Almost, I was tempted to turn and run back into the night. But then came my father’s voice again. “Answer us, Larona! How is it that you forgot all responsibility? All respect for our good name? How could you do this?”
Larona! It was my elder brother Larona in trouble! This was a strange thing for me. Never before had my brother caused problems in our home. And what exactly had he done wrong? I was eager to find out.
Yet there sat Larona at the kitchen table. The lamplight shone on his face. But I could see no shame or guilt there. My father though, looked tormented. My mother’s face was streaked with tears.
I tried to slip in quietly through the door. But my father noticed me.
“Out, Itseng!” he ordered. “This does not concern you.”
Out I went. Back into the darkness. But I could still hear the tumult inside our home. So could the neighbours. I noticed a few of them, standing in their doorways to listen. As I was listening.
It seemed that Larona’s girlfriend, Mmegi, was pregnant! Pregnant and unmarried! In our community that is a sin close to murder! I was horrified. They would have to marry. Immediately! Indeed, that was what my mother said now.
“You will have to marry her, Larona. At once! We must speak to Pastor Molefe. At least you have been together for a good year. At least that. Still, it will set tongues wagging!” And my mother burst into a fresh bout of weeping.
She was right. There is nothing like a rushed wedding to set the gossip alight. A rushed wedding is a mark against a family forever. Even I knew that. I could already hear the whispers that would spread across Boseja. “No engagement! Imagine! No time to fill the church with flowers. For shame! They are no better than the shack-dwellers down on the Highway!”
And then the months would be counted. I knew that too. “Yes, August they married. And now January the baby is born! Is that nine months? I do not think so. For shame!”
No wonder my father was storming there inside our home. No wonder my mother was tearing at her blouse. Yet my brother still sat calmly beside the lamp. He said nothing. He did not apologise nor ask forgiveness.
Outside in the dark, I shook my head, like a village wife myself! Mmegi! Who would have believed it? Mmegi was perhaps the purest, most well-behaved young woman in Boseja. Not a breath of scandal had ever touched her. Her clothes covered her body wholly – unlike my Refilwe down on the Highway.
When Larona and Mmegi first went walking out together, my parents were overjoyed.
“A fine upright young woman for my fine upright son,” my father said.
“And from such a good family! Larona, you have made us so proud.” Back then, my mother had had tears in her eyes too. Back then, they were tears of joy.
It seemed finally that the storm was over. At least for the night. I dared to come back inside.
My father said, “Itseng, tomorrow you will meet me in the wood-shack.”
“Ee, Rra.” I answered. His words filled me with dread. Of all the places in the whole world, my father’s wood-shack is the very worst place to be.
And in the pot, my supper was cold. My mother didn’t seem to notice. Or care. She was still wiping at her damp cheeks.
Tell us what you think: How does your community feel about an unmarried girl who is pregnant? How do you feel?