our clothes. Until Rra Diko came charging down the avenue between his trees, yelling.“You young thieves! I see who you are! Don’t think you will escape justice!”
With palms and knees scraped raw by the rough peach-tree bark, we ran off. Straight to the river. Such a hot day it was, the sun burning overhead.
Stripped naked, we dived into the fresh water. We splashed each other, laughing and making rude comments about each other’s naked parts. But we were too far downstream. Too close to the rocks where some village wives like to wash their laundry – even though every yard has its own tap.
“For shame,” the eldest wife shouted, “is this any way for decent sons from decent families to act? Exposing yourselves for all to see?”
It was difficult to force our clothes back on our still-damp bodies. But by the time we reached the Highway, we were dry again, and well-rewarded.
A group of truckdrivers from up north were passing through. Rough, wild men. Rough as the canvas that covered their lorry-loads. And what amazing curses they flung into the summer air! What full-blooded whistles they made at passing Highway girls!
We listened breathlessly, Thabo and Tshepiso and I, even though Refilwe was nowhere to be seen. I wanted to ask her mother about her. But her mother’s butcher-knife, high above her head, shone sharp and fierce. So I backed away. And besides, some village wives had arrived, searching for the freshest fruit, the brightest vegetables. Covering their heads with shawls to shut out the cursing of the truckers.
I was late coming home. My father’s angry voice rushed out through our kitchen doorway.“This is not right! That a son of mine should disgrace me in front of the whole village!” My mother’s wild weeping followed, reaching out to grip me like a fist in the darkness.
Had Rra Diko been to complain? Or one of the washing wives? My heart sank, heavier than the laundry rocks in the river.
Tell us what you think: What do you believe the problem is between Larona and his girlfriend?