Ayanda had tried to help Sandra with her Maths. Sandra now told the man called ‘Uncle’ all about Ayanda. Sandra was beginning to feel quite relaxed now. She had eaten nearly the whole plate of biscuits, and the man didn’t even mind.

Her Maths books lay on the table in front of her, unopened.

A part of Sandra didn’t really care. The truth was that she hated Maths. The problem was that she was failing badly, but desperately wanted to pass her Grade 7and go up to high school the following year.

The sun was streaming through the windows and making Sandra feel so warm. Through the window she could see the two big Alsatian dogs, lying sleeping in the sunshine in the yard.

Sandra was terrified of the dogs. But the man had promised her that they would not bite her. She must just not go outside. That’s what he had told her. He told her that as long as she stayed inside, with him, she would be quite safe. The dogs did not like anyone going outside without him.

Sandra was a dreamer. She was good at telling stories. She was quite enjoying telling the story of her life to the ‘Uncle’. He seemed so interested in everything she had to say, and she liked that. It was a long time since anyone had been interested in her, or in anything about her.

Maths was not her strong subject, Sandra told the Uncle. Not like Ayanda, who was excellent at Maths and Science. Ayanda was in Sandra’s class at school. She was going to be a doctor one day. She was Sandra’s only friend.

Most of the other children mocked Sandra, calling her a ‘makwerekwere’, and insulted her because she couldn’t speak their language. Ayanda was different. Ayanda was friends with just about everybody. She had offered to help to teach Sandra Maths. The problem was, Sandra had missed so much Maths that Ayanda found it impossible to help her.

Ayanda and Sandra had laughed about it. They were so different, but still they were friends. They talked about their plans all the time. Ayanda told Sandra how she was going to help so many people as a doctor. Sandra told Ayanda how she wanted to travel the world and write stories about people in other countries. She was going to be a great journalist.

When Sandra had came back from Zimbabwe, before she met Ayanda, there had only really been one person that she still knew from the old days. That was Mandla, their neighbour.

When Sandra had left the township during the violence, she had been only nine. Mandla was then already thirteen. She remembered how angry he had been about everything.

Now Mandla was a tall, good-looking, sixteen-year-old. He still lived next door, and he was even angrier than before.

Mandla’s father had thrown rocks at Sandra and her parents, all those years ago. Now he was in prison for killing someone. He had stabbed a man in a fight on the street. Sandra was glad he was safely locked away.

Mandla didn’t go to school any more, but he always had a lot of money. That was the first change Sandra noticed about Mandla when she had come back from Zimbabwe. He had lots of friends because he always had lots of money. It didn’t used to be like that.

Mandla never used to have any money at all. And he never used to have any friends either. When Sandra knew Mandla before, he had been an afraid, beaten, angry boy. She was the only friend he had had.

It had always been Sandra who had hidden Mandla under her bed when his father had been drinking and was on the rampage, threatening to kill him.

Sandra’s parents had never known that Mandla was lying silent, but shivering with fear, under their young daughter’s bed. Sandra’s parents had been just as terrified of Mandla’s father as Mandla was. But Sandra had stood in the yard, looked that drunk man straight in the eye, and declared that she had no idea where Mandla was!

The man called ‘Uncle’ was still smiling and listening to her.

Only now, thought Sandra, now I really don’t know where Mandla is. And I wish I did.


Tell us what you think: Where is Mandla? Will he come back for Sandra?