“Change is difficult, but if you stay in the same place – doing the same things – don’t you think you’ll get bored?” Mrs Zotwana yanked the roll of tape over the last box, sealing it. “Think of all the new friends you’ll–”

“You know I’m not good at making friends, Ma.”

Mrs Zotwana took a deep breath. “Well … at least you’ll be in a city with an ocean. I know how much you love the beach, and this time you’ll be so close to it, you’ll be able to see it and almost touch it from your bedroom window. Imagine all the wonderful pictures you can take with your new phone.”

Thobeka rolled her eyes and puffed as she heaved a suitcase from her bedroom into the lounge. “Yep, my phone’s awesome, mara, you’re happy because you go back to your home town. Why couldn’t you just get another job right here in Grahamstown, instead of hauling us halfway across the world to Cape Town?”

Mrs Zotwana squeezed her lips together, trapping her laughter. This child is such a drama queen sometimes, she thought, as she sagged down onto the sofa.

“Come.” She patted the space beside her. “Jobs are scarce here, and if I hadn’t looked elsewhere, I wouldn’t be able to keep a roof over our heads.” She took Thobeka’s hands in hers. “I know it hasn’t been easy since your father–”

“Please, Ma, not this again.” Thobeka wrenched her hands from her mother’s grasp and sank down onto the couch. “Utata wam … he … he …” She flung herself into her mother’s arms and clung to her, her body jerking as she sobbed. “Why Ma? Why did … he do it?”

Mrs Zotwana embraced Thobeka, swallowing her tears as she stroked her daughter’s hair. “He didn’t mean to, baby. It was an accident. He loved life. He loved you.”

“No!” Thobeka knocked her head against her mother’s chest. “I don’t believe you.”

* * * * *

One week later mother and daughter were in Cape Town.

“It’s too small!” Thobeka spun around and glared at her mother. “We’re really moving into this matchbox? Even uGogo’s zozo is bigger than this. Where will my desk go?”

The movers had placed the beds and boxes in the rooms as Mrs Zotwana had instructed. But Thobeka’s writing desk stood in the lounge. It had been a present from her father, when she’d complained about needing proper study space.

“Stop worrying so much. There’s more than enough space in your bedroom.”

“For a mouse. And we’re in someone else’s backyard. How embarrassing.”

Mrs Zotwana linked her arm into Thobeka’s. “Trust me, this matchbox is a mansion compared to a shack in an informal settlement. It’s close to a good school and my job. It’s a win-win situation.” She tugged at Thobeka’s arm. “Let’s go – I have an idea.”

Squawking seagulls swooped across the endless blue sky and the salty ocean tang floated on a gentle breeze. But soon the aroma of fragrant spices mingled with the pungent odour of exhaust fumes as Mrs Zotwana and Thobeka zipped across the road at Sunrise Circle. Thobeka’s eyes darted all over, enchanted by her surroundings. “Wow!”

Vendors hawking an array of bric-a-brac, clothing, furniture, and local cuisine competed with the din of hooters honked in impatience. Music blared at maximum volume, competing with animated haggling as the traders chanted their slogans to the eager bargain hunters at the Muizenberg Sunday Market.

“No VAT and all of that.”

“Have a look and see – it’s free!”

“Come closer, come closer. Don’t be shy, is only I.”

Thobeka laughed at their antics as she skipped from one stall to the next, bemused by the variety of novelty items on display.

Beyond the market, on the beach, she wiggled her toes into the wet sand at the water’s edge. She squealed when the break of the waves splashed her with a refreshing spray. Happy, Thobeka waved to her mother, who watched from a distance, a broad smile etched on her face.

I can spend hours sitting at the beach, writing. Maybe, just maybe, I can like it here. I’ve got the rest of the holidays to get used to it, she thought.


Tell us: Do you like change? Or are you like Thobeka, wanting to stay where you are, with your old friends?