She has her coin back and she plays with it in class, unconsciously sliding it between her fingers. Mandla has been absent all week – to Princess’s delight.

Aimée reads his SMS again and again.

My dads here. Bisness 2 b sorted. C u soon.

“Shame. You missing your boyfriend?” says Princess. “He’s got tired of you. I bet his daddy’s got some proper girlfriend for him at home. That’s why he’s staying away.”

She looks at Aimée again. “Stop doing that. It’s really annoying. Give it here,” says Princess and grabs the coin from Aimée’s hand. “You’re not a little girl anymore, are you? You don’t need to hold this silly coin all the time.”

“Give it back,” Aimée says, but Princess has it in her pocket already.

“Now where’s your boyfriend to help you?” mocks Princess. “I don’t see him here, do you? Sorry for you!”

Aimée wants to get away from Princess, but Princess won’t let her.

“Has he met your family?” Princess asks. “I wonder what his daddy will think when he meets your daddy? A chief and a car guard? Now that should be interesting.”

“He’s not a car guard.”

“So how come I saw him at the mall? Yes, and he wasn’t shopping, he was helping my dad to park our car. Shame – we gave him a fifty cents.”

And then Aimée explodes. “He’s not a car guard! He’s a teacher. He has a degree. I bet that’s more than your dad has.”

“In your dreams,” says Princess. “A degree in parking cars, maybe,” and her friends laugh. “So don’t think Mandla’s daddy is going to welcome you into the family. Yes, you better run back to your family. Maybe they have a nice kwerekwere boy for you?”

* * * * *

On Friday night there is an SMS from Mandla.

Waz up? Drp da chair Sunday?

She falls asleep with a smile on her face.

But in the middle of the night there is a terrible banging on the door. Her dad opens it to see Mrs van Reenen, standing there in her nightie with another man and woman. They are all shouting.

“You people must get out! Mrs Jeffrey here says they burned her shack down, because she renting to you people. You must go. Get out!”

“We can’t leave now… it’s…”

“What am I supposed to do? It’s not safe for me. They’re coming to burn the house down. You must go. Just now they kill us all. You can come back for the furniture tomorrow. Now go. Leave!”

Aimée walks with her family in the dark across the township, to the furniture store. They can sleep there tonight and then tomorrow ask her uncle if they can stay with him.

In amongst the tables and beds, Aimée finds Mandla’s chair. She curls up in it and tries to sleep. She wants him now. She SMSes:

Pls come 2 da shop, I nid u

But there is no reply. Perhaps it is too late and he is fast asleep.

That night Aimée dreams that the people are surrounding the furniture shop. They are shouting and waving their fists. Her family is inside the shop, looking out from behind tables. Crouched down, terrified. There is Princess and the girls. All of them are shouting and waving their fists. There is Mandla’s aunt. They are also screaming. And then Princess takes a can of petrol and empties it around the building, in a circle on the ground. She throws a match down and the flames leap up. They are trapped and choking inside. She looks out through the smoke and thinks she sees Mandla. He’s walking away.

Aimée wakes up gasping for air. Her mom puts her arm around her.

“We’ll be OK. Jean Luc will help tomorrow. We’ll make a plan. We’ll stay with uncle. You can walk to school from there.”

In the dark she SMSes Mandla again.

Princess has my coin.

Her mom strokes her hair. “Try to sleep. Shall I tell you a story?” Aimée nodded. “Once there was a family who lived in a beautiful house in a beautiful country with forests and rivers. There were birds in the trees, and avocados as big as footballs.”


“It’s true,” her father adds.

Eventually Aimée falls asleep with her mom stroking her hair.

* * *

Tell us what you think: Why do you think some people are threatened by people that come from other countries?