A second chance

It was a beautiful sunny morning when I passed through the streets that lead me to doom. The newspaper flew from nowhere and landed right on my pathway. It was Lebo’s picture that caught my attention, she still looked the way she did ten years ago though a bit matured. She was standing next to her mansion in silver lakes with a big Range rover parked next to the garage, she was now a successful business executive and attorney. The woman who had haunted my dreams every single night when I closed my eyes. I found myself wondering how it was like to be living a life like hers, I was envious and felt so small. Luxury in abundance, expensive holiday trips abroad, expensive designer clothes and diamonds. Those were my little conclusions about her and the likelihood that she was surrounded by equivalent powerful and successful people like her. What more could a woman ask for? I thought some girls had all the luck in the world except me, I had grown up from the poorest of backgrounds with fifteen siblings in a five roomed house. There was no privacy or even the simplest form of a peaceful mind. My parents had named me Kagiso and I hated them for having so many children and so little to offer. I was a plain grumpy child with huge brown eyes. I saw everything with my big eyes, they were like two hunters. My childhood was filled with depression and so I grew up with no sense of direction whatsoever. When I became a matriculant I gave myself to dagga, alcohol and different strange men. The men were those type that ended in jail or as junkies. This fact didn’t bother me, it was all about pleasure. These things and the only friend I had gave me comfort. My neighbour Lebo had become a dear friend throughout the years even though I hid my pagan ways from her. There was no bursary or money waiting for me after matric unlike for Lebo. Unlike my friend I had always believed I was a slow learner or an average performer. It didn’t matter to me much when my classmates said I was a stupid gal with a big afro on her head. I was hopeless and people’s opinions didn’t shake me, at least I was popular for misbehaving. Lebo had the looks and the brains of Einstein. She was the picture of a perfect woman, disciplined, focussed and I was the only friend she had. It was the farewell party that had changed my life forever. I had persuaded Lebo to come along against her nature and had told my parents not to switch off the candle. We usually didn’t afford electricity, it was a once off luxury. That night I persuaded Lebo to have dagga with me and my other buddies. “A little bit of fun won’t hurt you, I promise” I still remember uttering those words. I don’t know what happened after the dagga and the brandy but Lebo and I were on our way home accompanied by some guys I knew. She was crying and her dress was stained with blood, she had been raped and I didn’t even see it happen. She had uttered so many words of hate towards me that night and I didn’t care. When I got home people where standing outside my home with buckets of water. I thought my vision was playing tricks on me but my home was filled with smoke and ashes. Immediately I came back to reality without even trying to. The candle had burned down everything and everyone. It was my fault that my whole family died that night and it was also my fault that my best friend was rapped. I cried that night, until the the morning sun shone. The matric results came and luckily I had passed. Everyone who took me in quickly kicked me out. I missed my family, the noise and clutter I used to hate so much. I never appreciated them until it was too late, I had no one. The fiery furnace dreams wearied me down and made it hard for me to get through the day. The cries of my family members tormented me, this was the same every night. I thought God was punishing me with the dreams. Some years back a family I had lived with had even took me to a psychologist. The dreams had remained, they never went away but kept me sane. The other nightmare I had was about Lebo, she was always telling me that she hates me and that I’ll go to hell one day. The streets of Marabastat and Pretoria CBD had become my home for four years. I had spent some years with different families and shelters before. It was the newspaper I had picked up that day that led me to my new home, it was a homeless shelter run by a Mrs Mahlangu. The homeless shelter was just below the article about Lebo and hence I found out about it. The hunger and lack of sleep were overwhelming so I followed the newspaper trail and found the shelter. I longed for a piece of bread and a bath. Even though the cold in the night at the streets took away the pain I felt so deeply, the night out there was like waiting for a jackal to sup on you. Mrs Mahlangu was warm and welcoming. She understood each and every one of us well, she was herself an orphan who had to move from one place to the other. It was here that I found some paints and cardboards and immediately knew what I was doing. Art became my friend, the only thing I could do so well without anybody telling me what to do. It was a good discovery, I felt proud that I could do something. Mrs Mahlangu was impressed and borrowed some of the paintings I did. For the first time in my life I knew how to focus on something, I was indoors most of the time. One morning Mrs mahlangu came and took me by the hand and led me to her office. She told me I was talented, artistic and that art might be my way out of the shelter. She told me about a woman opening a gallery who liked my paintings. I thought my paintings looked cheap, she thought they had substance and originality. Mrs Mahlangu bought me more material and I was committed to my art, it kept me going. The first pay check I got was five thousand rand, I went out that day with the intention of buying more material and sum clothes. I quickly lost my way and forgot how hard I had worked to impress Mrs Mahlangu. My old friends were waiting for me like hungry lions as though they smelled the cash from miles. I spent two weeks on the streets boozing and smoking. How I had missed misbehaving and getting high. The adrenalin felt good for that moment and when reality hits, regret occurred. It was when the money was no more that I remembered the big meeting I was supposed to have that day with the gallery owner. I had woken up feeling like I had been hit by a train, smelling like a brothel. I have not had a decent meal in the two weeks that I’ve been away. My whole being told me that I had to be at the meeting with gallery owner. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity, it looked like it was already late and I was a mess. It was a very sunny day and I could feel the heat through my body as I ran like a rabbit, I just knew that I had to see this woman. Sweat was dripping and I was out of breath when I finally saw the shelter. I didn’t care about how I looked or smelled, I just had to be there. Just when I approached the gate my life stopped for a minute and suddenly everything was black. I couldn’t talk or feel my body. I heard voices from a distance, someone was saying call an ambulance, you hit her. It was Mrs Mahlangu’s shake that brought me back to life. When I opened my eyes I saw a beautiful woman in a white suit, I thought she was an angel until I saw tears streaming down her face. She was speaking on her mobile phone, giving commands. The woman in white had a familiar face, I knew I’ve seen her before. It was the woman I’ve seen on the newspaper that led me to Mrs mahlangu’s shelter. The big clock I saw when I opened my eyes said it was 8pm, I was lying in a hospital bed and my whole body ached. I felt dizzy and light headed. The woman was Lebo, my childhood friend and she was holding my hand. She had been beside my bed all this time and had said quite a lot of things while I was unconscious. She was sorry she never forgave me, the burden had grown big and heavy. When I finally gained strength I raised my voice high in pain”I’m sorry I hurt you, i’ve been longing to see you” with those words I passed out into another deep sleep. She had also looked for me in the past and had given up. Lebo’s parents had moved as well and hence I couldn’t locate her. When I finally woke up I told her how I’ve forgiven her too, that I heard everything she had said. The doctor who was always attending to me came in and asked Lebo to go home and rest. I had never paid attention to men before but this doctor caught my attention, Dr Billy Dalton. His voice had become familiar throughout my stay in the hospital. It was the first time I really saw his face and paid attention. He had a physique like that of an athlete, his bright blue eyes complemented his gentle face. It was his dimpled smile that took my breath away to a coveted world of bliss. Since I became homeless I never dwelt on such thoughts and didn’t let them to enter my domain. “Hi I’m Dr Dalton and how are you feeling today? You look rejuvenated I must say, still experiencing some pains? I’m here to take care of you” he said with a soothing voice. Immediately I snapped out of my delusional dream, somehow I thought he could see through my thoughts. I summoned the voice in me in response “ I’m much better thanks doc, I would be perfect if I didn’t look so terrible like I haven’t had a bath in 50 yrs” I giggled. The doc looked at me with amusement and said “I’d take you out any day looking like this, I’m sorry I’m not supposed to be talking like this to my patient, hope I’m forgiven”. “I’ll only forgive you if you could ask me out when I’m finally leaving this place” I said shyly so. In two weeks I was out of the hospital ready to do the paintings requested for the gallery and for the date with Billy. Lebo had saved my life and I had saved hers too. Forgiveness was what I sought to help me move forward. I had even forgiven myself for the arson tragedy. Picking up the pieces of my life back again was a hard task, I failed a couple of times until I made it. Lebo was now dating. She never did after the rape. She was a virgin when her innocence was took by force and she had resented men ever since. Everything was now in my capable hands, to make life what I wanted it to be. As for my family they remain in my heart always and forever….

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