Loyiso jumped back. The Rebekah woman in charge of the Soul Side shop had reached out and was trying to stroke his arm. It was seriously creepy to have a stranger – and an older woman – doing that.

“I’ll need to think things over,” he said, hoping she would give up insisting that she knew he was searching for something more meaningful than his everyday life. A life he actually liked quite well, thank you very much, what with his vetkoek business, athletics, and even school, as that was mostly where he got to see Nelani.

“You’re hesitating. It’s natural, but you need to be bold.” She gazed into his eyes. “Get in touch with your spiritual side, young brother.”

“My soul side,” he joked, but she didn’t get it. “Listen, I think a friend of mine might have been in to see you. I need to get in touch with her urgently, so if she’s … um, a customer of yours, I thought you might have her contact details. Nelani Sibitane. About my age, quiet and pretty?”

She wet her lips with the tip of her tongue, and something about that convinced Loyiso that she was lying.

“You sure?” His voice was hard. “She doesn’t have many friends at school, so she might be a sucker … I mean, she might see something in all this stuff you’ve been saying.”

Stuff about everyone being part of a single whole, or body, or something. It sounded nice, but a bit flaky at the same time, like humans were ants or bees.

“No … and if she’s your friend, why don’t you know where she is?” Now Rebekah was suspicious, as if she guessed that he was only here because of Nelani, not a possible tattoo.

He looked her straight in the eye. “Because she’s gone missing, and I think she might be in trouble.”

“Poor child. I wish I could help you. You were saying you need to think things over, so I’ll let you go now.” She was clearly in a hurry to get rid of him.

“Yebo. Catch you another time.”

He took the hint, backing out of the shop. He didn’t miss the look of relief on her face. She knew something about Nelani, he was convinced of it. The problem was, what to do with his belief?

“Nothing illegal has taken place – that we know of,” he said, talking it over with Vusi before their first class the next morning. “And her family haven’t reported her missing, that’s obvious. Her mother seemed okay with Nelani’s message about being with friends. Hell man, she wasn’t interested, just didn’t care. I think her family might be the reason Nelani has gone off, if they’re all like that.”

“So what can you do?”

“I don’t know.” Loyiso stopped talking to greet Ms Khoza as she walked past, coming from the staff carpark. “Obviously the school must notice when someone stops attending.”

“Right, the drama they make if you’re absent for anything less than death,” Vusi agreed. “Phone calls to your parents. They don’t trust us, bhuti – hey! Where are you going?”

“To find out if Nelani’s mother has told the school more than she told me,” Loyiso called back over his shoulder, hurrying to catch up with Ms Khoza.

“Like they’re gonna share info like that with a learner?”

“I have to try.”

Because what else could he do? And he had to do something.


Tell us: Although Loyiso likes Nelani, they don’t have a close relationship. So is he doing the right thing, or is he interfering in something that doesn’t concern him?