She went out. And there I was alone with a little baby girl next to me, my so-called half sister. I first went out to the water tap and then to the only toilet, shared by all those who were living in the backyard; I had counted five shacks. I used the toilet and afterwards washed myself under the tap, Anam sitting on the ground, observing my movements.

I made her a bottle of milk and she drank it happily, although it was not even warmed up. I was too tired to explore further and, locking the door from the inside, threw myself on the bed with all my clothes on. Anam crawled around next to me for a while on the big bed and finally cuddled against my tummy. We both feel asleep soon after that.


My flashback in time was not over yet. I had horrible dreams of violent people shouting and banging with sticks against the walls of the room I was locked in. They shouted: ‘Siyakubetha – we beat you… we get you…’

I tried to run away but strong ropes were around my arms and legs and I was naked like a baby, although the same boy of twelve as in real life. I was tall and strong, but I was crying for help and my cries had a hundred echoes… sweat ran all over my body… a total panic had hold of me. Ndincede… ndinceeeede – help… heeelp…!

I woke up. Indeed, I was sweating all over and next to me, Anam was crying. Just as in my dream I was in a dark room and somebody was banging against the door. ‘Vula ngoku – open now!’ a male voice was shouting angrily.

I jumped up from the bed and hastily opened the door: ‘Uxolo – sorry!’ I mumbled, trying to make out who the man was. Was this the father of Anam?

Hayi – never lock the door from the inside again!’ he said, without even greeting me. ‘This is my house and I am the only one who locks it from the inside!’

Then he looked at me curiously: ‘You must be Mbu?’

I nodded shyly. ‘And you are the father of Anam?’

‘I am your mother’s husband,’ was his answer. ‘My name is Siya.’ We shook hands like men.

He looked like he was in his late thirties or early forties. I was wondering why he and my mother still lived in such poor conditions when they both had jobs. But I did not dare to ask. Opening the door of the cupboard, Anam’s father took out bread and other things and made himself a sandwich. I also saw some beer bottles next to the bread. He did not offer me anything. And I did not ask. I thought I had better wait for my mother to come back.

As there was so little space in the shack he sat on the bed while he ate. Anam received another bottle, this time from her father, who had warmed it on a small paraffin stove. I sat outside and waited for my mother to return.

Tell us what you think: What can be difficult about living with step-parents?