On Monday morning Pholisa woke up tired. Going to bed early proved not the best remedy for relaxing. But what else was she going to do? They had no TV and listening to the radio on her phone would have killed her battery.
She got up to put the kettle on. There in the centre of the living room Masi was sleeping. He was snoring softly and she knew he must be tired. What had he been doing? When did he get back? She tried to make as little noise as possible as she prepared for school.
She walked alone to school to get there early. Her mind was filled with questions she had no answers to. She needed to know what Masi was up to, and where his money was coming from. She needed to know what Gogo’s dream meant.
“What does a guy have to do to get your number?” She turned to look at the boy walking behind her. It was Lazola. “Are you playing hard to get or what?” he said, falling in step next to her.
“Who said I was playing?” she answered with a straight face.
“Ahh, sharp and pretty,” he said smiling. “And I thought you were a village girl.”
“Just because I’m from the village doesn’t mean I’m stupid.” Pholisa was offended by his last statement.
“Oh no, you’re not stupid, just maybe naïve,” he said, sounding formal.
“Excuse me?” Pholisa stopped walking. She must’ve not heard what he had just said.
“A smart and beautiful girl like you shouldn’t be entertaining the likes of Matchsticks,” Lazola said, serious.
“What you talking about?” she asked.
“I saw the car at your house,” he said looking into her eyes. “The guy’s dangerous. If I were you I would play far from him.”
Just as she was about to ask what he meant, one of his friends joined them, and he smiled and moved away from her. What was he talking about? Who was Matchsticks?
In class she kept thinking of how Lazola had called her pretty, and a warm feeling came over her, and then she remembered his warning, and wondered what it meant. Why was he interested anyway? Why did he care?
She wanted to share the conversation with Lelethu. But she couldn’t find her the whole day at school. Even at the end of school Lelethu was nowhere to be found. Finally, she saw her friend leaving the school grounds.
She called to her, but Lelethu didn’t stop. Pholisa had to run to catch up with her.
“Haibo, where are you rushing to?” Pholisa asked out of breath.
“Home,” Lelethu answered without stopping.
“What’s wrong?” Pholisa asked, falling into step with her, but Lelethu didn’t answer. “Lelethu, I’m your best friend. Talk to me.”
“It’s nothing,” Lelethu answered, her voice almost breaking.
“It is something if it’s got you this upset,” Pholisa pulled Lelethu’s arm to stop her. “A friendship is as strong as the communication between the two friends,” Pholisa said quoting Gogo’s words of wisdom.
Pholisa realised how all she had been thinking about was her own life. She had forgotten that other people had problems too. And here was her best friend in need of her support. It was tiring business worrying about Masixole, she thought as they walked.
They went to sit outside a spaza shop and bought two packets of Nik Naks. Lelethu told her of her horrible day. She had gone to the hall to practise her routine for the talent show that was coming up and Princess and her group were there watching her. She hadn’t noticed them when they walked in, otherwise she would’ve stopped. It was only when she heard laughing that she had stopped – to find them watching her.
“Bathi ndizenz’u Beyoncé – they said I’m a Beyoncé wanna-be,” Lelethu said at the end of her story, almost in tears.
“What do they know? Stupid potato heads,” Pholisa consoled her friend.
“They called me a village girl, choma. And said I should go back to the bundu and leave the entertainment industry for them, people who know what they’re doing.”
“Mxm, they’re talking nonsense. Banomona, they’re jealous. You will go far with your dancing – and you know why?” Pholisa asked. Lelethu shook her head. “Because you got style and class, something they will never have.” She hugged Lelethu tightly.
“I can’t believe I wanted to be friends with those idiots,” Lelethu said, wiping her tears away.
“Don’t mind them. Just focus on winning and showing them who’s boss,” Pholisa said giving her a hug. “So ubuphi the rest of the day? I looked everywhere for you.”
“You didn’t go pee today, did you?” Lelethu said with a half-smile.
“No, choma. The toilets? The whole day?” Pholisa couldn’t believe her friend had been hiding there for so long. But, yes, that’s where she had been – the whole day.
Lelethu started telling her about the stuff that went on in the toilets, all the gossip she heard. They laughed until they were in tears.
“Seriously, though, you are good. And you should enter every competition you can to boost your confidence,” Pholisa encouraged. “Show those potato heads Bosso ke mang,” she said and that made them laugh even more.
“Who is Matchsticks?” Pholisa asked when they walked home from the shop.
“Why? Where did you hear that name?” Lelethu was shocked.
Pholisa could tell from her reaction that Lazola had told the truth. She didn’t want to tell Lelethu about her worries about Masi; she didn’t want to bring him down in Lelethu’s eyes. But she so wanted to talk to her friend about it. So she told her about what had happened on the weekend, and about what Lazola had said.
“He’s a dangerous skollie – Masi mustn’t hang out with him,” Lelethu urged. “People who were part of his gang and wanted to get out either ended up in jail or died mysteriously.”
Then it was true, the dream was true. Masi was in trouble, deep trouble, and Pholisa didn’t know what to do. She wondered how Masi got himself involved with Matchsticks.
When she got home Masi wasn’t there.
She had a headache and it was terrible. She took some painkillers from Nana’s stash of pills in the kitchen.
“Please God,” Pholisa prayed as she lay down to nap. “Please protect ubhuti wam.”
Pholisa woke up thirsty. She got up to fetch water from the bucket in the kitchen and noticed that Masi still wasn’t home. She walked outside to the toilet. It was a quiet and warm night.
Just as she was about to leave the loo she heard something. It was a woman, and she was screaming. It was frightening, shattering the stillness of the night. Pholisa stood at the door, too afraid to open it and walk out. She waited until her heart stopped thundering so loudly.
But again the screaming came. And this time it didn’t stop. Pholisa had spent enough time in the village to know a woman’s scream when she was being punched; there were quite a few women who were beaten. And it was not something anyone talked about; it seemed that domestic abuse was a thing between a man and his woman, no one else.
The screams continued and they sounded as though they were getting closer and closer. Pholisa hid in the corner of the toilet, afraid of being seen. And then suddenly the screams stopped. What had happened? The silence was almost more frightening. Pholisa waited in the dark, and counted to 10. Then she took a deep breath, pulled open the toilet door and dashed towards the house.
Just as she was about to push the door open, she heard the sound of a car screeching. Quickly she pulled the door closed behind her and bolted it. What if they saw her and thought she had seen something? What if they came after her? She hurriedly put out the light.
She hid herself under the blankets, like a child afraid of the dark. She pulled her phone from under the pillow and checked the time. It was after two in the morning.
“Bhuti, where are you?” she asked the darkness. Afraid to sleep, she offered a prayer of protection for herself and for Masixole.
Tell us: What are some of the things that frighten you at night?