I don’t remember how we got to Bara. I wake up in a bed and my head throbs. At first I don’t know who I am or where I am. The nurse tells me the ambulance brought me in yesterday, with my mother. My mother! Is she alive? The nurse helps me out of bed and takes me to see her.
I want to cry. Her eyes are swollen shut. There are bruises and cuts on her face, neck and arms. The nurse tells me her collarbone is broken. I sit next to her bed and slide my hand underneath hers. It doesn’t move. “Ma?” The nurse whispers that Mbali has not woken up since they brought her in.
I am frightened. Where will I go if she dies? Who will look after me? My mother is all I have. Her family didn’t like her German boyfriend all those years ago. They thought Mbali was trying to be too good for them. I know I have a Gogo somewhere in KZN. I’ve never met her. I’ve never met my father either. I’ve only seen him smiling down at my baby face in a photo. He used to write to me. Then one day he stopped. I don’t know where he is, or how I would find him.
I clutch my mother’s hand, tight. I watch her sleep and listen to her breathing. I haven’t ever watched her sleep before. She always wakes up before me and goes to sleep after me. If this is what being sucked into a wormhole feels like, then that’s where I am. Sucked into infinite darkness. Space trash. I lean my head against my mother’s thigh. I hear someone move behind me. I jump up.
It’s S’bu. “Get out,” I shout at him.
S’bu’s mother appears behind him with a bowl of stew. “Hello, my dear. I heard about your mother. I thought you could do with some food.”
Fury chokes in my throat. I take the bowl and mumble something. She pats me on the shoulder. She looks at my mother and then back at me. “Don’t be too long, S’bu. I have to go back to work.”
She leaves. I turn away from him. “It was my idea, to bring the food. We went to your house first, but Mrs Malinga said you hadn’t come home. We heard about your mother …”
“Dudu, please …. I’m sorry. I should have done something, I know. It’s just … I only got the space-probe like two days ago …”
I turn on him. “Why you friends with me, S’bu? Hey, why? At least Alison’s honest when she trashes me. You pretend to be my friend. Then you protect your telescope more than a human being.”
He looks like he’s about to cry. Well, he doesn’t deserve to. So I grab his mother’s bowl of food and I throw it at him. It hits the side of a trolley and stew flies everywhere. Some falls on his cheek. It makes me happy.
S’bu is stunned.
“You’re no better than Beno, or any of them.”
“I’m not a tsotsi.”
“No, you’re a coward. That’s even worse.”
S’bu wipes the meat off his face. “My mother cooked this for you, out of kindness.”
“I don’t need a coward’s kindness.”
S’bu turns and leaves.
I want to cry.
I turn. My mother is reaching out her hand to me.
Do you think Dudu should forgive S’bu, or not?