“It has been long indeed, and I didn’t quiet expect you to ask me already”

“I know, I know I’m sorry, I’m just… I’ve been curious I’m sorry, but I need to know really”

“I totally Understand Baby. It’s not going to be easy though, but I’ll try.”

Tabitha says, tightening her arms around her pillow, snuggling in the couch. Luhle is sitting on the couch next to hers. In the lounge the atmosphere is very cosy, the fire place flames vigorously, within it’s huge white and grey frame. Like a rare picture of a far away, yet close presence of something. In the coffee table in front of them, is their cups of sweet hot chocolate, with Marshmallow topping.

“You do know I was born and raised in KwaZulu Natal right? In one of the recessive undeveloped rural areas. Like, totally rural, in the outskirts of Estcourt. I was raised by my biological mother, my grandmother and my uncle who was married. I was the first child at home. So for the longest time it was just the five of us, me being the only child. Some things Luhle I think you are young to know them, or you won’t look at me the same way”

Tabitha says, her face has completely changed, she looks clear and vulnerable.

“You can continue Mummy. I know I can take it Now” Luhle says, her soft voice warms the atmosphere.

“Alrighty. As I’ve said, it was just the five of us me being the only child. It was a warm family you know, the Love, the support, the unity! Everything was outstanding. I remember that we had nothing much but my school mates then would wish to have a home like mine. Everything changed when I was ten years old” She removes her eyes slowly from Luhle, and she stares at the fireplace, slowly floating into the moment she’s about to describe.

“My uncle and his wife moved out, because my uncle had found a job in Durban. That same year, my grandmother died. My mother started drinking. That woman would drown into alcohol for days. It was bearable until one day. Just one day. I was twelve then, I remember very well I was coming from school, with my worn out skirt and jersey with holes in the elbows. I was alright before that day you know. I knew how to deal with my drunken mother and our hunger, I endured you know. Until this day. So coming from school, shaking from hunger as always. When I got into our two room mud house, I realized that we had a visitor. Oh okay, I didn’t mind him, I greeted, and then I passed, I got into the other room, and then I slid the curtains. I took out from my grandmother’s trunk a dress I was about to wear that day. So I took out my school uniform. Just when I was about to dress up, the Man barges in. As hungry and as powerless as I was, I just froze. Didn’t know whether to start running or to scream, in fact nothing came to mind. Everything froze. He brutally pushed me on to the floor, and so brutally slid my legs apart. I was only twelve you know! I was only twelve and weak, and hungry, and tired, and missing my grandmother” Tabitha says, as calm as she was when she started. Her eyes are now beaming, and a little bit wider. The reflection of the pain of that twelve-year-old, appears through her pupils.

Luhle is deep into listening.

“Then it happened. When I told my mother that evening, she laughed and showed me two ten rand notes. Guess what she said… ‘That’s my baby! This is the money you made for us today. We’ll be fine. No more poverty. Oh shame you will be OK, every first time hurts’. I am telling you about my biological Mother. I had to bath, and clean my own blood and wake up the following day to go to school as if nothing happened.

This continued for days, and weeks and months, different people, sometimes multiple men at the same time. Some Days I was numb and some days my body wouldn’t take it anymore, I’d be thinking I’m about to die, some days I would collapse.

It then happened that my mother lost her mind. I was then thirteen and still living that life, repeating the seventh grade. People would come and do things to her in front of me, sometimes I had to choose. It was either me or her. I was a Zombie you know. One night I was too furious, too furious to continue living that life we were living. I either had to commit suicide, or run from the village. I remember blocking my mom’s mouth with my hands every now and then so no one would hear us. We ran until morning, when we reached a certain unfinished and deserted house. We stayed there for days.

My mother would go out and around singing, shouting, and dancing. She was getting worse every day. I started getting sick. And because that place was a complete wilderness, we had to move, I thought that I needed to be in a place where people would see us when I happen to die. I didn’t know what was wrong with me then, I thought I was rotting or something. But now I know that I was having sexually transmitted infections, I had warts all over all the way down to my thighs, and even in my back and my stomach. Don’t ask me what we’ve been eating the whole time. Then we happened to reach this other village, with isolated huts and some few brick houses. One old woman I think she was a traditional healer or something, she took us in, and she treated me with some strange oils and leaves and powders, and in two weeks’ time, I was okay”

She keeps silent. Then she sighs. Luhle can feel how heavy digging up those memories as raw as they are, is.