Bulelwa’s head was spinning as she strode along the pavement. Lunga and his friend! It felt to her as if she had spent her life fighting them all off. She had hit one of them across the shins with her hockey stick once – but she hadn’t always been quick enough.

It had been Sipho who had found her home alone that one time, when Gogo was in hospital and her mother working in Jozi, like she always did.

Bulelwa pushed that memory away and slammed the money down on the counter of the spaza shop.

“Bread please,” she said through gritted teeth. “And a small tin of apricot jam,” she added with a smile, as she saw the frightened expression of the woman working behind the counter. “I need a little something to sweeten me up!”

“Of course,” said the woman, smiling with relief. “But you are always sweet Bulelwa. Not many children would look after their gogo the way you do.”

“She looked after me when I was a child,” said Bulelwa, scooping up the loaf of bread, and putting the small tin of jam in her blazer pocket. “Now that she struggles to walk and suffers with asthma it is my turn to take care of her.”

“How is your mother?” asked the shopkeeper. “Will she be home again soon?”

“Not for a while yet,” said Bulelwa, as she turned to leave.

“I suppose she has many needs to meet, and must make as much money as she can.”

Bulelwa nodded and raised her hand in agreement as she walked away. Yes, she thought to herself, there were many needs that her mother had to meet. The latest of which was Bulelwa’s Matric Farewell outfit. Bulelwa had shrugged and said that she didn’t mind not going, but her mother would not hear of that.

“I am so proud of you,” her mother had said to her in their last phone call. “You will go to your Matric Farewell, and you will have a wonderful dress. I will see to it. Don’t worry my daughter. You will look beautiful, with your partner on your arm. Maybe Sipho? He was always the best of Lunga’s friends.”

To that Bulelwa had remained silent. Her mother had been gone for the last five years, only returning at Christmas. Bulelwa did not blame her for not being able to see the dark side of her son, or his friends.

“I’m back,” said Bulelwa, waving the loaf of bread. “I will make us both some delicious sandwiches.”

Bulelwa was relieved to see that Lunga was no longer home. They would be able to eat their sandwiches in peace. Ever since Mudira and Bulelwa had become friends, back in Grade 8, Lunga and his friends had loved to interfere with the girls’ friendship. Her brother and his friends hated foreigners. They loved to blame them for all their troubles.

Bulelwa was afraid that they might guess how she felt about Mudira as well. She knew what her brother was capable of, and she had experienced what Sipho was capable of first hand.

Bulelwa sighed and bit into her sandwich. Mudira disliked being around the young men intensely, and although she never said so, Bulelwa suspected that she was afraid of them.

Bulelwa took another bite and savoured the sweet apricot on her tongue. She decided that she would not think about them anymore and smiled across at Gogo. Apricot jam was also her favourite, and Bulelwa felt happy as she could see how much Gogo was enjoying her sandwich.

Everything is going to be alright, she thought to herself calmly. It always is.


Tell us: What might be the reasons for Lunga’s intolerant ideas?