“This better be your SPCA car Bongi and your friend better come out because I don’t know what will satisfy these people,” Dibaba said, calmly.

“We don’t have a problem with the foreigners but you must know that adults don’t think like you. We’ve suffered enough in the past and little has changed.”

The brightness of car lights began to sift through the crowd.

“It’s difficult even for us who fought apartheid.”

Bongi hated the word ‘apartheid’. She thought the excuse had ran its course. The crowd opened way for an SPCA pickup with a canopy whose windows were welded with mesh bars. The vehicle stopped but kept its headlights on; and visible faces of all kinds: angry; restless and others only there to witness a baboon in the township.

The driver, a white man with the physique of a rugby prop got out, chewing. He was followed by a lean black woman with imitation hair extensions. They wore matching uniforms and strolled towards Bongi and Dibaba since they seemed the focus of the crowd.

“Where’s it?” the woman said icily without greeting.

Dibaba felt repulsed by her attitude. Bongi wasn’t sure whether to trust her.

“Should I bring the net?” the driver asked his colleague.

“No!” Bongi engaged. “You won’t need a net.” She then swung her focus towards her house and people followed her gaze.

For a while, nothing happened and just as they were becoming restless, Kop leapt from behind the wall and perched on the top of it People gasped in disbelief, some let out short cries of shock while others mumbled words they believed warded off evil spirits.

After taking stock of the scene and content Kop hopped down on all fours then slunk towards the vehicle. People shifted on their feet and only to, unconsciously open a row, which closely resembled the guard of honour.

Kop spotted Bongi in the crowd; her eyes were teary. She began to sniffle as the SPCA man unlatched the canopy door. The animal sprung inside and the door shut. Bongi stood cuddled by her mother when the vehicle turned around in readiness to drive away. Her eyes met Kop’s, the baboon’s fingers clasping the mesh bars on the canopy’s window. Bongi cried as the vehicle sped off until it turned a corner.

And no sooner she saw Sasa standing alone a good distance away. Sasa looked mournful and people moved past her as if she were a statue.

Bongi had the longest week without Kop and one night while doing her school work something scratched the window of their bedroom.

She went to investigate and was astonished. “Kop!” she exclaimed after parting the curtain.

Hearing her screams Zamani got excitedly out of bed.

A sad figure of Kop stood in the dark outside.

“Kop, you’re back,” Bongi said as she opened the window.

Kop managed a meek smile. They were happy to see it. It looked clean and smelt fresh. Bongi leaned across the windowsill to give Kop a hug. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” she said.

“I told you I’ve inherited a touch of magic from my mother.”

“Kop, Bongi told me you’re a boy, you can sleep in my bed!” Zamani shouted.

Bongi smiled coyly, flushing with embarrassment. “I never said Kop was a boy,” she said while releasing herself from the embrace.

“I can’t stay, Zamani,” Kop said with sadness.

“Where will you go?” Bongi asked.

“I don’t know, but it would not be safe for any of us if I stay.”

They fell into worrisome silence. Bongi extended her hand to touch Kop’s cheek; the baboon in turn rubbed its face gently over her caressing palm.

“I love you Kop,” Bongi said wistfully.

Kop became surprisingly overcome with shyness and couldn’t look her in the eyes. It was the first time the baboon heard such words. Returning its gaze to Bongi it thought that they were the most beautiful words ears could hear. Kop did not know how to respond because the word ‘love’ wasn’t available in its vocabulary, but it figured that should the word be understood, the world would become a better place.


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