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‘I raced through it, at times laughing out loud. Team Trinity is smart, funny and full of heart..’ – Edyth Bulbring
Publication © Modjaji Books 2013 Text © Fiona Snyckers 2013 First published in 2013 by Modjaji Books Pty Ltd PO Box 385, Athlone, 7760, South Africa email@example.com http://modjaji.bookslive.co.za www.modjajibooks.co.za ISBN 978-1-920590-37-6 Book and cover design by Natascha Mostert Cover artwork by Carla Kreuser Author photograph by Jeanette Verster Printed and bound by Creda Communications, Cape Town Set in Palatino
WHEN YOUR parents call you in for a “special talk” after dinner, you know it’s not going to be about anything good. They’re not going to be like, “Oh, darling, you know the latest version of the iPod Touch you wanted? We decided to buy you three in different colours.” The last time we had one of these special talks was when Mom found a cigarette in my schoolbag. It took me nearly two hours to convince them that I’d only tried smoking a couple of times (true), and that it was so revolting I’d given up (also true). Then I said someone else had put it in my bag (false), and that nearly undid all the good work I’d done up to then. I go through to the lounge to wait for my parents. They like to make you sweat on these occasions. I’m wracking my brain, trying to guess what this might be about. The thing is, I’m not exactly a saint, so there’s no shortage of options for me to consider. I’m so preoccupied, it takes me a moment to notice that my loser brothers are already in the room. “Scram, squirts,” I say. “Mom and Dad want to talk to me in private.” “Us too,” says Aaron, the bigger of the two squirts. “Really?” “Yes. They told us before supper.” “Hmmm.” I plonk myself down on a sofa to consider this new development. “So it’s some huge big family announcement – not a lecture. I wonder what it’s about.”
and thinking about what they’ve been up to. dude.” “So what do you think it is?” I ask. but then I see Aaron shaking his head. That’s what it is – another kid. A little clutch of fear grabs at my belly. they’re not exactly thrilled about it. How could they.” says Caleb.” I remind him. Then he says. “Please sit down everyone..” Dad says. and I’m thinking about how completely and utterly mortifying it’s going to be having a pregnant mom picking me up from school every day. the smaller squirt. Everyone will be staring at her and at my dad. If this is a new baby. He’s quiet for a moment. knocking authoritatively on a table in his best chairman-of-theboard manner. I’ll just have to move to Australia. Mom and Dad come into the room at this point.” We fall silent thinking about this. “Most of her friends have babies. Dad. “That’s impossible. I reckon Aaron’s right. No possible way. Aaron does an eye-roll. “I think Mom’s having another baby.? I mean. but at least it means they’re not getting a divorce. Caleb’s probably worrying about not being the baby of the family any more (which wouldn’t be a bad thing if you ask me).” “What?” Caleb almost screams. “We are sitting down..“Maybe they’re getting a divorce. looking a bit tearful. “No way. aren’t they too old?” “Mom’s 35. looking all serious and solemn. What’s this all about?” 2 Fiona Snyckers . Didn’t you see them pawing at each other during dinner? It’s completely gross.
We have to do a proper environmental impact study. very much.. and you’ll be able to carry on your schooling uninterrupted. “I’m not leaving Brentwood.” Caleb pipes up.. lovey. “It’ll take like an hour to get to school every morning. “Well . so not a baby then. and not as an invader.” “You’re not going to do that.” Mom says in a puzzled voice.Dad clears his throat. and work with the local communities to make sure they see us as a friend. “I knew you were getting divorced. UbuntuGold is expanding into Chile. But the whole thing needs to be correctly handled. You’ll be safe and properly looked after there. “What on earth made you think that? We’re just going away for a few months. “And I’m not going to stay with Granny in Soweto. I’ve decided to go out there for a few months to make sure it’s done right.. either.” “And what about us?” Aaron bursts out. as you know.. “Going away?” I echo. “We’re planning to open three new mines there. but we’ve decided. “We’re not getting divorced. That’s exactly what I said! Wasn’t that what I said?” They both turn to look at him. your mother and I love you all very. The three of you will be joining the boarding-house from the beginning of next term.” Team Trinity 3 .” “I knew it!” Caleb squeaks in his half-broken voice. “What do you mean?” “As you know.” Dad says. And your mother’s decided to come with me.” Okay.” Mom says soothingly.” “You won’t have to. Not now that I’ve finally made the A team in cricket.
and the food isn’t bad. “Does anyone care what I think about this?” ‘Of course we do.” “And what about my babysitting business? I’ll be letting all my clients down. Why can’t I just stay here with someone to look after me?” “Because your life is too complicated.” “Happy?” My voice sounds higher than normal. They’ll understand. We’ll be back by Easter. “You can send them all emails explaining that you’ll be back after Easter. so of course they’re delighted. lovey. And it’s really not so awful. “Happy about what? Having to move into a dormitory after having my own room since the day I was born? Having to do supervised homework every night? And eat canteen food seven days a week! And never ever. Trinity. darling.” “But three whole months! That’s like forever.” Perhaps “business” is a slight exaggeration. Who will drive you to extramurals in the afternoon. “Aren’t you happy? I thought you would be. Mom and Dad are smiling.” says Mom. It’ll be over before you know it. ever come home – not even on weekends. “Um. and fetch you from parties on weekends. but it’s true that I do have quite a few families that I babysit regularly for. They’ve been begging to become boarders for years now.” I say.” “It’s only for a term. and check that you do your homework? There’s no one I could trust to look after you properly except the 4 Fiona Snyckers . Brentwood has a lovely boarding-house. you know. and pack your school lunch. excuse me. No one seems to notice that I’m not exactly ecstatic.My lame-o brothers jump to their feet and start punching the air.
Lael will be boarding next term as well. And anyway. In fact. you’ll probably be in the same dorm.” Team Trinity 5 .boarding-school. I think you’ve forgotten something.
. and making her tell me all about it. We’ve been friends since Grade 1.. We’ve been best friends ever since. Okay. That’s when her mom and dad got divorced. Lael Lieberman is my best friend in the whole entire world. Lael becomes a boarder. Lael has seen the inside of the boardinghouse more than once.CHAPTER 2 I OPEN my mouth to moan some more. When her mom is in town. The grown-ups in her life had all told her how cool it would be to have two bedrooms and double presents for birthdays and all that stupid stuff. and then close it again. Her mom is this scary socialite who travels the world and only comes home now and then to buy a new set of Louis Vuitton luggage and shout at Lael about putting on weight. moved to Pietermaritzburg. Mom was obviously saving that one for last. I just let her cry and listened while she talked. ja. they live together in this super-swish serviced apartment at the Raphael in Mandela Square. I can tell by the smug look on her face. But when she’s off travelling. The divorce didn’t exactly go well for her. She sees him maybe once a year at Rosh Hashanah. I admit . Basically. I remember finding her crying in the girls’ bathroom one break-time. and started a brand new family. her folks can’t stand the sight of each other. 6 Fiona Snyckers . this does change things a bit. So. Lael’s dad got remarried almost immediately.
“I’m on the blood-group diet. but if Mom says she is.” Mom says patiently.” “Sweetie. a bit tetchily. Dad looks at Mom.” “Oh. then she probably is. Just because you were born thin.I didn’t know she’d be boarding this term. Just because she can eat whatever she likes and stay skinny. “They don’t exactly starve their boarders. *** Okay.” I flounce out of the room and slam the door. that might not have been my most mature moment. I’m about to admit that I’m feeling a bit better about this whole parental abandonment thing when I’m struck by a sudden thought. “You’ll never understand. “What am I going to do about food?” “They’ll feed you. Has not one single person in this room even remembered that I’m on a diet?” My brothers snigger.” “That’s not the point. There’s nothing wrong with your figure. “I’m only supposed to eat protein and steamed veggies.” Dad says. she has no idea what it’s like to be cursed with fatness. Mom would have checked first. “That might not be a bad thing. obviously. you know. You shouldn’t be messing with your eating patterns at your age. you don’t care what I have to go through. The other Team Trinity 7 . and Mom looks at me. They’ll stuff me full of carbs that are all wrong for my blood type. but my mother seriously tries my patience. what’s the point?” I snap.” I say crossly.
” 8 Fiona Snyckers . I refused to give her the satisfaction.” “What fun can you possibly have in a place where you’re watched every second of the day?” I ask grumpily. I really wasn’t looking forward to this term at all. Mom’s going to Israel again. But don’t worry. I was totally dreading it. roomie. Let’s start now. my God! That is sooooo completely cool! We’ll be roomies. I’ll show you the ropes. “Why don’t you try the size 12. Oh. my God! Oh. And this boarding-school business is going to wreck my whole eating plan. Moving along.” “Roomie. The point is that I’m a whale and need to diet. there are as many ways to break the rules as there are rules themselves. we’re going to have so much fun. The way she carries on. Can I call you roomie?” “Please don’t. And I know them all.” “What? Are we going to be climbing down the drainpipes at night while slipping pillows under our duvets to fool Matron? That is so Malory Towers. Anyway. I just marched out of the shop and off to Foschini where the size 10s still fit me. you’d swear the whole of Tel Aviv would grind to a halt without her. roomie. Honey. my God! Oh. We can call each other roomie. The squeal she gives when I tell her my news is enough to split my eardrum. “Oh. Trust me.day I was trying on clothes in Foxy and the size 10 was too tight. you don’t have a clue. “Ha! You’re a boarding-school virgin. But now that you’ll be there. I fling myself down on my bed and phone Lael. I am so happy. sisi?” the salesgirl said with a sadistic smile.
You’d swear you were being sent to prison. Trust my parents to get the timing all screwed up. If I have to spend the rest of my life in an institution. Still.” It’s true that I went through a slight boarding-school phase back in my Enid Blyton days.” “Rubbish. and now they’re ignoring my begging to stay home. Trinity. It’s going to be awesome.” “That’s what it feels like. And then again in my Spud days.“Not exactly. man. But I’ve outgrown all that now. It’s totally and utterly unfair. And don’t you remember begging to go to boarding-school after you read Malory Towers? So this is basically a dream come true for you. at least I’ll know that my suffering is helping others.” “Hmmph.” Team Trinity 9 . They completely ignored my begging all those years ago. at least Lael is happy. but there are ways and means. You’ll see. “Stop sighing like that.
com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House firstname.lastname@example.org Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Hi Trinity. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College 10 Fiona Snyckers . We look forward to welcoming you to Sisulu House in the New Year! In answer to your question – no. Kind regards. Not even for “learners who have a really huge amount of stuff” as you put it. please don’t hesitate to ask. which I am sure you will find quite comfortable. You will quickly grow accustomed to sharing a room. Even our matric learners sleep two to a room with an adjoining shared study. you will be allocated to a six-sleeper dormitory. As a Grade 10 learner. I assure you! If there is anything else I can do to set your mind at ease.co. I’m afraid we have no private rooms at all.To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail.
Your father is a very persuasive man! I’m happy to have cleared up this issue once and for all. Regards. In answer to your question. no. Sisulu House is almost full this term. please don’t hesitate to ask.co.To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail. If you have any queries on any other subject. I’m afraid none of the matric dormitories or studies will be vacant this term or “available for annexation.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse. like Schleswig-Holstein” – although I am naturally delighted that some part of your Grade 9 history syllabus seems to have stuck.za Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Dear Trinity. We only just managed to squeak you in at the last minute. Thanks for your prompt response to my previous email. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College Team Trinity 11 .
and don’t anticipate that you will need to contact me again before then.co.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse. we will still be unable to accommodate you anywhere except in the Grade 10 dormitory.To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail. they will all be needing their studies. The matrics have more space and privacy than other students because they are writing matric – the most important exam of their school careers. Each girl is permitted to bring one regulation-size trunk with her for the term. I would also much prefer it if you didn’t bring “tons of stuff” with you in order to “prove” that you need extra space.za Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Dear Ms Luhabe. And yes. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College 12 Fiona Snyckers . I’m afraid that even if your father “donates a library or a new wing or something”. I look forward to seeing you at the start of term. Anything that doesn’t fit into your wardrobe will have to return home with your parents. Yours sincerely.
fussing over us and making sure we’ve got everything we need. but they linger for ages. It’s all quite emotional when we finally say goodbye to our parents. Term starts on Wednesday. As they drive off in the direction of Lanseria airport. so she’s only arriving on Tuesday. Caleb and I get packed off to school a day early. but I’m pretty much a cried-out wreck by the time they leave. I won’t get to see another friendly face until Tuesday morning at the earliest. so Aaron. my brothers recover much faster than I do. when the boarding house is like a ghost town. She’s a no-nonsense. We arrive on Monday. Lael has boarded before. I won’t go into detail. Me too. if I’m honest.CHAPTER 3 MY PARENTS have to leave for Chile just before the start of term. We’ve never really been away from them before. I saw them) and are racing off to the field behind Gumede House – the boys’ hostel – to play a two-man game of soccer. they did shed a few. My mom introduces herself to the matron of Sisulu House and begs her to take extra good care of me. My parents are supposed to be rushing off to the airport. Within minutes they’ve dried their tears (yes. Team Trinity 13 . Just talking to her seems to make Mom feel better. motherly kind of woman. with an orientation day for new boarders on Tuesday. where my dad’s Gulfstream jet is waiting to take them to Santiago.
I’ll admit. It’s written in the kind of suck-uppy PR language that’s designed to make parents forget they’re basically sending their kids to the kennels. Mom unpacked my trunk while Matron gave me a lightning tour of Sisulu House. so you almost feel like you’re in the country. We each have our own bedside cabinet 14 Fiona Snyckers . This surprises a snort of laughter out of me and I start feeling a bit better. not sure which way to turn. with six beds in separate little cubicles. sunny room. it’s quite attractive. I’ll give you that. which is going to be my home for the next three months. okay. yes. I turn around and look up at Sisulu House. And speaking of my dorm. This could be worse. It’s a big. And if I lean out of my dorm window on the first floor. so I didn’t really notice much about it. It’s in a very leafy area. I trudge up the stairs and hesitate for a moment. I can see Hyde Park shopping centre. but Aaron’s gesture looks suspiciously like a middle finger.“Don’t mind me!” I yell at their departing backs. “I’ll be just fine. I’d better check the place out. Don’t give me another thought!” Caleb turns and gives me a thumbs-up sign. Okay. Built in a gracious mockTudor style with half-timbering and authentic turn-ofthe-century period features. But. Sisulu House boasts some of the finest blah blah blah. This could be a lot worse. Then I stand at the entrance to the Grade 10 dormitory and take a proper look at it. I got all of that out of the brochure Mom has been boring me with all holiday. which is very reassuring for my psychological wellbeing. it’s pretty. right. Oh yes.
One of them will be Lael. I catch myself wishing I could board when I’m in matric. I go down to the common room to wait for lunch. This is the one part of Sisulu House I know quite well from visiting Lael. the whole dormitory is slightly smaller than my bedroom at home. poking my nose into random rooms. I can just about imagine myself sleeping here for the next three months. Showering and going to the loo are not group activities as far as I’m concerned. I had visions of having to deal with a line of showerheads. Their studies are so nice and private. and so do the showers and baths. It’s not bad at all. and the feeling goes away. thank goodness. I’m relieved to see that the toilet cubicles all have doors on them. So my cubicle looks quite cosy and home-like. never mind any of my other clothes. and some family photos on the cupboard door.and built-in cupboard. But still. Then I remind myself that I have a much nicer and completely private room at home. a little bowl of flowers on the cabinet. so there’s no big adjustment there. Mom has already put my own duvet cover on the bed. like on Prison Break on the Series channel. and the cupboard is barely big enough for my school uniform. The matric dormitories are up on the second floor. The bit I’m struggling with is imagining five other girls sleeping in here as well. The bathrooms are fine. just so I could have one. which is cool. It’s a big comfy room with lots of squashy Team Trinity 15 . so I wander aimlessly around the hostel. But I have no idea who the other girls will be. I have some time before lunch. yes. And. We’ve been doing sleepovers at each others’ houses since we were little.
” He claps his hands together twice. He’s about my age. It’s this cool retro-style flat cap with the school badge and motto printed on it. It’s not just the ordinary peak cap that everyone wears. It feels a bit weird. old armchairs and beanbags on the floor. which explains why I didn’t see him at first. Is this some kind of joke? “Come on! Chop. “That’s nice. you know.” I gape at him in astonishment.” He points to an empty soft-drink can and a crumpled sweet wrapper. There are TVs at both ends. and a tea-table with a big urn on it. chop. “This room isn’t going to clean itself. And look at that mess over there. ignoring my question. “Clear that up and make it snappy. pointing at his cap. and him sitting on the other. so I paste a friendly smile on my face and move to a chair a bit closer. I’ve been sitting here for over twenty minutes and no one’s been in to empty the bins. and even then they have to sign a register to get this far. I flop down in an armchair in front of the TV. He’s also wearing his school cap indoors.” 16 Fiona Snyckers . And that’s one thing that gets the teachers’ panties in a bunch.” I say. “Where did you get it? I’m sure they don’t sell them at McCullogh & Bothwell. me sitting on this side of the room. There’s a guy sitting on the other side of the room. and I realise that I’m not alone.sofas. and he’s wearing civvies like me. He’s tucked away in a gloomy corner. “It’s about time. Or did you have it specially made? “So you’re here at last?” he barks. I wonder where he got it. I’m just reaching for the remote when something makes me turn around. This is the only part of Sisulu House that boys are allowed into.
seriously. “I prefer it in here. I admit I’m trying to get rid of him. I don’t know. making air quotes with my fingers. He thinks I’m one of the cleaners.” I say sarcastically. “It’s so dull in here today. I do not believe this.” I don’t believe it. So who’s going to tidy up this mess. I’m on my feet. but in this day and age I do not expect to be mistaken for a cleaner inside my own school. already bored with the subject. They don’t have to take that kind of rudeness from a kid. You should go and say hi to them. But of course he doesn’t budge. “Who the heck do you think you are? I’m not a cleaner! I’m one of the students. glaring down at him.” “Oh?” he says. you know. I’d rather be alone in the common room than stuck here with some freaky little racist – however cute and well dressed he may be. I’m staying here in Sisulu House this term. then?” “Ooh. Team Trinity 17 . Just because I’m black. Don’t speak to them like that. Checking out the birds. What a flipping cheek! I know we’re living in South Africa. I like watching the new girls arrive. They’re playing soccer down on the field. “I thought you were one of the cleaners. My brothers have already moved into Gumede House. I guess.Oh. dude. which means I’ve got a lot more right to be here than you do. there won’t be any birds to check out until tomorrow. relaxing back into the chair. When is everyone else arriving?” “Tomorrow.” He sighs.” I say. Who does this guy think he is? “Well. He just yawns and stretches. you know.” Okay. hands on hips. “How about one of the real cleaners? But.
“It’s lunchtime. my goodness. It’s a big. I fit in just fine.” “Yes. “I’ve been here a lot longer than you have. If you want to fit in at Brentwood College.“Matron told me they’re not expecting anyone else today. You’re going to be very unpopular around here if that’s how you speak to people.” Well. I think you must be the most racist person I’ve ever met. So I’m it for today. 18 Fiona Snyckers . “Nah. “On what planet do you think I’d want you checking me out? You just keep your eyes to yourself – and your nasty remarks too.” “Oh. It doesn’t feel right to be checking you out. I’m not hungry. but you’re Coloured. will you shut up?” I snap at him.” “Fit in?” He laughs. you need to watch your mouth. oldfashioned iron bell with a long wooden handle.” I say stiffly. One of the kitchen staff rings it before the start of every meal. thank goodness for that.” I’m opening my mouth to blast him when I hear the very welcome sound of the lunch bell. “Are you coming?” Another cat-like stretch.
How am I supposed to stick to my diet when these are my options? Huh? Okay. I have a sudden urge to shout. I’m looking at a heap of rice. I’m the only girl in the whole place.CHAPTER 4 THERE’S A strict separation of the sexes going on in the dining-hall. three boiled potatoes. I look down at the food on my plate and realise that all my worst fears about boarding-school food have come true. And what does the cottage pie have on top of it? That’s right – mashed potato. with a yummy crispy cheese topping. The only other person at my table is Matron. The teachers sit at a long table raised up on a platform under some portraits of old headmasters of Brentwood. As I look around at the huge space between us. there was some salad that I could have instead of the rice and potatoes. two of whom are my brothers. salad isn’t going to win the day when it’s up against that kind of competition. and a mound of cottage pie. along with a grand total of five boys. I carry my plate over to the other side of the hall. feeling a bit silly. “Pass the salt!” Instead. is it? At least when I’m at home I can ask my mom to put only salad and protein on my plate. But I still have to sit at a separate table from them. So that’s three servings of carbs right there. Matron waves me over to one of the girls’ tables as I start sitting down next to Aaron. and not Team Trinity 19 . but let’s face it.
” Aaron gives me a narrow look.” “Mm. But still.. He’s a real bad boy.” “Oh. isn’t he? Where did you meet him?” “In our common room. so .let the potatoes anywhere near me.. About this high. “Oh. At least I have the illusion of control. You don’t want to go getting involved with him.. “Who’s that racist. He said he was hanging around to check out the girls arriving. But I know that look you get when you fancy a guy. I’ll start my diet again tomorrow.. He’s not very nice.. “You are so . all right. that is really. I was just wondering who he was..” He laughs.” I stand on tiptoe and hold my hand up above my head. “That sounds like James.. as one of the lunch ladies looks at us with interest. Not that she listens or anything. I kind of figured that out for myself. She’s always trying to tempt me with carbs. I. really not a good idea. Kind of a trendy dresser.. “Hey. obnoxious guy in Gumede House? Brownish hair.” “What?” “You haven’t got one of your crushes on him. And I’m just saying that Ellison is trouble. I’d steer clear of him if I were you.” “Of course I haven’t got a crush on him!” I hiss back. have you? Because I can tell you right now. Oh. what the heck. that’s all. if you say so.” “Well.” “I wonder why he’s not at lunch. clueless. Aaron?” I say as I’m queuing up for dessert behind him.” Aaron thinks for a moment... really? Well. He is pretty obnoxious. “Trinity..” “He said something about not being hungry..” 20 Fiona Snyckers . you must mean James Ellison.
How did we get here? I ask an innocent question. For Pete’s sake. he’s only attracted to white girls. The beds are empty and waiting – stripped down to their mattresses and pillows. I’m trying to imagine Sisulu House bustling with people and echoing with the shouts of girls coming and going. I can’t help skimming my eyes across the common room as I walk past it after lunch. and the next thing I know. What? I said I’d start my diet tomorrow. my brother – my younger brother. so there’s no danger of that.By now there are two spots burning in my cheeks. thanks to my mom. The walls and cubicles are bare and flecked with old Prestik marks. So I amble up the stairs to the Grade 10 dormitory. “Well. remember? *** Even though I’m not at all attracted to this James guy. Good. but it just won’t come into focus. Only my cubicle looks pretty and homelike. But no. I don’t fancy him in the slightest. And anyway. He basically told me that. Team Trinity 21 . No sign of him. He really is gone. at that – has got me going out with the guy. I stop and stick my head in to have a proper look. Then he takes his bowl of icecream over to the boys’ table and leaves me alone with mine. It’s creepily quiet and empty. Only now I find I have no particular desire to sit there anymore.” Aaron pulls a face.
I can’t help remembering a story Lael told me once about a student who died here years ago. Then I turn over in bed and snuggle deeper into my duvet. And in just a few minutes I feel myself drifting peacefully off to sleep. and a prefect standing at the door with a stopwatch. It sounds like my friends are all enjoying their last couple of days of freedom before the new term starts. probably thanks to all that wood. Then I have a long bubble-bath after supper while I still have the chance. I shiver slightly as I hear her footsteps getting fainter and fainter. I go to bed early and lie awake for ages listening to the unfamiliar noises of Sisulu House. Nobody seems to know who she was. I hear Matron going up the stairs to bed. I wonder if there will be queues outside the bathrooms when term starts. Her room is on the floor above me. 22 Fiona Snyckers . It’s a very creaky place.I spend the afternoon messing around on BBM and going for a walk around the grounds. making sure we don’t take more than two minutes in the shower. or how she died. At around half-past ten. Every few minutes there’s a crack or a groan as the building settles. Her sensible nurse’s shoes go “squeeeka squeeeka squeeeka” on the springy floorboards. It’s hard to stay frightened when you’re wearing a gorgeous new nightie and cuddling into 400-threadcount linen – both guilt-gifts from my parents.
Just the thought makes me feel panicky. as though sucked in by some invisible force. The sky is nailpolish-blue and a bunch of birds are tweeting like mad in the big trees outside our window. but shower curtains give me the heebie-jeebies. maybe building up for a thunderstorm this afternoon. I love Joburg. this skinny cupboard would barely hold my underwear and nighties. I fling open my narrow little wardrobe and stare at its ridiculously inadequate contents. Love.CHAPTER 5 I WAKE up the next morning buzzing with energy and feeling just a bit embarrassed at my nervousness last night. I can’t stand the way they blow into the shower. It’s a gorgeous January day. Trinity. I’d better make the most of it. grab my sponge-bag. My mood improves even more when I see that new rain-jet showerheads have been fitted in all the showers. School only starts officially tomorrow. At home. love. and there are real doors instead of shower curtains. which makes this my last non-uniform day until the weekend. Team Trinity 23 . and wrap themselves around your legs. and head for the showers. There are some fluffy white clouds in the sky. I don’t want to sound spoiled or anything. all clammy and nylony. Okay. Here it’s holding all my clothes for three months. Focus. love it! I jump out of bed.
I’m very glad I don’t have to fight with mine all the time. Not that I’ve got the world’s hugest bum. but look as though they could just as easily have come from Woolies. My upper arms are just about my best part of my body. I brush my hair. And last of all. I’ve got the bum and the thighs to survive for weeks without food in the Kalahari Desert. but that doesn’t make me spoiled. so I like to show them off whenever the weather cooperates.I need an outfit that says. They’re Hilton Weiner. I team it with a super-feminine strappy top that’s salmonpink with white lacy trim. that might sound like a lot for one outfit to say. Can I just say that in the fight between my mother’s skinny boeremeisie genes and my dad’s chunky Xhosa genes. and I might be Abel Luhabe’s daughter.” And. The only good points I got from my mom were her greenish eyes and her long straight hair. I reach for my new indigo-wash Levis – the bootylicious ones that go out at the bum and in at the waist. My cousins spend basically every Sunday clamped between the thighs of some township aunty while she braids their hair. but the difference in my bum-to-waist ratio is quite dramatic. They can never just jump into a swimming pool without putting a cap on first. but not when you speak “clothes” as fluently as I do. all right. the Xhosa genes mostly won hands down. and they live with the smell of 24 Fiona Snyckers . I slide my feet into a pair of black ballet flats. When I see how some girls battle with their hair. “I might be the new girl at boarding-school. even when I don’t go to gym. but that doesn’t make me unstylish.
but we’re all under huge pressure to be fashionable. “Don’t be so obnoxious. a voice in my ear says. letting you see all the comings and goings at the school. and finds it funny. Not even sitting at a big. Without quite meaning to. His grin tells me that he knows he’s made me uncomfortable. “Jailbait”. checking out my outfit.hair-straighteners. I can totally understand why some girls go for the ‘chiskop’ option. As I watch some little Grade 8 students arriving. “Sorry about that. I’m a fan of natural hair myself. The first arrivals are a bit of a disappointment.” He looks me up and down.” “Well. you know. It’s pathetic the way you eye them up. “The girls at this school aren’t here for your entertainment.” Team Trinity 25 . There’s a huge baywindow that looks out onto the street. I find myself crossing my arms over my chest. After breakfast. I almost jump out of my skin. He laughs and throws himself into an armchair. I help myself to two fried eggs and a stack of toast and wave cheerfully at my brothers. lonely table all on my own can dampen my mood. When are the older girls arriving? I’m bored with these flat-chested little kids. I rush to the common room to watch the girls arriving at Sisulu House.” I say. practically skipping all the way. “You made me bite my tongue!” I say crossly. My family have been mealie farmers near Brits for years. I come from good farming stock. They’re all younger than me. I scoop my hair up into a messy ponytail – with some strands falling carefully around my face – and go down to breakfast. Like a farmer looking to buy a cow or something.
She’s called Lael. Lael Lieberman. She’d never be interested in you in a million years. almost quivering with excitement. but she’s gone behind a pillar. but I have to admit he makes it look good. Oh.” “I suppose. it’s not her conversation I’m after. Maybe he’s just pretending to perv over girls. His shoes are black and kind of pointy in the toe. “That’s my best friend. I could easily find out from someone else.He shifts his attention to the window again and I take the opportunity to see what he’s wearing. and he’s topped it all off with a floppy white shirt. Come to papa. Stop talking about her like that. is she? What’s her name?” I hesitate for a moment. He reminds me of my dog. you moron.” I concede sulkily. But trust me when I say she wouldn’t look twice at you. You’d have zero in common with her. now. This guy dresses so well that for a second I wonder if he’s gay. and he laughs. She’s really bright and a feminist and everything. very nice indeed. “Okay.” I’m craning my neck to see who he’s talking about. So she’s your best friend. Just a little on the chubby side. when she hears the rustle of the Eukanuba bag. “Don’t be silly. hold the phone!” He sits up in his chair. Zero!” “Well. baby.” 26 Fiona Snyckers . “Hey. They look like they’ve been painted onto his legs. He’s chosen hectically skinny jeans today. Then she steps out into the open and I give a sharp gasp. wondering how he knows my name. “What’s up?” “Hellooo. Trinity. but she carries it very well. Normally I hate that style on guys. What a gorgeous girl. Naledi.
Jewish?” “Yes. “Times change after all. “Why. she’s bloody Jewish!” I explode. Team Trinity 27 . have you got a problem with that too?” He looks out the window again.“Lieberman?” He wrinkles his nose.. Lael is bending down to pick up a small suitcase while her driver wrestles with her trunk. I suppose I don’t. “You don’t mean she’s . “No.” And I stalk out of the common room to go and meet my friend.. She’s wearing leggings and a mini-skirt and even I can see she looks hot. don’t they?” “You are seriously annoying! Just stay out of my way from now on.” he says slowly.
.. you can’t possibly expect him to come and see his older daughter off to school. 28 Fiona Snyckers . even phone her or anything.. because her face falls instantly. I feel like kicking myself.” She sounds so depressed that I find myself rushing to fill the silence.” she says. “You know my mom’s in Israel this term. which is why I’m boarding again?” I nod. And as for Dad – I spent a couple of days with him over Chanukah. For my parents to be away for three months is nothing like what she has to put up with. but we both know the truth. Or .. “She left yesterday and arranged for a driver to drop me off this morning. so we can be orphans together. no one.CHAPTER 6 LAEL IS looking stressed and hassled. Isn’t there anyone seeing you off?” As soon as the words leave my mouth. and my dad will come back loaded with gifts for us.” Lael nods. but her face lights up when she sees me. I’ve also been abandoned by my folks for the term. but now that the twins are starting Grade 0. you know . I was just about to BBM you.. My mom will phone my brothers and me every single day.. Lael’s lucky if she gets to speak to her mom once a week.” I give her a huge hug. “No . “I’m so glad you’re here at last. “Trinity! There you are. “Well.
she’s cheered up. He thought you looked hot in your mini-skirt.” No way on earth am I going to tell her about his antiSemitic remarks. yes? So who was it?” “What was his name again. “Oh. “We’re going to have so much fun!” She opens her trunk and I help her hang up her clothes. is he? Why.It’s actually a miracle she’s so normal and nice.. it’s my duty to keep Team Trinity 29 . The only thing that stopped me bursting into tears when I said goodbye to three-quarters of my clothes two days ago was the thought that I’d at least get to share Lael’s. Not everything.. We’ve been sharing clothes since we were about eleven years old.” she says happily. Her mom might be the worst parent ever – the “antiJewish mother”. But by the time the driver has carried her trunk up to our dormitory.?” I press my fist against my forehead.. I met someone this morning who likes you!” I say. Lael always has the latest and nicest of everything. James Ellison. As a best friend. “It’s going to make such a difference having you here this term.” “Him?” says Lael. as Lael calls her – but she’s not stingy. “Hey. of course. remembering that I have a compliment to pass on. But anything stretchy. “That Grade 11 guy? He’s not very nice. and accessories of every shape and size. right. all shoes. just that you were really pretty and everything. “Oh. sounding disappointed. I can’t help looking at them with more than just casual interest. Lael pauses while folding a pile of tank tops. what did he say about me?” “Um . I can see she’s been shopping over the holidays.. claiming the cubicle next to mine. since she’s about 15 kgs heavier than me.
Because that would be seriously creepy. but I’m not saying a word about his weirdo prejudices. “Right. Lael.Lael alerted to any guys who think she’s hot. This term we’re going to be playing with the men. I wish I could be more like Lael and eat what I like while still looking awesome. She’d go completely ballistic. Lael looks at herself in the full-length mirror on her cupboard door. we do.” “We do?” I have to jog to keep up with her as she strides out the dormitory. Forget every other lame little schoolboy in the whole of Gumede House – or Brentwood College. Forget James Ellison. it looks awesome.” “Nah. “Yes. I wish I could carry myself like Lael. “Please tell me you’re not talking about a teacher. “You don’t think the skirt’s a bit short? I’ve been scared about bending down all day.” “Not a teacher?” I say. and I love the chunky slip-slops. Every time I start a new diet and get to that miserable “I can’t face another skinless chicken breast” stage.” “Of course I’m not talking about a teacher! Like . Now stop asking questions and just come on. She turns around and checks out her butt. Lael shoves her last few bras into a drawer and spins around to face me. not the boys..” 30 Fiona Snyckers . Boys just flock around her and girls want to be her. Let’s get going. standing stock-still in the middle of the corridor. We’ve got some serious stalking to do. Those opaque tights are very flattering.. She has so much confidence and moves so gracefully that her extra few kilos don’t matter at all. eeuw.” Not for the first time.
I remember all of last year’s matrics. of course it’s not Mpume! I haven’t changed that much over the holidays. Cricket.. trust me. there’s no room left over for a girlfriend. and there’s not one that I could get excited about stalking. I know. “No. supposedly to try and get into overseas universities. “But this guy is different. Not that I’m exactly a Dux scholar myself.. “There he is now.” “Sshhh!” she says sharply as two guys come out of the Annexe. but I do like a guy with more between his ears than a scrum cap. Just . so Brentwood might as well too. but really to play first-team sport for one more year. The thinking seems to be that all the other schools are doing it. No.. “Where are you taking me? Oh.” She sucks in a breath. The thing is. He was at Hilton College last year. is it?” I say unenthusiastically. “It’s not that Mpume guy. “Because his ego takes up so much space..” Lael whispers. The plot thickens. I heard that Brentwood poached him for mega-bucks to play rugby for us. just look at him!” Team Trinity 31 .” “A rugby player?” Now it’s my turn to pull a face.She grabs me by the hand and drags me down the stairs and out into the sunshine. hockey and rugby are the three big sports that pack their first teams with postmatric players. They stay on to do Cambridge A-levels. This is where the guys who stay on for a year after matric live.. “I know . One is a cricket coach and the other is the great Mpume himself. It’s almost always guys – hardly ever girls..!” We’ve stopped behind a bush outside the Postmatric Annexe. Rugby players are not usually the brightest bunnies in the hutch. this is a new guy.
Add the chiselled cheekbones. but it’s his face that takes my breath right away. I concede. snap out of it!” Lael says with a laugh. “Hey. “I concede. clicking her fingers in front of my face. It’s almost an old-fashioned kind of face – like it should belong on an Ancient Greek statue or something. I only get about two clear seconds to look at him before he heads down to the sports fields. but that’s enough. and the sculpted lips and you have a combination that’s making me weak at the knees. thumbs hooked into the waistband of his jeans.” I drag my eyes away from the point at which he disappeared and try to focus. “You look like you’re in a trance. And for once in my life I am completely speechless. “I feel like I’m in a trance. and the kind of golden tan that doesn’t fade in winter. His body is exactly the right combination of lean and muscular.” “So? Do you believe me now? Was I exaggerating? Or do you concede that we have some stalk-worthy material here?” I blow my breath out in a long sigh. He’s got dark brown hair that’s kind of wavy and adorably messy. I can’t tell at this distance.She points through the leaves at a guy who is running lightly down the steps of the Annexe. Then we step out from behind the bush and stare at each other. We watch him walking down to the fields until he rounds a corner and disappears. black eyelashes. His eyes are either blue or green. the straight nose. I’m looking at the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. but they’re set behind long. He’s about six foot or even a little taller.” 32 Fiona Snyckers .
don’t you?” “I don’t know. Trinity.“Those eyes. would he?” I say. “I mean he’s bound to have a girlfriend.” “Well. And wait until you see him smile.” “Well . I wouldn’t stand a chance. haven’t you?” “Don’t be silly!” I snort.” Team Trinity 33 .” “It’s not lame. we’ll see. When Cupid shoots his arrow. I hope I haven’t let you in for a lot of heartache. “How could I fall for a guy after seeing him for just a few seconds? I’m not that lame.. “Oops. Lael stops dancing from foot to foot and grinning. I think we’ve got ourselves a project for the term.” “Oh.. You believe in love at first sight. She looks at me more closely. “I didn’t think I did. he doesn’t miss. “I almost wish I hadn’t shown him to you now.” “What are you talking about?” “You’ve really fallen for him.” Lael sits down on the wall and puts her arm around me. I do. “Oops what?” “You’ve got it bad. Trinity. It’s not like you to be so defeatist. some matric girl will snap him up in seconds. Are you in?” I nod mechanically. Suddenly I’m really depressed.” “I’m just being realistic.” I sit down on a low wall between Gumede House and the Postmatric Annexe. come on now. “A guy like that wouldn’t be single.” she says.” I rub my hands over my face. And even if he doesn’t. hey? And that bod.
We get told so many house rules that there’s no way I can possibly remember them all. I’m actually wondering if I could pretend to trip and faint into his arms. Just to give you a clue how desperate I am. No one seems to know if it’s going to stay that way or if a new roommate will still arrive. Only one bed in the far corner is still empty. and that’s the boy whose name I don’t even know yet. The wonderful. I’m vaguely aware of girls arriving. fit-bodied boy who’s living practically next door to Sisulu House. And how I can get to meet him for real. I can’t say I care very much. floppy-haired. blue-eyed (I’m pretty sure his eyes are blue – or maybe green). A really nice group of girls has joined us in the dormitory. but I don’t care.CHAPTER 7 THE REST of the day passes in a slight blur. I can’t think of anything except when I’ll get to see him again. But that’s fine because Matron gives us a little handbook to put next to our beds in case we forget anything. There’s only one thing on my mind at the moment. How pathetic is that? 34 Fiona Snyckers . of Matron welcoming us all at lunch. I know I must look like an idiot staring off into space with a silly smile on my face. I keep replaying that scene of him coming out of the Annexe in my mind. of some kind of orientation meeting in the afternoon. Lael keeps shooting worried glances at me because I’m not being the life and soul of the party.
I snuggle down into my bed. just poof. Then all is quiet. trying to fall asleep surrounded by the unfamiliar noises of other girls coughing. this guy is so far removed from me he might as well be Justin Bieber. lights out. and one minute after that. I give a little scream. and now I can hardly imagine it empty. If Brentwood really paid a fortune to poach him from Hilton. No warning. a prefect comes around to make sure we’re not using our Blackberries as torches under the covers. thank goodness. There are enough baths and showers for us to take as long as we need. I’m just a random Grade 10 and he’s one of the kings of the school. I can’t help comparing tonight to last night. We’ve got some free time after supper and everyone is chilling out and changing into their PJs. It looks like queueing for the bathrooms won’t be an issue. sighing and shuffling in their beds. no negotiation. There are two prefects and a Junior Matron on our floor.The sad truth is. Within two minutes everyone has scrambled into their own beds. but they leave us pretty much alone unless we start making too much noise. Team Trinity 35 . but it turns out that’s how it works every night. thinking it’s a power failure. Twentyfour hours ago I couldn’t imagine the dormitory full of girls. At ten o’clock the lights go out as someone flicks a master switch somewhere. It’s only toward evening that I come out of my trance and start paying attention to what’s going on around me.
you do! Come on. In fact. Trinity. 36 Fiona Snyckers . wild horses couldn’t drag me back home. Dr Hussein announced that new postmatric tutoring thing?” “Um . “Yes.CHAPTER 7 THERE’S A friendly buzz in the dining-hall at breakfast the next morning. “I’ve been thinking about Postmatric Guy.. think! How if we’re struggling with a subject.” I have no idea what she is talking about. “And do they have to help us if we ask them?” “I think so. yes. we’re allowed to ask the postmatrics for help. Of course the fact that I’ve got the sexiest man alive living next door is a bonus. now that I’ve seen him. As long as the food stays good and the bed stays comfortable. But then.” This sets off an interesting train of thought. because she leans across her bowl of Weet-Bix and says in my ear. “Remember at the end of last year.. I reckon I can tough it out for the next three months. a lot of what our dear headmaster says goes in one ear and out the other. remember?” “Oh. but I’m starting to think I can do this.” “What about him?” I keep my voice casual. Apparently Lael is reading my mind. It’s still early days. really?” I perk up a bit.
Go on. exactly. Maybe I won’t have to pretend all that hard. ask me. Mind you. It’s just that my brain has this strange reluctance to remember anything boring. I quickly realise that work is going to be a nightmare this year.” “Well.” *** Turns out Lael was right. maybe. But you never know – this might finally be the year I get my act together and start cracking my schoolwork.” “Ha ha. once the other girls get a look at him. It’s one of her most annoying features.” “Ja . For instance. “What?” “I’m just imagining you pretending to have trouble with work. It’s not that I’m an airhead. there’ll be queues around the block to ask him for help.. She often is. Very funny. ask me about any celebrity’s children – biological or adopted. I’ll give you Team Trinity 37 . As Grade 10 gets underway. Oh. I actually have a brilliant memory for certain things. even if you do suddenly turn into a model student. this is your best way of getting to know Postmatric Guy. sending a little fountain of milk off her spoon and into her bowl. Pretending I need help won’t stretch my acting abilities at all. “It could happen. stop it!” I say as she giggles some more.“So what you’re saying is that I should pretend to be having trouble with work so that I can ask him for help?” Lael snorts..
And yes. I know they are actually Greek. 38 Fiona Snyckers . My mind just grabs hold of information like that and hangs onto it. “Today’s the day. She says that looking at him is like looking at the most gorgeous pair of shoes in the world. But somehow my brain goes a little fuzzy when it comes to schoolwork. and they might as well be Greek to me. I was worried that she might really like him too. schools. I am literally the world expert on iPhone apps. I’m falling so far behind in Trigonometry that I’ll be in real trouble if I don’t catch up soon.their names. I just seem to have a block about what the teacher is saying. music. sports. And who better to help me than Postmatric Guy? Lael is totally on board with this. “Okay. listen up!” she says at break as we grab some chicken wraps and fruit from the dining-hall before heading out to find a patch of shade. It was a joke. and that we’d end up competing for the same guy. I start off trying to concentrate. And Trigonometry in extra particular. You drool over them. The same goes for fashion. but you don’t actually want to date them. and I’m off wondering what’s going to happen on the next episode of Sixteen and Pregnant. Maths in particular. I really do. The point is. movies. ages. But she’s honestly not interested. dummy. Then she sets us some homework and I’m looking at words like sin and cos. vampire novels and cellphone apps. and favourite brand of trainers without having to look it up. but after a while her voice just fades into this blah blah blah background noise. you imagine walking into a room with them. you stare at them.
you know.” Team Trinity 39 . Now that this is actually happening. Lael is looking at me narrowly.” I have to think about this for a minute.” “Yes?” “You’re not going to chicken out are you?” “No. The year is still so new I haven’t got the hang of my timetable yet. Why would you say that?” “Because you have a very chicken look on your face.” “I do not.” “No buts... The only but I’m interested in is you getting your butt down to the Annexe this afternoon at half-past four.” “Yes. I didn’t go through all that embarrassment only to have you wimp out on me. I think. You just need to hang around outside the Postmatric Annexe at about half-past four and jump on him when he comes in from cricket. I’ve got djembe drumming after drama.. What time does your last extramural end?” “Um. I’m getting chilly in the foot department.He has cricket practice until half-past four this afternoon. You’re looking all scared like a big old Scaredy McChicken.” “No.. The idea of marching up to him and demanding help with my homework makes me want to run and hide.” “That’s perfect then. I had to find out his timetable and everything.” “Rubbish!” “Because I didn’t go to all that trouble for nothing. “Trinity. “Four o’clock. of course not. They thought I’d gone nuts at the sports office – wanting to know the exact time the first team finished cricket practice. but I. you do.” The thought of jumping on Postmatric Guy makes me feel light-headed...
remember? Zach Morris.” Lael can be quite strict at times. “Permission to ask a question.” Lael explains.“Yes. sexiest name in the history of scrummy. His name is Zach. It must have been a rat or something. Ma’am.” We take a giant step backwards to continue our conversation. If he ditches you again. sexy names? Zach Morris. you wait ten days and 40 Fiona Snyckers . “The way I see it. Then you wait a week and try again with a different trig problem. Just don’t call him that to his face or your beautiful relationship will be over before it starts.” “What if Postmatric Guy answers my question really quickly and the whole thing is over in five minutes? How am I supposed to keep him talking?” Just then there’s a scuffling noise from inside the shed we’re leaning against. “So what do I do if Postmatric Guy ditches me after five minutes?” “We’ll work out a plan. We both jump away from the wall and look at each other.’ “How could I forget?” Isn’t that just the scrummiest. Ma’am?” “Granted. “What the heck was that?” Lael peers through a window into the gloom. So cool. you just smile sweetly and say thanks. you want to try a slow burn approach. “I can’t see a thing. I love it. “If he ditches you after five minutes. It’s where they keep sports equipment like orange cones and skipping ropes and volleyball nets. so hip. so simple.
try again. Way more gorgeous than I am. and you’re still creeping around listening to people’s private conversations. but there’s not a trace of shame on her perfect. She bounces up and dusts herself off. Only this time.” She goes off into a peal of irritating laughter.. mortal enemy. I march up to the shed and wrench open the door. until he’s got used to having you around.” She stops as we hear another noise from inside the shed. as I have to admit in my more honest moments (although I do have better dress sense. grinning from pierced ear to pierced ear. This is not good at all.. When are you ever going to grow up?” “Hey. “Like how certain people have crushes on certain Hilton College old boys and are plotting stalking strategies. most of the time). evil twin and the all-round antiTrinity – is also a boyfriend-stealer of note. if I didn’t listen. “Sophie!” I say angrily. Lael and I exchange glances. A blonde girl who was leaning against it from the inside almost falls out onto the grass. it doesn’t sound like a scuffle so much as a giggle. “You’re sixteen years old. Don’t expect a major result today. which is supposed to be locked. This is not good. A very familiar giggle. rosy face.” she says. she’s gorgeous. And so on and so forth. I wouldn’t know what was going on. Sophie Agincourt – apart from being my number-one nemesis. It’s enough for her just to know that I like a guy to start taking aim at him. You’d expect her to be mortified at being caught eavesdropping. And the problem is. Sophie’s one of those awful girls who can eat whatever she likes without putting on weight. Plus she’s Team Trinity 41 .
did you?” Lael says casually.” “Sure you can. “How long have I known you?” “Ooh. seriously. I saw him at a few socials. I can give up on Postmatric Guy right now. He’s crazy about cagefighting and base-jumping. Just get him talking about that stuff. When we went down to our place in Howick for the holidays.” “I’ve met him.” “No. honestly. she can turn on the sex appeal in a way that just mows the boys down.. “You didn’t take all that seriously. He was at school with my brother last year. This time I’m really not. Listen here. man..” 42 Fiona Snyckers . She’s actually got a crush on . I’m giving you the inside scoop on this guy. If Sophie is interested in getting her claws into him. right!” Sophie snorts. “No. Trinity doesn’t really like him. Why?” “Don’t you think that’s long enough for me to know when you’re trying to trick me?” “No.. “I can give you some tips on breaking the ice with him if you like.. I don’t know. um . He does like those things.” I say wearily. really.” “Yeah. “Zach Morris. and you’ll have him eating out the palm of your hand. you know. isn’t he?” I grunt.. He’s hot. “We were just kidding around. You should be thanking me. Face it.got the whole blonde-haired. blue-eyed Taylor Swift thing going on. She looks all sweet and innocent.” “Sophie. About ten years. but when she wants to. Mpume Thlogoane.” Sophie says off-handedly.. He’s totally into extreme sports.
I can see he’s hot and everything. “I don’t have any chemistry with him.I look at her closely. “Why would you try and help me?” I ask suspiciously.” Hmmm. Over the years I’ve got pretty good at detecting whether or not Sophie is lying. And I’d rather you got him than some snooty matric cow.” she says with a yawn. but he really doesn’t do it for me. but today I’m not getting any clear vibes either way. “I mean. Team Trinity 43 .
15 and cricket practice is still in full swing. I do another loop around the back of the Annexe and station myself at a strategic point where I can see the players as they come up from the fields. thank goodness. The way the sun is beating down today. I’ve got my schoolbag with me and I’m planning to drop down on one knee and start rummaging through it if anyone comes near me. Now the only thing that can go wrong is if he goes somewhere else after practice. It’s 4. This is really happening. I make my way to the Postmatric Annexe via a route that loops past the cricket fields. I sneak a glance at my phone and realise with a jolt of shock that it’s 4. This is happening. I feel a bit silly. just hanging around in the open like this but nobody seems to be paying any attention. So at least I know I haven’t missed him. My heart starts thundering in my chest and for a moment I think I might be sick. but you can easily stand up at the top where the school buildings are and look down at the players. I can see Postmatric Guy bowling at someone in the nets. I reckon he’ll want to hit the showers before dinner. But I’m not too worried. The way the grounds are laid out.CHAPTER 8 WHEN I finish my drumming class. There’s no sign of Sophie Agincourt.29pm. you have to go down about five million steps if you want to get to the actual fields. 44 Fiona Snyckers .
right. Pottery studio? My mind has gone completely blank. and then the cricketers appear in the distance. I swear they make them smaller every year. “What? What?” A little Grade 8 girl is standing behind me. It’s like she’s glued to the ground.” she says nervously. slightly behind them.After a few minutes I can hear the sound of voices getting closer. He’s walking on his own. “Okay. Get ready. They’re kidding around – laughing and pushing each other like guys do. At least Zach is still behind them.” Pottery studio. they’re getting closer. You’ll find it with no problem. There’s this little door in the art room that leads straight into the pottery studio. “I didn’t mean to make you jump. the pottery studio. “Sorry. Do you know where that is – in the Founders Block?” She nods. Team Trinity 45 . “Excuse me.” I say at last. I’m happy to see that Zach is too mature for all that. Okaypleasurebye.” I’m gabbling now as the first cricket boys appear at the top of the steps and start dispersing in different directions.” I jump as though a dog has just taken a bite out of my leg.... I just wanted to ask if you knew where the pottery studio is?” “Umm. Thank goodness. Trinity. But the Grade 8 girl is not shifting. Okay. Trinity. The cricket boys are getting closer.. climbing up the steps. Think! “Oh. it’s next to the art classroom. Think. “Okay.
Smooth work.” Something flickers behind his eyes. Trinity. Sorrythanksbye.. please wait a moment. We can talk another time. 46 Fiona Snyckers . He turns around. At the top. I thought . slightly startled. When one doesn’t come. “I . gasping for breath.. he turns to go. I mean . So much for casually intercepting him.” And I speed-walk away from her.. Not another groupie. Please. where I won’t be able to follow him. I’m sweaty. “Wait!” I say urgently.. “Why would I do that?” Okay. “Could you help me with my trig homework?” “Help you with your trig homework?” he says. as he hears my footsteps pounding up behind him.“Are you Trinity Luhabe?” she blurts out.. I thought there was this mentoring thing where students were allowed to ask postmatrics for help when they didn’t understand something.” I gabble as I spot Zach coming up the steps. Like. Not now. disbelievingly. “Yes. “Um . no. “But I’m afraid I really have to go now. excuse me!” I say. no. flustered and out of breath. really smooth. I am now officially dying inside. he turns to walk towards the Annexe. His eyes flick coldly over me as he waits for an answer... does my dad really own eighteen cars (no) and do we really have a ballroom at home (yes). I am. “Abel Luhabe’s daughter?” Oh.. but every now and then you get one who has seen some stupid article in a stupid magazine and wants to ask me about our so-called “lifestyle”. Most of the kids at school treat me normally. I have to break into a run just to catch up with him before he disappears into the Annexe.
and I couldn’t follow what she was saying.” “Okay.” he says reluctantly. I must admit I’ve finally got it. “Have you got your calculator here?” I take my calculator out and he starts explaining. His legs are so long they’re almost touching mine. I have never set foot in here in my life. Okay. It’s surprisingly gloomy.” He strides into the Postmatric Annexe. the teacher explained it too fast.” I say firmly. “Oh God. Result! I walk nervously into the Annexe. “It’s this. with lots of dark wooden panelling. His shirt is clinging to his chest and some dark hair is flopping over his brow. “Yes. but by the end of his explanation. “It’s so easy! Do you really not understand it?” “I really don’t. jerking an arm for me to follow him. Students are only allowed in if accompanied by a postmatric.” I manage to tear my eyes away from his hair and start digging around in my bag. let’s get this over with. I think they must have learned a slightly different method at Hilton because it doesn’t sound completely familiar. I remember something about that..” he sighs..“Oh. I’m feeling even more flustered being indoors with him. The teacher explained it way too fast. “So what’s the problem?” “Er. and even then we’re only allowed into the common room. this?” he says. “Like I said. He flings himself down into an armchair and looks expectantly at me. that. Team Trinity 47 .” I turn to the right page in our textbook and pass it to him...
Then we do a few more examples to make sure that I really understand it. All I’ve done so far is irritate him. “I’m sorry?” I cough and try again. we’re finished. and before I know it.” he says. Am I really desperate enough to try something suggested by my evil nemesis – the girl who has dedicated her life to trying to bring me down? No. I have no choice but to straighten up. We’re walking down the passage. “I’ll walk you out. I know Lael said I should take a slow-burn approach. In another moment I’ll be on the other side of that door. Now I wish I’d prepared another question to ask him. on TV?” 48 Fiona Snyckers . But how? For a second. “Do you happen to know if they’re showing the big cage-fight tonight?” My voice comes out all high and squeaky. I need to turn this around. heading for the door and the blinding sunlight outside.” he says impatiently as I dither. hoisting my bag over my shoulder. but I honestly thought that by this stage we’d be chatting away about other things. “I said. “That should do it.” I’m packing my stuff back into my bag as slowly as I dare. but I know I’ll never have the guts to ask him for help again. “Next time just put your hand up and ask your teacher to explain it again. of course not. do you happen to know if they’re showing the big cage-fight tonight? You know. standing up briskly. pretending to drop my calculator. and my chance will be gone forever. They’re used to dealing with the slower students. Sophie’s advice flickers across my brain.
. of course.” I add for good measure. What a surprise. You know . so I don’t get to see his reaction to my surname. I sneak a glance at his face and see that he’s looking at me properly for the first time this afternoon. Trinity Luhabe. I did Google cage-fighting.. Then I did a bit more reading and realised that there’s a big fight on practically every night. looking at me as though I’ve suddenly sprouted horns.. I admit it. I mean.. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that there was a big fight on tonight. Team Trinity 49 . Anyway. But it’s Trinity. “What did you say your name was again?” “Um .. Just as a spectator. in the hope that it might grab his interest. “Yes. Terrible. so it seems as though Sophie was indeed lying through her teeth. he’s looking at me like I’ve lost it.. Just in case.. basejumping and extreme sports in between extramurals this afternoon. don’t you? Base-jumping too. But you’d really need to see with your own eyes how hot he is before judging me. Huge fan – that’s me. “How do you know about cage-fighting?” he asks cautiously. I find it completely fascinating. I didn’t actually.” He looks down at the ground for a moment. Did he recognise it or not? I’m ashamed to admit that I said it slightly more loudly than normal. want-to-get-up-theremyself-and-fight kind of way.” Okay. the fight between the Bulgarian Zoltov and the American Harris? I was just wondering if it’s going to be on ESPN tonight.“The cage-fight?” he repeats. um . I love it.. I know. “Oh . obviously not in a bloodthirsty.
Then he reaches out a hand to shake mine. 50 Fiona Snyckers . I mean. yes..” “And in answer to your question. The main fight will be over by half-past eight. we do have DSTV at home.. “Why don’t you come and watch it here? We have all the DSTV channels right here in the Annexe.. I’ve never seen him smile before.” As he speaks. yes.” “Er ..” “Well. but I’m not staying at home at the moment... so there shouldn’t be a problem.” He hesitates for a moment. um . Very pleased to meet you. I take a deep breath and pull myself together. “Hello. yes. I’m in Sisulu House this term while my folks are overseas.” he says formally as we shake. Trinity Luhabe.” I stutter. Dimples peep out in his cheeks and he looks younger and more mischievous. “My name is Zach Morris. “I mean. that’s for sure.. I’ll organise it with your Matron. No ESPN.After a moment he lifts his head and looks at me. the fight will be on ESPN tonight. I feel as though I’m standing in a beam of sunlight. His wonderful blue eyes become light and warm and adorably crinkled at the corners.. And we only have the channels the girls voted for last year. I barely manage to stammer out a thank-you before he turns and walks back into the Annexe. he smiles... likewise. Do you have DSTV at home?” “No .
it’s got nothing to do with Postmatric Guy. I run up the stairs light as a feather. As soon as I see Lael in there finishing off her Science homework. no.” “Nothing you say can ruin my good mood today!” I declare. I want to hug everyone I see. “That’s great. kiss small babies.” She smiles. I breathe a sigh of relief. jumping to her feet. now there’s nothing you can say that would upset me.” she says.” “No. so what is it?” Team Trinity 51 . doing a few more pirouettes around the dormitory. “Unless you’re going to tell me he’s already cancelled our TV date. and pirouette into the dormitory. Then I stop. “Well. and I’m afraid you’re not going to like it.CHAPTER 9 I FLOAT back to Sisulu House on a cloud of happy happiness. A blissfully floaty cloud of peace. struck by a hideous thought. But first I need to tell you something. and give twenty-rand notes to beggars. thank goodness for that. Please say it’s not that. Your master-plan was a complete and total and utter success. “Thank goodness you’re back!” she says. and I want to hear all about it. “Have you been waiting on tenterhooks? Then I won’t tease you. Okay. I laugh. I realise the only thing better than daydreaming about Zach is telling Lael all about him. love and joy.
Ever. Sophie’s suite. Her house is not as big as ours (let’s face it. because it includes a private sitting-room and a massive hotelsized bathroom. Except for one thing. Anything Sophie wants. For a moment I’m too shocked to speak. If you weren’t boarding this term. I should say.” she says darkly. Sophie and I used to get on fairly well until we both entered the Miss Sandton 52 Fiona Snyckers . don’t you?” Lael asks. “You know why she’s doing this. it would never have crossed Sophie’s mind.” “Our Sophie? Sophie Agincourt?” Lael nods gloomily. “Because I am?” “Yup. but Sophie’s room is roughly twice the size of mine.” This is unfortunately true. In the whole history of her school career. The thought of her voluntarily giving all that up to come and live in a dormitory with five other girls boggles my mind. pointing at the one unoccupied bed in our dormitory. When it comes to spoiling. very few houses are).“Have a look over there. Sophie’s parents have gone overboard in terms of giving her every single thing she’s ever asked for. her parents start where mine leave off. If you think I’m spoiled. “Not just any old someone. you should take a look at Sophie. “What do you notice?” “Someone’s moved in?” I hazard. noticing that the bed is made up and there are pictures stuck up on the cubicle walls. Sophie gets. and try to do it better. Sophie has never boarded. She has to copy every single thing you do. It’s Sophie.
Plus – and this is very important – Sophie was the one who gave me the cage-fighting tip. so I’ll go there straight after supper. sort of. I won. makeup and wardrobe professionally styled – was my First Princess. okay?” Lael and I both jump and turn around to find that Sophie has crept up behind us. all right. but what with my TV date with Zach coming up.” Her forehead creases. But don’t go thinking I’ve gone soft or anything.. low-flying piggies are expected over Joburg tonight. I tell Lael all about my meeting with Zach.” She fixes me with her baby-blue eyes. because I haven’t. and ask whether she doesn’t agree that this has earned Sophie a Royal Pardon. was totally on the money.. even though I wasn’t wearing any makeup and just had my hair brushed down my back with an Alice band. sitting down on her bed. “I already told you I’d rather see Trinity with Zach than with some smug matric girl. He said I can come and watch the big cage-fight on ESPN at the Annexe with him. I just need to clear it with Matron.” Team Trinity 53 . Well. Normally I’d be furious that she’d moved into Sisulu House. I can hardly even work up the energy. “It’s weird. which. Ever since then.kiddies’ pageant when we were eleven years old. “It looks as though Sophie actually did something good for once. “Is that so hard to believe?” she goes on. “Are you really seeing him tonight?” “Yes. And Sophie – who’d had her hair. as we now know. she’s taken our rivalry to a whole new level of thermonuclear insanity.” “I was just trying to be nice. And in other news.
of course. “Got it. so don’t say anything about how you think it’s the most boring career in the known universe. Sophie has at least seven Brentwood school shirts that are all cut slightly differently depending on what look she’s going for..” “Also. and you basically have a thing for guys who go in for extreme sports.” And she runs lightly out the dorm. There’ll be plenty of girls waiting to snap him up. well. right. Frankly I can’t be bothered. and quantity surveying – sound like the most boring jobs on earth. “I haven’t made up my mind yet.“Okay. The only good thing about them is that they pay well.” says Sophie as though to an idiot.. “What are you going to wear?” “Duh! School uniform. And anyway.” I nod. There’s not going to be time to change after supper. “Well. 54 Fiona Snyckers .” “Yeees. I don’t think they’d even let me.” I see what she’s saying. She must have them specially made at a tailor. he wants to study actuarial science next year.” Although I do actually think that actuarial science – and accountancy.” Sophie says. “Why’s she being like this?” Lael asks suspiciously. don’t take too long.” “Okayyyy. “But how are you going to customise it?” “Oh. jumping up from her bed.” I say vaguely. remember to say you also think basejumping is cool. The standard shirt-and-skirt combo fits me just fine – skimming nicely over my butt and making my waist look smaller. “Zach’s not the kind of boy you want to make mistakes with.
but Sophie is as cool as a cucumber. Instead I veer off towards the Annexe.” “But who cares. Before I know it. She’s busy being friendly to Nosipho. and skip the chicken curry completely. I stick to foods that will not make my breath too stinky. as long as it helps me hook Zach. The postmatrics have a little kitchen and mostly seem to make their own food – you hardly ever see them in the dining-hall. Lael and I are a bit silly and giggly all through supper. Not that I’m expecting any up-close-and-personal action this evening – of course not – but I don’t want him reeling away in disgust from me either. I know. Team Trinity 55 . even though it’s one of my favourites. They don’t really know what to make of it. She makes it sound like she’s going to be standing at the door with a stopwatch. It feels weird not joining the stream of girls heading back to Sisulu House.30 on the dot. there’s hardly anyone around. Yasmin and Priya. In a moment. Matron tells me I have permission to watch TV at the Postmatric Annexe tonight.” *** I’m so nervous at supper I can hardly eat. Then I catch Lael’s eye and we both start to giggle. Maybe this is nature’s way of helping me lose a quick half-kilo in the next hour. because she’s never paid the slightest bit of attention to them before.” “Very unlikely.“Maybe she’s turned over a new leaf.” I say. provided I’m back in Sisulu House at 8. “Unlikely. supper’s over and Lael is wishing me luck.
footsteps.” He 56 Fiona Snyckers . “Um .As the sound of chatter disappears into Sisulu House. There’s a coolish breeze. “Trinity Luhabe.” The guy called Mike leaves. and I reckon there’ll be rain later. Mike. The sky looks inky to the south. “Hi. I’m wondering whether he’s going to take me to the TV room himself. “Oh. Mike’s one of the wardens. plucking insects out of the air. the evening suddenly seems very quiet. I can hear a faint buzzing sound and. We have two. I can take it from here. There’s the other one. and swallows are swooping low around the grounds. Now what? Then I notice a doorbell tucked away and give it a timid prod. hi! I’m here to visit Zach Morris?” “Name?” he asks in a bored voice.. I give a little shiver and cross my arms over my chest. It’s still quite light. within seconds. but it is very definitely locked. The sight of the shut Annexe door brings me up short. “Who was that?” I ask. but long shadows are starting to stretch across the playing fields and the world seems drained of colour.” He makes me sign a register and makes a note of the time. I try the handle. Trinity. They’re here to keep an eye on us.. “Thanks. “Can I help you?” A guy in his twenties dressed in civvies opens the door.” “Come on in. and Zach takes me through to the TV room where an ad for a dirt-biking show is playing. or whether I have to find my own way there when Zach walks in.” he says coolly.
They keep having to stop the fight to patch up somebody’s split lip or flapping forehead skin. I don’t really trust myself to say anything intelligent. But in the first place. there’s a tiny part of me – that seems to speak in the voice of Ms Potgieter. eeuw and gross! “You’re not really enjoying this. so I’m the only girl in the place. And in the second place. so I limit myself to going “Ooh!” and “Aah!” Hopefully in all the right places. “Of course I am. our Life Orientation teacher – that says I should never pretend to be interested in something I’m not just for the sake of a guy. who’s texting on his phone. that rule was never intended to apply to anyone as hot as Zach – he’s clearly the exception. All I know about cage-fighting is what I picked up from Wikipedia in ten minutes flat this afternoon. but they’re not. Every now and then I have to shut my eyes when the fighting on the screen gets too horrible. “What?” I say. I’d probably be more freaked out if anyone were paying attention to me. And this year there are none. The Postmatric Annexe is supposed to be co-ed. There’s blood flying all over the place. Eeuw. so what does she know? So I sit in an armchair next to Zach and put on my eager face. okay. It turns out cage-fighting is really awful – way worse than boxing. Love it!” Team Trinity 57 . And. startled. but like I said. I love cagefighting.nods in the direction of another older-looking guy in the TV room. It looks like the fight has already started. are you?” says Zach. There are a few other guys scattered around the place. hardly any girls choose to do postmatric. Ms Potgieter must be nearly thirty by now and she’s still single. Even Zach is fixated by the TV screen.
” he goes on.” Whew. I’m staring at the screen so hard my eyes are almost watering when I become aware of Zach leaning in really close. I don’t. “A lot of the girls who watch extreme sports are really bloodthirsty. Feminine. but you still flinch at the sight of blood.” he says softly.” I smile at him and swivel my head back to the screen...” I gesture vaguely at the screen. Zach Morris called me feminine... “But not you. You’ve no idea how cute that is. “Well.. Zach watches for a few seconds and then turns to me..” I clear my throat. to be honest.. more feminine. You can totally see the Japanese influence in that guy’s style. And he’s not done yet. You’re different.” No. I’m not that good with blood. “You’re right. in how it evolved as a sport from several different martial arts traditions. “I’ve always been interested in how . Now I just need to get through the rest of this with my eyes open and no flinching.” I’m quoting 58 Fiona Snyckers . “I think it’s cute how you enjoy the sport. You enjoy it for the skill and the technique... but can’t stand the sight of blood. Whereas the other guy has more of a Brazilian influence. But the fighting’s really cool. “It makes you seem . My heart is pounding in my chest. He’s definitely modelling himself on the Japanese fighters. I don’t know .. that’s because of the blood.“Then why do you keep wincing and shutting your eyes?” “Um . Tell me more.
seriously. “I started training to skydive in the December holidays.” He smiles.. what was I going to say when he asked me what I was interested in? Music. I know what you’re thinking. skydiving .. movies.. Trinity?” I pause for a moment.. I’ve already caught his interest with this cage-fighting stunt. but I’m fascinated by it. “I don’t think I could ever really do it myself. and soon I’ll move on to base-jumping. “In a strictly . But. I’m interested in all extreme sports really.” I hear myself saying. of course. What else do you do to relax..” No ways am I jumping out of a plane or off a cliff for this or any other guy. “You know almost more about it than I do...” I add hastily. theoretical way.. Which of course I am.. and also how it represents a search for the most effective form of unarmed combat in the world. fashion and cellphone apps? Do you know how shallow that would make me Team Trinity 59 . so I should really start being honest with him about the stuff I enjoy doing.. “That’s amazing!” he says. as though I’m thinking about my answer. It’s so great to finally meet someone who understands.straight from Wikipedia here. Zach is looking at me with a new glow in his eyes. but he doesn’t seem to notice. I get my reward right away. “Base-jumping . I’m a horrible liar who doesn’t deserve a guy like this.. um . I love to watch it. Now is my chance to get real with Zach.” “Wow. Most people think I’m completely crazy when I tell them..” “Base-jumping!” he says eagerly.” Yes. “I’m . There are limits to love – very clear limits. “And . Otherwise our relationship will be built on a whole bunch of lies. as if he can’t quite believe that I’m real.
” Oh. Because he hasn’t asked me to come here again. even if they’ve never heard of them until that moment. And they always pretend to support whatever team the guy supports. and agree with everything Zach says as he starts talking about the differences between skydiving and base-jumping. they’ll never let me come here again. my goodness!” I jump up. hooking his hands behind his head and stretching out his legs.. wouldn’t it? Because I’d really like to see you again. “Well..” I say. So I just smile and nod.” He leans back in his chair. “I . But maybe not at night next 60 Fiona Snyckers .sound? And anyway. I’ve heard girls telling guys that they simply adore rugby or football or whatever. Zach seems to be smiling..” There’s a short silence. he hasn’t even hinted at it. “It’s no big deal. It’s only when he reaches up a hand to push his hair back that I catch sight of the time on his watch.. “If I mess up on my very first time out. and all the new skills he has to learn. has he? In fact. A tidal wave of heat sweeps across my face as I realise what I’ve just said. He stands up lazily and catches my hands in his.” “It is a big deal. show me one girl who doesn’t lie a bit when she’s trying to get a guy interested. You know . “It’s twenty-five to nine. “Chill!” he says.. to go anywhere. Cringety cringe cringe. I mean. I was supposed to be back at Sisulu House by halfpast eight. “They won’t let me out at night again. that would be a pity. Luckily. When I happen to know they’re lying through their teeth. “Oh.. cringe.” I start stuttering.
yes. I’ll get rid of it. but whatever it is. Don’t forget. Three o’clock. Team Trinity 61 .time. “Great! Meet me at the tuckshop then. I know I’ve got something on this Friday afternoon.” And he turns to lead me out of the Annexe. How does Friday at three sound? Are you free then?” “Oh. absolutely! Definitely.” I nod madly.
and a good reminder never to walk around without slippers on. 62 Fiona Snyckers . Sophie. but I get the feeling you don’t really know someone until you’ve shared a room with them. and Priya since Grade 8. I’ve known Lael. Ever. And Yasmin is perched at the foot of her bed. Nosipho has been a boarder ever since the beginning of Grade 8. but she says her parents are hectic social climbers who want her to meet the “right” kind of friends at boarding-school. Priya also lives in Joburg. and wanted her daughter to have the same experience. if you ask me. She’s just letting the clippings fall onto the floor.CHAPTER 10 BESIDES LAEL and Sophie and me. there are three other girls in our dorm. Her mom is a single parent with a hectic fulltime job at Deloittes. even though she lives right here in Illovo. but her mom went to Brentwood College when she was a girl. Which is a bit disgusting. Nosipho and Yasmin since primary school. Like I would never have guessed that Nosipho wears a Hannah Montana nightie that looks exactly like the one I chose for my seven-yearold cousin’s birthday last year. She doesn’t have the time to drive Nosipho around in the afternoons. Yasmin’s parents live in Durban. cutting her toenails. so she boards during the week and goes home on weekends.
. “Midnight swims in the lake? Kitchen raids? Attacks on Gumede House?” I’m feeling a bit restless. it’s not even worth talking about because it’s completely impossible. that’s true. “Well.. Well . We know the Gumede Shield. you know the Gumede Shield?” We all nod. It was given to him by the Gumede House housemaster Team Trinity 63 . running a brush through my hair as we all get ready for bed on Wednesday night. We’re in the middle of Joburg. After a while. Don’t all boarding-schools have traditions? You know.” We all sit up and look at her. “What thing?” Nosipho shakes her head. It’s just one of those silly rumours. who has been boarding the longest.” “Done what?” we demand. I don’t see how anyone could ever really have done it. It was supposedly carried by a Brentwood boy in World War I. “You’ve been reading too much Spud. yes. like stuff that everyone gets up to?” The others look at each other in a head-scratching kind of way.” “Okay.. Trinity. but on the other hand I can’t imagine that it ever gets boring. Nosipho. But there must be something else we can do. It’s this super historical thing made of bronze and wood that all Brentwood students get told about in Grade 1. to tell the truth. You’ll laugh.” “Okay. It’s starting to feel as though Friday will never arrive. “No. there is this one thing. “So what do we do for fun around here?” I ask.. “What lake?” says Lael. says. “Ag. man.” “We won’t laugh.So. Just tell us. this is all a bit different to the privacy I’m used to at home. remember.
They had been letting a few black kids in for years. making rolling motions with her hands. We all nod again. though. the point is that yes. but now of course that boy is one of the heroes of the school. but nothing like that happened. Ever since 1976. It would have made the story even better if the shield had stopped a policeman’s bullet and saved his life too. “Well. which is how the whole story came out. Then when the 1976 Soweto uprising happened. the Gumede Shield has been kept under lock and key in the headmaster’s office.. That was back in the days when the school was still run by the Catholic Church. we all know about the Gumede Shield. In those days they thought he’d done a terrible thing and almost expelled him. They show it to parents when they do guided tours of the school. Only it wasn’t called Gumede House in those days. the legend is that the shield stopped a bullet or a shell or something that would have killed the Brentwood boy. It taught them a lesson.. but this boy apparently thought it wasn’t fair that he was getting a good education while kids in the townships were being taught in Afrikaans. you know how it was taken in 1976?” Nosipho goes on. So he bunked off school and joined the protest. a Brentwood boy pinched the shield out of its display case and carried it with him when he joined the protest. the story goes that it 64 Fiona Snyckers . You can still see the mark where it glanced off the bronze. “Okay. Anyway. He just got caught smuggling it back into its display case. Anyway. but Jan Smuts House. what about it?” Lael asks. and everyone goes ooh and aah. “So .to bring him good luck when he went to war.
obviously. They say it was a girl. and that she was trying to make some kind of point about how the shield belonged to the whole school and not just to the boys. Team Trinity 65 . it was complete and utter mayhem. now we come to the bit that I’m really not sure is true. I’m happy to say. The owners ended up calling the cops. “So.” “Wow!” says Lael thoughtfully. “They say that if a Sisulu House girl ever succeeds in stealing the trophy again. My mom nearly had a fit when she came looking for us.” I say quickly. that’s impossible so we should just forget about it. It’s the same gleam she got when we were about ten years old and came across a pet-shop at Sandton City. Things only got smoothed over when my dad arrived and started writing out cheques. anyhow. Lael is a huge feminist and there’s a disturbingly fanatical look in her eye as she says this.” Nosipho says.was stolen again in the 1980s.. Some kid took it out of the Gumede House display case and moved it to the Sisulu House display case. It’s not like that anymore. Yasmin once told us that girls used to be treated like second-class citizens in Brentwood.” “And the last bit of inequality between girls and boys at Brentwood will finally be removed!” Lael interrupts. the school will let it live for six months of the year in Sisulu House and the other six months in Gumede House. But Lael’s not even listening. Her mom remembers when the girls had to fight to be recognised as equal members of the school. and. “Well. Well. She decided that it was cruel to keep birds in cages and decided to release them all there and then. I know that look well..
but it is discrimination that the shield should stay in Gumede House all year round.. “his office has this huge steel security gate on the door.” “Okay. Dr Hussein was very proud of it and showed my dad the whole thing. “Lights out in two minutes. “It’s a nice idea. We’ll talk about this again soon.” “Are you finished now?” she asks when I finally wind down. Plus!” I add. “I am if you’re ready to admit that stealing the shield would be impossible and insane.” I interrupt ruthlessly. girls. “that has a brand-new alarm system installed in it.” I say as though I’m trying to calm a mental patient.” “Lael. And if the only way to do that is to pinch it and put it in our display case. Basically.” “A display cabinet.” she says. “It belongs to the girls just as much as to the boys. which is kept locked at all times.” *** 66 Fiona Snyckers . It’s locked in a display cabinet in his office. Remember at the beginning of the year when Dr Hussein gave my family a tour of Gumede House?” She nods.” she says thoughtfully. but. holding up a finger when she tries to speak again. “I got to see where the shield is kept.. I never thought about it before. but it would never work. it detects when anything gets removed from the cabinet and sends an alarm through to the security company. then that’s what we’re going to do. We should really split it.” “I prefer the word challenging.“You know.
I’ve even started dreaming about it. Everyone seems to have something on this afternoon. Then I see who it is and don’t feel quite so annoyed any more. He probably has nothing more exciting in mind than hanging out for a while. watching the sun go down.. getting closer and closer. We were sitting under some willow trees. In last night’s dream. it’s not. so it’s a bit annoying to find that today of all days. It’s dead quiet in Sisulu House. All I can think about is Friday afternoon and what Zach has in mind for us. If only this day would hurry up and finish. He smiles as I come in. so I bunked off to have some time alone. Maybe he’ll buy me an icecream from the tuckshop. No. The one my brother warned me about. It’s usually empty at this time of the afternoon. But I couldn’t face swimming practice. And then maybe he’ll take my hand in his. Trinity. until. I wonder why I’m so obsessed with Brentwood’s non-existent lake. trendy-dresser guy. we sneaked out of school and went to watch a movie at Sandton City.. Then we were having a picnic down at the lake. I wander down to the common room to spend some productive staring-out-the-window time. I haven’t laid eyes on him in weeks.The rest of the week creeps past. I literally have not been able to think of anything else all week. Stop it. and lean over towards me. Where’ve you been hiding yourself?” Team Trinity 67 . and we’ll just talk for a bit. stranger. I take a few deep breaths and try to get a grip. It’s the brown-haired. including me. “Hi. Also known as James Ellison.
” “He’s not good enough for you. I suppose you’ve found a better spot for girl-watching?” “Sometimes I come in here because it’s quiet. “Well I like him enough for both of us. “It’s not about anything. “Hasn’t he noticed that you’re Coloured?” “Excuse me?” “You’re Coloured and he’s white. “Who are you – my dad? Of course he’s good enough for me. I was just invited to watch TV with one of the postmatrics. The question is whether I’m good enough for him. and the boys were playing fussball. and nothing happened. for goodness sake. first of all I consider myself black. “You’re the one who hasn’t been around lately. I suppose it’s all over the school by now. “What’s that about?” I giggle self-consciously. It was like a madhouse. I was back by half past eight. or mixed-race if you have to be picky 68 Fiona Snyckers .” he says.” “His name is Zach Morris and you’re meeting him again tomorrow. looking at me closely.” He shifts restlessly in his chair. Gumede House can be insane at times. pool and table tennis all at the same time in the common room.” “I hear you’ve been spending your time in the more rarefied atmosphere of the Postmatric Annexe lately. Why do people even care?” “I don’t like him.” he announces.“I haven’t been hiding at all. End of story.” I roll my eyes.” “Oh. The other day I went to visit my brothers. “Okay.” I say.” “I know what you mean. He must have noticed that?” I take a deep breath.
yes. Team Trinity 69 . and now he’s asked me to hang out with him tomorrow afternoon.” He flashes me a cocky grin. “Let me put it this way. It’s like talking to a wall. I can’t believe I used to have a crush on this guy. in spite of his weirdo attitudes. but I actually kind of did. But it would be impossible to like anyone else at the same time as Zach. and by the way.” “Right. “First he asked me to watch TV with him. That’s totally going to happen. I know I told my brother that I didn’t.about it.” “And why would I do that?” “It would be best. Oh. “We’ll see who’s right. How could he not have?” “And he doesn’t mind?” I drop my head in my hands.” I say at last. I wouldn’t need to send him a note because I’ve got his BBM pin. Yes. I have to assume this means he doesn’t have a problem with the colour of my skin.” I draw myself up and stalk out of the common room before I say something I might regret later. I’ll just cancel my date with the hottest guy in school because you think it would be best. He gave it to me without me even asking. no one else compares. That’s the kind of trusting guy he is.” “I think you should write him a note saying you can’t meet him tomorrow. of course he’s noticed. There’s something attractive about him. This guy is unreal. And secondly. Zach is so unbelievably gorgeous.
LAEL CALLS a dorm meeting after dinner to discuss strategy for our plan to pinch the Gumede Shield. All I want is to flop down on my bed and fantasise about my date with Zach, but she is determined. “You’re going to get us expelled,” I groan. “It’s our project for the term,” she says. “Sit up and focus, Trinity. We need to strategise.” “It’s a mad idea. You should leave it alone.” “Don’t be such a wuss. Don’t you want us to go down in history as the girls who captured the shield for Sisulu House? So that it could be shared equally between the boys and the girls?” “Oh, please. That’s just a myth. Nosipho can’t even remember where she heard it. I bet the person who steals the shield will get booted out of school, not turned into some kind of hero.” Lael’s lips tighten and a steely look comes into her eyes. “We’ll see about that. Anyway, you’re not worming out of it now. We’re doing this together or not at all.” I’m tempted to say that I like the “not at all” option, but I know Lael when she’s in this mood. Resistance is futile. As the girls start filtering into the dormitory after supper, Lael nabs them one by one and drags them into her cubicle for the meeting. Sophie is at a violin lesson. We’ve pretty much decided not to include her in this. Her tell-tale tendencies are legendary.
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“Okay, first order of business,” says Lael, clapping her hands together. “Secret Agent Luhabe reports that the Gumede Shield is protected by an infra-red beam that will trigger an alarm the moment the shield is removed from the display cabinet. How did you come by your information, Agent Luhabe?” “Dr Hussein told us when he gave us that tour at the beginning of the year,” I say. “I told you all that.” “Just confirming it for the record,” she says, typing madly on her iPad. “Now what else can you tell us about the security in that office?” “The display cabinet is kept locked and the office is kept locked except when Dr Hussein is actually in it. So basically it’s impossible,” I say, flinging myself back against the pillows on Lael’s bed. “We’re not a gang of professional burglers. There’s no way we’re getting anywhere near that shield. We might as well just give up right now.” “Nonsense!” Lael says sternly. “We don’t do giving up. What we need is some inside information. Now which of you have friends or boyfriends staying in Gumede House?” There’s a silence as we all look around at each other. “Well...” I say. “I suppose there’s always my brothers...” Lael pulls a doubtful face. “They’re a bit young.” “I know. They’re approximately the last people I’d trust to break into a maximum-security office, but they are male and they do live in Gumede House.” “No, that’s no good,” Nosipho says. “Dr Hussein’s office is on the first floor, which is where the Grade 11s have their dormitory. Ideally we’d want a Grade 11 boy helping us. The only problem is, I don’t know any.
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Lael, Priya, and Yasmin also shake their heads. “All my male friends are day boys,” says Priya. “Me too.” “And me.” A depressed silence falls. I know I haven’t been very enthusiastic about this idea, but it’s a bit annoying to fall at the first hurdle like this. Nosipho heaves a sigh and Yasmin shakes her head. They all look so defeated. Then a tiny little light goes on in the back of my head. “Hey, wait a minute!” I say. “Just hang on a minute. I do know one of the Grade 11 boys. I know James Ellison.” “Oh, right.” Lael perks up. “I’d forgotten about that. How well do you know him? Would he help us with something like this?” I think of James’ cocky grin and bad-boy attitude. “In a heartbeat.” “Excellent!” says Lael. “His first job is surveillance. We need him to watch Dr Hussein’s office and see if there’s ever a time when the gate is left standing open. And also where the key to the display cabinet is kept. That kind of thing, okay?” “Okay. But let’s say he finds the office standing open, with the key hanging in the lock. Shouldn’t he just pinch the shield and hand it over to us?” Lael turns a shocked face towards me. “Absolutely not! That’s the last thing he should do. It doesn’t count if a boy pinches it for us. It has to be a girl who takes it because we’re striking a blow for women’s liberation here.” “Right.” With an effort that makes my muscles creak, I manage not to roll my eyes.
72 Fiona Snyckers
“Don’t forget the alarm,” Yasmin reminds us. “As soon as someone lifts the shield out of the case, a scaryass alarm is going to go off.” “And it’s wired through to an armed response team,” I add. “So a bunch of guys with guns will arrive five minutes after the alarm goes off.” There’s a short silence. “Well, anyway...” Lael goes on. “Surveillance is what we need. A full and detailed surveillance report. Agent Luhabe, can we leave it to you to brief your assistant Ellison in this matter?” “You can,” I say solemnly. “Then this meeting is adjourned.” I walk out of Lael’s cubicle and do a jumpy little double-take as I see Sophie standing there. How long has she been there and how much did she hear? Then I notice she’s still holding her violin case and I relax. She must have just come in. “Hey, Trinity,” she says with an easy smile. “Looking forward to your date with Zach tomorrow?” “Sure...” I say, cautiously. “It’s not really a date, though. We’re just going to hang out for a while in the afternoon. No biggie.” “Of course it’s a big deal,” she counters. “Zach Morris doesn’t just invite girls to hang out with him. It means he really likes you. What?” she adds as she notices the other girls staring at her. “Nothing!” says Nosipho, shutting her mouth, which was hanging open. “We’re wondering why you’re being so nice to Trinity,” Lael explains. “I must say, I haven’t figured it out myself yet.”
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“Don’t be silly!” Sophie laughs. “Trinity and I have been friends forever.” “Hmm...” Lael gives her a long, hard look. “Hey, I bet he takes you up to his room tomorrow!” says Sophie, turning back to me. I blink at her. “Takes me to his room? He can’t do that. The Postmatric Annexe is strictly off-limits for girls. Except for the common room, and even then you have to be signed in to get that far.” Sophie smiles patronisingly. “You don’t know Zach. Sneaking girls into his room is what he does. He had a hectic reputation at Hilton. I bet he finds some way of smuggling you up.” *** As I settle down into bed after lights-out, a little wriggle of something that isn’t just nerves squirms through my tummy. The last few days I’ve been mostly excited, but just a little bit nervous about my date with Zach. What Sophie said about him taking me up to his room has added a whole new level of terror to the mix. I honestly thought we’d just hang out at school somewhere. In my wildest dreams, I saw us maybe holding hands. Maybe even kissing a bit. Actually, I thought the kissing was far-fetched. This is Zach Morris we’re talking about. What are the chances he’s really interested in a Grade 10 like me? But now Sophie, who knows him better than any of us, thinks he’s going to take me up to his room.
74 Fiona Snyckers
Her words keep going around in my head. He had a hectic reputation at Hilton ... I bet he finds some way of smuggling you in. Butterflies are turning somersaults in my tummy. A hectic reputation. We all know what that means, don’t we? It means he’s had lots and lots of girlfriends, and was having full-on sex with all of them. I wonder how many girlfriends he’s had? Three, maybe? Or four? Okay, let’s be realistic and say six. So that’s six girlfriends that he’s had sex with ... probably ... fifty times each? Six times fifty equals 300. So realistically speaking, he’s had sex approximately 300 times. Which is 300 times more than I have. I swallow and draw the duvet tight around my neck. I was stupid not to have figured this out before. I mean, this guy’s a postmatric, for goodness’ sake. A gorgeous, stunning, postmatric from one of the poshest boys’ schools in the country. Of course he’s had sex loads of times. And of course he’s going to expect me to have sex with him. Tomorrow. In his room. Which he will have smuggled me up into. Oh, God. He’ll expect me to know all sorts of stuff, won’t he? Like techniques and positions and all that. And I only know approximately five positions. Okay, seven, if you stretch your imagination a bit. But there are whole books full of positions, aren’t there? Like that one, the Kama Sutra whatchamacallit. I should probably look it up on the internet. Try to swot up a few positions before tomorrow. I give a huge yawn.
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Don’t want to look like I’m smuggling designer handbags under my eyes tomorrow. and finally fall asleep. 76 Fiona Snyckers . I give another yawn.At last I’m getting sleepy.
That confidence puts a spring in my step as I head for the tuckshop. bright sunlight.” Team Trinity 77 . I wanted to get there at 3. I decided not to wear jeans for a change. making me jump.02 as I arrive and start scanning the groups of kids hanging around. So it’s approximately 3. “Hold it right there. “Okay.” I hear the shutter of a cellphone camera. On Friday afternoons.” a voice says behind me. I’ve teamed it with a frilly strappy top and a pair of gladiator sandals. I want to remember how gorgeous you look. “Don’t move for a second.05. It’s long enough to hide my butt and thighs. boarders are allowed to change into civvies unless we’re taking part in some official school function.CHAPTER 12 WHEN THE bell goes for the end of the day at twentypast two on Friday afternoon. which are the best parts of my legs. When I step out of Sisulu House into the sharp. I hurtle back to Sisulu House to change out of my uniform. I know I’m looking good. I’ve got my outfit all laid out on my bed. but didn’t quite have the nerve. Zach said three o’clock. but short enough to show off my calves and ankles. We’re not supposed to wear makeup at school. but I swipe on some coloured lipgloss anyway. but opted for a flirty little skirt instead. you can move now.
“So did you see the fight last night?” Zach asks between mouthfuls. “Did you just take a picture of the back of my head?” I ask.” I think it’s much more likely that every girl in school is wishing she was me. although I like to think the front view isn’t too bad either. slinging an arm over my shoulders as we walk up to the tuckshop counter. “No ESPN in Sisulu House. “Just a still water. and hands me my water. I listen 78 Fiona Snyckers . I almost say “what fight?” when I suddenly remember that I’m supposed to be a big fan of cage-fighting. thanks. it was great!” He launches into a long description of a fight between a Russian and a Costa Rican. but no guy has ever said something like that to me before.” Zach gets himself a toasted sandwich and a can of cooldrink. Do you have any idea how pretty you look today? I bet every guy in school wishes he was me right now.” “It’s lovely. no.. “Would you like something?” he asks.” I say. “Uh . I feel all lit up from the inside..” He grins back. but then I remember how bubbly they are – I don’t want to spend the whole afternoon burping. “You’re lovely. getting out his wallet. We perch on the low wall around the fountain while he eats. “Yes. thinking fast.I turn around to see Zach slipping his phone into his pocket. I’m about to ask for a Coke Zero. “Is that a problem?” “No. remember? So what happened?” “Oh. smiling at him.” he says. I should really keep tabs on the TV guide to see when these things are happening.
” Sophie adds. And now she’s coming over. enjoying having nothing urgent to do. guys!” she says. Specifically. “How’s it going?” “All right. Sophie. but I know she’s seen me. I notice Sophie Agincourt standing in a noisy group near the swimming pool. with plans to meet up on the weekend. she’s turning around and totally zeroing in on me.” he says. She has her back to me. “We’ve been friends since Grade 1. “I’ve hardly seen you since Howick in December.” What was fun? What? “Well. Yes.” Team Trinity 79 . The day kids are drifting home. BEEP BEEP BEEP. It’s beeping now. I know it is. I’m still not convinced that she doesn’t like Zach. BEEP BEEP BEEP. I’ll be there over Easter again. And the term boarders like me are just hanging out. How can she not like him? “Hi.with half an ear while keeping an eye on what’s going on around us. and who is looking green with envy. See you then?” “Sure. It starts beeping when we’re within a thirty metre radius of each other. Most people are just getting on with their normal Friday afternoon stuff. The weekly boarders are packing up their stuff and waiting for their parents to collect them. lying like the sociopath she is. who has noticed that we’re hanging out together. That was fun. He’s practically a Greek god.” he says. “I didn’t know you knew Trinity. I mean. and you?” I answer guardedly. look at him. “Hey. look. We should do it again. Sophie has foolproof radar when it comes to me.
We watch her leave in silence. “Abel Luhabe. but that’s not why I’m hanging out with Trinity. the billionaire mining guy? The one who was on Robben Island?” She drills the point home. She sees my family connections as an asset that I should exploit.” She truly thought that if Zach didn’t already know who my dad was. I smile weakly. Like she was trying to imply that Zach is only interested in me because of my family’s money. “Trinity’s a great girl. “But not too much fun!” she adds. You know who her father is. you should try Sophie Agincourt on for size. “See what a keeper this guy is?” Then she blows kisses to both of us and goes on her way. she would be doing me a favour by telling him. those were her exact words. “Very useful contact for you when you’re looking for a job. But I know Sophie.“Really? I didn’t know that. telling us to have fun. That’s enough reason for me. right?” I glare at Sophie.” There’s another millisecond pause. If by friends. I suppose it’s true enough. your family is an asset that you really should exploit more. In fact. Zach pauses for a second and then nods.” Sophie gives me a raised-eyebrow look as though to say. I’m practically the Dalai Lama.” Zach turns to me. 80 Fiona Snyckers . She’s gorgeous and funny and likes the same stuff as I do. Next to her. I’m so glad you guys are getting to know each other. “I know about that. giving a cheeky little wave. If you think I’m shallow and materialistic. but she’s not looking at me. “Trinity. you mean mortal enemies. Zach. You might think that bit about my dad was meant to be bitchy. Then Zach shakes his head.
Come in. I’m about to point out that it’s a plastics-only bin.“Trinity?” Zach is saying..” he says. “I want to be able to talk to you in peace and not be interrupted all the time. I sound like the clueless virgin in a movie. waving his hand in front of my face. “Oh. sure . “I was saying that we should really go somewhere more comfortable. “I was thinking of the Postmatric Annexe rather. right. I shouldn’t be sounding like one.” My heart gives a huge thud and my eyes fly up to meet his.” “Sorry about that. I imagine us running into all my friends there. You were saying?” Zach lobs his can and sandwich wrapper into the nearest rubbish bin. I want to kick myself. “Your room?” I say.” As I listen to my own voice bleating on. sounding a bit hoarse. “But that’s against the rules.” “Actually. but that’s beside the point. Zach leans forward until his lips are almost touching my ear. “I was thinking more along the lines of my room.” he says. Although the moment the words are out of my mouth. A first date is not a great time to turn into a nag.. Team Trinity 81 . I am a virgin.. “Earth to Trinity. Trinity.. although it feels a bit weird being the only girl in the common room. “Have you never done something that was against the rules?” A delicious shiver goes down my spine. but I stop myself in time. isn’t it? No girls allowed up in the rooms.” “How about the Sisulu House common room?” I suggest. I mean. I zoned out for a minute.” Zach brushes a finger against my cheek and hooks a strand of hair behind my ear.
Then he takes my hand and starts pulling me in the direction of the boarding-houses. I mean.” As he dives into the Annexe. Perhaps I can still slip off to the loo and look it up on my phone. I thought it was impossible..” he breathes against my cheek.. shut up. He pulls back and grins at me like a little boy. halfrunning. We might even be expelled. way against the rules. I was just saying to Lael last night. Kama Sutra..” says Zach. half-walking. Shut. “Just wait around out here while I go and do a quick recce inside. “Come on! I can’t wait to show you how to do it. It’s really happening. brushing his lips against my ear. I’m aware of little beats of panic hammering away inside my chest..” I agree. Underneath the manic excitement. “But . This is it..“Of . I wander casually up towards Gumede House with my phone clenched in my hand. wow. How the heck do you spell that anyway? I try “Karma Sutra” and end up with a 82 Fiona Snyckers .” he says. “In fact. Trinity. And I never did get the chance to Google the Kama Sutra. peering into the gloom of the Annexe. my friend Lael and I are planning something way.” “Nothing’s impossible.. “Try to make it look like you’re waiting for someone to come out of Gumede House.” I stammer. Just. of course I have. Okay..” I follow Zach down to the Postmatric Annexe.. we’ll be in so much trouble. We arrive at the door out of breath. quick. and giggling all the way. Up. “N-no.. “Well then you won’t object to breaking this one tiny rule.” Okay. but how? I mean.. if we get caught .
covering it completely.” he says.” This doesn’t look very promising to me. He opens the neck as wide as it will go.” “But what if we run into someone else? Like the warden. “Okay. What on earth? I swear. There are other cameras inside. “Come on!” He grabs my hand and pulls me into the Annexe. I’ll. this is how it works. still keeping out of the sight of the camera. “So basically what we need to do is distract the guard so that he leaves his post. darn it.. he pulls me around the corner and backs me against the wall. “I never noticed that before.” “It’s monitored by a security guard who sits in a little office inside the Annexe.. “Trinity!” Too late. It’s just a live-feed.” I say. It’s tilted away from us.. if my mom has gone and installed a net-nanny app on my phone again. “Huh. for example. he starts tossing the bag up towards the camera. holding me pinned to the wall with his arm. but instead of joining me in the doorway. “You see that camera?” I crane my neck forward and spot a security camera on a sort of gooseneck thingy mounted high up in the entrance to the Annexe. trust me.. Then. On his fourth try it lands neatly over the camera.” “There’s no one around on a Friday afternoon. watch this.book about a South African doctor. I trot over. Zach is waving at me from the door of the Annexe. Okay. Then we just slip you into my room.” He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a black nylon bag with a long string attached to it. We slip into the little room near the entrance Team Trinity 83 . but none of them are recorded.” “Okay.
Zach gives the long piece of string a sharp tug and quickly reels the black nylon bag back in and stuffs it into his backpack. I can’t expect him never to have had any girlfriends before. Soon we both hear footsteps creaking on the floorboards as someone comes down the passage. and along another passage. He seems to be listening for something.” He’s looking hugely pleased with himself. Zach pushes me out of sight. We both almost fall inside and he slams and locks the door behind us. up some stairs.where guests have to sign in. Of course he’s had practice. “Told you – nothing’s impossible. I’m going out with an older man now. Then I give myself a shake. but sticks his head into the corridor. you are good!” I say. Then Zach produces a key and opens one of the doors with a flourish. We walk quickly along the passage. for goodness sake. Two seconds later a man in a security uniform walks past the door carrying a screwdriver. I only really enjoy it if it’s an extra-foamy. “Coffee?’ he asks. The thought flits into my mind that the reason he’s so good at getting girls into his room is that he’s had a lot of practice at it – just like Sophie said. spooning two heaped teaspoons of Ricoffy into a mug. “Wow. I wince.” The truth is I have an ambivalent relationship with coffee. Zach grabs my hand and hustles me out the room. Once again. We grin at each other. The 84 Fiona Snyckers . “Do you have any tea?” “Sure. He’s nineteen.” “Great. extra-sweet frappuccino from Vida. thanks.
making my heart go skippity-skip. with all the pens lined up on his desk in size order. but that’s because I’m comparing it to my cubicle. stop thinking about it. and lots of pics of himself taking part in all kinds of scary stuff. My eyes keep being drawn to it. “What are you doing?” Zach’s voice breaks in on my thoughts. it would have seemed quite pokey. I’ll deal with it then.. it happens. His bed is neatly made with hospital corners and a wrinkle-free bedspread. I notice. I always do that. Right now it looks amazingly spacious to me.. I’m just jiggling the teabag around with the spoon to make the tea stronger. We’d kiss for ages. trying to get it over my head.” “You know if you just leave it to steep for five minutes.thought of Zach’s super-strong instant with only a splash of milk makes me shudder. and a tidy little pile of work placed in the exact middle of the desk. and then at my hands clutching my mug. It’s not possible for someone to Team Trinity 85 . If I’d seen it straight after coming from my own room at home. and then he’d start tugging at my top . I’m trying to imagine Zach and me falling onto the bed. Oh God. you’ll get the same effect. “Sorry?” I look up blankly. He’s got pictures of cage-fighting and other extreme sports all over his walls.. like scuba-diving and parachuting. but I hate waiting for things. I look around his room while he makes tea for me. I know. “Oh.. clutched in a passionate embrace.” “Yes. If it happens.” A slow smile spreads over Zach’s face. He’s a bit of a neat freak.
and are still making music. Avril Lavigne is about as hard rock as I get. I close my eyes and kind of lean towards him. “Lynryd Skynryd.. That was just a peck. Trinity. what are we listening to?” I ask as screaming guitars and fast-pounding drums start up. I’m left leaning forward with my eyes closed like an idiot. with a pair of serious-looking speakers attached. For one magical moment his mouth lands on mine.have such perfectly even white teeth. so that wasn’t the big one. “That’s what I love about you. Then 86 Fiona Snyckers . Okay.” he says. I open my eyes and rock back into place. “I’m a modern rock freak. It’s really awesome. and then it’s gone again. feeling a bit flustered. firm and warm. Or such gorgeous blue eyes and dark eyelashes. This is some of their new stuff. “Er . He’s going to kiss me! He’s really going to kiss me. Zach tells me all about Lynryd Skynryd’s origins in the 1970s and how the band disbanded when three of their members were killed in a plane crash. Normally.. As his face gets nearer. “Shall we listen to some music?” Zach jumps up before I can answer and starts fiddling with his iPod. and how ten years later they got back together again. but my heart belongs to hip hop. The big one is sure to come later. I have to lip-read what he’s saying because the music’s so loud. I wouldn’t say I hate it exactly. but after a while he turns it down. “You’re so impatient.” Then he leans forward to where I’m sitting perched on the corner of his chair.” I sip my tea and listen to the wailing vocals and screeching instrumentals of what I privately think of as “white people’s music”.” he says. It’s in a docking station on his bookcase.
“You weren’t thinking of going to that.” he laughs.. “How do I get out of here? We can’t use that same trick with the bag again. can we?” “Getting out is much easier than getting in. and then he rushes me out the way I came. were you? Those things are so lame they need their own wheelchair. I was just about to say that Sisulu House will be really quiet while everyone else is at the social. well . I jump up. stalling for time. How did that happen? I feel like I just got here.” Team Trinity 87 .” Zach does a quick scout around the corridors to make sure no one is hanging about. “Of course I’m not going to it.. we separate so that it looks as though I’ve just arrived from outside. We’re going to make it look like you were just meeting me at the entrance.” I don’t miss a beat. and I manage not to hurl at all the virtual blood flying around. “Next Friday evening?” I repeat. “The guard only reacts when he sees a girl coming in. Once we’re out the door.he shows me the new cage-fighting game app on his iPad. His friends are going to come knocking on the door to talk about plans for the evening. “Um .. I take a look at my phone and see that it’s nearly six. you know it’s the boarders’ social then?” “Yes. I walk closely behind him that the camera will only see one person.” he says. “Are you going to be in next Friday evening?” Zach asks as he walks me back to Sisulu House. nervous again. Because then he comes to make sure she signs in. As we approach the camera at the entrance. Then Zach says it’s probably not safe for me to hang around in his room much longer..
of course. he whips me into his arms and brings his lips down on mine in a crushing kiss. Well. “But why?” He looks honestly puzzled. “if you can make it. The guys and I are going out that night. And they talk about them. but we won’t be back late. trying to sound more casual. He’s got me bent over so far backwards that my hair is almost dragging on the ground. No biggie if you can’t. Just when I feel like I’m going to pass out. most of them shooting sidelong glances at us. It’s so obvious that even Zach notices. “Uh huh. Not exactly hideous. “Well.” I whisper back. “I mean. “So I guess I’ll see you next week. 88 Fiona Snyckers . he pulls me up straight and lets go. Girls notice these things.” Then he puts his hands in his pockets and walks away whistling. He reaches out a finger and chucks me under the chin. Rugby star.” “Then let’s give them something to talk about.” “That would be great!” I say enthusiastically.“Cool. I stagger and almost fall. you’re kind of a celebrity in these parts.” I say with a smile. “Is it just me or are all those girls trying to pretend they’re not staring at us?” “It’s not just you. “Hilton Old Boy. I can practically hear the gasps of amazement around us.” I add.” “Really?” He looks around with more interest. They are staring.” We’re at Sisulu House now. I’ll probably stop by some time to see you.” Before my mind can even begin to compute what’s happening. There are lots of girls milling about. I feel like I’m in a Mills & Boon novel. Cricket star.
They’re comparing outfits. super-excited about my first social as a boarder. In tracksuit pants. If there’s one thing that freaks Lael out (there are quite a few things. Normally I’d be right in the middle of it. The air is thick with deodorant. staring down at me with her hands on her hips. and trying to force their hair into scary up-dos. I need to think before I speak. WHAT’S wrong with this picture?” Lael asks. and she’s not shy about letting you know what she thinks. “You. Everyone’s getting ready for the social.” she says. She’s not going to let this go easily. I need to play it carefully. perfume and hairspray. it’s the girl who gives up her own plans to wait around at home for some guy. but this is a big one). So unless I want a huge row in here. “What do you mean?” I lift my Heat magazine higher to hide my face.CHAPTER 13 “OKAY. borrowing clothes and shoes. When you’re supposed to be getting ready for the social. Don’t tell me you’re so in lurrrve you’ve forgotten about it?” I lower my magazine slightly to peep up at her. The feminist in her strongly disapproves of such behaviour. Lying on your bed. Reading a magazine. Team Trinity 89 . with Priya and Nosipho and everyone joining in. “I mean this. She has a very determined look on her face. waving her hand at me.
” “Hmmm. babe. Trinity. all right!” I fling my magazine down on the bed. “You’ve got me. instead of staying here and moping. I admit it! I’m not going because Zach isn’t going to be there. Did you think he would? Sorry. “I just don’t really feel like it. What’s the real reason? Come on. Don’t make me choke it out of you. “Nonsense..” she says. Why would you want to skip it?” “No reason. which is way better than suspicious. “I haven’t forgotten about the social. “I’m sooo disappointed. “He’s not in Gumede House. That’s not how it works.” I say casually.” She’s looking all sympathetic now.I can’t pretend I’m not sorry to be missing it. “I just thought I’d give it a skip tonight. Come on! There’s a rumour your brothers are going to slip a bottle of vodka into the non-alcoholic punch. putting a bit of a tremor into my voice. Because I am – very sorry.” I say cautiously as Lael looms over my bed. of course he’s not going to be there.” Her eyes gleam with suspicion. Tell you what. We’re just going to have a bit of a dance and a laugh.” What?” she booms. “I don’t believe you.” I say. that’s all. there’s really no choice.” “Well. looking puzzled. “Aww! Don’t be sad. Get up at once and start getting ready.” 90 Fiona Snyckers . But when it comes to a choice between dancing the night away with a bunch of Gumede House boys and possibly seeing Zach again. you should come along anyway. It’s just one night..” “Oh. is he? The postmatrics never come to these socials.
” Lael relents. in that case. I’ve got a terrible case of the yawns.” I add. I’m going to have a long bubble-bath and an early night. Team Trinity 91 . “Well. they can’t understand why I’m bailing like this. “But if you change your mind you can always get dressed and come up to the hall. I’ll bring everyone else down. so sleeping is not an option. Their faces clear and they start drifting back to their own cubicles.Now Yasmin. But staying behind makes me feel like putting my head down and having a long nap. Goodness knows why. “I know I’m being silly. I smile weakly. “Plus I’m premenstrual. There’s just Matron and a couple of her staff left. If I’d gone to the social. I’d be wide awake and ready to party right now. Nosipho and Priya are also crowding around my bed and urging me to get up. And since they all know me as a party animal of note.” I can tell by the looks on their faces that none of them finds this a very tempting prospect. I have a terrible fear of Zach ringing the bell at 11pm and me staggering down to meet him with bed-hair and a pillow-crease down the middle of my face. We’ll be going strong until about midnight.” *** By nine everyone has left and I’m practically all alone in Sisulu House. Okay. Maybe I’ll go down to the common room and watch some TV. but I really don’t feel like it. okay. clutching a continental pillow pathetically to my tummy.
but then I also shrug. A quick check in the mirror tells me I’ve nailed it. “Why aren’t you at the social?” He gives a huge shrug. Black work-out pants (they’re from Lorna Jane and are very flattering to the butt and thighs). “Oh. except that Zach is going to come around here to visit me later when he gets 92 Fiona Snyckers . Why isn’t she going to be there?” A thought occurs to me. and a pair of jewelled slipslops. I just don’t see the point of going. I spot James hanging out in the common room. “Ag. what’s the point? My girlfriend’s not going to be there. tank top with ruffled. “What’s wrong?” I ask. and I don’t feel like dancing with anyone else.I change into my not-trying-too-hard. As I reach the ground floor. quite pleased to see him. Something about this guy makes me want to just be myself. hi!” I say. I brush my hair and don’t put on any makeup apart from a smudge of lip-gloss.” He looks at me more carefully. “Does she even go to Brentwood?” “She used to. “Sort of for the same reason as you. but her parents moved away. sweetheart neckline (also very flattering).” “I didn’t even know you were dating someone. just-spendinga-quiet-night-in outfit that I’ve been planning all day. “And what about you? Why aren’t you going to the dance?” For a moment I think about giving him the whole I-just-don’t-feel-like-it lie. I pick up my Heat magazine and head downstairs. “Are you waiting to take someone to the social?” He gives me a grumpy look that tells me I’m way off the mark.
honestly. Do you think I want you to lie to me?” “Well. And what kind of word is that anyway – sap? Who says that?” “It’s different for me. I would have gone. are you happy now?” “It doesn’t make me happy to see you making a sap of yourself over a guy. dude. And seriously. Would you like some coffee?” “Yes. “No. please. “Aren’t you going to offer me some coffee?” he asks as I practically throw a teabag into a mug. ja. It sounds common coming from a young girl’s mouth.” “So? You’re making a sap of yourself over a girl. why are you in such a foul mood? Did someone take your rubber ducky away this morning?” This gets a tiny smile out of him.” “Common? What century are you living in?” Still muttering to myself. don’t you think?” “I suppose. you would have gone to the dance?” I hesitate for a second.” “Ja.” I snap. “Honestly?” “Yes. I flounce over to the coffee table to make myself a drink. Must be nice to be a postmatric with your own car and everything. yes. White with one sugar. There.” I make the drinks and put his mug down in front of him with a click that almost spills some coffee.” “Don’t call you what?” “Dude. “So are you saying that if he weren’t coming to visit. of course. all right then. Team Trinity 93 . no. “Oh.” he says. ‘Don’t call me that. okay.back with his friends. of course it is. This guy is unbelievable. There’s a beat of silence and then I relent. grumpier than ever.
I don’t think you know what you’re getting yourself into..” “Uh huh?” “You will be careful with this Zach guy. inexperienced. He doesn’t have to follow the same rules as you do.” “It’s just that you seem young. “Sometimes you sound like my grandfather. I’m just about to suggest switching on the TV when he clears his throat.” “Three years is nothing when you’re twenty-five and he’s twenty-eight.” “Only by three years. won’t you?” “What do you mean?” “I mean he’s quite a bit older than you.” I put in quickly.” I remind him. it’s a lot.” This time he smiles a real smile. Three years is nothing. so now I’ve got a sign on my forehead that says “virgin”. He’s got his own car.” “Hey. have I? The cheek of this guy. We sit together in companionable silence for a minute... The one that crinkles up his eyes and makes him seem somehow older than me. “Three years is not ‘quite a bit’. So he’s a bit of a bad boy – do you really think that’s going to put me off? Have you never watched Gossip Girl?” 94 Fiona Snyckers . and.” I say as I sit down opposite him.“That bad mood of yours must be catching.” he goes on. “He’s been a boarder since he was eight years old. Inexperienced – what does he mean by that? “Zach is different. but at your age..” Oh.” This makes me laugh. “That must be why I’m feeling better now – I’ve passed it onto you. you’re practically the same age as me. “Because now I’ve got it. and kind of .. “And I don’t think you know girls very well. “Trinity..” I can’t help laughing.
This is a sore point at the moment. it’s not as though he likes me himself – he made that perfectly clear at our first meeting. Or in guys. because he just keeps on at me. they’re not in class together. for that matter. and they don’t like the fact that. in his usual racist way. Mom always said she wouldn’t let me have a varsity boyfriend until I was at varsity myself. As I watch the disapproval harden in his eyes. but I can tell they’re worried. because my parents aren’t too thrilled about me going out with a postmatric boy either. Team Trinity 95 . I turn away from him and start flicking through my phone to pick up some Facebook messages. So. and going out with Zach is kind of pushing the boundaries. all in all. They haven’t exactly forbidden me to see him. I start to feel annoyed. I’ve been keeping my mom up to date on BBM. And it’s not as though he really knows Zach either.The look on his face tells me that a) he has never watched Gossip Girl. They don’t stay in the same boarding house. She’s not overly keen on the old-school-tie types that Sophie’s family knows. Who is this guy to judge me for going out with Zach? I mean. they don’t play for the same sports teams. strictly speaking. and I speak to her and my dad every couple of days. and b) he doesn’t think much of my taste in TV series. he’s out of school. How could James possibly know anything about him? He couldn’t. But he still seems to think he’s got the right to slag Zach off. They also think the age gap is too big. I told her that Sophie Agincourt knew his family. I’m in no mood for being lectured by James. But apparently he’s not fluent in body language. but that didn’t reassure her much. and tell me how to live my life.
” He’s looking at me like I’m being deliberately thick. “Why couldn’t you have gone to the dance first and seen Zach afterwards? I bet he told you not to go.. it’s. but that doesn’t make me any less black. trying to remember what we learned in History. “Coloureds.. Nobody likes a girl who makes herself too easy. “And what people would those be?” “You know. Trinity..” My heart is starting to beat uncomfortably fast.. Boys like a bit of a challenge. “Grooving?” I scoff. I’m sure it’s the same with your people. oh why. ‘Coloured’ means something else.” “My people?” I repeat dangerously.” “For the last time.” I wave my hands around in frustration. “He didn’t like the idea of you grooving with the Gumede House boys. They like a girl who plays hard to get. don’t I pay more attention in class? “It’s this group of people who have a common history involving slavery 96 Fiona Snyckers . right?” My eyes fly up to meet his. The Coloured community is . “Where did you learn your slang – some old movie from the 1960s?” He refuses to be diverted. How does he know that? Could he have overheard us? “I’m right.“And what about tonight. so he made sure you were waiting here for him like some Cinderella he can keep on ice until it suits him to see you. a girl doesn’t make herself more attractive to a boy when she puts herself at his beck and call.. “When will you get that into your head? I might be of mixed race. wondering if steam is starting to rise from my ears. Trinity?” he goes on. I am black!” I hiss at him. “You know. aren’t I?” he persists. but I refuse to let it show. didn’t he? Probably told you it was childish or something.. Why.
like. Trinity.) We’ve also watched the last half of a Mad Men episode. He must be a hardcore fan because he kept pointing out to me how some brand of cigar the actors were smoking wasn’t a hundred per cent authentic and how they really should have made the lapels on Don Draper’s suit wider or something.” I make a noise that sounds like “aaarrgh!” and grab hold of the TV remote. And you can tell him I said so.” Now he’s pursing his mouth up into a kind of cat’s bum expression. including some cage-fighting programme. Team Trinity 97 . I can hear James muttering about how we should watch that seeing as I’m so keen on martial arts these days. three hundred years ago. I’ll need a buffer between me and this pest. hoping to find a watchable movie or something decent on the Series Channel. but seriously? Yum. As I flip quickly through the sports channels. weren’t you in class in Grade 9? We learned all about it then. Okay. I ignore him. I know he’s old now. Of course.and stuff that started in the Western Cape. I flick through channels. which James really seemed to enjoy. we have watched most of Pride and Prejudice (The Colin Firth one. What else can you do with such a maddening person? *** Two hours later. For goodness’s sake. “You really shouldn’t shout like that. It’s most unattractive in a young girl. If I’m going to make it through the evening.
If he were going to come and visit you.” says James.But now we have totally run out of stuff to watch. is it? You’re not Zach and he’s not you. But just as he’s leaving. Where is Zach? Why hasn’t he come like he promised? And why are his friends more important to him than I am? “Okay then. why don’t you just go now? You also have to be out of here at twelve.” “Nonsense. “Goodnight. And who knows when I’ll run into him again? 98 Fiona Snyckers .” James stands up and moves silently towards the door. he would be here by now. remember?” “Is that what you want?” he asks. not looking at him. I remember that I was supposed to ask him something. “Do you really want me to go?” He’s looking all hurt now. you know. but I can’t bring myself to care. He’s probably on his way back with his friends and is going to pop by for a few minutes before twelve. I hate him for saying out loud what I’ve thinking for the last hour. “Zach.” I say. “He’s not coming.” “Goodnight. it’s not you. “Who?” I snap.” “If it were me. He knows no visitors are allowed into the common room after midnight on a Friday. well. You have no idea what he was doing tonight and nor do I. of course. I’d want to spend as much of my Friday night as possible with my girlfriend. I wouldn’t be interested in what my friends were doing. It’s half-past eleven and I just can’t help glancing at my watch every thirty seconds.” “Yes. Trinity. In fact.
” For a second I can’t see him at all.. of course we don’t want you to do the actual stealing. “Please come back. I know. If I forget again. I tell him about the old rumour that the school would let it spend six months of every year in Sisulu House if any girl ever succeeded in pinching it. I need to speak to you. “You can’t possibly want me to steal the shield for you because that won’t count. really need to ask you something.” “No.“Wait!” I shout.” For a moment he hesitates. “Just hang on a minute. on the second floor . I really. I was just upset about Zach not turning up and I took it out on you. I need to speak to you. I’m really sorry. Unless you lie about how you got it. where the Grade 11 boys have their dormitory. my friends are going to kill me. We just Team Trinity 99 . He looks back enquiringly.” “I thought you couldn’t wait to get rid of me.. And that said headmaster’s office is in Gumede House . “And what’s this all got to do with me?” he asks.” he says stiffly. “I know. which would lose you a lot of respect. and I’m sorry... Then I remind him that it’s kept in the headmaster’s office with a state-of-the-art security system. “So what’s up? What the big emergency?” I take a deep breath and tell him all about the Gumede House Shield and our plans to steal it and put it in the Sisulu House display cabinet. but then I spot him halfway down the corridor with his hands in his pockets doing his Elvis Presley walk. Please come back and sit down. but then he heads back into the common room. We’ll totally take care of that ourselves.
I know. and even if it does. I see that it’s already five minutes to midnight. And that’s the point – the shield should belong to everyone. “Yes.” “So you’ll help us?” “Well . But it won’t happen this year. but yes. I think I could just about manage that. Not even I can kid myself that Zach is still going to appear. “Simone de who’s that now?” “Nothing. “You feminists are getting completely out of hand with your Simone de Beauvoir and what-not. not just to the boys. As I wander back into the common room. 100 Fiona Snyckers . “Oh..need you to do a recce of Dr Hussein’s office.” “Never mind your irrelevant interruptions. I’ve been stood up – it’s as simple as that.” he says. don’t worry.. the shield will still stay in Gumede House. yes.” I stare at him. thanks!” We arrange to meet for a report-back in about a week’s time and I finally let him go. I think you’re all completely cracked. It has to be a Grade 11 boy because you can hang around near his office and no one will get suspicious. Like find out where he keeps the keys to the cabinet and if there’s any way of to get around the security system. The point is this – do you think you could snoop around Dr Hussein’s office without being seen?” He gives a snort of laughter.” “You know they’re talking about moving his office out of Gumede House and into the administration building?” “Yes. I’ll help you.” “That’s brilliant.” He sighs wearily.
I start clearing away our mugs and find that James’ is still full. Team Trinity 101 . After all that. he didn’t even touch his coffee.
one-hundred-per cent definite date. It’s an official. The really hard part was that I had no one to talk to about it. I didn’t want to admit to Lael or any of my other friends that I’d lied about why 102 Fiona Snyckers . How we are supposed to concentrate in this weather. my chin propped in my hand. I should be feeling all irritable right now. But instead I’m blissfully happy. but I honestly cannot think of one good reason why I should be trying to learn one now. but they’re totally glazed over and my mind is a million trillion miles away. anyway. The theorems are all in the textbook. hot February day. I can’t pretend I wasn’t upset by his no-show on Friday. Maths is my least favourite subject.CHAPTER 14 I’M SITTING in Maths class. It’s easily 32 degrees outside. All you have to do is learn them off by heart for the exam. Especially when he BBMed me the next day and didn’t even mention it. I’m seeing Zach tonight. One of those muggy Joburg days where the clouds are building up dark purple in the south and you just know (and hope) that there’s going to be a massive thunderstorm at about halfpast four. and it’s not some vague “I might pop round later” arrangement. I have no idea. and my school shirt is clinging to my back. It’s a hot. My eyes may be pointing towards the board where the teacher is explaining some new geometry theorem. there’s no relief in sight. But until then.
What u wearing tonite??? I’ve spent the last two hours thinking about nothing else. Lael just BBMed me a question that I read under my desk. I’m pretty sure he never actually said he would come and visit me on Friday night. Instead I just acted friendly and normal. If I were still living at home I’d be dashing out this afternoon to buy myself a new outfit. So I didn’t nag Zach or reproach him or give him the cold shoulder. The party starts at half-past seven. Basically it wasn’t his fault at all – I was the one who jumped to conclusions. and he’d already told me what he thought. I’m so excited about this. I can hardly sit still. I’ve almost decided what I’m wearing – but not quite. I felt a lot better after that. Each postmatric can invite a maximum of two guests.I hadn’t gone to the social. and Zach is inviting me and only me! So at first break I dashed back to Sisulu House to ask Matron if I could go. When Zach messaged me the next day. he sounded so normal and friendly that I started seeing it from his point of view. because he’s invited me to a party at the Postmatric Annexe tonight. but as it is. I’m Team Trinity 103 . I’m the one who turned it into a definite thing. and I have to be back in my dorm by half-past nine. The only one who knew the whole story was James. He just said that he might pop by and that he’d probably see me then. or use any of the million-and-one tactics I’ve used on boys in the past. And today I got my reward. and she said yes.
I’ll look like an idiot. Lael’s right. Either lilac handkerchief-hem scoop-neck dress or black shift dress. Lael’s not concentrating because she’s already quite good at Maths. Tonight definitely calls for a dress. I’ll go crazy. I can see her holding her phone under the desk and frowning over my answer. Only problem is I can’t decide which one to choose. If we get bust messaging each other in class. About mid-knee is the perfect length for me. this party is probably very informal. and I’ve got two dresses that are exactly that long. I send Lael a quick reply. I’m normally careful with dresses. My phone flashes and I open her reply. Zach said they hold one party a term. Luckily the teacher is still facing the board. If I go over the top with my clothes. Because I’m a bit bottom-heavy I have to make sure that the skirt length doesn’t make me look more like a pear than necessary.restricted to what’s hanging in my cupboard. our phones will be confiscated for 24 hours. and I’m not concentrating because if I don’t get my outfit sorted for tonight. Lilac gorj but maybe too smart? Urgh – I didn’t think of that. Blk is nice. using her laser pointer to take us through the steps of the theorem. and the way he was talking about it made it sound like not that much of a big deal. So now what? “Trinity?” 104 Fiona Snyckers . Just some drinks and snacks.
ma’am?” “Would it be asking too much to suggest that you occasionally concentrate in my class?” All I can think of is my phone possibly having broken to pieces as it hit the floor. which hasn’t done wonders for my confidence. Especially Yasmin. Nosipho and Priya have been waving their clothes under my nose for me to try. The two dresses I was thinking of are far too smart for tonight. So now I’ve tried on everything in my cupboard and everything in Lael’s cupboard.The teacher’s voice snaps me to attention. The last thing I need is for it to be confiscated now. “Um . and nothing looks right. “Yes.. she turns back to the board. “You’re in no position to be daydreaming. Even Yasmin. but they’re all the wrong size. Lael was right. I jump and I drop my phone. thank goodness. My stress levels are through the roof as it is.. Your maths results so far have been nothing short of abysmal. I shove my chair back and scrabble on the floor for my phone. She’s so tiny that her dresses look like dolls’ clothes when I hold them up against me. then I put it away. or worse? But I don’t dare take a peek under my desk.” And then. sorry?” She clicks her tongue. Come and see me for extra homework after class. *** A few hours later.. coughing loudly to cover the sound of it hitting the floor. It’s still in one piece. So now Team Trinity 105 .. I heave a sigh of relief. Ms Luhabe. What if the screen cracked . I’m having a full-on meltdown. thank goodness.
then I honestly don’t know what you’re going to do.” I wail. switching the tears off at once. It’s Sophie. “Perhaps I can help. exasperated. I’m way beyond the point of being rational. That’s non-negotiable. Any moment now.” This makes me break out in fresh wails. If there’s one person I don’t like to fall apart in front of. Matron or one of her deputies is going to come steaming in here to see what all the fuss is about.I’ve got tears pouring down my face. and the thought that I’m going to have red eyes later makes me sob even harder. “Trinity’s going to the postmatric party with Zach tonight and she needs something to wear. That’s the kind of thing she’ll store up and use against me later. “Well. it’s her. It has to be a dress.” I say stubbornly. “You’ve got so many divine little tops that you could wear with jeans or pants. “What’s the problem?” Sophie asks Nosipho. I turn around. but I can’t seem to help it. Then she goes to her wardrobe 106 Fiona Snyckers . Why are you doing this to yourself?” “Zach has seen me in jeans and a top too many times. Trinity?” Lael says. “Why does it absolutely have to be a dress.” “And does that absolutely have to happen tonight?” “Yes.” I hear the slight weariness in Nosipho’s voice and realise that my friends are also sick of all the drama. But Sophie listens carefully. “I want him to see that I can do other looks too. Some small part of me is looking down on this scene and realising that I’m acting like a total drama queen.” says a soft voice behind us.
no. it’s a colour I never wear for a start – a sort of inky purple.” Sophie gives a satisfied smile. “Oh. no! You’re not doing this to me. but it’s just a cotton frock – the kind of dress you could easily wear on a sunny day. My hand seems to have a mind of its own. “You know. until the hem is almost black. Sophie. and the kind of A-line skirt that I like. who says nothing. no.and starts flicking efficiently through the clothes hanging there.” A chorus of agreement breaks out among the others. I’m making it sound quite formal. We both know you’re skinnier than me. “This has always been a bit big for me. I eye the dress she’s holding out to me with suspicion. and I just don’t care anymore. All except Sophie. Trinity. but that would look right in the evening too. I just know it’ll look gorgeous on you. that’s nice!” Lael says enthusiastically as I’m still pulling my arms through the dress. “I think I’ve got just the thing. No.” This almost makes me start crying again. “I knew you’d want to try it on. I hold my breath Team Trinity 107 . Try it on. You’re not going to humiliate me by making me try on something in a size 8. It has spaghetti straps. a bit of ruching over the bodice. because it’s already reaching out for the dress.” she says. I start flinging off my clothes in front of everyone.” Sophie says with a calm smile.” “Not at all. By now everyone knows I’m wearing mismatched underwear. getting darker on the way down. Then Sophie swishes it from side to side on the hanger and I notice that it’s lighter at the top. “That’s very nice. Okay. “Hey.
but something about the combination of Zach and Sophie does that to me. She’s taller. Trinity-in-my-head is way cooler than Trinity-in-themirror. It falls in a smooth.as she walks slowly around me. “It’s perfect!” she says. unable to bear her silence any longer. Every now and then I try on something that makes me look less like the Trinity I see all the time in the mirror and more like the Trinity who exists in my head. Sophie’s dress emphasises all my good points and plays down the bad ones. I have to be back here at half-past nine. My arms look toned and smooth.” “I’m not out to seduce him!” I hate how flustered I sound. Her face breaks into a smile. That’s what I look like now. “We’re just going to be at a party with loads of other people. and my legs look slimmer and longer than I know they are in real life. “If you don’t manage to seduce Zach in that dress. I’m sounding way too defensive. Immediately. Her hair always falls perfectly into place and she never has a shiny forehead or spots on her chin. you’re just not trying. 108 Fiona Snyckers . slimmer. To cover my embarrassment.” I shut up when I notice how amused everyone is looking. my waist looks tiny. I usually only look like this in fittingroom mirrors in shops. And anyway. I don’t know what they do to those mirrors to make everything you try on look good. It’s not like we’ll be allowed to slip off somewhere. flattering line from my shoulders to my knees. checking out the dress from all sides. “What do you think?” I ask. sexier. and more confident. I feel a lot better. I walk over to the full-length mirror on my cupboard door to take a look at myself.
Well. even if it is a bit formal for tonight. I’ve got no makeup on. I want you to knock Zach’s socks off.” I turn back to the mirror. so can I.. I decide. feeling all warm and fuzzy. I turn around to face the girls. But I’m looking in a normal mirror now. Then I’m struck by a horrible thought. my hair is all over the place. “So.. “Of course you can borrow it tonight. so then she could say. I won’t give her the satisfaction of seeing I’m upset. Sophie has changed – she really has. It’s Team Trinity 109 . really. And then you get the new clothes home. it’s fine. probably.” Sophie opens her big blue eyes as wide as they’ll go.” I say casually. “Can I actually borrow this for tonight? Because if not.Sprinkle them with fairy dust. If she won’t let me wear it. She’s been making a real effort to be nice to me ever since the beginning of the year. This is the dress I’m wearing tonight. Trinity. This is the dress for me. She must finally be forgetting about that silly Miss Sandton feud all those years ago. But I still look fantastic. I’m going to stop expecting the worst from her all the time. and they don’t look half as good in a normal mirror. if she can be that mature. are you nuts?” That’s exactly the kind of thing she’d do. I remind myself. What if Sophie was never really going to let me borrow it? What if she just wanted me to try it on to see how fabulous it looked. of course you can’t actually borrow it – what are you thinking. and there’s no trick lighting in here. Who says elephants can’t change their spots? I mean leopards. “No. I’ll just wear my black dress. That’s the whole point. I’ll be mature about it.” “Well . thanks. That’s very kind of you.
“So do you agree?” I ask as Lael hunts distractedly for a lost protractor.completely thanks to her that I’m in this relationship with Zach at all. It’s obvious she hasn’t heard a word I just said. We are alone in the dormitory. Actually. I’m grateful that I’m not living at home or I’d be much. “Agree with what?” “I just told you my whole theory about Sophie’s new leaf and you weren’t listening to a word of it. I went to a double session of supervised homework this afternoon and got a lot done. The thought of it makes me shiver. I’d probably still be lying in wait for him outside the Postmatric Annexe. She looks up blankly. I’m trying to calm my nerves by hanging out with Lael. *** Just before supper. not to mention all that extra maths homework I got landed with today. like that’s going to happen.” 110 Fiona Snyckers . much further behind. She’s packing her schoolbag for tomorrow and checking her homework. to be honest. This gives me a slight twinge in the conscience department as I remember the biology assignment and history essay I haven’t quite finished. Once again. and Zach would be going out with some matric girl with a short skirt and a loud laugh. trigonometry textbook in hand. Yeah. If it weren’t for Sophie. but I should really go to an evening session tonight to get it all finished. I’d have given up by now. begging him to explain some stupid problem or other.
. Why not? I’m sure you’re right. She turns her face away. as usual. seeing as it’s aimed at me.“Sorry.” Lael says bitterly. “Tell me again.” “You mean you agree?” “Yes. “And there’s no way I can’t take it personally. it must be something.” I say sulkily. I didn’t notice it before while I was having my what-to-wear meltdown. If it’s bothering you.. what’s up?” I sit down on the bed next to her and put my arm around her shoulders.” “It’s not nothing.” “It wasn’t much really. “Just that I think she really has changed for the better. What can her mother possibly have done now? What could be so bad that she doesn’t want to tell me about it? I’m practically a world expert on Lael’s mother.” “What do you mean?” Lael hesitates and I feel a beat of apprehension.” “I guess.” I look more closely at Lael and notice that her eyes are sliding away from mine. You know it always helps to talk about it.” Lael finally finds her protractor and slides it into her bag. “Nothing. They’re also just a little bit red and swollen. I’m never going to change her. “Hey . but you’ll probably feel better if you do. Then she sits back and looks at me. And you also know she doesn’t mean half the stuff she says – you just take it too personally.” “Oh. she means it this time. so there’s no point in talking about it. but I’d swear I’m not the only one who’s been crying.” “It’s just my mom. there is. is there?” “Yes. I know all Team Trinity 111 . It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. and maybe we should try to be a bit nicer to her.
“It’s not available in South Africa yet. And how whenever she does spend time with her daughter. nurturing. cooking up delicious meals – and imagine the exact opposite of that. There’s also a twirly graphic of a tape measure wrapped around the box. making her wear a jersey when she goes out. “Is this ..about how she criticises Lael and runs her down all the time..” “She sent me something. Whatever it is. “A Brand New You” it promises in attractive pink writing. Mom found it in Los Angeles. apparently.” Lael pulls out a box and puts it on the bed next to me. I stare at it for a moment. She bought me enough 112 Fiona Snyckers . fussing over her kid. “It’s this. if you take the stereotype of the traditional Jewish mother – warm.. “What has she done now? You know you’re going to tell me anyway. some kind of diet?” I hazard.” Lael says at last. How she can’t be bothered to be a real mother to her. then you’ll have Shirley Lieberman. There’s a picture of a skinny blonde woman wearing a tank top and tight shorts on the box. You can lose up to 4 kgs a month. Lael nods miserably.” Slowly she stands up and starts fiddling around in her cupboard – moving jeans and T-shirts out of the way. it’s well hidden. She seems to be doing knee-bends for some mysterious reason. Basically. “Show me. Lael turns into a nervous and insecure version of herself. but keeps farming her out to friends and relatives so that she can spend all her time globetrotting. and has a smug smile on her face.
” There’s a sudden silence.. “Ah.. but that doesn’t mean you have to buy into it. svelte you in the April holidays. you know that’s not true. She thinks I’m more likely to stick to it that way. so she obviously thinks I need to lose at least 12 kgs.” Lael dives back into her cupboard and rootles around among her shoes. For a start. I’ve got her letter here somewhere..for three months.” She unfolds a letter that was stuck between all the boxes. what was that again?” I ask carefully. You have guys queuing up to go out with you.” I put the box down and give her a hug. “She wants us to do the diet together. and have therefore included a month’s starter pack for her too. honey.. “Let’s see . The first box was obviously just the tip of the diet iceberg. with lots of little “Brand New You” boxes inside it. “She wants . Hang on. “Okay. or else I’ll end up saying something Team Trinity 113 . blah. I’m really looking forward to see a new. Why would you want to starve yourself on some stupid fad diet just because your mother tells you to? You know she’s always been obsessed with weight. You’re gorgeous just the way you are. She comes out with a much bigger DHL box. lose up to 4 kgs a month with this easy. ‘I’m sure your friend Trinity would be delighted to join you on this weight-loss journey. blah blah blah. Let me read it to you. okay here it is. here it is. blah. too. blah.” “She wants you to do the diet.’ So what do you think of that?” What I think is that I need to take a few deep breaths before I answer. You are both more likely to be successful if you have a weight-loss buddy to keep you on the straight and narrow and see that you don’t cheat.
And a month isn’t that long. bordering on a size 8. surely it’s worth putting in a month of my life to end up with the body I’ve always dreamed of? Especially now that I’m dating Zach. bum and thighs that I’d like to change. I’m basically happy with my body from the waist up. “Let’s say between three and four kilograms. “You can’t expect to lose 4 kgs every month. and enjoy a balanced meal with your family in the evening. I can feel myself being seduced. Let us do the hard work for you. however much they might do it themselves. It’s my hips. if I lost that much weight. I sit back down on Lael’s bed. No more needing to take a size 12 in some brands of clothes. sachets and pill bottles.” 114 Fiona Snyckers .” Lael says. “So that must mean she thinks I need to lose about 4 kgs. revealing an intriguing glimpse of Tupperware. It all sounds so reasonable and scientific. Almost immediately. She takes out two information leaflets and we both settle down to read them. “Let’s see what this diet is all about. is it? I mean. “Just replace two meals a day with our deliciously filling meal replacement shakes or soups.about Lael’s mom that I’ll regret. I’m trying to imagine myself three to four kilos lighter than I am now. Here’s the thing.” I say in a fairly calm voice. Simply choose three items from our extensive list of permitted foods and watch the weight melt off in all the right places.” I stand up to look at myself in her mirror.” Lael breaks open two of the boxes. We’ve taken all the guesswork out of caloriecounting. Because no one likes you to slag off their family. I’d be a size 10.
“Our specially formulated. “Just imagine if it actually works. “This actually doesn’t sound too bad. “You know. I mean.I imagine the weight melting off in all the right places. “Except I don’t have a kettlebell.” I say casually. with no listless dips during the day.” We start unpacking them like a couple of kids at Christmas. look. just imagine...” Team Trinity 115 . White Fennel is a herbal product that is scientifically proven to reduce hunger. She holds up a little book featuring the skinny woman from the box doing all kinds of exercises with a kettlebell. “No. Lael has a similar faraway look in her eyes.” “What else is in the boxes?” “I don’t know. but just . “Ooh. It’s such an attractive prospect that the corners of my mouth tug upwards. all-natural capsules will ensure that you suffer no hunger pangs and have plenty of energy to face your day.. do you?” I point out. while our patented formula Energex-Z will ensure that your energy levels stay constant. There are lots and lots of sachets containing powder. Let’s have a look. trying to keep the excitement out of my voice. I know it was a cheek for her to send it to us and everything.” “Yeah. “Energex-Z all-day energy formula” and “No-Hunger formula”. but we can buy one on our next exeat.” Lael says wistfully.. an exercise booklet!” says Lael. and three kinds of pill bottles labelled “vitamin and mineral complex”. My glance lands on a section called “No Hunger Pangs” and my smile grows wider. There a plastic shaker for mixing the soups and shakes.
It’s for the kids like us who don’t go home on weekends. That’s Latin for outing. There’s chocolate. strawberry and vanilla for the shakes. the shakes and soups come in different flavours so we won’t get bored. and do some shopping. and carrot and coriander for the soup. It’s a lot of fun.” 116 Fiona Snyckers . grab a coffee. and butternut.” “Awesome! And look.” Lael looks at me and grins.“Our next what?” “Exeat. beef. aren’t we?’ “Yes!” I laugh. There are usually about two a term. You can go to the movies. “We’re really doing this. Don’t you know about those? We get to go to Sandton City or Montecasino or somewhere for a few hours on some Saturdays. “We really are. we could pop into Verimark or one of those places and buy a couple of kettlebells. But the point is.
And then there’s the “So you’re finally going on a diet – about time too. It’s hard to say which is more irritating. she’s feeling just as uncomfortable as I am. This way we won’t feel deprived when the diet starts. so we make the most of it. We just want to be left in peace to get on with it. And who cares if it has an extra roll to forgive Team Trinity 117 . with rice and veggies. The need for secrecy is something we don’t even discuss. I’m slightly worried about fitting into Sophie’s dress after that second helping of dessert. things might get a bit complicated tomorrow when we start refusing all food for breakfast and lunch. But we’ll worry about that when it happens. There’s the “why do you want to go on a diet when you’re perfect the way you are?” school of thought. By the look on her face at the end of supper. Neither of us wants to be a target for the kind of comments you get when you tell your friends that you’re on a diet. But it was worth it. and mixing up shakes and soups in the dormitory. but I reckon it will be okay. The whole point of the dress is that it’s very forgiving. Yes. Tonight is our last night of not being on a diet. There’s lamb stew for supper. you whale” faction. I have two helpings of everything. and apple crumble for dessert. and so does Lael.CHAPTER 15 WE SPLIT the “Brand New You” stuff up into two parts – three months for Lael and one month for me – and hide it away in Lael’s cupboard.
You look fine just as you are.” Sophie says briskly. “Should I put on some makeup?” I ask. “Yes. “Just relax and be yourself. “What do you think it’s going to be like tonight? I suppose everyone will know everyone else except me.tonight? I’m going to be losing loads of weight from tomorrow. her idea of helping me to dress for a party would have been to ask me whether I had a spot forming on my forehead and didn’t I think I should have bought my outfit in a bigger size. but manages not to make any comments about apple crumble.” says Sophie. “You’ll look like you’re trying too hard – like you’re expecting too much from tonight. with the women standing chatting in one corner of the room and the men in another. “No.” *** An hour later.” “It’ll be great. She even brushes my hair and helps me clip it back with a matching inkypurple clip.” says Lael. Sophie helps me get ready for the party. You’ll be fine.” “Okay. In the old days.” I sag against my cupboard. Because all of this year’s 118 Fiona Snyckers . This party looks exactly like a suburban braai. She gives me a sharp look as the zip sticks for a moment halfway up the dress. feeling a sudden rush of nerves. I’m wondering whether just being myself is going to cut it this time. That’s something else that’s new. staring at myself in the mirror.
but the rest are in their first year at university or taking some kind of gap year.” she says..postmatrics are guys. There are a couple of matric girls. She obviously can’t believe she’s stuck talking to a Grade 10 at her boyfriend’s party.?” ‘Abel Luhabe. “Yes. “I take it it’s not your favourite sport either?” “Not really. I notice a girl on the edge of the cricket-watching crowd peel away and come towards me. “I’m Vusi Maleka. I don’t dare.” I say resignedly.. There are some snacks and drinks on offer. and I know how she feels because I can’t quite believe it either. by the way.” Team Trinity 119 . “Any relation to. “Luhabe?” She looks at me more closely. but there’s some day-night cricket match going on.” I pull a face.” she says with a smile. but it’s an impossible situation. putting out her hand. and the girls mostly don’t know each other. “Trinity Luhabe. “I’m tired of pretending to be interested in cricket. and most of them are glued to the TV. and I’d love to sneak a Brutal Fruit. I’m the youngest by far. he’s my father. all of their guests are girls. I’m trying to have a conversation with a girl who’s doing Graphic Design at Wits. We’d be getting on better if the guys had introduced us to each other. but with the house warden watching.” I shake her hand enthusiastically because I’m so grateful to be talking to someone at last. I’m making an effort to sound interested in her course. The Graphic Design student has wandered off without a word and I’m standing around feeling lost.
He’s one of the heroes of the school. Now I’m torn between wanting to pump her for more details about what Mpume is really like.” She looks as though she’s going to pursue the topic. Like none of us were good enough for him. “Really? So all this time he’s had a long-distance girlfriend?” She frowns slightly.” she nods. Where were you in matric?” “In Mpumalanga. of course I know him. “Yes .” “And who are you here with?” “Mpume Thlogoane. “On the contrary. though. and wanting to BBM the news to Lael and the girls 120 Fiona Snyckers ... Do you know him?” I can’t help laughing. Trinity?” she asks instead.” I’m fascinated. you know? And all this time it was just because he already had a girlfriend. but something in my expression warns her not to go there. you’re a learner here. so Joburg is quite a different scene for me. Are you going out with him?” “For three years now. no!” I rush to clear up this misconception. “I know how to control it.. “Yes. “That’s right.” “He does have a slightly giant ego. He doesn’t go over the top with me. that’s interesting..“Oh. He was our top athlete last year. right . why? Has he been acting like he’s single?” “No. We thought he was suffering from a giant ego. I’m in Grade 10. but she doesn’t. well. “So.” I’m expect her to back off as soon as she hears how young I am. “Three years?” I’m gobsmacked.” she giggles. “And how do you like it? Is this a good school?” “I love it – it’s a great school. He’s always been completely immune to us Brentwood girls.
and that means we’ll lose because our run rate is much slower than theirs. I’m about to introduce Zach to Vusi. I had other people to talk to. “But it was a very important match. “And the weather people say they probably won’t be able to come back on tonight. “That’s something else I love about you.” Zach says once he puts down his drink. “I understand.” he says. but he’s already steering me towards the drinks table. “Rained out. He helps himself to a Windhoek Lager and twists the cap off in one practised move. “What’s wrong?” I ask as Zach comes up to me. I love how you arrived here knowing no one.immediately.” “Of course. “Your ability to talk to anyone. This is the best piece of spreadable gossip I’ve heard in ages.” Team Trinity 121 . I’m fingering my phone longingly when the group gathered around the TV breaks up with loud cries of disappointment. You don’t have to worry about me.” I try to arrange my face into a suitably sympathetic expression. and within seconds you were chatting away to people like you’d known them your whole life. looking annoyed. even though they’re here with other guys. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Looks like it’ll be a Duckworth-Lewis situation. I find myself losing interest in anything else. “Sorry to have abandoned you like that. but all I can think about is the Mpume news. He really is quite ridiculously hot. As I watch the muscles in his throat move as he swallows.” Zach smiles and flicks my cheek.” I wave away his concern. A few of the girls are also paying attention.” he says.
” “But you’re the daughter of one of the most famous men in the country.. Every day I have to pinch myself to believe that this is real – that I’m really going out with you.. “Of course they don’t have a boyfriend lined up for me. Trinity. “I’m the lucky one.” he says gloomily. I bet they’ve got a boyfriend lined up for you already. All they’re thinking about is sinking mine shafts and having all their environmental 122 Fiona Snyckers . I mean. “You’ll get bored with me long before I get bored with you. “They’re in Chile.” I say.” “I’m never going to break up with you!” I say. sexy. speaking somebody else’s lines. but inside I’m glowing with pride...” He’s watching me closely to see my reaction. I almost feel like I’m an actor on stage.” “No.” I say. Then I give a little laugh to show how crazy I find it all. You’re always so patient and cheerful.“Oh. it’s nothing. alarmed by this sudden train of thought. It’s just a matter of time before you realise that and break up with me. I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you.” “So you admit you’re going to get bored with me?” “No! It was just a figure of speech.” “Of course you deserve me!” I’m incredulous. You’re smart and gorgeous and clever and . and I really don’t deserve you. gorgeous. “No. Your parents must introduce you to amazing guys all the time. “I’m the lucky one. It’s crazy how a single word of praise from Zach can turn me to jelly. and . I have to force my mouth to drop open and my eyes to widen in shock. You’re an amazing girl. it’s not nothing. Of course I’m never going to get bored with you.
He shakes his head and mouths something that looks like “I’m not a dancer”. so I really throw myself into the music. right?” He looks so concerned that for a moment I think I’ve overdone it. trying to look extra sexy for him. I’m sure I’m the last thing on their minds. “We’re in touch all the time. and it’s no longer possible to have a conversation unless you’re prepared to scream. Every now and then I see him glancing over at me. They think I’m too young and should be concentrating on schoolwork. and chatting to some of his friends. It’s mainly the girls who take to the dance-floor at first.ducks in a row. sipping his beer. but then somebody turns the music up really loud. I keep hoping that Zach will come and join me. So I give a little wave and move into the centre of the room where all the chairs have been pushed back and everyone’s starting to dance. Team Trinity 123 . If only I didn’t have such an early curfew – I feel I could keep this up all night. I smile at him and shrug. a few of the guys do too. but after a while. then hold out my hand for him to come and dance. I’ve made it sound like my parents don’t care about me at all. but he stays on the sidelines. But the point is that they’re not trying to choose a boyfriend for me. To be honest. Nicki Minaj is singing her heart out and the party is really starting to heat up.” “But you are in touch with them.” I explain. “I BBM my mom all day long.” It looks as though Zach’s going to say something else. I think they’d be happier if I didn’t have a boyfriend at all at the moment.
” I whisper reluctantly into his ear.” he murmurs back. But tonight. I’m here with Zach and it would be bad manners for me to dance all evening when he doesn’t feel like it. So after about twenty minutes. his breath tickling my cheek. “I’ve got to go in a minute. “I know. I break away from the dancers and head back to him. with his arm slung warmly over my shoulders. He smiles and puts his arm around me.” He smiles and gives me one last squeeze. Matron won’t let me out again this term. as I notice the time creeping closer to half-past nine. I can also hear the sound of my own breathing and feel my heart banging away inside my chest.But of course I don’t. snagging a bottle of water on the way. but if I’m late. There’s no moon and the only light is coming from the boarding houses. Is he going to kiss me? We haven’t kissed since that day he took me to his room. surely he will? It’s the perfect 124 Fiona Snyckers . my body pulled firmly against his. doesn’t it? Friends don’t hold friends the way Zach is holding me.” *** Zach walks me back to Sisulu House without taking his arm off my shoulders. It’s impossible not to feel proud. The evening is very dark and quiet. Because this proves he didn’t invite me just as a friend. “Come along then. There’s the high-pitched chirr of crickets that for me is the sound of a Highveld night. and his hand resting barely a millimetre above my butt. “I wish you didn’t have to. me too.
Break it up.” he replies. Surely now would be a good time for a kiss? If we get any closer.opportunity. There’s no one around. “Thanks for coming. pulling me even closer. Zach looks down at me and for a second I think he’s going to stop.” Ha! I knew it. Zach swings me around to face him and brings his mouth down hard on mine. to the faint scent of the rose garden – seems to whisper romance. but he gives Matron the full beam of his most charming smile. a voice barks. I hear a couple of wolfwhistles from girls who have stopped to watch. Team Trinity 125 . “Okay. But then he keeps right on going. A few heads turn to watch us curiously and at that exact moment. carrying a clipboard and looking seriously annoyed. The kiss takes my breath away with its intensity. up the steps. We’ve got a couple of minutes before I have to clock in with Matron. I jump away from Zach as if he’s burning hot. “Thanks for inviting me. there will be too many people around.” “I did too. “I had a really great time tonight.” I say softly. And everything about the quiet atmosphere of the night – from the filtered golden light from Sisulu House. I loved watching you dance. I knew he was watching me. And immediately the spell is broken. I slow down as we get closer to the entrance. Then just as my knees feel like they’re starting to buckle. and into the entrance. that’s enough. It’s all bright lights and noise as the matrics clatter up the stairs after their last homework session of the night.” It’s Matron.
and how could I make a spectacle of myself in front of all the matrics? Then she looks around to check that no one is listening and lowers her voice even more.. As soon the door has closed behind 126 Fiona Snyckers . and I also don’t think that one kiss in a public place is going to turn me into a fallen woman from the Bible. When are grown-ups going to realise that it’s not the public kisses they have to worry about? Matron delivers me to my dorm and hands me over to Lael. She glances at her watch and makes a sort of growling noise in her throat.“Thank you so much for letting Trinity come to the party tonight. “I’ve brought her back in good time. and notice that her cheeks are bulging suspiciously. muttering at me in Xhosa about how boys won’t respect me if I carry on like that. I’m actually surprised I’m not in handcuffs by this point.” I turn my head so I can roll my eyes without her seeing. it’s not like we were in his room – like the kiss could develop into anything. I’ll just be going then.” And he speed-walks towards the door. I’m telling you this for your own good. Matron escorts me all the way to the Grade 10 dormitory. my girl.” he says. but I don’t agree with classifying people like that. and what would my father say if he could see me now. I look closely at Lael. Zach’s smile dims slightly. “You must be careful of the white boys. “Well . They only want one thing. I know she’s just trying to look out for me. You can’t trust them to know where to draw the line.” Matron isn’t buying it. as though she’s the only one who can physically restrain me from rushing back out and smooching the face off Zach. as you can see.. wondering why she’s not saying anything. I mean.
It’s one of those rules that everyone turns a blind eye to. how nice it would be to zip up my jeans and find that they’re too loose for me. Of course. reaching for the box and helping myself to one with white icing and sprinkles.. gimme!” I say. They’re from the tuckshop.. I start to think how nice it would be to feel lean and empty for a change.” “Oh . Team Trinity 127 . right.” Lael explains. But as the second doughnut goes down fast. “What’s the occasion?” I ask. of course. “We’re celebrating our last night of freedom as nondieters. I’d almost forgotten about the diet..Matron. which makes the best doughnuts in the known world. Okay. now I’m getting my mojo back. Lael and I are going to be the best dieters that Brand New You has ever had. Lael pulls a box of doughnuts out from under her duvet. “Ooh . as I polish off my first doughnut and take a second. but tonight we stuff our faces. I’m not sure how enthusiastic I’m going to feel about drinking a strawberry-flavoured milkshake instead. We’re not really supposed to eat in our dorms. I can’t wait to get started on this diet.. although it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to flash a box of doughnuts right under Matron’s nose. and Brentwood has never had a rodent problem. “Tomorrow we’re going to be as good as gold.” To be honest. It’s omelette day at breakfast tomorrow. I think the official reason given is that the crumbs might attract rats and mice. But girls have been breaking this rule every day for the last twenty years. And. and I take a bite of the third. that feeling of over-stuffed nausea kicks in. I feel a twinge of anxiety at the thought.
I must have eaten more today than I ever have in my life before.” Nosipho pulls a face behind her back. By this time next week.” she explains.Lael offers the box of doughnuts around the dorm. But never mind. who takes none. Later. making me giggle. “Give me a nice apple or some carrot sticks any day. Except for Sophie. but the other girls only take one each. This diet is going to be a great experience for us. 128 Fiona Snyckers . And I can’t wait until Zach sees the new. improved me. running my hand over the unfamiliar bulge in my tummy. after lights out. “I’ve never had a sweet tooth. but she’s actually done us a favour this time. that bulge will be gone and my tummy will be flatter than ever. I don’t usually see eye to eye with Lael’s mother. I feel uncomfortable and a bit disgusted with myself. I lie in bed. watching in disbelief as I lick icing off my fingers.
It’s ridiculous. Put it back in the bin.. and I can’t wait to get there. She perches on the end of my bed while I dress and pokes at the greasy doughnut box crumpled up and shoved into my dustbin. The other girls emerge from their cubicles. I don’t know what came over us. I’ve got a slight headache. Team Trinity 129 . I can tell Lael feels the same. Some head off to the showers. Then everyone drifts down to the dining-hall. while those who like to bath at night start pulling on their uniforms.” “I couldn’t eat a doughtnut now if you gave me a million bucks. This is a brand new start for me. yawning and stretching. “Can you believe we ate all that?” “I know. Urrgh .” “I wonder if this is what a food hangover feels like. but I wake up the next morning feeling seriously motivated.” I know exactly what she means. I feel great.CHAPTER 16 I WAS secretly worried that some of my enthusiasm might have faded overnight. better me..” “Two million bucks. Just the smell of that box makes me want to hurl. and a tummy that says ‘don’t mess with me’ – like that time Lael and I had three glasses each from the bottle of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik we found in her mom’s liquor cabinet. I’m on my way to a newer. why did I have to think about that now? But apart from the food hangover.
not to mention the number of fat grams. “Right!” Lael says.” she calls back.” “Then it’ll have to be full-cream.” We dig sachets of the Brand New You breakfast shakes out of our cupboards. okay.. here they are. “They only have full-cream.” I say. We haven’t got any milk. no!” We look at each other in dismay. “I’m having strawberry this morning. “Let’s get this show on the road.” I say. We’ll be sabotaging ourselves before we’ve even got started. closing the door. that’s no good either. It’ll be fine. “In a minute.. “Now what’s happened to the instructions? I know I put them ..” I say.’ Oh. I notice Sophie giving us a suspicious look. wait .” “No good. “Milk. That’ll throw the calorie count right out.” “No. but she also heads downstairs for breakfast. We’ll have to go down to the dining-hall and pinch some. “Look.“Coming?” Yasmin asks Lael and me. ‘Place contents of one sachet in a glass and mix with 250ml of fat-free milk. “What about you?” “Vanilla.” 130 Fiona Snyckers .” “So what are we going to do?” “I don’t know.” I stare at the sachet as though it might contain some suggestions on how to make milk appear out of thin air. There’s one tiny jug of fat-free at the teacher’s table. it says you can also mix one and a half sachets with plain water if you choose. pretending to be looking for something. but that’s it. Then my face clears.. We’ll just have to do that then.
They taste . “And now for the pills!” Team Trinity 131 . “We really need to shape up.. They’re thicker too.” I pull a face. The powder floats spookily on top of the water. the milkshake has made me feel almost uncomfortably full. I’ve never been all that keen on exercise. rinsing her shaker under the tap. Not all that different from a real milkshake. except not as sweet. somehow.... “Okay . “I think I’ll ease into the diet for a couple of days first and see how I go before I start the exercise thing. I think we need to do some exercise.” I give my tummy an experimental prod. cheers! Bottoms up.Lael decides to have strawberry as well so that we can use up three sachets without any leftovers.. “That should do it.” Lael says.” I puff. ashamed at how out of breath I am. She’s right.” I say vaguely. with a kind of fibre-y texture that you can almost chew.” We drink our shakes straight out of the shakers seeing as we don’t have any cups or glasses either.” Lael says after about two minutes. quite nice. “And it really fills you up. We empty the powder into our shakers and fill them up with tap water. If this is how exhausted we are after just mixing our shakes. Lael is much sportier than me. well .. actually... “Yeah. Sitting on top of about four doughnuts from last night. bending but not breaking the surface – like in a science experiment. We fit the tops of the shakers into place and start shaking for all we’re worth. “Not bad.
Come on. but I manage to choke it down. There was this one woman who was so obese she was practically circular. Googling weight-loss tips on our phones. It wasn’t even difficult to avoid the fruit and sandwiches at break.” I glance at my watch and see that she’s right. “What is all this anyway?” “Vitamin supplement with minerals and trace elements. Lael and I pack the evidence back into our cupboards. What’s that – about 50 kgs or 132 Fiona Snyckers . Lael and I just hung out on the sports field. We need to take two of each three times a day. carb and fat blocker. Then we head out to face the day. By the sixth one. And then in the “after” picture. let’s get it down. there she is nearly a hundred pounds lighter. *** By lunchtime. Instead of going back to Sisulu House. I even found the Brand New You website and read the real-life testimonials of people who lost huge amounts of weight on the programme.I pull a face as Lael plonks three pill bottles in front of me. The others will be coming back from breakfast soon. It was actually quite enjoyable not to have our break disturbed by food for once. and natural appetite control supplement. It felt like we were getting more time to chill. It’s the pictures that I find most amazing. I start gulping down the pills with water. She looked like someone who would need a seatbelt-extender on an aeroplane. I’m really proud of how I’ve coped with the morning. I’m gagging. And probably some help getting out of the seat too. We’ve been faffing about for nearly twenty minutes.
it’s hard to choose. It’s absolutely amazing. warming me up and giving me energy. hot and filling. Sometimes it gives me a shock to realise I’m only three years younger than my mom was when she married my dad and had me. Gosh. yummy!” Lael comes into the dormitory. It’s thick. “Let’s go and do this in the common room. so she doesn’t count. I enjoy every mouthful. she’s always had the metabolism of a stick insect on speed.so? Now she’s a model who has just entered her fourth Body-Beautiful competition. Last night’s doughnuts have finally worn off and I’m looking forward to trying out one of the Brand New You soups. my mom had three kids and she’s as skinny as anything. Carrot and Coriander. But she had us young. Second break also passes happily in a haze of weightloss Googling. “Soup-time. It sounds delicious. but I do Team Trinity 133 . She was only nineteen when I was born. And anyway. feeling it slide down into my tummy. and Creamy Butternut. we’ll get detention. isn’t it?” “Never mind. we’ll get through all of them in the end. “Hearty Beef. If they catch us. But by lunchtime. I can’t say I enjoy swallowing the six pills nearly as much.” And it is. And that’s after three kids as well. I have to admit I’m quite peckish. We slip some sachets under our shirts and head downstairs to the common room. There’s that kettle in the matrics’ study. what have we got?” Lael checks the sachets. rubbing her hands together. “Right. rich. I’m going to have the Creamy Butternut today. Mind you. but I don’t think we should risk it.
I’m going for a run while everyone is still at lunch.” I smooth a hand over my stomach. By rights she should be super-thin considering how active she is.” “Suit yourself!” She bounces out. “We’re lucky to be on a diet that lets us have such great food. Before long. right? And you know what – I feel a bit lighter already. “What are you doing here? You scared me half to death.” He says this in a serial killer voice. “Well. convinced it feels flatter than yesterday. Passing the time of day. I’ll just sit here and let that soup settle a bit. I give a tiny gasp and sit bolt upright. To say that Lael is sportier than me is like saying Rihanna can sing better than me. nothing. thanks. Sure you don’t want to come?” I give a little shudder. looking all fit and energetic in her red PE shorts and trainers. who does that? Would it kill you to clear your throat or something? I 134 Fiona Snyckers .. seriously.. I’m not leaving it to chance. “I know. Watching you sleep. catching up on everyone’s BBM updates.” “Oh. “Quite sure. I feel my eyes start to droop.it because I know I need them if I’m going to make this diet work.” Lael says as she comes back from rinsing her mug. When I open them again – which can’t be more than five minutes later – I find James Ellison sitting in a chair opposite me. with bugged-out eyes and waggling fingers. “No. Just sitting here. but since when does life ever play fair?I settle down in an armchair and start flicking through my phone. I refuse to smile.
” This time I laugh out loud. You said. “Okay. then. You’d think they were keeping the crown jewels in there. Your friend. as if he genuinely has no idea what I’m getting at. Beams.could have been drooling. What did you find out?” “Well. the place is basically Fort Knox. You can watch me sleep anytime you like. “Trying to get rid of me. I’m going to have to remember everything to tell her later. I want to go steady with him. “Come back! Sit down. He’s so groovy. Security gate.” Team Trinity 135 . Alarm. okay?” He gives me a puzzled look. Mr Creepy. even after the soup. I wish Lael hadn’t picked now to go for a run. Or talking in my sleep. Just tell me what you found out. She could have listened and taken notes. Shouldn’t you be in the dining-hall hoovering up a chicken burger?” As I say it. I take it all back. I’ll go. for goodness sake.” He gets up and swaggers towards the door. hey? Fine. I can’t help myself. “I don’t think her religion is exactly relevant here.” “Right. I suddenly realise that I am the teensiest bit hungry. And I won’t tell you about my secret-agent work in the headmaster’s study. ‘I love him. The whole deal. “Groovy? Go steady? Not even in my dreams do I join the cast of Grease. knowing full well I’m going to scream for him to come back. Armed response.” “You were.’ And then you made kissykissy noises with your mouth.” “Your Jewish friend? Is she the ringleader of this plan?” I give him a sharp look. So. Let’s just call her my friend.
” “Anderssen. It was a silly idea anyway. you know. For instance. We’ll just have to give up. that means weak point.” “You mean Mrs Pieterse? She’s a friend of my mom’s. “Plus. or beams. When I open them again. not her.” I correct. “No.” “Is that any way to talk? I didn’t say it was hopeless.. Mrs Andrews. Uh . the human element I’m thinking of is the secretary. there’s an internal door between her office and his.. There is a door between the two offices. I just said they’ve got excellent security. or something. I wouldn’t suggest trying to break in when it’s all locked up for the night. the one I’m talking about is the headmaster’s personal secretary.. And the human element is definitely their Achilles heel.” “Right. I can’t keep the disappointment out of my voice. or alarms.” “Hang on a minute!” I try to picture the office as I saw it in January.” “No. That’s when we’ve got what I like to call the human element to deal with. “Mrs Anderssen.” I snap. but it’s made from reinforced 136 Fiona Snyckers .“I knew it. But the daytime is a whole different kettle of fish. No.” “I know what it means.. that’s no good either. or anything. she works in this little office that’s right next door to the headmaster’s study.” “That’s right... “I might not be white. Well. “It’s hopeless. Mrs Pieterse is the school secretary. isn’t she? She works in the main admin offices. Sorry. I close my eyes to help me think.” “Okay. Well. and she doesn’t have a security gate on her door.” My mood dips.?” I’m trying to follow his logic here. but English is still my home language.
goes to the cloakroom.” I say. The beams are designed for someone who doesn’t know they’re there. anyway.” He grins at my eager face.steel. “Isn’t it always locked?” “Not on a Wednesday morning when Mrs Anderssen does her filing.” “Really?” “Really. and then on Wednesdays she files the lot. while she makes tea. maybe.” “Not while it’s locked. She keeps all her paperwork on her desk for the week.” he says. “Wait a minute.” A bit too possible. We’d never get through it. but would never actually do in real life. Dr Hussein showed it to my dad. this plan felt like a game. we can’t just open the trophy cabinet and help ourselves to the shield. An alarm will go off and the armed response company will arrive. Like when my brothers and I used to play at being the Famous Five or the Secret Seven.. “When are you going to learn that I’m not just a pretty face?” “Don’t tell me you’ve found a way around that too?” “Of course I have. raising his eyebrows at me. It takes her the whole morning and she basically leaves the inter-leading door unlocked the entire time. It was something we’d have fun planning. Dr Hussein’s big mistake was to tell you Team Trinity 137 . wanders about. Trinity. It’s actually very simple.” James shakes his head. thinking hard. Up until now. “Is this for real?” “Of course it is.” “Trinity... “Let’s not forget about the infra-red beams.. You know. Even if we do manage to get into his office. Would I lie to you?” “But this is brilliant! This makes it all possible.
Imagine there’s another eye built into the back of your chair and take your hand away.” I straighten up and hold it out to him. Have you got a torch?” I’m mystified.” I think hard for a moment. I crouch down and start searching through the common-room TV cabinet..” “Done. As soon as the beam hits that other eye. the alarm won’t go off. let’s see. Loadshedding supplies. Aha! Here we go.about it in the first place.. Torch . So as long as there is something in its way. “Okay . “Now shine it against the back of your chair.” “Now hold your hand up to break the beam. “What do you want a torch for?” “Find me one and you’ll see. A torch. an alarm will go off.” he says. Feebly. Candles. Because as soon as you know it’s there.. So as soon as someone removes the shield. But the beam doesn’t know or care what is in its way. an alarm is triggered. Who does he think I am – a boy? Why would I have a torch with me? Then a little bell goes off in my head. It has no way of recognising the shield in particular. it’s almost too easy to get around. but it works. He doesn’t take it.” 138 Fiona Snyckers . “Is there a point to this?” “That torch is the security beam and your hand is the Gumede Shield. Matches. “Switch it on. torch.” “Okay.” I look down at the bright disc of light reflected against the palm of my hand. Battery-powered lamps. I switch it on and am surprised to see that it works..
No one saw what I was doing. for example. it’s not as though the shield has any actual value. Like I said. It’s not like we’re pinching that shield for ourselves.” I say defensively. I don’t know how you managed to get all that information. You must have spent hours hanging around outside the office. we aren’t interested in any of that other stuff. “We’re not thieves. “So all we need to do is put a book or something in the way of the beam. listen. And let’s face it.” “If you say so.” “I do say so.“I see!” I say. You might be a total and utter sexist pig most of the time. but today you did a good thing. There’s other stuff in the office that’s much more valuable. We’re doing it for girls everywhere. I hope you’re not going to get into any trouble. and then remove the shield. It’s just a piece of wood with some brass on it. “Don’t worry about me. weren’t you?” He looks smug.” “Well. thanks so much for doing this.” Team Trinity 139 . But. it’s designed for someone who doesn’t know it’s there. “That’s so easy! I can’t believe it’s so simple.” “Well. The girls of Sisulu House thank you. You were careful. you know. You couldn’t sell it for money. Exactly what we need.” *** “Oh. Are you sure that’s all there is to it?” “Absolutely. but it’s fantastic. boy! Suppertime. I’m practically a ninja.” “Exactly!” He looks pleased with himself. excited. still.
but she pulls herself together. “Still ten minutes to go. but I’m just about ready for some real food now.. “The milkshake and the soup were nice and everything. “I mean.” “In the evening. reading over her shoulder. “Listen. “I know!” Lael has the same eager look on her face.” Lael’s lip quivers for an instant. you know . boy!” she says happily.” I say doubtfully.I can’t help rubbing my hands together and grinning. do we? Like maybe there are restrictions on the carbs or something.” “What?” “Maybe we should just . I don’t think we can have dessert or anything like that. 140 Fiona Snyckers . right?” “I think so. face to face with the bad news. satisfying meal with your family.” “We can basically eat whatever we like for supper tonight. One roast potato instead of two – that kind of thing.” “Oh.” Lael turns the page and there we are. you are free to enjoy a balanced..” I say. Let’s do it.. but we can definitely have a square meal.” She finds the Brand New You information booklet and flips through pages of waffle about selenium and chromium and all the other mysterious ‘iums’ in the pills we have to take. We don’t want to make a mistake.. doesn’t it?” “Hang on.. here it is.. “Okay. Isn’t it six o’clock yet?” I glance at my watch for the millionth time. “That sounds all right. there’s more. “Okay. It’s all I can do to keep from drooling. double-check what it says about suppers...
Trinity.’ Oh no! This is a total swizz. “We’re feeling let down. “Look at that picture on the previous page.” I read. But it’s certainly not anyone on the Brand New You diet. right? This isn’t what we were expecting. no larger than a pack of playing cards.” Lael continues. I bet when we start eating this evening we’ll find that it doesn’t take all that much to fill us up. So I bet our stomachs have really shrunk. “‘Use a zesty squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to liven up your delicious salad. We’d been looking forward to it all day.choosing items from the list below. It’s just that our minds haven’t quite caught up yet. and a pile of vegetables gleaming with butter. “Whoever’s eating that lot has got it made. We’ve had hardly anything to eat the whole day – just a milkshake and some soup. You know that old expression. my voice rising to a wail. “My point being that we’ll get through this.” “About what?” Disappointment quivers in my voice. running her fingers through her hair. Plus! Team Trinity 141 .” “Okay.” “... a heap of roast potatoes with gravy.” “Your point being?” I ask sharply. covered in crispy golden skin.” I point to a full-colour photograph of a plate groaning with roast chicken.“One portion of lean protein.” “Exactly!” I say indignantly. your eyes are bigger than your stomach?” “Uh huh.. “Let’s just back up for a moment and think. “As much salad or steamed vegetables as you desire. We thought we could basically eat anything we liked tonight..” Lael says.” My ouma uses that line on my brothers all the time. “Well. I can’t help it.
” I say.We can eat as much salad as we like. We can eat three bowls of it if we like. I’m back in the zone. But her pep talk has worked. because I was teetering on the brink of giving up.” Lael says.” I say reluctantly. But Lael won’t be deterred. work really well together.” “I guess. It’s lucky one of us is. staring at the expression of crazed ecstasy on the woman’s face. I’m going into that dining-hall and I’m eating salad if it kills me. Don’t forget that part. on the other hand. 142 Fiona Snyckers . holding the booklet out to me. We can go completely mad on salad. “Doesn’t she look happy? Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying her salad?” “She looks high. “And anyway.. She’s in perfect-dieter mode and nothing is going to put her off. look at this picture of the Brand New You woman eating salad. ‘Go completely mad’ and ‘pizza’.. ‘Go completely mad’ and ‘salad’ are not concepts I’ve ever thought of putting in the same sentence before.
Sometimes it just feels like too much of an effort. If I even bother at all.. but somehow I can’t manage to. it takes every ounce of strength I possess just to press the green button and grunt “Hi”. Today. I wait seven rings before reaching for my phone and checking the display. I wake up feeling tired every single morning. Things I used to manage quite easily now seem to take up all my energy. uh . I remember a time when seeing his name pop up like this would have filled me with excitement. It’s Zach. And not just tired. Normally I’m the ultimate Quickdraw when it comes to a ringing cellphone. But these days I let it go the full eight rings before reaching into my pocket.” “Did I . “Ja. wake you?” Team Trinity 143 .. I usually pick mine up before the second ring.. My phone rings. I’ve never felt like this before. Every day is a struggle. I would probably have done a quick victory dance before answering the phone with a sexy “Hellooo?” Today. it’s me. Especially since he hardly ever phones me. He’s more of a BBMer. but as though there’s nothing to look forward to. And rings. I yawn hugely. I keep telling myself I should just pull it together.. “Trinity?” Zach sounds a bit unsure if it’s me.CHAPTER 17 I FEEL down.
no I haven’t. you know that scholarship dinner I’ve been invited to?” “Uh-huh. It’s a quarter to one.I can picture him looking at his watch in puzzlement.” “Oh. “And you know how you’ve been all jealous because I’m going to it on my own and you’re not invited?” I’m only half-listening.” “Oh? Well. right. “No. Or should I say . Fifteen minutes to go before lunchtime. no..” He’s been talking about it for days. I was awake. this ought to cheer you up.. then?” “It was fantastic! I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again. 144 Fiona Snyckers . I didn’t tell you about it because I didn’t want you to worry.” I say. “Am I catching you at a bad time?” I make an effort to pull myself together.. soup-time? “No. all the kids at Brentwood who have been given scholarships to attend the school are invited to this swish dinner with the teachers. I did my first tandem jump this morning.” I say vaguely. but then the meaning of what he’s saying penetrates my depression. I’ve never been invited to one. no. where you jump out of an aeroplane strapped to an experienced skydiver. It’s difficult to imagine worrying about anything ever again.” “Tandem jump? What’s that?” “You know.. although my dad has been the keynote speaker a couple of times. interrupting him. Listen. Once a year. There’s a moment of silence. “Um .” I say. “So it was all right. with the teachers wearing academic gowns and everything. I’m just feeling a bit down. It’s very formal. This is fine.
and c) that’s not the reason I’ve been a bit offish with him lately.” I’m dying to tell him that a) I’m not that insecure.” I say sarcastically. You’re jealous because I’m going on my own. But it’s just too much effort to argue with him.He laughs indulgently. well. “You probably want to obsess over what you’re going to wear now. “Well.” “Really?” I say tiredly. “You think I’m teasing you. or how offish you’ve been with me lately. We just got the email from Dr Hussein now.” “Yeah.” *** Team Trinity 145 .” he says. it’s great. “You’ve really made my day. you have. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you change the subject every time I mention the dinner. “Yes. So you can come as my date! Isn’t that great?” “Yes. babe. b) his stupid scholarship dinner has hardly even crossed my mind.” All I can think about is how I’m going to manage to eat only salad and a slab of meat no bigger than a pack of playing cards during a three-course formal dinner. So I’ll talk to you later. “I’ve got good news for you. I just wanted to call and make your day. “I knew you’d be pleased!” he says. So I make a noise that could be interpreted as agreement.. don’t you? But it’s true.. Oh. I’m too tired to figure it out now. We’ve just been told that the postmatrics are allowed to bring partners to the dinner. don’t you? And I’m going in to lunch. You’re probably worried I’ll get off with some brainy hot girl or something.
“Hey. The least you could have done was go and fetch our sachets. “Have you got the sachets?” she asks. her olive skin an unattractive shade of ash.” “You’re the big exerciser. I know she’s lost a kilogram so far.” “Oh. “No. I can hear the thumps of the other girls coming downstairs and heading for the dining-hall. You’ve been sitting on your bum.I sink back into my chair and close my eyes.” I open one eye and see Lael sinking down into the chair next to me. I don’t even bother trying not to hate them. I stare resentfully at the girls twinkling 146 Fiona Snyckers . “How could you? You knew I had Biology just before lunch. closing her eyes with a sigh.” “So am I. Trinity. My legs feel like they’re made of lead. It’ll do you good to climb the stairs. but you can’t really tell.” “I’m more exhausted than you. She looks pale and tired. I haven’t had the energy to go up and fetch them yet. but her face is showing the strain. Her body looks about the same as before. they’re still upstairs. and you had a free. I’ve been staring into a microscope. Go and fetch them.” “I’m burning enough calories just sitting here breathing. You know it’s your turn. just like I have. Why don’t you just do it for a change instead of wasting time arguing?” I haul myself out of my chair and trudge out the common room and up the stairs. You’ll probably burn about 50 calories or something. Trinity!” she whines. I’m completely exhausted. Workout Girl.
” I puff. “I’m feeling really horrible.” “Shame. If she thinks you’re not eating properly.past me as though climbing steps is no big deal. Matron doesn’t believe in diets. Matron.” “Nothing. The last person you ever want to know that you’re on a diet is Matron. knowing it’s her least favourite. Trinity?” Matron asks as I make it to the top of the stairs. “Come on. When she reaches the top of the staircase. she turns and stares at me with her hands on her hips. wondering if Panado could actually make me feel better.” I reel into the dormitory. Auntie. “What’s wrong? You look tired. I have a brief fantasy about my mom arriving at the school with steaming dishes of bobotie and tomato bredie to feed me up. she’s liable to phone your parents. Then I remember that she’s in Chile. How many calories are there in a Panado? Would it take away this grinding ache in my tummy. They’re just showing off. “It’s my time of the month. “What’s the matter with you. Even Matron comes steaming past me and she must be fifty if she’s a day. tuck them into Team Trinity 147 . see?” “Thanks. I deliberately choose the carrot and coriander flavour.” she says as I stop to catch my breath halfway up. and give a little sigh. You come to my office after lunch and I’ll give you some Panado. I turn a pitiful face to her – one that I don’t have to fake in the slightest. man. they’re not that steep. this terrible feeling of hollowness? I reach into Lael’s cupboard and pull out three soup sachets.” I say in a wobbly voice.
the pockets of my skirt and start the trek back to the common room. By the time I get downstairs the place is deserted. Everyone is in the dining-hall, probably stuffing themselves with chicken pie and mashed potatoes. Lael looks ripe for murder by the time I get back. “At last!” she snaps. “Where the hell have you been?” “Get them yourself next time.” I practically throw the sachets down in front of her. “By the way, your mate James Ellison was in here about a second ago. I think he was looking for you.” “Oh, really?” I say with a little flare of interest. “What did he say?” “Nothing. I didn’t have the energy to talk to him. He just stuck his head in here, looked around, and went away again. It was literally just a moment ago. You’ll probably catch him going into the dining-hall.” I rush to the door, but I’m too late. There are a few kids still filing into the hall, but James isn’t one of them. I wonder what he wanted. “He was probably going to tell me something new about the Gumede Shield,” I say. “You could have asked him to wait, you know. You knew I was coming back any minute.” Lael just yawns. Even the words “Gumede Shield” don’t have any power over her any more. It must be ten days since I told her the secret for pinching the shield, but she’s done nothing about it and neither have I. All we’ve done is diet. All we can think about is this flipping Brand New You diet. I’ve even started dreaming about it. When I close my eyes at night, I can see the logo dancing in front of me, taunting me.
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With a long-suffering sigh, Lael starts measuring out the soup powder into two glasses. There was a time when I would have watched her like a hawk, making sure she wasn’t giving herself one grain more than me. We worked out a rule that if one of us measured out the powder, the other one would choose which glass to drink from, so there was no incentive to cheat. But now I watch her with dull eyes. I couldn’t care less if she gets more than I do. This soup isn’t going to make me feel any better. Nothing has the power to make me feel better anymore. Just the smell of that orangey powder makes me feel sick. I take my glass over to the kettle to fill it up with water. I don’t even bother with the shaker anymore. I just use a teaspoon to mix the powder. My stomach heaves at the sight of the thick, fibrous mess I’m supposed to drink down. This isn’t food. This isn’t even a beverage. It’s a crime against nature. I see Lael choking hers down, practically holding her nose as she does it. Then I lift mine to my lips ... and start to swallow. *** I didn’t think it was possible to feel worse than I did, but a few days later, I know I was wrong. As I drag myself into the dormitory at half-past five, all I can do is pitch face-forward onto my bed and lie there motionless. I feel like I’ve run a marathon, but all I’ve done is walk up the stairs. I’ve just come from homework, where I spent a full hour staring into space. I don’t normally go to homework in this session, but I’ve fallen so far behind with my work that I’m starting to worry I might never catch up. And today didn’t help
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at all. I haven’t been able to settle down to anything. I could cry when I think of how delighted I was that becoming a boarder meant being up to date with all my work. Now I’m way behind again. I will myself to sit up and start packing my bag for tomorrow, but instead I lie where I am and start to drift... “Trinity! Trinity!” A horrible, evil hand is shaking me by the shoulder. “Gowayanleemealone,” I mumble. “What?” I lift my face out of the pillow. “Go. Away.” “I can’t,” says Lael. “You need to roll over and listen to me now. Seriously. You have to hear this, Trinity. It’s about the diet.” I don’t want to hear one more thing about the stupid diet, but I roll over anyway and glare at her. “Talk,” I snap. “And make it fast.” “Okay, okay. Look at this.” I notice that she is brandishing a book in my face. I force myself to focus on the cover. “The Drinking Man’s Diet,” I read slowly. “What on earth is that? Not more milkshakes and soups, I hope.” “No!” she grins. “Much, much better than that. It’s this diet where you can eat as much as you like and still lose weight.” That catches my attention. I sit up and stare at her. “Eat as much as you like? For real?” I have a sudden vision of stuffing my face with ice cream and doughnuts and chips, while slimming down to a skinny size 8. “Yes, but only certain foods.” “I knew it was too good to be true! It’s salad again, isn’t it? Eat all the salad you want and lose weight. Well, I’ve got news for you. I’m fed up to the back teeth with
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salad. If I never see another lettuce leaf in my life, it’ll be too soon.” “No, no, it’s not salad,” Lael says soothingly. “I’m fed up with salad too. But let me ask you this – how would you feel about having bacon and eggs for breakfast ... every day?” I give a long groan and collapse back onto the bed. “Are you trying to torture me? Bacon and eggs? I love bacon and eggs. But they’re fattening. And anyway, you’re Jewish. You can’t eat bacon. And you’re allergic to eggs.” “Yes, but I can eat turkey bacon, can’t I? And beef sausages, both of which they serve every day in the dining-hall.” It’s been so long since I actually ate breakfast in the dining-hall that I’ve almost forgotten what they serve. “Is this some kind of joke?” I demand, making a grab for the book. “It’s no joke. It’s a high-protein diet that lets you eat as much meat, eggs, cheese and fat as you like all day long. And you still lose weight. Guaranteed.” “Why is it called the Drinking Man’s Diet?” “Because you’re allowed to drink alcohol on the diet as well.” “Really?” I brighten even more. I’m not much of a drinker, especially since I became a boarder, but just knowing it’s allowed cheers me up. “Yes, but only pure spirits like whisky, vodka and gin,” she adds. “With nothing mixed in.” “Oh.” Lael and I have identical expressions of distaste on our faces. We enjoy a Brutal Fruit as much as the next
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girl, but plain old alcohol tastes like medicine to us. Very unpleasant medicine at that. “Look, this Brand New You diet isn’t really working for us, is it?” she asks. “We’ve got no energy and we’re cranky and starving all the time, correct?” “Correct.” “Plus, I’ve only lost a kilo and a quarter in two weeks, and you’ve lost about the same. It’s going to take me months to get down to my goal weight and I just can’t take it anymore. If I have to drink one more milkshake or soup, I’m going to crack. So I’m giving it up right now and I’m trying this high-protein thing instead. It’s got to be worth a try, right?” I nod slowly. “So, tonight we’ll just eat meat? As much meat as we want?” “No...” Lael looks like she’s having a religious experience. “That’s the best part. The book says you shouldn’t go from one diet to the next. You should have a week of normal eating before starting the Drinking Man’s Diet.” “Normal eating?” My voice rises to a squeak. “You mean we can have a normal meal tonight? Just eat whatever they’re serving down in the dining-hall?” “That’s exactly what I mean!” I glance at my watch and see that it’s already five minutes to six. I bounce off the bed feeling more energetic than I have in weeks. “Then lead me to it.”
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“YOU TWO are like different people.” Nosipho stares at Lael and me. “Did you ask Matron for Vitamin B shots or something?” “They look like they’re on speed to me,” Yasmin says. Lael and I share a grin. “We’re not on anything,” she says. “We’ve just got our mojo back after a low-energy slump.” Sophie saunters over in one of her slinky satin nighties. The rest of us are wearing cotton Hello Kitty or Little Miss pyjamas, but Sophie always goes to bed looking like she’s about to film a lingerie advert. There’s a little smile on her face that I don’t trust. “You both seem so well all of a sudden,” she says. “Almost as if you’ve become a Brand New You or something...” Lael slams her hand down on a bedside table, making us all jump. “You’ve been going through my cupboards, haven’t you? How dare you poke through my stuff?” Sophie’s doesn’t deny it. “I like to know what’s going on, that’s all.” “What is going on?” Priya asks, looking completely fogged. “They’ve been on a crash diet,” Sophie says casually. “One of those milkshake and supplement diets. That’s why they’ve been so cranky lately. But the way they
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I need to write out a list of all the things I’m supposed to be doing and start ticking them off. it is.” I give a sudden gasp. man.” “Don’t tell me you said no?” Sophie asks anxiously. “Where?” “No. I was all offish. you can’t think about anything else. You’re just surviving from one meal to the next. I must have been half-catatonic at the time. All I could think was that I’d be at a three-course dinner and not allowed to eat anything except meat and salad.” “I know.” Nosipho puts in. “Yes. When you’re that hungry. I seem to remember saying yes.. with most of those coming from drinks or salads.” she says.” I shrug.were shovelling in pudding this evening. I squinch up my eyes in shame. But my answer to him was very uncool. You’ll just have to be extra nice to him 154 Fiona Snyckers .” says Lael.” Lael says between gritted teeth.” “That’s cool. I’d say they’ve dropped it now.” Lael agrees. But in a rude kind of way. “We’ve all noticed. “Zach!” Everyone looks around.. “Well. I try to remember our conversation. you two have been acting a little oddly lately. that doesn’t matter. It completely slipped my mind. “The point is that you’re going. He’s invited me to go to the scholarship dinner with him. “You’d be acting oddly too if you were trying to survive on less than a thousand calories a day.” “You just stay out of my cupboard. actually. although we didn’t like to say anything. “No . He’s not here! I’ve just remembered that he phoned me the other day.” “Well. “I’ve had a memory like a sieve all week. Thank goodness.
and left the rest natural. but it doesn’t matter. I’m starting to wonder whether schizophrenia runs in her family. Team Trinity 155 . Sophie is an artist. For one thing. and the next she’s offering to help me choose an outfit for my date. And once again the hem-length is exactly right for the shape of my legs. When have I ever steered you wrong when it comes to clothes?” I have to admit that the answer to that is never. Tonight’s dress is a little black number that’s cut on the bias so it clings in all the right places and skims over all the wrong ones. One moment she’s snooping through Lael’s cupboard and finding our secret Brand New You stash so she can gloat at us. and my lips a bit shiny.to make up for it. She’s made my eyes a bit smoky. “Don’t look at me so suspiciously. but I was wrong. and for another. *** Thanks to Sophie’s help. we’ll be starting our new diet soon. amused.” she says. We can’t keep up with Sophie’s sudden changes.” Lael catches my eye and I can see she is thinking exactly the same thing as I am. There’s no other word for it. Now we need to help you sort out your outfit and your makeup. I’m going to miss having access to her clothes when she finally comes to her senses and stops being nice to me. I thought Sophie would go overboard on the makeup tonight. “I’m here to help you. I’m feeling pretty confident on the night of the dinner. That kilogram I lost on the diet has come back with a vengeance. the dress I’m wearing is cleverly cut to hide any bulges.
Just be yourself and everyone will love you. I can’t help thinking how far we’ve come as a couple. I’d be feeling a lot more nervous if I weren’t used to attending black-tie dinners with my parents. and makes me worry that I use too much makeup the rest of the time.” “You don’t need to be. “Nervous?” “A bit. Imagine if I had. that are too important for the normal hall where we have our morning assemblies. The thought makes me squeeze his hand a bit harder. It looks unrecognisable this evening. The Memorial Hall is usually used for smart occasions. I guess. I remember being too shy even to speak to him. As he walks me into Memorial Hall for the start of the dinner. like prize-givings. He’d probably be going out with some other girl by now. The floor is packed with round tables covered in floorlength white cloths and striped overlays.” That does make me feel better. I nearly chickened out of asking him for help with my work that first time. We’ve hosted quite a few in our home. Nearly as much as I do. He can hardly take his eyes off me. checking the noticeboard to find their allocated tables. One look at Zach’s face tells me he appreciates Sophie’s efforts as much as I do. I must admit. The light of a hundred candles sparkles off crystal and silverware. From the time my brothers and I turned twelve.It’s a good look. our parents have expected 156 Fiona Snyckers . There’s a hum of well-bred conversation in the air. I need to tone it down. He looks down and smiles at me. Smartly dressed people are filing in ahead of us. too. All the walls and windows are draped in red and navy. the school colours.
I’ve answered endless questions about my family. Team Trinity 157 . Zach’s eye flicks over the seating plan. I turn my head and start chatting to the professor. well. Shooting a last smile at Zach. I find myself wedged between a Professor of Sociology who is a Brentwood old boy and now on the school board. It could be worse. Oh. I’ve smiled so much in the course of the evening that my cheeks ache. *** A few hours later. it’s finally all over. Zach’s parents couldn’t make it up from Howick to be with him tonight. But this has happened to me before at formal dinners. and I’m a bit surprised to find that we’ve been seated separately. so I try to take it in my stride. and a guy called Justin who I recognise from the Postmatric Annexe. without giving away any more than is already out there in the media. I guess. but I honestly can’t tell whether this bothers him or not. We’re the last people to arrive at the table. and to Justin Whatsisname talking about his plans for university. I like to think I’m quite good at reading people.us to put in an appearance at these dinners and make polite conversation. and I think I’ve handled it all pretty well. I’ve listened to the professor burbling on about his research. and he leads me across the hall to Table 7 where we’re sitting with a couple of the other postmatrics and their dates and parents. All I know is that he’s happy to have me with him.
I feel a little shiver of excitement at the thought. As I hear the door slam shut behind me. But now it’s finally over and people are starting to leave.” Zach is staring off into the distance. fiddly food – quite delicious.” I say as I reach down for the silver clutch Sophie lent me. “What do you mean?” “I just mean I don’t have to clock back into Sisulu House until midnight. one of our teachers.” “Right. I’ve hardly exchanged two words with Zach the whole night. and the other was Mrs Radomsky. So we’ve got an hour to kill. “we’ve got a whole hour until I need to go back. I practically skip into the room ahead of him. “You know.I’ve sat through three courses of fancy. We wait until all the other postmatrics are safely inside the common room with their parents and their dates. It’s only eleven. I sneak a glance at my watch. He didn’t seem to be getting on too well with his neighbours. 158 Fiona Snyckers . “Let’s go back to my room then. I turn with a smile. taking my arm in a firm grasp. Some proper one-on-one time. I’ve got permission to stay out until midnight because it’s Friday night. but he brings his gaze back to me.” he says. The one was somebody’s mother. I’m kind of hoping Zach and I will get to spend some more time together before he takes me back to Sisulu House. He sounds so masterful. Then we sneak up to Zach’s room. Worst of all. The black-bag-over-the-camera trick works just as smoothly as it did the first time. I must admit – and some absolutely endless speeches.” Another little thrill shivers through me.
Some were more welcoming than others. The last time I did this he said it really helped him to relax. Standing up. And I’ll have coffee. but people were really welcoming. “Coffee?” “Um . Team Trinity 159 . heading for his kettle. “You were unlucky with the people you were sitting next to. It doesn’t look as though he had nearly as good a time tonight as I did. you mean?” There’s a long silence.expecting him to scoop me into his arms. He is obviously upset.” “It was a nice evening. but it seems rude to say no when he’s already put on the kettle. But he walks past me. “What could possibly be wrong when my girlfriend has just made a complete fool of herself – and of me – in front of all the people who will be deciding my future next year?” I almost reel from the shock. just a little rooibos. “Tea?” he says shortly.” Something about the way he says this makes me look at him more closely. “Fine. and I have absolutely no idea why.” “Mmm.. But then maybe his expectations were higher. thanks. I circle around behind him to start rubbing his shoulders. I expected to feel like a gatecrasher. “Is anything wrong?” “Wrong?” he repeats. “Everyone was so friendly. “Unlike you.” He ducks himself away from my hands.” I don’t really feel like anything after that huge dinner. “Zach?” I say hesitantly. They didn’t seem to have much to say for themselves. I sink back onto his bed and stare at him in blank dismay. the mom.. sitting down on his bed. “Mrs Radomsky and that other lady. wasn’t it?” I say. weren’t you?” I say sympathetically.
That’s the way I am. Could it be true? Did I keep touching Justin? I seem to remember dabbing at his arm once or twice while I was talking. I’m afraid I’m more of a straight-C girl than a straight-A girl. “Oh yes. come on. “How could I forget? You couldn’t keep your hands off him. How do you think it makes me look.” “That doesn’t mean you have to advertise it to the whole world.” I try to pull my wits together to answer him. 160 Fiona Snyckers . We were discussing the relationship between the ANC and big business. “I was just being honest with him. could you? If you’d touched his arm any more people would have thought you were his date instead of mine. But this seems to make him even angrier.” “But it’s true. I don’t think twice about it . “I talked to that Justin guy about politics for ages.” “But I don’t!” “Oh no.” I say weakly. This can’t be real. I think to myself. putting on a fake girlish voice. I’m a toucher. “I’m not one of the scholarship students. Professor Raynor!” he says. Don’t pretend you don’t know. “Do you know who you embarrassed most with your behaviour?” Zach asks between gritted teeth.” I look anxiously at Zach’s face. I cast my mind back frantically. hoping to see some sign of softening. Justin!” he says sarcastically. being at the dinner with a girl who can’t even pretend to be interested in serious academic matters?” “But I was! I did.” This is a nightmare. Trinity. in a friendly way.“But what did I say? What did I do?” “Oh.
I d-didn’t. “It’s not fair.” “But. “Justin. I’ll manage not to cry. isn’t it.. nothing. “At least. “I’m so. feeling hot shame wash over me. so sorry. And a second after that – wonderfully. “I can’t help it. Trinity. As long as I don’t blink. And a small sobbing noise escapes me as tears start to pour down my cheeks. blissfully – I feel Zach’s arms closing around me and pulling me against him.” And then I cover my face with my hands and start sobbing for real. “I’m sorry. I try to steady my voice. I mustn’t blink.” I gasp again.” he says. I blink.” I manage to gasp.” I stare at the floor. my cheeks burning. He was freaked out by a total stranger coming on to him at a formal dinner party.. A moment later I feel a weight sinking down onto the bed next to me. I didn’t mean to.” “I’m sorry. I didn’t think.” I stutter. compared with having him stand silently by while I cry.” Team Trinity 161 . Trinity? You don’t think. How could I have got it all so wrong? How could I have thought the evening was a success? I’m biting the insides of my cheeks and willing myself not to cry. “Don’t cry. but this is the absolute worst.” he says gently. it was nothing.” “That’s the trouble. For a moment Zach just watches me.I shake my head. I’ve had some humiliating moments in my life. “The poor guy didn’t know where to look. You know I can’t stand it. If I thought I was humiliated before.
They’re the ones who will be writing reference letters for me one day. I’m so lucky he’s giving me a second chance. I’d better talk about the flirting thing. Trinity.” I try to slow my breathing down like he says. But you can be a little thoughtless at times. “And I’m sorry for what I said about you never thinking. instead of just breaking up with me straight away. Zach’s right. I just wasn’t thinking. and didn’t even realise it. but these are serious people.” He passes me a tissue. We’ve both had a stressful evening. 162 Fiona Snyckers . “That’s better. partygirl image is fine when you’re with your friends. you must realise that the people who were at the dinner tonight are very important for my career. You have to put your best foot forward when you’re with them.” I say for the third time. giving me one last hug. That wasn’t true or fair. otherwise it’s just going to hang in the air between us forever. But it’s all over now. The whole anti-intellectual. in fact – to Professor Raynor all evening.“Just breathe slowly.” I nod as I feel more tears threatening to spill. Then he moves away slightly so we can look at each other. “I didn’t realise what I was doing. Gradually the sobs start to subside. I made a total fool of myself.” Zach says. “I’m so sorry.” I remember myself chattering away – babbling. In a moment we can talk about it calmly. otherwise it reflects badly on me.” “I know you didn’t do it on purpose. I take a shaky breath. In and out. “The thing is. and my toes curl with embarrassment.
” “The hard part will be when I see him tomorrow and he asks me to explain why my girlfriend was coming on to him the whole evening. holding the door open for me. I’m sorry if he misunderstood it. “Yes.. I really didn’t.” “Just put all the blame on me. Look.” “Okay. but there’s no one around. “I know you will. But I’ll try to do better if you’ll just give me another chance.” Team Trinity 163 . “About that thing with Justin.. “Explain how I’m only in Grade 10.” I say. If only I hadn’t wasted it. to be honest. let’s not let this spoil our evening. it wasn’t wasted. Zach.“Look. “I wish our evening didn’t have to end so soon.” I say awkwardly. both girls and guys.” he says.” “Already?” I look at my watch and see with a jolt that he’s right.” I say eagerly. It’s almost midnight. “I’d better go upstairs and find Matron. well. as we cross the grass behind Gumede House and veer left towards Sisulu. I am still a bit hurt about that. so I’d better walk you back now. “As long as you understand what I was trying to say. That’s just the way I talk to people.” Zach rewards me with a smile and a gentle stroke on the cheek. You’ve put me in a very awkward position.” His lips tighten. Our hour has whizzed past with all my crying and fussing. and not really used to formal dinners.” “I didn’t do it on purpose. I stick my head into the office and the common room.
The way he just brushed his lips against my cheek told me as clearly as words how disappointed he is in me. Trinity. wondering if he’s going to give me one of those bone-melting goodbye kisses. 164 Fiona Snyckers . but he just pecks me on the cheek. “Goodnight. I can feel hot tears pricking behind my eyes again.” As I walk up the stairs.I turn towards him.
the dining-hall. But the next morning she takes one look at my face and immediately knows something’s wrong. I’m going to scream. really don’t want to talk about it.CHAPTER 19 THERE ARE lots of things I love about boarding school. It means I’m never lonely or bored. But where? There are always people in the dormitories. the common room. Just the thought of telling anybody how I behaved at the dinner makes me go cold all over. and outside in the grounds. It’s hard work evading her questions and telling her again and again that everything’s okay. I manage to avoid being interrogated by Lael when I come back from the dinner because she’s already fast asleep. or moping around. but that doesn’t stop the anxious looks she keeps giving me. But the flip side of that is that I never get to be alone when I really need to be. And this is one of those times. Eventually I manage to convince her that I really. I only I could get away by myself for a short while. Team Trinity 165 . If I don’t find some peace and quiet soon. but a few that I hate about it too. It feels like I’m living under a microscope. like I sometimes do at home. It’s sweet of her to be so concerned. but this isn’t something I want to share. One of the things I love is having company all the time. And some of those things are different sides of the same coin.
I can see that girls come in here all the time. It’s clean and bright. They are such cosy. except that it’s obviously not as unused as I thought. with a lot of light coming in from the long windows. But I just know that if I actually went into one. Then I remember the old library up on the fourth floor. He’s been friendly. a school jersey. over the phone and on BBM. right about when learners stopped using anything except the internet for references. Hardly anyone goes in there anymore because we all do our research online these days.I wander restlessly all over Sisulu House. trying to think calmly about what happened with Zach. A quick look confirms that the school stopped buying new editions in 2005. I haven’t seen him since the night of the dinner. I sink into a chair and rest my forehead on my arms. Looking around. with kettles and toasters and everything. I’d get caught and be given a detention. this is not bad at all. The matrics have really got it made with those studies of theirs. I can tell that he’s forgiven me. but that he’s still disappointed 166 Fiona Snyckers . a Kit Kat wrapper. comfortable rooms. it’ll be the perfect place for me to hang out on my own for a bit. But the important thing is that it’s empty now. There’s a laptop cover on one of the desks. looking for a quiet spot. It’s a smallish room with floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with encyclopaedias. So as long as it’s not full of cobwebs and spiders. Okay. and a pencil bag that I’m pretty sure belongs to Yasmin. And no one is using them at the moment. I run up the stairs two at a time in my eagerness to check it out. but slightly cold. This would be the perfect place for me to hang out when I want to be on my own.
ja. that all adds up to boyfriend trouble. “I’m a ninja. I take it now is not a great time to talk?” “You take it right. what did you just call me?” “Never mind. I go where I like. Trinity. see that you don’t get caught. “It’s lovely to see you too. At all. “What do I have to do to get some peace and quiet around here?” James just smiles as he strolls into the library with his thumbs hooked into the front pockets of his jeans. ja.in me.” “I told you before. “So what’s up with you. “Your eyes are all pink and swollen. ‘boyfriend trouble’? Who says I’m having boyfriend trouble?” “Let’s see.” He counts the items off on his fingers.” I narrow my eyes at him. In my book.” he says. You’ve come up here to be alone.” “Go away. I am the living shadow. I want to be alone.” He laughs and perches on one of the desks. when I like. or you’ll be spending the rest of your life in detention.. I’d do anything – anything at all – to wipe that disappointment out of his voice. not you again!” I blurt out.” Team Trinity 167 . no. And even my considerable charm isn’t making you smile. I tear up again and am just settling in for a good cry when something makes me look up. Well.” “Sorry. Greta Garbo. Ever. “How did you get up here anyway? Boys aren’t supposed to come upstairs. “Oh. aiming a slow-motion karate kick at my desk. that is?” “What do you mean.” “Ja. Trinity? Apart from boyfriend trouble.” “I .. That’s not going to happen. Shadow Boy.
“I think you shouldn’t take him back until he apologises with flowers and chocolates. I told you everything you needed to know over two weeks 168 Fiona Snyckers . And then he says nothing. you’re right. aren’t I?” he says. what?” “What do you think? You must have some opinion. or my best friend. And I have to make it up to him so he can be proud of me again.” “I think. He didn’t do anything wrong. you’ll never get it! Can we please talk about something else?” “Fine. I could be crying about anything.” “Why don’t you tell me about it?” So I do. “Yes. Flowers and chocolates. I heave a sigh.” he says slowly.. And make sure they’re the expensive kind. Not one or the other.“Oh. Trust you to assume I must be upset over a boy. I did.” This makes me sigh again. and he doesn’t judge. “Let’s talk about why you girls still haven’t done anything about the Gumede Shield. Don’t you get it? Zach hasn’t got anything to apologise for.” I swat his suggestion away like it’s an annoying fly. I could have had a fight with my mother. “Oh.” he says.” “I repeat. He just listens until you’ve finished telling him the whole sorry story. he doesn’t take his eyes off your face while you’re talking. “I should have known you wouldn’t understand.. please. “Well. He doesn’t interrupt. “I’m right. okay.” There’s a beat of silence. What rubbish. it’s that he’s a good listener. “Well?” I say after a long silence. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about James. Both.
diet?” “Yes. “The ‘Bantu’ people? Do you know. But you people are meant to have big bums. We still have loads of weight to lose. aren’t you?” “You people?” I echo. Behind glass. But we’re better now. And we were so hungry and exhausted we couldn’t think about anything else.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about. that’s one of those words I’ve never heard in real life before? I’ve read it. Trinity. Is it your time of the month. You’re meant to have big backsides. but you’re the first person I’ve ever actually heard say it. Lael and I went on this stupid Brand New You diet where we had to drink milkshakes and eat soup all day long.. We’ll be fine. “The . that was because of the diet!” His face creases into a look of severe puzzlement. but that’s okay. although I must say she makes overweight look good.ago.” “I don’t know why you want to lose weight anyway.” I sigh.. or something?” Team Trinity 169 . “You mustn’t be so sensitive.” “No more diets for you then?” “No. aren’t you?” I gape at him. I didn’t say that.” “Of course you don’t. Your Jewish friend could stand to lose a few pounds. This morning I walk past Dr Hussein’s office and what do I see? The shield. “And what people might those be?” “You know – the Bantu people. dangerously. We’ll be starting a new one soon. So what’s up with that?” “Oh. On its shelf. so we’ll be getting back to the shield any day now. It’s one of those ‘eat as much as you like and still lose weight’ diets.
okay! I’m going. Now. yes. Still fuming. I sit down again. for some reason. where was I? Oh. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. I was about to have a good cry. “You.” “What do you mean?” “I mean. “Okay. If only he weren’t such an incredibly racist pig. 170 Fiona Snyckers .” And he saunters out the door. Out.” He holds up his hands. Because in some weird way – and I really don’t understand how – talking to James has made me feel better. Now. get out! I mean. Except now. Go away before I scream for Matron. I don’t feel like it.“That does it!” I stand up and point at the library door. I’m gone.
... I’ve just been thinking . she’s a part of this dormitory.” Yasmin mutters. The one who sleeps in this dormitory. “Um . “Right. before we get started.” Priya suggests.” Nosipho chips in.CHAPTER 20 I CLEAR my throat and look around doubtfully at my friends The third official Operation Shield meeting is in progress. Agent Luhabe. And I have a feeling it’s not going to go down well.” “Proceed. girls!” There’s a sergeant-major snap to Lael’s voice as she opens her iPad and prepares to get going. What about her?” “Well . isn’t she?” “It depends which part you mean. You know which Sophie I’m talking about... “The annoying part. I just wanted to make a suggestion. as usual.” “Okay. Lael has taken the chair. “Our Sophie.” “It’s about Sophie. Yes. “I didn’t think you could possibly be talking about that Sophie. “The evil cow part. so let’s do a quick recap.” I say impatiently. Trinity?” she adds as I raise my hand hesitantly. “It’s been weeks since our last meeting. Team Trinity 171 . but I need to bring something up that isn’t on the official agenda..” Lael says thoughtfully.” “Sophie who?” “Sophie Agincourt. I don’t know if you’re going to like it.
“I know.” I say.” “Better than what?” Lael asks huffily.A slightly bitchy laugh ripples around the room. It’s Item 4b on the agenda. remember?” That really rankled Lael.. And you will be duly commended for your fine work. Comrade?” Nosipho demands. “But she’s been so nice about lending me her clothes and her makeup and helping me get ready for dates and everything.” “The thing is .. “Hang on.. remember?” Lael nods approvingly.” “We are sneaking around behind her back.. Agent Abdul. I know. right? And we’re keeping it a secret from one of the legitimate members of that dormitory.. It’s starting to look like she never will. girls. It feels almost like we’re sneaking around behind her back. I’m not finished yet.”You must admit she’s been better this term. you’re not being fair. 172 Fiona Snyckers . it just doesn’t feel right holding these meetings without her. Lael sighs and makes a “carry on” sweep with her hand... I mean. that I was just .” Yasmin points out.” I say sympathetically. “Spit it out. “I was the one who found out when she was having her violin lesson so that we could hold the meeting tonight.” I say. “This is the girl who rifled through my undies to get at our diet supplies. this is supposed to be a joint venture of the Albertina Sisulu House Grade 10 dormitory. Now if there’s nothing else?” She gives her iPad a business-like click.. you know . thinking. It’s been over a week and she still hasn’t forgotten about it. “Come on.” “Thinking what. “Exactly.
wait. Then finally. we wouldn’t have to worry about hiding it from her any more. She’s sneaky enough that she could make a valuable asset to our campaign. wait!” I say. The only person she’s been nice to is you. Priya?” Lael asks.” Lael says.” “Wait.“Look. “Has Sophie been nicer to you. please. “Nope. I was really touched.” “Yasmin?” “Not even a little bit.” There’s a long silence as I look around hopefully from girl to girl. And even then.” “It’s not only me! She’s been nicer to everyone. “Next order of business. and gave me so many great tips on how to act in future. “I mean you’re right – we do think you’re crazy.” “How about you. Nosipho?” “Nuh uh.” Priya says. She was so sympathetic.” “And she’s been a complete cow to me. she’s only nice when it has Team Trinity 173 . “Not to anyone else. I’m afraid you’re outvoted. Trinity. “Sorry. Lael nods..” she says briskly. But from the looks on my friends’ faces. so that makes it pretty much unanimous. but maybe we should consider bringing Sophie in on this.” I can’t help remembering last night when Sophie took me aside and told me she’d heard all about what happened at the scholarship dinner. I know you’ll think I’m crazy. “You’re right. And once she knows about it.” “You mean you agree?” I can hardly believe it. “Aren’t you even going to think about it? Haven’t you noticed how much nicer she’s been this term?” “To you. I’m the only one who feels this way.
“Right.” I hunch my shoulders and subside. I’m not a total moron. Agent Abdul’s mother was a learner at this institution in the 1970s and 80s. But I’ve done my best to convince the others.” “Agreed. isn’t it?” I say. It didn’t feel right to be taking her advice about Zach while planning a secret meeting behind her back. all right. You always want to believe the best of everyone. that’s kind of her. Time to move on. whatever my friends might think. she’ll totally split on us to Matron. without success. leans over to give me a quick hug. “You’re too unsuspicious. “It’s either kind or creepy. proceeding to the summary of events so far.something to do with Zach. she really wants the two of you to make it as a couple.” Nosipho. I’m not all that sorry to be outvoted. But after she was so sweet to me last night. if we tell her what we’re planning to do with the Gumede Shield. “Agent Abdul has uncovered a valuable piece of historical evidence.” Lael makes a note on her iPad. “I think if we knew what she was really up to.” “Plus. we’d be horrified.” Lael gets up to pace the room. Otherwise we can kiss this whole plan goodbye.” says Yasmin.” “Oh. For some reason. to tell you the truth. Not one single whisper of a hint of a rumour about what we’re planning.” says Lael. I know Sophie can’t really be trusted. As we all know. that’s your problem. It’s thanks to her that we know about the promise that the shield will be allowed 174 Fiona Snyckers . “And that’ll be the end of all our plans.” “I agree. We tell Sophie nothing. who is sitting closest to me.” “Well. Trinity. With some people. you have to consider the possibility that there is no best. “Motion denied. my conscience pricked me.
when the shield stopped a bullet and saved the life of the soldier who was carrying it. which means that the Gumede House Shield was originally named after a female. “With the emphasis on lady. “It was that war between Britain and Russia. don’t you remember?” says Yasmin.” I say. “Yes.” “The alleged promise. that is.” “The alleged promise. “Okay.” “That’s right.” she says. And now Agent Abdul’s mother has remembered another piece of information about the shield. “Although I’m sure it’s true. But apparently it has an even longer history than that. I know who she was at least.” “The Crimean War.. it was known as the Jan Smuts Shield. Florence Nightingale. The grandfather. “We did it in history. The nurse lady.. We all know that after the First World War.” Lael agrees.” Lael sits down and gestures to Yasmin to stand up. relieved. “It’s somewhere in here. scrolling through the messages on her phone. She says that the shield was originally donated to the school by a grandfather of one of the boys who was in the Crimean War. Which means that the reason Gumede House Team Trinity 175 .” I say vaguely.” “Oh. Florence Nightingale was a woman. “Anyway. this is an email from my mom. Agent Abdul.to live half in Gumede House and half in Sisulu House if a girl ever succeeds in kidnapping it again. “My mom says it’s only a vague rumour she remembers hearing.” Nosipho puts in.” “And some other countries too. you have the floor. not the boy – obviously.” says Lael. I think.” Yasmin corrects. the point about the Crimean War is that the shield was originally known as the Florence Nightingale Shield.
why don’t we just write a petition to Dr Hussein asking for the shield to be shared with Sisulu House? We can put this new historical evidence into it and collect signatures from all the girls.” I say slowly. so what we’ll do is pinch the shield and put it in our display case with a list of reasons why it should be shared between the two houses. I bet they’ve known about the Florence Nightingale angle all along. we have more right. “Now let’s get onto the practicalities.” I say. Then we won’t have to go to all the trouble of stealing it.. “Very tame. In fact. And that means we have just as much right to it as they do.” I tail off.has always given for keeping it is nonsense. They claim it was named after Jan Smuts – their founder. giving her a high five. we now know that the inter-leading door between Dr 176 Fiona Snyckers .” “Motion carried.” Nosipho grins. Agent Luhabe’s co-conspirator Honourary Agent James Ellison has been a great help in spying for us. Lael nods.” Lael makes another note on her iPad. Otherwise. But it wasn’t. Thanks to him. looking at the four disappointed faces around me.” “Okay. I bet even Matron would sign it.. “Yes. considering that she was a woman and we are a women’s boarding house. “It sounds a bit tame. “If all this is true. doesn’t it?” I admit.” “Yeah!” Priya says. “That’ll teach them. It goes all the way back to Florence Nightingale. This is a male conspiracy to keep the shield in Gumede House. we’ll fight dirty. If they want to fight dirty. how would Yasmin’s mom have heard about it? They’ve been suppressing the evidence. And anyway. brilliant. They wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. “Hang on a minute.
. “Did James tell you all that?” Priya asks curiously. that’s pretty much the first word that comes to mind.” Lael says firmly. slightly defensive. “I would.” “Would you really call him obnoxious?” I ask. all while leaving the door unlocked. “I suppose you’re right. Agent Luhabe.. I nod. “Enough to know he’s a fairly obnoxious guy who doesn’t like girls much.” I add. “So basically all we need to do is place an object about the same size in Team Trinity 177 . “Why? Do you know him?” “A little bit. In fact. Honourary Agent Ellison gets Noddy points for helping us on our feminist mission.” I dig a torch out of my bag and demonstrate exactly how the security beam works. I suppose.” I think of James’ habit of making racist and sexist comments all the time. is it? He’s the one who always comes and finds me. “Obnoxious or not. would you kindly explain about the infra-red beam?” “Sure. so I don’t care how annoying he is. He can be pretty offensive.” she says.” “And also that she makes a habit of wandering about making tea and going to the Ladies. Because it’s not as though I go looking for him. “He is assisting us in striking a blow for womanhood. The obnoxiousness is so much a part of his personality for me that I hardly notice it any more.Hussein’s office and Mrs Anderssen’s office is unlocked on Wednesday mornings while she does her filing.” “Oh well. And I must admit I’m secretly a bit flattered that a guy who is notorious for not liking girls keeps seeking me out and spending time with me.” It’s just that I’ve got used to him.
” 178 Fiona Snyckers . The point is that we need to make very sure we don’t get caught. “I’ll ask him the next time I see him.” “Then that’s it for tonight. That way.the way of the beam before removing the shield. I reckon we’d be looking at expulsion. So we need to make a hundred per cent sure that we don’t get caught. there’ll be no hidden surprises waiting for us when we do it for real.” Lael says. we could all get into serious trouble.” “Expulsion?” Nosipho asks nervously. Trinity. we need to run through the whole operation up to and including unlocking the cabinet. And to do that.” “We need to do a dry run. That way. “If this goes wrong. will you ask James if he’ll be our look-out? Check that the passage is empty and so forth?” “Sure. “Do you really think they’d go that far?” “They might. the alarm won’t be activated. Now let’s start doing our normal stuff before Sophie gets back.” I say.
“No. but I hang around with Lael to talk about the diet we’re starting tomorrow. The only enemy is carbs. Oh. Tomorrow morning you can have as many eggs as you like. and all the sausages you can eat. as much bacon as you like.” “Not to sound like my mother here. Just lettuce. We have to cut out carbs completely. We’re allowed to eat as much as we like.” “And all that fat? Isn’t it a problem?” “Not at all. Tomorrow we can wake up and eat a huge breakfast. “Really and truly?” “Absolutely. We’ve still got practically a whole bottle left. As long as we don’t have any toast or orange juice. High-protein diets have been proved to work.” “So that means no fruit and veggies either?” “None. And I’ll be having beef sausages and turkey bacon. seeing as I don’t do the pork thing. and we’re allowed some salad every night.” I still can’t quite believe this. “No doughnuts for us tonight?” I ask as she changes into her nightie and gets into bed. but we can put as much dressing on as we like.CHAPTER 21 THE OTHER girls drift back to their own cubicles.” Team Trinity 179 . You should too. We don’t need them because this isn’t a starvation diet. we’ll be fine. but what about vitamins? Aren’t we going to get scurvy or something?” “I’m going to be taking one of my Brand New You vitamin pills every day.
But today I’m going to splash out on a full cooked breakfast and not feel guilty about it.” Lael warns as I stretch for some milk to put into my tea. not hers. so I’m now back to exactly where I was before I started this dieting business. We load up on hot food and make our way smugly past the girls who are tucking into slices of melon or All Bran Flakes. Lael has never steered me wrong yet. But the Drinking Man’s Diet sounds really good. we would have lost even more. and dreaming of the day when I’ll be 4 kg lighter. so I’m feeling optimistic. but that was her mother’s idea. 180 Fiona Snyckers . I’m really looking forward to breakfast. If we’d been able to stick to it. “And sugarless or with sweetener.” she adds as I reach automatically for the sugar. sugarless tea. “You have to drink that black.“Well. that doesn’t sound too bad. Okay. If I’m really hungry I might have a boiled egg as well. Of course. that single kilo I lost went back on after just three days of normal eating. Lael and I are practically the first ones down for breakfast. And we did actually lose weight on it. with some orange juice and toast. I wake up the next morning with a little flutter of excitement in my tummy. I can’t help pouting at the thought of black. My normal breakfast is a bowl of Weet-Bix. that stupid Brand New You diet nearly killed both of us.” *** I go to bed feeling quite cheerful.
Before anyone can answer. huh? Hmmm. because it has a higher fat content and fewer carbs.” “Rubbish. some other kind of high-protein diet then?” We look down at the table.” Lael scoffs. You can even die from them. “You’re just jealous because soon we’re going to be slim and gorgeous. Sophie. “Well.” I confirm. trying to distract her. you know. she puts her spoon down with a clatter. but of course there isn’t any. “I’ve got it! You’re doing the Atkins Diet. we’re just hungry.“Why don’t you have rooibos instead?” she suggests.” she says.” “You two are just one slice of bacon away from a heart attack.” Lael shakes her head firmly. *** Team Trinity 181 . “It’s not bad if you drink it black. And the horror of it is that she’s right. We could have cream in our tea or coffee.” “I don’t need to be jealous because I’m slim and gorgeous already.” Sophie comments from across the table.” I say shortly. staring off into the distance. You can almost see the wheels turning inside her head. running a hand down one lean hip. “What is this – national cholesterol day?” “No. aren’t you?” “No. “So who’s looking forward to Gossip Girl tonight?” I say. Those high-protein diets are very bad for your kidneys. “I knew it!” she crows. Her eyes sharpen. “You should be careful. “Hungry.” She chews on her muesli for a while.” “Absolutely not. “We’re not.
I’m never hungry and I get to eat as much as I like. You can’t have a relationship with someone if you never see them. When I suggested getting together. I hold my breath while he talks into the handset. 182 Fiona Snyckers . At least he’s agreed to see me. Just a few BBMs and phone calls. I’m hoping things will get back to normal if I take the initiative. A few minutes later. I’ve got permission from Matron and everything. When he finally appears.The huge breakfast carries me happily to lunch. It’s a total win.” says the guard. at which I eat a huge pile of cold meat. right? I almost wear a groove in the thin carpet as I pace up and down waiting for Zach. he said he needed more space. I can’t help worrying that Zach might ask him to send me away. I’m slipping past a couple of postmatric guys on my way into the Annexe. People are starting to ask why we never spend time together anymore. asking the security guard to buzz Zach for me. he’s had enough space now. This is the easiest diet I’ve ever been on. and I let my breath out. That’s got to be a good sign. I can’t go on like this. “He’ll be down in a minute. After supper I feel psyched enough to do something I’ve been putting off for days. Well. If it’s all over between us. butterflies sliding around in my stomach. so I’m going to force the issue. And then at supper I have three chicken breasts and some more Rooibos tea. I’d rather face up to it now. telling Zach there’s a Trinity Luhabe waiting downstairs for him. I’ve hardly had any contact with Zach since that horrible night of the scholarship dinner. I’m going to visit Zach at the Annexe. Then I’m standing in reception.
” “Then I’ll do that. But listen. stops dead. babe. okay.” I try to hide my disappointment. it’s probably not a good idea to drop by like this in the Team Trinity 183 .” “Right. “Hey. Is that for A-levels?” “Yes. “They were on their way out. I’ll BBM you to confirm. They’re probably back inside already. I want to rush over and hug him. “Hey. um. remembering.” “Oh. but I force myself to stand still and smile at him. I was going to call you.” “Oh .” “Oh. “But will I be allowed?” “If you get written permission from your parents. and then starts racing at about 200 beats a minute. but unfortunately I’m in the middle of a study group right now. A few of us are going to Monte this weekend to catch a movie and get a bite to eat.. “They were just going out for a smoke break. I saw Andrew and Sheldon as I came in. sorry.” he says. “Well. Do you want to come?” “I’d love to!” I say happily. “Did we have something organised for tonight? I don’t have anything in my diary.” I say. I really need to go. With Andrew and Sheldon and some of the other guys. I didn’t even know you’d started one.my heart does a huge bound in my chest. We meet most nights. but listen. Trinity. hating the stammer that creeps into my voice.” I say. strolling over to peck me on the cheek. so I decided to come over and surprise you. that’s nice.” There’s another slight pause.” There’s a bit of a pause.. “I just thought we hadn’t seen each other for a while. you should be.” “Great! Looking forward to it. n-no.” “Hey.
Jeans and a top – a cool.” “Sure. I’m busy with the study group most nights. “It’s just a movie at Montecasino.” “Fine. I’ll remember that. and second. Zach and I are still together! He is still my boyfriend! The bestlooking guy in the entire school. call first.” “With Zach and a whole bunch of his friends.” “It might be just a movie. so I don’t think you need to try too hard. Even after what I did at the scholarship dinner. sparkly top that says Friday night. and we’ll set something up. Next time.” Lael says. and he’s my boyfriend. Just jeans and a top should be fine.” 184 Fiona Snyckers . what am I going to wear tonight. “First of all. and it’s the best feeling in the world. And he’s nice too. “Great! Thanks for understanding. but it’s a movie with Zach. he’s still prepared to go out with me. “That makes it a casual date. We’ve got a date for Friday night! He has totally forgiven me and everything is back to normal. I wouldn’t go borrowing one of Sophie’s dresses again or anything like that. what am I going to eat tonight?” “Those are both easy. two questions.” He gives me a much warmer kiss on the mouth. I’ll help you choose one.” she corrects. agreed. He is so gorgeous – so Hollywood gorgeous – you want to pinch his face to check that it’s real.” I say.” I practically float out on wings of happiness. I knew I was right to visit him tonight! *** “Okay. Then I’ll see you on Friday.evenings.” “Okay.
” “It’s just what?” “Well . You’re absolutely right. do you ever . hardly ever. you know. I mean.” “And isn’t it awesome to be able to eat as much as you like at every single meal? I mean.” “I know. if you’re having lamb the one day. sometimes. you know.” “The trick is not to eat exactly the same thing every day. What if there’s nothing I can eat?” “There’s always something you can eat. too fast. I don’t want to break my diet now while it’s going so well. and order the osso bucco or something.. “What’s wrong?” Lael asks. And remember you can have a small side salad. You won’t starve. Very Italian and all protein.” An involuntary spasm crosses my face at the words “egg and cheese”.. you can still just eat the burger patty and throw away the bun. you’re right. Even if you go to an Italian restaurant... It’s just. Like. But just... just think about it. don’t worry. “I mean .” “Osso whatsit?” “It’s kind of a meat on the bone thing. and that kind of thing.. “I don’t know. Hey. so totally legal from a diet point of view. then try to have beef the next.. getting a bit tired of meat and eggs and stuff?” “No!” she says. even if you end up at McDonalds. “That’s the beauty of the Drinking Man’s Diet. Me too.” “No. with egg and cheese and stuff like that in it.” Lael says. you can steer clear of the pasta and pizza. Hardly ever.“Now what about dinner? I don’t even know which restaurant we’re going to. do you ever find yourself. Team Trinity 185 .
Thin-girl appetites. Now I can just about manage one egg and a bit of bacon. It’s a million times better than that stupid Brand New You diet..Here we are on diet. It’s not like dating a different boy every week. Not for the first time. walk-in dressing room at home.” I skip over to my cupboard to check out what I’ve got in there.” “Duh! Obviously no popcorn at the movie. I used to eat four eggs. so I’ll have some meat and a side salad for supper tonight.” Lael nods fiercely. the guy you’re with is going to start 186 Fiona Snyckers . When we first started this diet. where about seventy-five per cent of my clothes are hanging unworn. “Okay. and we get to stuff our faces every time we eat.” “And no popcorn at the movie. When you’re in a relationship. I wish I had access to my huge. and a whole pile of bacon for breakfast every day. “You know my clothes are all baggy on you. I really like the sound of that.” “I know. But that’s a good sign. three sausages. definitely.. Please can I borrow something of yours?” Lael shakes her head.. You really need to get a grip and realise that you’re in a relationship now. not-trying-too-hard outfit. I swear there is not one top in here that he hasn’t already seen me in. I’m not as hungry as I used to be. it’s amazing. we won’t ever need to lose weight again in our lives because we’ll have thin-girl appetites.. But the weird thing is. right?” “Oh. Trinity. What will probably happen is that once we go off this diet. And I’ll wear a normal.” A smile spreads across my face. “Zach has already seen every single thing in this cupboard. “Our appetites are normalising.
” I say staunchly. “Okay. I admit that doesn’t sound very tempting.” “Thanks.. or gin?” I shudder at the thought. You’re so lucky your arms and shoulders are so toned. The last time I wore it. although to be honest. There is that. he said I looked beautiful.” “True.” “You look lighter too.” I take a deep breath. but I definitely feel lighter.” “Okay. or whisky.” “And if someone sees me drinking. I’ll be grounded for the rest of the term.” I say. I’ll just choose something that Zach really likes.seeing you in the same clothes. How about you?” “Two kilos. not a bad thing. “And the best part is that we’re going into the weekend knowing we don’t have to starve ourselves. “The book warns that we’ll only lose water weight at first. but at least you know you could if you wanted to.. Good choice. “How much did you lose this week?” Lael asks casually. “A kilo. Like this!” I reach into my cupboard and pull out a black-andwhite halter top with sequin detail on the neckline.” “Two kilos? Well done! That’s awesome.” “You mean like neat vodka.” She flashes me a quick smile. “You’re right. “Ja. I swear it’s flatter.” Team Trinity 187 . that’s pretty. You can even have a drink tonight if you like. It’s a good thing.” “Soon to become more toned. I can’t really see a big difference yet. giving my tummy a satisfied pat.
Anyway. He makes me feel dizzy enough.“I can’t run the risk of not being allowed out with Zach again. I don’t need alcohol.” My soppy smile runs over into a giggle as Lael starts making vomiting noises. 188 Fiona Snyckers .
You always do.” “And I do. yes. Why?” “Trinity. “Give me five minutes and I’ll dash back to Sisulu House to put on a dress. “Um . But that’s her.. But it makes me feel bad that my girlfriend hasn’t made as much of an effort as Ava. but don’t quite succeed. before.” I suggest. “Nazeera is in jeans. Ava and Nazeera.” I try to keep the hurt out of my voice. Don’t you think you should be wearing a dress? Ava is wearing one.” Zach puts an arm around my shoulders.” “You said I looked beautiful in this top.CHAPTER 22 “IS THAT what you’re wearing tonight?” I tug self-consciously at my top. Ava has gone all out in a slinky dress and heels.. you said you loved it.” I point out. I thought she looked a bit over-the-top myself. “You do look beautiful. “I know.” Team Trinity 189 . I already knew Ben and Muhammad from the Annexe. it is. and about a ton of makeup.” “I can change.” Zach says patiently. and I don’t feel as though you really did. Zach pulls a face. It’s just that I made an effort tonight. but I’d not met their dates.” We’re at the Postmatric Annexe waiting for Zach’s two friends and their girlfriends to get back from the loo. “The last time I wore it. Muhammad isn’t a particularly trendy guy. “Montecasino is quite a smart place.
” “You really should start running with me.I’m expecting him to say that it doesn’t matter and not to bother. “Trinity! Hey. Trinity. “Just a bit out of breath.. As I try to catch my breath. Within seconds.” I puff. “I thought you were going out with Zach. The movie only starts at eight. and throw myself into the dormitory. maybe you could . “Feeling better?” “Yes. you know. “I guess there’s time. that’s a wake-up call. “What? My eyes? Should I do something to my eyes?” “If you could kind of make them stand out a bit more. And I will. the room does a sick spin around me. are you all right?” Nosipho steps forward to catch my arm as I stumble.” “I know. thanks. everything comes back into focus. I bound up the stairs two at a time.” 190 Fiona Snyckers . Give me a second.” “What happened?” Lael asks. With makeup and stuff. hovering anxiously.. Like Ava has. but instead he nods his head like he’s thinking about it.. anyway?” Nosipho asks.” I whirl around and run out of the Annexe towards Sisulu House. Soon. I must be really unfit because I felt all woozy when I got to the top.. sit down. And while you’re at it.” “What are you doing here.” He makes sweeping motions in front of his eyes. Lael and some of the others are getting ready to go to a social at St Declan’s High School.. sure. When you can’t even run up a flight of stairs without almost fainting.” “Okay. “Here.. “I ran up the stairs.” She guides me backwards onto her bed and pushes my head down between my knees.
” Lael’s face clears.” “Just to go to the movies?” Lael asks..” I don’t really know what to say to this. “What’s that.” I say. “It’s more about fitting in with the others.” I agree. I don’t want to be the dowdy one. I give his arm a squeeze and we settle into the backseat together. “It’s the last weekend of the month. “I thought you looked fine the way you were. Zach thought I’d be more comfortable if I smartened up a bit too. yanking open my cupboard and flipping through the hangers. and dash back downstairs. they’ve been waiting for me for a while.. “I need to get moving. Well.“I came back to change.” “Well. “Did you really need to change?” Ben asks as we pile into his SUV. Team Trinity 191 . The other girls are wearing dresses. one of them is. Trinity?” Muhammad asks. so I shrug. I don’t want to keep everyone waiting.” I change in record time. This is something she can sympathise with. but judging from the way Zach is pressing his lips together. “Why is it so crowded tonight?” Ava asks as we join the long queue to get through the security checkpoint. only more so. “Your pink and black dress?” “That’s exactly what I was thinking. *** Montecasino is its usual hectic self.” Zach laughs. I thought I was quick. swipe on a ton of mascara. “You know what girls are like.
This is a strange. I was going to say that I’d been to Tuscany a couple of times and it didn’t look anything like this.” “Oh. “Blood Frenzy. and now they can’t wait to lose all their money at the casino. I feel like Jonah being swallowed by the whale. “I love how everything is made up to look like a Tuscan village. “That makes sense.” he replies. right!”says Nazeera. I’m still feeling a bit freaked about making a fool of myself at the scholarship dinner.I shrink a bit as all eyes swivel towards me. “Everyone has just been paid. I open my mouth to speak. It feels like we’re not really in Africa any more. 192 Fiona Snyckers .” says Ava. I’d decided that I was going to stay in the background tonight and not say too much. I glance nervously at Zach. It’s better to say nothing. like I’ve cracked the theory of relativity. “I only said that it’s the last weekend of the month.” I subside into silence again as we hold out our bags to be searched and head down the escalators towards the movies. As always when I walk into the endless twilight of Montecasino. But maybe that would sound boastful or know-it-all. This must be one of their busiest nights of the month. disorienting place where the sun doesn’t rise or set. but catch Zach’s eye and close it again. “What movie are we going to see?” I ask as we join the queue for tickets. but his face is unreadable.” I say before my silence becomes ridiculous. trying to work out if I’m doing the right thing or not. as we stroll past a fake washing line.
It’s not as though I was actually waiting for him to pay for me. In fact. and I read a rumour that Taylor Lautner makes a cameo appearance. to be fair. and have to fumble for my purse. The evening might have started badly with my stupid choice of clothes. exactly. Team Trinity 193 . I’ve been watching the Blood Frenzy series on TV ever since it started two years ago. It’s more that I wasn’t concentrating and reacted a bit late. My reward comes right away as Zach gives me a warm smile and takes my hand as we start filing into the movie theatre. I decide to do exactly that.“Yay! Is it out already? I’ve been dying to see it ever since I first heard they were making it. “I’ll get that. But I think I brushed through it pretty well. I slip my arm through Zach’s and snuggle up against him as the queue inches forward. and I kind of hang back as though I’m expecting Zach to pay for mine.” I say as the server starts ringing up our purchases. There’s one awkward moment when Ben and Muhammad pay for their girlfriends’ tickets. Apparently this movie is a prequel that explains exactly how the vampire-human hybrid community came into being. And as we join the popcorn queue. I should probably pay for him. and how the rivalry between the two factions originated. but now it’s turning out to be awesome. It’s one of my all-time favourites. so it’s ridiculous to expect him to pay for me. It stars all the original cast-members. “Thanks!” he whispers against my ear.” Feeling a lot happier. Then I realise that he’s not going to. But obviously I get more pocket money than he does. sending little shocks of pleasure all the way down my spine.
Muhammed and Nazeera kiss all the way through the movie. The chops are perfect – crispy and slightly charred on the outside. But when I look across the table at the golden pile of garlic bread gleaming next to Ava’s plate. as I’m about to start my second chop. if I’m honest. And the first bite goes down really well. Not even the fact that I can smell delicious hot. The waiter remembers to bring me little bottles of oil and vinegar instead of the creamy ranch dressing that they normally serve. Everyone else orders burgers. my hunger deserts me and the thought of cramming one more piece of meat into my mouth fills me with horror. It’s nearly ten by now and I’m feeling a bit hollow from lack of food. When we walked out of the movies. And not the good kind of floating. and Zach will be even more attracted to me than he is now. But. More like the kind where there’s a rat gnawing away at your insides. either. The movie is every bit as good as I expected – creepy and sexy at the same time. and tender and pink on the inside. just like the TV series. somehow. and I’m quite relieved that Zach doesn’t want to do the same – this is one movie I’m really keen on seeing. It’s the perfect meal for my diet. I feel a longing so strong 194 Fiona Snyckers . buttery popcorn all around me while I’m clutching nothing but a diet soda can spoil my mood. but I go for the lamb chops and a side salad. How can I possibly not be hungry now? Okay. it’s not that I’m not hungry. Getting thin will be totally worth the sacrifice. it’s just that I’m not hungry for my chops. I felt like I was floating from hunger.I feel filled to the brim with love and happiness. Afterwards we go to a Bridles steakhouse for supper. What’s the matter with me? I really need to eat.
Trinity?” “Yes?” I look up. Ivan and Jessica are talking after the battle of the cave. and he tells her that his mother’s name was Hecate. I need to finish my chops and Team Trinity 195 . but you were a million miles away.” Ava chimes in with some remark. anyway? Does the girl actually want to die of a carb overload? It would do her good to cut back a bit. and that kind of thing. Like why the Bloods and the Whites have been feuding for so long. smack her hand away. I mean. “I didn’t get that.” she says. and I go back to staring at the garlic bread. I was thinking of something else.” My attention wants to wander back to the garlic bread..I can only call it a craving. It answered a lot of questions that the TV series left hanging. “It was in the second series. I can’t spend my whole life obsessing about carbs. “Er .. Okay. Yes. this is not good. and why a Blood female can only have children with a White male. because you know that the child Hecate is carrying will turn out to be Ivan. With an effort I pull it back to Nazeera. “I just asked if you liked the movie. I realised she was pregnant. where does she get off ordering garlic bread and a hamburger. And I loved the ending. dazed. I thought it was awesome. “Sure. I’d be doing her a favour if I reached across the table and started to stuff some of that delicious crusty bread into my mouth. I want to lean over the table. I loved the movie.” “Really?” Nazeera leans across the table. but I didn’t know she was Ivan’s mom. “Sorry. and grab all that bread for myself. Ava is waving a hand in front of my face.” I say.
meat. It’s the first time I’ve been out with him since the scholarship dinner. 196 Fiona Snyckers . No one should have to drink Coke Lite for breakfast. Just after the movie. and almost throw my cutlery down in a gesture of victory. I manage to finish the three small lamb chops without gagging. I’d give anything to drink a beverage that isn’t fizzy. Muhammad made some boring and predictable remark about how lame the ANC Youth League is. Trinity. But all it does is make me aware of another craving. It would have led to a political argument. It hasn’t been easy. There! Take that.force my body to realise that it has eaten. I try to focus on how this date is going. trying to enjoy the sweetness of the drink. Lael and I buy cans of the stuff at the tuck shop and keep them in our cupboards to drink when we come back from breakfast. I was dying to chip in with a comment about how the ANCYL is one of the few organisations that forces government to keep focusing on the lives of the poor. Stop it. I’ve even been having Coke Lite for breakfast. Stop thinking about food. It’s been nearly two weeks since I had any fruit juice. Fruit juice. But I didn’t. because that’s what got me into trouble last time. This is my big chance to prove that I’m not always a complete disaster in company. I grab my glass of Coke Lite and take several long swallows. I pick up my knife and fork and attack my plate like a serial killer. Tonight is very important for Zach and me. which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. and not to flash my opinions around all the time. It’s just not natural. I’m trying not to talk too much.
but Zach doesn’t want me arguing with his friends. Zach and I hold hands in the back seat and I find myself tensing up every time we stop at a red light. There’s one awkward moment when it looks as though we might all be going to have coffee in the common room. but not too full of myself. but luckily Muhammad and Nazeera are just as keen on that idea as I am – which is to say not at all.37 Zach and I are up in his room.34 we all say goodbye to each other. and by 11. We pay the bill just after eleven and troop back to the SUV. I could have corrected him. It looks like I’ve finally managed to find the right balance. but even I know where Chiefs are standing in the play-offs at the moment. At 11. I think I’ve done pretty well this time around. Now if we can just get back in time for Zach and me to have some time alone together before I have to clock back in at midnight.Then Ben said something that proved he was getting confused between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. I know he’s been having skydiving lessons this week. We’re out to have fun. Can’t this stupid car go any faster? Ben pulls up in front of the Postgrad Annexe at exactly 11. not to score points off each other. I know I’m not much of a soccer-watcher. There’s so much I want to say to him. this will have been the perfect evening. I’ve been friendly and occasionally chatty. and I’m dying to ask about them to make up for the time I showed no interest in his tandem jump. So all in all. thanks to his blackbag-over-the-security-camera trick. We have 23 whole minutes alone together! Team Trinity 197 .25 and I send up a little prayer of thanks.
concerned.. and my anxiety level ratchets up a notch. is it?” He doesn’t answer.The second the door closes behind us.” I say. leaning back from the kiss but keeping my hands linked behind his neck.” He tries to pull me against him again. I hesitate. With a soft sigh. and then I feel him pulling away. trying to recapture that lovely. I open my eyes a crack and see that his are wide open.” I say. do you?” He shakes his head as though to clear it. He feels distracted – like he’s not fully committed to this. he kisses me back. Come back here. Something is definitely wrong. But he’s looking preoccupied. I smile up at him. I run my fingers through his hair and sink into it. Zach sits down on his chair. “It’s nothing important. it’s nothing. while I sink onto the bed. “What is it?” I ask again. it wouldn’t be bothering you. but this time I resist. “Are you feeling okay? You don’t have a headache or anything. thinking he wants to relocate to the bed or something. There’s nothing wrong.?” 198 Fiona Snyckers . But something’s not quite right. He shakes his head. “Zach.. “What’s wrong?” I ask. For about ten blissful seconds. but no one can really lose themselves in a kiss when their eyes are open. “Now you have to tell me what the matter is. “It isn’t anything I’ve done. Now I’m sorry. I’m fine. There’s no point in wasting time.” And he wraps his arms around me for another gorgeous kiss. I put my arms around Zach and lift my face for a long kiss. “No.” “If it wasn’t important. floaty feeling. “No. really. sounding weirdly like my own mother.
I keep wanting to shout from the rooftops how lucky I am to have snagged Zach as my boyfriend. What do you take me for?” “You’re just going to get upset..” “You’ve got me worried now. “I was really looking forward to showing you off to my friends. “Okay. “You’re just going to think I’m hypercritical. I just wanted to show them what a cool girlfriend I’ve got. If I’ve done something wrong.” “I promise I won’t! I would never think that about you. you know?” he says.” I plead.“I really don’t want to get into this.” I say again. but they’ve never gotten to know you. “Quiet and dull?” “Yes. please tell me what it is. And Nazeera and Ava didn’t know you at all. You know what I mean?” I nod vigorously again. “I mean.. Everyone else was chatting away. The other girls must have thought you were a total airhead. How else will I have a chance to fix it?” He drops his head into his hands. I know exactly what he means.” “I promise I won’t. You hardly said a thing the whole evening.” He looks agonised for a moment.” Team Trinity 199 . “Then why were you so quiet and dull tonight?” he demands. it’s about tonight. I know Ben and Muhammad have met you before. looking down at his hands.” I nod to show I’m listening carefully. Like I’m always finding fault with you. “Well. I feel the same way. but then comes to a decision. making me jump. If you really want to know. but you just sat there like a lump.
.. about..” “But . “Trinity. but I wasn’t totally silent the whole night. I knew you were right about the scholarship dinner and that’s exactly why I was trying to be less talkative tonight.. Don’t you know how much I’ve been looking forward to spending time with them? I wanted you to be a credit to me... no. “Don’t you see that it makes me look bad when you just sit there with nothing to say for yourself? Those were my good friends..” I say timidly. “I knew you’d say that I’m always criticising you. waiting for me to answer. “Can’t you see that there’s a happy medium between monopolising the whole conversation and not saying a single word? Don’t you think you could possibly pitch yourself somewhere in between? Does it have to be one or the other – total silence or non-stop talking?” “But . he rages on.” I try to remember what other conversations I had tonight. and I talked to Nazeera about . I promised him I wouldn’t get upset.” he says patiently. Then it fades and he drops his hands at his sides.” I finally manage. I talked to Ava about the movie.. fun girl you are. but. “But after the scholarship dinner. but my throat has closed up. “You see!” He bangs his hand on his desk. you said I was talking too much. but my mind has gone blank.” My tongue is all tied up in knots. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. 200 Fiona Snyckers . you see?” For a second the angry red flush in Zach’s face deepens.He looks up at me.” “No. I promised.. I wanted to show them what a cool. But instead you just came across as stupid. But as I open my mouth to reply.. It’s like trying to think through thick porridge. “What I meant was.
” Team Trinity 201 . Trinity.. “I’m so sorry.” He cups his hand under my chin and makes me look up at him. but then – thank goodness – he turns towards me and takes me into his arms. You’re doing your best – I know you are. Please give me another chance. As I let my body melt against him. “I just don’t understand how someone with your upbringing can be such a funny little thing in company. I’d have thought your parents would have taught you how to handle all kinds of social situations. “Zach.” I touch his shoulder gently. aren’t you?” I give a little half-sob.” He bites his lip and turns away from me. his hand comes up to stroke my hair. doesn’t count.” For a moment he hesitates. Don’t make me wonder the same thing. I’m still learning. I’ll do better next time. Trinity.“One conversation the whole night. I feel a familiar burn of anxiety in my belly. honestly. “It’s okay.. I was trying to compensate for talking too much the other evening. I didn’t mean to let you down.. I didn’t realise how quiet I was being. “You really are a silly-billy. So by mistake I went over to the opposite extreme and didn’t say enough. half-laugh. this sweet. “Shhh . simple gesture unleashes my tears in a way that his earlier anger didn’t. shhh.. For some reason. Can’t you see how embarrassing it was for me to have my friends see you like that? They must be wondering what on earth I’m doing with you. where you basically just said yes and no. Then he reaches for a tissue and carefully dries my eyes.” he soothes as he feels me shaking silently against his chest.
it’s not too late. All I can think of right now is how good it feels to be in Zach’s arms. It’s lucky you’ve got me to help you.” “Well.” I snuggle against his chest and let the warmth of his body soothe my worries away. “I .. I don’t think a boy your own age would be much use with this kind of thing.. 202 Fiona Snyckers . but everything is a bit confused. I guess they never got round to it.I try to think back to the kind of life we led at home.
I’m not sorry I got to see the movie. She’s been a boy magnet ever since the day she first started to grow breasts. It sounds like they had a really awesome time. having hooked up with a cute St Declan’s boy at the social. but mostly they’re just focused on rehashing the evening. at least I’m not obsessing about food any more. but the rest of my evening was an absolute disaster. In a way. Team Trinity 203 . I catch myself wishing my life could be as simple as Lael’s. I can’t help feeling a twinge of envy. who they talked to. Lael and Yasmin ask me how the movie was. She enjoys the flirting and the dating. She’s in too much of a good mood. and who they got off with. They’re all chatting happily about who was there. But the best part is that she never lets herself care too much. If only Zach didn’t look down on high-school socials.CHAPTER 23 ON THE bright side. we could have gone too and been part of the fun. I get back to Sisulu House just as everyone else is returning from the social at St Declan’s. Lucky cow. I’ve never once known her to be really hurt by a boy. I notice Lael giving me a searching look – she has always been able to tell when I’ve been crying – but she doesn’t push it. it’s a relief that everyone is too preoccupied to ask me questions. but she doesn’t take it seriously.
babe? I thought you were looking peaky earlier. wondering what woke me. I wake up some time later to find the dorm pitch dark and silent. “Why are you out of bed?” “You woke me with your crying. then freeze as I hear a stealthy movement on the other side of my cubicle. about ten seconds before lights out.” Somehow it’s easier in the dark.” A heavy weight descends on my toes as she sits down at the foot of the bed. and I manage to snap out of it. The whispered conversations carry on for a while. but lately I’ve been grizzling like a three-year-old. brush our teeth. but instead I go out like a light. Then I feel the wetness on my pillow and realise that I’ve been crying in my sleep. “You know what Matron’s like. “Shhhh!” hisses Lael. I dash my hands across my cheeks. they normally make way more noise than that. I worry that I’m going to lie awake thinking about what happened tonight. pull on our PJs. Tell Auntie Lael all about it. How pathetic is that? I’m not usually a cry-baby. She wakes up if a fly farts in China. I have to choke back a scream as a dark figure looms out of the darkness at the foot of my bed. I open my mouth and it all comes pouring out – everything I’ve been 204 Fiona Snyckers . What the heck is that? When people get up to go to the loo. I lie still for a moment. but Matron’s last walkthrough of the night soon puts a stop to that.” “What are you doing?” I hiss back. “What’s up. We take off our makeup. and crash into bed.Then I remind myself that we don’t do jealousy or resentment in our friendship.
I didn’t mean to scare you. “But it’s okay now. “I couldn’t help hearing what you guys were saying. The scholarship dinner.” We both turn around sharply as we hear another noise. Then we both relax as Sophie appears at the entrance to my cubicle.” she whispers. you scared me.” “I know. “We’ve talked it all through. but I just wanted to say one more thing.” Lael says. I used to think you were pretty good at it.” I sniff.” she says after a pause. most of his friends are already at varsity. Trinity and I have already discussed it. I would have thought. We’re going to work together to help me become more comfortable in company. And whatever I say seems to be wrong.” Team Trinity 205 ..” “Ja.. the movie this evening.” There is a little light filtering into the cubicle from the window above my bed. but still .keeping from her.” Sophie glides into my cubicle in one of the ivory satin negligee-thingies she always sleeps in. Everything that’s been on my mind comes out in a great big. “Sorry. “Geez. “That doesn’t sound like you at all. It shows Lael’s face squinched up in a frown. I mean. pounding a fist against her chest. “I don’t know what to say. and Lael ducks out of sight behind my bed. In fact.. You’ve never had trouble making small talk. I love him so much that I get nervous around him. “I thought you were Matron for sure.. It’s got something to do with Zach. I just don’t know what to say to them. self-pitying rush. “I’ve also thought of that.” I finish on a hiccupping sob. Plus he hangs out with an older crowd. Zach doesn’t blame me for any of it.
she backs out and softly closes the door. Basically everyone’s taking bets on how soon Zach is going to break up with you. Two seconds later. it was a big topic on BBM. I can show you the messages if you like. Some of the people who were at the movie with you were discussing it this evening.” Lael snorts. Lael is still frowning like a Shar Pei puppy.” “Well. This time when I fall asleep. “Isn’t it better for her to know about this stuff than to find out about it when it’s too late?” Lael is about to say something when we all hear a noise in the passage outside the dormitory. I reckon you’ve got one more chance with him. “How?” Lael demands. Matron puts her head around the door and stares at us for a long time. directing an accusing stare at me. I can’t help squirming. “She’d already heard about it. When she’s satisfied that all is quiet. “The whole thing just sounds odd to me. and that’s it. “On BBM.“You have?” Lael says.” I’m cringing at the thought of people discussing me on BBM. “What?” whispers Sophie.” Sophie goes on. but I suppose it’s better to hear it from a friend than never to know about it. I’ve told you now. They were all like. I stay that way until morning. “Anyway. 206 Fiona Snyckers . ‘Who is this Trinity girl and why can’t she speak up for herself? What does Zach see in her?’ and so on. Sophie and Lael melt back to their own cubicles like shadows. haven’t I?” “I heard about tonight as well.” I mutter. and I sink down under the covers.
if I keep on bursting into tears every time he has a constructive suggestion to make. Like he says. they weren’t really high-pressure dates like the scholarship dinner. He told me openly what he wasn’t happy about. I got through them okay. I’ve now seen Zach three times since that night at Montecasino. Zach and I spoke honestly about how we both felt. we’ll never get anywhere. We’re getting on brilliantly at the moment and I’m more in love with him than ever. So instead I try to listen calmly. Nosipho and Yasmin and Priya keep asking me when I’m going to do it. and I tried to listen in a non-defensive way. All right. I really believe that communication is the key to a successful relationship. The other day. I planned to join Lael on her Team Trinity 207 . and take on board any advice he gives me. and not one has been a disaster. It would help if I didn’t feel so utterly exhausted all the time. I keep meaning to go over to Gumede House to buzz James and ask him to help us. and My guilty conscience because I still haven’t set up the dry run for our plan to pinch the Gumede Shield. but I haven’t got around to it yet. Now never seems like a good time. After each one. and that’s all that counts. but still. There are only two things bugging me now: My insane craving for carbs.*** It just goes to show that sometimes a wake-up call is all you need. and I’m starting to run out of excuses.
early morning run. I’d feel better about it if we had recovered since then. we decided to postpone our exercise session for another day. we really should” and “I’m going to count to ten and then we’re going to stand up”. and then do a long session with those kettlebells we bought in Sandton City while we were still doing the Brand New You diet. which makes me even less likely to take action. but I could hardly get out of bed. Luckily she also seemed to be having a low-energy day. I guess we must have caught the same bug or something. Instead of running and kettlebelling. let’s go now”. There’s nothing weird about me being drastically unfit – that’s my default state – but Lael is a real exercise bunny. The plan was to go for a run. 208 Fiona Snyckers . we ended up flopped on chairs in the common room. on ten then. Then we wasted another ten minutes saying stuff to each other like. We’re both dragging ourselves around the school like a pair of ancient grannies. It’s a bit mortifying to think how seldom we’ve actually used them. “Yes. “Okay. It’s strange that she should have been having a bad day at the exact same time as I was.” Once we finally did manage to get going. taking about ten minutes just to tie the laces on our trainers. Lael is as unmotivated as I am to do anything about the Gumede Shield. Bent double and dragging air into our lungs. we only made it as far as the Founders’ Block before we had to stop. but we haven’t. They were supposed to tone and firm us all over. “Okay. We eventually had to put them away in our cupboards because the other girls kept complaining about tripping over them every time they walked into our cubicles. We had such high expectations of those things.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I’m alone in the common room. And James must be standing at least three feet away from me. I usually have Drama at this time. “What?” I stare dazedly up at James. “Are you sick or something?” “Seems like it. Lael and I have both caught some kind of virus.” My head jerks up. it’s me. I wanted to know what was happening with this plan of yours to steal the Jan Smuts Shield. waving at a faraway chair. We probably haven’t been washing our hands enough or something. but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. “You look like something the cat dragged in. but I can’t be bothered. James takes the decision out of my hands by coming looking for me.. and your breath stinks to high heaven.” I say. “Oh.” “My breath. Trinity?” “What do you mean?” I yawn hugely and rub my eyes. This is the third time someone has commented on my breath in the last week. “Never mind.” “What’s that got to do with it?” He shakes his head.Luckily. “Sit over there if you don’t like it. I’ve been swilling Listerine like it’s going out of style. “Your skin is grey. eyes closed. I’m drifting in and out of a half-awake state. it’s you.” I put a self-conscious hand in front of my mouth. I haven’t heard anything about it for weeks.” Team Trinity 209 .” “Yes. We feel awful. I’m leaning my head back against the chair.. your eyes are red. but it was cancelled. I think about excusing myself to run upstairs and have another go with the Listerine. What’s wrong with you.
But tomorrow.” he says. Not now. because she might make us stay in bed and we’ve got the dry run to worry about. Tomorrow’s Wednesday. when it’s all over. “Tomorrow!” I say before I can change my mind. Somehow I feel hungry and nauseous at the same time. I listen to the breath wheezing in and out of my lungs as I climb the stairs and wonder for one scary moment whether there really is something seriously wrong with me.“I know. “So when do you want to do this?” I hesitate. I want to catch a nap before I have to go down to Homework. I say goodbye to James and start traipsing up the stairs. but not actually taking out the shield. Okay. Trinity. We wanted to ask if you would be our look-out. The idea was to get as far as unlocking the trophy cabinet. just to make sure no one walks in on us. My knees are trembling and I’m light-headed. 210 Fiona Snyckers . obviously. is there?” “Fine. Impulsiveness wins. but I’m still exhausted. You can do this. We want to do a dry run – like a walkthrough of the plan. There’s no point in waiting. But we need to plan it out properly. Maybe Lael and I should go and see Matron. One more flight of stairs to go.” *** About twenty minutes later. I know. that’s what we’ll do.” “Okay. Talking strategy with James has cheered me up. “Let’s do it tomorrow. “I’ve been meaning to get hold of you for ages. impulsiveness wrestling with tiredness. Extramurals will be over soon. Yes.” I pull a guilty face.
Matron! I’m just fi---” And then I slide bonelessly to the ground at her feet. “Sure. Team Trinity 211 . “Are you okay?” she asks me in Xhosa.I glance up and see Matron standing at the top of the stairs looking down at me – almost as though I rubbed a lamp and made her appear. I try to summon up a bright smile as I hoist myself up the last couple of stairs.
“I’ll examine her when she gets back from extramurals. Trinity. We haven’t been right lately. You’re not asthmatic. Trinity? It’s not in your file. “Both normal. “What ... but right now let’s see what’s wrong with you. forcing me to wake up. “What happened?” “You tell me. isn’t it?” “Well . yes and no...” I close my eyes while she notes down my temperature and blood pressure.” Something about the way she says my name makes my eyes snap open in alarm. “That’s good. It seems to stab into my brain.” I say at last.” “No.” Matron sticks a thermometer under my tongue and attaches a blood-pressure cuff to my arm. what?” I open my eyes and find myself in Matron’s office. She’s holding a little bottle of something horrible under my nose.. are you..” I have to bite my cheeks against a ridiculous urge to burst into tears. “Lael’s got it too. “What is it?” 212 Fiona Snyckers . drinking some of the water she hands me.” she says. I’m not asthmatic.” Matron says grimly. “I came out of my office because I heard you wheezing up the stairs like an asthmatic and then you fainted clean away. What on earth is wrong with me? I must be sick.CHAPTER 24 I come to with the smell of something sharp and astringent in my nose. “I think I’ve caught a bug.
I wasn’t paying much attention at the time. pressed-together lips..” “I know.” Okay. I was Googling highprotein diets. I’m sorry. “Trinity. A very long.” I screw up my face as I try to think. You need to know that it will be checked for suspected diabetes.“I’m going to take some blood from you now to send off to the lab. Team Trinity 213 . Any minute now she is going to grab me by the ear and force me back onto the table. just hang on a minute!” I squeal. like the one Lael and I are on. “But I’m not diabetic.” she says patiently. Uh oh.” “You’re in ketosis. wait a minute. I know.” She watches me with tight.. and it said something about going into ketosis. Ketosis? Wasn’t there something about that on Google? It’s coming back to me now.. I can smell it coming off your breath. But just . and everything will be fine.. it’s explaining to Matron that you’re on a diet. and you’ve had plenty of those. Your body is actually consuming itself. If there’s anything worse than actually having diabetes. but it’s one of the symptoms of diabetes. Maybe I should just let her test me for diabetes – it’ll be negative. wriggling away as she reaches for my arm. but that word definitely rings a bell. please.. “This is no worse than getting a vaccination. now she’s coming at me with a needle.. I can’t be. The d-word makes her practically froth at the mouth. Trinity. “Roll up your sleeve. Have you found that you are any thirstier than normal?” “Wait . “Just a minute . sharp needle.” “Diabetes!” My heart gives a huge bound in my chest. wait.
“Let’s just say. If you refuse. mouthwateringly blissful aroma.. sweet nectar of life! I lift up a piece of toast and let the wonderful. and goes out of the room. enticing. Then she sighs and puts down the syringe.” I take a deep breath. groaning in protest. you’re-going-to-die kind of way. shoving a plate of toast under my nose. The texture. If I have any exertion or excitement. hypothetically speaking. pulling a face for form’s sake. that someone had been on a high-protein diet for a few weeks. That’s another thing I’ve noticed lately. and my nostrils are attacked by an aroma. “Strawberry jam?” I say.“Okay.” Matron orders. “No nonsense and no arguing. the sweet tang of the jam. of course. my heart jumps around in my chest in a super-unpleasant. But the truth is that I have absolutely no intention of refusing. 214 Fiona Snyckers .” I sit up.” she says curtly. Then I bite into it and it is literally the most delicious thing I have ever tasted in my life. I’m calling your mother right now. I’m only too delighted to have someone take the decision out of my hands and force me to consume carbs for medicinal purposes. A wonderful.. I hear footsteps coming down the corridor.” Matron continues to eye me narrowly for a moment. A few minutes later. the crunchiness. homey smell wash over me. “Eat this. Strawberry jam! At last! Come to my arms. Could that potentially cause these same symptoms? Hypothetically speaking. “Wait here. But inside I’m going. My heart is pounding uncomfortably in my chest.
She is so caught up in the misery Team Trinity 215 . I give her a sympathetic smile. I wave my arms around experimentally and take a couple of steps across the room. NOW!” I creep to the corner and peer down the stairs. Get your sorry butt into my office. As she gets to the top. yeasty deliciousness of the bread. still alive but only just. Her skin is pale and pasty-looking. and she’s puffing and panting as though her school bag weighs three tons. I’m planning on finding Lael to give her a heads-up that Matron is on the warpath.” *** Half an hour later. I just hope she doesn’t keel over at the top of the stairs like I did. but it doesn’t even seem to register.” “Then sit down again so I can kill you. yes. “Better?” she asks as I pick the final crumbs off the plate with the tip of my finger. her eyes meet mine with dull disinterest. I slink out of Matron’s office and look from side to side. before I had my emergency injection of toast. I think I might faint all over again from the sheer joy of it. I take a deep breath and slide off the examination table. Basically. “Lael Lieberman! I can see you. Matron watches me grimly as I practically inhale every morsel of the three slices of toast she has brought me. But as I turn towards our dormitory I hear Matron shouting down the stairs. she looks like I felt less than an hour ago. “Much better!” “You think you’re going to live?” “I do.the wheaty. Lael is reeling up them like a drunk person.
huh?” I say sympathetically. Lael will just get the English part. She’s looking a bit disgruntled. “The vampire got you too. pressing two fingers against a little wad of cottonwool on the inside of her arm. The whole lecture was in the rapid-fire mixture of Xhosa and English that she uses when she gets excited. Just before suppertime. but a tiny part of me is terrified that I’ve gone and seriously damaged my health. 216 Fiona Snyckers . but apart from that she’s a completely different person to the zombie I saw climbing up the stairs. that’s for sure. Matron blasted me about the dangers of high-protein diets. no more. that sweaty sheen is gone from her skin. I’m just glad she’s going to get some carbs like I did. I’ll get the results back tomorrow. And to add insult to injury. She told me stuff about kidney function and organ failure that basically scared the spit out of me. I decide. There’s colour in her cheeks.of feeling horrible that she’s not even curious about why Matron is calling her. and how I should just sign up for more sport so I could get some exercise. I’m pretty sure it’ll be fine. Lael comes back into the dormitory. No more diets for me. Seriously. Matron ended up taking blood from me anyway – not to mention making me wee into a bottle – so she could check that my kidney function hasn’t been damaged by the overload of protein. and she’s walking with a suggestion of the old bounce in her step. The lecture part wasn’t fun. Then she launched into a diatribe about how my weight is completely healthy and normal. but she won’t get off any easier than I did.
“I wasn’t like. Then she wanted to draw blood from me to check for diabetes. pointing to the Bandaid that is still attached to my arm. When there’s none. and that’s when I told her everything. It didn’t even cross my mind that it could be the diet.” I blurt out. “I got a plaster as well.” “Why were you here this afternoon.She pulls a face. “Look. Man.” Team Trinity 217 .” A huge smile splits my face in half. anyway? I thought you had Drama. “Oh. Matron! Lael is also on a diet. “Apple pie and cream! I thought I’d never taste that again.’ That’s not how it happened. hey! I totally forgot to mention that I ran into James today.” she explains. before lifting the cotton pad and checking for bleeding.” “It’s just as well. I didn’t tell on you.” “So how did it happen?” “I was walking up the stairs and I fainted when I got to the top. When I came around. ‘Oh. ‘What the heck?’ So I told her I thought you and I had caught a bug because we’d been feeling so lousy lately. I checked the website earlier – it’s apple pie and cream tonight. she was all like. We’ve set up the dry run for tomorrow morning.” I start explaining that it was cancelled. “There’s no way we could have carried on like that. I’m looking forward to having some dessert after supper. “They make me itch. when my meeting with James comes back to me in a rush. She flops down on her bed and for a moment we look at each other.” I say. she tosses it into a dustbin.” she says.
let’s do this.” I say defensively. “You’ve what?” “The dry run. Meeting in my cubicle after seven. three pieces of roast potato. And for dessert I help myself to a healthy wedge of apple pie with cream. It 218 Fiona Snyckers . She grabs her iPad and flicks to the Operation Shield file. Just tell everyone there’s a strategy meeting tonight and we’ll go through all the details. I’ll work out a schedule for everyone and email it around just before supper. and some veggies. “We’ve got no time to set it up.” *** At supper I choose a tiny bit of roast chicken (I really can’t face protein at the moment). in case you’ve forgotten. Why didn’t you tell me before? You could have dropped me a BBM at least. so it’ll be perfect. And there are only a few weeks to go before the end of term. Sophie has a violin lesson at seven. I’ve organised with him that we’ll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow’s Wednesday.Lael sits bolt upright and goggles at me. so sorry. the sooner we can pinch the shield for real. we have got time. We’ll start as soon as Sophie leaves.” “Oh. remember? If we don’t do it now.” “But Trinity!” She’s drumming her fingers on her thighs like she does when she’s stressed out. And anyway.” Lael jumps off the bed with more energy than I’ve seen from her in weeks. James is totally on board for tomorrow. “I was a bit busy being unconscious and having blood drawn. We really need to get going on this. it’ll be a whole week before we get another chance. “Okay. The sooner we get this done.
I wish I could run through the whole thing with James one more time. Anyway. I understand why all the Listerine in the world wasn’t helping. it doesn’t matter. “Oh. With my new energy. I know exactly what we need to do.” I realise what I’ve just said. “What’s up? Why are you so jumpy?” “Sorry. I mean. “You startled me. that’s good. did we?” “We didn’t. no. I just want to get up and do something. but there’s no way she could have heard. He must have come down to supper early and left already. I mean. It’ll give me something to focus on. It’s so wonderful to feel something crunch between my teeth at last after all those weeks of chewing on fibrous pieces of meat. but there’s no sign of him in the dining-hall. “I don’t mean it’s good that we didn’t have an Team Trinity 219 . I notice Sophie giving a quick glance in our direction.” he says. It’s good that we have the dry run tomorrow. of course not. “Trinity.” “Were you expecting someone else?” “No. I was in a bit of a dream-world. we didn’t have an arrangement for this evening.” I say with a smile.is literally the best food I have ever tasted in my life. Plus I don’t have that cheesy taste in my mouth any more. And the sweetness of the apple pie has me almost swooning.. Now that I know it was actually coming from my lungs as I exhaled ketones. He puts a hand on my shoulder and looks at me narrowly.” Zach’s voice speaking directly behind me makes me jump almost out of my skin.” Lael mutters in my ear as she stands up from the table. “See you at seven..
You really ought to do something about it. Their A-level tutoring happens at odd times during the day.” “Yes.. I’m not tense at all. It’s getting worse every day. Yasmin and Priya are all heading into Sisulu House. not the arrangement. Are you telling me you’re already busy?” “I . “What do you mean.” he says. I just mean it’s good that we didn’t have an arrangement that I forgot about.” And now I’m babbling. They’re looking back over their shoulders at me. “You’re so absent-minded. “No.” “No. I bring my eyes back to Zach’s. you can’t? You know how seldom I manage to get time off during the day. Because my forgetting would have been bad. He shakes his head.” His eyebrows snap together.. Trinity.” I turn away from him. as he notices me glancing past him. no ..arrangement. not exactly.” “Oh!” Disappointment clutches at me. “I .. sliding a hand up my arm and starting to rub the back of my neck. “You’re looking so tense. of course I’m not in a hurry. The postmatrics are on a different schedule to the rest of us.” “I was just wondering whether you wanted to hang out tomorrow.” “Are you in a hurry?” he asks. It’s true that Zach and I don’t often manage to hang out at break time. I know. I force myself to stop talking and smile at him. 220 Fiona Snyckers ..” “That’s good. Nosipho. The meeting is going to start soon. I’ve got a bit of free time during your first break. honestly.. I can’t. trying to scrape some kind of excuse together.
“Trinity?” Zach says impatiently as the silence stretches out between us.” he says stiffly.” “I can’t. Now why don’t you stop embarrassing both of us and tell me who you’re really meeting at break tomorrow?” Tears of frustration are gathering behind my eyes. uh. we usually manage it once or twice a week.” “Is there a problem here?” We turn around to find Matron glaring at us. but you are. sorry! I was just trying to remember what I’ve got on at break tomorrow. “You’re lying to me. Team Trinity 221 . so we’re making up for it tomorrow at break-time. And now that I think about it. no problem. I’ve got it now – it’s an extra Drama practice. “I’m not meeting anyone else.” “Trinity. I don’t know why. “Sorry.. “No.” “Skip it. How can your practice be more important than spending time with me?” “We . We missed our practice this afternoon.depending on when their tutors are available. He immediately lets go and takes a step back.. Her eyes flick to where Zach’s hands are squeezing my upper arms and back up to his face.. we have to meet so that we can organise the .. Wednesday is usually one of those days.” “You don’t even have a performance coming up. But it’s not totally unheard of for us to spend breaks together.” “The only one not being honest here is you.” Zach grabs me by the shoulders and forces me around to face him. Honestly.. There’s no one else.. It’s not important. In fact.
” “And we’re in the way. Then I’ll let Trinity get back to Sisulu House. “Of course I don’t want to end it. Zach.” “Dinner is finished.“Trinity?” She turns to me with raised eyebrows. “There’s no problem.” I say desperately. We’re just sorting out what time we’re going to meet tomorrow morning. Just give me a minute. Matron. and walks out.” “Well. It doesn’t have to do with meeting anyone or anything like that. “Trinity .” I take a deep breath as my mind races ahead like a freight train.. “All right. in case you hadn’t noticed.” “Then tell me the truth. gives us one more glare.. Something very important. The staff are trying to clear up. just above the elbow. It’s completely 222 Fiona Snyckers . you should have just said so. “I love you. This situation is running away from me and I have no idea how to reel it back in. He finds a quiet place next to the kitchen and spins me around to face him.” Zach says with an easy smile. We were just talking about some arrangements for tomorrow. the truth is that there is no Drama practice.” “Really?” He narrows his eyes. “I just said I had Drama because I have something else to do at break tomorrow.” “Okay . I’d do anything to be with you. We’ll take it outside. “Not to worry.” She clicks her tongue. trying to figure out how to handle this. I rush on nervously..” I have to swallow against the tide of panic rising up in my throat. This lie about Drama practice is making fools out of both of us. if you wanted to end it. okay. sort it out more quietly next time. Zach grabs my arm again. and marches me out of the dining-hall..
“I’m giving you one more chance to answer me. funnily enough we are not okay.” “I’m not lying to you! I’m just asking you to trust me and not ask me any more questions. no one. It’s not anything important. We all made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t tell anyone about this. are we okay then?” I ask tentatively. He’s kind of helping us a little bit with this thing we’re doing. But we told him about it right at the beginning. My stomach clenches at the sight of it.. A liar is not somebody I want to have a relationship with. He’s no one.” I say quickly. so unfortunately I can’t tell you about it.” I babble. “So . He’s just helping us. Except for James. “No. making me jump.innocent – just something I’m doing with some of the girls from my dorm. “James Ellison.. “Who the hell is James?” “No one. “Forget I said his name.” “Helping you with what?” Team Trinity 223 . He stops nodding and I see immediately that the angry. of course. I don’t like liars. But we’ve all agreed to keep it secret. slit-eyed look is not gone from his face. really. You were lying to me before and you’re lying to me now. “He’s this guy in Grade 11.” He pushes me backwards until my back bumps the wall of the kitchen behind me. WHO IS JAMES?” He shouts the last bit. but he’s just nodding his head. It’s a girls-only thing.” I steal a glance up at him. Trinity.” Zach’s face turns dark red and I know I’ve made a mistake. Trinity.
224 Fiona Snyckers .” “You’re the most important person in my life. but I thought our relationship was more important to you than some stupid promise you’ve made to your girlfriends. Or am I wrong? I want to know where I stand here. Zach. “I really can’t.” he says coldly.“I can’t tell you.” “Trinity. correct me if I’m wrong. You know that.” I say miserably.” “Then prove it. I promised.
with nothing more terrifying to look forward to than a History test after second break. I give myself a mental headslap. Yes. If anything. Or at any other time. My biggest fear is not that I will get caught and expelled from Brentwood. There’s virtually no conversation at the breakfast table. getting caught won’t be too serious. she seems to be in an exceptionally good mood today. come to think of it. but that I will finally do or Team Trinity 225 . But since we won’t be doing the actual shield-pinching today. I know that today’s adventure isn’t what’s worrying me the most. The only thing that worries me is that they might tighten up security if they do catch us. We all are. I can’t help wishing it was a normal day for me too.CHAPTER 25 I’m jittery on Wednesday morning. As nerves churn around in my stomach. A normal Wednesday. Nothing is going to go wrong. but she nibbles her way serenely through her fruit and says nothing. which would make it that much harder to take the shield for real. But even as it all churns around in my head. I can only be glad that she’s apparently happy and unsuspicious. The most trouble we’ll get into is for returning from break late. Yet. strictly speaking we’re not allowed to wander around Gumede House in the middle of the morning. I keep reminding myself that we’re not doing anything we could get into serious trouble for. I’m half-expecting Sophie to comment on our silence.
with Yasmin hanging out in the girls’ bathroom for a minute or two to let Priya get back before her.35. You can’t be in a relationship with someone you don’t trust. so with luck Zach and I can get back on an even keel now. Anyway I think I smoothed everything over. so I did. My only defence is that I didn’t think of it like that. Just when I think we’re okay. Because let’s face it – I was lying to him. so that basically guarantees that we’re going to get back to class late. I’ll have to be extra careful from now on because Zach is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m lucky he’s put up with me for this long. Lael asked us all to keep it a secret. James told me that Dr Hussein’s secretary. We make our way to Gumede House separately towards the end of break. By the time I get there. I 226 Fiona Snyckers . *** By the time break comes around. and I didn’t trust Zach enough to tell him about our plan. Our break ends at 10. And with good reason too. It’s just Yasmin and Priya who are in the same French class. I can’t allow anything to mess that up. usually starts her filing at about 10am.say something bad enough to make Zach to break up with me. and have been since we first started dating. I seem to do or say something to annoy him all over again. we are all psyched and ready for our mission. and they’ve agreed to stagger their return. and takes a tea-break at about 10. Mrs Anderssen. I’ve never seen him so angry.30. Fortunately we all have different classes at that time of day. It was touch and go last night. so it won’t be too noticeable when we all arrive late.
for approximately the millionth time. it’s been known to – we’ll just run up the stairs and whisper in each other’s ears. I’ve been elected as the person who will actually go into Dr Hussein’s office. or for the Jewish girl either. Mrs Pieterse. but I know you. In fact.” was the exact way he put it. mainly because James refuses to deal with anyone except me. and possibly the school secretary. “I’m not keeping watch for those black or Indian girls. Since none of us knows the hoot of the Brown Owl. a couple of cleaners. that I’m black too. If anyone walks in while we’re inside. but I might as well have saved my breath. Any boys who are off sick are more likely to be in the sanatorium than in their dormitories. or even how to whistle through our teeth. I was left wondering what I was doing trusting a guy like that. Those are the only two entrances to the building. James will be patrolling the fourth floor. somehow. Dr Hussein is teaching matric English straight after break so he definitely won’t be around. our agreed method of alerting each other will be through BBM.” he replied with one of his charming smiles. that he wouldn’t let me down. they will alert Nosipho who is standing at the top of the first staircase. how I knew.spot Yasmin keeping watch at the front door and Priya guarding the side door. which is where Dr Hussein’s office is. Needless to say. and she will alert Lael at the top of the second staircase. And. Of course I pointed out to him. “Yes. I didn’t repeat that to my friends. Team Trinity 227 . the only people who should be in Gumede House right now are Mrs Anderssen. more importantly. And if BBM fails – and let’s face it. so don’t expect me to.
“It’s just Mrs Pieterse and one other person. you’re likely to get caught.” “Thanks for pointing that out. Or two at the most. Trinity.” she mouths back.” “If there are too many people wandering around. We have to do the practice run today.” I whisper.“Nobody has come in or out for the last five minutes. we can’t waste any more time. “She didn’t know. well maybe it’s a good thing. “I heard about the other voices.” Yasmin reports as I head in through the side entrance.” “Other voices like who?” I hiss back. And she says she can hear other voices too. “Don’t freak out.” “I will. “If Mrs Anderssen has company.” I say as I get to her. and head past her up the stairs to where Lael is waiting. so I gather all is quiet on that side too. Other voices were most definitely not part of the plan.” “Well. But James will definitely be keeping watch. be careful.” 228 Fiona Snyckers . By now I’m basically just mouthing the words.” “We can’t. won’t he?” “Definitely. she might spend longer at her tea break. Something doesn’t feel right. so be careful.” I promise. I see Priya giving me a thumbs-up from the main entrance. I think we should cut our losses and come back another day. like I say. If we’re going to get it done this term. I walk up one flight of stairs and Nosipho greets me with a tense smile. “Lael just came down to tell me that Mrs Anderssen and Mrs Pieterse are definitely both up there.” “Okay. Very comforting” “I don’t know about this.
trying to hear over the roaring in my ears.” Walking on tip-toe and clutching onto the banister for dear life. I creep slowly up the stairs. I really need to know which it is. It’s all quiet at the moment. Gumede House is the oldest building in the whole school. Still nothing. And. and to the left are Dr Hussein and Mrs Anderssen’s side-by-side offices. Now she is either sitting in her office and about to ask me what I think I’m doing creeping around the boys’ boarding house at this time of day. Its wooden staircases are even older than ours in Sisulu House. a little desperately. “James?” I say again. A murmur of conversation and a little ripple of laughter reach me from somewhere on the floor. I’m just going to have to stick my head into Mrs Anderssen’s office and hope she’s not in there. or she’s safely in the teachers’ lounge enjoying a cup of tea.” I wait a moment. When I get to the fourth floor. I pause on the top step and very slowly poke my head around the corner to look left and right. I step into the corridor. I need some kind of alibi in case I get Team Trinity 229 . “James?” I whisper as loudly as I dare. “James.“Okay. With my heart thundering in my chest. Where the heck is James? He must be around here somewhere. they have a nasty habit of creaking. Mrs Anderssen’s door is standing open. then you’re good to go. as I’m just discovering. galvanising me into action. are you here? It’s Trinity. Score one for James. To the right are the Grade 11 dormitories. Nothing.
. someone. The top half is glass and the bottom half is wood. “It’s a trap... Just as I’m about to peer into her office. “It’s a trap. They know you’re coming.” I grab her wrist and yank her down the next flight of stairs with me. I hear a woman’s voice behind me.. I spin on my heel and sprint back down the corridor. “What’s wrong?” Suddenly. taking them four at a time. something makes me look up. I’ll figure something out. Quick! Let’s get out of here. Ronel!” she screeches.?” Lael just stares at me open-mouthed as I barrel down the steps towards her. “What?” I mouth back. waving his hands wildly at me and mouthing something. I grab her wrist in my other hand and the three of us hurtle down the last flight of stairs together. “Oh my God. I figure out what he’s saying – almost as if I’m hearing the words in my head. I practically fly down the stairs.caught. skidding like a cartoon character. There is someone here. I’ll say I’m bringing her a message from .. lifting my hands up in a frantic questioning gesture. Call the security company!” At the words “security company”. Now Nosipho is staring up at us. As I turn down the stairs.. feeling like I’m about to detonate a landmine or something. her eyes like saucers. James is standing behind it. There’s a door diagonally opposite me. “Go back! Go back!” he’s yelling. I can hear what sounds like a herd of Sumo 230 Fiona Snyckers . “What the. I tiptoe along the passage towards her door. uh . Run! All of you!” Without hesitation. Behind us. “You were right.
dragging air into my lungs in great. I’m so unfit it’s not even funny. you weren’t here and you know nothing. I’m bent over with my hands on my knees. praying I don’t find her sitting in it. and Mrs Anderssen are rather large ladies. Both Ronel Pieterse. He tells me it’s a trap. “Are you serious?” “Apparently. And he was right. “It’s adrenalin.” “A trap?” Nosipho says sharply.wrestlers chasing us down the wooden stairs. “Well. So I’m creeping along to Mrs Anderssen’s office. *** “What? How? Why?” Lael gasps as we all finally collapse against the wall behind the laundry room.” I feel a small sense of relief that she doesn’t stop to ask questions. excuse me!” I pant. the school secretary.” says Lael. painful sucks. “Go straight back to class!” I hiss at Yasmin as we hurtle past the front entrance. Zip. and the four of us dash back to the relative safety of Sisulu House. actually. Lael snags Priya. but takes off like a rabbit up the hill towards the school. “You’re so unfit it’s not even funny. by the sound of it. And you’re not the one who almost walked into a trap. we should make it. Nothing. because then I hear Mrs Anderssen and Mrs Pieterse shouting at each Team Trinity 231 . ‘what the heck?’ Then I reckon I have to go ahead without him. So I’m all like. Nada. Very unfit Sumo wrestlers. “If anyone asks. when I spot James hiding behind this door. They know all about us. I got up to the fourth floor and there was no sign of James. If it’s only them after us.
” “Did anyone see you?” “I don’t think so. “Right now we have to get back to class. “That took years off my life.” I try to replay the scene in my head.” I puff. I don’t think they actually saw any of us.” 232 Fiona Snyckers . they can’t punish us. we’ll talk about this later.other to call security. denial.” Priya shakes her head. slowly getting my breath back. Total ignorance and denial. I tell you.” Lael says. Remember what Trinity said to Yasmin – denial. “They were behind us. I swear every hair on my head has just turned white. denial.” “I can’t understand it. “Years.” “Listen. If they can’t prove it was us.
The bit that’s puzzling them is that we all got back to class on time. I’ve heard every theory from terrorists to druggies to a political conspiracy involving my dad.40. We’ve all been questioned separately and told they’ll go easier on us if we come clean. Yasmin was even early. I got to Life Orientation just as everyone was filing into the class. and Lael. Team Trinity 233 . Teachers always say that when they’ve got nothing on you and are trying to make you split on your friends. And since I would really. The cops haven’t been called in.CHAPTER 26 By night-time. I was quick to shut that one down. And since it’s impossible for us to have been in two places at once. Mrs Pieterse and Mrs Anderssen are positive that the attempted break-in took place at 10. Priya and Nosipho were on time as well. really prefer it if my parents never heard a single word about this. A lot of suspicion is hanging over the Sisulu House Grade 10 dormitory. The school is buzzing with rumours. For some reason. they’re starting to believe we really weren’t involved.35. news of an attempted break-in at Gumede House is all over the school. But our teachers swear we were sitting in their classes at 10. so everyone seems to have concluded that it was learners rather than actual burglars. We weren’t even late getting back from break.
yes!” I interrupt crossly.. weird. though. And even the time-display on the microwave in the matrics’ study.” “Well.“Hey. “What? Put that thing down. too.” Nosipho turns to me. “In fact. I think we can safely assume it wasn’t him. I know our plans were spoiled and everything. “I mean. crashing into the dorm with her softball bat sticking out of her sports-bag. hey?” “Ja. They’re still trying to reset them and get them working again. “You know. She’s been in a horrendous mood all day. “Have you guys heard anything?” Lael shakes her head grumpily. “I’ve heard that one. maybe James did it!” I say. Weird. unless James has superpowers. “It wasn’t just the clocks.” “They’re saying that your father. or. okay. but the main thing is that we didn’t get caught. you know. “What about the one about the clocks?” “No.” I look around at the others. It was the secretaries’ watches.” “Hey. to confuse everyone. That would be so cool. “What about clocks?” “Apparently all the clocks in Gumede House got stuck at 10.” 234 Fiona Snyckers . I duck to avoid getting swiped by her bat. That’s the last thing I need. the whole story sounds like rubbish to me.” “Yes.40. we haven’t heard anything about clocks. for goodness’ sake..” She pouts. That’s why the teachers are so convinced the break-in happened then. Please don’t go spreading it around.” Lael says sarcastically. a special electronic time-scrambler thingy. then brightens up.” “Oh. have you heard the latest?” Nosipho says.” ‘Why are you so grouchy today?” I ask.
“Trinity!” “Stop staring at me like that!” Team Trinity 235 . before shutting the door.. And since I know it wasn’t me. “Who would I tell? All my closest friends are right here in this room. I know she’s checking that Sophie is nowhere around. Someone set us up today.” says Priya. “I’ll tell you why I’m grouchy.” “Well. I’m pretty sure I know where she’s going with this. Lael eyes me beadily for a moment. “So what I’m thinking. They were ready and waiting for us. I look at the floor.” “Why are you looking at me like that? It wasn’t me..” “Trinity.” Lael pauses. The only ones who knew about the plan were the five of us and James Ellison. her eyes flicking to each of us in turn. but she needn’t worry.” I say.Lael stands up and walks to the door. “Me either. it’s got to be one of you four. I find it highly unlikely that he blabbed. “You want to know why I’m grouchy?” she says. Sophie does more extra-murals as the rest of us put together and virtually never gets back to the dormitory until just before suppertime. No way.” adds Yasmin. The secretaries knew we were coming. I promise you!” My voice cracks a bit. it definitely wasn’t me. “Is that so?” “Absolutely! Not me.” “Not me!” Nosipho says immediately. She looks carefully left and right. “is that it was one of us. And since James is the one who gave the alarm and saved all our butts. “Or me.” she goes on ominously.
But he didn’t believe me. Never mind that we’ve been friends practically since we were born. I’m a bad liar. I did tell someone. no!” Soft-hearted Yasmin swoops down next to me and puts an arm around my shoulders. her eyes full of anger and disappointment.” Nosipho agrees. He said we couldn’t carry on our relationship if I didn’t trust him. Trinity?” She swings around. You just couldn’t help yourself. I sink down onto her bed and put my head in my hands. Like you say.” says Nosipho. Then I turn to Lael. 236 Fiona Snyckers . Lael and Nosipho look less impressed. “Why don’t you tell us about it. So then I told him I was doing something secret – something that I couldn’t tell him about. Trinity?” I take a few deep breaths.” Lael turns away from me in disgust. But there’s no way he went and told on us.” “You just had to blab to your boyfriend. “Never mind that we’d made a promise not to tell anyone. “Look. “Was it Trinity or wasn’t it?” “It’s starting to look like it was. “Damn right.” “It wasn’t like that!” “Then what was it like.” “Oh. even when we were kids. “What’s going on?” Yasmin sounds puzzled. And then he really freaked out. “Zach asked me to hang out with him at break today. No way on earth.“You always were bad at lying. so I immediately made up an excuse about having extra Drama practice. He wanted to know the truth. didn’t you?” Lael says bitterly. “That’s manipulative!” says Lael. I admit it.
“No, it’s not!” I say defensively. “He’s right. If you’re in a relationship with someone, you have to share all your secrets with them.” “Your secrets, yes. Not other people’s.” “He thought I was seeing someone else, Lael! He thought I was meeting another guy behind his back. In fact, he thought it was James.” “Oh, really? Well it’s nice to see how much he trusts you.” “What is your problem?” I demand, standing up, and putting my hands on my hips. Somehow I’ve gone from being guilty and apologetic to totally annoyed with my best friend. “My problem is that you blurted out our biggest secret – one we’ve spent months preparing for – to your boyfriend, who then went straight to tell the school secretary.” “He didn’t!” I almost scream. “He wouldn’t have. Why would he tell on us? He’s a postmatric, for goodness’ sake. He’s never even been in Gumede House. Why would he care whether we were planning to pinch the...” “Sshhh!” Priya hisses. “Someone’s coming.” A hush falls over the dorm as the door opens and Sophie saunters in. She looks at the five of us frozen into place like statues. Sophie smiles. “Hey, girls! Have you heard the latest?” “You mean about the break-in?” Lael asks grittily. “Oh for goodness sake, no. Not that tedious old topic. I’m talking about James Ellison.” My eyebrows snap together. “What about him?”
Team Trinity 237
“He’s in the san with bruises and a black eye. Apparently someone pushed him down the stairs on the way back from cricket.” “Who?” I demand. “He doesn’t know. He couldn’t see who it was.” Sophie sashays past us to her cubicle where she starts putting her sports kit into a laundry bag. “Well,” I say cautiously, “those stairs as you come up from the cricket fields are pretty steep. Anyone would be bruised if they fell down there.” Sohie gives me an indulgent smile. “Sure they would, Trinity.” I automatically turn to Lael to share an eye-roll with her, but she looks away from me. I pick up my toiletry bag to go and freshen up before dinner. As I reach the door, Lael speaks. “I think you need to go and have a word with your boyfriend, Trinity. I really do.” I nod my head. I really do too.
238 Fiona Snyckers
I spend a horrible night tossing and turning, imagining awful things. Every time I do manage to fall asleep, I drop into an uneasy dream. Zach and Lael are both in it. At times they almost seem to be the same person. By half-past five in the morning, I give up on sleep, and slip out of the dormitory for an early shower. I’ll go and see Zach before breakfast, I decide. I can’t wait until tonight to have it out with him. And this isn’t the kind of thing you can talk about on the phone. Hi, babes. Just phoning to say good night and to ask if you tried to get my friends and me expelled from school yesterday. No, this is definitely something that needs to be discussed face-to-face. I dress quickly in the early-morning darkness. The wake-up bell goes off at 6.30, but I’m planning to be long gone by then. Autumn is definitely coming. When term started it was broad daylight by six in the morning, but now the light is a kind of pale pinky-grey. Scooping my hair up into a ponytail, I creep down the stairs and towards the side door. The Yale lock will still be on, but I can let myself out. I reach up for the latch. “Trinity.” The soft voice behind me makes me almost bite my tongue. I spin around and peer into the gloom. It’s James.
Team Trinity 239
“Good grief, you scared me!” I whisper. “What are you doing here so early? And how did you get in anyway? Everything’s locked.” He taps his chest. “I’m a ninja, remember?” “Right.” Meaning there’s probably a window open somewhere on the ground floor that he crawled through. “What’s up?” I ask. “Were you looking for me?” I reach up for the Yale lock and give it a twist. As the door swings open, the soft early-morning light floods into the passage. “Hang on a minute!” I say, turning to stare at him. “Your face!” He touches a hand to his jaw self-consciously. “What about my face?” “It’s fine! There’s nothing wrong with it.” “Gee, thanks.” “No, I mean you don’t have any bruises.” He raises his eyebrows. “Why would I have bruises?” “I heard someone pushed you down the stairs and you were lying in the san.” “Nope. Not me.” “Oh, thank goodness!” Relief flows into me in a lovely warm rush. “I should have known Sophie was lying through her teeth. I should have known it.” “Sophie? That’s the blonde, right? The gorgeous one.” “If by ‘gorgeous one’ you mean ‘evil liar’, then yes.” “And she said I had been beaten up and was lying in the san?” “Yup.” “Well, then she is an evil liar.”
240 Fiona Snyckers
“Exactly! I can’t believe she had me thinking that Zach could be capable of such a thing. Oh, I need to go and see him right now and apologise for thinking horrible things about him.” “But I wanted to talk to you about the shield. We need a new plan, and I think I’ve got one.” “I can’t think about that now,” I say. “I’ve got to go and see Zach.” “But, Trinity...” “Sorry!” I dash out into the chilly morning. Then I turn around and wave. “Thanks for the warning yesterday. You totally saved us.” *** I rush down to the Postmatric Annexe, sending Zach a BBM as I go. The morning bell went ten minutes ago and Zach is an early riser, so I’m not too worried about getting him out of bed. And sure enough, about 30 seconds later I get a BBM back.
Okay, that doesn’t sound particularly friendly, but let’s face it, this is an odd time to be messaging anyone. I thumb in a quick reply.
I’m outside the Annexe. Can I see you quickly? Need 2 talk about something.
There’s quite a long pause, but then the reply comes back eventually.
Team Trinity 241
OK. Wait in reception. Be down in a sec. Will have to be quick – acctncy tut at 7.45.
I hurry into the Annexe and report to security, where a shift change seems to be in progress. Both the incoming and outgoing guards look surprised to see me, and say sternly that they’re not going to call anyone for me at this hour of the morning. I explain that I’m just waiting for someone. “Okay,” says the incoming guard. “Wait quietly over there where I can see you. This isn’t a proper time for visiting.” I make myself as unobtrusive as possible and wait in a corner. Five minutes later, Zach comes in, looking absolutely gorgeous in boxer shorts and a vest. His crisp black hair is all damp from the shower and he smells faintly of some delicious brand of shower gel. In a rush of love, I jump up and throw my arms around his neck. “I think I should visit you this early every morning from now on,” I say, kissing him. “You look and smell amazing.” “Trinity.” He unwinds my arms from around his neck and leads me away from the security office. “What’s going on? Why did you need to see me?” “Well, first of all I wanted to apologise for almost believing a horrible story I heard about you last night.” “Really?” He ushers me into the silent common room and turns me around to face him. “And what horrible story was that?”
242 Fiona Snyckers
” “Okay. I wouldn’t like to know that other people were thinking the same thing. So what was the second thing? Team Trinity 243 .” I bite my lip and stare at him. he watches me closely. she didn’t tell me that. I promise. no. she. “What is it?” I ask. good. I’m so sorry. It was just me jumping to conclusions. So it was obviously a complete and utter lie. To my surprise. and that you might be responsible. I hardly slept last night for worrying about it. And when you think about the source of the story. I take a deep breath and remind myself of my resolution to be completely honest with Zach from now on. “So this person specifically told you that I pushed him down the stairs?” “Yes. I’m glad it’s only you having these thoughts about me. “Oh.” Zach doesn’t take his eyes off my face..” “I didn’t discuss it with anyone else. “To be perfectly honest. It was because you seemed angry with James the other day when I told you he was helping us with our plan to steal the Gumede Shield. “I’ve just seen James and he’s walking around without a mark on him. a nasty prickle of embarrassment heats up my cheeks and neck.“I heard that someone had pushed James Ellison down the stairs yesterday.” I pause as I try to think back to what Sophie actually said. “And now you don’t believe it anymore?” “Well.. it’s not surprising that it was all nonsense. of course not. nothing.” I say with a half-laugh. “Okay. As I remember. his frown lightens and a smile sweeps across his face. Zach.” Keeping a grip on my shoulders.” I say as bravely as I can.
When they found out that I’d mentioned the plan to you.” “No.” “Really?” 244 Fiona Snyckers . I didn’t. “You told Sophie about it?” “Well. you said ‘first of all’.” “Who was that?” “Sophie Agincourt.” “Oh.” He turns away to pick up a cushion from one of the common-room chairs. it’s about yesterday. and since you were the only outside person any of us had told. They knew we were coming. So now I’m asking you what the ‘second of all’ was.” “Sophie!” I sink down into one of the chairs.“Sorry?” I have no idea what he’s talking about. The only person I mentioned it to was someone who was already involved.. they thought you might have accidentally let something slip. I didn’t! It was the other girls. they were waiting for us. she’s in your dorm. of course. “I didn’t. Okay.” “Well. “So you didn’t talk about it to anyone at all? Not one single person?” “No. You know.. the thing is . Someone had tipped them off. but something makes me push on. “Well.. but we’ve been keeping it a secret from her..” “You thought it was me.. “When I asked you why you wanted to see me this morning. right. and you can go back and tell them that.” I wish I could leave it at that. And . I mean.. isn’t she?” “Yes. when we did our dry run for breaking into Dr Hussein’s office?” He nods. She was the only one who didn’t know.
You should have warned me..” I give a little laugh. End of story.. Obviously I was going to mention it if I saw her. but now I’m not sure anymore. It’s the weekend. “You definitely forgot. I’ve known Sophie for a long time. Trinity. But the main thing is that Zach and I are okay again. He blabbed.” I frown in confusion..” I say uncertainly. I had no idea. His house is right next to the dining- Team Trinity 245 .” *** It’s such a relief to have that sorted out that it doesn’t bother me that my friends are less convinced than I am. maybe I forgot. “No. All they care about is the fact that neither Zach nor I could keep our mouths shut.” “But. Someone wrapped the chimney of Dr Hussein’s house in toilet paper last night. and rumours about the attempted break-in are finally starting to die down. I really thought I’d told you.” I could have sworn I mentioned Sophie. “Well .“Yes. “I’m sure I mentioned that the other night. so that has taken over as the main topic of conversation. “I must be going crazy then. I can handle getting the cold shoulder from my friends as long as everything’s okay with Zach.” Lael sums it up.. while the others nod. Didn’t I tell you that Sophie mustn’t know?” Zach’s blue eyes look calmly into mine. Now she’s basically not talking to me and I feel like a criminal in my own dorm. “You blabbed. you didn’t.
Surely you don’t need to run everything past your mother?” “I’m not running things past her. so none of us could miss it when we got up this morning. thank goodness. There’s a Brentwood tradition that the new Grade 8s have to pull off one major prank in the first term as a kind of initiation. I’m an addict. My mom was my very first BBM contact and I still chat to her all day long. My Saturday just gets better and better as Zach invites me to watch his cricket practice in the afternoon. and then we have a whole hour together before I have to be back for supper. but I still giggle whenever I think of it. saying it’s time to cut the apron strings. Zach is in a great mood. She tells me what she’s up to and vice versa. “It’s a habit. joking and fooling around as we walk up from the cricket fields.hall.” I giggle as he pulls me behind some bushes. That way it doesn’t feel as though she’s on the other side of the world. I really think you need to cut back. He teases me about how often I BBM my mom.” I smile flirtatiously up at him. “I can’t. My dad thought it was “disrespectful”. The dining-hall is buzzing with speculation about who might have done it. “I can’t help it. We just chat. Trinity.” “You’re sixteen years old. The perpetrators used rolls and rolls of multicoloured loo paper to create an interesting rainbow effect. In my year we dressed up the statue of Josiah Gumede as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. 246 Fiona Snyckers . My money is on the Grade 8s. The practice doesn’t take long. I’ve still got pictures of it on my phone.” I laugh.” ‘Well.
They’re a bad influence. “It’s exactly that. I admit it. You trust them more than you trust me. I should have known you would never do any of Team Trinity 247 . Or maybe I’m wrong..” “Oh.. And while you’re about it. my smile slowly fading. weren’t you? All because your friends said so.” “It’s not that I trust them more than you. Are you calling me a liar.” “My friends?” I gape at him. more importantly. Or . The silence stretches out until I can’t stand it anymore. You and your friends got together and started talking about me behind my back. it is. “I want you to stop BBMing your mother all the time. “But why?” “Just a few days ago you were only too ready to believe the worst of me. Is he serious? I thought we were just kidding around. or even think that you are one. appalled. so you are calling me a liar? You’re saying I’m just imaging the fact that you woke me up at dawn and starting accusing me of stuff I never did?” “No! I mean.” “Yes.” he says..“I don’t think you’re listening to me. I would never call you a liar. stop spending so much time with those girls in your dormitory. Maybe I am a liar. Trinity?” I stare at him. “I suppose I could try to cut back. and the next thing you burst into the Annexe and accuse me of being dishonest. taking hold of my shoulders. “Do that. how can I fix it? “I honestly didn’t mean to.” he interrupts.” I say doubtfully.. I was out of line. You’re not five years old anymore.” I look up at him. How did this unravel so quickly? How did it go so wrong so fast? And.. Trinity..
. We’re one of the most prominent couples in the school..” “Wh-what do you mean?” My eyes are burning with tears.. and then you go and make the same mistakes all over again. but you have to realise what they’re doing here.” He drags a hand through his hair.” “I’m s-sorry!” My voice breaks on the last word.?” I repeat cautiously. I was wrong.. “Okay. you were.” 248 Fiona Snyckers . “That’s better. “They’re jealous of us.those things.” I whisper. and . He gives me a hard shake. I shouldn’t have asked you about it. and Nosipho.” “But what can I do? How can I prove it to you? I’ll do anything!” Zach pulls me deeper into the bushes. but not completely sure where he’s going with this. “Yes. all of them. so you can’t avoid them completely.. but I refuse to shed them. the problem as I see it lies with your friends.” “Y-you mean Lael . “Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time.. Trinity. “You keep saying you’re sorry. They’d love to see us break up. I shouldn’t be trying to manipulate the situation by bursting into tears. I realise you’re in the same dormitory.” I’m nodding my head. Now. “What they’re doing.” “Yes. but I force myself to hold it together. eager to understand. I’m the one who’s at fault here.” He folds his arms across his chest.. “Will you keep your voice down? Any minute now someone is going to come out to see what’s going on.” “Sorry..
Maybe she’s been jealous all along. And obviously you’ll give up all this nonsense about the Gumede Shield... you’re right. “Oh. ” Team Trinity 249 .” I say. “I think you should be careful about getting too close to girls like that. You won’t even miss them because we’re going to be spending a lot more time together from now on. “No.. It’ll be much easier than you think.” I feel a fierce little stab of regret.” I feel some of the tension go out of me. but stop when he squeezes my shoulder. They don’t care about you the way I do.. and you’ll stay away from those girls in your dorm. You can’t trust them. Is that really what you want?” “Oh. a bit sadly. I’ll definitely give it up..” “Trinity.” He smiles again and I feel the knot in my stomach unclenching. but. do you know what will happen? Our relationship will be over. Yes. I promise. “So we’re agreed then.” I start saying. He smiles. He still cares about me! It’s not all over. “Exactly. she stepped back when she saw I was serious about him. Lael isn’t really talking to me anyway. but maybe she never really got over it.” His smile is replaced by that flat-eyed look that makes my stomach dip. you’ll stop BBMing your mother so much. “What do you want me to do?” “Just stop hanging out with them so much. so it shouldn’t be that hard. I don’t think they’d actually expel us. “If you carry on with that stupid plan and get expelled..“Okay.” I remember how Lael was the one who fancied Zach first. You’ll give up on the Gumede Shield.” “Well.
What possible reason can I give Lael for continuing to ignore her after the official cut-off time? For me to freeze her out. It must mean that he loves me too much to share me with anyone else. it’s pretty flattering that he wants to keep me all to himself like this. Just thinking about it gives me a secret little thrill. you tend to get the whole fighting thing down to a fine art. But then Lael calls a meeting for seven to discuss the Gumede Shield. she gives me the cold shoulder for exactly two and a half days. and by that evening we’re BBMing up a storm as per usual. but it’s not that easy. but by the third day it gets a lot harder. And how can she have done anything when we’re not even speaking? Zach wants me to cut Lael and the others out of my life cleanly and effortlessly. 250 Fiona Snyckers . When you’ve been friends with someone since you were both six years old. Still. When Lael is annoyed with me and we both know I’m in the wrong.CHAPTER 28 The trouble with avoiding my friends is that it’s easier said than done. but that’s not going to last. So it’s easy for me to keep my promise to Zach for the first two days. Lael is ignoring me at the moment. By the afternoon of the third day she starts addressing random remarks to me. and things get really complicated. she needs to have done something to me that puts her in the wrong. Yes.
Where do I go? How do I get out of this? When you’re a boarder there are only really two places you can be at seven in the evening. You’re either in your dorm or you’re in the common room watching TV. I think about sneaking off to the loo, but first of all, I don’t feel like spending an hour in there, and secondly they’ll find me. Without much hope, I try to hide in the common room, sinking into a seat behind some biggish Grade 11s who are watching a Glee rerun on the series channel. I should really be Googling the latest cage-fighting results so I can talk intelligently to Zach about them tomorrow, but my concentration is shot. As my watch clicks past 7pm, I feel a light sweat break out on my brow. Guilt churns in my gut. I’ve been involved in this project since the very beginning. Bailing out of it now makes me feel awful. Before I can manage another thought, Lael marches into the common room and plucks me out of my seat by my arm. “What on earth are you doing, Trinity?” she tuts, dragging me up the stairs. “You looked like you were hiding in there. When I say seven, I mean seven – not five past seven. Now we’ve got less than an hour before Sophie gets back from her violin lesson. Come on, everyone’s waiting.” I open my mouth to protest, but can’t think of a single convincing thing to say, so I allow myself to be pulled into the dormitory and plonked down in a chair. “Now that Trinity has deigned to join us,” Lael begins, “we can talk about where we go from here. My sources tell me that security has been tightened up at Dr Hussein’s office. They know exactly what we’re after, and Mrs Anderssen has been instructed not to leave the
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inter-leading door open on filing days any more. So that avenue can now be regarded as officially closed. Frankly, I’m not too sure what more we can do.” A depressed silence settles over the dorm. I can’t help but feel sad. I know I should be glad that plans to steal the shield are grinding to a halt. Zach wants me to have nothing more to do with it, and this will make it easier for me to keep my promise to him. But somehow, I can’t feel anything except the misery and disappointment I see reflected on the faces of my roommates. It’s not fair that the boys should have the Gumede Shield. It belongs to every student at Brentwood, and it should definitely spend six months of the year in Sisulu House. There’s nothing that makes it more of a boys’ thing than a girls’ thing. It used to be called the Florence Nightingale Shield, for goodness’ sake. I feel sick at heart at our failure to capture it. “Maybe we should wait for all this to die down,” Nosipho suggests. “Everyone will have forgotten about it in a few months. I bet Mrs Anderssen will get careless and start leaving the door open again. By about September, I bet, we could probably steal it with no problem. It’s just a matter of being patient.” I glance at Lael and our eyes meet for a second. I know exactly what she’s thinking. She and I won’t be here in September. We’re only spending one term in Sisulu House, not the whole year like the rest of the girls. So if they pinch the shield in September, the glory will be theirs, not ours. Even though it was Lael’s idea in the first place, and my information that gave us the knowledge needed to pull it off.
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There’s a long pause while Lael considers our options. Then her shoulders sag. “Yes, okay,” she says slowly. “That’s probably the best option. We’ll put the whole operation on hold for now. Is that all right with everyone?” Nosipho nods. “Sure.” “Fine with me,” says Priya. “Me too,” says Yasmin. “What about you, Trinity?” Lael asks as I stay silent. “Well...” They all turn to look at me. This is my chance to tell them that I won’t have anything more to do with stealing the shield. I know Zach would want me to. But somehow I can’t bring myself to say it. So in the end I just nod. “Yes,” I say. “That’s fine with me too.” *** The next few weeks drag by. I don’t know why I was so worried about putting on weight when I came off my diet because it turns out I’ve lost nearly 3 kg. I just don’t seem to feel like eating at the moment. A lot of my clothes are sort of hanging on me. Everyone keeps saying how ill I look and asking me if I’m okay, but they’re just jealous that I’ve managed to lose all this weight without even trying. Zach thinks it’s fantastic, which is all I care about. I honestly don’t know why I’m feeling so down. I’m now spending nearly every free moment with Zach. So obviously I’ve never been happier in my life. It’s just that I’m finding it a bit difficult to let go of my old life.
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At the moment, I just use Sisulu House to eat and sleep in. When I’m in my cubicle, I hardly speak to anyone. The hard part is how nobody seems to be trying to break through the barrier I’ve set up around myself. They don’t even seem to care. Everyone is just busy getting on with their own lives. Even Lael stopped trying after I brushed her off a few times. And, yes, that does make it easier for me to do what Zach wants, but it still hurts a bit. I guess I won’t really be happy until I’ve learned to let go of that. Now it’s lunchtime again, and I still don’t feel like eating. It’s Saturday today and we’re having mealies with butter and salt, but I can’t seem to work up an appetite. I push a bit of salad around my plate for a while before wandering back to Sisulu House. No one at the table even comments on how little I’m eating, or asks me where I’m going when I excuse myself. It’s like they don’t care anymore. Fighting back a bad case of self-pity, I flop down in the common room and start flicking through some celebrity gossip sites on my phone. Zach and I are spending the whole afternoon together. I’m going to do some research for him for a paper he’s writing about the latest experiment results to come out of CERN. Not the most interesting subject in the world, but I’m doing it for Zach, so that makes it special. I’m slumped in a chair with my eyes half-closed when James rushes in looking all hot and bothered. “Trinity? Now what’s wrong with you? You look terrible. You’re not on another diet, are you?”
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“No.” I’m getting tired of hearing this from everyone. “I’m not on a diet and there’s nothing wrong with me. What do you want?” “You look like you’ve shrunk in the wash or something,” he says, ignoring my question. “Aren’t you people supposed to have meat on your thighs and ... you know?” He pats his butt. “This new look doesn’t suit you at all.” “Whatever.” I’m feeling too flat and miserable even to respond to that “you people” comment. “Anyway, listen. Why I’m here. You have to come with me right now.” I slump deeper into my chair. “Come where?” “To Gumede House. That secretary is in the office today putting in some overtime. And she’s left the door between her office and Dr Hussein’s office unlocked. I think she’s let her guard down because it’s the weekend. She’s just made herself a cup of tea and sat down in the staff lounge. So if you come really quickly, you can grab the shield before she gets back.” I sit bolt upright. “Really? Are you sure?” “Of course I’m sure. I’ve just seen her. Come on, Trinity!” I’m halfway out of my seat when I remember that I’m not supposed to be doing this anymore. “Wait,” I say. “Hang on. I can’t.” “What do you mean, you can’t?” “I’m not involved in this anymore. I promised my boyfriend I’d give it up.” James’ jaw drops open. “You’re talking about that Zach guy?” “Yes.”
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“The guy who is supposed to go down on his knees every night to thank heaven that he’s been lucky enough to get a girlfriend like you?” “Oh, please.” I laugh scornfully. “I’m the lucky one.” “The boy who should be making it his life’s work to think of new ways of trying to please you?” “He does please me. He does.” “Trinity, you’re a disgrace to girls everywhere.” “No, I’m not!” “Yes, you are. But never mind that now. This isn’t only about you. All the girls in your dormitory want that shield. You can’t let them down. If you don’t come right now, there might never be another chance. And anyway,” he adds, grinning, “Zach doesn’t need to know anything about it.” I hesitate while he shifts from foot to foot. “All right!” I say, jumping up. “Let’s go.”
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and almost leap out of my skin as I hear a sound in the passage outside. Practically everyone is having lunch in the dining-hall. The two boarding houses turn into ghost towns on the weekends anyway. like James has. In less than a minute. “Try it. he tells me to wait and slips noiselessly down the passage to check whether Mrs Anderssen is still drinking her tea. Team Trinity 257 .” I turn the handle of the inter-leading door and smile broadly as it opens smoothly and silently. it’s unlocked. I wish I could master the art of climbing stairs silently. he’s back and giving me the thumbs-up. When we get to the fourth floor. as most of the students are weekly boarders who go home on Friday evenings.” he tells me. “No.” I whisper. Empty. “It’s the small gold key. Gumede House is dead quiet. My heart is banging away in my chest and I’m wincing at every creak of the stairs. But the door between her office and Dr Hussein’s office is shut. Thank goodness. My heartbeat kicks up to a roar as I tiptoe to Mrs Anderssen’s office and peep inside.CHAPTER 29 In the end. I reach for the right key. it’s like taking candy from a baby. James leads me confidently up the stairs.” James whispers back. “She must have locked up before she went to tea. The key to the display cabinet is hanging exactly where James said it would be. feeling disappointment crash over me.
“Wait!” James says urgently as I reach for the shield. Just a creak. I feel a little glow of delight as I realise I’m holding it in my hands at last.” I pull my hand back as though I’ve been stung. I can’t have any hand in it. I slide the key into the lock and turn it. I remind myself. “The alarm. won’t you?” I point to Dr Hussein’s bookcase. remember?” “Oh.” I ease back from the cabinet and reach out to grab one of the books in Dr Hussein’s bookcase. right. Now that I look closely.“What the heck is that?” I demand in a whispered scream.” My hands shaking. “What am I going to put in its place?” I whisper. The glass doors open squeakily. I was about to grab the shield and just yank it out of the cabinet. I take a deep breath and slide the shield out of its former home. The alarm will only go off if they meet. But James steps back. As long as the beam stays interrupted I’m okay. The book I chose stands sturdily next to the shield. and there it is – the Gumede Shield. I can see the two eyes of the infra-red security beam built in on either side of the cabinet. “You must get it yourself. Hurry! Get that cabinet open. 258 Fiona Snyckers . and the whole place would be crawling with security guards in minutes. She’s not going to be drinking her tea forever. This must be all your doing. and no alarms have gone off. The alarm would have gone off. Then I slide it carefully into place next to the Gumede Shield. I rest my forehead against the door for a moment as my pulse slows to heart-attack speed. “Pass me one of those books. “Nothing.
“You are a total and utter genius person and the best co-conspirator ever!” I whisper to James – almost drunk on the joy of the moment. so I shove it down on Dr Hussein’s desk and scrabble for my phone in my pocket.” “Just . If that doesn’t get them here fast.” I hold the shield out to James. Mrs Whatshername is going to finish her tea break in about three minutes. “Ja. hang on a minute. girls. I’m at Gumede House.” But I can hear in his voice that he’s just as excited as I am.. Team Trinity 259 . but you’ll be back to calling me a racist. Come and help. Holding Shield in my hand. sexist pig soon.” I type a message into the BBM group we set up to coordinate our shield-pinching efforts.” “Wait!” “What now?” “I can’t just waltz out of here with the shield all on my own. and start down the passage towards the stairs. I need to call in the other girls. “All right. nothing will. MOVE! There. “What are you doing?” he demands. you say that now. but he just shakes his head and doesn’t take it..” I say. “Calling the others.” “Trinity! There isn’t time. let’s go. “Now let’s get out of here. It will deliver the message instantly to everyone. It has to be a joint effort. Move. You really don’t want to be caught with that thing in your hand.
yes. “It’s all thanks to you that we’ve got the shield. because this whole thing was your idea. I’m going to split now. It’s only right that you should be the one to put it into its new home. “It’s much bigger than I thought it would be. this is your moment. girls. “Ooh. someone else must take it into Sisulu House. and then someone else needs to smuggle it into the display cabinet. Now one of you needs to carry it out of here. You and the other girls. That way it’ll be a proper group effort.” I tell them. with Priya. You should be in on it. I’ve done my part by taking it out of Dr Hussein’s office. me too.” says Yasmin. “I can do that.” Lael’s face breaks into a smile.” “We haven’t got time for this. Nosipho and Yasmin hot on her heels.” But he shakes his head and runs silently back up the stairs. Lael. please stay!” I say. “Oh my gosh. I think that the last person should be you. “You’ve got it! You’ve really got it!” “Let me hold it! Let me look at it!” Nosipho stretches her fingers out reverently to touch the scarred wood.We’ve barely made it down two flights of stairs when I hear the thundering of Converse trainers approaching.” 260 Fiona Snyckers . “Ha!” I say. “We need to get out of here quickly.” “Then let’s get moving. shooting a triumphant glance at James.” “No. I can definitely do that.” He stops in his tracks. “I knew that would bring them running. “Listen. Oh. I don’t believe it!” Lael says as she comes panting up to me.
Then we have to wait for the teachers to discover the shield’s new home. That doesn’t happen until Monday when Dr Hussein comes into work. Mrs Anderssen obviously locked up his office without looking too closely because she failed to notice that the shield was missing and that a great big Odes of Horace had been shoved into its place. “It’s a disgrace the way they’ve let this cabinet go to rack and ruin. So we spend the entire weekend sweating.” says Nosipho.” Lael says. and how she never would have thought it of us.CHAPTER 30 The next few days pass in a blur. This takes them another day and a half because the Sisulu House display case is basically just a musty old cabinet in a room nobody ever bothers to go into. First there’s the thrill of slipping the shield into the display case. Then there’s the suspense of waiting for the theft to be discovered. “Until now!” Yasmin giggles. When the shield is finally discovered. Matron calls us all into the common room and gives us this huge big lecture about how disappointed she is in us. Team Trinity 261 . and that we’re all going to have our TV privileges revoked for a whole term if the culprits don’t come forward and confess at once. “That’s because it’s never had anything valuable in it before. Life in Sisulu House is a rollercoaster of emotion. with her hands on her hips and a disapproving glare on her face.
” I warn her. she really is. We’ve learned to tell the difference between real anger and the kind they have to put on because all the other grownups expect it.” “True. Dr Hussein tells us that one of the Grade 10 learners is going to address us.” Lael rolls her shoulders like a boxer going into the ring.” “You’d better do it soon. “I’ll go and talk to Matron now. She’s just waiting for the chance to tell on us.Her words are harsh. “Okay. but sometimes she impresses even me. Lael is brilliant. I think it’s because Nosipho and I both have Xhosa grannies who lose it with us every now and then. and hope she doesn’t completely wig out when I tell her it was us. “I didn’t like the look in Sophie’s eye when Matron was shouting at us. But somehow I know that underneath it all. Yasmin and Priya can’t hear past her angry words. she’s proud of us. I feel a little clutch of panic when Lael stands up and marches to 262 Fiona Snyckers . Lael. When I run this past the other girls. On Thursday morning we have a special assembly of the whole school. I’ve known her forever. and shouldn’t be all that surprised by anything she does anymore. only Nosipho agrees with me. After morning prayers and announcements.” *** You know. “I’ll go and get it over with now. I’m going to trust you on this. We don’t want Matron to think we’re only coming forward because Sophie spilled the beans.” Lael says when we all gather upstairs later. and her tone is rough and impatient.
you’d swear he’d never heard of anyone breaking the law for their beliefs. Then she wanted to email me a feminist manifesto that we could Prestik up onto the display cabinet “like Martin Luther”. she would only smile and put a finger to her lips when we asked. He was all. After supper. If Lael could walk into Matron’s office and confess. I could hear the pride behind the exasperation. I did it. they promised to send a nice wreath to my funeral. First she wanted a blow-by-blow account of how we did the actual stealing. I spent last night making sure my family were up to speed with everything. she sounded almost excited. Anyway. Then I got Mom on the line and she was much more sane about everything. My dad’s reaction was volcanic. where did he go wrong as a father? Honestly. She has told us absolutely nothing about what she’s been planning. When I said I was.the front of the hall. In fact. like. I called my brothers together and told them what we’d done. Which of course put me into a fantastic mood for phoning Chile. I think if he’d been on the same continent as me. I asked if she meant that American Civil Rights dude from the 1960s but she just sighed. It’s funny – my dad is the one who went to prison on Team Trinity 263 . why couldn’t we have gone through the proper channels? Why did we have to break school rules to do it? And basically. as expected. But like with Matron. then I could call my parents long distance and do the same. Ever since coming back from talking to Matron. that wreath might have come in useful. if we felt so strongly about the Gumede Shield. They asked whether I was planning to call the folks and tell them too.
Then she surprises everyone by pulling out an email from Priya’s mom. A few minutes into her talk. She starts off with a history of the Gumede Shield. going right back to its days as the Florence Nightingale Shield during the Crimean War. I’m starting to realise that she must have been planning this speech for a very long time. She talks about how the shield was stolen once before and placed in Sisulu House. but my mom is the real outlaw at heart. Goodness only knows when Lael wrote to Priya’s mom. they could keep it. Lael is totally in control of the situation. This 264 Fiona Snyckers .Robben Island and everything. I was a pupil at Brentwood College in the 1970s and 80s and it was common knowledge in those days that one of the headmasters – I don’t know which one – had made a promise that if the girls of Sisulu House ever managed to smuggle the shield into their display cabinet again. So even though my parents know all about it and are apparently not ready to disown me yet. I still have my heart in my mouth when Lael gets up on that stage. I turn to stare at Priya with a ‘what the heck?’ expression on my face. I know that I needn’t have worried. This is what the email says: To whom it may concern. Then she talks about how the shield saved the life of a Brentwood boy in the First World War by stopping a bullet that was heading for his heart. But she’s as mystified as I am. And how another Brentwood boy carried it with him when he marched in the June 16 protests in Soweto in 1976.
“We’re not trying to take the Gumede Shield away from Gumede House.” “Now that the Gumede Shield has mysteriously and inexplicably found its way into the Sisulu House display cabinet. Sameer Padayachee “Brentwood College is a co-ed school.was more than just a rumour. Those days are over. “We. the Grade 10 boarders of Sisulu House. Like guests who were barely tolerated in what was still regarded as a boys’ school.” A ripple of laughter runs through the staff members sitting at the back of the hall. would like to make the following request – without prejudice of course. There was a time when girls were treated like secondclass citizens around here. We just want to share it with them. “we would like to request that it remain there for six months of every year. It’s an important part of Brentwood’s history. We would also like the cabinet to be moved to a more prominent position. Kind regards.” Lael goes on with a dead straight face. and for it to be turned into Team Trinity 265 . I jab Nosipho in the ribs. “What does that mean?” “I think it means without admitting that we’re guilty of anything. It was well-known throughout the school. “And has been since 1966. We now make up half of the student body and enjoy equal rights in every respect. and it’s only fair that it should belong as much to the girls as to the boys.” Lael continues as she looks up from the letter.
” I whisper. He eyes us all sternly.” says Priya. “He’s not done yet..a proper trophy display case to compare with the one in Gumede House. We remain mystified as to how exactly the theft was accomplished. “She’s basically threatening them. 266 Fiona Snyckers .” Nosipho whistles softly.” Dr Hussein continues.” “In considering how to respond to this outrage. and are shocked at the breaking-and-entering that went into it. isn’t she? She’s saying that if they don’t do what we ask. But it will only be a matter of time before some future generation of Sisulu House girls decides to test the promise made to them by that long-ago headmaster.. This kind of lawless behaviour is totally unacceptable on school grounds and will always be met with the severest penalties. “The staff and governing body of Brentwood College unequivocally condemn the theft of the Gumede Shield. “Let’s see what Dr Hussein says. there will be nothing for us to do but accept our disappointment. we’ll just keep on pinching the shield until they do. “we took several factors into account. “Severest penalties.” “Shh. One was the fact that no damage was done to school property.” Lael sits down to some nervous applause from the students. but are grateful that nothing was damaged or vandalised. doesn’t it?” “Just wait. “If this request is not granted.” I whisper back. and Dr Hussein takes the podium. “That sounds like expulsion.” My friends and I stare at each other with wide eyes.
” continues Dr Hussein.” He sweeps our section of the hall with an eagle eye. We are essentially being held to ransom by the feminist agenda of certain female members of the pupil body. as we stare innocently back at him.. “There remains the question of what I do not hesitate to call blackmail. When he looks up again.” He looks down at his notes and lifts a hand to adjust his glasses.” “It’s a well-known fact that institutions targeted by blackmailers should never give in to them because that only encourages the perpetrators. there is a distinctly unfriendly expression on his face. it remains an open question whether the shield can actually be regarded as stolen when it was never removed from the school. and have been able to isolate the rumour to the headmastership – or perhaps I should say headmistressship – of one Eugenia Caxton. The fact that several female members of staff have declared themselves in sympathy with this agenda is neither here nor there. I have spoken to a number of teachers and parents who were pupils at the school in the 1970s and 80s. “I told you Matron was secretly proud of us. And it sounds like she’s not the only one. Team Trinity 267 ..“We also have no evidence to suggest that the Gumede Shield was at any time removed from school property. It might be more accurate to say that it has simply been moved. who headed up Brentwood from 1977 to 1981. we still need to deal with the promise that was allegedly made to the students of Sisulu House by a former headmaster of Brentwood College. “As such. “However.” “Hah!” I say triumphantly.
And therefore. starting immediately. as far as I can see – are screaming. and I wrap my best friend in a hard hug. I feel something brush against my sleeve.” This time there is nothing nervous or hesitant about the applause. And much as I deplore her rashness. A huge grin lights up my face. the teaching staff. If the whole place collapsed at this point.“It seems that this lady – a known eccentric – did indeed make some such promise after the shield was moved to Sisulu House once before. stamping their feet and clapping their hands as hard as they can. I turn to see Lael slipping back into line beside me. As the noise starts to die down. 268 Fiona Snyckers . whistling. The entire student body – and most of the teachers. The noise is bouncing off the rafters of the old hall and thundering along the wooden floors. I am happy to announce that the Gumede Shield will henceforth spend six months of every year in Sisulu House. after consultation with the student forum. I wouldn’t be too surprised. and the governing body of Brentwood College. I feel myself bound to honour her promise.
“Lael!” I say. tugging at Lael’s arm.” he says snootily. Oh dear. And she’s right. he’s looking completely puzzled by what she’s saying. a bit longer this time. Now. we’d better get along to Afrikaans. You’ve got the wrong guy. James!” she shouts. We do owe it all to him. Not surprisingly. she’s got the wrong person. wait up!” I turn around smiling. “Okay. where did she see him? I scan the thinning crowd of students. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started asking for autographs. “There’s James Ellison – the guy we owe it all to.” I say. Lael has gone up to some completely arbitrary guy and is chattering away to him. Without his help. “Hey. as though someone is trying to make a point. I’ve been wanting to introduce James to Lael for ages now. I rush over to them and pluck at her elbow. People keep coming up to us even after the bell has gone. “This isn’t James.” she says.” she says indignantly. Team Trinity 269 . But she has just spotted someone. I’ve been dying to thank him.CHAPTER 31 After assembly it take ages for everyone to get back to class. “Your name is James. our brilliant plan to pinch the shield would still be just that – a plan. “Hang on a minute.” “No I haven’t. to congratulate us and to talk to Lael about her speech. looking for his familiar face. Then the bell rings again. isn’t it?” “Last time I checked. James.
They don’t even look slightly alike.Okay.... and some discoloured bruises down the right side of his face. And he’s a really snappy dresser – all retro and vintage-looking..” he says with a sneer. have absolutely no idea. and – I can’t help noticing – he’s got one black eye.” Then he turns on his heel and walks away. but he’s still the wrong person. Trust me. My James is thinner and much better looking.. but. “You can’t be.. like. can I just say that it really isn’t working.” “And where did you ever get the idea that your guy was James Ellison?” 270 Fiona Snyckers . I feel as though I’ve been punched in the stomach. This guy looks nothing like my James.” “Are you telling me that’s not the guy who’s been helping us steal the Gumede Shield?” “Absolutely not.” I say. Lael can be such a dweeb sometimes.” Lael says.” I stutter like an idiot. puzzled. leaving me gaping after him like a goldfish. “And it’s kind of gelled at the back. I know what must have happened.” “And yet I am. “But . “What’s going on?” “I . so she thought he was James Ellison. And he has this.. “James! James!” and this dude turned around. And he’s much nicer than that obnoxious ass.” I make a swooshing motion with my hand across my face. He’s shorter and chunkier. sweep of hair over his forehead. She started shouting.” he says. “Let’s put it this way – are you or are you not James Ellison of the Gumede House Grade 11 dormitory?” “I am.. “Listen.” Lael looks from the guy to me and back again. I know. “Trinity. “And if this was your way of getting me to notice you. “He might be called James.
“Listen. we’ll get detention. But I still can’t quite get my head around this. the real James Ellison is certainly obnoxious. And now I’ve spent the entire term thinking that my unknown friend is called James. Well. And. I can clearly remember asking Aaron at the beginning of the year who the racist. and he was the one who told me it was James Ellison.” *** By the end of the school-day.” We are now the only people still standing in the quad outside the hall. “I can’t remember. Team Trinity 271 . I can see a couple of teachers headed our way. Have I really been calling this guy by the wrong name all term? Why didn’t he correct me? In fact. so I start walking towards class.” I say. I’ll give him that. right? Or can you? I honestly can’t remember. obnoxious guy with brown hair and retro clothes was. “If we don’t get to class right now. have I ever actually used his name? Surely I must have said “James” to him at some point? You can’t have whole long conversations with someone without using their name. we’ll talk about this later. not surprisingly. He even warned me against him. come to think of it. it’s all my brother’s fault. he doesn’t fit the profile at all. I remember. I think I’ve managed to piece it all together. pulling Lael along with me. like I was going to rush out and start dating him. But for the rest.“I don’t know!” I rub my hands over my face.
Maybe I’ve been saying the wrong name for months and he was too polite to correct me. I see Zach coming into the common room. But then his face pops into my mind. I sink into an armchair with a happy sigh. would probably be calling for an interview as well. and I find myself smiling. As I sit there feeling the warmth of pride in our achievement. 272 Fiona Snyckers . Come to think of it. I realise how long it’s been since I felt this happy. What a day! I’m still glowing from our triumph in assembly this morning. I know he’s in Grade 11. Lael and I gave an interview to the school newspaper at break. the Sandton Chronicle. and I know he lives in Gumede House. There’s no one around. I’ve been pretty miserable for a while now. I have to sit down for a minute before I lug all my stuff upstairs. because there’s been no response. I close my eyes for a moment. and they told us that the local community paper. Back in Sisulu House. All I need is a list of the students in the Grade 11 boys’ dormitory and I’ll find him. and when I open them again. Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any more perfect! He probably wants to congratulate us on the shield. I’ve BBMed him a few times already. It’s a bit weird to realise that I now have no idea what his real name is. I just didn’t realise it until I started feeling better. I’ll probably have to wait until suppertime. but he must have had his phone off. I’m dying to talk everything over with Lael. Everyone is either at extramurals or upstairs chilling in their dorms. I make a beeline for the common room. It’ll be easy enough to find out. though. No – politeness is not exactly his strong point. but she’s got tennis matches the whole afternoon.
“I don’t want to sit down. I find myself taking a step back. “Is . “Um . don’t you?” Team Trinity 273 . A little whisper of unease curls up my spine. Something is wrong. Is he angry because I went ahead with the shield plan after he told me not to? But it all worked out so well. do you? Even after I’ve made it one hundred per cent clear that I don’t want you to do something.” “I don’t want any coffee. everything about him is saying “angry”. something is definitely wrong. “No. I’m not happy at all.” He touches my arm briefly and then steps back. I’ve become fluent in my boyfriend’s body language. “Trinity. Do you want to know why. which is what he was worried about. Trinity?” He takes another step towards me.. and for some reason. Zach? You don’t look happy.” Okay. or even punished. I’m a world expert on his facial expressions.“Zach!” I jump up and run forward to give him a hug. is something wrong. And I didn’t get expelled. And right now. So instead of hugging him. I stop short and give him a big smile..” He takes a step towards me. “It’s so great to see you!” I say.. “Sit down anyway.” I make a sweeping gesture with my hand.” he says through gritted teeth. the tone of his voice. you go behind my back and do it anyway. I’m not happy. like a waitress in a restaurant. and the way he moves. My happy glow fades. “Have you got time for a chat? I can make some coffee if you’d like. “Okay. why?” “Because you never listen.” I bite my lip..
. James arrived so suddenly and told me about the opportunity. The guy who helped me was someone else. it all happened so fast that there wasn’t time for me to ask if you minded.” My brain feels like it’s short-circuiting. which feels bruised. There is still absolutely no one around. My gaze flickers around the room and out into the deserted corridor. I didn’t have time to. “It was you who pushed him down the stairs. but now..” “Oh. “I got his name wrong. I still don’t know his name.” I put a hand to my chest. 274 Fiona Snyckers . wouldn’t you? I didn’t want to believe that you were sleeping with him. And he wasn’t even the right person. “That fool.” I say.” “Liar!” He shoves me hard in the chest so that I stumble backward. “You’d do anything to protect him. Someone completely different. “The thing is. “You .” He laughs harshly. No one has shoved me like that since my brothers and I were still young enough to get into physical fights. “So … it was you.” “James!” he snaps.. “Of course I’m not sleeping with him. “You lie and you lie and you lie! I don’t think you even know what the truth is anymore.” I say desperately. but there’s no point in playing dumb.” “What are you babbling about... without thinking.” “Sleeping with him?” I gasp. right?” I say. I know exactly what this is about.. I’m not sleeping with anyone. I think about asking him to explain what he means.” “Nice try... you’re talking about the Gumede Shield.For a moment. Zach . really? Who?” “I don’t know.. He’s asking for another stint in the san. Trinity?” “It wasn’t James Ellison.” “Zach..
“Oh. “Liar!” he says again. He’s going to hit me.. “He was really going to hit me. didn’t you?” Team Trinity 275 . His hand is clenched into a fist. and feel the edge of the grate slam into my back. His head flicks around and he looks straight at my friend. I’m saved! Thank goodness! He looks so calm and competent. thank goodness!” I blurt out. But he just looks even angrier than before. “I didn’t mean to. It was an accident. I shake my head in confusion. maybe reaching down a hand to help me up.. I gasp and wince. too stunned by pain to think for a moment. like there’s nothing he couldn’t handle. I feel real fear. I fall backwards onto the stone tiles of the fireplace surround. Then I catch a glimpse of movement behind him.” He bends down over me. “He was going to hit me.” He’s getting closer and I can feel the hard edge of the fireplace surround against the back of my foot. Zach stiffens. The one whose name I still don’t know. wasn’t it? Yes. Then I roll off the icy grate and look up. not James Ellison. and see James Ellison coming into the common room. My friend. I can see it in his eyes. My boyfriend is going to hit me. you stupid bitch.“Don’t you ‘Zach’ me.” I say. “You’ve betrayed me in every possible way since the day we started going out. No . he pushed me.” he goes on.” I call out. “You tripped. as tears flood into my eyes. and this time when he shoves me. but he couldn’t possibly have wanted me to fall like that. Relief washes through me like a wave. You saw it. expecting to see Zach horrified by what he’s done. You should look where you’re going. and for the first time.
“Who are you talking to?” Zach demands. He coughs .” He draws his fist back and I close my eyes. Trinity. “Whatever happens – don’t let him get away with it. Did he have something in his mouth? Is he choking on a piece of chewing gum? I want to help him. “Help!” I scream.” But my friend just stands there. Then he starts clawing desperately at his collar. You’re trying to trick me again. There is anger in his face as well as sadness. my head is spinning. Zach has spun away from me and is clutching at his neck as though something is choking him.. and his eyes are starting to bulge. watching Zach lurching around. slowly and clearly. aren’t you?” He turns back to me and grabs me by the arm. Then I open them again. Then he shakes me until my eyes roll back in my head. but I’m afraid of being grabbed again.” I take a half-step towards Zach. His face is getting redder and redder. Then he turns to me. “There’s no one there. who is now lying groaning on the floor. He lets out a strangled wheeze. looking wildly around. What should I do? Should I call someone? 276 Fiona Snyckers . and he coughs again. and stumbles around the room pawing at his neck.. Zach smirks. He just stares at me sadly. “There’s no one here to help you. “What’s happening?” But my friend just stands there. I don’t understand what’s happening. but I can see him clenching his hand into a fist and drawing it back. “Don’t let him get away with it. When he lets me go. “What’s going on?” I say.My friend doesn’t answer. “Please help.” he says.
I turn back to my friend. Team Trinity 277 . He’s gone. “I don’t know what to. An icy shiver ripples down my back as I run blindly out the room..” Then I stop..
long holiday. and that he was about to hit me in the face when something happened to interrupt him. Every time I read about some tannie in Texas or wherever who was driving along a lonely road at night. I can’t help thinking that she should either give up the vodka. And when I say no one. and knocked me over. she didn’t even seem to hear the part about the invisible person. I know the signs because my mom reacts in exactly the same way. This is the kind of thing that sends Lael into a feminist frenzy. I mean Lael. she takes photos of the red marks on my chest and the bruises on my back where I landed against the grate of 278 Fiona Snyckers . and little green men got out. All she cared about was that Zach had attacked me.CHAPTER 32 Now I know how all those people in America feel when they report UFO sightings. At least. only to spot some strange lights in the sky. because I haven’t been stupid enough to try to tell my story to anyone else. When I first told her what had happened. That bit I’m keeping between Lael and me. not the part about Zach being choked by an invisible person. and one of the lights turned into a flying saucer and landed right next to her. Without fussing over me. Only now I’m the loony tannie from Texas whose story no one believes. and at the same time so coldly determined. I have never seen Lael so angry. or else check herself into rehab for a nice.
We give one copy to Dr Hussein. Now that the worst of my shock is over. and that I’ve made up this whole story to discredit him because he was trying to break up with me. and they have no trouble in deciding who to believe. one copy to Matron. isn’t he? He’s the golden boy that the school managed to poach for its postmatric programme. and she insists that the school doctor be called in to examine me and write a report of his findings. Because he’s the handsome sports hero.the fireplace. I hate all the stares and whispers that follow me around school. I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for a million years. Eventually I lose track of how many times I tell my story. Then she takes photos of the grate to show how they match up. print it out. When I think of trying to prove my word against his. She makes me type the whole story out on my laptop. and sign it with today’s date. They look at Zach and they look at me. After a couple of days. Then she goes with Matron and me to the Sandton Police Station to open a docket of assault against Zach. Most people couldn’t believe Zach was going out with me in the first Team Trinity 279 . and we keep one copy ourselves. I’m the ditzy rich girl who scrapes through school on a combination of luck and her family name. She makes me go to Matron and tell her exactly what Zach did to me. Lael lets me know that Zach is telling everyone who will listen that I tripped over the fireplace by accident. I wish my life could go back to normal. a horrible tiredness has come over me. and how many people poke and prod at me. A lot of people think I’ve snapped. and I find myself wishing that the whole thing would just go away.
First. trying not to wring my hands. And I kind of made a promise to him in my head that I wouldn’t. My parents will be back. 280 Fiona Snyckers .place. a sea of yellow and orange. Obviously I’d try to smear him with some made-up story about physical abuse. the pressure is mounting. All the trees are wearing their autumn colours. You just stick to the truth. I can’t believe it’s April already. but I persuaded them not to. “They’re probably deciding whether to expel him. Term is ending in a few days.” “Good. I can see right over to Illovo from here. There are times when the urge to let the whole thing drop is like a physical ache. and we’re all going to our house in Cape Town for a few weeks. Of course they think I would go ballistic if he ever broke up with me. But here’s the thing – I’m not going to.” I tell Lael. Then there’s my friend – the one I thought was James Ellison.” I wander over to the dorm window to look out over the school grounds.” Lael’s smile is as sharp as a knife-blade. “Zach and his parents are going to be there. He told me not to let it go. They wanted to cut their trip short and come home early after what happened to me. there’s Lael telling me I owe it to girls everywhere to show boys that they can’t get away with this kind of behaviour. “I’ve been called to an internal hearing. *** A week later. and there’ll be nothing they can say to shake you.
“But have you heard the other part of the rumour?” Lael goes on. I can hardly believe it. “What about her?” “Okay. She kept encouraging it. Apparently these two exgirlfriends of Zach’s both live in KZN.” “Ja.” Having Matron in my corner has made the hugest difference to how I’m coping with everything. She is totally and completely on your side about everything. This part I know. “Have you heard the rumours about Zach’s ex-girlfriends?” She nods. “No ways. intrigued. Matron told me about it this morning.It’ll be great to see them again. When I remember how grumpy I was about it at the beginning of the year. “The one comes from Pietermaritizburg.” I smile. even though I’m really going to miss living in Sisulu House. listen to this. who also comes from KZN. Sophie knew all about how Zach treated those two girls. by the way. which is where Sophie’s family have their holiday home. “The part about Sophie?” “No. “I don’t believe it. remember?” I wrinkle my nose. Yasmin’s a sweetheart. right? He dated them while he was still at Hilton.” I say. “You mean the ones who have come forward and said that he did the same things to them?” “Yes. and that’s why she was so keen for you to go out with him. “I know. So according to Yasmin. and the other one from Howick. Not even Sophie would be that evil. You have to take everything she says with a pinch of salt.” Team Trinity 281 .” I say. but you know what a gossip she is. I turn away from the window and back to Lael.” I nod.
but listen. The story goes that one of the exgirlfriends got so depressed from the way Zach treated her that she had to go on medication and missed three months of school. and she’s not a gossip at all. “Are you okay?” Lael asks.” This is what has been bothering me most of all.” “And Sophie knew that?” “Absolutely. taken down a peg. She told me that Sophie was actually boasting about it. Even Nosipho believes this. “Not really. “Is this for real?” I say at last. That’s how I got him to notice me that very first time. Lael?” 282 Fiona Snyckers . “How did he do it. or the fact that half the school thinks I’m a liar. How she even did my makeup that one night. It was common knowledge in Howick.” For a moment I’m too dumbstruck to speak.” I sit down on my bed. I keep remembering how Sophie lent me clothes to go on dates with Zach. “Apparently. Think about it. “I can’t get my head around this. And how she was the one who told me about his cage-fighting obsession so that I could pretend to be interested in it as well. Not the bruises. What gets me most is how he managed to destroy all my confidence in myself. seeing the look on my face. I don’t know whether she knew that he might actually hurt you physically. no. I rub my hands hard across my face. Does Sophie really hate me that much?” “Apparently she thought it would be good for you to have your confidence knocked. Trinity.“No. Not the way he pushed me into the fireplace. You know.” I am speechless.
” “You were dazzled by him. I would have done anything to please him – literally anything.” “I should have been able to see through him. I can’t believe how much he changed me.” Team Trinity 283 . and I agreed to that. we did for a while. Then you started coming back from dates and accusing yourself of being too quiet or too talkative or too clever or too stupid. Nothing you did was ever good enough. too. But you’ve never had to deal with anyone like him before. We all did. If it weren’t so ridiculous. but obviously I’m not.” Lael makes me sit down on the bed next to her and gives me a huge hug. Trinity. None of us has. it would actually be funny. I was completely terrified of him. it’s very hard to shrug that off. I always thought I was quite a strong person. “You are a strong person. You! Who’ve been hanging out with cabinet ministers and CEOs practically since you were born. You thought you were the luckiest girl in the world to be going out with him. He wanted me to give up trying to get the shield. He wanted me to stop being friends with you. When someone you think you’re in love with starts telling you you’re not good enough. He made you believe you didn’t know how to behave in public.” “Really?” “Well.“How did he do what?” “How did he break me down like that? By the end. There must be something wrong with me for him to have been able to do that. You are. and I was ready to go along with it. Nothing you wore was ever right.
Zach had just pulled his fist back to hit me. “Word is something has spooked him badly. The other postmatric boys say he’s acting like he’s seen a ghost.” I stare at her. nearly jumping out of his skin if anyone comes up behind him. None of it was real. And 284 Fiona Snyckers . Why should she? I wouldn’t believe myself.” “I guess. It was all him messing around with your mind. But I know she won’t believe me. Lael cocks her head to one side. “It’s from that old movie where this guy makes his wife think she’s going crazy by dimming the lights all the time. So when she’s like. I bet he’s sorry now. he’s having nightmares. I’ve tried to talk to her about what happened in the common room that day.” “Gaslighting?” I say. Apparently. puzzled. ‘what’s wrong with the lights.’ That’s exactly what Zach did to you. why are they going dim?’ he’s all. I was terrified. I was hurt and upset. Of course I wasn’t thinking clearly. they’re not going dim. you’re just crazy. screaming in his sleep. “What’s up. In the last few days even I’ve started wondering whether my mind was playing tricks on me. Trinity?” Maybe I should try again. but she probably thought I was too traumatised to know what I was talking about.“He did do that. didn’t he?” I say.” “Well. with another one of those razor-sharp smiles. “I still can’t get over the feeling that I embarrassed him in public. What do they call it – gaslighting.” Lael says. Maybe I should sit her down and make her listen seriously to what I have to say. ‘there’s nothing wrong with the lights. remembering. Lael gives me a little shake. “Stop it! Stop thinking like that.
” I say. I wouldn’t believe myself anymore than I’d believe Darleen from Texas who said she’d just been abducted by aliens. No.this was after months of his mind-games. shaking my head and forcing a smile. “Nothing’s up. Honestly. “Nothing. it’s a wonder I could still remember my own name at that point.” Team Trinity 285 .
Of course. I’d be dying of embarrassment if I weren’t still so happy to see them. it’s a great big headache. since my brothers are moving out of there. And when you’re a boarder who is moving out permanently. stray knickers. my family have taken over Sisulu House completely. A little group of students is standing around. Gumede House too. you tend to forgive them the little things. instead of just packing them all into my trunk. So we’ve got all her stuff to pack up as well. My mom has already insisted that I take her on a pilgrimage to view the Gumede Shield in its brand. I look out the window and see my dad and one of his security guards muscling Caleb’s trunk into the boot of one of the three huge. When you’re a boarder. you just pick up your bag and walk out.CHAPTER 33 The last day of term is such a mission I can hardly believe it. My mom is pounding up and down the stairs clutching hairbrushes. Normally I’d be a puddle of mortification by now. and tubes of lipgloss. but when you haven’t seen your parents in more than three months. 286 Fiona Snyckers . black cars they’ve got parked outside. When you’re a day girl and school ends for the term. too. She’ll be spending the first week of the holidays with us before her mom comes to pick her up in Cape Town. whispering and pointing. it’s not that simple. Lael is coming home with us.
Peaceful too. and I told the truth exactly as it happened. Matron. just in time to support me through Zach’s hearing. “HAVE YOU CHECKED UNDER YOUR BED YET? YOU KNOW HOW YOU ALWAYS LEFT STUFF UNDER YOUR BED WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE!” A couple of Grade 11 girls giggle as they walk past me. Parents. And if I come back next term to find him still at school. and I feel some of my new-found tolerance wearing thin. I’ll deal with it. Team Trinity 287 . I know my parents only started to relax when they saw for themselves that I really was okay. Honestly. and then took a million more pictures with Lael and me standing in front it. and Zach himself.spanking-new display case. “TRINITY!” Mom yells up the stairs. Because I’m not scared of him anymore. The important thing is that I told the truth. Whether the school chooses to believe him or me is actually irrelevant. But I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t let myself get scared off. I didn’t back down. because I’m finally sleeping properly again. brushing tears from her eyes. “To think that my girls did this!” she keeps saying. I don’t know what to do with myself. I stood up in front of the head. Zach’s parents. the deputy head. We don’t know what will happen to him yet. We might only find out next term. you can’t take them anywhere. I didn’t take the easy way out. It’s amazing how powerful that makes me feel.” My parents arrived yesterday. hugged me until my ribs squeaked. my parents. She took pictures of it from about a million different angles. “I’m so proud. It doesn’t change what happened.
” she says urgently. isn’t it? So these kids would have been about the same age as us.” “I have to show you something.I look up and see Lael coming down the stairs clutching a bundle of musty-looking books.” I follow Lael into the study and shut the door behind us. 288 Fiona Snyckers .” she says.. Standard 9 . and I want you to tell me if you recognise anyone in them. It’s a picture of the Brentwood Standard 9A class of 1966. I’m going to show you some pictures. bound copies of the school magazine. Really old – all yellow and crinkly. “I’ve got this. “What about a matric’s study? There’ll be no one there now. “Right. Does anyone there look familiar to you?” Completely mystified. “Can we go somewhere that’s quiet?” I think for a moment. She hesitates. The class photo. “Where have you been?” I ask. all right?” “Sure.” “Okay. go ahead. “Go ahead. What’s up?” She puts the old books down on a table. Let’s hurry. that’s what they used to call Grade 11. I turn the book around to look at it properly.” “I’m just helping Lael with something.” She opens the leather covers of the books and I see that they are old.” I call to my mom as she pounds past us with an armload of shoes. Trinity. and I notice for the first time that she’s looking mildly freaked out. “That picture in the middle.. “Okay. “I need you to keep me from murdering my mom. She opens a page marked with a post-it and hands it over to me.
. If I had to guess.. moving my finger from face to face. so the chances of my recognising anyone are basically zero.” Lael has a very strange expression on her face. I go through the rows slowly. let’s first look at a few more pictures.. There’s that flat cap he’s always wearing. half-terrified. “What have you seen?” I squint at the photo again.” I say excitedly. The third photo is of the newspaper club.? That looks exactly like.But now they’d be the same age as my grandparents. looking at each one. Isn’t that. “Who would this be?” I ask. This looks just like him. stabbing at the picture with my finger.” I look down at the desk and see that she has three more photos marked with post-its. And there’s his sweeping side-fringe with all the gel at the sides.” “What do you mean?” “Okay . The second is a picture of the U16 tennis team. The one who saved me from Zach. It’s a much bigger and clearer picture. but surely there’s something familiar about that boy’s smile – about the cocky gleam in his eye? “That looks exactly like him. I’m trying not to think about how much packing I still have to do. It’s all grainy and black and white. To humour Lael. “His father? His grandfather?” “Uh.” She swallows. I pick him out easily in that.. My heart is pounding painfully in my chest.. “The boy who helped us steal the Gumede Shield. And then I stop dead. He’s sitting in the middle of the front row holding an edition of the Team Trinity 289 . before we go into all that. “Not exactly.. I’d say it was half-excited... “What is it?” she asks eagerly.
I look down at the page. It’s really him.” Lael pauses until I look up and meet her eyes. It’s a big picture of him.” There’s a beat of silence.. It takes up practically the whole page... pointing to the list of names under the photo..” she says. What would a boy have been doing in the girls’ hostel?” “No one knows.. He’s smiling into my eyes just as he has about a hundred times this year. “Why are you showing me these pictures?” “His name was Jim Grey. like he was the editor or something. But the resemblance is amazing. Nobody knew who she was. It always has been. It’s him. There he is. “Sisulu is a girls’ boarding house. and she opens up the fourth and final picture for me to see. okay.paper. Grey. Or . “Grey . And they all lived in Sisulu House. With tears I don’t really understand pricking at my eyes.. Or someone who looks a lot like him. right?” “It wasn’t a she. “Remember we heard about that student who died in Sisulu House?” I frown. Doesn’t ring any bells. Infuriatingly 290 Fiona Snyckers . I almost thought it was him for a moment. That’s when the very first girl students were introduced. trying to remember.” Lael says. “Yes. sort of..” I say thoughtfully. This actually does ring a faint bell. what was it called back then? Helen Keller House. “What do you mean it wasn’t a she?” I say. So why am I getting gooseflesh crawling all up my arms? “Who is this?” I say urgently. Even back in 1960-whatsit. “Nope.” “Trinity.. almost angrily.
” I go on desperately. James. The guy I’ve been hanging out with this term must be some kind of relative of his. Nobody seems to know exactly what happened. “He’s probably been hanging out here to find out what happened to his relative.” I give an uncertain laugh. that’s pretty weird. so I Googled it. Like his son or his grandson or something. “I got nothing. I follow Lael’s finger as she points to the caption under the picture.. My nemesis. A cleaner found him.” “Right.. All the students had gone home the day before. my boyfriend.” “Trinity. He was found dead in the common room the day after school broke up for the September holidays. Always so sure of himself. My friend. I admit. So then I checked through the old microfiche records in the library and I found some newspaper clippings. I guess because it all happened too long ago. ‘They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old’ RIP – Jim Grey 03/03/1950 – 05/09/1966 I stare at it in silence. “Okay. my friends. Handing out advice like Smarties..” “Or . He wasn’t even supposed to be here. or a nephew perhaps.smug. but let’s get a grip here. “Because a boy who died at the age of sixteen would obviously have had kids.” Lael says. Did anyone besides you ever see this guy? Or were you always alone when he appeared?” Team Trinity 291 . “The school magazine doesn’t say how he died.. Jim. The newspapers don’t say what the cause of death was. Insulting me.” Lael nods.
I don’t know. I heard it. Trinity. “I . But of course other people saw him. and these shoes with sharp points at the toes. “And oldfashioned clothes. sharp silence. and he sometimes says some totally inappropriate things. so I decided to do some research.” “You mean almost like he’s still living in the old South Africa?” “You’re nuts. I’ve seen him with my own eyes..” “Yes. anyway. I was usually alone when I spoke to him.” “Oh.I snort. 292 Fiona Snyckers . But I could see it was really bugging you. didn’t you?” There’s a sudden. and yes. Makes sense. nodding again. But they must have. Okay. You make him sound like some kind of a . He’s got all these racist and sexist ideas..” I’m on surer ground now. He’s just a regular guy. He wears these really cool retro clothes. as it happens..” “Well. please. “Appeared! He didn’t ‘appear’..” “When?” she demands.” “Winklepickers. This isn’t some politically incorrect ghost we’re talking about. You picked him out of a blurry black-and-white group photograph. as you put it. “So you did hear that. He’s as real as you and me. I thought you’d lost the plot for a while.” she says. “I thought you weren’t listening. Yes. He walked in through the door like a normal human being..” I say at last. he can be really irritating at times. do you know that? Completely nuts.. “He’s kind of a snappy dresser. well.” “You saw him choke Zach Morris without even touching him.. all right.” “And what was he like? Tell me a bit about him. They must have..
or warn someone. abusive boyfriends?” “Oh. I do read a lot of this stuff.I didn’t point him out to you. Aren’t you basically telling me that I’ve spent the last three months talking to a ghost?” The thought of it sends little shivers up and down my spine. aren’t I?” I give a huge sigh and rub the heels of my hands over my eyes. You’re the one who recognised him.. I know it’s a shock. “No. but I do think you’re right. I see what you mean. In some books they want to punish someone. and you need a priest to exorcise them.. “Okay .” I try to think of some of the books I’ve read recently... to the other side. chatting up random students and saving them from their horrible. “Then all that’s left for us to do is find out why he hasn’t passed on.. if you know what I mean? Why is he still hanging around here.” “Good.” “You read vampire novels and all that spooky stuff. yes. “Because of unfinished business usually? And sometimes they haven’t realised that they’re dead. Trinity.” “Um .. and I know you don’t really want to admit it . I feel like a total freak for saying this. “Like. Why do ghosts normally hang around after death?” “Uh.. I mean why hasn’t he passed on?” She makes giant circling motions in the air. okay. but I’m right.” Lael claps her hands together. And sometimes they just want to set the record straight about how they actually died.” Lael’s right. But sometimes they’re just really evil. Team Trinity 293 . I thought the whole point was that he had passed on..
THE END 294 Fiona Snyckers . let’s go and finish up our packing. We’re going to find out who he was and how he died. I catch a little flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. But when I turn my head to look.“Cool!” She rubs her hands together and smiles.” “Sure it is. there’s no one there. it’s going to help release his spirit into the afterlife. “But in the meantime. “Then that’s our project for next term. okay?” As I steer Lael out of the matrics’ study and down the stairs. And when we do.” I say soothingly.
Other novels by Modjaji Books Bom Boy by Yewande Omotoso Shooting Snakes by Maren Bodenstein One Green Bottle by Debrah Anne Nixon Whiplash by Tracey Farren Snake by Tracey Farren www.modjajibooks.za .co.
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