The six months that followed after papa’s death were tragic. I was only grateful for a few things and people in my life. I was glad I had a roof on my head and food to eat even though I lost a good deal of weight. The first days of living with Uncle Richard were difficult that I would cry myself to sleep every night. I wondered if I was over reacting or being needy. Approaching my eighteenth birthday, I knew I was becoming a woman and I needed to fully realise that.
After staying at my Uncle’s place for a month, I decided to ask him about the possibilities of me going back to school.
“Uncle,” I called him while he was busy working on a bed.
My uncle was a carpenter and his workshop was at home behind the house. He would make tables, chairs, sofas, wardrobes and the likes from home and later sell them at an order price to other carpenters. He was a well renowned carpenter and he did good for himself and his family.
“What is it Tinashe?” He answered irritated.
“I have been wondering,”
“About what,” He cut me short.
“Will I ever go back to school?”
He stopped what he was doing and looked me directly in the eyes and said, “What do you need school for?”
“I have to complete Uncle,” I answered scared.
“Show me a woman that you know that completed school around these areas,” he raised his voice.
I couldn’t answer him.
“You see? Even your aunt didn’t finish school. School is for boys not women.”
I thought about how papa insisted that I finish school and here I was standing in front of his brother telling me that I needn’t school.
“You will be eighteen soon. Start thinking about marriage,” he dismissed me.
The reason I asked Richard about school was because I thought he would be more reasonable than his wife who worked me like a slave. I didn’t know what she wanted from me. Every morning she would wake me at 5am and ordered me around.
“Wake up! Lazy child,” she shook me.
Three months of staying with this family and I had gotten used to these early shook-ups. Every morning, I would wake up and wait for her to come and shake me up and she never got tired of it. It was like she was having pleasure from doing it.
“Witch,” I groaned.
“What did you just say?” She asked.
“Nothing Aunt Tamara,” I lied. “I was yawning.”
“Hurry up, get up,” she left the room.
After she leaves the room, I would kneel down and say a short prayer and start my day which would never seem to end. I would start by sweeping the entire yard and then do the dishes. I would then sweep the house. By the time everyone was waking up, they would find breakfast prepared for them. It had become a routine.
With every struggle I was going through each and every day, I felt myself growing stronger and stronger. The little things that would make me cry stopped bothering me at all. By the time I had spent five months with them, I was used to everything thrown at me. Not everything though, Enoch’s harassments were one thing I would have never gotten used to.
One single afternoon, I was peeling potatoes in the kitchen listening to the radio. Enoch came in and claimed he was hungry. I told him that lunch was not ready yet but he insisted I needed to give him something to eat.
“If you won’t give me food then let me eat you,” he said biting his lip.
I ignored what he said and continued peeling the potatoes.
“You have heard me and you know what I am talking about Tinashe,” he added.
“Enoch, I respect you a lot. Stop your nonsense.” I raised my voice.
“No one is home come on, let’s do a quick one,” he touched his bulge.
“Stop it Enoch,” I stood up.
I was about to leave the kitchen and he touched my butt. Without hesitating I slapped his face with all the force I could harness in me.
Bewildered, he groaned like an animal, “Stupid girl, let me show you.”
He stepped forward to where I was and I screamed. He got hold of my hands and I shook him off and ran to the door where I bumped into his mother.
“What is this now?” She asked surprised.
Enoch was chasing me and as soon as he saw his mother, he stood motionless.
“Aunt Tamara it’s Enoch,” I pointed at him.
“Mom I am telling her to give me something to eat she’s refusing,” he lied.
“That’s not it Aunty,”
Cutting me short, she said, “go back to the kitchen and prepare lunch.”
“No buts,” she pointed to the kitchen.
Disappointed, I went back to the kitchen with my face down. What could have happened if she hadn’t shown up. Since that day, I became afraid of Enoch. There was no limit to what he could do.
“Why do you tolerate them this much?” Marlon asked.
Marlon was now my boyfriend. My secret boyfriend. At one time, my aunt suspected that I was seeing someone and she made a big deal out of it. She shouted at me and gave me lectures of unwanted pregnancies and how she can throw me out of her place. After that incidence, I kept the relationship as secret as possible. Whenever he was coming, I would ensure that I would finish my chores earlier than usual and meet him.
“They are my relatives,” I sighed.
“I just think it’s too much Tinashe. Have you looked at yourself lately in the mirror?” He asked concerned.
“What can I do Marlon?” I looked at him.
“Something! Anything!” He replied. “Enough talk about your family, I miss you.”
“I miss you too,” I said shyly.
He pulled me closer and hugged me. Every time he would hug me, I felt wanted and safe. Marlon was nice to me on most occasions. I was only worried about his need to have sex with me. I told him that I wanted to wait till marriage. At first, he seemed to have respected my principle. Later, he started again and he made it seem like I was being ungrateful to him. Since papa died, Marlon had helped me a lot. Perhaps, I was being unfair to him. He had done a lot for me and the only thing he asked from me, I couldn’t give him. I thought to myself.
The chances I got to see Marlon, I would make an excuse of going to Clara’s. My uncle’s place was in the same neighbourhood as our old house only a few meters away. I had planned it so well and there was no issue at home. Whenever I would know that I would see Marlon, I would take her to Clara’s place early in the morning so that she could play with Clara’s little sisters. That way, she wouldn’t be seeing some things I was going through.
“Tina!” She exclaimed in excitement.
“My Kasuli,” I exclaimed back.
“Look what we made with Juliet and Charity,” she showed me a clay doll.
“Let’s go home now, you will come next week again. Where’s aunt Clara?”
“Here I am Tinashe,” she said from my back.
“Thank you once again for taking care of her Clara. I owe you so much.” I said sincerely.
“Don’t mention it. What are friends for?” She said. “Now get going, its late your aunt will be furious.”
“Bye Clara. Have a goodnight.”
“Bye Aunt Clara,” Kasuli waved at her.
We left Clara’s place and headed back home. Most of the times Marlon would insist to take us back home but I would turn him down lest we meet with Uncle or Enoch who would tell Aunt Tamara.
“So did you make me something?” I asked her while she held my hand walking home.
“I made you a cake,” she removed a clay cake from her pocket.
“Thank you Suli,” I touched my chest.
Her face lightning, she said, “It’s your birthday soon, I will make you a big one.”
Of the people I was grateful for, Kasuli was on the top if at all there was a list. Six months earlier, they tried to separate us but I wouldn’t have any of that.
“You heard me right. Kasuli will be going to Chongwe,” Uncle Richard repeated himself.
“No ways. Kasuli stays with me. Wherever I go she goes, wherever I stay, she stays.” I looked at them.
“But it’s costly staying with the both of you,” Uncle Richard said.
“Don’t take us in then, we don’t mind.”