The afternoon setting sun casts long shadows on the ground. Slanting sunrays give a warm orange tinge to the sky. Sphiwe sits outside on a yellow chair, his eyes cast to the ground. He is thinking about Zinhle. He wonders why she has suddenly gone silent and blocked him on calls and social media.

He hears chatter as a family of two parents and their teenage daughter pass on the road. Sphiwe lifts his head and the girl smiles and waves. He smiles and waves back.

“She’s waving at me, Sphiwe,” says Sindisiwe.

Sphiwe’s eyes widen as he turns to Sindisiwe. “How long have you been standing here, Sindi?”

“Long enough to see that something is eating at you. Is it today’s exam?”

Sphiwe shifts his gaze away from Sindisiwe and looks to the street once more – the family that just passed by has shrunk to the size of a small silhouette against the dimming sky.

“No, it was a very good paper, I’m sure I did well,” says Sphiwe tersely.

“Well then, what is it?” Sindisiwe squats next to Sphiwe.

“It’s just … it’s nothing. You are too young to understand anyway,” says Sphiwe.

“Try me.”

There’s a rumbling roar as a white waterkan truck drives by on the dusty street, followed by a large crowd of people carrying buckets and shouting.

“No, you won’t understand, Sindi. Get the buckets so we can go get water,” says Sphiwe.

Sindisiwe sighs and says, “Alright.”


Zinhle is cuddled up in her bed, watching a small screen TV in her room. Mr Khuzwayo bought the television recently, after Zinhle complained about boredom. The room is dim, with only flashes of light from the TV visible through her window.

There’s a light thud on the roof. Zinhle ignores it. The next, harder bang on the roof startles her. She gets up, plods to her window, and peeps through the curtain. The pale crescent moon shines like a silver claw in the night sky. Zinhle’s pulse starts hammering hard when there is a third bang on the roof. She starts to hyperventilate, and her stomach becomes as cold as ice.

“Hey! Hey! What are doing there!?” bellows the voice of a man on the road.

Zinhle peers through the curtain once again. She recognises the man shouting on the road under the streetlight – she has seen him a few times in the neighbourhood. The man walks into the yard.

“You better run!” he shouts.

Zinhle is silent inside her room as the man knocks on her door. A rat runs past her and she screams.

“Are you okay? Hello!” says the man.

“I’m fine! I just saw a rat!” says Zinhle.

“Alright, Miss. My name is Vincent Ndlovu, I live in the blue house across the road. Don’t be scared. It was just young naughty boys throwing stones on your roof, but I chased them away. I’m going to their homes right now to tell on them,” says Vincent.

“Okay. Thank you,” says Zinhle.

“Keep well now. I’ve got to go. Have a good night,” says Vincent.

Vincent’s footsteps become fainter as he walks away.

Zinhle sighs and goes back to her bed. She finds her cell phone next to her pillow and dials Mr Khuzwayo’s number. Her call goes straight to voicemail. She scrolls down the contacts list until she finds Sphiwe’s number. She thinks about unblocking Sphiwe and calling him, but recalls Mr Khuzwayo saying it was too risky to be in contact with people in Amaoti. She ends up dropping her cell phone on
the bed.
She watches TV but her thoughts are not on any of the shows. She misses her old life and all her friends.

Tell us: What do you think of Vincent? Is he going to be a friend or a foe?