We were like sisters until he came in

I was in the foster system for a long time before I met Sarah*. Just like me, she had nobody and our foster parents were good to us both. I remember trying to do everything that Sarah did. My hair was frizzy but I let her straighten in for me on the ironing board so it could be like hers. She let me use her old Tinkerbell lipgloss and whenever our Ma would take us shopping, Sarah and I would buy the same things – more or less. I saw her as my sister.

Sarah was in early high school and I was nine when she met her boyfriend. Let’s call him Nathan. He was gorgeous and in university. Of course, it was the ’80s so we didn’t see it as a red flag that there was this college man dating a high school girl. They would let me join them on their secret dates where Sarah would tell Ma and Pa that we were going for ice-cream after school. I was their excuse to meet up. I didn’t mind. She was my idol and he was nice enough to buy the milkshakes or chips or whatever I wanted.

Then Pa went into hospital for an operation and Ma left us alone most days. She trusted Sarah with me so we could be left alone for a while. That’s when Nathan would come over and lie on the bed in Sarah’s room. Every now and then they would lock the door and tell me to knock when Ma came home. When that happened, he would jump out the window and hide in the rose bush until the coast was clear.

Now, I was born into an abusive home so I knew a little bit about bruises. I saw my Mama’s scars and how she tried to hide them with makeup. The marks that Sarah had were different. They were around her neck and on her thighs. She told me they were nothing and she stole Ma’s concealer to hide the ones that were visible. “It’s what happens when you have a boyfriend,” she said. “You’ll learn one day.”

I remember the day I did learn. I was wearing a purple dress with some of the plastic jewellery that my friends I had made when I was in the children’s home awaiting a foster home or adoption. Ma was still at work and Pa was asleep. I didn’t know that Nathan had snuck in. Banging on Sarah’s door to show her my outfit and to ask her if we can go for a walk like princesses, Nathan opened the door. He said I should come in. She was saying “N,o no, no…” and I was confused. He was in his boxer shorts and had a tattoo that said Ex Unitate Vires. It was clear and crisp.

He started talking in Afrikaans about how nice white girls must be “got early”. I didn’t know what he meant. He asked me to take off my panties and when I said no, it covers my lady parts, he grabbed a sobbing Sarah by the hair and said he would hit her more if I said no to anything. I was about to scream for Pa but he yanked Sarah’s hair more. So I listened. She had a bruise under her eye already and was crying softly into a tissue that was hanging by a thread.

He pushed his fingers inside me and held me down with the weight of his body before raping me with his penis. It hurt so much I saw nothing but dizzying shapes in front of me. Sarah was crying. As soon as he finished, he left out the window. Sarah and I were never really the same after that. We hardly spoke and when we did, it was for something practical. We became like strangers again. Just two people living under the same roof.

I have never told anyone about it until now. Sarah and I never spoke about it again. She managed to leave him but he would still hang around outside her school until he probably found someone else. We never told Ma and Pa. She turned 18 went off to live in a city and I stayed in our small town until Ma and Pa adopted me. I never heard from her again.

It pains me to tell this story and I hope that one day God brings Nathan to justice. For me and for Sarah.