She was only eight years old when it happened. They had gone to the village on holiday, to visit the grandparents. How different they were from all the other children, how clean, how refined, and how rich. their mother didn’t want them talking to any of the village children but their father insisted that they should, it was his village after all and before he had gone to the city and worked his way to wealth he had been as much a part of this dusty dirty village as any of the village children.
So they played hide and seek in the bush, ran with the village children to the stream, climbed trees and watched as old men smoked their pipes. Their mother hovered around fearfully, itching to pull them back from the people she saw as dirty and diabolic. But her husband won and she let them play.
Every morning they were bathed and dressed in their fine clothes, the girl who was eight wore little pink dresses with satin ribbons, the boy who was eleven, wore shorts and smart shirts. Everyday they returned home dirty and dusty, but exhilarated and happy.
One day the girl didn’t get up to play early enough and her brother went without her, by the time she caught up he was by in an abandoned farm with two of the older boys, where were the other children? She wondered. As she watched from the trees she saw that her brother was crying.
In the native dialect which both children had been taught from infancy the older boys were calling him a coward, they kept on saying ‘You must get us back our ball’.
She saw her brother look inside the old abandoned well, beside which they were standing, and shiver, one of the boys brought a rope ‘We will lower you inside’ they said, ‘it’s not deep, when you get the ball we will pull you back up’.
She was watching when they lowered him inside, her handsome brother who was always first in his class, she was watching when they dropped the rope and walked away, she heard the splash, or maybe she imagined it, but when they had gone she ran to the well to help her brother, the ball was floating on the surface, but he wasn’t there.
As fast as her little girl legs could carry her she ran back to the house, to tell anyone to help, as she entered the living room, out of breadth who did she see but her brother sitting between her parents watching television.
Happily she ran and hugged him, he didn’t tease her or call he flower face as he always did, she didn’t wonder, she was too happy, she watched him throughout the day, glad that nothing had happened to him. But before night the strangest suspicion had began to build up in her mind. What if he wasn’t really her brother?
The next day all the other children went to play. But she went to the well, because she wanted to know for sure that her brother wasn’t there. But he was, by now his body had risen to the surface. She could see his clothes a little darker in the darkened interior of the well. If only she had seen through the interloper at once, maybe he would be alive, guilt boiled up in her mind, and sorrow, that little heart was filled with sorrow and it never lifted again.
Life changed after that, she never told a soul, she watched as the stranger filled all their lives and caused rifts, how he told her father the bad news that caused him to have the heart attack from which he never recovered, how we was the one who ‘mistakenly’ tripped her mother when she was pregnant that she fell down the stairs, lost her baby and her womb, it was always him, he had something to do with every tragedy that came and the tragedies were many.
He left her alone, as she left him, perhaps he knew that she knew or perhaps not, but he left her alone, until the time when he didn’t.
She was to be married. And just before the wedding her fiancé went with her ‘brother’ to the bachelor party that had been arranged for him and he never returned, nobody ever knew how it happened but somehow they had been about six of them standing on the balcony of the hotel suite, someone remembered her brother whispering to her fiancé, others didn’t, but what everybody saw was her darling jump straight off the balcony and into pieces on the street.
She knew that she could never let it go, and later in front of the whole family, she confronted him ‘why did you kill him’, she asked.
Her parents were shocked, ‘of course your brother didn’t kill him’ they consoled her, ‘it was an accident’
‘He is not my brother’ she said and when she told them the whole story, they called a doctor and she was sedated. And the last thing she saw before she went under was his face, smiling.
When she awoke she pretended to have forgotten and while sympathizers came and went, she plotted. When she was ready, she went to her father’s room and took the gun he had bought and never used; she loaded it, went downstairs and shot her ‘brother’ dead.
After that it was a mental home, she slowly wasted away and when her parents had died, broken sad and alone, she died too. And there was nothing to remember that family by.
Years later when the village had become a town, and later a city, somebody bought the old farm with the old well. As they dug to lay the foundation piles, they found some bones, and when they were examined, they were found to be the bones of a young boy, between the ages of nine and thirteen.