Monica waited to hear something. Tebogo said nothing about talking to Mma Mogomotsi. Mma Mogomotsi said nothing too. It seemed like Mma Mogomotsi was trying to avoid her. Monica was getting worried. What if nobody was going to help Tebogo?

It was Friday and Monica didn’t like the idea of Tebogo being all alone for two days. Friday was a big night at Monica’s house. Her father called it ‘Family Night’. Her mother made fish and chips and a nice dessert for supper. And after supper they all played games together, like Monopoly or mmele or chess. Her father liked repeating his nerdy saying: “The family that plays together, stays together.” It was against the rules to invite people over on Fridays, but this time Monica felt she had no option. “Tebogo, can you come home with me for dinner? My mother asked me to invite a friend over for games night and I forgot all about it until now.”

Tebogo thought about it. Friday night she knew her mother often stayed out late, often not coming home at all. She’d never know Tebogo wasn’t there. “Okay, sure.”

They walked to Monica’s house, which was not far from the school. “What kind of games do you play?” Tebogo asked.

“Any. What do you want to play?”

“I like Scrabble. Do you have it?” Tebogo asked, her eyes brighter than normal.

“Sure we can play Scrabble.” Monica was happy she had decided to invite Tebogo over. She hadn’t been over to her house for months. Whenever she had tried to invite her, Tebogo always had an excuse for why she couldn’t come. Monica only ever got her there by tricking her in some way.

Monica’s family lived in a modest house. It had a patch of green grass at the front, with a border of flowers and a big vegetable garden at the back. Monica opened the front door, calling, “I’m home!”

Her mother came from the kitchen wiping her hands on a dish towel. At first she looked at Monica, confused, but then she realised the girl with her daughter was Tebogo. “Why –Tebogo! I never would have recognised you! You’ve grown so tall and thin. Too thin. How about I give you a big slice of cake and some milk? The cake is just out of the oven and I need a taster.”

Tebogo and Monica sat down at the dining room table with their cake and milk just as Monica’s little sister, Maipelo, came in. She sat down and looked at Tebogo for a minute before talking. “How come you’re here?”

“Don’t be rude Maipelo,” Monica said. “Mama told me to invite her.”

Maipelo went to the kitchen complaining that “if Monica gets a friend I want one too”. Monica knew that Tebogo could hear everything in the kitchen. “Ignore her. She’s just a brat,” Monica said.

Monica’s father came home and they sat down to dinner. Tebogo ate in her slow way but Monica’s mother didn’t mind. She kept putting more food on Tebogo’s plate. “Don’t worry sweetheart, if you don’t finish it all I’ll just pack it up and you can take it home with you.”

Tebogo smiled at her.

After dinner they played Scrabble until Tebogo had beaten them all three times in a row. Tebogo wasn’t keeping track of time, but eventually she looked at the clock and saw it was already past ten. “Oh! I need to go.”

Monica got up to walk Tebogo home, but her mother put a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll give you a lift,” she said.

They drove quietly, the bag of food sitting between them. Monica’s mother broke the silence when they pulled up to Tebogo’s house. “If you need anything, anything at all you come to us. We’ll always have space for you in our house.”

When Tebogo got out of the car she thought she saw Monica’s mother crying.


Tell us what you think: Why did Tebogo lose track of time? What do you think of Monica’s mother?