“What’s wrong with the two of you?” he shouted again. “I swear you two are lesbians! I told you didn’t I, Sipho? You’re disgusting. Both of you! I didn’t believe it, but now I see that it is true.”

Bulelwa spun around. “You see everything as something dirty Lunga. You don’t know what love is. Or friendship. Mudira and I are just best friends, and have been for years. You know that! You just can’t stand it because you hate all foreigners! You want to break up our friendship for ever. I know you!”

Through the smoke Bulelwa could see that Lunga stood with a friend on either side of him. One of them was Sipho.

“They need to experience a real man,” said Sipho with a sneer. “Especially that Mudira. She needs to be shown what real love is!”

“You bastard!” said Bulelwa, breaking free of Mudira and storming towards where the three young men stood.

“Bulelwa don’t!” cried Mudira. “They’re not worth it!”

Ignoring Mudira, Bulelwa approached Sipho with her fists clenched at her sides. She raised her face until it was only a couple of centimetres from his and hissed, “If you dare to touch Mudira, eve, I will personally kill you!”

And then she turned on her heel and walked towards the house, shouting Mudira’s name loudly, and ordering her to follow.

Lunga and his friends did not follow them into the house. The girls passed Gogo in the lounge, where she was sitting and coughing continuously. The smoke was bothering her already weak lungs.

Bulelwa led Mudira into her bedroom where she kissed her again, after she had shut the door. Holding on to each other, they stumbled to Bulelwa’s bed, tripping over her gogo’s bed on the way.

As they lay in each other’s arms, Mudira told Bulelwa about the two women lawyers who employed Mudira’s mother. They had loved each other for many years and even had two children together.

“We could be like them as well,” she whispered. “Together forever. I love you so much Bulelwa. I always have. Right from that first day in Grade 8.”

Bulelwa looked very serious for a moment.

“They have not had to deal with this community Mudira. You know how tough it is to be gay in this community.”

“Maybe we don’t have to be in this community. Not for ever.”

“But we are here now Mudira,” said Bulelwa, “and we must be careful. I could not bear anything bad to happen to you.”

Bulelwa sighed and rolled over onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. “Let’s not think about that now Bulelwa,” said Mudira with a smile. “I prefer to remember how much I loved you back then when you were cute in Grade 8 …”

“Me too,” said Bulelwa, smiling happily into Mudira’s eyes. “You were so damn adorable, sitting there in the sun, pretending to read!”

Mudira laughed, and wondered if she had ever felt so happy in her life before.

“Mudira! Mudira!”

Mudira sat up. It was her mother’s voice. She jumped up and opened the door. Her mother stood in the sitting room.

“Come Mudira. I have come home early from work. You must come with me now. Everyone in town is going home. This fire is growing. Come, we must go now!”

Bulelwa and Mudira looked at each other and embraced.

“I’ll see you later,” said Bulelwa as she kissed Mudira on the cheek.

“Yes,” said Bulelwa, hastily returning the kiss. “Bye. See you.”

And then Mudira and her mother were gone, out of the door and into the swirling smoke and wind.”

***

Tell us: What do you think of the two girls going to the Matric Farewell together? What will the community think? And, do gay people sometimes need to leave their communities to live freely and safely?