Lesedi awoke next morning in his own bed with his siblings around him. The sun was starting to creep under the door and he could hear the francolins and the roosters trying to outdo each other. He felt good and was just about to jump out of bed to see if there was water brewing on the fire for tea when a familiar harsh female voice sent him back under the covers with the pillow over his head.
“Father, where have you been with the boy?” demanded the voice. “I came all this way to take him to school, only to find that the two of you had disappeared telling everyone that you had gone looking for me. If that is true why didn’t you bring the boy to me in Gaborone?” She didn’t wait for a reply. “I can’t waste my precious time running up and down to these backwoods. Now it is too late and we shall have to wait till next month for him to start school. If this goes on much longer he will be too old and then how will he earn a living?” Not stopping for breath, she answered her own question. “Digging ditches in other people’s gardens!”
“Calm down, Matilda!” came Lorato’s voice. “The boy had more important things to do. Life is not all book learning.”
“The boy must go to school!” she said firmly.
“He will go to school, Matilda. Relax! Sit down and have some tea. I can’t cope with all this fuss so early in the morning.”
Lesedi rolled over and stared up at the roof. He wasn’t feeling so good anymore. What was his grandfather saying, “He will go to school”? He thought he was on his side. How could he go to school and leave all his friends and Kgatwe and the village, and after all, wasn’t he the keeper of the stone, whatever that meant? He couldn’t take that to Gaborone—that would be far too dangerous. What about that!? Lesedi lay there while his siblings awoke and started climbing all over him. “Come on, get up,” they nagged. “Let’s go fishing. Tshiamo caught a really big bream while you were away and we had it for supper.” Tshiamo smiled proudly. Being one of the youngest it always felt good when the others praised her.
“I think I’ll just lie here for a bit,” said Lesedi. “I’m still feeling a little tired.” He didn’t want to tell them he wasn’t going to move out of there until that dreadful woman left. The three of them ran off, slamming the door behind them.
Lesedi lay there for what seemed like ages, the sun rising in the sky, his tummy rumbling with hunger. He could hear the others in the distance playing by the river. Eventually he heard someone shout.
“Matilda! The boat’s leaving! Hurry up!”
“I’m coming!” she yelled back. “Tell that boy I’ll be back to get him in a month and he had better be here and ready to go!”
Lesedi could hear her teetering off to the boat in her high heels. He wished she would break her ankle but then he realised that that would make her stay there longer so he quickly unwished it. A huge commotion ensued from the direction of the river where the boat was moored, Aunt Matilda shrieking and the men laughing uproariously. It transpired that Matilda’s skirt had been too tight for her to get into the boat and one of the men had unceremoniously picked her up and dumped her into the boat on top of a sack of mealies. Only when he heard the boat disappear into the distance did Lesedi judge it safe to venture from under the blankets and out of the hut. He ran to find his grandfather and sat down next to him on the ground.
“You won’t let it happen, will you?” he blurted out, close to tears.
“What happen?” said Lorato absentmindedly. He was staring into the fire and seemed to be watching something.
“You won’t let her take me to that dreadful school?” There was a note of panic in Lesedi’s voice. No one seemed to be taking this matter seriously.
“Lesedi, show some respect! I know she is a difficult woman but she is your aunt and you should refer to her as Aunt Matilda, not ‘her’ and school is not dreadful.”
Lesedi felt his heart drop. All the sun had gone out of his day. He thought his grandfather was on his side but now it sounded as if he was ganging up with “her.”
“Don’t look so miserable! You will learn to enjoy it and you will make lots of new friends.”
“I have plenty of friends here! I don’t need new ones! And what about the stone?” Lesedi blurted out loudly without thinking.
“Shhh!” cautioned Lorato, looking around. “It is not wise to talk about that too loudly.”
Lesedi looked around sheepishly. Everyone seemed to be carrying on with what they were doing. He hoped no one had heard.
“Lesedi.” Lorato turned to him and took his hands. “You have a great power,” he said gently. “Long ago you would not have had to go to school in the city to achieve great things. You would have been able to use your knowledge of the natural world. Now, however, things have changed. The ones who make things happen are the ones who go to school. You will need to learn the ways of the modern world. But while you are doing this you must not lose sight of this world, and hopefully you will be able to use the knowledge you gain there to save this world.” Lesedi looked at him with big eyes. What was his grandfather saying? Lorato continued. “There are many strong and powerful people where you are going and they do not always use their power well. You also have a cousin, Lotobo, who has the same powers as you. He is being led in the wrong direction by my brother and his son. The boy is not all bad, as you are not all good, and I am hoping that you will be able to join together as a strong force. In fact the stone cannot be effective without both of you wanting the same thing.” Lesedi looked at his grandfather in horror. He only had nightmare memories of Lotobo stamping on his beetle collection and scorning all Lesedi’s homemade toys. The thought of trying to be nice to him and wanting the same things as him just did not seem possible.
Just then there was a shout from the river. It was Tshiamo and she was holding a wiggling fish above her head.
“Look! Another one!” she shouted, jumping up and down.
Lesedi leapt up and ran to the river. It was a beautiful day, there were fish to be caught, and he was still free…for now.
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