One Take – Short Story
By: Mpho Tlale
Tears freely flowed down her cheeks. Her hand reached down to wipe the wetness she felt trickling down her legs .She always made a plan not to come to school when she had her period. This time it caught her off guard. It stormed out of nowhere. There were still a few days left before it could make its monthly unwelcome guest appearance and disappear again after five days or so.
Boitumelo felt dirtier than she had ever before. Her white socks had bloodstains on them. She always wore them at mid length because it suited her better. Not shorter or longer.
”A woman should never be caught in such a compromising position. If only I had the means to provide for my monthly needs. I would do so without hesitation”, Boitumelo thought.
She was alerted of her mishap through some laughter as she stood up. The boys laughed as if they could almost vomit their intestines out. Looking around to see the subject of such mockery, Boitumelo scanned the classroom to see who was the subject of the joke. She almost fainted at the discovery.
Her navy blue uniform skirt was soaked in blood. She froze and stood still like a paused motion picture. The moment’s guardian angel came in the form of her archenemy Mosa.The two proceeded to the bathrooms with Mosa’s jersey wrapped around Boitumelo’s waist.
“At least there were not a lot of people left in class after the lesson to see my ordeal”, Boitumelo said forcing a slight smile.
Mosa looked away. She did not want Boitumelo to see concern in her eyes. She always put up acts to convince Boitumelo that she hated her. But she did not. She was insecure and jealous. Boitumelo was more beautiful with round marble like eyes and a shy but commanding smile. She was also intelligent and loved by teachers. Traits which she fell short of.Mosa felt that Boitumelo was stealing the limelight from her since she was more of an attention seeker. She used the one thing that Boitumelo did not have against her to cover her insecurities.
“Why don’t you talk to people of your class? They would understand you better than I can. The rich and the poor have nothing in common, just like me and you”. Mosa would say that and immediately look away. She would hurt inside but had to keep up appearances and show her girlfriends that she was in control.
“Those stupid boys who have managed to make my life a living hell today will pay one day. No wrong deed goes unpunished”. Boitumelo comforted herself with those thoughts as she slowly peeled off the pad’s wrap and stuck in on her already blood stained panty. There was no other alternative to go about it.
Mosa had given her two pads, one to use at the present moment and the other to use if there were any emergencies that could come up.
Her school was not far from home. Bokamoso Community Junior Secondary School was the only high school within the Old Naledi Community. Old Naledi is not the easiest place to grow up in. It is shady and one of Gaborone’s informal settlements that has managed to stand the test of time. It is generally a dirty place. Its characteristics include pools of stagnant water, pit latrines that face the road in unfenced yards and a shortage of water. Water is drawn from the standpipes, and almost all the houses do not have a private connection. Electricity is still a luxury.
On her way home that Wednesday morning, Boitumelo dragged her feet. It wasn’t like there was anything to look forward to at home. She was glad her accident had happened during break time. The crucial lessons had already passed. She did not mind missing the Setswana, English and Moral Education lessons that were to follow after break.
“I wonder if it’s ok for one to wish to have a different mother. Its not noon yet and already she is drunk. What kind of a mother does this?”.Boitumelo felt so disgusted and disappointed at a go when she got home.
Her mother was not the ideal person for the role. She made Boitumelo and her little sister Kebonye ‘s lives hard. Kebonye was in grade four at Old Naledi Primary School. She was a little girl with a zest for life. Always looking forward to learning something new.
The family life was not conducive. Ever since their father had left their mother when Boitumelo was in grade six, she had resorted to drinking. Seamogano would sell the monthly food rations in exchange for a pint of chibuku or a joint of marijuana. With time she had become a regular at Mma Ponka’s tavern. She would open a tab that she would later pay with half of the food they got and toiletries that included Boitumelo’s pads.
If she did not manage to hide the pads anywhere in their three-roomed house, Boitumelo would spend five days without going to school. She always prayed to get her period on weekends so that at least she could miss a day or two of school. Over time Seamogano had discovered Boitumelo’s hiding place and had took the pads and sold them for her fix. Boitumelo despised this but it was only the beginning of what would be a hide game for her and seek for her mother.
She had taken the issue to the social worker who showed little interest in the issue.
“There are people with more problems than yours small girl. What your mother does is none of my business. Just continue using those cloths for your period and move on. Its life. Some have it rougher than you “, said Mma Tema vigorously chewing gum like it was a first experience for her.
Boitumelo had left her office in tears. The social worker had been where her hope was placed. She was her last resort. After the way she treated her she wondered how a woman like Mma Tema could still have a job. It was a mystery to her that left her in awe.
She didn’t have any family to run to. Her mother had cut them from their relatives when they were young.
“I don’t want people meddling in my business ”. Moipone would always say to her kids.
On getting home, Boitumelo went directly to proceed to take a bath. She had to wash the cause of her embarrassment from her body and clothes.
Later that evening at sunset when the sky was gold with its shimmers going into hiding, Boitumelo took a walk. Her mother was sleeping, obviously knocked out by whatever she had laid her hands on. Kebonye was busy studying under a candle light, as it was already dark inside the house.
For the first five minutes Boitumelo walked but proceeded to run. She ran like a mad woman.
“If only I could run away from my problems the way I am running”,she thought.
Sweat trickled down from the top of her back down wards but she pushed on running on that dusty gravel road. She did not want to feel anything. The stones that her feet were thumping on the ground could not make stop. Her life was more painful beyond the physical.
Tears had made her miss the speeding oncoming car that hit her from the side. The driver had missed her too as he reached to get his mobile phone that was ringing.
Still down and bit conscious Boitumelo’s life flashed her. The thought of Kebonye remaining with her mother gave her more strength to hold on before the ambulance came. She also remembered that she was about three months from writing her final exams in November. She knew she stood a good chance because she was a bright student. When she thought of her mother and what she was doing to them and herself, it crippled her. Her thoughts made her even more dizzy though she wanted to remain strong. She had sustained head injuries and her fear was if she lost consciousness she would never wake up. At that moment she realized that there is only one take in life, no fast forward, rewind or pause. With her realization, she swore to fight and improve her life. That was only a few seconds before she lost conscious.