Mandy!!! .. Mandiphumle!” I heard a soft voice, calling my name out. I tried to open my eyes, but they hurt like they have been burnt with boiling water. I screamed in pain. “I’m sorry. Keep your eyes closed”, the voice sounded like Uncle Thabo’s. “I will wipe your face with warm water. I’ll be right back” he said. I was silent, as my mind was trying to connect the dots of events that took place after the beating, with no luck. I really could not remember what happened after the beating, but my whole body was in so much pain.

Minutes later, I felt a warm cloth, rubbing against my face. After that, I could open my eyes, but they still hurt. Uncle Thabo was standing next to my bed. “I have bought you pizza, your favorite” he said, smiling proudly. I tried moving, but my body was covered in pain, so I moaned. “Ouch, be careful now” he said. I could not even look at him, hatred filled my heart. He gently lifted my head and placed a pillow underneath my head. “Thank you” I silently said. “Let me go and prepare your food, before it gets cold” he excitedly walked out of the room again. Shortly after that, he walked back in, with a tray. He placed it on my bed side. “Let me help you to sit up. I don’t want you to hurt yourself” he said as he gently helped me to sit up. He then placed my tray on my lap. “Where is Enkosi?” I asked.  “He is in the lounge, watching TV” he replied. I nodded and started eating.

“Mandy, listen” he said, and I looked at him. “I’m sorry about what happened yesterday. Things got a little  out of hand and..” I could not wait for him to finish his speech. “A little out of hand?” I asked. “Okay, maybe not just a little, but my point is that I don’t know what came over me” he explained. “You’re evil. That’s what came over you” I said. I must have spoken a little louder, because I felt pain in my rib area. “Ouch” I whispered. “I’m sorry, Mandy. You pushed me too hard, and I lost control of the situation” he said. I knew it. I knew he was going to turn the blame arrow and point it at me. I had no energy in me to argue, so I decided to let him be. After apologizing, he walked out of my room and I ate in peace. When I was done eating, I took the tray to the kitchen. I wanted to exercise, so that my body could heal faster. When I got to the kitchen, Uncle Thabo was cooking, humming a happy song. He turned to look at me.

“Hey, you should have left it there. I was going to come and get it” he said. “Its okay” I said as I placed the tray on  the table. “Do you need anything else?” he asked. “No thanks, I’m fine” I  said and walked out of the kitchen. I was confused. The Uncle Thabo I was seeing was totally different from the monster who nearly killed me. It was like, he was transformed into a new creature or something. I wanted to challenge his apology, and ask a lot of questions, but I didn’t want to take any risks.

Later, he dished up and brought me my food to my room. I was treated like a princess, served everything in bed and had the relaxation of a lifetime. Uncle Thabo even slept with Enkosi, and even took him to daycare everyday and picked him up later. I wished that the moment would last forever, but I knew just how impossible that was.

Days went by, and I sowly recovered from the “injury”. One morning, just after Uncle Thabo left with Enkosi, I got up and limped my way to the main bedroom. I wanted to go through my mother’s things, and see if I could get any clues and links of her family members. I needed that side of my family. I saw a box under the bed, with so many photographs and letters. I sat on the bed and browsed through each and every letter. Mostly, those were just letters that my mother wrote to her parents, but obviously never sent them. She sounded really sad. Each letter carried sorrow and pain. Amongst the letters, I saw one letter, addressed to my mother. It started with a “Dear Mama..” and it was from an emotionally torn-apart individual.

“Mama, I don’t know why you did what you did to me, but I forgive you. I can’t say I understand why you did it, but all I can tell you is that I have moved on from it. It hasn’t been easy growing up without you, especially because I am a girl and I needed a mother. I forgive you, mama and I want us to start all over again”

I was beyond confused, but I decided to take the letter, along with other photos and went to hide them in my room. I took a hot bath and got dressed in my sleepwear again. The plan was to pretend to be in pain, just until I gathered all my strength to escape. I wanted to run away and never come back, but I needed to completely heal first, and to also decide whether I was going to take Enkosi with or I was going to leave him behind. Enkosi was Uncle Thabo’s son, and he proved to me that he could take care of him without my help.

In the afternoon, someone knocked on our back door, as I was watching TV. I got up and went to open. “My friend! Oh no, what happened to you?” Olwethu exclaimed. I looked away, and she came to stand right infront of me. “I’m fine, nothing happened to me” I said. “Arg, will you stop? huh? will you stop being this secretive and open up to me?” she asked. “Okay fine” I said as I pulled a chair and sat down. She sat down too. “I need to escape from this hell hole” I said. “Hell hole? what do you mean?” she asked, confused.

“Remember the last day I attended the  study session?” I asked and she nodded. “When I got here, I realized that Uncle Thabo had killed my mother” I said. “What??” She screamed. “Sssh, keep it down” I whispered. “Your mother is .. Oh my goodness” she said, as she covered her mouth with her left hand. “Uncle Thabo threatened to kill me if I share this with anyone” I added. I didn’t notice that I had tears down my cheeks, until Olwethu wiped them off. I sniffed. “So what are you going to do?” she asked. I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. What I do know though is that I need to get the hell out of here” I said. “You need to get the hell out of here, before its too late” she warned. “I know, the thing is that I don’t know where to go. I literally have nowhere to go” I said.. As Olwethu and I were plotting and scheming, Uncle Thabo walked in, carrying Enkosi. He looked rather shocked to see Olwethu in our kitchen. “Uncle, hi” Olwethu said, as she got up and fearfully stretched her hand out for a hand shake. He stretched his hand out too, and they shook hands. “Olwethu, hi” he greeted and looked at me. “I didn’t know we had a guest” he said. I cleared my throat. “Olwethu just came to tell me that the principal sent her to check up on me” I explained. “Oh” he placed Enkosi’s school bag on the table. “I .. I.. I have to go. I  will see you around” Olwethu said, as she rushed out. Uncle Thabo looked at me and his smiled immediately disappeared. “Don’t test me. Okay?” he roared and I got up from my chair. I wanted to stand up, so I could balance well when he hits me. “Uncle Thabo, I’m sorry. Olwethu just came here to check up on me” I explained. He shook his head. “That’s not how things work around here” he explained as he moved closer to me. “Uncle Thabo please don’t hurt me. Please don’t beat me up. I promise, I will tell Olwethu to stop coming here” I begged. “In this house, people do as I say. Okay?” I nodded like a naughty 5 year old. “One wrong move, Mandiphumle. One wrong move and I will not hesitate  to send you to your ancestors” he warned me.

I swallowed. I knew I had to get the hell out of that place, before that monster finally decides to kill me. But,  where was I going to go? I had nobody. I wasn’t going to be able to crash at Olwethu’s, because Uncle Thabo was going to find me. Also, I wasn’t going to be able to run to sis Thandi’s, because she was a church goer and hiding me would sound and feel like a sin to her- lying. And Enkosi, what was I going to do about him? If I was going to end up on the streets, Enkosi wasn’t going to cope.

“Mandiphumle!!” Uncle Thabo yelled, and I snapped out of my thoughts. “Are you listening to me?” he asked. I cleared my throat. “Yes, I am. I am really sorry for crossing you. I promise you, I will behave. Uncle Thabo, I will never cross you again” I said. He smiled. “Good. Now, make us some coffee, so we can sit down and celebrate this wonderful beginning” he suggested, making himself comfortable on the chair.. He seemed like he bought my apology, I only needed a solid plan to escape..