Thandi was filling in the scholarship form the next afternoon when Themba crashed into the shack. Drunk again. Avile was asleep on the bed. Nomsa was due back any minute. Thandi looked up at the clock wishing she would come home early. Wishing in her heart that she would see Themba trying to put his hand on her breasts under her shirt. Then she would know and get rid of him. Another ten minutes and she would be here. But until then she had to try and stop him.

“What are you doing here?” she said angrily. “Nomsa’s not back yet. I will tell her you are drunk. She will see for herself. She’s coming back any minute. Any minute.” She stood up and moved towards the stove and the frying pan. He was moving towards her, slowly, drunkenly. Like a boxer who has been hit, but keeps coming. She knew that this time he would rape her. She could see it in his eyes. All the rest had been a build up to this. He didn’t care about Nomsa, he was too drunk. She could see it. She looked at the clock. The second hand seemed to have slowed down. Nomsa wasn’t here. It would be too late. He was between her and the door.

Thandi grabbed the frying pan. An indescribable rage was tearing through her. He wouldn’t do this to her. She wouldn’t let him. Not now that she was getting out of here, to the new school. Not when her dreams were so close.

“Get out of here!” she hissed at him, not wanting to wake the baby, “Get out now!”

She waved the frying pan in his direction. But Themba wasn’t going anywhere. He moved towards her. He got close enough to her that she could see right into his bloodshot eyes.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” he shouted, reaching out to grab her arm.

Without thinking Thandi stepped back from him and swung the frying pan at him. She had meant for it to be one shot. To knock him out. But she missed his head and hit him on the side of the arm. It had only made him madder. Her once chance had gone. She would be beaten for sure now.

Quick as a flash Themba grabbed the pan with his other hand and pulled it from her hand.

“Get out! Get out!” Thandi was suddenly shouting. She thought he looked like he might kill her.

“You spoilt little Princess,” Themba was roaring now.

Avile who was awake, began to cry, and then scream.

“Help! Help!” Thandi was trapped. Themba was blocking the door, lunging at her. He got hold of her shirt and pulled at it. A few of the buttons popped. The shirt ripped.

Thandi kept screaming. Surely Pinky was in the kitchen? Surely she would hear her?

But it was the soapies. Pinky would be watching 7de Laan and she had the sound turned up really high. The nights were cold now, the doors and windows shut tight against it. She would never hear Thandi’s screams.

Thandi knew she would have to escape, get past Themba somehow, and get out into the open. She moved quickly, pushing him, hoping he was drunk enough to fall. Using all her might Thandi threw herself at him, trying to get past him. Themba pushed back.

Then she fell, crashing against the table. She saw the lamp smashing onto the floor and the flames leaping and the blanket catching alight. She heard Avile crying, but she couldn’t move. Her lungs were full of black smoke. Nomsa, where was Nomsa?

Then she heard crashing and saw Themba, his coat licked by the flames crawling towards the door. Was that Avile in his arms? He must have Avile, she thought. At least Avile will be safe.

But then she heard Avile cry from the bed behind her. She tried to pull herself across the floor, but the flames were getting higher. She couldn’t reach him. And then she felt her head spinning, like she was falling…

What do you think will happen to Thandi, Avile and Themba?