Beth had been very much a second mum to Justice, having had no children of her own until Justice was five years old; and then Farleigh was her only child. She had grown up in Harrismith, the youngest of five children. Her father had had an excellent executive position, but he was an alcoholic, as a result they were always struggling. After Beth was born her mother took a part-time job and employed a live-in helper. That helper was Palesa's mother. Palesa was born when Beth was nearly four and she became Beth's only real childhood friend. The only one who knew the truth about the abuses that went on inside their fancy house. What neither of them ever knew was that they had the same father.
When Beth had married a much older, wealthier, man who could give her the security she craved, Palesa had moved to Grahamstown with her to be her helper. They had last seen Justice nearly ten years ago when he was leaving South Africa to continue his studies in England. He had completed two years of his engineering degree at Wits University and then won a bursary to study in England.
Beth had been the main guiding and financial force behind Justice's education before he got the bursary. He had been a genius student and Beth had been bitterly disappointed when he dropped out of university eighteen months after arriving in England. However, that was so long ago she was just thrilled to see him looking all grown up and obviously fit.
Palesa was in tears. She was so overcome it was Beth who made tea for them in Palesa's small kitchen. She also rang the house to tell Anna that both Palesa and Justice would be coming for lunch but that it would only be much later.
Justice was giving his mother news of the family as he had visited the village on his way to Grahamstown.
"Ngunu is very well and sends her love. You know she's still growing her own veggies and poone. She even collects and chops the patsi herself, except of course while I was there. You know Ma I said I would spend at least a week there before coming to you."
"I know, but that was month's ago."
"Hey it's so hard to leave that place man. Qwaqwa is just so beautiful. And there's actually plenty of work for somebody with engineering skills. I managed to do some really useful stuff while I was there. I think maybe one day I'll go and live there. Ngunu is always so happy to have me around, aw, the whole village is, actually."
"Well first you must spend some time with us Justice. Palesa and I have missed you terribly and we have spent the last five months expecting you to turn up any minute. I am sure you can find work in Grahamstown. You could even attend Rhodes and finish your degree."
"Just call me Beth, Justice, I think you are old enough now," she teased.
"Me? I'm still a youth according to the ANC. And I'm already thirty. How old must I be to be an adult in my own country?"
"My goodness, yes you must be. Farleigh turned twenty-five this year. But you are avoiding the issue."
"Sorry Beth, but it was you that interrupted me. Anyway the answer is no. I don't think they can really teach me anything more. I've studied plenty on my own. I've spent nearly ten years getting experience in a variety of environments, languages and degree of sophistication. And any time I stayed near to a large university I would always hook up with the engineering department.
"Basically, the only thing I don't have is my degree. But my CV is good and all my references check out. Mostly I've been working with people who I've kept contact with. I'm building a large network of skills across Africa and we're all interested in bringing together a real African renaissance."
"So you never spent much time in Europe?"
"I spent three years in Europe. And the last five years I was in at least a dozen African countries. I just had to go to Somalia. I never did find my father's people, but I didn't really expect to." He looked at Palesa.
"I'm sorry, my love. It just wasn't that kind of relationship. I mean we weren't exactly planning a family."
"You told me. He was long gone before you even knew you were pregnant."
"No problem. It helped me to blend in, I wasn't so obviously makwerekwere. It's only here in my own country I have that problem; except now I can speak fluent Sesotho again thanks to the time I spent in the village. Anyway I got to meet a lot of interesting people in Somalia and other countries. Most especially in Mali and Kenya.
"But isn't that whole area very dangerous right now?"
"It is Beth. But you know, whatever the living conditions, life still goes on. And sometimes it's that very climate that makes it possible to meet the kind of people I needed to meet. All over Africa, wherever I went, I met people who are trying to make a change. A lot of them are educated people, some with tertiary and even a couple of PH.D's. But I gather there are many many more. Even the villagers in North Africa have stopped just accepting their fate and started questioning.
"Western colonialism is decades gone but the oppression is still present. Slavery's supposedly long abolished but the DRC, Rwanda area is in a state. The whole area is the bottomless pit and even South African soldiers are aiding their oppression. We Africans need to unite as the owners of our continent and just throw out all the oppressors, one time."
"Askies, Palesa, I get kinda carried away. But we're working on it. I believe it is possible but we need to network the whole continent. North Africa is the hardest. The arabs have a stranglehold on it. Every country is colonised by the arabs but they behave like it's their native territory."
"Is it not?"
"No Beth. I don't believe so. There are still the original African tribes living very much oppressed lives. Even they have been forced to become moslem, just as western colonialism forced christianity on to us and just like here they are treated as a lower order of moslems. They're definitely colonies, you can feel it."
"But my boy, what are you getting mixed up in now?"
"Don't worry about it Momma. It's a lot to do with why I left varsity in the first place. It's not so much what I got mixed up in. More like what i started and have spent the better part of the past decade getting as many people as possible mixed up in it too."
Beth and Palesa both looked at him. 'Like they just caught me with my hands in the cookie jar,' he thought, and loved them the more, his two mothers.
"But enough of that. I need a break from it. What's with Farleigh? Nobody told him I was coming? He don' even remember me. In fact he seems kinda depressed. Not at all the ball of energy as I remember him."
"You know? I had forgotten he had ever been like that. You are right. He was so full of life then. He has become such a bore. I think his problem is that he is bored. He spent the last eighteen months in Europe. Only came back a couple of weeks ago. Now it seems he is running after your little sister."
"Jeez! How old's Edie now Mum?"
"Fifteen this year. Is he really? Most people think she is over sixteen when they meet her but."
"He must be bored. Hey, I don't even know my own sister. I shouldn't underestimate her. But I think we need to divert Farleigh's passions. One of my reasons for coming home was to find out what he was up to. I think I need to drag him away for a bit."
"Justice, it is so good to have you back again. I believe that if anyone can inspire Farleigh, you can do it. I just do not know if the timing is good. He is in such a rage."
"Ah, but that is the best thing about passion, Beth. Strike while the iron is hot and all that."
"Probably you are right. Come, let us go up to the house for lunch, you too Palesa. Maybe Farleigh will join us, though I do have my doubts."
* * * * * * *
After lunch Justice excused himself on the pretext of needing a rest. He was going to share with Danny until another outside room could be fixed up for him. Although Beth had tried to insist, he was adamant that he did not want Farleigh's old room inside the house.
After doing a bit of unpacking, he lay down for ten minutes, musing over the lunch time conversations. Then he got up and went out to explore the grounds.
He decided to climb the hill behind the sheds for the view and maybe to look out for Edie. He very much wanted to meet his little sister. As he came up between the sheds, there she was, almost as if she had been waiting for him.
"Hi. You're Justice." She did not seem very thrilled to see him.
"I'm going to the top of the hill. Come with me? I really wanna get to know the li'l sister I never met."
"Okay, let's go. I'm not working today."
"How'd you know it was me?"
"I saw the photo's you sent Ma. What I don't get is how you're my brother when you seem to be like Farleigh's brother or something."
"Yeah, Farleigh and I was exactly like brothers until I finished primary school. 'Slike he don't remember me tho' n it seems he n Beth don't talk anymore. But this morning, man, he was truly wild. It seems to have something to do with you." They were nearly at the top of the hill.
"Me? I just do the laundry and stuff. What happened? Has his boxer's shrunk or what?" She laughed loudly. Justice watched her intently.
"What?" He made her feel self-conscious.
"Seems like you a bit edgy too. I thought there was something more between you n Farleigh. Something beyond your daily duties, like. Maybe you even feelin' a bit guilty?"
"Guilty? No way. If I'm gonna do something it's cos I reckon it's fine to do that thing. I'm never gonna go round feeling guilty bout a thing like that."
"A thing like what?"
"Oh. you know. Giving a man what he wants. I mean why not?"
"Yeah, why not?"
"But most people make out like it's wrong. Except Ma. She's always saying it's pointless making laws or customs that contradict human nature cos human nature comes from god."
"Yeah, Mom's a wise ol' lady. I wish more people had mom's like Palesa. I often meet peole who are confused about wrong and right cos of some daft prejudices they grew up with. But little kids are never confused."
"Hey, you know Ausi Nana's baby, Thabo?"
"Ah, he's a big boy now. He's nearly five."
"No. He was only three at christmas."
"Yeah but he turned four while I was there so that means he's going for five."
"Ag, man. Well I was there christmas n he was telling me bout god n he was makin more sense than anybody I listened to before."
"Hey. He's my special friend, that one. But it's like any child, as long as you never teach him religion he will have a far better sense of god. You just know you are a part of it. And once you know that, you will never need religion in your life."
"That's what he was saying, bout being a part of it. And then when I was gonna squash a spider he tells me like, No, but it's also a part of it.
"And Salem he also says stuff like that. He reckons the Earth is god and every living thing on it is the Earth's will to live, in other word's god's will, and we're all a part of it. Then he said, this was the best part, he said the universe around us, the whole huge thing that stretches forever over our heads, is the power of god, that's why it's so big. Or something like that. I dunno if he really believes it or if he was jus bein romantic." She sighed quietly but deeply.
"Wow! Who is Salem?"
"You see down there, round the corner from the sheds? He's lying on his patio drinking beer or maybe he's just sleeping."
"On his patio? Where's his house?"
Edie giggled. "We're sitting on the roof."
"Yeah right." Justice stood up. "Show me."
"Okay!" Edie leapt up.
"Wait" Justice sat down again. Edie too. "You never told me bout Farleigh."
"Do I have to?"
"Just your side of the story. Before I hear it from him, you know."
"Well it's like this. I started working at the house while he was away n when he comes back he decides he fancy me. So what I can do? He's the boss."
"Oh rubbish. Did he pressurise you or what? Are you trying to get out of it now? What's made him so crazy?"
"Well no, he didn't actually pressure me or nothing. It jus seem like a good idea to go along with da boss y'know. But it's like I've got this boyfriend see an maybe like Farleigh was thinking we an item or something and now this morning he found out bout Salem."
"Ah ha! So this Salem we're going to see is your boyfriend. And what does he say bout you n Farleigh?"
"Salem is different hey. He knew all bout Farleigh all along an when I tell him I want to stop seeing Farleigh, he argues with me. I don think he likes Farleigh too much but I think he kinda feels for him."
"Okay . . okay."
"No, nothing. I jus never heard of a guy who don mind his girl havin another boyfriend."
"Salem really is different from other guys. He had a moslem dad but his mom brought him up and they never did no religion. Like Ma. He's got some real interesting ideas bout life n stuff."
"So let's go see him. Looks like he is sleeping. I don't think he's moved once all this time."
"Hmmm," she grinned. "He's dreamin bout me."
"Wena! Let's go."
She led Justice back down the way they had come and in behind the shed so that he could first see Salem's home. He was impressed.
"So how do we get to the patio?"
"Check." She moved the cow-hide a fraction.
"What? Lessee." Justice came over and peered behind it. "Wow."
"Go, go." She pushed him up the stairs and squeezed him out onto the patio.
"Dat is da illest. Dawg!"
Edie bent over Salem's sleeping face.
"Angel," she cooed, tickling him under his nose with her hair.
"Mmmph." He rubbed his nose and then pulled her into his arms almost swallowing her face. She pushed away from him.
"Wait. I want you to meet my brother." He sat up.
"Another brother Edie?" He winked at her.
"Oh get up. Justice this is Salem."
Salem got up and stretched out his hand but Justice stepped forward and embraced him. Stepping back he said, " It's so amazing to meet someone bigger than me."
Salem laughed. "An me. It's good to meet someone more my size for a change. We livin in a world of midgets."
"So you're Justice."
"Atually just Ice, heh-heh."
"Sho, Ice. Can I offer you a beer? Edie will you go?"
"You don have a lickle spliff, maybe?"
"Sho, just hang on." Salem trotted off up the hill and was soon bag with a little bag of weed. "I got a tree that grows these."
"Yay. I don't mind doing it." After a while. "Damn, this some fine stuff you growing. Are you selling?"
"Not really. I just grow for myself but I can let you have some."
"No, you light it." Salem threw him the matches. He inhaled deeply and blew out one vast cloud of smoke. He sighed. "Yeah dat feel so good in da head, man."
"So what you been doing Ice? I didn' even know my girl here had another brother."
"What! She's got four big brothers." Salem looked at Edie who just shrugged. "Yeah the other two's in Jozi but me, hey I've been all over like. I was studying in England when I stumbled on da true story behind western oppression. So I dropped out and since I been travelling through Africa kinda spreadin this gospel.
"You know what the big weapon of western oppression is?"
"Nope - it's da church man."
"So you don't do religion?"
"So if you like fillin out a form an they want to know what your religion is, what d'you write?"
"Depends on my mood hey. I might just leave it blank or sometimes I write N/A for not applicable. Heh-heh, once I put rastafari but then I got friendly wit dese rastas who didn' see da joke, oops."
"So dig this. In South Africa's 1996 census religions figured like this: The biggest group of christians were ZCC topping 4 million - about 8% of da population. After that is NGK just short of 4 million, the catholics were behind them and then the methodists. The moslem and hindi's were bout 500 - 600 thousand each. But those of us who said no to religion was over 5 million - more than 10% of the population."
"That's good news. There's still hope for us."
"Yeah, but apparently altogether the christians total nearly 75% of the population."
"So they still have a stranglehold on us. What do you think of religion. I gather you not a moslem."
"Nah. My dad was but he never stuck around. 'Twas my ma brought us up and she never had no respect for religion. I guess I inherited her view but it opened my mind to reality. The way I see it, the religious institutions' only aim is to narrow people's minds in order to control them - Pheela!"
"Hey you and I need to get together some time. Today I still want to try and find Farleigh. Let's just have another wee spliff then I'll be chuckin."
"I'll make it, but then I'm stayin here by Salem. Give Farleigh my regards, no, actually, better not."
"Heh, sista! I'm gonna hear all bout you now."
"Wena. You better come tell me about it."
"Okay. Lemme light that an I'll just have a few puffs before I go. Salem, you keep a few cold ones for me I'll be back one of these days."
"Sho. Here take the rest of this bag with you."
"Ke a leboha Kgotsi waka."