Posted by Eve Rabi Author
Apartheid: noun, historical, a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.
Decades before Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, the country was rigorously governed by various pro-apartheid acts, including the Immorality Act, where sex between white and other ethnic groups was a criminal offence. Both parties contravening the Immorality Act would be imprisoned for up to ten years.
Under that law, Shabba and Sarie’s love was declared a crime and both of them were imprisoned. Now, one of them must risk all to save the other. A heartwarming tale of love, loss, redemption and … revenge!
If you haven’t read the first FIVE excerpts in this series, please click on the link below:
(NB: This is a raw excerpt, not yet professionally edited, so please overlook any errors in this piece)
The story continues …
The puppies were just gorgeous, and they thrived with the love and attention everyone on my parent’s property gave them. Well, by that, I mean they thrived on the love the servants gave them. My mother and father ignored the puppies. Why? Well, think about it – if they ignored their own daughter, their own flesh and blood, how can we expect them to love dogs? To love animals? It was too much to ask of them.
Anyway, they grew up to be great watchdogs, growling menacingly at any stranger or car approaching our property, snarling at anyone they didn’t know. The slightest sound, and they were on their feet, ears pricked, ready to charge. They were so alert, so scary, so good at guarding our property, we no longer needed to lock our doors.
There was intense love between Shabba and the dogs. When he walked, they walked, when he sat, they sat. They woke him up in the morning, by entering his room and literally pulling the blanket off him, then followed him everywhere, until the sun set and he went back to bed. Whenever he climbed into the treehouse, they would sit at the bottom of the tree for hours patiently waiting for him to come down. When he climbed down, they would once again shadow him.
Baba loved the dogs and spent hours cooking them special food on an open fire for their growing bones, which the dogs devoured in seconds, then looked at him with eyes that said, This is it? Seriously?
Life was good for me, I had no complaints. I mean, I had a lot going for me – I had Shabba, who was my best friend, Baba, Mama, Katrina, Fendi and all the servants who loved me. I had a real-life doll called Poppie, who could now dance and clap and blink her eyes and give me smiles that lit up my day. I had four puppies who could fetch sticks, roll over and play dead, and make me laugh with delight. So, with so much love around me, so much joy I received from everyone and everything around me, I didn’t miss the love of my mother and father. Well, only when I saw other children being openly adored by their mothers and fathers in public, would I miss their love. Then, I would grow quiet and wishful – if only my parents loved me that much. If only …
One day, my mother appeared excited – a TV show had decided to film a documentary titled, At Home with the Vorsters. “The place must look sharp, ay?” my mother said, as she brought out her tiara and lovingly wiped it down for the filming.
So, every servant on the property was put to work, to make the house sparkle for the photoshoot. They started off by hiding the cases and cases of vodka my mother purchased in bulk – had to keep the pastor’s wife’s secret safe.
My mother’s entire family was over for the shoot – my grandma or Ouma Jan, my mother’s sisters, Hestrie and Elzette, together with their husbands and children, my mother’s two brothers Willie and Nieman, their wives Sourcie and Peggy, and their children.
It was no secret that my mother hated her sisters-in-law Sourcie and Peggy and constantly complained about them – “They just jealous ‘cause I marry bucks, and they got bugger all!” I had an inkling the feeling was mutual, so, I wondered why they had been invited.
It was no secret that my mother hated her sisters Hestrie and Elzette too, and constantly complained about them – “They just jealous because I got a rich man and they got fok all! Good, let them come see how wonderful my life is, and let them cut and burn!” she said, as she brought out her beauty queen sash from almost nine years ago, and handed it to Katrina for ironing.
All of my father’s children from his previous marriage were also invited, and they all showed up in their finery, sparkling like my mother’s crystal glasses. Also invited was Torit, my father’s ex-wife, the wife of my father’s youth, the woman my mother stole him from. Of course, my mother and Torit hated each other, but I do believe that my father, the pastor, had Torit over to subtly show the world that he continued to have a harmonious life with his ex-wife and children. It was a case of – If my wife forgives me for cheating on her and dumping her for a woman thirty years my junior, then you should too.
The cameras followed my mother around inside the house, clicking away in different locations to show off the house. It was a pleasant summer’s day, so lunch was served on our oversized patio. Katrina, Mama Tsela and another servant named Margaret served lunch to our guests, while Baba served drinks. On a blanket on the grass nearby, Poppie played with some of my toys, while Fendi and Shabba watched over her.
Eenie, Meenie, Miney and Mo were at hand, looking magnificent, because Baba and Shabba had bathe them earlier that morning, and brushed their coats till they shone.
That day, my mother, for some reason, did not have any migraine medicine. She just drank water with lemon and ice. Around twenty-five by then, she looked really lovely in a flowing peach caftan and her signature accessory – a crown of miniature flowers on her head, lest we forget that she was once Miss Boksburg. I assumed that my father ordered her not to wear her tiara and sash, so she rebelled with a crown of flowers on her hair.
My parents put on quite a show for the cameras. They sat at the lunch table, holding hands and even kissing lovingly at times. I rarely saw them this close, this affectionate, so I stared at them with a confused look on my face. In fact, everyone at the lunch table stared at the happy couple.
“Schoeman, he say he want us to renew our wedding vows,” my mother boasted. “I tell him ‘Ja, but only if we do it on the beach.’” She looked up at my father for confirmation.
“Okay, my darling,” my father said with a smile.
“A beach wedding with all the trimmings and watnot.”
“With Ge’ Korsten singing for us?”
“Of course, lovie,” my father said, before he leaned in and kissed her coral lips.
While they kissed, there was a lot of eye rolling that went on between not just my mother’s sisters-in-laws, but also between her own sisters, Torit and her six children. I felt left out because I also wanted to roll my eyes, but I wasn’t sure at what point to do so.
“My rock must be bigger than this one, ay?”
“Liefie, of course! Anything for my poppie.”
At the mention of her name, Poppie, who had been crawling on a blanket on the grass, looking as sweet as ever, with Fendi and Shabba hovering nearby to stop her from wandering too far off the blanket, let out a loud gurgle.
“You’ve got to see this baby,” I said to my cousins. “She’s so cute. She’s got hair the color of Ouma’s furniture.”
“Hai, my furniture is noggal Imbuia!” Ouma snapped, before she craned her neck to look at Poppie’s hair.
Soon, everyone was straining to see Poppie, who had hair the color of Ouma’s furniture.
So, together with my cousins Jessie and Alettie, I ran over to Poppie.
“Watch this,” I said. “Clap for me, Poppie.”
Poppie clapped and we hollered with delight.
“Hey, that’s my name!” my mother yelled from the patio.
The adults on the patio smiled at Poppie cuteness.
“Gosh, Sarie,” my mother said, “I can’t believe you used to be so small. You were so cute then. Time flies, ay?”
I was cute then. I wanted to be cute now.
“Ja, Ma,” I said, “but how come I didn’t get pa’s birthmark and Poppie did? It’s not fair, Ma. I want to be blessed with the stamp of my country on my face too!” I began to trace the birthmark on Poppie’s face. “The shape of Africa …”
“Lemme see, lemmee see,” Alettie said, as she peered at it. “Ja, it’s the same shape as your Pa’s, ay?”
“She’s got the same color eyes as your Pa, too,” Jessie remarked.
“Let me see.” I said, holding onto Poppie’s squirming head. “Ja, she has!” I looked at my father, “Pa, did you …”
I stopped when I saw the look on the adult’s faces. All of them sat rigid with their eyes the size of saucers. The cameras continued rolling and clicking capturing everything.
I looked at my mother. She sat with her lips pressed together, her nostrils flaring, her eyes narrow. I looked at my father. He had sunk low in his seat, his face the color of the beetroot salad on the table.
“What?” I said to my mother.
She didn’t answer.
I looked at Ouma. She was staring at Poppie, her hands on her chest, her false teeth out of alignment and hanging as loose as her jaw.
“What?” I asked.
No answer from her either.
I looked at Katrina who had been serving food. She stood frozen, a look of abject terror on her face.
“What?” I asked again, suddenly very fearful.
“I got me one too,” Katrina piped up in a shrill voice. “Look! Poppie got it from me. Look!” She moved aside her scarf to reveal a birthmark – the shape of South Africa above her left eyebrow, the one Agnes made her cover with the scarf. The one Agnes insisted Katrina painted clay over each time she left the servants quarters.
That gesture of Katrina’s, intended to add salve to the situation, only served to worsen the situation. My Ouma started to breathe loudly, causing my aunts to jump to their feet and fan her. My mother’s brothers sat with dazed expressions on their faces. My mother’s sisters-in-law, they handled the situation differently – they clicked champagne glasses with each other, then drank up.
Torit and her children – how did they handle the situation? Well, how do you think they did? I mean, considering that Magda had stolen their husband and father, destroyed their home and lived happily ever after with a golden-haired child? They were unmistakably smug. All of them.
My mother kicked back her chair, got up and storm off into the house. My father, the esteemed Pastor Schoeman Vorster, now flaming red in the face from being busted for rape and incest, stammered and stuttered under the glares and stares of disapproval.
Suddenly, we heard the sound of breaking glass inside the house. I was ready to run into the house, when my father said, “Stay here!” and rushed into the house, ditching his shocked guests and equally shocked cameramen.
Ignoring the sniggers and high-fives between my half-siblings and their mother, I hovered around the entrance to the house, dying to see what was taking place inside.
Unable to stand Torit and her happy children, Ouma stood up and in a terse voice, instructed her family to leave, muttering something about giving the young couple some privacy. My mother’s family rose from their seats and left, but not before each adult family member helped themselves to bottles of alcohol, and almost all the remaining food on the table. By the time they left, their bags were bulging with food and alcohol. The servants did not have much to clear that day, because my mother’s family took care of that.
Torit and her brood also left, seeming in unusually high spirits.
Of course, too curious to listen to my father to stay where I was, I crept over to their bedroom and found my mother glaring at my father, the empty vodka bottle in her hand suspended in mid-air, ready to strike. Nearby, shards of broken glass from the mirror on her dressing table lay on the floor.
“Magda …” My father uttered just one word, however it was enough to hear the terror in his voice.
I watched him rush to shut the door, after which, I heard the sounds of muffled voices, the sound of furniture being moved around, yelps,
The next morning, my mother emerged from her room in a black silk gown, black slippers and a black eye. Sensing she was in a foul mood, I said nothing.
When my father emerged from the room, he sported terrible scratch marks on his face, neck and arms. Of course, I pretended not to notice, even though I missed nothing. Has to do with Poppie, I thought.
Days later, I awoke to the sound of anguished wails. I hurried to the kitchen to find Katrina on her knees before my mother. “Please Mevrou, please don’t send her ’way!” Katrina begged. “Please!”
“No, Katrina! She makes too much nose. I need her gone, or you will have to go too.” My mother began to walk away.
Katrina ran after her, tears streaming down her face. “Please, Mevrou, please!”
“She’s a very nice woman okay? They can’t have a baby, so she will treat Poppie like her own. She is happy to take Poppie because she has a little bit straight hair, so be grateful, okay?”
Katrina dropped to the floor and grabbed my mother’s knees. “Please, mevrou! I beg you. I will do anything! Please!”
My mother shrugged her off and walked away with her bottle of migraine medicine. Horrified at what I was hearing, I ran after my mother. “What are you doing, Ma? Why are you sending Poppie away?”
“Shut your mouth, Sarie! Don’t stick your nose into big people’s affairs. How many times must I tell –
“But Ma –”
My mother’s hand lashed out and connected sharply with my cheek. “Shut up, Sarie!”
Despite being hit, I continued to fight for Katrina. “You can’t do that to Poppie! To Katrina! You can’t! you can’t! You CAN’T!”
This time I got the back of my mother’s hand which sent me staggering.
With a determined look on her face, my mother walked to her room. Katrina ran after her, begging her to change her mind. My mother, deaf to my pleas, entered her room and shut the door behind her. Katrina fell to her knees and sobbed outside my mother’s bedroom door, begging my mother to open the door, to let her keep Poppie, begging her to reconsider. My mother’s door remained locked.
Margaret and Mama Tsela picked up a limp Katrina and almost carried her to the servant’s quarters.
The next day, a white couple from a neighboring farm turned up at my mother’s house with an envelope for my mother. After which, they began to pull Poppie out of Katrina’s arms.
I became terribly upset and started to cry. “Where are they taking her?” I wailed to Mama Tsela.
“To their home,” she whispered, before she wiped tears from her eyes with her apron.
“Why do they want our baby?” I demanded. “We can take care of Poppie. Tell them to go. Tell them to go now!”
Mama Tsela put her finger on her lip, a helpless look on her face. I looked at Katrina, who was sobbing hysterically.
“Tikki and I gonna to take good care of her,” the woman whispered to Katrina. “We gonna love her like our own baby, ay?”
“You said I could s … see her over weekends, right?” Katrina asked through her tears.
“Ja, ja,” Tikki said, then looked at his wife, “Charne?”
“Ja, ja, ja!” Charne said.
While Katrina sobbed, the woman removed all Poppie’s clothes, and dressed her in the new clothes they had brought along.
Mama Tsela brought out a bag for Poppies old clothes. She placed the items of clothing into the bag and handed it to the man. He reached to accept it, when Charne screeched, “Nee, Tikki!” She looked at Mama Tsela. “Keep that for the other poor children.”
Mama Tsela nodded and hugged the bag to her chest. Katrina took the bag of Poppie’s clothing from Mama Tsela and held onto it.
I looked at Baba lurking in the background. Everything about him sagged – his shoulders, his jowls, his mouth … I looked around me – everyone was crying. Except my mother. She stood in the background with a mug in her hand, her eyes fixed on Katrina. In hindsight, I do believe that she had enjoyed seeing Katrina lose Poppie. She had been humiliated in front of our family by the discovery that Poppie had been sired by her straying husband, and for that, someone had to pay – Katrina.
A strange feeling flitted over me. Hatred. I felt hatred for my mother. As a child you are not born with hating; it is instilled in you by people, painful circumstances experiences and hurt. I was hurt, angry and terribly ashamed that my mother could be so cruel and heartless. She had a child; she should have known better. I began to despise my mother for sending Poppie away.
As Tikki and Charne drove off with our Poppie, Katrina ran after the car sobbing. She ran until the taillights of the car disappeared from view, then fell to the ground and sobbed. Baba tried to pick her up, but it was as if all the bones in her body had liquified, she kept flopping onto the ground. He eventually stepped back. It broke my little heart to see her so broken. I lay with her on the floor, my arms around her, weeping with her. Mama Tsela, Margaret and Fendi joined us. Together, we all lay on the floor weeping with Katrina over the loss of our beloved Poppie, the bones in all our bodies equally liquid. The day Poppie was stolen from us, I learned how about hate, how to despise, and what the meaning of helpless was.
End of Excerpt from ColorBlind – Coming Soon!
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