IT had grown dark. I was still outside our small house in Kalulushi playing with my friend Thandi.
Mum called out from inside the house and reminded me that we had not bought buns for breakfast and that I would be late for school if I was to buy the buns in the morning so I should dash off to buy them straight away. She came outside and gave me the money and asked Thandi if she could accompany me. Thandi said she would come along.
As we set off for the shops, Thandi’s older brother asked where we were going and said he would escort us and give us security because it was getting too dark for two little girls to walk about alone.
Both Thandi and I were 15 and in Grade 9 at Kalulushi Secondary School. Her brother, who was now walking briskly behind us, was approximately 21. He was done with school but still lived with his parents, doing the occasional ‘piece work’.
When we reached the shops, he remained in the shadows as we went inside and paid for the buns. As we were going back, he asked Thandi and me to stop. We obeyed, as we often did when ‘big boys’ like ba Nickster issued commands or instructions.
“You!” he said to his sister, in an almost threatening tone, “Kabiye kung’anda twalakusanga (Go home we will find you)!”
Thandi instantly walked off at the command as Nickster ordered me to stay still. “Lolela first iwe twalaya nomba line (You just wait, we will go shortly).”
When there was no sign or sound of Thandi anymore, which was a matter of seconds as she literally ran off into the darkness Nickster suddenly grabbed me by my neck from behind and tripped me to the ground. I let out a little scream of shock and fear. What was he up to all of a sudden? How could he attack me like this when he had always been friendly and offered protection to us from attacks by other boys and bully girls in the township?
“Ulepunda? Ndekwipaya (You want to scream? I will kill you!” he threatened as I suddenly fell silent, trembling. I was now very, very scared of him.
I had no idea why he had tripped me but he quickly forced himself on top of me and started to tear off my underwear. I protested mildly and told him mum would beat me if he did what he wanted to do. He assured me that my mum would not know.
Whatever he had decided to do I was not interested. Mum always said it was bad to do that. She warned us that anyone who did that stupid thing would be beaten and chased from home. He did not answer.
He appeared in such a mad rush as he forced everything he wanted. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never done this thing which I now realised he was going to do. I had heard so much about it.
Girls and boys at play and at school often talked about it and said it was nice, it was enjoyable but I had always feared to try it. If mum said it was bad, then it was bad.
But here I was now, helpless and being made to do it by force. I felt a sudden but terrible pain as he went about fulfilling his plans. I cried out that he was hurting me.
He again threatened me and told me to shut up or else I would never be seen again by anyone. But the pain, oh my God!
I cried out again so he put his palm over my mouth to muffle my cries. I could not stand it. I struggled to free myself and bit one of his fingers.
“Atase! Mwaiche ndekuchena nga uletumpa (Kid I’m gonna hurt you if you continue being stupid)!” he warned after hitting me hard with fists on both sides of my face.
He didn’t take long. I felt him get all excited puffing and huffing as I bore the worst pain I could ever imagine, pain I had never endured all my life. Then he was done and got off me.
“Kabiye kung’anda but takuli ukusosa (Go back home now but no reporting what has happened) or else you will be in hot soup!”
I got up and stood there tears rolling down my eyes.
“Did you hear what I said?” he asked threateningly. “If you tell your mother I will put you in a lot of sh….t! Go.”
I had trouble walking. But I went, now walking slowly. Home was not far from the shops and from where Nickster had attacked me.
Within five minutes I was there, without the buns and in tears. I had forgotten about the buns and did not bother to look where I could have dropped them when I was attacked. As soon as mum saw me she let out a little scream of shock. I was all dust up to my hair and was sobbing.
“Whaaat?” she let out. “What happened to you?”
I remembered Nickster’s warnings that he would make things difficult if I reported him. I kept quiet.
Mum asked again, all the time getting more anxious and agitated. When I still didn’t say a thing, she slapped me hard across the face and ordered me to tell her why I was all dust and crying.
“He will kill me if I tell you!” I shouted now feeling more pain from the slap.
“Who is it and what has he done to you?” she asked, dragging me into the bedroom, shoving me onto my little sleeping place on a small mattress. She pushed up my skirt and examined my private parts. “Who did this to you?” she asked, getting ever the more excitable and slapping me again.
“It’s ba Nickster!” I shouted. “He escorted us to buy buns then on the way back he told Thandi to go then he pushed me to the ground and did it.”
Mum grabbed me by the hand, dragged me up and tagged me along at almost galloping speed towards our neighbours’ house where Thandi and Nickster lived with several other brothers, sisters, cousins and their parents. Nickster was not there.
Her mother initially defended him and said Nick was a good guy who wouldn’t harm a fly so there was no way he could have done that.
Mum was so incensed she attacked her colleague. She was throwing angry punches and using some of the most vulgar words I had never heard before.
Nickster’s father intervened, helped quell the attack and told his wife there was no need to defend the boy if he had done something nasty.
There was need for cool heads. He stopped the fight. I was made to narrate what had happened. Thandi was asked for her version.
She narrated and confirmed that ba Nickster had ordered her off ahead of us and had remained alone with me.
I have no space for what followed here on Mr Njombwinjo’s column. Police came in. Nickster remained at large. It was said he had been hidden in another town by his parents.
Then the police arrested two of his younger brothers and his mother and told his father the three would only be released after Nickster had handed himself over. He did show up the next day.
There were now serious negotiations as his family offered mum compensation and appealed to her motherly heart, the loving and forgiving heart of a mother to withdraw the case and save the “boy” from going to jail. Money exchanged hands.
The police had a share and Nickster was released. Then they sent him off to Chifubu in Ndola to stay with his older brother Nofold who worked in a bank so he wouldn’t cause any more problems in the neighbourhood.
After three months of regular vomiting in the mornings, and lots of other general discomfort, my mother noticed and asked me a few questions.
I confirmed that I had not had any periods from the time Nickster attacked me. A new war ensued with his family. See now he had me pregnant and my education would be interrupted. There were new and angrier exchanges between mum and Nickster’s mother.
But the father intervened again, said they would pay damage, which was agreed and I was forcibly consigned to Chifubu to stay with Nickster at Nofold’s house.
Nickster treated me badly. We shared a bedroom and a bed but often he would just say unkind things to me about me and my whole family.
He said he wanted the beast inside me to come out soon so I could go back to my family of scavenging hyenas.
He said I was a bitch who had framed him, that I had been having sex with everyone in Kalulushi and took advantage of the incident on that night to frame him.
I cried a lot and attempted to go back home but my people said no, that Nickster must pay for his irresponsible acts.
He brought different girls to Nofold’s house while the brother was at work, just to show them off to me. He said he had class, and would never waste time on a skunk like me.
Although my cousin Jusi knew this story and how it thereafter, all my life really, made me fail to relate to men the appropriate way, she never quite sympathised. She believed all I needed to do was forget about the bad experience and open a new chapter.
She and the men who called me childish and other unkind things had never lived through as sad a ten month period as I had done when Nickster raped me and I had to stay with him.
I wanted to tell Uncle Dee. I wanted him to know why I failed to be intimate with any man. Maybe he would help me. Yes, I would tell him.