The sky is azure with fluffy white clouds drifting lazily in the light breeze. They occasionally obscure the sun, causing a chill to course down Vincent’s back as he cleans the streets: collecting papers, bottles, and plastics and depositing them into a green bin he lugs around.
Vincent sees that Zinhle’s window is open and walks up to her room, leaving the bin at the gate.
“Knock, knock! Anybody home?” says Vincent.
There’s a rapid sound of feet sliding on the floor. “Hello, who is it?” Zinhle’s soft voice asks behind the door.
“I was here the other day, Miss. It’s Vincent.”
“Oh, okay,” says Zinhle.
“Your window is open. I thought I should check if you are home because burglars are—”
“Yes, I’m here. I just needed fresh air,” Zinhle buts in.
“Okay. Can I please have some water? I’m really thirsty,” says Vincent.
Zinhle opens the door slightly and pours water for Vincent. She comes back with a jug full of cold water and she opens the door fully. Vincent is an elderly man living with a disability – only one of his legs functions properly. He is wearing a blue overall with reflective tapes and an orange cap.
“Where is your mother?” asks Vincent after wiping off the remnants of water from his lips.
“She’s not home,” says Zinhle.
Zinhle stretches both her hands to take the jug. She turns and walks away.
“Your father? Is he the one with the red car?”
“Yes,” says Zinhle.
“He’s a good man, he once gave me R100. It was really hot that day,” says Vincent squinting to the sky. “How many months along are you?”
“I’m … I’m nearly eight months now,” says Zinhle, now back at the door.
“You know I have a daughter who is about as old as you are.”
Vincent stares at her for some time.
“Is there anything else, Baba?” asks Zinhle.
“It’s just that you remind me a lot of my daughter, Zandile. When she got pregnant, you know, as her father,” Vincent takes off his cap, “As her father, I really got upset. I didn’t speak to her until she gave birth. Even now, it is still hard to speak to her.”
“I hope everything goes back to normal between you and your daughter, Baba,” says Zinhle.
“Yeah, I hope so too,” says Vincent. “You keep well now, send my regards to your father and mother.”
Mr Khuzwayo swivels his chair to face his office window. It is break time at Vuka Uzakhe High School – learners are out in earnest. Trees bounce lightly in the breeze. Mr Khuzwayo can see Samke chatting with Thabo, Sphiwe and Thando in animated conversation. He stares at Samke’s tall, dark-skinned, curvy body.
Mr Khuzwayo stops a learner outside his office. He points out Samke to her. “Tell that girl I need to see her immediately,” he says.
Barely a minute later Samke knocks at his office door.
“Come in,” says Mr Khuzwayo.
“Sir,” says Samke after she enters. She keeps her gaze to the floor as a sign of respect.
“What is your name?” Mr Khuzwayo inquires.
“Okay, Samke,” says Mr Khuzwayo sternly. He stands and comes closer to her. “Well, Samke, you are beautiful.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Mr Khuzwayo walks around her slowly. “You don’t need to thank me. How old are you, beautiful Samke?”
“I’m turning 18 in a few days, Sir.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful! When?”
Samke hesitates for a moment, she is starting to feel uncomfortable. “On November 23, Sir,” she finally answers.
“I’m a very generous man, Samke. I’d love to get you a gift for your birthday.”
Mr Khuzwayo is behind her now. He caresses the back of her thigh. Samke jumps, moving away quickly to stand by his table.
“Sir, what are you doing?”
Mr Khuzwayo chuckles. “You’re old enough to know what I’m doing.”
“I have to go, Sir!”
Mr Khuzwayo blocks her path. “I hope this stays between us, beautiful Samke. I’ll see you later.”
Samke runs out of his office, banging the door shut behind her.
Tell us: How important do you think it is to show respect to people in authority? What line would you draw if this happened to you?