Tebogo wandered the dark city streets with her blankets. She found an open storeroom at the edge of the park near the centre of the city. She went inside and closed the door behind her. She didn’t know what she was going to do. She decided to wait in the storeroom until the sun came up.
She fell into a restless sleep, but was woken up when she heard the door open. “Hey! What are you doing in here? You can’t sleep in here. This is city property.”
Tebogo looked up at the tall man standing over her. He wore overalls with ‘City Council’ printed on them. She stood up, gathering her blankets together. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know where to go.”
“You better clear out of here quick or I’ll call the police.”
Tebogo walked into the icy cold morning. The sun was barely up, just a thin strip of light in the east. She walked, carrying her blankets, up the road towards a hotel. She found a broken suitcase, with some wheels, in the rubbish tip behind it. She put her blankets in the case and tied it shut with a piece of long plastic. It was easier to move around with the suitcase.
Tebogo spent Saturday and Sunday roaming the streets of the city, pulling her suitcase behind her. She ate the rest of the food Monica’s mother had given her. At night she tried to sleep in corners where she thought no one would find her, but they always did. Two older boys who tried to steal her suitcase. A policewoman who told her if she kept idling about she’d put her in a cell. An old man who said he had a nice warm bed she could sleep in at his house. But he spoke in a voice just like her mother’s boyfriend so she got up and ran. She spent most of the two days running away from people.
But there was one thing she knew – come Monday she would be in school. School was what would save her, what would make her future something to be happy about. It was the only thought she clung too.
Monday morning early she pulled her suitcase into the filling station bathroom. She washed herself with the soap from the dispenser and put on her school uniform. She wasn’t sure what she would do with the suitcase while she was at school, but she thought she might hide it somewhere nearby. She couldn’t bear to let Monica know what had happened.
She came out of the bathroom and thought she heard her name: “Tebogo!”
She looked in that direction and saw Mma Mogomotsi filling up her car with petrol. “Tebogo! Let me give you a lift to school.”
She climbed into Mma Mogomotsi’s car with her suitcase. She was embarrassed about it but said nothing. Mma Mogomotsi said nothing either and Tebogo was thankful for that. They drove in silence. At the school, Mma Mogomotsi parked her car. Tebogo started getting out and Mma Mogomotsi stopped her.
“I need to help you,” she said.
“No, you’re not. You need to let people help you, Tebogo. I spoke to Monica’s mother. She was worried about you. We went to your house and your mother said she wouldn’t have you there. My God, Tebogo what have you been going through?”
Tebogo saw tears in Mma Mogomotsi’s eyes. “Don’t cry; it’s not so bad,” Tebogo said. “I’ve managed.”
“Will you go and live with Monica’s family?” Mma Mogomotsi asked the question as if she would die if Tebogo said no. “If you do that, I’ll at least feel better. Feel that I helped you in some way.”
Tebogo nodded. She knew she would be safe at Monica’s. She knew that it really was going to be better. And that it was safe to dream about a future again.
Tell us what you think: Why was Tebogo reluctant to take help from people? Why was Mma Mogomotsi so desperate to help Tebogo?