Thandi didn’t know what to do. She opened the box and stared at the pendant. Eventually she realised there was only one thing to do. She had to keep it safe til Monday morning when she could return it to the secretary.
Oh God, I just hope the secretary won’t tell the Principal, and then he sends the police to catch me – the ‘thief girl’.
Thandi pushed that thought out of her mind, deciding instead to concentrate on selling as many raffle tickets as she could at the weekend. That would impress the Principal – she hoped.
Nomsa came home and sucked in her breath when she saw the pendant. She clicked her tongue. “Shit Thandi man,” she said, preparing a bottle for Avile. “I just hope you haven’t blown your chances now. What were you thinking hey?”
Thandi said nothing about Mark. Mark. Damn him. It all suddenly felt like everything was his fault. Why did he always have to be smiling at her and distracting her?
“It’s beautiful though, isn’t it?” said Nomsa, turning the pendant this way and that, so that the little diamond flashed in the light. They both stared at it. It was worth so much money and it really should be in the safe at school.
“Don’t worry. Just hide it safely til Monday and then take it straight back,” Nomsa reassured Thandi. “Let’s see the raffle tickets.”
Thandi showed her the tickets she had printed. They looked really professional.
“I’ll buy a ticket,” said Nomsa.
“Of course! I want your first ticket!”
Thandi felt a lump in her throat as she handed Nomsa a ticket. She knew it was a sacrifice that Nomsa could scarcely afford. Avile always needed something. Both of them were giving up something to try and help Thandi’s dream come true.
“But now you must hide the box,” said Nomsa.
Thandi wrapped the box in an old dish towel, and hid it under the mattress.
That night, her dreams were filled with Spanish bullfighting and flamenco dancers swirling in red dresses.
The next morning Thandi met Thandeka by the spaza near their church. Thandeka was impressed with the raffle tickets, and the picture of the pendant. She handed Thandi a bunch of coins – all her savings – for a ticket.
Thandi hugged her. Thandeka was a true friend. Thandi thought of how easy it was for the kids at school to spend that amount of money. They did it thoughtlessly every day. For Thandeka it was different, and Thandi knew that.
By the end of the morning together they had sold a whole lot more. And the next day at church Rachel said she was sure the pastor would help to spread the news of the raffle.
At the end of the afternoon Thandi said goodbye to Thandeka, who had to rush home as she was late and needed to do chores.
Thandi walked to her and Nomsa’s old home by herself. She kicked around in the ashes where the house used to stand. Pinky, their previous landlady, came out of her house to chat, and she too, bought a ticket.
On her way home Thandi was thinking about the pendant and hoping it was still safely under her bed. She did not see the maroon car that came cruising slowly around the corner. It had followed her from Pinky’s place.
Thandi was counting how many tickets she had sold, and so she didn’t even notice when that same maroon car drove past her very slowly, and the occupant on the back seat looked out at her.
Thandi might not have recognised him at first. The one side of his cheek was scarred now. Scarred by fire. Burnt. Not as badly as his back, but a falling ember had singed his eyebrow and his cheek.
Thandi did not notice that the same maroon car paused at the kerb as she climbed aboard a taxi, and followed that taxi as she made her journey home.
Thandi might have seen the car when she climbed out at her destination, but she never noticed a man get out, and follow her home. He kept a distance behind her and never approached her.
Thandi went to her new home, unlocked the door, and sat down at the table to quickly add up her money, before Nomsa got home from the shops.
The kettle was boiling when Nomsa came in hurriedly, frowning and clutching Avile close. She was breathing heavily and her eyes were wild.
“What’s wrong?” asked Thandi, concerned.
“It’s nothing,” said Nomsa, her hand over her heart. “It’s just Avile. He’s getting heavy.”
“Have some tea,” said Thandi, taking Avile from her. He was starting to cry.
Nomsa sank into a chair. She was struggling to calm herself but had decided not to say anything. Thandi had enough to worry about. And anyway, maybe it wasn’t him.
Maybe it wasn’t Themba, skulking under a tree down the road, in the shadows, then getting into a maroon car, and driving away.
Nomsa thought she would know him anywhere. Still, she told herself that she was mistaken.
He could never have found us here, she thought…
What do you think? Has Temba found them? Should Nomsa tell Thandi that she thinks she has seen Themba?