LAW FOR ALL recently hosted a writing competition called "Write the future, right the wrongs".
The three winning entries are published on LAW FOR ALL’s website. LAW FOR ALL granted LitNet permission to publish the seven other entries of the Top 10. Below is "Exit" by Maretha Maartens.
"Exit" by Maretha Maartens
I don’t need this, Joy had thought a mere 37 minutes before her exit.
The swollen lesion had felt like a flea or mosquito bite, ignorable and the least of her worries. Only when she felt the sticky liquid oozing from it, did she look closer. Red streaks were leaking from the abrasion between her thumb and inner wrist. A purple centre had developed: the onset of necrosis, as with the previous bite on her thigh?
An oozing prick compared with the pain under her breast. The blow had been hard enough to crack – or fracture – one or more ribs. It had been insane enough to injure her spleen or lung. She had been in pain during the night and had been dizzy and short of breath the whole morning.
Twenty-nine minutes before her exit, Heaven-Leigh wanted something to eat – vetkoek with golden syrup. No, not an apple. Vetkoek with syrup, Mamajoy.
"I want to be at the supermarket early, Heaven-Leigh."
"Why so very early? Didn’t Dada say …"
Don’t honour him with such an endearing name. Stop calling him father, daddy, dada, daddy, whatever.
"I want to do my shopping when most surfaces have been disinfected and the floors mopped. There’s a sandwich for you in my handbag. You may eat it in the taxi. Let’s just get going. Where’s your face mask?"
The child had lifted the shabby diaper bag off Jerry’s TV chair: "Are we fucking off, now, Mommy?"
"Heaven-Leigh! What makes you think that? Mommy will never do anything like that!"
"Shouldn’t we go to the clinic first, Mamajoy?"
"Why would we do that?"
"To help you survive."
Shut up, vroumens. Jy het bleddiewil hiervoor gesoek. You’ll survive.
At five, Heaven-Leigh was omnipresent, smart and streetwise – a thoroughbred and hardy little South African, a spin-off of the stubbornness, misconception and lust of her mother. Heaven-Leigh was the fruit of a gullible teenager’s womb, but as smart as any American.
"I’ll carry the nappy bag," she said.
There was social distancing in the taxi. Domestic workers, essential services workers and little ones sat masked and in silence in front of her and Heaven-Leigh. The child ate her sandwich. She herself stared at the passing urban landscape and looked back on what she had disregarded.
"I have an uneasiness about this Jerry," her grandmother had said. "A man who loses his temper in the presence of his girlfriend’s relatives …"
"We understand each other, Granny."
"Life has taught me not to trust shallow streams after heavy rains, cheap perfume, spiders and bad-tempered control freaks, Joy."
Infatuation had made her unteachable.
A female security guard, old enough to be a pensioner, sat at the door under the discreet doorplate: EXIT 4 WOMEN & MINORS.
Joy hesitated. Heaven-Leigh was pulling at her skirt: "The supermarket is open, Mama."
"We are going in here, first."
The security guard got up from the chair. "How did you receive notice of our new multidisciplinary facility, Ma’m?"
"Via my loyalty card member’s newsletter."
"Perfect." The old lady unlocked the door and touched her arm lightly. "There’s a coffee machine in there. Help yourself to it before you press the consultation key on the keyboard right under the screen. It will be well with you, Ma’m."
The room is cosy: paintings against the walls, comfortable couch and toys for accompanying children, sunlight falling through a curtained window.
She presses the consultation key. A woman’s smiling face appears on the screen. "Good morning. I am Laurian Napier, the company lawyer who will be consulting you this morning. How can I help you, Madam?"
Joy stares at the caption at the bottom of the screen:
The COVID-19 pandemic has both revealed and exacerbated the negated and unaddressed inequalities in our society. To millions of women in our country, staying at home is an unaffordable luxury, while home itself may be a perilous space shared with an abusive spouse or partner.
In the new reality after COVID-19, we as a supermarket group are committed to extended social responsibility. We are now reaching out to voiceless women who have been in psychological and relational lockdown since long before the onslaught and physical lockdown associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of traumatised women still envisage a future of never-ending hardship, humiliation, abuse and fear.
As a supermarket group in the completely altered post-pandemic landscape, we are now teaming up with legal firms committed to equality and justice for all such women.
As a supermarket group, we are now offering abused women and children safe and free access to expert legal, financial and psychological counselling.
This is how we do it:
In close proximity to the main entrance to our supermarket, customers will now notice a door marked Exit 4 women & minors. A female security guard is posted at the door. Free online legal, financial and psychological counsel can be obtained in the consultation room on the other side of this door. Compassion and respect from the multidisciplinary counselling team is guaranteed for you as a courageous human being. Should you need a safe shelter on your way out of domestic abuse and violence, free transport to a haven for victims of abuse will be offered to you, as well as to any of your children who have entered the Exit 4 women & minors consultation room with you.
There is an Exit 4 women & minors now. Go in, and our team will help you find the way to restored dignity and a life worth living.
Your trusted supermarket group
"Help me escape from my husband, the spider," Joy whispers.
Read an interview with Jackie Nagtegaal on the outcome of the competition.
The winning entry of the competition was: "When I dream of a future" by Belita Andre
The second prize went to "The image of justice: a double duplex", by Nomyezo Mqhele
Third prize went to "The commute", by Sesetu Holomisa
Herewith the names of the Top 10 entries:
- "Exit" by Maretha Maartens
- "Green" by Naomi Meyer
- "Breath of law" by Inga Ntantala
- "Say something" by Harry Owen
- "Brave" by Monicca Rampine
- "When justice meant the world had to stop, so Ayanda could dream" by Sumayya Mohamed
- "Nqo" by Siyabulela Javu