This week has gone by pretty fast. Today is Thursday and I am driving down to Mpumalanga. On Monday Mr Biyela senior told me that Philani had finally agreed to the wedding happening so I had to go home and let my family know that people were coming to pay Lobola.
My heart sank not because I was getting married but because the idea of going home was just too much.

See I haven't seen my family in ten years. I left home after my grandmother died. She had been my pillar and safe haven she had protected me and vowed to keep on doing that when my own mother couldn't.

When I was 12 years old my stepfather Vusi started molesting me he told me that if I told anybody that person would end up dead. Every night he would come into my room at first he would tell me to play with his private parts he would take my hand and use it to jerk himself off. No matter how many times I begged him to stop he wouldn't.

As time went on he would force me to suck his penis he would groan and enjoy it while I had tears running down my face. All that eventually led to him raping me. I still remember the day he took my innocence like it was yesterday.

He had come into my room as always he told me to suck him I refused and he slapped me. I cried and he slapped me again eventually I did what he told me to do but that day was different he told me to take off my clothes and lay on the bed.

He got on top of me and forced himself on me. I was in so much pain while he was enjoying himself. I tried to scream but he covered my mouth with his hands. I cried till I had no tears left to cry. I was numb he got off me and went back to his room. I got up and went to the bathroom. I tried to wash him off of me I scrubbed myself so hard I ended up with blisters all over me. When I went back to my room I saw a pool of blood on my bed I cried even more. I decided that I would tell my mum when she came back from her night shift at the hospital. I slept on the floor.

When my mother came back in the morning she found me sitting on the floor in my room with the bloody sheets still on my bed. She looked at the bed and looked at me.

Mum: "Are you having your periods?"
Me: "No"
Mum: "So?" I started telling her what happened with tears streaming down my face I told her everything her husband had done. I looked up and she had a blank stare on her face. She went out and came back a few minutes later with him.
Mum: "Tell him what you just told me." I looked at her and I looked at him he had a smirk on his face I looked at my mum again and I knew he was right no one would believe me. I looked down at my feet and weeped. "Khuluma Lando." (Talk)
Him: "I don't see the purpose of this conversation because I have told you what happened."
I looked up again and for the first time since she walked in here I saw the sjambok in her hand. She came closer to me and I felt the first stroke on my back. I screamed and begged but it all fell on deaf ears.
It turns out while I was sitting in my room waiting for her to come home he had called her told her i had snuck a boy into my room and he found us having sex he couldn't see the boy cause he jumped out the window.

When she was done she told me to go wash the sheets and the whole neighbourhood knew what supposedly happened because he went to the tavern and told everyone who cared to listen. Everytime i left the house to go to the shops I'd hear people gossiping and laughing behind my back.

When my grandmother came back from her church conference she asked me what happened. I couldn't say anything I just cried. The fear of her not believing me was crippling I just kept it inside and suffered alone. Poor woman tried to get me to talk but I just couldn't. I wish that could have been the end of it but it just gave him a safe passage to keep on hurting me.

I spent the rest of the year just getting by I had to deal with the gossip and people calling me a whore what hurt the most though was seeing my friends Lihle and Khabo join the bandwagon. I cried so much I think at some point I ran out of tears. I was just.......... broken.

A few months after my 13th birthday I went to visit my grandmother at her place I wished I could stay with her forever but my mum would hear none of it. My grandmother had baked some scones so she made me tea.

I sat down on the chair in the kitchen there was a knife on the table and my grandmother was closing windows because it had started raining. I put the sharp side of the knife on the vein in my hand. All I could think about was I just needed to open one vein and I would bleed to death everything would be peaceful after that.

I was so focused on the knife and the vein i didn't hear my grandma come in. She just grabbed the knife from my hand and hugged me. I felt the tears I thought had dried out flow. She was now crying too.

She pulled a chair and sat in front of me I told her everything and by the time i was done she was crying more than me. She hugged me again and continued crying.
Gogo: "I am so sorry mntfwanami (my child) I am so so sorry."
Me: "You believe me gogo?"
Gogo: "Of course I believe you Lando. I believe you."

Those three simple words "I believe you." Hearing her say them was so soothing to my soul. For the first time in a long time I felt peace. Somebody believed me that's all I wanted someone to believe me.

The following day she called a family meeting she called my maternal aunts Ncobile and Nomzamo my uncles Bahole and Bongumenzi as well as their wives Nkosazana and Lindiwe. They drove all the way from Nelspruit and Barberton to Mbuzini after gogo called them late at night. I heard them while I sat in gogo's room as they came in. They were worried. Grandma sat them down and told them everything I had told them.

They decided to call my mother and stepfather to come and defend themselves. My heart started beating fast as I heard their voices when they came in. After a long while my mother's voice cut through the silence.
Mum: "I should have known that stupid child would come to you ma and you would believe her."
Gogo: "Why would she lie Nelsiwe she is a child what does she know about sex why would she make up such a lie. This child is broken and she needs help."
Bahole: "Sbali you have been quiet are you not going to defend yourself?"
Vusi: "I don't know what I can say sbali I have tried being a good father to Lando but she just keeps defying us at every turn. If its not boys being snuck into the house at night its alcohol." Wait when did I start drinking alcohol? "Ma is right this child needs help but its not because of anything I did to her its because she thinks because she is a teenager now she can do what she wants whenever she wants. She really needs help."
I sat there mortified at how this man can lie through his teeth and to make matters worse he was adding more lies.
Mum: "See this child is a problem even at school her grades are going down coz ubusy up and down nebafana." (With Boys)
Lindiwe: "But skoni don't you think that is a sign. We all know Lando is a straight A student maybe this whole thing is affecting her."
Mum: "Awume ke wena (hold it right there) the only thing affecting her nglabafana labagcwele lanhloko yakhe (are the boys in her head.)
Bongmenzi: "So what do we do right now because now its his word against hers?"
Mum: "There is nothing to be done that is my child and I am telling you she is lying. So please leave my family alone."
Gogo: "I am taking her to the police station tomorrow morning before I go to work. If your husband has nothing to hide then lets allow the police to do their job."
Mum: "yemake are you hearing yourself right now you want my husband to go to jail because of a useless child who only knows how to open her legs for the entire community and now because she is ashamed she'll blame my husband for it. Never shem. You are not taking her anywhere." She got up and marched to the bedroom and tried to open the door but it was locked. "Yewena sfebe vula lomnyango." (Open the door you whore)
Tears fell down my face as I sat on the bed. My mum kept banging on the door. While the others tried to calm her down. She kept on banging till I couldn't take it anymore I opened the door and I was met with a slap and my mother dragged me all the way home.
I don't know when my uncles and aunts left. When we got home my mother locked me in my room all night with no food. I was woken up by someone screaming outside I listened carefully and heard my mother's voice she was crying. I wondered what happened.

I tried opening the door and luckily it was opened. I walked out into the yard and more people had gathered around. I saw one of my neighbours and asked her what happened. She told me my grandmother was dead. Her friend had found her that morning they were just waiting for the police to come.

I got up from the stoep and ran all the way to my grandmother's place there were people already gathered there including my stepfather. They tried to stop me but I forced my way in.

I saw her sleeping on the bed. She looked so peaceful like she would wake up at any moment. I tiptoed closer to the bed and I called her.
Me: Gogo! Gogo vuka (wake up). Gogo."
I put my hands on her cheeks they were ice cold. I broke out in a wail. I screamed for her to wake up but she wouldn't I shook her begged her but she just lay there.

Through my sobbing and heartache I heard my stepfather's voice.
Vusi: "She is dead! You killed her! You should have kept your mouth shut."

I stayed with gogo till the police came and confirmed she was dead. I sat in the corner as they wrapped her and took her away. I had nobody now I was all alone with no one to protect me she was gone my fighter and protector was gone.

The post moterm came back and they said she had a heart attack in her sleep. Everyone said atleast she died peacefully but I knew better. I couldn't prove it but I knew he had killed her.

The day of her burial was hard for me. I watched her coffin being lowered and soil being thrown on top of it and all I wanted to do was to trade places with her. When everybody left the cemetery I stayed behind I sat down next to her grave hoping that I would wake up and this would only be a dream just a bad dream but it wasn't. She was gone.

I got home and most people had left and most were still at grandmas. I went into my mothers room looking for gogo's jacket. It smelled like her. I wrapped it around me. As i was walking out I tripped on a pile of blankets and they fell. Between the blankets I noticed an envelope. I opened it and there was money I wanted to count it but I was scared someone would walk in so I took the whole envelope and went to my room.

The next morning I woke up at half past three and took a bath

I wanted to count it but I was scared someone would walk in so I took the whole envelope and went to my room.

The next morning I woke up at half past three and took a bath I took my backpack and packed some clothes and the money. By four o'clock I snuck out the house I got a taxi and it took me to the taxi rank. From there I took the first taxi to Joburg and I never looked back. Hard as it was when I got there it was still a better alternative to being home.

By the time I got to Mbuzini it was almost dark. I sat in my car outside my house it was still the same as I had left it. Seeing it brought back every bitter memory I thought I had left behind. I sat for a while before I saw my mum walk out to the washing line and take down the dry clothes. She greeted one of the neighbours and was busy talking to her when a white Toyota van pulled up to the house. A girl ran out of the house towards the car I knew the moment I saw her face that was Ntombikayise my half sister. She must be atleast 17 years old now. She seemed to be close to him.

I looked around hoping to see Gugulethu my other sister she was 4 years old when I left. I didn't see her. He got out of the car he looked older and he had grey hair. He wore brown chinos and a black shirt with some omega sandals his favourites.

He walked over to my mum and i assume he was asking about my car because he pointed towards it he started walking towards the gate and I knew he was coming to me. My heart started beating fast and I knew I had to go I couldn't be here. I started the car and drove away before he could get to me.

On my way I called Buli. She picked up on the second ring.
Buli: "Hey are you home already?"
Me: "I Just left we are going with plan B."
Buli: "Are you sure?"
Me: "Yes I can't go back there I just can't. Seeing them just brought back a whole lot of things I would much rather forget."
Buli: "No need to explain chomi just find a guest house and rest I will call babe Shongwe and tell him we are coming."
Me: "Thanks chom."
Buli: "You know I got your back right?"
Me: "I Know chomi. I know." I hung up.

Buli Faith Bab'Shongwe and Mr Biyela senior were the only people who knew my story.

Buli and Faith I met when Bab'Biyela sent me to their boarding school. It was mid year they were already friends but they welcomed me in and we got along like a house on fire. They never judged me even though they come from well off families they are the most down to earth people I knew. Crazy but down to earth. And I love the fact that they never pitied me instead they supported me they stayed up with me when I couldn't sleep because of nightmares they were just a godsend. Friends like them are hard to come by.

Bab'Shongwe I also met at school he was a cleaner there we got along because of our last names he treated me like a daughter I guess maybe the fact that he had no children of his own and his wife had died giving birth to their first child was the reason he cared so much. His son had died a few weeks after his wife he had been born prematurely and I guess his little body couldn't fight anymore.

Bab'Biyela on the other hand I met while I was living on the streets. He says he saw me digging for food at a trash can on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 5th street in Mellville turns out the money I had stolen was just four thousand rands. It had only lasted a couple of months. I used to buy food once a day so it would last. I also decided to find shelters to sleep and if I didn't find space that day I would sleep on the streets. I tried to find a job but no one wanted to hire a child. He turned around to come give me money but I was gone already. He says he looked for me for weeks but he couldn't find me.

One fateful day on my birthday I stole a cupcake from this bakery I ran out as quickly as I could but the security were chasing me I turned the corner and I saw him standing by his car on his phone. He saw me and dropped the call. I guess he also saw the security guys behind me cause he quickly opened the back door of the car and told me to get in and lay down. He got into the drivers side and drove away.

Bab'Biyela: "Why are they chasing you.?" I sat up after a while I just looked at him through the rearview mirror. I took out the cupcake from my bag.
Me: "Its my birthday I just wanted to have something nice."
Bab'Biyela: "How old are you?"
Me:" fourteen."
Bab'Biyela: "Whats your name?"
Me: "Landokuhle."
Bab'Biyela: "Why are you not at school?" I just shrug my shoulders. He drove to Campus Square and told me to stay in the car.

He locked the doors and left. I sat there patiently waiting for him. Till this day I don't know what made me sit there and not panic or even run away. When he came back he had a cake and some balloons and also a paperbag. He gave me everything and said happy birthday. Then he drove to an apartment building on the other side of town. We got out and he led me to one of the flats there he told me to stay put before he left.

It was a beautiful place simple but beautiful. I looked around and found the bathroom. I took a quick shower. When I was done i went back to the lounge and sat on the couch I opened the paperbag and found a brand new phone. I put it back in its box I wasn't about to accept such a gift without knowing what he wanted in return this was Joburg there's nothing for mahala.

He came back a few hours later with plastic bags full of clothes and shoes. In one plastic bag there was a school uniform. I looked at him.

Bab'Biyela: "You are going to school next week."
Me: "Why?"
Bab'Biyela: "Because if you are going to be anything productive in society you need an education."
Me: "No I mean why are you helping me? You don't even know me. So what do I have to do to pay you back?"
Bab'Biyela: "I don't want payback I have a daughter who is 2 years older than you living on the streets is hard enough for anybody but its a lot worse for a girl. So I am just trying to do my little bit to help."
Me: "So do you do this for all the girls on the streets or is this just for me."
Bab'Biyela: "I sponsor a rehab centre for girls most of the girls we help are drug addicts so we take them straight there but you don't look like you are addicted to anything. Are you?"
Me: "No!"
Bab'Biyela: "Good. You start school next week. In the meantime you will stay here theres food in the fridge you can make anything you like. I will bring you suitcases to pack tomorrow." He got up to leave.
Me: "I have a question. Two actually one you said "we" help people so who is we? Also its the middle of the year how did you get me a school so quick?"
Bab'Biyela: "We is my wife and I. As for the school part I know people." He shrugged and walked out.
I looked out the window and there was a rainbow Gogo always said a rainbow was a sign of a new beginning a new dawn so maybe this was my new dawn maybe God couldn't come down to earth to help me himself so he sent this man. If this was real I vowed to not let a chance like this slip through my fingers.

I found a guesthouse in the middle of nowhere it was livable and all i needed was a shower and a bed. Tomorrow is a new beginning.


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