“Hi Nomsa, I’m home.”
Thandi pushed open the door of her and Nomsa’s new home. It took only one taxi ride to get to or from her new school. That was a relief, although there was also a long walk up a steep hill before she finally arrived at the school gates.
Thandi was getting used to the row of large expensive cars swishing past her, as parents dropped off their children. Lately she just chose her favourite music, placed her headphones in her ears, put her head down, and didn’t think about the difference between her and most of the other students.
But arriving home to Nomsa and Avile was always a relief. Only then could she truly be herself. Thandi dropped her school bag in the middle of the floor and opened the bread tin on the table.
Nomsa came out from the bedroom, carrying Avile on her hip.
“You’re always hungry,” said Nomsa. “I’ve just got in myself. There’s bread, and…,” she said, pushing Avile into Thandi’s arms, “here’s Avile. I’m done with babies for a while!”
Some things just haven’t changed, thought Thandi to herself. She sighed, but took Avile anyway. She took a few slices of bread, and sank into a chair, pushing the slices into her mouth, and a few smaller ones past Avile’s wet, puckered lips. She then kissed him loudly.
“Sho! I’m so tired!” Thandi kicked off her shoes and continued: “Some days it feels like I’ll never catch up all the work I need to do.”
There were so many things she wanted to share with her sister, but she held back. Nomsa was already trying so hard to help her. The truth was, Thandi missed having her friend Thandeka close by.
She missed being able to talk freely and easily to Thandeka, as they had done when they had travelled together to her old school. Thandeka had always made her laugh, because they understood each other so well.
The children at her new school were, for the most part, trying to be friendly. Thandi could see that, but they simply did not understand her world, not like Thandeka did.
There were lots of people Thandi missed having close by – except, of course, for Themba.
When their home had burned down, they had moved away without Themba knowing where they were going. Nomsa was at last convinced that the father of her child was dangerous. And a womaniser. Thandi knew that Nomsa felt bad about everything that had happened, and that she was trying to make up for it.
Every day presented some new challenge at the new school. But Thandi started each day with the attitude that she would not be defeated, not by any of them.
However, today had been different. The challenge she had been faced with might be the one to finally take her down. She just didn’t know what to do, or how to solve it. And she couldn’t tell Nomsa, not yet.
And then there was Mark. Another challenge!
Mark had looked across at her in class and smiled. Like he often did these days. Thandi had frowned. It didn’t help that Mark was not helping her to think straight. It didn’t help that Mark had the most ridiculously green eyes that she had ever seen. They actually seemed to glow against his caramel-coloured skin, and his halo of brown curls.
To Thandi, Mark was just more trouble! The kind of trouble that he had plenty of but she had very little of. Trouble with a capital ‘M’. Money.
At her new school everything cost money. Especially the Arts and Culture Tour for the Grade 10s. Her grade. The class had raised most of what was needed for the trip to Spain. Except for the R3000 each child had to contribute. R3000 that Thandi did not have, and neither did her mother have. The fire had cost her beloved mother all her savings.
Thandi swallowed hard, fighting back the tears. The new school was a great opportunity, Thandi knew, but sometimes it was just so hard. Hard to feel so different, and to feel like the only poor one, surrounded by so many people who had so much.
Thandi knew that most of the students didn’t see her that way. They had no idea how difficult her struggles were. They just took everything about money so for granted.
Thandeka said once, “Hey girl, to them money just grows on trees you know. Just grows on trees.”
Thandi bounced Avile on her knee. She sniffed and blinked back tears, determined not to show her heartache to Nomsa, or anyone.
What do you think? Was this going to be end of all her dreams at the school? Did it all come down to money after all?