The sun is getting low by the time I get near Stella’s yard. I find a place where I can see the stoep of her Gogo’s house. I don’t want to visit when Stella is around. I have hidden my extra clothes and the things I bought in my tree. All except the chicken pieces which are in a plastic bag in my hand.
After about half an hour I see Stella leave. On her head she carries the overfull plastic dustbin that usually stands in the kitchen. Gogo is very particular about moving food scraps far away from the house because of the rat problem. There is a line of bins at the clinic that have proper lids and are emptied daily and I know this is where Stella will empty the rubbish. Normally I would offer to help her carry the dustbin but today I need to do more important things.
I take a deep breath and enter the yard. Rhythmic music is coming from a car parked in the street. I feel my heart beating in time to the base drums, doef, doef, doef, doef!
Gogo is sweeping the stoep with a well-used grass broom. Her mid-calf navy skirt swishes with the movement of her thin frame. At each brisk stroke a cloud of dust rises then, feeling intimidated, lies down again.
“Sawubona Gogo,” I greet in my best Zulu. I don’t dare get on to the stoep while Gogo is sweeping so I stand at the bottom of the steps. I hold out the packet with the chicken pieces. “I have brought something for the pot for tomorrow.”
“Ngiabonga Bafana,” she thanks me. “You know where the fridge is. Find a space to put it away. And don’t forget to close the door properly!” Stella’s Gogo always seems cross and shouts a lot. I hear the slash of the broom all the way in the kitchen.
I find a place for the chicken and wash my hands using the jug and the enamel basin. I wipe some fluff off my jeans and make my way with heavy feet to where Gogo has just finished sweeping the stoep and is about to hang the broom on a hook on the outside wall.
“Gogo, I need to speak to you. I need help. I am worried about Stella.” I come right out with it. My palms feel sweaty. I rub them together.
“What have you done to her? What have you said to her? She hasn’t been herself for days!” Gogo’s brown eyes flash and she places her hands on her hips.
“Please can we talk somewhere a bit more…private?” I look over my shoulder and sense that already some of the other people in the yard are beginning to take notice.
“I hope you can walk fast. I am going to the shop before it closes. You can walk with me and carry the packets.” Gogo goes inside to get her money which she hides down the front of her pink blouse.
I’m not sure whether to tell her about my lifestyle first or whether to tell her what happened to Stella.
“Come on Bafana, talk. You said you wanted to talk. Are you thinking of what lie to tell me? You’d better tell the truth. Do you hear!” She shakes her finger for emphasis.
We walk briskly and my breath is already coming in fast gulps. “On Tuesday night Stella was nearly raped!” It wasn’t how...