By Ayanda Xaba, South Africa:
I get into the bush a few feet away from the Ndebele house, look back to see if there is anyone following me and there is no one; so I run. Faced down, the only thought in my head is home, I run without lifting my head just so I don’t trip and fall. Suddenly, I bump into a hard body, like someone is just standing there. The last thing I need is someone in my way, I don’t need this! I lift my head in irritation and find Bheki with a smirk on his face.
Suicidal! That’s exactly how I feel; I really wish I could just die. I throw myself on the ground and cry. I’m expecting Bheki to insult me, curse as he manhandles me and throw me back into the hut, lock and throw away the key. But I do not hear any insults for a while and he doesn’t drag me in anyway so I look up and find him sitting in front of me. He folded his legs like a Buddha statue and puts his arms on top of them. I'm scared and my hands shake.
“MaMkhabela, I know this is hard,” he says softly.
My heart beats even faster; anger and fear banging through my chest. Breathing becomes very painful, I feel like I’m suffocating. How dare he use my surname? He knows it's hard? What does he know? The bastard finds pleasure in seeing me in pain. What did I ever do to this guy to hurt me like this? I fight to keep my tears back; I don’t want to give him the pleasure of seeing me cry.
He looks at me for a long time in silence; I get sick of it and snap, “Why aren’t you dragging me back into that hellhole?”
He shakes his head.
“Kill me,” I say softly then shout, “KILL ME! Go ahead and kill me! Do it! DO IT!” as I bang his chest. He doesn’t move or resist my beatings; he just sits there looking at me. Such coldness…reminds me of the day I was abducted. It all came back, everything.
I woke up that morning and cleaned my mother’s yard as usual. I made porridge then went to fetch water at the river with my little sister Nandipha who is 8 years old. She had her cute 5 litre bucket with her and was singing a hymn they taught her at school. She was always so joyful regardless of the situation at home. We are not a rich family, not by a long shot. My mother is single makes a living by selling fruit and snacks from home and at the village school. She only has two daughters and we've survived on the money she makes. The Dlomo girls are known to be smart in the village; even Nandipha is an A student. I got a bursary that covered my tertiary education.
When we finished filling our buckets with water; two big men came and dragged me. Nandipha screamed! I wasn’t even aware of what was happening to me; I only thought it was a mistake. Why would anybody want me? I asked them what they wanted but they didn’t reply. They broke my bucket and tore my dress as I was resisting them.
I kept shouting; “let me go, what do you want?” This has to be a mistake, why would anyone want to kidnap me? I told Nandipha to run and call mom because I realized these men had no intention of letting me go. The men took me into a dark hut and for hours I was left there alone screaming, crying until I ran out of energy. I slept on the floor the whole time until one of the men came back and gave me water to drink with a big enamel mug. I wanted to kick it but I was so exhausted and needed water. He put the mug next to me and left.
An hour later the same guy came back with a plate of food. He never spoke to me; for days he would just bring me food and water and then accompany me to the toilet. I was only allowed to go to the toilet late at night and very early in the morning. I had a bucket to pee during the day. A week passed; I still didn't know why I was being held there and who these people were. Bheki’s mother came at the beginning of the second week with food. It was a big meal consisting of vegetables and meat. She asked how I was doing and referred to me as her ‘makoti’. Only then did it hit me; they were marrying me off to someone I didn't even know. I kept wondering which of the two guys was to be my husband.
My tears get the better of me and I cry. Bheki reaches out his hands to me, I push them off. He seems more human now; his face seems to have warmed up a bit. He holds me gently and stands with me, gives me a hug and then whispers, “how can I make this easier for you?”
I don’t pull back, I whisper; “Let me go”.
“I can’t MaMkhabela.”
“I want to go home, I need to go home,” I sob.
He brings me closer to him and holds me tighter. This is the first time I feel any warmth from this man, even his words are soft and tender. The moment becomes intense, the hatred seems to be the only feeling my heart is pumping out.
“Let me make you happy, I want you to be happy,” Bheki says as he moves away from me.
I do not respond. He wipes the tears off my cheeks, takes my hand and walks me back to his house.
When we get to the gate, Malibongwe storms out of the house, shouting something about me escaping – with the family following her. It seems as though they were about to go out to look for me.
“Where did you find her? Was she running away?” Malibongwe says to Bheki.
He looks at me then turns to them and says, “No we were taking a walk”.
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