On Monday morning Thabi caught the train to work as usual. She met Motso on the station, and they walked together up to the shopping centre.

“How are you feeling?” Motso asked as they neared the centre.

“Sick. Terrified…”

“You’ll be fine man,” Motso said, patting her shoulder. “Just apologise. Promise you’ll never do it again. Ask her to give you one last chance. You know she will – she doesn’t want to lose you.”

“I’m scared. What if she’s laid a charge with the police?”

“She won’t have. She’d have called them straight away, while you were still in the café.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Thabi followed her friend into the building. “I’ll SMS you to tell you what she says.”

Motso gave her a hug. “You’ll be fine. Good luck.”

Thabi’s stomach was tied in a knot as she knocked on the kitchen door where Mrs Ram was doing a stocktake of that morning’s delivery. She scowled when she saw Thabi standing there.

“Humph. What do you want?”

Thabi twisted her hands round and round each other. “Mrs Ram, I came to apologise for taking that burger on Friday. I’m very sorry. I’ll pay for it from my wages. But please, ma’am, can I have my job back? I’ll never do it again.”

“You’ve got a cheek, my girl,” Mrs Ram retorted. “What makes you think you can just waltz back into your job? You think I’m an idiot? Huh? Huh?” and she threw her hands into the air.

“No, ma’am.” Thabi hung her head.

“I’ve given you more than one warning about that dirty old bergie. I’ve seen you chatting to him. I’ve watched you giving him special treatment. But did you listen? No.”

“I promise you, ma’am, I’ll never talk to him again. He won’t be coming here anymore. We’ll never see him again.”

“Humph.” Mrs Ram thought for a while, tapping her foot on the tiled floor. “Fine,” she said at last. “You can have your job back. But if that old man so much as sets foot in my coffee shop again you’re fired. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am. Thank you ma’am.”

“Now put on your apron and get to work. That couple at table six have been waiting for ages for their menus.”

All day Thabi worked hard. She tried to show Mrs Ram how keen she was to do everything perfectly. At ten o’clock she found herself waiting for old Mr Katz to come shuffling round the corner, and to take his seat at table thirteen. It was his favourite table because he could see everything that was going on.

She blinked the tears from her eyes and tried not to feel so guilty about sending him home when he was so ill. I should have called an ambulance, she thought for the tenth time. Or taken him to the doctor.

“Thabi, when you’ve finished standing around doing nothing, there’s a customer at table thirteen,” Mrs Ram snapped.

For a split second Thabi’s heart leaped. He was back. Old Mr Katz was here as usual. But then she remembered. He was dead. “Yes, Mrs Ram,” she said meekly. She picked up a menu and made her way to table thirteen. One man sat there, with his back to her. He was reading some documents.

“Good morning,” she said, with a smile.

The man looked up. “Thabi? Thabi Malebane?”

Her heart stopped. It was the man from the hospital. And he was asking for her by name.


Tell us what you think: What does the man want from her? Has Mrs Ram called the police after all?