My lips are sealed

I stormed out of the shack, anger boiling up inside me. Dust trailed behind me as I started to run, to try to escape from my miserable home and demanding mother.
“Amahle!” I heard someone cry out, but I couldn’t turn around, not now! I threw myself down onto the roadside and glared at my surroundings, sadly. Small shanties shone in the blazing sun, young children played games bare foot. But, not one of them was reading or writing. I wished hard that someday I would learn, maybe one day....

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1. My wish..

 

I stormed out of the shack, anger boiling up inside me. Dust trailed behind me as I started to run, to try to escape from my miserable home and demanding mother.

“Amahle!” I heard someone cry out, but I couldn’t turn around, not now! I threw myself down onto the roadside and glared at my surroundings, sadly. Small shanties shone in the blazing sun, young children played games bare foot. But, not one of them was reading or writing. I wished hard that someday I would learn, maybe one day.

         The sun was fading behind Table Top Mountain and my eyes started to droop. I slowly stood up and dragged my heavy legs towards the well. The sound of rippling water soothed me and as I heaved the bucket up, loud shouts came from behind. Some boys were sauntering towards me; I grabbed my bucket and ran towards them.

“Amahle, what are you doing here?” my elder brother questioned. I shrugged my aching shoulders and shoved the bucket into his arms. Trudging silently back home, I glanced at the empty shack and wondered, if anyone would move in. Water splashed out of the bucket as we entered our shack and I rushed into our room.

         Slowly I clambered into bed and darkness tugged eagerly at me. I heard my brothers and sisters climb in next to me. It felt as if all of the air had been forcefully, pushed out of my screaming lungs. Darkness washed over me.

“Oh, Mother,” I cried.” I want to learn!”

“Amahle, don’t be daft! You can’t learn, you’re black, we’re not allowed!” she answered, agitated….

…. I shot up in bed. ‘When would Mother say yes or agree?’ I thought. Quietly, I rolled off the bed and landed with a small thud. I started at Bem, my oldest brother, snoring loudly and my sisters huddled up together. Recalling the night’s dream, I shivered. I tiptoed to the small, locked fridge. The faded paint was peeled at the corners and the fridge had seemed to shrink. I examined the room and quickly pulled open the draw, grabbed the key and slammed the draw shut. Creeping towards the fridge I unlocked it and seized some meile pup, I poured some into a Coca-Cola bowl and ate hungrily, feeling downcast. Once finished, I raced outside to see a lanky man, as tall as a beanstalk, walking through the township.

“Hello, friend!” the tall man bellowed as he shook my hand firmly. ‘I can’t be certain about him.’ I thought.

“Um, hello.” I answered, unsure.

“Mr Maalik!” he replied and started to stroll over to the empty shack, down the road from us. I waved shyly and then turned to walk home. I passed a gang of older girls, their heads held high and giggled as they ran past me. Sighing, I carried on my journey.

         “Gimbya! Guess what,” I teased my sister, before she could reply I blurted out. “A new man has moved in!” Gimbya nodded her head slowly.

“Mother, can I go and welcome the man as we always do when there are new people?” I questioned with a pleading face. Mother nodded from her chair.

         I pumped my legs as fast as I could and sped down to his shack.

“Come in,” a deep voice came from inside. I crept into the single room, I felt as if something was dragging me inside.

“Aaahh, its you! Please come, sit down and make yourself at home.” he cried warmly, ushering for me to sit down. I scanned the room, a slender shelf stood in a corner of the room and a small box lay open. Inside a few books were piled up. ‘This man must be amazing!’ I thought and instantly relaxed.

         The bed made a strange noise as I sat down and stared mesmerized by the shelf. It was covered with books, golden and blue colours shone. But I couldn’t read. Embarrassed I cleared my husky throat and wished I could read.

Staring at the floor I felt my cheeks flush red against my dark skin. As if he had seen inside my mind he said, gently,

“Let me teach you!” and clapped his hands in delight.

“I’m not allowed. My parents say its impossible,” I almost whispered, ashamed.

“Oh, I see,” Mr Maalik replied, but his eyes looked suddenly cheerless. Feeling excited at my only chance to learn I cried,

“It’s fine, as long as they don’t find out.” Mr Maalik smiled.

         He took out a beautiful book and offered it to me. I ran my fingers over the page. Letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence he patiently began his teaching. I repeated all he had said and smiled happily. When we had finished Mr Maalik yawned,

“That’s enough for one day, I think,” stretching out his long arms. I waved goodbye and gathered two books, he was lending me, from the bed.

“Thank you, I will meet you here tomorrow,” I breathed, tucking the books underneath my rough, woollen shirt.

         “You’re late!” Mother called, as I entered the room.

‘What a wonderful way to say, “hello.”’ I thought comically. I shrugged my shoulders and clambered into bed. Hidden under the thin sheet, carefully I took out, ‘The Princess and the Frog.’

         Mr Maalik had taught me how to read the first page and I read it so many times that it was now permanently imprinted onto my brain. The following day, we continued the book and by the end of the week I had finished the first book. For the first time in my life I felt as if I was good at something, other than heaving up water from the well or helping Mother cook. It felt as if a flower had opened and was now shining like a star. I felt jovial and proud. I skipped home smiling and laughing,

“Hello, Mother!” I called.

Mother glanced at me confused.

“Whoops!” I shouted toppling over and the beautiful books, fell with a thud on the floor. Mother shrieked…

 

 

 

 

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