Bebenya watches Zeni and Dibote walk away with their heads close to together, whispering and then laughing loudly.
She begins to pace up and down in front of the house, hugging herself. With Tsietsi gone off somewhere, she should go inside, but she doesn’t want to. Not yet. Her mother will just start talking about getting back to normal again.
Normal. She hates that word.
Clearly, it’s never going to happen. She’s never going to have a normal life, never going to form normal relationships.
“What’s with those two, cackling like that?”
Bebenya spins round in fright at the strange voice. It’s the boy she saw coming out of the house next door. He’s tall, and nice-looking in a way that’s not too handsome, but definitely not ugly or plain.
“I s’pose you’re another of my old friends come to welcome me back,” Bebenya challenges him. “Ha ha. Come to satisfy your curiosity, more like.”
“I live next door, I was on my way home. I’m Gosiame.” He smiles at her, and it’s a warm smile, relaxed and unthreatening. “Bebenya, right? I’ve heard about you of course, but when we moved here there was only Tsietsi. So no, I’m not an old friend. A new one, maybe?”
“Why would you want to be?” Bebenya is still raw from what Zeni called her. “Because you’ve heard about me?”
“Because two things. One, I thought you could use someone to show you around. I mean, you’ve most likely forgotten where everything is. Anyway, it’s changing all the time, all the building that’s going on.”
“Means nothing to me, this place. I belong in Durban.”
Another of Gosiame’s smiles. “Well, I’m glad you’re here because – because number two – you’re just so pretty, Ms Bebenya Modisane.”
Bebenya stares at him, filled with distrust.
“And what else?” She hears how aggressive she sounds. “Pretty, and what else?”
He laughs. “How can I say? I don’t know you yet. Pretty and nice, maybe? Or funny, or clever, or kind?”
“That’s not what I meant … oh, forget it.”
“We could go somewhere, get something to eat or catch some music. Give ourselves a chance to find out about each other, how nice or funny we are, and all the rest of it.”
“I said forget it!” Bebenya snaps. “A boy like you, the boy next door – I promise you, you wouldn’t like anything you found out about me. Or else you’d like it too much.”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know. Even a nice boy like you–”
“A nice boy like me knows that no means no, and that’s what I’m hearing here. So this is where I check out. So long, Bebenya.”
He strides towards the next house. Bebenya watches him go inside, with a weird feeling of disappointment. Should she have given him a chance? After all, in a way he had been giving her a chance, when it’s obvious he must know about her Durban life.
She hasn’t noticed Tsietsi returning. “Did I see Gosiame talking to you? Let me tell you, Ausi, plenty girls around here would be jealous.”
“You called me Ausi,” Bebenya realises.
“Hey, that’s right, it just came out. Maybe my subconscious or something remembers you as my sister. I mean, I can say stuff to you. Other older girls – I can’t be relaxed or natural around them.”
“I can’t be relaxed or natural around anyone. Including that Gosiame. I’m a freak, aren’t I?”
Tell us what you think: Are there any signs that Bebenya is starting to wish she could fit in? If so, what are they?