“You saved Lebo’s life! Ndaba, that is amazing! I’m in awe!”
Masego says this over and over as we walk down the road together. Her eyes are shining. And at Fourth Avenue, she doesn’t turn. She keeps walking beside me.
So maybe today it will be okay if she walks all the way home with me. If I am brave enough to save a life, maybe I am brave enough to let her see how my family lives.
When we reach Mma Moepi’s door, Brightness puts up his little arms to me. He smiles and says, “Dub-Dub!” That’s how he pronounces my name. “Dub-Dub.” How could I have thought of leaving him? I take him in my arms and carry him down the street.
“Your little brother is so cute, Ndaba! I wish I had a little brother.” Masego takes him from me. She starts singing to him, dancing with him there on the street.
We are getting closer to the shack now, stepping between puddles of smelly water and piles of litter. I can feel the adrenaline pumping through me again. This is as hard as climbing out the train window. Maybe harder.
But Shalani meets us at the door.
“I tidied up, Ndaba! Come see! And I swept like you told me.”
All I can see is the single mattress, the broken wash bucket, the half-empty mealie-meal packet. So much to be ashamed of, especially with Masego standing there in the middle of it all. What is she thinking?
But still I hug my sister. “Good girl! You have done a good job. Especially folding the blanket.”
Then my brother Kabo arrives. He is carrying two heavy packets. I can’t stop myself. Even with Masego there. The words rush out.
“What have you got there?” I shout. “Have you been stealing again, you and your tsotsi friends? Well, don’t you bring stolen goods into our home. We will take them back right now!”
But Kabo laughs. He says, “No, Ndaba, this is not stolen. I bought this. With my own money.”
“And where did you get money?”
Kabo’s smile gets even bigger. “I worked. Every day after school I helped Mma Thene at her tuckshop. And today she paid me. And see, I bought you a surprise…”
He unpacks his purchases on our small table: onions and tomatoes and a full packet of White Star. And even some chicken pieces!
I put my arms round my brother. “I am so proud of you! Oh Kabo, this is the best surprise ever! We will have a supper to remember!”
My voice is breaking. It sounds as if any minute I might cry, right in front of Masego. Today has just been too much for me!
“I must go now,” says Masego. I walk outside with her. We stand near a puddle of smelly water.
“Ndaba, you were brave to rescue Lebo. But, Ndaba, I must tell you: this takes even more courage.”
“Taking care of your family. All alone. I am proud to be your girlfriend.”
She kisses me while Shalani giggles behind us. And Kabo makes “woo-wooooo” noises.
And yes, her eyes are shining!
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