Chapter 9

“You only live once but if you do it right once is enough.” — Mae West 


Everything had just gone out of control on my side. I felt as if God was just against me. First He took my father from us and we lost everything and now he took the very last person that I had – my mother. I was so close to finishing school and all that just seemed so bleak. I knew that my grandmother would most probably not allow me to finish school any more. My life was a mess and a thousand thoughts were running through my mind. I felt as if indeed Things do fall apart. I knew that my life was over; I felt it before it even transpired.

That day Malome Frans called a mortuary to come and fetch Mama's body and I spent so much time next to her body. I refused to leave her side until they came and I kept praying and hoping that she would wake up and tell me that it was all a prank. The longer I stayed with her the colder her body became; and that was when reality had sunk in. The mortuary took so long to arrive because it was a holiday. I couldn't even hear what everyone was saying. I felt as if I was in another realm and that a new horrible chapter of my life had begun. It was almost like Season 2 of my horrible life. My mother's sisters were so supportive which was really funny. They were so nice to my siblings and I throughout the entire week. They offered to pay for the funeral – despite Mama having a funeral cover of her own. I had wanted to go and cash out on her policy at the funeral parlour instead but my grandmother had beaten me to the chase. She told them that I was a minor and that she was my legal guardian so they gave her the money instead. It was as if a horrible repeat of my father's funeral was happening. I still had Mama's December salary and the R1000 she gave me on my birthday months ago. I had saved that money just in case of a rainy day. I tried to be there for my siblings to be honest but I just couldn't. I hardly ate and I lost weight rapidly in a very short space of time.

My mother's funeral was nothing like she had wished for. My aunts had gone all out – ordering the biggest marquee one could ever find and the best casket I'd ever seen. It was white in colour and most probably cost a bloody fortune. A fortune they would never spend on my siblings and I. The program was even so distasteful; they were selling everyone who had come to the funeral a dream. They made it seem as if we were a good family and that we got along just fine. My heart was aching but I had no voice. I couldn't just tell them where to get off I mean I was just a pauper's daughter according to them. Despite the pastor delivering a really good sermon I just couldn't even hear him. The community came in numbers and they all said heartfelt words about my mother words I had never heard them utter. It was actually nice to hear strangers say such good things about my mother for a change. I didn't want to feel as if her entire life had gone in vain. A few people who even claimed to be her friends of which surprised me but I was glad. Funerals can either bring out the best or the worst of people. That is when we get to see people's true intentions much like weddings. I kept thinking about what life would be like now that she was gone. I was orphaned and nothing made sense. People even gave us so much condolences money. See what I mean? People will never raise money for you to buy bread or take your children to school but they will always find a way to raise money for you at a funeral. Of course my grandmother took it all. People looked at me with so much pity and I just knew they were predicting my future already; a sad orphan who'll end up leaving school and most probably fall pregnant and marry some guy. I didn't want to be a statistic. I was born into poverty and I was so determined to get out of it. Everything felt so rushed; my mother was buried a few days after she died and then five days later it was her ten days ceremony. I was forced to take out my mother's belongings and clothes so that family members could share them. It was custom apparently and had to be done whether I was ready or not. I took a few of her items that I wanted to preserve for myself while the rest of the relatives took the rest. I could even hear how Celia and Salome were bashing my mother's memory.

Celia: “Nna a ke batle selo (I don't want anything). Dimakatso didn't have any taste so why am I supposed to take her clothes?”

Koko: “Ke molao wena (it is custom). You have to take something – even if it is just one item. That is how we do things.”

Salome: “Ah (Oh) I'll just take something and stash it far away where I won't see it. I don't want her spirit haunting me.”

Celia: “Imagine wearing her torn and worn out clothes. People will think ke wele bathong (I no longer have money my goodness).”

My heart was being shredded each and every day. Selaelo was there for me and didn't miss an opportunity to make me feel better. My brothers were old enough to understand death but it still knocked them hard. They were expected to be strong since they were males and they carried on with life as if nothing had happened. I was breaking inside but life had to go on. I was detached from the world but I kept my faith alive. I needed to make my life a success. My matric year finally commenced and I went back to school. Everyone at school was looking at me with pity and I hated it. My teachers were trying to be there for me and I appreciated it. Gladys and her little clique wasted no time and tried to pull me down. One day I was minding my business when she came at me and started insulting me. I could never forget her words; “Bjale o tshuwana ya go sokola ka nnete (Now you're really a poor orphan)”. I had been bottling things up for so long that I just lost it that day. I grabbed her with both my hands and I was enraged. I beat her up so badly that she was bleeding profusely. Of course her parents wanted me to get suspended but luckily she wasn't a lot of people's favourite and I had witnesses so the case was closed. She provoked me and I was let off the hook. Ever since then she didn't bother me at all. I was respected for beating her up but that didn't matter to me. Malome Joel was still giving me rides to and from school though while my grandmother was a little nice to my siblings and I. We had food each and every day and all I had to do was cook and do laundry as my chores and clean from time to time. My aunts and uncle had been gone ever since the ten days ceremony and I hadn't seen them ever since. I wasn't surprised I mean I knew that their act would not last forever. The only adult who was extremely supportive to me was Constance and she would call me often and drop by whenever she could.  

Three months later...

I was three months into my matric year and I wasn't performing as well as I usually had been. My mother's death had taken a huge toll on me. I didn't want it to affect me but trauma is just inevitable. I was minding my own business in the yard sitting under our big tree when Constance walked in.

Connie: (smiling) “Bina how are you my baby?”

Seeing her always made my day. I could never forget the care she gave my mother and she just treated us so well.

Bina: (smiling) “I'm well how are you?”

Connie: “I'm okay. I came to visit you guys. I hope that is okay.”

Bina: “It is always okay.”

Connie: “Come help me. I have brought you some groceries.”

She was the only person who cared and didn't make us feel like a charity case. I didn't want to get my hopes up with her constant presence because people always get tired of giving. I mean I didn't expect her to always leave some room in her pockets for us. We weren't her biological family and most certainly not her adopted children. I just smiled and walked alongside her as she began telling me about what was news. She had brought tons of groceries and my grandmother always enjoyed it whenever she was at our house. She always stayed and ensured we were fine; she asked the necessary questions to ensure that we were being treated well. My aunts never liked her I mean they despised anyone who was looking out for us. It was such a shame. I could escape the reality of not having my mother around whenever Constance was around. She was so warm and had that motherly nature. While she was making us food that day I was shocked to see my aunt Salome walk in.

Salome: (frowning) “And then family?”

Koko: (smiling) “And then eng wena (what do you mean)? Is this how you greet us now Salome?”

Salome: “Aowa (No) I am just surprised fela (only). Connie go bjang (how are you)? Have you adopted my sister's children now?”

Connie: (annoyed) “Hello to you too Salome.”

Salome: “Go thoma neng le ja dijo tse bose so (since when do you eat such nice food)?”

Connie: “Since there are people who care about these kids Salome. You should try that at times.”

Salome: “Wena man (you go girl) chesa (Go) Mother Theresa.”

Koko: (irritated) “Salome stop being so jealous. If you could bring us food like Constance you wouldn't need to act like this. She cares about us unlike my own children. This is why God just doesn't bless you enough.”

I could tell my aunt Salome always expected good things to happen to her and her children only. It was school holidays but I just didn't understand why she was even there.

Salome: (clicking tongue) “Anyway ne ke tlile go le begela taba (I came to tell you some good news). My first born is graduating and she is getting married.”

Koko: (frowning) “Getting married ya eng? Is she pregnant?”

Salome: (annoyed) “Koko mona ke wa eng (what is with the jealousy)?”

Koko: “O nyalwa neng ke sa botsiwa (when is she getting married when I wasn't even told)?”

Salome: “Ka go botsa gona bjanong akere (I am telling you right now aren't I)? Anyway please organize the uncles because they want to bring lobola by next week.”

It seemed as if she wanted me to feel a bit upset or something. I was not bothered at all I mean I had my whole life ahead of me. I had no plans of getting married. I didn't even have a boyfriend. My aunt was quite a sad person despite the mask she was wearing on a daily basis. She wanted everyone to feel as if she was the only person who had achieved anything in her life. With my mother gone she had no one to torture so she channelled all that energy on me. I mean wow an entire Registered Nurse who was above 40 years of age felt the need to make a 17 year old feel small. It baffled me but well such is life.

Koko: “Okay.”

Salome: “So how is school going Bina? I mean now that your mother is gone you know that the world will be against you. You need to work twice as hard if you want to be like my daughters.”

I just tried so hard not to roll my eyes. Not everyone wanted to be like her daughters. The comparison was just horrible. I hated it.

Bina: “School is fine.”

Salome: “That doesn't sound very convincing.”

Connie: (irritated) “She just told you that school is fine. You really don't have to rub her mother's death in her face every time you see her you know.”

Salome: (frowning) “You just think that you are better than us all don't you?”

Connie: “Salome surely as a mother you should know better.”

Connie: “You wouldn't know anything about being a mother now would you? I mean when did you even give birth to any child for that matter? Oh wait – never.”

She always felt the need to target poor Constance about her not having children but she was always unbothered. She didn't have any children – by choice.  

Connie: “That is so old try new insults next time. Now if you have nothing else to say you can leave. Or you can stay but you need to behave. We are having some family time.”

My aunt was baffled; she was fuming. She looked towards her mother's direction hoping that she would get some support from my grandmother but she wasn't having it.

Koko: (frowning) “O sa emetse eng (what are you still waiting for)?”

She took one look at Connie it was a rather spine-chilling look and left. I didn't like that look because it felt as if she was thinking of something bad. She was a vindictive person so I just didn't want to think of the worst. I had heard rumours that someone at her work place was forever clashing with her and they had a fight as they exchanged words. A few days later the woman fell ill and died. Word had it that she did something to her. Everyone at my aunt's workplace feared her and she would never get into trouble for anything she did. I just never understood but I had no evidence so I couldn't follow heresay. We had a good day that day – despite my aunt Salome trying to ruin everything for us. My brothers were always so happy whenever she was around as she would also buy them some toys. Lesiba and Matome were teenagers – they were almost men so they enjoyed getting money from her that they would give their girlfriends. Nonetheless so they enjoyed getting money from her that they would give their girlfriends. Nonetheless we got along just fine. They respected me and I returned it. I really wanted us to live a different life to that of my mother and her siblings. Throughout that entire week Constance kept telling me that she had good news for me and she would tell me the coming Saturday when my uncles would come for Salome's daughter's lobola negotiations. It was a great week and I was able to study again without any mental disturbance. I was excited about the surprise Constance told me about but I was also rather disturbed by the constant dream I kept having. It kept repeating itself every night and it would just not continue or end. I kept dreaming of a wedding and I was the one getting married and I was eating red meat. My mother would always tell me that those meant a funeral was on the way. Oddly I just never had a weird dream before my mother passed yet I was dreaming of such. I brushed it off because I didn't think anyone near me would die then.  

The lobola day came and yet again I woke up with the same feeling I had when my mother passed on. I felt as if my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. I just didn't understand what was happening. I had to get up early to help everyone cook. Of course Salome kept ordering me around. I was the one doing basically everything as if it was my daughter that was getting married. Her daughter was asked to remain in my bedroom and not do anything while I had to slave around. I was infuriated but what could I have done? Constance was there and she was happy to see me as always but strangely she couldn't look me in the eye. Every time she would try she would quickly look away and speak to me without looking me right in the eye. That was a bad sign according to my mother's old wives tales. She would say that whenever a person doesn't want to look you in the eye like that the person was going to die. Everything felt very ominous that day and yet Masalesa being the youngest of them started crying for no reason. My grandmother loved alcohol so she never saw it fit to care for my siblings.

Koko: “Yoh (Oh)! no man! Bina! Come and take your brother! Make him shut up! We can't ruin this day.”

I went and took him from her and carried him on my back. Despite him crying and being restless I had to carry on cooking and doing all the duties I was assigned with him on my back. I hadn't even taken a proper bath that day but I was still expected to do my “duties”.

Bina: “Kopa go ja nyana fela (Can I at least just eat a bit) Mmane (aunt) Salome?”

Salome: (annoyed) “There is no time to eat Bina! Keng (what is it)?! You don't want to assist in making your sister's day special? I mean maybe you wish you were the one getting married today!”

Oh there she went again.

Connie: “Let me take the baby you go eat and I'll continue.”

I was grateful for Constance. She still wasn't looking me in the eye and I just felt so dizzy and hungry. I only realized then that I hadn't eaten since 6am. It was about 12pm and almost time for the negotiations. While was eating as fast as I could Salome came storming into the house.

Salome: (frantically) “Ba fihlile (They have arrived)! Wena (you) Bina! Go get your blanket and remain in your bedroom with my daughters. Wait for us to call you out.”

I was annoyed but I did as I was told. I went to my bedroom and I could already tell that my grandmother was right about it all. Salome's eldest daughter the one who was getting married that day looked really weird. Her face was fuller than usual and she was eating non-stop. I had to tend to her all day as part of my duties while her sisters were busy on their phones the entire morning. Such inequalities in black families are the real reason that so many don't get along. They just ignored me unlike Vanessa. She was talkative but she was never mean to me. They were even complaining about my bedroom saying that it was a bit smelly. They were obviously lying because I was a lot cleaner than they ever were. I cleaned my room every single day and I was a Domestos fan. I could not clean without adding some Domestos in my water. I just ignored them as well and went to my wardrobe and got my blanket when I was startled at what I found.

Bina: (irritated) “Who the fuck decided to put a used pad in here?!”

Salome's 2nd born: “Oh that was me. I forgot to wrap it and take it outside. We're not supposed to leave the bedroom remember?”

I was so upset. I mean it was only their eldest sister who was not supposed to leave the bedroom but they decided to join in on the abuse. They were all so dirty and untidy – and my mother would always say that men loved untidy women for one reason only; they were excellent in bed.

Bina: (shouting) “Bjanong why o sa e tate gona bjale o e lahla (so why don't you wrap it right now and throw it away)?!”

Salome's 2nd born: (rolling eyes) “Gosh Bina why do you enjoy embarrassing yourself like this? You are just a little maid like your mother was so just do us all a favour and throw it away.”

I was so angry that I just saw red at that moment. I gave her one good look hoping that she would say she was joking but she was dead serious. What angered me even more was the fact that she found it amusing. Clearly she didn't hear about what I did to Gladys. I knocked out four of her front teeth. My eyes were probably dilated and I just felt so hot. Before I knew it I jumped at her. I ripped her stupid Brazilian weave off her head while she was screaming out in pain. I started punching her while I was on top of her. Her two sisters were also screaming calling for my aunt Salome but I just didn't care. I wanted to teach her a lesson. I was most probably going to get into trouble for doing that but fuck it. I just wanted to show her that she was wrong for messing with me. Before I knew it my aunt Salome came rushing into the bedroom.

Salome: (shocked) “Go diragala eng (what is happening)?! Hey wena (you)! Get off my daughter! Who do you think you are?!”

I got even more angered and I just didn't stop until she pulled me away from her and gave me a big fat slap across the face. I didn't care – I wasn't even in pain but I was so happy to see that disgusting satisfied look wiped off her daughter's face.

Salome: (angrily) “Why are you beating my daughter up like this?! You're an animal!”

Bina: “She put her used pad in my wardrobe and didn't even try to take it away.”

She gave me another slap.

Salome: (screaming) “I don't care! Are you trying to ruin my daughter's day Bina?! O nale swele ga kana (are you that miserable)?!”

Bina: “Ga ke na swele (I'm not).”

Salome: (shouting) “Shut the fuck up! Get into your blanket and compose yourself. I'll deal with you once our guests are gone.”

I was not pleased nor surprised that she wasn't on my side. I was the only one who didn't have a mother to back me up so of course I'd always be the scapegoat for every little thing. I smiled in pride because I knew that she would take a few days to heal. She would never forget that day – either way. Only the last born the bride and I had to take part in the lobola process because the second born was bleeding then. She couldn't even leave the bedroom because the guests were already in the house. I enjoyed every moment as I chuckled silently. They called the last born out first. She had to walk out with a blanket covering her and leaving a little space off her face so that she could see. The groom's family had to try and identify their bride like that. She came back after about two minutes so I guess they knew that she wasn't the one.

Salome: (irritated) “A reye wena (let's go).”

She called me out to go through the same process and I knelt down.

Salome: (smiling) “Ke o makoti wa lona (is this your bride)?”

I could see a few people from that family. They looked so sophisticated; the men were dressed in really good suits and I could smell their expensive cologne from a mile away. The grandmother had to identify the bride. She took a good look at me and squinted for a while.

Grandmother: “Ee ke ena (Yes it is her).”

I smiled a little and died of laughter internally. I knew that Salome was deeply annoyed.

Grandmother: “Reveal yourself my dear.”

I slowly took off the blanket from my face and they all gasped in shock while Salome was reeling in disappointment.

Grandfather: “Ga se ena (It is not her).”

Grandmother: “Are you sure?”

Grandfather: “Yes.”

Grandmother: “Bring the real bride.”

Salome nodded and brought my cousin to kneel next to me.

Grandmother: “Reveal yourself.”

My cousin did as she was asked and they all started gasping in shock. It was a different kind of shock as to when I was revealed.

Grandfather: (surprised) “Hao (Wow)! That one looks way more beautiful than this one.”

He said that pointing at me.

Grandmother: “Are you single my baby? I have another son - “

Salome didn't even wait for her to finish and interrupted her rudely.

Salome: (interrupting) “She is our maid. She is off the table.”

Grandmother: “Ao (is it)? You look so alike.”

Salome just wasn't interested in anything the poor old woman had to say.

Salome: “Bina you can go now.”

I walked away feeling so satisfied. I knew that I managed to hurt them both a little bit. It was no consolation but it made me feel a lot better knowing that I could hurt them the same way they always hurt me. We went about our day and I went back to Constance as soon as the negotiations were done. I had to dish up for our guests and they were so intrigued to see me. They kept trying to engage in a conversation with me and every time they did that Salome would take me away from them. Constance was so helpful and when it was about 6pm she started complaining of a stomach ache. So I suggested that she go home to rest. While I was washing the dishes that evening Masalesa had finally calmed down. He had been crying and restless all day. As I was busy in the back yard I felt a really horrible slap across my face. I landed on the floor in disbelief and saw Salome standing right before me; enraged and holding a belt in her one hand.

Salome: (angrily) “Who do you think you are Bina? Hmm? You beat up my daughter and tried to ruin my other daughter's day?! Is it my fault that God doesn't favour you you little piece of shit?!”

She looked so scary and I was actually so frightened. I was even too afraid to say a word.

Salome: “Mmago wa masepa (your shitty mother) left you and I am so glad. I thought I had one less trash to deal with but then you actually turned out worse than she was. You little fucker. I wish nothing good to come your way and tonight I am going to show you not to mess with me ever again.”

She did the unthinkable; she started beating me with the belt as I screamed out in pain. I cried for help and even called out to my grandmother.

Bina: (screaming) “Koko! Koko! Thusang (Help)! Wa mpolaya (you're killing me) Mmane (aunty)!”

Salome: (shouting) “E no swa (just die)! Die like the dog you are! Go and meet your mother!”

My grandmother emerged from wherever she was and pulled Salome away from me.

Koko: (shouting) “Wa gafa (Are you crazy) Salome?! Do you want this little bitch to report you to the police?!”

Salome: (angrily) “I don't give a fuck! Why are you so worried? You never loved her anyway!”

She looked at me and stood right on top of me and stared me in the eyes. Little did I know that I came face to face with Lucifer's wife that night.

Salome: (livid) “Wa bona wena (you know you). You think you're so special don't you? Just because you are light you think you are better looking than my daughter?! Wa loya (you are a witch)! All those people thought you were so beautiful keng (what is it)?! Did you use muthi (witchcraft) on them?!”

Bina: (crying) “Aowa Mmane (no Aunty)!”

Salome: (smiling) “I am so glad I got rid of your father when I had the chance. You honestly thought that you could live the dream didn't you? Your mother thought she could get everything good coming her way? Wa bona wena (you know you)? You will never amount to anything and I curse you and your future children! A gona ngwana wa Dimakatso a tlo phalang bana ba ka (I refuse to let Dimakatso's children excel better than my children)!”

Wait what did I just hear?

Bina: (shocked) “What?”

Koko: (worried) “Salome no.”

Salome: “Keng Mma (what is it mom)?! Are you afraid that she will find out you were in on it too? Ga se wena o nkisitseng ngakeng (aren't you the one who took me to the witchdoctor)? Wena (you) are not special. You are poor and will always be poor. Don't even think that just because you are light you can find a good man. You will die poor and if I ever hear that you are doing better than my children – I'll personally cut off that filthy white pussy of yours!”

I was so shocked. My head was spinning in different directions. I felt as if I was literally living a dream. A nightmare even.

Bina: “This can't be happening. This can't be real.”

Salome: “Believe it sesi (sis). As of now on you will no longer go to school. You are going back to being a street vendor – or else I will kill you just like I killed your useless father.”

Koko: “Salome!”

Salome: “Wena Mma ema nyana man (you mother wait a minute). I give you money – I give you a comfortable allowance so unless you don't want to lose out on that – you'd better keep a leash on this bitch. As of tomorrow nape o namele train o rekisa (you'd better get on a train and go sell)!”

Isaiah 5:20 says; “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil who put darkness for light and light for darkness who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! “


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