Slouched on the couch, her feet propped on the coffee table, Thobeka’s eyes flitted between the TV and her phone. She flicked through her various apps, and tapped away at her keyboard. Her head bobbed and her feet tapped the air to the sounds of the latest DJ house mix blasting through an earphone jammed into one ear.

Time to upload my new story; my readers are hungry, she thought.

“Thobeka Grace Zotwana!” Her mother slapped her feet from the table. “One of these days you’ll wake up with imemori yanyani where your brain should be.”

Thobeka hugged her phone to her chest, startled, and looked up at her Ma. “Hawu, Ma, how can you say that? Ifowuni yam will help me with my school work, and it lets me connect with the world out there.”

She lowered her eyes. It’s my ticket to reaching my dreams, but you won’t understand, she thought.

Mrs Zotwana clicked her tongue. “How about you connect with the real world in the kitchen, by helping me prepare supper? I’ve been calling you for hours.” She marched toward the kitchen. “Masambe!” At the kitchen entrance, she turned around, nostrils flaring. “Now!”

Thobeka pushed herself up from the couch. “I’m coming. I’m coming,” she mumbled, meanwhile thinking, phew, upload completed! Now I can start putting together all the pieces for my debut novel.

Mrs Zotwana shook her head as she watched Thobeka lumber toward her. She’s nothing like her name at times, she thought. As obedient as a mischievous puppy. And with the grace of an ostrich trying to fly.

“I should take back that phone.” She plonked potatoes on the kitchen table in front of Thobeka. “You spend way too much time glued to it. It’s not healthy.”

“Haaayi!” Thobeka shoved her phone into her jeans pocket. “We have a deal, and school hasn’t even started yet. I’ll work harder and get better grades.”

“But you’re not getting enough fresh air. Look at you.” Mrs Zotwana took her by the shoulders and studied her face. “Pale … like spooky isiporho.” She shook her head again. “Your father–”

“Is dead. He didn’t care enough about us to stay alive.”

Mrs Zotwana grabbed Thobeka into a tight hug. “No matter what you think, he loved–”

Thobeka twisted out of her mother’s arms. Oh God, I can’t believe her. He was a drunk and a disgrace to his family. I don’t care what she says. He’s dead and I wish she’d stop talking about him.

“One day, umntwana wam,” – she cupped Thobeka’s face between her hands – “you will understand. You don’t want to hear it, but you are more your father’s daughter than you realise. Try not to hate him. All the reasons you think are good to hate him for, don’t come close to a single reason to love.”

“Ewe, Ma,” Thobeka said, thinking she’d agree to anything just so her mother would stop preaching.

Mrs Zotwana smiled and stroked Thobeka’s arm. “You’re a good girl, but this supper won’t cook itself. Let’s get a move on before you suggest pizza again.”

“Ooh, can I? It’s a quick phone call and you won’t have to slave over a hot stove. You can put up your feet and rela–”

“Hayi, start peeling already. I don’t know how you children can eat so much junk food. It’s not good for your brain.”

“That’s why I like the chicken tropicana with pineapple and avo. It’s a well-balanced meal that contains all the food groups. Carbs, protein, fat, sugar, fruit, veg, and dairy.” She ticked the items off on her fingers. “See? A perfect meal.” She winked at her mother, adding, “And just a simple phone call away.”

Mrs Zotwana burst out laughing. “Nice try, missy. All the food groups, yes, but in the wrong proportions. We’re not having pizza.”

Thobeka giggled as she picked up a knife. Eish, Ma is way too smart for me.


Tell us what you think: Thobeka’s father may have committed suicide. She is angry. Should she forgive him, or is her anger protecting her mentally?