“Haai!” An angry bellow comes from the road. “Haa-ai!” it comes closer. I twist to see what’s going on. Something heavy lands on my head. I sprawl in the dirt. Some instinct locks my fingers around my brother’s recorder

“Skollie!” The woman swells with rage, her handbag raised to smash me again.

“Wait!” I shout. Some men run up behind her. There’s a young one with a stick. I plead, “It’s not a robbery!” I hear the whistle of the stick as it cuts through the air. It whips a stripe of fire across my side. I try to roll away, but the stick comes down on my back. “No-o-o,” I scream, but the stick cuts a criss-cross of agony. Anela’s voice penetrates through the shouts of the crowd,

“Mzingisi! Leave him!’

The whipping stops. “He was climbing in your window!” someone shouts.

“What?” Anela says, bewildered.

“He’s a stalker!” someone shouts. More blows rain on my back, but I hold the recorder up to Anela.

“I was recording you, that’s all.”

“Haai!. Stolen!” The cry goes up in the crowd. The stick comes down, but I lurch out of the way and jump to my feet. The men leap at me, but a girl shrieks, “Wait! Let him speak!”

She’s about my age, with short hair and pretty sandals on her feet. A complete stranger defending me. Anela watches me like I’m a stranger.

I press the red button. I fiddle with the switches, but the stupid thing doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t know how to play it back.

“Dammit!” I check for controls on the side. I beg, “Believe me, Anela!”

Anela shrinks away; she shakes her head, “I don’t know.” Her lips are shivering. “I don’t know who to trust.’

A wild roar goes up. The crowd closes in. I drop my head and heave into their legs. I storm through the bodies. I try to run but they knock me to the ground. I lie in a knot around the recording device, hanging on like it might save my life. The pretty girl shrieks, “Police!” Through the crowd, I see her sprint into the street. A police van ramps off the road. It grinds through the sand into Ma Makwena’s fence. A cop springs out.

“Aargh!” A ridge of metal floor meets my cheek. I crouch in the back of the police van. I feel my cheek swell as we ride past my old school, past the hostels to the Langa police station. It’s not far, but the madness of the day replays slowly. A strange girl showed me more trust than my lifelong friend, the one I have loved since the day I woke up and thought that girls were quite cool – exotic and soft. Anela didn’t even try to save me from the crazy mob. But something inside me refuses to give up. I’ve got to get to the end of this thing that I’ve started. This is not just about Anela anymore, it’s about me. I’m on my way to a police cell, but one thing’s for sure. I’m sticking to my plan, no matter what. This time I’m not dropping out. I hang on the metal mesh. I ignore my stinging back. I cradle my aching cheek and I plot.


Tell us what you think: What do you think Mzingisi is going to do? What about the girl in the crowd? Will he see her again?