Babalwa could not stop crying. Her whole body shuddered with quiet sobs. Everything had gone wrong. She wished she was a different person who didn’t make the worst choices possible. She wished she had never come to Cape Town. That was when it had all started…
Babalwa has always dreamed of the big city, but soon finds out that things are not as she imagined. Her aunt treats her like a servant and her cousin is unfriendly. Only Khaya, a new boy at school, seems friendly. So when a cool ‘gang’ of girls invite her to join their group, she’s overjoyed. But what kind of friends are they really? Will they manage to destroy her relationship with Khaya? And, what will happen if she dares to cross them? As Babalwa is forced to question her choices and take responsibility for her mistakes, she realises just in time the qualities that make up true friendships.
Dorothy is an English teacher at LEAP Science and Maths School in Cape Town. Dorothy’s passion for getting her students to read more was the impetus for Cover2Cover. She discovered the dearth of relevant teen literature available and, through the encouragement of her students who loved the idea of reading stories that reflected their lives, decided to launch Cover2Cover. Besides having taught English at a range of schools, Dorothy has written many textbooks and school readers. She has a Masters from UCT in Applied Language and Literacy Studies, and is in the process of completing her Masters in Creative Writing, also through UCT.
Title: Friends forever
Author: Dorothy Dyer
Grade 9 FAL English Novel
Release Date: September 2013
Retail price: R67.50
Babalwa could not stop crying. Her whole body shuddered with quiet sobs. Everything had gone wrong. What’s worse, now she had chased away the people who she needed most. She could not imagine going to school tomorrow, hearing the scornful laughter, being stared at by her classmates.
Her aunt and her cousin, their world was still normal. But she was just the girl who had brought shame and trouble, but they could still make tea, talk about the latest episode of Generations. But her life felt shattered into sharp shards of glass that pierced every piece of her heart.
Standing in the street, with passers-by staring at her as she cried, she wished she was a different person who didn’t make the worst choices possible. She wished she had never come to Cape Town. That was when it had all started….
Two months before…
Babalwa lay in bed next to her cousin. She wished she was far, far away. Outside her aunt’s house there were unfamiliar sounds: taxis hooting, people shouting and music pumping from the shebeen at the end of the road. They weren’t the sounds of the rural village she had come from: the wind in the trees outside the hut, the chickens scratching in the yard and her uncle snoring. No, she was in the big city, like she had wanted to be. And she hated it.
The first day at her cousin’s school had been a nightmare. Her cousin hadn’t introduced her to anybody. In fact, she had turned her back on Babalwa to talk to her friends. They had whispered and giggled and Babalwa had been sure they were gossiping about her.
And for the first lesson the teacher had made her stand up and tell everybody about herself. The whole class had laughed at how bad her English was and she had wanted to disappear. Why had she ever asked to come to the city? Why had she begged her mother to send her?
“Wake up, Babalwa!” She felt someone’s sharp fingernails poking her shoulder. “Wake up, you lazy girl! Your mother promised us you would work hard in the house. Get up and help me make porridge.” Babalwa’s aunt was leaning over her, shouting in her ear.
Babalwa sat up, bumping her cousin who groaned and rolled over. “Be careful, you clumsy girl. Don’t wake up Sisipho. She needs her beauty sleep,” hissed her aunt.
In the kitchen Babalwa stirred the porridge on the stove. Her eyes were burning with tiredness; she had hardly slept.
“I’m hungry,” Sisipho said, coming up behind Babalwa and looking to see if the porridge was ready.
“Babalwa will serve you, my baby, sit down,” her mother said. Babalwa turned to look at the two of them, waiting to be served. She wouldn’t do it.
“I am not your servant,” she said, “I will not serve my own cousin.”
The slap came before she knew it. Her aunt’s hand stung the skin on her arm.
“You do not talk to me like that. Do you hear me?” She looked like she was going to slap Babalwa again. “I knew this was a bad idea, letting you come and stay in our house. Is your mother paying me for your keep? No. She said you would be helpful to me. I’m going to tell her what an ungrateful, cheeky girl you are.”
Babalwa couldn’t believe her aunt was like this. Whenever she had visited before she had been friendly and kind. But that was when Babalwa’s mother had been there too. It was hard to believe it was the same person. Still, Babalwa wasn’t ready to be sent home. “I am sorry, Auntie,” she said softly, thinking of her mother, whose blood pressure was high enough already.
She spooned out porridge into the bowls, and saw her aunt checking that she had not taken too much for herself. Sisipho muttered a word of thanks without looking at her. They sat down together at the table and her aunt said grace. Babalwa felt bitterness in her heart.
When they had finished Babalwa and Sisipho quickly got ready for school. Sisipho had had her own room before Babalwa arrived. And she had made it clear to Babalwa that she was not happy that she now had to share it with her cousin.
Babalwa did feel bad. If she had her own room she would not want to share it either. But that was just a dream – it would never happen. Back at home she shared a room with her mother and two cousins. Until she came to her aunt’s house she couldn’t imagine living in a place with a bathroom inside the house with taps for hot and cold water. At home if they wanted water they had to fetch it. It was a long walk to the river and it was freezing in the winter. If you had told her then that she would be able to walk into a bathroom and turn on a hot tap she would have sung for joy. But this morning she would do anything to be able to go back to her village, to talk and laugh with her friends as they walked across the fields to fetch water. It was so much nicer than being here with this strange silence between her and Sisipho.
She waited to use the bathroom. Once inside she looked in the mirror. She had always thought of herself as pretty, with her heart-shaped face, full lips and slender body. But this mirror seemed to be mocking her, looking for Sisipho’s soft cheeks and curves.
On their way to school Sisipho walked ahead of Babalwa. A girl called her over to show her something on her cellphone. The two of them both craned their heads over the screen, laughing. They did not offer to show Babalwa, and she walked on past them. She was not surprised. It was like the day before, when Sisipho had walked with a group of her friends, leaving Babalwa behind. Sisipho was a year older than her, and had made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with her – in or out of school.
She thought of her friend, Anathi, back at home. They had been friends from when they were tiny and knew each other inside out. Where was Anathi at this moment? She had been angry when Babalwa had decided to come to Cape Town – they had even fought about it. But then they had cried and laughed together, and promised to stay friends forever. Anathi had told her Cape Town was horrible and Babalwa hadn’t believed her. But maybe she was right.
There were so many people walking up and down the road. They were busy. They had places to go and people to meet – all except her. A man leered at her as she turned the corner. “Why do you look so sad, girlie? Come over here. I’ll show you a good time.”
The anger and loneliness in Babalwa exploded in her. She spat on the ground in front of him and ran off, hearing his angry shouts behind her.
Examples of activities
Check your understanding
1. Where did Babalwa come from?
2. Why did she come to Cape Town?
3. Who did she stay with in Cape Town?
4. Why did Precious become friendly with Babalwa?
5. Give the names of two of Precious’s friends.
6. Where did Khaya come from?
7. What did he do at breaktime?
8. What was Babalwa’s Mxit password?
9. What silly thing did Babalwa do when sleeping over at Precious’s house?
10. Who was Anathi and why was she in Cape Town?
11. Why did Precious put the photo of Babalwa on Mxit, and hack into her account to spread horrible messages?
12. Babalwa was going to run away. Where did she plan to go? 13. Who persuaded her to go back to her aunt? 14. How did she resolve the situation on Mxit?
NOTES AND ACTIVITIES
Structure and plot
Many stories have a plot diagram like this:
Introduction Build-up (suspense) Climax Resolution
However this novel has a different structure: it starts off with a scene from the middle of the book, and then takes the reader back to the beginning of the story.
1. Why do you think the writer chose to start the story in this way? (Think about the questions you might have in your mind after you have read the first page.)
2. For extra revision, write a summary of the plot in not more than 200 words.Leave out any unnecessary information! Compare your summary with a partner to see what information he or she left out, and then decide whether you want to edit your own.
Characters and characterisation
There is a range of characters in the novel. Some are three dimensional: that is, we see all sides to them, and see how they change and grow. Some characters are two dimensional: that is, they are not the main characters, and so we do not see what makes them behave the way they do, and do not follow their lives and stories.
Give one example of a three-dimensional character in the novel, and one example of a two-dimensional character.
1. Babalwa is obviously a three-dimensional character with positive and negative qualities. She also develops and changes through the novel.
a) In the beginning, what qualities does Babalwa admire and value in friends?
b) Because of this, Babalwa does not show loyalty or caring to Anathi. Does this mean she is not a loyal or caring person? Give reasons for your answer.
c) In the end, what qualities does Babalwa admire and value in friends?
2. Babalwa had a great deal of internal conflict in the novel: that is, when she had to make choices and did not know what to do.
Here is an example of one internal conflict.
I want to be with Precious and the cool girls. I don’t want them to think I’m a village girl like Anathi.
Anathi is sad and needs me. I should be there for her.
Think of another internal conflict she has. Write it out as above.
3. Would you like to have Babalwa as a friend? Why/why not?