The Mangilasis are sitting watching a music video on their new DVD player when Jonasi walks in with Pretty.
“Mom and Dad,” says Jonasi. “Meet my friend – Pretty. Pretty – meet my parents.”
Mr Mangilasi gets to his feet and comes to shake Pretty’s hand.
“Pretty, it’s good to have you in our house,” he says.
“Thank you, sir.”
Mrs Mangilasi and Pretty shake hands too. “It’s good to finally meet the person behind the name,” Mrs Mangilasi says. “Have a seat.” She gestures to the sofa.
Jonasi sits down on the sofa as well. Pretty looks a little shy. “I am happy to meet you too,” she says. “Jonasi speaks so well about you.”
“What does he say?” asks Mr Mangilasi, chuckling.
“That you are good and forgiving parents,” she speaks. “He says he wouldn’t trade you for any other parents!”
“That sounds good,” Mrs Mangilasi says. “Like I said, it’s good to finally meet you. He says you are also trying to pull your life together. You were all in a bad ‘school’ together.”
“That school is where all learners fail,” she responds.
Mrs Mangilasi brings juice and biscuits and they start watching the music video of the dance troupes, and chatting in between.
As Jonasi walks Pretty home she takes his hand. “Your parents are sweet,” she says. “I loved them. You’ll meet my mother and siblings soon.”
“That’ll be great,” he says. “Just imagine: we’ve been friends for years, smoking nyaope and dagga together, and we never visited each other at home.”
“That was not friendship. It was just bad company.”
They walk in silence for a while then Pretty says. “Goliath tells me that Rudzani is no longer living here in Waterval.”
“So you went to his home?” Jonasi has a twinge of jealousy in his voice. “Goliath’s your friend?”
“Not like that. Goliath and I are classmates, remember. He says Rudzani’s uncle came and asked to take him with him to his village in the rural areas. He was unable to quit nyaope. They thought taking him away might help.”
“Maybe it will,” Jonasi sounds skeptical. “But, above everything else, change comes from the heart. It comes from within.”
“We escaped Jonasi; we are lucky. The Top Man is continuing selling nyaope and dagga to school kids like us. Will they ever have a future? Will they escape? Will they be so lucky?”
“I pray the police arrest him.”
They walk in silence, holding hands all the way to Pretty’s house, where her parents are waiting for her.
Three months later
Pretty and Jonasi are sitting at a stall among the trees, flowers and plants at the Horticulture Fair in Musina. They have come with Mr Mangilasi who is displaying his beloved bonsais.
“It’s good to be here, with you,” says Pretty. “Your dad’s trees are so beautiful and they smell so good. Which one has that woody, sweet smell?”
“It’s my dad’s coniferous bonsai. This one over here.”
She inhales deeply. “You know nyaope kills your sense of smell. Three months ago I would have missed out on all these fragrances.”
He laughs. “That seems so long ago. Time flies! And change is good.”
“We’ve come a long way to here.”
“I thank my parents for standing by my side,” he says. “I also thank you for the support. I respect you so much. The way you were able to quit.”
“Our clock doesn’t turn back to nonsense,” she smiles. “We’re children of substance.”
“I hear Rudzani is back from the village. He is so deep into nyaope. I hear he looks ragged. He’s living on the street.”
They look at each other and each knows what the other is thinking: ‘That could have been me!’
“We are lucky to be smelling this lovely little tree, and not the gutter. But, I am not going to give up hope that he can quit,” says Jonasi.
“But he obviously can’t do it alone. He needs your counsellor, Jonasi,” says Pretty.
“Yes. It’s the only way to any brighter future for him.”
Tell us what you think: Is it possible to quit a hard drug like nyaope without support from professionals or a rehab centre?