FLASHBACK: Day Before – At Sandra’s Home
Sandra had been sitting outside her family’s shack after school, when Mandla walked past.
“What’s up?” Mandla had asked cheerfully. He was wearing his latest new pair of High Tops shoes, and he paused at the edge of the dust patch that was Sandra’s front yard. Mandla didn’t want to get his shoes too dusty.
Sandra sighed. “It’s just this Maths, again. I have no idea what’s going on. I’m never going to pass Grade 7!”
“Well, don’t ask me,” said Mandla with a laugh. “I left school somewhere around Grade 3!”
Sandra squinted up at him. Mandla stood with his back to the sun. He was beautifully dressed in a new jacket and jeans.
“I know someone who can help you,” said Mandla softly, almost hesitantly.
“Who?” asked Sandra eagerly.
“He’s just a man I know. He lives not far from here, in a nice house near the train station. We call him ‘Uncle’.” Mandla pointed towards the main highway into town. “He’s helped some other kids I know with homework and stuff.” Mandla offered: “I could take you there.”
Sandra slammed her textbook shut. “He’s going to want money. Extra lessons always cost money.” She didn’t think to ask how Mandla had met this man.
“It’s okay,” said Mandla. “I’ll help you out. Like you always used to help me out.” He was smiling now. “I’ll take you there tomorrow,” he said, “after school.”
“Thanks,” said Sandra, suddenly feeling shy. Sandra watched Mandla as he walked back over to his house. He was so very good looking, she thought to herself. Her heart fluttered for a moment. And he wants to help me out! How cool is that?
TODAY: At ‘Uncle’s’ flat
And so Sandra had met Mandla after school. Just an hour ago, she thought, as she looked at the smart clock on the ‘Uncle’s’ wall. They had walked together to this house.
It was not too far into town. And it was the same side of town as the township. The house stood alone on a plot that was surrounded by a high fence topped with security wire. It had electric gates.
Mandla pressed a buzzer and spoke into the speaker phone at the gate. Dogs began barking and came running towards the gates. Sandra was extremely frightened of dogs. She turned to run away as the two big Alsatian dogs came and leapt against the bars of the gate, snarling and growling.
“It’s okay,” said Mandla to Sandra. “It’s okay; don’t run.”
Then the man who Mandla called ‘Uncle’ emerged from the house and called the dogs.
He was very thin and very tall. Even though Sandra could see that he was not a young man, he still had thick blonde hair. It looked strange on his face that was lined and tanned a dark brown.
The man waved and greeted Mandla. “Hello, hello,” he said cheerily. “Good to see you. Good to see you.” He held the dogs by their collars while he pressed the remote control in his hand to open the gate.
Sandra hid behind Mandla.
“You are the girl coming for extra lessons?” the man said to Sandra. “Don’t be afraid of the dogs. They will do nothing to you. They listen to me. Come in. Come in.”
Sandra moved forward, smiling hesitantly. She was clutching her Maths books and her pencil box very tightly. She stepped inside the boundary and heard the gate sliding shut behind her.
A moment later Sandra looked around for Mandla, but he was nowhere to be found.
“Where is Mandla?” she asked, suddenly afraid.
“Oh don’t worry,” said the man, ‘Uncle’, gently. The dogs were sniffing around her, and Sandra was standing quite still, petrified. “Don’t be afraid. Come with me.”
The man took Sandra’s hand and gently led her to the front door of a small flat on one side of the yard. He opened the door and led Sandra inside. He shut the door behind them. The dogs slunk off to their patch of sun outside the window, and lay down.
The man led Sandra to the table, and pulled out a chair for her.
“Sit down,” he said. “I will get you something to drink. It is very hot.”
He left her alone and she heard him pouring the Coke for her, in the kitchen. That was when Sandra had started to feel less afraid.
The man came back to her with a tray. The dogs were settled on the floor in the sun. Sandra was still afraid of them even though they didn’t look very dangerous any more, lying fast asleep.
“You must not try to run outside,” the man had told Sandra with a smile. “The dogs will come after you and bite you.”
The ‘Uncle’ had patted her shoulder as he said that. Then he had added softly. “You must rather stay inside here, with me. You’ll be safe here.”
Sandra looked up at him, and he was smiling kindly. But still she hoped Mandla would come back soon.
Tell us what you think: Should Mandla have left Sandra alone with the man called ‘Uncle’?