Days went by, and my “relationship” with Alex was getting stronger. We spent a lot of time together, when he was not at work. We got along really well, the best friends type of love- where we could talk about anything and everything. . He still insisted that I move in with them, but I was still not ready ..

Sibusiso was still around, and I still wanted nothing to do with him. I still couldn’t stand him, and his hypocrisy. As for his father, I played my card perfectly well, and he trusted me.

It was on a Thursday morning, when Mr Nkomo came to wake me up from a deep sleep. “Mandiphumle!! Mandy, wake up” he softly called out.. I opened my eyes and looked at him. “Wake up, we’re going to court” he said. The mere mention of the court was enough to send me to a trip down memory lane. I was going to face that man, yet again. The man who killed my mother in cold blood and treated me and my brother like we were worthless- I could never get over that. I sat up. “Are you okay?” Mr Nkomo asked. It was only then that I realized that I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I sniffed and wiped my tears off. “I’m fine, Sir” I said. “My dear, don’t let this get to you. Thabo will get what’s coming to him, one way or the other. You and I both know that he killed your mother” he assured me. “But its his word against mine” I said, looking at him, while tears rolled down my cheeks like a heavy rain on a summer day. “Let the court decide that” he said. Yeah, the very same justice system that treats the perpetrator with more care than the actual victim. “Stop crying, my child. You need to be strong. You can’t keep falling apart every time you’re about to face Thabo” he said. That’s exactly the kind of mentality that I felt wasn’t good for me: having someone telling me to be strong and stop crying. How was I supposed to be strong when I felt like the walls of the world were closing in on me? While the very same universe which was supposed to protect me from harm, was in tears on my behalf? The universe was in tears, and I was expected to suck it in and be strong. I was falling apart, and all I needed was someone to help me pick up the pieces, not someone who expected me to hide the pieces of my heart and carry a fake smile.

Even getting out of bed was a mission. Mr Nkomo threw a few words my way, trying to make me feel better, but his words fell on deaf ears. Finally, I mastered the courage of getting out of bed. Mr Nkomo walked out, leaving me to negotiate with my heart, to gather strength to face the day. I took a hot, long bath, soaking my sorrows in my soapy water. When I was done, I went to my room, to get dressed.

I then woke Enkosi up and went to bath him. He was such a happy child. Even when the world was showing him flames of brutality, he still managed to search for that one reason to smile. It was almost like, he was in a world of his own. I dressed him up, and we went to the kitchen. Mr Nkomo was making breakfast. I greeted, and he greeted back. “Sit down, breakfast is almost ready” he said. I put Enkosi on a chair, and I sat down too. “How are you feeling now?” he asked. I knew he was expecting me to say I was okay. “Uhm, I’m okay, I guess. I mean, I have to face this head-on, so there’s no point in feeling sorry for myself” I replied. He nodded, in total agreement. “I’m so proud of you. You are stronger than I imagined” he proudly said. I smiled and looked away. If only he knew how weak I was, beneath the strong front that I was trying to put on. One of the things that drew me closer to Alex was the fact that he didn’t expect me to be strong. He knew and expected my falling apart. With him, I didn’t have to fake smiles or hide tears.

Sibusiso walked in, while we were having breakfast. He greeted, and his father greeted back. I didn’t care whether his father picked up on any tension between us. “And now? Where are you guys off to?” he asked. “We’re going to court.” Mr Nkomo explained. “Oh man, I didn’t know” he said. “I know I can’t help in any way, but I can at least look after the baby. I know Mandy will be in no state to look after the baby in court” he said. He almost sounded like he cared, but you and I both know that he didn’t care. He was just trying to cover his tracks, and make it look like we got along well. “Oh, son, that’s so thoughtful of you. Thank you so much” Mr Nkomo said. I looked at Mr Nkomo. “I will be able to look after my brother” I said. Mr Nkomo’s smile faded away. “Mandiphumle, Sibusiso is only trying to help” he said. “Well, I don’t need his help!!” I yelled at the top of my voice. Mr Nkomo was beyond shocked. He looked at me like I was some kind of alien or something. I cleared my throat. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me” I said. Oh hell, I knew exactly what came over me- hatred towards a heartless bastard.

“Its okay, dad. If Mandy insists on taking the baby with, then let’s respect that” Sibusiso politely said. Respect? what the hell did he know about respect? Or yes, the only thing he respected the most was the piece of meat below his belt. I wanted to look at him, and search for the monster through the nice guy act, but I couldn’t stand the sight of him. I could see how disappointed Mr Nkomo was, so I felt I owed it to him to accept Sibusiso’s offer. ” Its okay, he can look after him” I said. Even directing sentences to him was a struggle, I just couldn’t bring myself up to say anything to him. Mr Nkomo smiled, “Thank you, my dear. You really won’t be able to take care of him in court.” he said. It wasn’t the first time we went to court though, but whatever.

Later, we prayed and left for the court. My phone rang, on our way and it was Alex. “Lindani, hey” I picked up. Alex laughed. “I see the grumpy old man is around” he jokingly said, and I laughed too. “How are you?” he asked. “I’m good, thanks. You?” I responded. ” I’m good. What are you doing?’ he asked. “We’re on our way to court, and you?” I responded, again. “Court? To do what? I’m at work” Alex asked. “My mother’s murderer is appearing today, so we’re going to attend the hearing” I said . I tried to sound as casual about it as I possibly could. “What? And you didn’t even tell me?” he asked. The loads of disappointment carried by his voice made me feel guilty. “I’m sorry. I also missed the date. Mr Nkomo woke me up this morning” I explained. “Oh okay, how are you feeling?” he asked. How was I feeling? Except for the fear of facing Uncle Thabo, I was okay. “I’m okay” I said, coldly. “We’ll talk about it later. I know you said I shouldn’t visit everyday, because you don’t want the grumpy old man to suspect anything, but can I come over?” he asked .. “I don’t know, we’ll talk later” I said. I managed to wrap the call up, because I was getting uncomfortable as if Mr Nkomo could tell that I was talking to Alex.

We got to court. Even the atmosphere was depressing, seeing prisoners being offloaded from police vehicles, and the desperation in their eyes- no man. I wasn’t feeling sorry for them or anything, but seeing them somehow broke my heart. “Would you like anything to eat or drink?” Mr Nkomo asked, trying to get me to snap out of whatever I was thinking. I shook my head. We got to “A court” where our case was being handled. Mr Nkomo stood by the door and read the list of names which was pasted on the door. Out of curiosity, I went to read the names too. “Thabo Soldati” appeared and my knees went ice cold. Mr Nkomo held my hand and we walked in. We were a few minutes early, so we sat there and waited. “Please switch your phone off” he asked, and I did as he asked me to. People kept walking in, one by one- including the “officials”. Uncle Thabo walked in, along with other prisoners, escorted by two policemen, one at the front and the other one at the back. He sat down and looked around the court. When our eyes met, he looked away. He couldn’t look me in the eye, after all the crap he put me through. Shortly after that, the judge walked in. ” All rise” one of the policemen shouted, and everyone stood up. We then waited for him to sit down, so we could also sit down.

They started with other cases, for up until lunch time .. I was so fed up, because I couldn’t stand the place. I didn’t feel like eating anything, so I took a walk around the premises, and sent Alex a “please call me”. He called almost immediately. ” Hello?” I picked up. “Mandy, is everything okay?” he asked. “Everything is fine, he hasn’t appeared yet” I said. “Yho! seems like you’re going to spend the whole day there” he said. “And I’m so fed up. I just want to go home” I said. “I can imagine. Where is Enkosi?” he asked. “Sibusiso is babysitting him, at home” I said. “That bastard. So he’s now pulling the big brother act, after everything he put you through” he angrily said. “I know hey, I also didn’t want him to look after Enkosi, but his father felt it was for the best” I said. “His father, again. I just hate how this man dictates your life, Mandy. Its either his way or the highway. When are you ever going to live your life and make your own decisions? Enkosi is your brother, you are the one who needs to decide who looks after him and when” he exploded. “I know hey, but its only for a few hours” I said. “Okay then. I’m sorry for throwing a tantrum on you. I just hate these people, and I can’t even hide it.” he apologized. We talked some more, until lunch hour was over.

“Thabo Soldati” the lady called out and he got up. My insides turned as he swore to speak nothing but the truth. The prosecutor got up, fiddling with his notes. “Mr Soldati, could you please take the court back to the night your wife disappeared?” he said. Uncle Thabo cleared his throat. “Sir, it was on a Friday evening and I had just got home from work. I realized that she wasn’t home” he responded. “Where do you think she went?” he asked. “I don’t know, Sir. What I do know though is that she had an affair with her pastor and they spent a lot of time together” uncle Thabo said. “Are you then assuming that she disappeared with him?” he asked. “I don’t know, Sir. The pastor is still around, so I can’t be so sure” he said. “Why didn’t you report her as missing when you realized she wasn’t coming back?” he asked. Uncle Thabo cleared his throat. “Sir. I just assumed she left because she didn’t want to be with me anymore” uncle Thabo said. “And the kids? If my memory serves me right, your wife left the kids behind. Could it be because she did not want to be with them too?” he asked. “Sir, I don’t know what went on in that woman’s mind” uncle Thabo said. “I’m trying to understand what went on in your mind,Sir. I’m tying to understand why you never reported your wife missing, when you noticed that she was gone” he said. “I didn’t think of it that way, Sir” uncle Thabo said. “Mr Soldati, how was your relationship with your wife?” he asked. “It was healthy, Sir. I loved my wife to the moon and back. She was the centre of my universe.” he replied. “How did you handle the news of the affair when you found out?” he asked. “I .. I sat her down and begged her to cut all ties with that man, but she wouldn’t listen” uncle Thabo said. “And what did you do, upon realizing that she wouldn’t listen?” he asked. “Nothing, Sir. I just hoped she’d come to her senses and stop what she was doing. “How did you find out about the affair?” he asked. “I saw texts from him, to my wife, telling her he loves her and thanking her for a good time she spent with him” he said. “So let let me get this straight, you found out that your wife was cheating on you, you begged her to cut all ties with the man, and then she just disappeared?” he asked. “Yes, Sir” uncle Thabo said. “Mr Soldati, does this theory of yours makes sense to you? Because to me, Sir, it makes zero sense” he said. “Objection, Your honour!” the lawyer exclaimed. “The prosecutor is insulting my client, Your Worship” he added. “I withdraw, Your Worship. No further questions for now, My Lord” the prosecutor said, sitting down..

The lawyer got up. “Mr Soldati, please tell the court more about your wife” he said. “My wife was a very beautiful woman, who loved her family so much. Things changed when she started having an affair with her pastor. She started neglecting the kids, and me. She spent all her time away from home, and I’d have to get home from work and cook” uncle Thabo said. “Did you ever become violent to her at any point during that time?” he asked. “No, Sir. I respected my wife so much. Maybe that’s why she did the things she did to me” uncle Thabo said. “What happened after your wife’s disappearing act?” he asked. “Mandiphumle, her daughter, started partying hard and using drugs. She would come home in the early hours of the morning, and would bunk school, knowing very well that she was doing her matric” uncle Thabo said. I could not believe my ears, what???? “How old is Mandiphumle? And how long have you known her?” he asked. “She’s 18, and I’ve known her since the day I met her mother. I’ve grown to love her like my own, even though she always reminded me that I wasn’t her father” he replied. “So, after your wife disappeared, Mandiphumle changed. How did you handle that?” he asked. “I tried talking to her about it, but she wouldn’t listen. All I ever wanted for Mandiphumle was for her to pass her matric and have a better tomorrow. During her partying phase, I had to look after my 2year old son, myself.” he said. I was numb. “And then, just like her mother, she woke up one day and decided to leave me with the baby. I got home from work and realized that she was gone. I went to look for her everywhere, but I couldn’t find her. When I got to her school, to report the matter, her teachers told me that she wasn’t herself the last time they saw her. Apparently, she was sleepy in class and generally inactive.” he added.

“You’re lying!!! You’re a liar!” I screamed. Mr Nkomo tried to cover my mouth, but I jumped up, screaming “You killed her! You killed my mother”. The court was disturbed and the two policemen came to me and carried me out. I was kicking and screaming ” Let go of me! He killed her! He killed my mother!!!” ……