The next day my mind was in shambles. I couldn’t focus in class, so it was a relief to know that Hope would be able to help me catch up after school. We met up at the library and studied until around four. Then we knocked off early because I had offered to walk her home to Extension Five.

As we walked we started talking. Well, Hope did most of the talking, I just kept asking questions. “Tell me, do you like music?” I asked.

Hope smiled, “As a matter of fact I do, but mostly hip-hop and RnB. I love Chris Brown.” She closed her eyes. “I jam Chris Brown all day everyday and twice on Sundays in a dark room, all by myself,” she added.

“Do you only jam at home or do you like parties too?” I asked.

“Political parties? I vote ANC!” she laughed. “Nah, I am just playing, I know what you mean. I don’t mind parties but I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, not even a hookah pipe.”

I grinned. “So, if I were to invite you as my plus one, you’d come with?”

Hope rolled her eyes. “Only if you ask me like a proper gentleman!”

“You’re messing with me right?” I gasped.

She chuckled. “Of course I am. You’re so easy man, you need to loosen up and live in the moment!” She paused, now serious. “Of course I would come, I enjoy your company.”

“Oh yeah?” I smiled.

“Yes hau,” she replied.

“Now tell me, where are you from? I can tell you’re not from around these parts. There aren’t many girls like you here, in fact, there’s no girl like you la Mrova,” I said shyly.

Hope looked down at her shoes as she slowed down her pace. “I moved here with my father after my mother passed away. We used to stay in Vosloorus near Johannesburg. My father said we should move here so he could be closer to his family.”

I grabbed her hand. “Don’t worry, I know what it’s like to live without a mother. But we can share my granny, Gogo Julia Mahlangu, and I’m more than certain she’d love to have you as her granddaughter.”

Hope smiled, “Oh yeah?”

“Hell yeah!” I exclaimed.

Hope smiled and came to a stop in front of a house with a green door. “Thanks, this is my home. I live here with my father and my aunty. I’ll invite you in after you’ve introduced me to Gogo Julia Mahlangu.”

I smiled. “You have yourself a deal! Bye, see you tomorrow at school and thanks for your help with my studies!”

Hope smiled back. “Thanks to you too, bye!”

As I walked home, I started to think about how I made it sound like I didn’t have a mother, although my mother was still alive and well. Even though my heart was heavy as lead, I figured there wasn’t an ounce of forgiveness in it that could redeem Stella in my eyes.

When I got home, I found my mother sitting alone in the kitchen next to the hot coal stove. Her eyes were red as if she had been crying.

Sawubona Mama,” I said as I walked in.

Stella looked up at me and seemed to make up her mind about something. She signalled to me to come sit next to her, which I did reluctantly.

She took my hand. “Thulasizwe, I am sorry I left you and Snethemba, but there was nothing I could have done about that situation afterwards. I stole that money from the company so I could provide a better life for you and your brother. I didn’t want you to grow up poor, the way I did, which is why I tried to give you boys everything you ever dreamed of. But I went too far and my actions lead to exactly the opposite of what I’d wanted.”

She paused a moment, her lips trembling, then went on. “I want to thank you for looking after your brother while I was gone. I have learned my lesson and I am here now. I won’t make promises of a lavish lifestyle, but I can make a promise that from now on I will always be here for you, my boys. I’m never going to leave you again. It killed me to see you while I was behind bars, but that’s all behind us now. Please, let’s forget the past and appreciate the present because it’s a gift. Can you forgive me?”

I looked at her and realised that tears of joy ran down my cheeks. “Mama, I forgive you and I love you, I never want to lose you again! Please forgive me for the way I acted!”

Stella smiled, hugged me and held on to me until Gogo walked in. As I left the room to change my clothes, I wondered if Stella and Gogo would forgive me if I was expelled from school. No, I couldn’t let that happen. I didn’t even want to let them know that I was in trouble again. I’d just have to work like a maniac to get that extra ten per cent.

Tell us: What do you think about Stella’s actions? How can she make up for her mistakes?