Help and provisions had begun to flood into Knysna the very next day after the fires. Mudira’s mother had joined the queues at the Methodist Church where they were handing out clothes and blankets and bags of food supplies. It was there that she had been jostled and nudged and the people around her had said, “This is not for foreigners, but only for South Africans. Go away.”

Mudira’s mother came home in tears that day, still in the clothes in which she had fled the fires. Bulelwa took Mudira by the hand then, and immediately went with her down to the supply queue, where she stood with her for hours, holding onto her hand firmly until they came to the front of the queue. The kind church people and workers from the municipality warmly welcomed Mudira, and invited her to choose whatever she needed from the huge piles of goods available.

Bulelwa had silenced anyone around them who had dared to suggest that Mudira was not entitled to stand in that queue. Eventually others had joined their voice with hers, and they had been left in peace.

Over the next weeks Mudira and Bulelwa went back to school. Mudira was not alone in having lost so much. Many other scholars, and teachers, had also lost all that they had.

By the end of the third day Mudira had a new uniform, new books and a large collection of stationery. Help came to them from all around.

The attorneys Mudira’s mother worked for helped her in every way they could. She was given money and beautiful clothes. A new television set was bought, and everyone in Bulelwa’s house sat down each night to enjoy it.

But nothing would ever be able to give Mudira and her mother back many of the things they lost in the fire. A special jersey given by a friend, albums of photographs of happy memories and people back in Zimbabwe. A journal with poetry Mudira had written over the years; curtains lovingly made by a neighbour; the couch, covered with fabric saved for over many months.

Mudira and her mother often dreamed the same dreams, which they then whispered to each other when they woke up, and found themselves in the unfamiliar twin beds in Lunga’s old room.

“I dreamed again last night that I was moving through the rooms of our house Mama,” Mudira would say. “And I put the kettle on in the kitchen, and took down your favourite cup. I went to my room and picked up my hairbrush off my dressing table. I looked in the mirror. I saw myself there …”

“I know Mudira,” her mother would reply. “I also dream. I also remember.”

Mudira and her mother received very good news before a month had passed: a large charity organisation had undertaken to rebuild their home for them. That night was a night of celebration in Bulelwa’s house.

And it was only a few weeks later that Mudira went out with her mother and came back with her face wreathed in smiles, and looking very secretive. She tried to smuggle a large plastic bag into the house without being seen, but Bulelwa did see it. She chose, however, to say nothing.

A few minutes later Mudira called her to her room, and it was there that Bulelwa found her, standing shyly, wearing her new, beautiful Matric Farewell dress.

“The women at my mom’s office did this for me. It is quite the same as the one that was burnt.”

“Wow!” said Bulelwa, moving closer and taking Mudira by the hand, “you look so beautiful Mudira.”

Bulelwa leant forward and kissed Mudira on the cheek, “I love you so much,” she whispered.

The two girls had felt the flames of a devastating fire at their backs, and had fought them off together, through one long, terrifying night. They felt as if nothing could touch them now, but both of them knew that, as they moved forward, with every new beginning there would always be new kinds of fire to fight.

Bulelwa and Mudira knew how terrifying fighting fires could be, but they felt strong together. They trusted each other and they knew they were brave. They were going to have to be, but they were moving forward – together.


Tell us what you think: Will it be possible for Bulelwa and Mudira to find happiness in a future together?