The sound Mapitsi and her classmates heard before they got up and left the classroom. The sound that signaled the end of the last class of the term. The sound that meant taking it easy for a whole month, but for Mapitsi it meant something else. Though she didn’t know it yet, Mapitsi was about to go on a great adventure with her best friend David…
“Mapitsi… Mapitsi, wait up!!” he stopped next to Mapitsi breathing hard.
“David. Can I help you?” she said rolling her eyes at her out of breath friend.
“I’m visiting my grandfather for the holidays and I wondered if you wanted to come. We’re going to stay at his farm. I know you don’t usually get to go on holidays, because…” she knew what he meant.
She never really travelled, because her family barely could buy food for the family as well as pay for her and her kid sister’s school fees without worrying about vacation.
She thought about getting to go on holiday for the first time. Only then did she realize that David was trying to get her attention.
“Mapitsi? Mapitsi can you hear me?” Mapitsi turned to look at him “I was just saying that you could bring Thandi along. Grandpa Jo loves the company.”
“Yeah, Thandi will be so excited. Thanks, David. Would you like to come over, you know my family loves having you around, plus we can tell them together. Thandi is probably there already or we would have met with her,” she said. He nodded, before accompanying her to her house (really just a simple hut) just outside of the town.
When they got to the gate, the family’s old dog Zeus raised his head to see who was approaching. Seeing that it was Mapitsi and David, he lifted himself up and walked to them licking their fingers and letting them pet him. When they got into the house they went straight to the kitchen.
As soon as Mrs. Mopadi saw the two she came up to them and gave each a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll call your mother and ask her if you can stay for dinner. Go wash up and set the table,” she said to David, walking out the kitchen not leaving any room for argument.
The two friends looked at each other and suddenly started laughing. As they set up the table, Thandi came into the living room. She was twelve years old. Three years younger than Mapitsi and David and very likeable. She had an airy (but mature) sense to her and got along with pretty much everyone. At that moment she was reading a book. When she looked up and saw David and Mapitsi setting up the table, she smiled, closed her book and went to help them.
“Hi, David,” she said looking at him. “What brings you here?”
“Well, I’m actually here for you and Mapitsi. I’ve got something I want to ask your parents,” he smiled.
During dinner while they ate Mapitsi turned to looked at her parents and said, “Mom, dad, David has something to tell you.”
When she told them that, everyone’s eyes turned to the boy in question. David seeing that the attention was on him, said the first thing that came to mind “Uhh…” a reassuring smile from Mapitsi gave him the confidence needed to speak, “Yeah, (clears throat) so I’m going to my grandfather’s farm for the holidays, and… and my parents thought it would be nice if Mapitsi and Thandi came, since they had never really been to the farm. I’m leaving two days from now, so you have time to think it through. Grandpa won’t mind, he actually loves the company,” he finished waiting for someone to make a sound. Then to everyone’s surprise, Thandi squealed.
“Please ma, please pa let us go.” she was practically on her knees by now. Her parents smiled at her and nodded. She jumped with joy.
“As long as you can guarantee you'll be safe,” Mr. Mopadi demanded. They nodded. In the next hour Mr. Mopadi had walked David home, (you should never walk alone at night) and Thandi was trying to decide which books she should bring with her.
After that everything was quiet and everyone turned in for the night.
Two days later everyone was packed and it was time to leave. As they waited for David to arrive they talked trying to imagine what they would be doing. Thandi thought they'd be doing boring (her words) farm work. When David arrived in his parent’s bakkie with his father, and the sisters had put their bags in the back of the bakkie, they were off. To say they enjoyed themselves would be an understatement. When they stopped for petrol they were disappointed to stop the fun.
Finally after an hour, (long after the fun had worn out) they stopped the bakkie at someone’s gate. They had arrived. At the gate was a black man. Mapitsi guessed that was one of the farm workers. Probably sent to escort the three friends to the house.
“Sorry guys, I won’t be entering with you, but tell gramps I say hello,” David’s father said, helping them unpack. As soon as he left the three turned to the man. He gestured for them to follow, and walked on.
While they walked, Mapitsi noticed that there was no crops or livestock. She turned to David, but he just smiled knowingly. Finally he answered, “My grandfather doesn't own a crop farm. He actually owns a game farm,” he explained, but seeing her confused face went on, “A game farm is more like a plot of land filled with free roaming animals. You know, springbok… my grandpa takes care of the animals with the help of Nelson, other than that he is practically alone.”
Mapitsi nodded. Finally they made it to a big, wooden house, and in front of said house was an old man. He was waiting for them on the patio, and when they got to him said, “Hello you must be David’s friends. Come on in.” when they were inside the man turned to them again and asked “So, David are you not going to introduce me to these young ladies?” he smiled. Mapitsi could tell she was going to like it here.
The first two weeks were taken easy. They worked around the house, washing and listening to grandpa Jo’s stories. Today however, they were going camping on the game farm. “We’re going to my favorite spot, near the watering hole. There we’ll be able to see the animals, and maybe catch the leopard that’s been eating my springbok,” he said with a malicious gleam in his eyes.
“Grandpa Jo, how can you be sure it is a leopard killing your animals?” Thandi asked, curiosity clear in her eyes. “After all there are other possible reasons as to why the game are disappearing.”
“Oh, but they're not disappearing. We find them up in trees half eaten,” he replied and then, as if an after thought, said, “Also, I saw it.”
As they walked on quietly, Mapitsi thought about what the old man had said, a million questions flying through her head. Finally, curiosity getting the best of her she asked the question that had been bugging her through the walk. “Grandpa Jo, you said you saw the leopard, does that mean it saw you too?” she asked, scared to hear the answer.
Grandpa Jo turned to look at Mapitsi. “No, Mapitsi. It didn’t see us. You see I was with my wife five years ago. We were searching for the same beast I hope to catch today. We had tracked it to the water hole stalking what we thought was the springbok. It was actually Nelson. He was patrolling the farm, but was running late to get home, so he stopped to rest at the edge of the waterhole. When we realized what was about to happen, my wife moved to stop the leopard. She lost her life. Now we’re going to the watering hole where hopefully, I can return the favor,” he finished solemnly.
Everyone was quiet setting up the two tents. When they finished they looked around, trying to spot animals. No one found any, but Grandpa Jo smiled and said, “We’ll get to see them tomorrow. Now listen, we’re going to stay here for the night and leave in the afternoon. We would stay longer, but the day after tomorrow you leave. There are only two tents so we will sleep in pairs. I don’t think I need to explain the pairs, but I will. Me and David, Mapitsi with Thandi.” He finished and everyone nodded.
As the night set, David was sent to get wood, Mapitsi water, Grandpa Jo left to go catch food and Thandi was left to watch the camp. Soon everyone returned except David who they assumed was just trying to get the best wood. An hour went by. Then two.
Everyone was getting worried. Grandpa Jo went to look for him. Half an hour later they heard a growl. In the brush they could see the red slits of something’s eyes. As it got closer the sisters were too petrified to move. They were soon face to face with a huge leopard…