Noni regained consciousness in hospital.

Thozi was there. Her eyes were closed and her lips were moving silently in prayer. Thozi’s cheeks were streaked with tears. Noni made a sound and Thozi’s eyes flew open and she stood up, bending over Noni.

“Noni,” said Thozi softly, “Oh, thank God! Noni…”

“The baby?” whispered Noni, and then, “Jabu?”

Jabu was dead.

A driver leaving the Fair Ground, pulling a trailer with his bakkie, had lost control. The trailer had jack-knifed into Jabu’s car. Jabu had seen it coming and pushed Noni away from him before the end of the trailer had hit his side of the car.

Noni knew that he had saved her. Later, when she was healed she would tell Thozi that he had done that for her and his baby.

Their baby was alive. Little Thabo should not have survived. He was born by emergency caesarian section and placed in an incubator. As the doctors struggled to save his life that morning, so they had struggled to save the life of Jabu and Noni.
With Thabo and Noni they had won the battle. With Jabu they had lost.

Noni had been unconscious for three weeks. Thozi came to the hospital every day to see them both, Noni and Thabo.When they could both go home, a whole month later, Thozi took them straight to her home.

Thabo and Noni had never left. Everything they had needed had been provided for them. They were being looked after.

On every one of Thabo’s birthdays for the past three years they had celebrated in Thozi’s home. Every birthday for Thabo, was celebrated on the same day as the day Jabu had died…

Noni looked up at the clock. It was time to open the shop door. The sun was streaming down. It was going to be a hot day.

Maybe Benedikt would come in again today, Noni thought. And suddenly the thought of him made her happy.

Benedikt was from Germany, and he came in to chat to Noni most days. He worked at the Backpackers up the road. A friendship had developed between them over the past year.

Noni knew that Benedikt looked at her in a special way sometimes, but mostly, her heart and mind still felt too attached to Jabu. Lately though, Noni had begun to notice little things about Benedikt. For example, just a few days ago, Noni had noticed how broad Benedikt’s shoulders were. And then, on another occasion, Noni had found herself watching his hands as he talked. Noni remembered thinking what lovely, long fingered hands they were.

Sometimes Benedikt came in with one or two of the young men tourists that stayed at the Backpackers. They would chat and flirt with Noni, asking her name, and then they would repeat it in their strong Dutch or German accents.

Noni always smiled at them. Benedikt smiled too. Benedikt always asked after Thabo, because Noni was always talking about her son.

“I am so proud of him,” Noni always said, when she showed Benedikt her latest photograph of Thabo in her wallet. Sometimes Noni asked Benedikt something about the place he came from, so far, far away.

That morning, Noni looked up from where she was tidying a shelf, with the sun streaming all around her, to see Benedikt walking into the shop.

“Hello Noni,” he said cheerfully, “how are you today?”

Noni greeted him back, smiling. Benedikt had come to meet the tourist bus. He would take some of them up to the Backpackers.

“The bus is a little late today,” said Benedikt, glancing at his watch, “So, tell me, how is little Thabo?”

“He is really well,” answered Noni, “In fact,” she added, “today is his birthday.”

“That’s so great,” said Benedikt, “you must tell me what he would like. I would like to buy him a birthday present, and you can give it to him, from me.”

Noni paused then glanced at all the things in the shop.“That would be so kind,” Noni said, “But you could give it to him yourself.”

She looked down shyly, and then said softly, “If you came to his party. We are having a party for Thabo tonight.”

“Fantastic!” said Benedikt, smiling broadly from ear to ear, “I’d love to come. I have wanted to meet that little guy for some time now!”

Noni and Benedikt were still chatting happily when the tourist bus pulled in and young, noisy tourists began streaming into the shop. Soon Benedikt was very busy, chatting away to them in a language Noni could not understand.

Before Benedikt left with them he came over to her and, spontaneously, bent down and kissed Noni lightly on the cheek.

Noni felt herself blushing.

“Goodbye then,” said Benedikt, “I will see you later. I will meet you here when you finish work, if that’s all right?”

Of course it is all right, thought Noni nodding her head. The world is big…

Then she began to think of the plans she had made for Thabo’s birthday. She smiled to herself, imagining Thabo’s happy smile.


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