Stepped on a “fork knife” or STABBED?

After the splendid meeting with Tenele as told in the previous blog posts, I didn’t hear from her in a over a week. She said she’d meet me, but never did, and when I looked for her in Mangwaneni, I met Nomphilo but no Tenele. Her phone was dead, and the one time I got through a man answered and claimed he didn’t know what I was talking about in asking for Tenele. Finally, I got a “please call me” message from Tenele’s number early on Wednesday morning. (The “please call me” message is a free text you can send to others if you don’t have any airtime.) I called the number back but it was busy. A few minutes later I received two more “please call me”s, so I called and again and heard Tenele’s distant and strange voice on the other end.

“Mary-Kate you come today?”
“You’re coming today?” I asked her, because when she usually sends me messages like that when she’s coming to town to meet me.
“No…can you come to Mangwaneni?”
This was a surprisingly odd request. She never asks me to meet her there.
“Yes…what time?”
“Twelve o’clock,” she said quickly.

Before I could ask if she was okay, she hung up. But I knew something was wrong by her voice. I anxiously waited until lunch time and took Eilidh with me to meet Tenele. Tenele had said she’d meet me at the kitchen in front of the carepoint, but she of course wasn’t there. I really hate going through the squatter camp to find her, but sometimes we just have to do things we don’t want to do. So Eilidh and I both went through the camp to find her. I stopped at the normal spot where I usually find her (a mini bar/shack place), but the people sitting out there said she wasn’t around. After trying to make small talk and prodding further about where she is, one guy laughed and said, “she’s drunk.”

“Where?” I asked again, getting annoyed they wouldn’t tell me where she was.
Then he pointed further down the squatter camp and said, “she lives over there.”

“Do you know which one?”

“No, but Sphiwe knows,” he smiled and out came a girl who seemed annoyed the guy had identified her.

“Can you show me?” I asked her.

Without saying anything, she nodded and took me through the squatter camp. As we were coming around the corner of a hut, she called out something in SiSwati and Nomphilo came out and when she saw me, drew back with surprise. Sphiwe disappeared before I could thank her. I gave Nomphilo a hug and then Tenele came hobbling over.

“What happened to your foot?” I asked in shock as I saw her foot was wrapped with some gauze and still bleeding.

“Stepped on a fork knife,” she muttered as she hugged me. (FYI: she wasn’t drunk like the guy claimed.)

“Oh my gosh…are you okay?”

She just smiled. By the way she acted, it seemed as though it was just a small cut and not a big deal. So I convinced them to come with us to a holiday program that we were holding at the sports hall. On the drive down to the hall, I asked her further about her foot and she said when her and Nomphilo went to fetch water Tenele had stepped on a “fork knife” and it had gone all the way through her foot.

“What?!” I exclaimed. “It went through your foot?”

She nodded. When I parked the car, I asked to look at the wound. She unwrapped the gauze and sure enough, it was bleeding on both top and bottom of her foot. Except…the wound on top was bigger than the wound on the bottom. The one on the bottom was just a puncture wound. She definitely did not step on a “fork knife” as she claimed. But I didn’t say anything just yet.

“Tenele, you need to see a nurse or doctor. Can we take you to the clinic nurse?”

She nodded yes.
The clinic nurse wasn’t there (which is free because it’s a part of MYC and since I volunteer it wouldn’t have cost anything). So we went to St. Teresa’s clinic. While we were waiting a long time at the clinic, I learned how painful it was for Tenele. She said she was crying all night long and couldn’t sleep. She said that Nomphilo was the one who sent me the please call me messages because Tenele was still crying in the morning, and when I talked to Tenele that morning, the reason she sounded so strange was because she was trying not to cry on the phone. I couldn’t believe this poor girl had been through all that pain and still pretending like it was NOTHING when she saw me!

Tenele asked me to go into the room with her to meet with the nurse, and then we had to wait another hour to meet with the doctor. The nurse never questioned Tenele’s story, though we both knew that it wasn’t right. The wound on top was about the width of a knife, and when I tried explaining to Tenele that I didn’t believe her, she kept saying she was telling the truth. “Tenele, look…” I tried showing her. “The wound on top is bigger than the one on the bottom so it had to have gone through the top of your foot, which means someone must’ve stabbed you.”

Again, she refused to admit it, so I left it alone. I took her to my house and I made them pancakes, which they had never had before. I gave Tenele a sock to put over her bare foot to keep the bandage area clean, but before long, the wound was bleeding through the top of even the sock. I cannot imagine how much that hurt! And this poor girl, never once let me see how painful it was for her. But when I looked into her eyes I could see them glazed with tears every once in a while. Then, because Hanna needed the vehicle, she took the girls home in a rush on her way out. I told Tenele we would get her tomorrow to bring her back to the nurse to get a fresh bandage. I really hated that she was going back to Mangwaneni in state like that, especially if someone had STABBED her! I met Thembi shortly after that and told her the story. She said she was going to church and would see Johannes there and ask him if he knew of anything.

Later that night, I got a call from Thembi who relayed what Johannes had told her. He said Tenele was living with her boyfriend and that he beats her and had stabbed her. Now, Johannes didn’t see him stab her, but he said he would be the one who would’ve done it.

I was horrified. I had let Tenele go back to stay with the guy that stabbed her! I called her literally three times that night, trying to convince her to let me pick her back up and that she could sleep at my house that night. But she refused. She said she would see me tomorrow and hung up.

I was crushed and worried. I didn’t understand how she would deny an actual bed to sleep in (she sleeps on the floor) and someone to help take care of her stab wound. I was so frustrated and tried really hard not to worry about her all night. I actually slept okay until about 6 a.m. and then couldn’t stop worrying about her. I felt sick to my stomach that morning, but I had told all my housemates about the story and they said they would join me in “capturing” Tenele in the morning.

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