Just as she got there, the youth with thick dreadlocks punched Mpho in the stomach.
“What do you think you’re doing!?” Thandi yelled.
The youths turned around. When they saw Thandi they started laughing.
“Just turn around and forget you ever saw us,” the youth who had punched Mpho said.
“No, I will not!” Thandi cried out.
“It’s alright, Thandi. I’ll give them my money,” Mpho said.
“You better do as your boyfriend says,” the shorter of the two bullies said.
“And what if I don’t?” Thandi stood her ground. She wasn’t going to let on how frightened she really was.
“You’ll be sorry,” the shorter youth said menacingly. Spinning round, he punched Thandi in her face. She dropped to the pavement. The meat and vegetables spilled out everywhere. Mpho ran towards the bully who had hit Thandi. He had only taken a few steps when the other youth tripped him.
Thandi watched as she saw Mpho hit the pavement beside her. His money rolled out of his hand. It scattered all over the ground and the two thieving bullies grabbed it. Then they ran off, laughing and calling Thandi and Mpho names.
“If you tell anyone about this, we’ll come back and beat the two of you up again,” the dreadlocked bully shouted at them.
“Who would believe you anyway?” the other laughed. “You’re just fools, the two of you. Cry all you want. You’re never going to catch us.”
Slowly Thandi lifted herself off the ground. Mpho was also getting up.
“You’re very brave for a girl,” Mpho said.
“If that’s a compliment, thank you,” Thandi grinned. Then she winced in pain. Her stomach and head were sore where the boy had punched her and where she had fallen.
“I’m sorry, Thandi,” Mpho said. “If I had given them the money none of this would have happened.”
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t just hand over your money, Mpho. You’re very brave − for a boy!”
Mpho laughed as he helped her pick up the meat and vegetables. “If you wash them they’ll be okay.”
“What are you going to do now, Mpho?” Thandi asked.
Mpho shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea.”
“Do you know the name of those two bullies?” Thandi asked.
“The one with the dreadlocks is called Julius. The other one is Michael.”
“I haven’t seen them before,” Thandi said. “Do they go to our school?”
“Not anymore. They got expelled last year.”
Thandi and Mpho walked down the street together. It was late afternoon, and the street had quietened. The shops were closing up. The market people packed away their stalls. It was time to go home. The two friends walked past a cafe –and noticed the two thieves standing by the sweet counter. One was handing the owner some of Mpho’s money while the other was already drinking a Stoney, before they had even paid for it.
Suddenly, Thandi felt rage in her heart. Those two bullies were spending all Mpho’s hard-earned money! Somebody needed to show them that they couldn’t get away with it.
“There’s a gang of them,” Mpho said softly beside her. “They’re getting more and more daring. They think they are above the law. They think they are untouchable.”
Tell us about yourself: Have you ever been bullied?