Ayanda had only recently met Thabo and now her mind was filled with him.
Olerato was a darling little girl, and Ayanda and her mother didn’t need a man – or his money – to help raise her. But now, all of a sudden, she found herself fantasising about being married to Thabo. She wondered what kind of husband he’d make. Would he be a good substitute father to Olerato? Would he treat her well? What would happen if they had children of their own? These thoughts swirled round and round Ayanda’s head.
She knew that she’d forsake personal happiness, if it meant that Olerato wouldn’t always be safe and secure. If it meant that she’d never be pregnant, or have a child, so be it. Gloria had asked this one thing of her: “Look after my daughter for me.”
Ayanda knew full well the dangers of grieving. She was aware that after all this time she was still grieving for Gloria and her father. She had read: ‘The danger of grieving is that the dead can become more real to a person than the living.’
A deep sadness filled her heart. She doubted if she would ever fully get over Gloria’s death. She had learned to live with it but she’d never wholly accepted what had happened to her darling sibling, not to mention her father. Life for her family had changed in an instant.
Though Ayanda appeared confident and fun loving, very few people caught a glimpse of the real her. She didn’t want their pity. What she wanted was to prove to herself and others that she could do her job and do it well. She could both be a mother and a father to Olerato. All she wanted was to bring her up well – instil in her good morals and values and give her a good education. How could such a sweet little girl have come from that monster Moses?
By coincidence, when she’d been on the phone to Thabo, a text message had come through from Moses. She just happened to see it as she put her phone down. She remembered it word for word.
I DEMAND to see my daughter.
I am coming to PE. I’ll be in touch.
It was so typical of Moses, Ayanda thought. There hadn’t been a word from him when Gloria died. Olerato didn’t even know who he was. She never even mentioned his name. But Ayanda knew from past experience that it was best to placate him. She’d play along with his demands and then he’d soon disappear again. That was one thing Moses was good at. He never showed the slightest interest in paying any money towards his daughter’s upkeep. But he thought it was his right to make demands on her, whenever the mood took him.
Ayanda thanked God every night that he didn’t know about the policy that Gloria had left her.
She sighed deeply and closed her eyes again. She thought of Thabo – well he seemed to have found a permanent home in her mind right now. Her dreams were disturbed with images of him.
Ayanda was late getting home from work on Tuesday. Neo had picked Olerato up from pre-school. She would be in bed now, fast asleep. Ayanda hated it when she wasn’t able to make it home in time for Olerato’s bath and bedtime story. But Olerato loved her granny, just as much as her granny loved her.
She was surprised to see the whole house in darkness when she arrived home. Neo always left a night light on. After she let herself in, Ayanda switched on the overhead light in the lounge. Neo was sitting up straight in the armchair.
Ayanda jumped in fright. “Why are you sitting there in the dark Mum?” she asked. “I feel like a teenager. Are you waiting up for me?”
Neo said nothing. Ayanda then noticed her mother’s tear-streaked face. She rushed across the floor and knelt down beside her chair.
“What’s wrong, Mum? Are you missing Dad and Gloria?”
“No, it’s not that,” Neo said with a tremor in her voice. “It’s Moses.”
“Moses!” Ayanda echoed as a deep chill filled her bones. “What about him?”
“He turned up here at the house this evening.”
“What did he say?”
“He said he wanted, or should I say, he demanded to see Olerato.”
“Did you let him?”
“No, she was fast asleep in bed when he got here. I told him I wasn’t going to wake her up. I tried explaining to him that there was no point in waking her up. She hadn’t seen him for a long time. She’s only a little girl and he would confuse her at this time of night.”
“What did he do then?”
“He got verbally abusive with me. He started shouting that we stole his daughter from him.”
“Had he been drinking?”
“Yes. He obviously had a fair bit of drink in him. I also smelt dagga.” Neo buried her head in her hands and began crying.
Ayanda wrapped her arms around her mum. When Neo began wiping her eyes Ayanda said, “You should have phoned me, Mum. I would have come back straight away.”
“What could you have done, daughter? He’s gone now, but I have a sense that he’s here to cause trouble.”
Ayanda felt her body fill with a wintry chill: in one sharp, quick blast she was shivering.
Tell us what you think: Does Moses have a right to see his child? Would it be good for her to have a relationship with her father?