Brother and sister? After everything that happened between us? There was no way I was going to act like I liked the guy, at all. The best way was to just avoid being around him.. Mr Nkomo meant well, and the fact that he wanted to make the arrangement legal meant that he had our best interests at heart, and that was highly appreciated. But, (yes, there’s a but) having Sibusiso in my life wasn’t going to be easy. That man took advantage of a desperate child, and I can never bring myself up to forgive him for that, not that he’s even sorry anyway.

“Uhm, so what’s for breakfast?” Sibusiso asked, trying to change the subject. “I don’t know, I’ve been at the shop since 6 this morning” Mr Nkomo replied. “I was actually asking my sister over here” Sibusiso sarcastically said. I could feel his eyes piercing through my skin as I was busy feeding the baby. “Mandiphumle?” Mr Nkomo called out. Before I turned to look at him, I tried so hard to fix my facial expression to fit the “happy family” setting. I smiled and looked at him. “S’bu is asking what’s for breakfast” he said. “Oh, I made some scrambled eggs and Russians” I said. “I don’t feel like eating any of that” Sibusiso said. Well, I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to prepare anything special for him, so I remained silent.

“Aren’t you going to make me anything else?” he asked. “No” I said. He laughed. “Oh, wow! No?” he asked. I looked at him. “Yes, I just said no” I replied. He laughed some more. “Dad, I think I’m going to like this little rascal that you’ve brought home, she’s got so much fire in her spirit” he jokingly said. “Hey, don’t call her a rascal. Mandiphumle is right, she is not here to cook for us. She is a child, who just needs love and protection” Mr Nkomo said. “Okay fine, that was just a joke. I can make my own breakfast” Sibusiso said, getting up. I finished feeding Enkosi and dished up for Mr Nkomo and I.

While I was serving him, his phone rang. “Oh, I’ve been waiting for this call. Excuse me” he got up and walked out to attend to his call. “Mandiphumle..” Sibusiso called out. “Leave me alone, please” I said. “Geez, I just wanted us to talk and fix things” he said. I ignored him. When was he going to see the need to fix things if things didn’t play out the way they did? “Look, I just want us to stay out of each other’s way, that’s all. I know we will never get along, and I’m not expecting us to” he said. “Sibusiso, leave me the hell alone. I have nothing to say to you, and I’d appreciate it if you’d also feel the same way” I said. Really, there was no point in trying to make things work. For me, things would never work and I wasn’t even willing to try. “Okay fine, have it your way then and see if I care” he said. Whatever.

Mr Nkomo walked back into the kitchen.. “Sorry about that. That was a call from one of my suppliers” he explained, and none of us cared. After breakfast, I did the dishes while Mr Nkomo went back to the shop and Sibusiso went out, to wherever. I was beyond bored. Staying around and doing nothing with my life was starting to get to me, especially now that I was back to the township and seeing my peers continuing with school, while I was stuck with a baby who depended on me. I was young, I needed to live my life and work towards my future. At that time, I was at a point in my life where I saw no direction, or had no hope for a better tomorrow. I was stuck, with nothing but yesterday’s dreams that never lived to see the next day.

That afternoon, Alex called. “Hey” I picked up. “Hey.. I just woke up from a very peaceful sleep, after a hectic night at work” he said. “Mmhm” I softly moaned, playing with Enkosi’s short hair as he was dozing off on my lap. “So, can I come and visit?” he asked. “Uh, I’m not sure hey, but I managed to cook up a story for Mr Nkomo” I replied. “What kind of story?” he asked. “I told him I had to visit an old friend of mine, and he was totally cool with it” I replied. “Great, now we need to play our cards right” he excitedly said. “Yeah, I’ll just say I’m going to Lindani, my friend” I said. “No wait, you need to meet up with this friend and talk to her about this. She also has to visit you every now and then” he said. “Our story has to be watertight, or else that grumpy old man would kill me” he added. I laughed. “Okay cool, let me go and visit Lindani then, but my battery is low” I said. “Switch it off, and switch it back on when you’re ready for me to visit” he suggested. “Okay cool” I hung up. I picked the sleepy Enkosi up and went to put him to bed.

Upon arrival at Mr Nkomo’s shop, Sibusiso and his father were chatting up a storm. I walked in and went to stand against the counter, right next to Sibusiso. “Sir, can I go and visit Lindani?” I asked. “Yeah, sure. I told you, I have no problem with you visiting your friends” he said. I nodded, with the widest of smiles. “As long as you’re not chasing after foreigners” he added .. My smile faded away. “You know, its funny how we’re always expecting the worst from foreigners, while our fellow most trusted South Africans are the ones with more corruption” I said. “What???” he asked, hoping I’d change my statement, but I didn’t. “I mean, you think foreigners would turn me into a sex slave, but what if it was a South African man who actually turned me into a sex slave?” I asked. Sibusiso cleared his throat. “Dad, let the child go already. If she agrees to any man treating her like a sex slave, then maybe that’s what she’s worth” he said. “Really?” I asked, looking at him. “Let’s not argue over this. Mandiphumle, you can go and visit Lindani. Just be home before sunset, its not safe out there for a little girl like yourself” Mr Nkomo said. Without a word, I nodded and walked away.

Lindani and I were really childhood friends, but we were never really that close. I don’t know how her name popped up in my head, before anyone else’s name when I was lying to Mr Nkomo. Maybe it was because my recent friends were in matric and were not going to have time for me. As I was walking to her place, I was rehearsing what I was going to say when I get there .. I got there and knocked on the front door. Linda, Lindani’s younger brother came to open. “Mandiphumle??” he sounded rather shocked to see me. “Linda, hey” I greeted, carrying a smile. He stared at me. “Uuuh, what?” I asked, with my smile fading away. “No, nothing. How can I help you?” he asked. I felt so unwelcome, but I didn’t want to let that get to me. “Is Lindani home?” I asked. He nodded. “Lindaaaaani!!” he shouted. He didn’t even invite me in, so I stood there and waited for Lindani. Shortly, she showed up. She was equally shocked to see me .. “Mandy, hey” she said. “Hey,” I greeted back. “How are you?” I asked, moving closer for a hug. She met me halfway and we shared a brief hug. “I’m good thanks, how are you?” she responded breaking the hug. “I’m good thanks” I replied. Linda was still standing there, looking at me like I was some ghost or something. “Come in” Lindani invited me in, upon realizing the thickness of the layers of tension.. “Thank you” I said, as I walked in. I went to sit on the couch, so did Lindani. Linda closed the door and stood there, still looking at me. “Linda, could you please give us some space?” Lindani politely asked. Her brother silently walked away. “Thank you” I whispered, and Lindani laughed.

“So, how have you been? Its been a while” I asked. She stopped laughing. “I’ve been okay, under the circumstances hey” she replied. “Circumstances?” I asked. She nodded. “Ever since my mother lost her job, things changed around here” she said. I was even afraid of asking what she meant by that. I felt it was too early to be going deep in conversation. “Life is like that, it has its ups and downs” I said. She nodded again. “Anyway, how have you been?” she asked. “I’ve been good, no point in complaining” I said.. “So what brings you here?” she asked. Well, what brought me to her house? Clearly, I wasn’t there to check up on her, but for my own selfish reasons. “I’m only here to check up on you, its been a while since we spent time together” I said. She shrugged her shoulders. “That’s because you couldn’t continue being my friend when you found out that I failed Grade 9” she said.

We spoke about it and I made her understand that I always wanted to be her friend, but she just didn’t feel comfortable around me. It then turned out that she suffered a great deal of low self esteem and I, because I was a child myself, let her be. We fixed things, and I told her how much I missed her and how I always wanted to go back to the times when we were friends. My visit turned out well, because Lindani welcomed me with open arms. We had a lot of catching up to do, but time was against us. I had to also meet up with Alex before sunset.

“So, do you have a boyfriend?” I randomly asked. She giggled shyly. “Yes, I do” she replied. I smiled. “Who is he?” I asked. She laughed so hard.. “Its Sicelo” .. “Sicelo? Do I know him?” I asked. She nodded, covering her face with both her hands “Its Sicelo Zukwana.. “Oh my goodness!!” I screamed in excitement. Sicelo was the hottest guy at school. He was one of those boys whom everyone loved. “I know, right?” she excitedly said.. We shared the excitement for a while, with her telling me all about their relationship.. “And you?” she asked. “Uuh, well.. not really” I replied. “What do you mean?” she asked. “He’s still hitting on me. I like him, but there are tons of reasons why I shouldn’t be with him” I said. “Reasons like what?” she asked. “He’s Nigerian” I said, looking down and fiddling with my fingers .. The shock in her eyes.. “He makes me happy. When I’m with him, I can be myself. Its .. Its almost like our minds are connected in a way I can never explain” I made her understand how I felt about the man, not that it was “love” or anything, but I just felt strongly emotionally linked to him .. She understood.. While we were talking, Alex called. “Hey, Lindani and I were just talking about you” I said. “Hey, I see you didn’t switch the phone off” he said. “Oh, no.. I don’t switch it off” I replied. “Okay cool. Can I come now? I want to hear what you guys are saying about me” he asked. “Yes, you can come. I’m with Lindani as we speak” I excitedly said. Since he knew the directions to Mr Nkomo’s house, I directed him to Lindani’s. Shortly, he arrived. Lindani couldn’t wait to see Alex, so much that she walked me out to the car.

After introductions, Lindani went back into her house while Alex and I got into the car. “So, how are you?” he asked, holding my hand. “I’m okay, and you?” I responded .. “I’m good. Thank you for agreeing to see me” he said. I nodded.. “How’s your stay with the grumpy old man?” he asked. I laughed. “He’s actually a very nice guy, you know” I said. “Nice? That old man has anger issues. He nearly killed me” he jokingly said, and we both laughed. “I was enjoying my stay, until Mr Nkomo’s son arrived” I said. “What do you mean?” he asked. “The bastard broke my virginity, and used me as a sex slave while I was desperate and homeless” I said. His jaws tightened and I could hear the slight change in his breathing pattern. “He promised to give me money to go and find my sister, but he never kept his promise” I added .. “What the fuck? Does his father know?” he angrily asked. I shook my head.. “Dammit! So he’ll get away with it?” he asked again. “Its not like I have a choice”, I said, shrugging my shoulders. “You do have a choice man. We are here for you” he said, gently brushing my hand.”And my brother? What about him?” I asked, looking at him. “You and your brother are a package deal, there is no way that we can love you and fail to love him” he assured me. His words hit an empty space in my heart. “I don’t know man, Mr Nkomo has been good to us, and he even wants to make this whole arrangement legal” I said. He clapped once. “Biggest mistake of your life. That man is not welcoming. He’s a bully and a control freak. If you’re going to make this arrangement legal, be prepares to kiss your decision-making-skills goodbye because he will be living your life for you. As for his son, my dear, you will forever be his sex toy. He will use you to satisfy his sexual needs and you will never get out of that torture. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but all I can tell you is that Chukwudi and I are here for you and your brother, and you know the plans we had for you. Do the right thing today, for a better tomorrow”…