The day of Nomsa’s arrival drew nearer and nearer. In the days leading up to the home-coming, Mrs Seoke had gone crazy on the house with a scrubbing brush and numerous bottles of bleach. She had literally scrubbed the house from top to bottom three times.

“Can’t I help you?” Lesego had asked her more than once, when she saw how exhausted her mom was getting.

“It’s OK, darling. You concentrate on your schoolwork and do your track running. I just want to make sure that Nomsa doesn’t pick up any other sickness when she comes home. Her immune system is really low. And she’s vulnerable right now.”

Lesego wanted to tell her that it would be near impossible for Nomsa to catch another bug – there was no way any germs could have survived all that bleach.

But Lesego didn’t say anything. She could sense that her mom would not see any humour in the situation.

At long last it was Saturday the tenth of September. It was a beautiful spring day in Oregon village, just two kilometers from George. Nomsa was arriving on the Greyhound bus at 4 p.m. Mrs Seoke had shooed the two friends out of the house at 10 o’clock that morning.

“I just need to do a last bit of cleaning,” she said, by way of explanation.

Lesego rolled her eyes. She knew there was no point in arguing with her mom.

Instead the two girls went to Zanele’s house. Zanele’s mom smiled at them both as they came through the back door and into the kitchen.

Mrs Ndala was a far more relaxed woman than Lesego’s mom was. Even with five-year-old twin boys in the house she always had a pleasant smile on her face.

“Where are the tigers?” Zanele asked. She always called her brothers by that name.

“Your very kind and doting father decided to take them to see a soccer match in George. After that he’s going to treat the boys to a lunch at Spur. So I have some peace at last.”

Both girls smiled at her and sat down at the kitchen table when she offered to make them some tea to go with fresh scones and strawberry jam.

When they were finished the girls rubbed their tummies and told Mrs Ndala how lovely the food was.

“We’re going to go up to my room now to put on some music,” Zanele told her. “We want to practise the monkey jive before Nomsa comes home.”

“How wonderful,” Mrs Ndala laughed. “I used to love to monkey jive and dance. Put the music on as loud as you want. When I have cleaned up here I’ll come and dance with you.”

Lesego smiled and shook her head. She couldn’t help comparing her mother to Mrs Ndala. When they put the music on loud at her house her mom always shouted at them to turn it down. More than once she had threatened to ban all music and dancing from the house.

Lesego’s mom had told her to be home by 3.30. Zanele was going to come with her so she could also see Nomsa.

Then at 3 o’clock Lesego received a text from her:

I want u to come home now, alone.
Zanele can see Nomsa another day.

As always, Lesego didn’t dare argue with her mom. She had been acting very strangely since she had known Nomsa was coming home for a rest.

“I want you to stay here and start preparing the food,” Mom said to Lesego. “I’ll go by myself and pick Nomsa up from the bus station.”

Lesego hid her surprise. She had thought she was going to go with her mother to the station.

It was twenty to five when Lesego at last heard them arrive.

Everything was ready and Lesego put some music on as well.

Then she ran outside to greet her sister. Nomsa was just getting out of the car. For a moment Lesego hardly recognized her. Nomsa’s hair that was always thick and braided now looked thin and scraggy. The skin on her face looked paper-thin. She was also as thin as a rake.

Lesego said nothing though. She ran up to her sister and threw her arms around her. She could feel her bones jutting through her blouse.

She was just happy her beloved sister was finally home.

“Hello baby sister,” Nomsa hugged her back. They all walked into the house.

The monkey jive music was playing softly in the background.

Mom looked crossly at her youngest daughter. “I forbid this music to be played any longer in this house. Can’t you see that Nomsa is not well?”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Lesego said, choking back the tears.

“Don’t be upset, Mom,” Nomsa smiled. “You know how I love this music.”

She grabbed her sister’s arm and made a twirl around the floor with her.

Mom stood still, with a very cross look on her face. Lesego wasn’t sure what to do.

But before she could do or say anything Nomsa slipped and fell on the floor. Lesego looked down at her. Nomsa’s body was like that of a young girl. She lay there for a few moments, taking deep breaths to compose herself. Luckily she had not been hurt by the fall.

Mom looked sternly at Lesego. “Nomsa is here to rest and get better, young lady. From now on no more music, or loud noises in this house.”

“Yes Mom,” Lesego said as a tear ran out of her eye and down her face.

When Lesego looked over at Nomsa she saw that she had fallen asleep.

“I’ll get her up and get her into bed,” Mom said. “We’ll eat later. Did you wash those vegetables numerous times like I told you too?” Mom asked.


Tell us what you think: What might be wrong with Nomsa?