When I Thought it Couldn’t Get Worse

Tenele didn’t come on Tuesday like she said. On Wednesday, Temu and Londi came by because their house in Mangwaneni had burned down and all their school clothes and uniforms were gone, so I had told them to come by and I’d take them to get school shoes. Temu told me that Tenele told her to tell me that Tenele was coming tomorrow. When “tomorrow” came, she still didn’t come. Saturday rolled around and still no Tenele. Johannes had called me because he was very ill, so I picked him up and took him to the hospital. While we waited (for HOURS) we talked about Tenele. Then Johannes very seriously told me something about Tenele that I never wanted to hear.

“She’s pregnant…”

On Sunday Johannes came to church with me. After church, I took him back to Mangwaneni and told him I was going to find Tenele to ask her about being pregnant. I sent Johannes and Ayanda to fetch her as I waited a littler farther up camp with some of the little kids hanging on me. Ayanda called back to me, “She wants you to come down.”

I shook my head, “No, tell her to come up here. I’m waiting.”

Then Johannes added, “She says she won’t come unless she sees you.”

Ugh, I rolled my eyes in frustration. Then I saw Tenele peek around the corner. She was laughing… a laugh I recognized and never liked… it’s a laugh that covers up her shame, so I knew something wasn’t quite right. She wouldn’t come up, but beckoned me down. So I walked down to her. Then I realized she wanted me to come down so that Cedric could see me. It was a safety precaution on her end, because if she’s with me, she knows Cedric won’t do anything to her. When I hugged her I could smell the smoke and my heart sank, once again. She was doing so well and she had told Johannes that she was going to stop smoking, but here she was partially high again. I grabbed her hand and told her to come with me to talk. She said no but I said, “Five minutes, just give me five minutes.”

She said, “Okay, just wait…” and went back to the house where a bunch of guys were sitting outside smoking daga (weed). I didn’t know what she was doing, but I waited. When she came back out she had gum in her mouth, as if she thought she could cover up the smoke. Oh, Tenele…

I asked her about being pregnant; she laughed and pulled away from me. “I was just joking,” she told me. Despite my efforts to try to have a conversation with her, she obviously wasn’t in the right mind to do so, so I left. I still wasn’t sure if she was really pregnant or not. She told me no, but of course she would tell me no. On the other hand, she could have also told that to Johannes for attention as well…but all I could think about was if she was really pregnant or not…she’s a mere 15 years old and cannot even take care of herself. How would she ever be able to take care of a baby?

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