Thobeka frowned while she worked on her English task. Mrs Edwards is sneaky. This piece is just a roundabout way of asking what we did over the holidays. I’ve dug deep, alright. So deep, Mrs Edwards will feel buried under all this emotion she wants us to show.

I’m Not The Same Person I Was Last Year

By Thobeka Zotwana

He staggered in, feet shuffling, shirt unbuttoned, and only half tucked into his trousers. The stench of the shebeen was clinging to him: stale sweat, cigarette smoke, and the sour odour of beer. He didn’t care who’d seen him.

Tomorrow he will wake up with the devil’s red eyes, smelling like fermented urine, remembering nothing. His lucid moments as rare as his visits home.

“He’s your father, no matter what.” That’s what Ma always says.

His retching, the projectile of vomit as it hits the bucket, and Ma talking to him like he’s a small child, punched me in the gut.

“You’re more like him than you realise.” She’s always saying that too.

I stared at the Pastor as he spoke.

“He was a pillar of strength; a man amongst men; a fighter for truth and justice.”

While Ma sobbed, her body shuddering, and everyone around me bawled, I stood dry-eyed.  

His mind had already wandered, addled by the booze. I lost a father for the second time as the coffin crawled down that dank, dark hole, taking him to his final resting place.

“How was your first day?” Mrs Zotwana squeezed Thobeka’s shoulder.

Thobeka flinched and jumped up from her desk. “Haibo!” The page she’d been writing on dropped from her trembling fingers. “I didn’t even hear you come home. Molo Ma. Unjani?” She plucked up the paper from the floor.

“Ewe, umntwana wam. I’m tired. The hotel hosted a corporate lunch, and those people can eat!” She threw herself down on Thobeka’s bed. “And wena? Come on. Tell me all about your first day? How was it? It’s a nice school, right? Did you make friends? How are the teachers? Do you have home–”

“Woah, Ma, slow down!” Thobeka giggled. “My day was okay. The school is so ginormous you have to use a map to find your way around. The teachers are alright, but yhuuu, amaEnglish teacher,” she chuckled. “Umfazi omdala womlungu, with big red hair, itwist style. She’s hectic. First day of school and she gives us homework.”

“That’s good. It prepares you for tertiary education.” Mrs Zotwana rose off the bed. “Studying toward becoming something useful like a doctor or engineer is hard work, but I know you can do it.”

“Sure,” Thobeka replied, and fidgeted with her assignment page, thinking: If that’s what my dream is.

“Okay, I can see you want to get back to work. I’ll have a quick shower, then get started on supper. You in the mood for anything specific?”

Thobeka shook her head. “I’m not hungry. I ate the leftover pasta from last night.”

“I’ll check on you later then.” Mrs Zotwana kissed her on the forehead.

The second her mother closed the door, Thobeka snatched up her phone and logged into her email account, thinking, ooh, hope I got some new readers on my stories.

Subject: We’ll publish your books

Dear Esteemed Author

Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that based on the content and reviews of your online published work, we believe you are a fitting addition to our publishing house, and present you with the following, limited-time offer.

Reply to confirm your email address. This will immediately add you to our exclusive list of premier authors and flag you for priority attention.

Also, send us your latest completed manuscript for international publication, and we will give it wings. With the help of our dedicated editors, your book will shine above the rest.

Welcome to our family.

The Best Story Press

Yoh! Yoh! Yoh! This is huge!

Thobeka’s hands trembled as she clicked the ‘Reply’ link.

Subject: Re: Your Books


My name is Thobeka Zotwana, aka Bella Zayne. Thanks so much for emailing me.

I have attached my recently completed YA fantasy novel and can’t wait to see it in bookstores. This is a dream come true. I’m so excited!

Thanks again

Thobeka Zotwana
Bella Zayne (Author)


Tell us what you think: What would Mrs Zotwana say about her daughter spending so much time writing ‘fantasy novels’?