The summer holiday was nearly over. Thabo and Tshepiso and I took the path between the mealie fields, down to the shacks and stalls of the Highway.
Many trucks had stopped there, their drivers buying food, cooking food, teasing and proposing to the local girls.
And Refilwe was there! I watched her from a distance while Thabo and Tshepiso tried to steal oranges from a vendor’s stall. Lovely! She stood so lovely and so proud, even behind the hacked bloody meat of her mother’s stall. I thought of my fathers words: “Women are here to tempt men.” But no! Even if Refilwe smiled while the wind tugged at her skirt, it was not the smile of a temptress. It was the smile of someone taking joy in being young and strong. The truckers knew better than to tease and make their crude suggestions to Refilwe.
Almost, I was brave enough to speak to her that day. Then Thabo yelled. “Look! That lorry is moving. Let’s hitch a ride.”
We do that sometimes: climb on the back of a truck when the driver isn’t looking. Hold on tightly and go hurtling down the tar road with the wind whipping our faces. For a while we discover how it feels to leave Boseja and its wagging tongues and shaking heads behind. How it feels to be heading for bright city lights and wild city ways. But of course, as the trucks slow at the railroad crossing, we always jump off and head back to our Boseja lives.
This was a very fine lorry, painted orange and loaded high with mattresses. Best of all, there were handles on its back panel that gave us a firm grip. And a wide board for our feet.
So we hung on tight as the truck swung out onto the Highway. I turned once to wave at Refilwe. She waved back, I am sure of it. Was she impressed by my courage? We were moving swiftly now, the massive engine shuddering along the metal and the giant wheels thundering over tar. “Let’s go all the way,” Tshepiso yelled against the gale of wind, “all the way to Pretoria!”
But behind us, travelling in a white car, was Pastor Molefe. And there was nowhere for us to hide. We buried our faces in the mattresses until the white car turned right at a junction. But I know he saw us.
At the railroad crossing, the truck did not slow down. Not this one! We were trapped, panicking for kilometre after kilometre. At last the driver stopped to pick up hitchhikers by the roadside.
It was a long, long walk home to Boseja as the sky lit up with sunset, and as darkness fell. And what would my parents say? Would there be another visit to the wood-shack? Thabo and Tshepiso parted from me without greeting. They knew beatings awaited them both.
And yes, from my kitchen door came the sound of my father’s anger. More powerful than ever before. My mother’s shrieking stabbed through my flesh.
Yet once again, it was Larona who sat in the eye of the storm.
“No, Larona! This is beyond bearing now!” my father thundered. “This I will not permit!”
“You are tearing my heart in pieces,” my mother wailed. I slipped in quietly through the door. But my parents did not order me outside. They barely noticed I was there. I stood in the corner and listened. I saw there was no supper ready at all.
Tell us what you think: What do you think of parents beating their children when they misbehave? What do you think Itseng’s brother has done now?