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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.”
but at least it means they’re not getting a divorce.” says Caleb. “Most of her friends have babies. I’ll just have to move to Australia. Aaron does an eye-roll.” We fall silent thinking about this. How could they. “That’s impossible. What’s this all about?” 2 Fiona Snyckers . A little clutch of fear grabs at my belly.” Dad says. “We are sitting down.” “So what do you think it is?” I ask.” “What?” Caleb almost screams. Then he says. they’re not exactly thrilled about it. aren’t they too old?” “Mom’s 35. “I think Mom’s having another baby. looking a bit tearful. I reckon Aaron’s right.” I remind him. Everyone will be staring at her and at my dad. and thinking about what they’ve been up to. knocking authoritatively on a table in his best chairman-of-theboard manner. Mom and Dad come into the room at this point.? I mean. He’s quiet for a moment. looking all serious and solemn. No possible way. 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). “No way. but then I see Aaron shaking his head. Didn’t you see them pawing at each other during dinner? It’s completely gross. dude.. the smaller squirt. That’s what it is – another kid.“Maybe they’re getting a divorce. 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. “Please sit down everyone. If this is a new baby.. Dad.
“I knew you were getting divorced. but we’ve decided. very much. and not as an invader. That’s exactly what I said! Wasn’t that what I said?” They both turn to look at him. I’ve decided to go out there for a few months to make sure it’s done right.” Team Trinity 3 ... “We’re planning to open three new mines there..” Dad says. either. You’ll be safe and properly looked after there.” “I knew it!” Caleb squeaks in his half-broken voice. so not a baby then. your mother and I love you all very. And your mother’s decided to come with me. But the whole thing needs to be correctly handled. “Going away?” I echo. “We’re not getting divorced.” “And what about us?” Aaron bursts out. Not now that I’ve finally made the A team in cricket. “Well . “And I’m not going to stay with Granny in Soweto.” Mom says soothingly. and work with the local communities to make sure they see us as a friend. “What on earth made you think that? We’re just going away for a few months. “It’ll take like an hour to get to school every morning. “I’m not leaving Brentwood.” Caleb pipes up. UbuntuGold is expanding into Chile.. We have to do a proper environmental impact study. and you’ll be able to carry on your schooling uninterrupted.Dad clears his throat.” “You’re not going to do that. “What do you mean?” “As you know.” “You won’t have to. The three of you will be joining the boarding-house from the beginning of next term. lovey. as you know.” Okay.” Mom says in a puzzled voice.
No one seems to notice that I’m not exactly ecstatic. Who will drive you to extramurals in the afternoon.” “Happy?” My voice sounds higher than normal. and pack your school lunch. Trinity. you know. so of course they’re delighted. lovey. They’ll understand. and check that you do your homework? There’s no one I could trust to look after you properly except the 4 Fiona Snyckers . “Um. and fetch you from parties on weekends. excuse me. They’ve been begging to become boarders for years now. “Does anyone care what I think about this?” ‘Of course we do. We’ll be back by Easter. Why can’t I just stay here with someone to look after me?” “Because your life is too complicated. “You can send them all emails explaining that you’ll be back after Easter. And it’s really not so awful.” Perhaps “business” is a slight exaggeration. “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.” “But three whole months! That’s like forever. It’ll be over before you know it. Brentwood has a lovely boarding-house.” says Mom. ever come home – not even on weekends.My lame-o brothers jump to their feet and start punching the air. darling. “Aren’t you happy? I thought you would be. but it’s true that I do have quite a few families that I babysit regularly for. Mom and Dad are smiling. and the food isn’t bad.” I say.” “It’s only for a term.” “And what about my babysitting business? I’ll be letting all my clients down.
Lael will be boarding next term as well.” Team Trinity 5 . I think you’ve forgotten something. In fact.boarding-school. And anyway. you’ll probably be in the same dorm.
6 Fiona Snyckers . Basically. her folks can’t stand the sight of each other. and making her tell me all about it. I remember finding her crying in the girls’ bathroom one break-time. ja. That’s when her mom and dad got divorced.. and started a brand new family. We’ve been best friends ever since. She sees him maybe once a year at Rosh Hashanah. So. 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. I admit . and then close it again. 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.CHAPTER 2 I OPEN my mouth to moan some more. I just let her cry and listened while she talked. Lael Lieberman is my best friend in the whole entire world. Lael has seen the inside of the boardinghouse more than once. The divorce didn’t exactly go well for her. I can tell by the smug look on her face. We’ve been friends since Grade 1. But when she’s off travelling. When her mom is in town. Lael becomes a boarder. they live together in this super-swish serviced apartment at the Raphael in Mandela Square. moved to Pietermaritzburg. Mom was obviously saving that one for last.. Lael’s dad got remarried almost immediately. this does change things a bit. Okay.
” Mom says patiently.” “Oh. you don’t care what I have to go through. “You’ll never understand. 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. “I’m on the blood-group diet. obviously. Mom would have checked first.I didn’t know she’d be boarding this term. Just because you were born thin. but if Mom says she is. she has no idea what it’s like to be cursed with fatness. “That might not be a bad thing. you know. There’s nothing wrong with your figure.” I say crossly. that might not have been my most mature moment. and Mom looks at me. what’s the point?” I snap. but my mother seriously tries my patience. “What am I going to do about food?” “They’ll feed you. They’ll stuff me full of carbs that are all wrong for my blood type. then she probably is. You shouldn’t be messing with your eating patterns at your age.” I flounce out of the room and slam the door. “They don’t exactly starve their boarders. The other Team Trinity 7 . Dad looks at Mom.” “That’s not the point.” “Sweetie. a bit tetchily.” Dad says. *** Okay. Has not one single person in this room even remembered that I’m on a diet?” My brothers snigger. “I’m only supposed to eat protein and steamed veggies. Just because she can eat whatever she likes and stay skinny.
The squeal she gives when I tell her my news is enough to split my eardrum. We can call each other roomie. I just marched out of the shop and off to Foschini where the size 10s still fit me.day I was trying on clothes in Foxy and the size 10 was too tight. I fling myself down on my bed and phone Lael. you don’t have a clue. And I know them all. Anyway. we’re going to have so much fun. you’d swear the whole of Tel Aviv would grind to a halt without her.” “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. Honey. Mom’s going to Israel again. I refused to give her the satisfaction. Trust me. But don’t worry. there are as many ways to break the rules as there are rules themselves. And this boarding-school business is going to wreck my whole eating plan. Let’s start now. “Oh.” “Roomie. I am so happy. I really wasn’t looking forward to this term at all. roomie.” 8 Fiona Snyckers . “Why don’t you try the size 12. Moving along. Can I call you roomie?” “Please don’t. my God! Oh.” “What fun can you possibly have in a place where you’re watched every second of the day?” I ask grumpily. sisi?” the salesgirl said with a sadistic smile. I was totally dreading it. The point is that I’m a whale and need to diet. But now that you’ll be there. roomie. I’ll show you the ropes. my God! Oh. Oh. my God! That is sooooo completely cool! We’ll be roomies. The way she carries on. “Ha! You’re a boarding-school virgin.
” It’s true that I went through a slight boarding-school phase back in my Enid Blyton days. Trinity. and now they’re ignoring my begging to stay home.“Not exactly. You’ll see. If I have to spend the rest of my life in an institution. at least I’ll know that my suffering is helping others. They completely ignored my begging all those years ago. Trust my parents to get the timing all screwed up. And then again in my Spud days.” Team Trinity 9 . but there are ways and means. You’d swear you were being sent to prison. “Stop sighing like that.” “Hmmph. man. But I’ve outgrown all that now. It’s totally and utterly unfair.” “Rubbish. at least Lael is happy. It’s going to be awesome. 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. Still.” “That’s what it feels like.
which I am sure you will find quite comfortable. please don’t hesitate to ask. We look forward to welcoming you to Sisulu House in the New Year! In answer to your question – no.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House email@example.com. Kind regards. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College 10 Fiona Snyckers . As a Grade 10 learner. you will be allocated to a six-sleeper dormitory. Even our matric learners sleep two to a room with an adjoining shared study. I assure you! If there is anything else I can do to set your mind at ease. You will quickly grow accustomed to sharing a room. Not even for “learners who have a really huge amount of stuff” as you put it.za Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Hi Trinity. I’m afraid we have no private rooms at all.To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail.
If you have any queries on any other subject.co. We only just managed to squeak you in at the last minute.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. please don’t hesitate to ask. like Schleswig-Holstein” – although I am naturally delighted that some part of your Grade 9 history syllabus seems to have stuck. no. I’m afraid none of the matric dormitories or studies will be vacant this term or “available for annexation. Regards. Sisulu House is almost full this term. In answer to your question.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College Team Trinity 11 .za Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Dear Trinity. Thanks for your prompt response to my previous email.
I’m afraid that even if your father “donates a library or a new wing or something”. Anything that doesn’t fit into your wardrobe will have to return home with your parents. and don’t anticipate that you will need to contact me again before then. I look forward to seeing you at the start of term. And yes. Each girl is permitted to bring one regulation-size trunk with her for the term.To: Trinity Luhabe firstname.lastname@example.org From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College 12 Fiona Snyckers .za Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Dear Ms Luhabe. Yours sincerely. we will still be unable to accommodate you anywhere except in the Grade 10 dormitory. 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. The matrics have more space and privacy than other students because they are writing matric – the most important exam of their school careers.co. they will all be needing their studies.
so she’s only arriving on Tuesday. We’ve never really been away from them before. if I’m honest. Within minutes they’ve dried their tears (yes. Caleb and I get packed off to school a day early. I won’t go into detail. As they drive off in the direction of Lanseria airport. It’s all quite emotional when we finally say goodbye to our parents. so Aaron. Me too. but I’m pretty much a cried-out wreck by the time they leave. fussing over us and making sure we’ve got everything we need. She’s a no-nonsense. when the boarding house is like a ghost town. Team Trinity 13 . motherly kind of woman.CHAPTER 3 MY PARENTS have to leave for Chile just before the start of term. they did shed a few. My parents are supposed to be rushing off to the airport. I won’t get to see another friendly face until Tuesday morning at the earliest. Lael has boarded before. with an orientation day for new boarders on Tuesday. my brothers recover much faster than I do. Just talking to her seems to make Mom feel better. but they linger for ages. My mom introduces herself to the matron of Sisulu House and begs her to take extra good care of me. We arrive on Monday. Term starts on Wednesday. where my dad’s Gulfstream jet is waiting to take them to Santiago. I saw them) and are racing off to the field behind Gumede House – the boys’ hostel – to play a two-man game of soccer.
Built in a gracious mockTudor style with half-timbering and authentic turn-ofthe-century period features. I’ll give you that. 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. I’ll admit. Don’t give me another thought!” Caleb turns and gives me a thumbs-up sign. it’s pretty. Sisulu House boasts some of the finest blah blah blah. but Aaron’s gesture looks suspiciously like a middle finger. I’d better check the place out. This surprises a snort of laughter out of me and I start feeling a bit better. This could be a lot worse. Then I stand at the entrance to the Grade 10 dormitory and take a proper look at it. Mom unpacked my trunk while Matron gave me a lightning tour of Sisulu House. “I’ll be just fine. with six beds in separate little cubicles. It’s in a very leafy area. I turn around and look up at Sisulu House. We each have our own bedside cabinet 14 Fiona Snyckers . And speaking of my dorm. yes. I got all of that out of the brochure Mom has been boring me with all holiday. It’s a big. right. But. not sure which way to turn. it’s quite attractive. okay. Oh yes. which is going to be my home for the next three months. so I didn’t really notice much about it. so you almost feel like you’re in the country. Okay. I trudge up the stairs and hesitate for a moment. which is very reassuring for my psychological wellbeing.“Don’t mind me!” I yell at their departing backs. sunny room. And if I lean out of my dorm window on the first floor. This could be worse. I can see Hyde Park shopping centre.
I have some time before lunch. thank goodness. the whole dormitory is slightly smaller than my bedroom at home. This is the one part of Sisulu House I know quite well from visiting Lael.and built-in cupboard. which is cool. like on Prison Break on the Series channel. We’ve been doing sleepovers at each others’ houses since we were little. and some family photos on the cupboard door. yes. I catch myself wishing I could board when I’m in matric. The matric dormitories are up on the second floor. and the cupboard is barely big enough for my school uniform. poking my nose into random rooms. Showering and going to the loo are not group activities as far as I’m concerned. and so do the showers and baths. just so I could have one. The bit I’m struggling with is imagining five other girls sleeping in here as well. a little bowl of flowers on the cabinet. But I have no idea who the other girls will be. And. so I wander aimlessly around the hostel. I can just about imagine myself sleeping here for the next three months. It’s not bad at all. So my cubicle looks quite cosy and home-like. Mom has already put my own duvet cover on the bed. The bathrooms are fine. I’m relieved to see that the toilet cubicles all have doors on them. Their studies are so nice and private. One of them will be Lael. and the feeling goes away. never mind any of my other clothes. I go down to the common room to wait for lunch. so there’s no big adjustment there. I had visions of having to deal with a line of showerheads. It’s a big comfy room with lots of squashy Team Trinity 15 . Then I remind myself that I have a much nicer and completely private room at home. But still.
Or did you have it specially made? “So you’re here at last?” he barks. and he’s wearing civvies like me.” He claps his hands together twice.” I say. “It’s about time. This is the only part of Sisulu House that boys are allowed into. I flop down in an armchair in front of the TV. and a tea-table with a big urn on it. you know. me sitting on this side of the room. There’s a guy sitting on the other side of the room. He’s about my age. “This room isn’t going to clean itself.” He points to an empty soft-drink can and a crumpled sweet wrapper. which explains why I didn’t see him at first. It’s not just the ordinary peak cap that everyone wears. and even then they have to sign a register to get this far. old armchairs and beanbags on the floor. and him sitting on the other.sofas. I’ve been sitting here for over twenty minutes and no one’s been in to empty the bins. “Where did you get it? I’m sure they don’t sell them at McCullogh & Bothwell. ignoring my question. “Clear that up and make it snappy. He’s also wearing his school cap indoors. “That’s nice. It’s this cool retro-style flat cap with the school badge and motto printed on it. chop. There are TVs at both ends. Is this some kind of joke? “Come on! Chop. I wonder where he got it. And look at that mess over there. I’m just reaching for the remote when something makes me turn around. so I paste a friendly smile on my face and move to a chair a bit closer. And that’s one thing that gets the teachers’ panties in a bunch.” 16 Fiona Snyckers . and I realise that I’m not alone. pointing at his cap. He’s tucked away in a gloomy corner. It feels a bit weird.” I gape at him in astonishment.
” I don’t believe it.Oh. dude. I’m staying here in Sisulu House this term. I do not believe this. When is everyone else arriving?” “Tomorrow. 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 admit I’m trying to get rid of him. I’m on my feet. hands on hips. there won’t be any birds to check out until tomorrow. “How about one of the real cleaners? But. Who does this guy think he is? “Well. He thinks I’m one of the cleaners. relaxing back into the chair. He just yawns and stretches. which means I’ve got a lot more right to be here than you do. “Who the heck do you think you are? I’m not a cleaner! I’m one of the students. “I thought you were one of the cleaners. Checking out the birds. then?” “Ooh. They’re playing soccer down on the field. “I prefer it in here. So who’s going to tidy up this mess. you know. already bored with the subject. Just because I’m black. Team Trinity 17 . Don’t speak to them like that. They don’t have to take that kind of rudeness from a kid. What a flipping cheek! I know we’re living in South Africa. “It’s so dull in here today. making air quotes with my fingers. But of course he doesn’t budge. seriously. My brothers have already moved into Gumede House. glaring down at him.” I say sarcastically. You should go and say hi to them.” “Oh?” he says. but in this day and age I do not expect to be mistaken for a cleaner inside my own school. I guess. I like watching the new girls arrive. you know.” He sighs.” I say. I don’t know.” Okay.
I fit in just fine. thank goodness for that. It’s a big. So I’m it for today.” “Oh.” I say stiffly. “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. It doesn’t feel right to be checking you out. 18 Fiona Snyckers . You’re going to be very unpopular around here if that’s how you speak to people. I’m not hungry.“Matron told me they’re not expecting anyone else today. my goodness.” “Fit in?” He laughs. oldfashioned iron bell with a long wooden handle. you need to watch your mouth. “Nah. but you’re Coloured.” I’m opening my mouth to blast him when I hear the very welcome sound of the lunch bell. “It’s lunchtime. will you shut up?” I snap at him. “I’ve been here a lot longer than you have. One of the kitchen staff rings it before the start of every meal. If you want to fit in at Brentwood College. “Are you coming?” Another cat-like stretch. I think you must be the most racist person I’ve ever met.” “Yes.” Well.
is it? At least when I’m at home I can ask my mom to put only salad and protein on my plate. I have a sudden urge to shout. two of whom are my brothers. How am I supposed to stick to my diet when these are my options? Huh? Okay. So that’s three servings of carbs right there.CHAPTER 4 THERE’S A strict separation of the sexes going on in the dining-hall. but let’s face it. The teachers sit at a long table raised up on a platform under some portraits of old headmasters of Brentwood. and not Team Trinity 19 . I carry my plate over to the other side of the hall. feeling a bit silly. along with a grand total of five boys. there was some salad that I could have instead of the rice and potatoes. And what does the cottage pie have on top of it? That’s right – mashed potato. and a mound of cottage pie. salad isn’t going to win the day when it’s up against that kind of competition. “Pass the salt!” Instead. Matron waves me over to one of the girls’ tables as I start sitting down next to Aaron. I look down at the food on my plate and realise that all my worst fears about boarding-school food have come true. As I look around at the huge space between us. I’m looking at a heap of rice. I’m the only girl in the whole place. The only other person at my table is Matron. with a yummy crispy cheese topping. three boiled potatoes. But I still have to sit at a separate table from them.
” “I wonder why he’s not at lunch. I’d steer clear of him if I were you. obnoxious guy in Gumede House? Brownish hair. “Hey.. what the heck.” I stand on tiptoe and hold my hand up above my head. “Oh. Aaron?” I say as I’m queuing up for dessert behind him.” “Well. I kind of figured that out for myself. isn’t he? Where did you meet him?” “In our common room.” 20 Fiona Snyckers . really? Well.. He’s a real bad boy. you must mean James Ellison.. that is really. I’ll start my diet again tomorrow...” Aaron gives me a narrow look. He is pretty obnoxious.” He laughs. “You are so .” “He said something about not being hungry. so . About this high. Kind of a trendy dresser. all right.. And I’m just saying that Ellison is trouble. have you? Because I can tell you right now. Oh.” “Mm.” “Oh.let the potatoes anywhere near me. really not a good idea. At least I have the illusion of control. But I know that look you get when you fancy a guy. that’s all... clueless. “That sounds like James.. You don’t want to go getting involved with him. He said he was hanging around to check out the girls arriving.” “Of course I haven’t got a crush on him!” I hiss back. But still. “Who’s that racist.. I.. “Trinity.. Not that she listens or anything. He’s not very nice.” Aaron thinks for a moment.” “What?” “You haven’t got one of your crushes on him. She’s always trying to tempt me with carbs. if you say so. I was just wondering who he was. as one of the lunch ladies looks at us with interest.
No sign of him. He really is gone. remember? *** Even though I’m not at all attracted to this James guy. I don’t fancy him in the slightest. Only my cubicle looks pretty and homelike.” Aaron pulls a face. I stop and stick my head in to have a proper look.By now there are two spots burning in my cheeks. Team Trinity 21 . But no. So I amble up the stairs to the Grade 10 dormitory. thanks to my mom. I’m trying to imagine Sisulu House bustling with people and echoing with the shouts of girls coming and going. and the next thing I know. The beds are empty and waiting – stripped down to their mattresses and pillows. He basically told me that. It’s creepily quiet and empty. but it just won’t come into focus. he’s only attracted to white girls. Only now I find I have no particular desire to sit there anymore. The walls and cubicles are bare and flecked with old Prestik marks. Good. Then he takes his bowl of icecream over to the boys’ table and leaves me alone with mine. at that – has got me going out with the guy. And anyway. “Well. What? I said I’d start my diet tomorrow. so there’s no danger of that. my brother – my younger brother. How did we get here? I ask an innocent question. For Pete’s sake. I can’t help skimming my eyes across the common room as I walk past it after lunch.
I shiver slightly as I hear her footsteps getting fainter and fainter. probably thanks to all that wood. 22 Fiona Snyckers . or how she died. I go to bed early and lie awake for ages listening to the unfamiliar noises of Sisulu House. I hear Matron going up the stairs to bed. Her sensible nurse’s shoes go “squeeeka squeeeka squeeeka” on the springy floorboards. 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’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. It sounds like my friends are all enjoying their last couple of days of freedom before the new term starts. making sure we don’t take more than two minutes in the shower. Nobody seems to know who she was. Her room is on the floor above me. I can’t help remembering a story Lael told me once about a student who died here years ago. At around half-past ten.I spend the afternoon messing around on BBM and going for a walk around the grounds. Then I turn over in bed and snuggle deeper into my duvet. Every few minutes there’s a crack or a groan as the building settles. Then I have a long bubble-bath after supper while I still have the chance. I wonder if there will be queues outside the bathrooms when term starts. It’s a very creaky place.
Just the thought makes me feel panicky. Team Trinity 23 . grab my sponge-bag. My mood improves even more when I see that new rain-jet showerheads have been fitted in all the showers. I’d better make the most of it. I love Joburg. this skinny cupboard would barely hold my underwear and nighties. Love. and head for the showers. but shower curtains give me the heebie-jeebies. Here it’s holding all my clothes for three months. as though sucked in by some invisible force. love. There are some fluffy white clouds in the sky. Okay. I can’t stand the way they blow into the shower. which makes this my last non-uniform day until the weekend. School only starts officially tomorrow. love it! I jump out of bed. maybe building up for a thunderstorm this afternoon.CHAPTER 5 I WAKE up the next morning buzzing with energy and feeling just a bit embarrassed at my nervousness last night. I fling open my narrow little wardrobe and stare at its ridiculously inadequate contents. all clammy and nylony. The sky is nailpolish-blue and a bunch of birds are tweeting like mad in the big trees outside our window. Trinity. and there are real doors instead of shower curtains. I don’t want to sound spoiled or anything. At home. It’s a gorgeous January day. Focus. and wrap themselves around your legs.
but that doesn’t make me unstylish. but the difference in my bum-to-waist ratio is quite dramatic. even when I don’t go to gym. I brush my hair. Not that I’ve got the world’s hugest bum. the Xhosa genes mostly won hands down. and they live with the smell of 24 Fiona Snyckers . The only good points I got from my mom were her greenish eyes and her long straight hair. Can I just say that in the fight between my mother’s skinny boeremeisie genes and my dad’s chunky Xhosa genes. I slide my feet into a pair of black ballet flats.” And. that might sound like a lot for one outfit to say. all right. I reach for my new indigo-wash Levis – the bootylicious ones that go out at the bum and in at the waist. I team it with a super-feminine strappy top that’s salmonpink with white lacy trim. I’ve got the bum and the thighs to survive for weeks without food in the Kalahari Desert. My upper arms are just about my best part of my body. and I might be Abel Luhabe’s daughter. I’m very glad I don’t have to fight with mine all the time. but that doesn’t make me spoiled.I need an outfit that says. When I see how some girls battle with their hair. They can never just jump into a swimming pool without putting a cap on first. My cousins spend basically every Sunday clamped between the thighs of some township aunty while she braids their hair. but not when you speak “clothes” as fluently as I do. They’re Hilton Weiner. “I might be the new girl at boarding-school. And last of all. so I like to show them off whenever the weather cooperates. but look as though they could just as easily have come from Woolies.
I come from good farming stock.” He looks me up and down. The first arrivals are a bit of a disappointment. I help myself to two fried eggs and a stack of toast and wave cheerfully at my brothers. Without quite meaning to.” I say. you know. letting you see all the comings and goings at the school. They’re all younger than me. but we’re all under huge pressure to be fashionable. a voice in my ear says. I scoop my hair up into a messy ponytail – with some strands falling carefully around my face – and go down to breakfast. “The girls at this school aren’t here for your entertainment. After breakfast. “Sorry about that. I almost jump out of my skin. When are the older girls arriving? I’m bored with these flat-chested little kids. There’s a huge baywindow that looks out onto the street. My family have been mealie farmers near Brits for years. practically skipping all the way. Not even sitting at a big. “You made me bite my tongue!” I say crossly. As I watch some little Grade 8 students arriving.” Team Trinity 25 . I find myself crossing my arms over my chest. His grin tells me that he knows he’s made me uncomfortable. Like a farmer looking to buy a cow or something. It’s pathetic the way you eye them up. lonely table all on my own can dampen my mood. “Don’t be so obnoxious. and finds it funny. checking out my outfit. “Jailbait”.hair-straighteners. I can totally understand why some girls go for the ‘chiskop’ option. I’m a fan of natural hair myself.” “Well. I rush to the common room to watch the girls arriving at Sisulu House. He laughs and throws himself into an armchair.
“What’s up?” “Hellooo. But trust me when I say she wouldn’t look twice at you. She’d never be interested in you in a million years. Come to papa. He reminds me of my dog. Stop talking about her like that.” I’m craning my neck to see who he’s talking about. now. Oh. He’s chosen hectically skinny jeans today. Lael Lieberman. “That’s my best friend. it’s not her conversation I’m after. almost quivering with excitement. hold the phone!” He sits up in his chair. baby. She’s really bright and a feminist and everything. “Okay. His shoes are black and kind of pointy in the toe. Just a little on the chubby side. Maybe he’s just pretending to perv over girls.” I concede sulkily. but she’s gone behind a pillar. but she carries it very well. is she? What’s her name?” I hesitate for a moment. Normally I hate that style on guys. Trinity.” 26 Fiona Snyckers . you moron.He shifts his attention to the window again and I take the opportunity to see what he’s wearing. very nice indeed. “Don’t be silly. She’s called Lael. and he laughs. What a gorgeous girl. wondering how he knows my name. Naledi. You’d have zero in common with her.” “I suppose. but I have to admit he makes it look good. Zero!” “Well. Then she steps out into the open and I give a sharp gasp. They look like they’ve been painted onto his legs. “Hey. when she hears the rustle of the Eukanuba bag. So she’s your best friend. This guy dresses so well that for a second I wonder if he’s gay. and he’s topped it all off with a floppy white shirt. I could easily find out from someone else.
She’s wearing leggings and a mini-skirt and even I can see she looks hot.“Lieberman?” He wrinkles his nose. “Times change after all. I suppose I don’t.” he says slowly. Lael is bending down to pick up a small suitcase while her driver wrestles with her trunk.” And I stalk out of the common room to go and meet my friend.. don’t they?” “You are seriously annoying! Just stay out of my way from now on. have you got a problem with that too?” He looks out the window again. “Why. “No. she’s bloody Jewish!” I explode. Team Trinity 27 . Jewish?” “Yes.. “You don’t mean she’s .
Or .” she says.” I give her a huge hug. And as for Dad – I spent a couple of days with him over Chanukah. and my dad will come back loaded with gifts for us..CHAPTER 6 LAEL IS looking stressed and hassled.. I’ve also been abandoned by my folks for the term.. because her face falls instantly. but we both know the truth. “Well. Lael’s lucky if she gets to speak to her mom once a week. but her face lights up when she sees me. “Trinity! There you are. My mom will phone my brothers and me every single day. “You know my mom’s in Israel this term. “I’m so glad you’re here at last. but now that the twins are starting Grade 0. For my parents to be away for three months is nothing like what she has to put up with. so we can be orphans together.. even phone her or anything.. no one. you know . which is why I’m boarding again?” I nod. I feel like kicking myself. you can’t possibly expect him to come and see his older daughter off to school.. 28 Fiona Snyckers . Isn’t there anyone seeing you off?” As soon as the words leave my mouth. I was just about to BBM you. “No .” Lael nods.” She sounds so depressed that I find myself rushing to fill the silence. “She left yesterday and arranged for a driver to drop me off this morning.
. “Hey. “Oh.. But by the time the driver has carried her trunk up to our dormitory. all shoes. “Oh. of course. she’s cheered up. I can’t help looking at them with more than just casual interest. claiming the cubicle next to mine.?” I press my fist against my forehead.It’s actually a miracle she’s so normal and nice. is he? Why. “That Grade 11 guy? He’s not very nice. sounding disappointed. and accessories of every shape and size. “It’s going to make such a difference having you here this term. as Lael calls her – but she’s not stingy. He thought you looked hot in your mini-skirt. We’ve been sharing clothes since we were about eleven years old. As a best friend. it’s my duty to keep Team Trinity 29 . I met someone this morning who likes you!” I say.. But anything stretchy.” No way on earth am I going to tell her about his antiSemitic remarks. right. since she’s about 15 kgs heavier than me. Not everything. I can see she’s been shopping over the holidays. yes? So who was it?” “What was his name again.” she says happily. Her mom might be the worst parent ever – the “antiJewish mother”..” “Him?” says Lael. Lael pauses while folding a pile of tank tops. just that you were really pretty and everything. remembering that I have a compliment to pass on. “We’re going to have so much fun!” She opens her trunk and I help her hang up her clothes. James Ellison. what did he say about me?” “Um . Lael always has the latest and nicest of everything. 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.
and I love the chunky slip-slops. We’ve got some serious stalking to do. This term we’re going to be playing with the men. but I’m not saying a word about his weirdo prejudices. She has so much confidence and moves so gracefully that her extra few kilos don’t matter at all. standing stock-still in the middle of the corridor. Every time I start a new diet and get to that miserable “I can’t face another skinless chicken breast” stage. eeuw. Lael shoves her last few bras into a drawer and spins around to face me.” “Nah. Now stop asking questions and just come on. I wish I could be more like Lael and eat what I like while still looking awesome. She turns around and checks out her butt. Lael looks at herself in the full-length mirror on her cupboard door. it looks awesome. we do. “Yes.” Not for the first time. Let’s get going..” “Not a teacher?” I say. Because that would be seriously creepy.” “Of course I’m not talking about a teacher! Like . Forget James Ellison.” 30 Fiona Snyckers .. Those opaque tights are very flattering. Forget every other lame little schoolboy in the whole of Gumede House – or Brentwood College.Lael alerted to any guys who think she’s hot. “Please tell me you’re not talking about a teacher. not the boys. Boys just flock around her and girls want to be her. “You don’t think the skirt’s a bit short? I’ve been scared about bending down all day. I wish I could carry myself like Lael. “Right. She’d go completely ballistic. Lael.” “We do?” I have to jog to keep up with her as she strides out the dormitory.
!” We’ve stopped behind a bush outside the Postmatric Annexe.. I know.” “A rugby player?” Now it’s my turn to pull a face. Not that I’m exactly a Dux scholar myself. this is a new guy. I remember all of last year’s matrics. supposedly to try and get into overseas universities.” Lael whispers. “Where are you taking me? Oh.She grabs me by the hand and drags me down the stairs and out into the sunshine.. but I do like a guy with more between his ears than a scrum cap. trust me. is it?” I say unenthusiastically. hockey and rugby are the three big sports that pack their first teams with postmatric players. but really to play first-team sport for one more year. One is a cricket coach and the other is the great Mpume himself. It’s almost always guys – hardly ever girls. I heard that Brentwood poached him for mega-bucks to play rugby for us. Just . of course it’s not Mpume! I haven’t changed that much over the holidays. The thing is.” She sucks in a breath. and there’s not one that I could get excited about stalking. The plot thickens. there’s no room left over for a girlfriend. This is where the guys who stay on for a year after matric live. “But this guy is different. Rugby players are not usually the brightest bunnies in the hutch.. so Brentwood might as well too. He was at Hilton College last year. No.. Cricket. just look at him!” Team Trinity 31 . “Because his ego takes up so much space.. “It’s not that Mpume guy. “There he is now. They stay on to do Cambridge A-levels. The thinking seems to be that all the other schools are doing it. “I know . “No..” “Sshhh!” she says sharply as two guys come out of the Annexe.
“I concede. We watch him walking down to the fields until he rounds a corner and disappears. I can’t tell at this distance. snap out of it!” Lael says with a laugh. I’m looking at the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. and the kind of golden tan that doesn’t fade in winter. Then we step out from behind the bush and stare at each other. His eyes are either blue or green. “Hey. And for once in my life I am completely speechless. His body is exactly the right combination of lean and muscular. I concede. but that’s enough. “You look like you’re in a trance. and the sculpted lips and you have a combination that’s making me weak at the knees. It’s almost an old-fashioned kind of face – like it should belong on an Ancient Greek statue or something.” I drag my eyes away from the point at which he disappeared and try to focus. clicking her fingers in front of my face. the straight nose. but it’s his face that takes my breath right away.” 32 Fiona Snyckers . He’s got dark brown hair that’s kind of wavy and adorably messy.” “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 about six foot or even a little taller. black eyelashes. “I feel like I’m in a trance.She points through the leaves at a guy who is running lightly down the steps of the Annexe. but they’re set behind long. I only get about two clear seconds to look at him before he heads down to the sports fields. thumbs hooked into the waistband of his jeans. Add the chiselled cheekbones.
” “What are you talking about?” “You’ve really fallen for him.. It’s not like you to be so defeatist. “I mean he’s bound to have a girlfriend.” I sit down on a low wall between Gumede House and the Postmatric Annexe. “I almost wish I hadn’t shown him to you now. Trinity. I hope I haven’t let you in for a lot of heartache.” “Well.” “Well . When Cupid shoots his arrow. hey? And that bod. he doesn’t miss. haven’t you?” “Don’t be silly!” I snort. I think we’ve got ourselves a project for the term. I do.” “Oh. And even if he doesn’t.” Team Trinity 33 . I wouldn’t stand a chance. You believe in love at first sight. “How could I fall for a guy after seeing him for just a few seconds? I’m not that lame. Suddenly I’m really depressed. She looks at me more closely.“Those eyes.” Lael sits down on the wall and puts her arm around me. Lael stops dancing from foot to foot and grinning. “I didn’t think I did. “A guy like that wouldn’t be single. “Oops. And wait until you see him smile. would he?” I say. some matric girl will snap him up in seconds. “Oops what?” “You’ve got it bad. Trinity.” “It’s not lame. we’ll see.” she says. come on now. don’t you?” “I don’t know.” I rub my hands over my face. Are you in?” I nod mechanically..” “I’m just being realistic.
No one seems to know if it’s going to stay that way or if a new roommate will still arrive. How pathetic is that? 34 Fiona Snyckers . I keep replaying that scene of him coming out of the Annexe in my mind. and that’s the boy whose name I don’t even know yet. but I don’t care. Only one bed in the far corner is still empty. Lael keeps shooting worried glances at me because I’m not being the life and soul of the party. I can’t say I care very much. of Matron welcoming us all at lunch. I’m actually wondering if I could pretend to trip and faint into his arms. But that’s fine because Matron gives us a little handbook to put next to our beds in case we forget anything. We get told so many house rules that there’s no way I can possibly remember them all. I’m vaguely aware of girls arriving. There’s only one thing on my mind at the moment. A really nice group of girls has joined us in the dormitory. I can’t think of anything except when I’ll get to see him again. And how I can get to meet him for real. blue-eyed (I’m pretty sure his eyes are blue – or maybe green). floppy-haired. of some kind of orientation meeting in the afternoon. I know I must look like an idiot staring off into space with a silly smile on my face. Just to give you a clue how desperate I am. fit-bodied boy who’s living practically next door to Sisulu House.CHAPTER 7 THE REST of the day passes in a slight blur. The wonderful.
and now I can hardly imagine it empty. I’m just a random Grade 10 and he’s one of the kings of the school. Team Trinity 35 . 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. I can’t help comparing tonight to last night.The sad truth is. thank goodness. We’ve got some free time after supper and everyone is chilling out and changing into their PJs. this guy is so far removed from me he might as well be Justin Bieber. I give a little scream. Then all is quiet. a prefect comes around to make sure we’re not using our Blackberries as torches under the covers. If Brentwood really paid a fortune to poach him from Hilton. Within two minutes everyone has scrambled into their own beds. just poof. but they leave us pretty much alone unless we start making too much noise. There are enough baths and showers for us to take as long as we need. sighing and shuffling in their beds. It looks like queueing for the bathrooms won’t be an issue. thinking it’s a power failure. I snuggle down into my bed. No warning. There are two prefects and a Junior Matron on our floor. and one minute after that. lights out. It’s only toward evening that I come out of my trance and start paying attention to what’s going on around me. no negotiation. trying to fall asleep surrounded by the unfamiliar noises of other girls coughing. but it turns out that’s how it works every night.
” I have no idea what she is talking about. It’s still early days..CHAPTER 7 THERE’S A friendly buzz in the dining-hall at breakfast the next morning. “I’ve been thinking about Postmatric Guy. remember?” “Oh. In fact. As long as the food stays good and the bed stays comfortable. Trinity. because she leans across her bowl of Weet-Bix and says in my ear.” This sets off an interesting train of thought. “And do they have to help us if we ask them?” “I think so. Apparently Lael is reading my mind. Dr Hussein announced that new postmatric tutoring thing?” “Um . 36 Fiona Snyckers . I reckon I can tough it out for the next three months. think! How if we’re struggling with a subject. really?” I perk up a bit. now that I’ve seen him. you do! Come on. yes.” “What about him?” I keep my voice casual. But then.. but I’m starting to think I can do this. “Remember at the end of last year. Of course the fact that I’ve got the sexiest man alive living next door is a bonus. wild horses couldn’t drag me back home. we’re allowed to ask the postmatrics for help. “Yes. a lot of what our dear headmaster says goes in one ear and out the other.
” “Ha ha... this is your best way of getting to know Postmatric Guy. Mind you. Maybe I won’t have to pretend all that hard. stop it!” I say as she giggles some more. Oh. Go on. there’ll be queues around the block to ask him for help. But you never know – this might finally be the year I get my act together and start cracking my schoolwork. For instance. Pretending I need help won’t stretch my acting abilities at all. Very funny. It’s one of her most annoying features. She often is. “It could happen. I’ll give you Team Trinity 37 . maybe. ask me about any celebrity’s children – biological or adopted.” “Well. sending a little fountain of milk off her spoon and into her bowl. ask me. I actually have a brilliant memory for certain things. once the other girls get a look at him. As Grade 10 gets underway.“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. It’s just that my brain has this strange reluctance to remember anything boring. exactly. I quickly realise that work is going to be a nightmare this year. It’s not that I’m an airhead.” “Ja .” *** Turns out Lael was right. “What?” “I’m just imagining you pretending to have trouble with work. even if you do suddenly turn into a model student.
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. you stare at them. sports. The point is. I’m falling so far behind in Trigonometry that I’ll be in real trouble if I don’t catch up soon. 38 Fiona Snyckers . “Okay. but you don’t actually want to date them. “Today’s the day. And yes. and that we’d end up competing for the same guy. The same goes for fashion. I start off trying to concentrate. I know they are actually Greek. ages. I was worried that she might really like him too. But she’s honestly not interested. but after a while her voice just fades into this blah blah blah background noise. My mind just grabs hold of information like that and hangs onto it. you imagine walking into a room with them. and favourite brand of trainers without having to look it up. schools. I just seem to have a block about what the teacher is saying.their names. and I’m off wondering what’s going to happen on the next episode of Sixteen and Pregnant. dummy. I am literally the world expert on iPhone apps. It was a joke. Maths in particular. You drool over them. and they might as well be Greek to me. vampire novels and cellphone apps. I really do. And Trigonometry in extra particular. movies. And who better to help me than Postmatric Guy? Lael is totally on board with this. Then she sets us some homework and I’m looking at words like sin and cos. She says that looking at him is like looking at the most gorgeous pair of shoes in the world. music. But somehow my brain goes a little fuzzy when it comes to schoolwork.
. you know. They thought I’d gone nuts at the sports office – wanting to know the exact time the first team finished cricket practice. I think.” The thought of jumping on Postmatric Guy makes me feel light-headed. but I. Now that this is actually happening. The idea of marching up to him and demanding help with my homework makes me want to run and hide. I’ve got djembe drumming after drama. The only but I’m interested in is you getting your butt down to the Annexe this afternoon at half-past four.” “Yes. You’re looking all scared like a big old Scaredy McChicken. Lael is looking at me narrowly.. What time does your last extramural end?” “Um. Why would you say that?” “Because you have a very chicken look on your face.” “No. of course not.” “I do not. 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.” “That’s perfect then.” “Yes?” “You’re not going to chicken out are you?” “No.He has cricket practice until half-past four this afternoon. The year is still so new I haven’t got the hang of my timetable yet.. “Trinity.” “Rubbish!” “Because I didn’t go to all that trouble for nothing. I’m getting chilly in the foot department. “Four o’clock.” “No buts...” I have to think about this for a minute. I had to find out his timetable and everything.” Team Trinity 39 . I didn’t go through all that embarrassment only to have you wimp out on me.. you do.
you wait ten days and 40 Fiona Snyckers . remember? Zach Morris. His name is Zach. It’s where they keep sports equipment like orange cones and skipping ropes and volleyball nets.” Lael can be quite strict at times.” Lael explains. It must have been a rat or something. so simple. “So what do I do if Postmatric Guy ditches me after five minutes?” “We’ll work out a plan. Ma’am?” “Granted. so hip. sexiest name in the history of scrummy.“Yes. Then you wait a week and try again with a different trig problem. you want to try a slow burn approach. Ma’am.’ “How could I forget?” Isn’t that just the scrummiest.” We take a giant step backwards to continue our conversation. “Permission to ask a question. I love it. sexy names? Zach Morris. So cool. “If he ditches you after five minutes. “The way I see it. “What the heck was that?” Lael peers through a window into the gloom. We both jump away from the wall and look at each other.” “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. you just smile sweetly and say thanks. If he ditches you again. Just don’t call him that to his face or your beautiful relationship will be over before it starts. “I can’t see a thing.
. evil twin and the all-round antiTrinity – is also a boyfriend-stealer of note. if I didn’t listen.” she says. Sophie Agincourt – apart from being my number-one nemesis.” She stops as we hear another noise from inside the shed. Way more gorgeous than I am. Only this time. It’s enough for her just to know that I like a guy to start taking aim at him. A very familiar giggle. Lael and I exchange glances.” She goes off into a peal of irritating laughter. she’s gorgeous. and you’re still creeping around listening to people’s private conversations. it doesn’t sound like a scuffle so much as a giggle. Don’t expect a major result today. And the problem is. grinning from pierced ear to pierced ear. When are you ever going to grow up?” “Hey. This is not good. This is not good at all. Plus she’s Team Trinity 41 . And so on and so forth. “Like how certain people have crushes on certain Hilton College old boys and are plotting stalking strategies.. which is supposed to be locked. until he’s got used to having you around.try again. but there’s not a trace of shame on her perfect. “Sophie!” I say angrily. A blonde girl who was leaning against it from the inside almost falls out onto the grass. mortal enemy. as I have to admit in my more honest moments (although I do have better dress sense. Sophie’s one of those awful girls who can eat whatever she likes without putting on weight. “You’re sixteen years old. I march up to the shed and wrench open the door. She bounces up and dusts herself off. most of the time). rosy face. You’d expect her to be mortified at being caught eavesdropping. I wouldn’t know what was going on.
About ten years. “No. He does like those things.” “Sophie.” “Sure you can. “Zach Morris. He’s totally into extreme sports. He’s hot.” “No. right!” Sophie snorts. really. She looks all sweet and innocent.” I say wearily.. She’s actually got a crush on .” “Yeah. I don’t know.got the whole blonde-haired.. did you?” Lael says casually. Why?” “Don’t you think that’s long enough for me to know when you’re trying to trick me?” “No. seriously. If Sophie is interested in getting her claws into him. Just get him talking about that stuff. but when she wants to.” Sophie says off-handedly. I saw him at a few socials.. honestly. You should be thanking me. and you’ll have him eating out the palm of your hand. This time I’m really not. blue-eyed Taylor Swift thing going on. He’s crazy about cagefighting and base-jumping.. I can give up on Postmatric Guy right now. “I can give you some tips on breaking the ice with him if you like. He was at school with my brother last year. “You didn’t take all that seriously.. you know. Listen here. Trinity doesn’t really like him. When we went down to our place in Howick for the holidays. “We were just kidding around. Face it..” “I’ve met him. “How long have I known you?” “Ooh. Mpume Thlogoane.” 42 Fiona Snyckers . she can turn on the sex appeal in a way that just mows the boys down. isn’t he?” I grunt. um . man. I’m giving you the inside scoop on this guy.
” she says with a yawn. “I mean.I look at her closely. “Why would you try and help me?” I ask suspiciously. Team Trinity 43 . I can see he’s hot and everything. but today I’m not getting any clear vibes either way. but he really doesn’t do it for me. And I’d rather you got him than some snooty matric cow. Over the years I’ve got pretty good at detecting whether or not Sophie is lying. “I don’t have any chemistry with him.” Hmmm.
It’s 4. I make my way to the Postmatric Annexe via a route that loops past the cricket fields. 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. 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. I sneak a glance at my phone and realise with a jolt of shock that it’s 4. I reckon he’ll want to hit the showers before dinner. but you can easily stand up at the top where the school buildings are and look down at the players. Now the only thing that can go wrong is if he goes somewhere else after practice. The way the grounds are laid out.29pm. There’s no sign of Sophie Agincourt. I feel a bit silly. But I’m not too worried.CHAPTER 8 WHEN I finish my drumming class. thank goodness. This is really happening.15 and cricket practice is still in full swing. 44 Fiona Snyckers . This is happening. 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. just hanging around in the open like this but nobody seems to be paying any attention. you have to go down about five million steps if you want to get to the actual fields. I can see Postmatric Guy bowling at someone in the nets.
. “I didn’t mean to make you jump. “Okay. I’m happy to see that Zach is too mature for all that. It’s like she’s glued to the ground. right.. “What? What?” A little Grade 8 girl is standing behind me. Think! “Oh. Team Trinity 45 . You’ll find it with no problem. Thank goodness. the pottery studio. climbing up the steps. But the Grade 8 girl is not shifting. it’s next to the art classroom. “Excuse me. “Okay. At least Zach is still behind them.” I jump as though a dog has just taken a bite out of my leg. Think. Get ready. Okaypleasurebye. Trinity. Trinity. Do you know where that is – in the Founders Block?” She nods. They’re kidding around – laughing and pushing each other like guys do. The cricket boys are getting closer. Okay. “Sorry.After a few minutes I can hear the sound of voices getting closer.. and then the cricketers appear in the distance. He’s walking on his own. they’re getting closer. I swear they make them smaller every year.. There’s this little door in the art room that leads straight into the pottery studio.” she says nervously. I just wanted to ask if you knew where the pottery studio is?” “Umm. slightly behind them. Pottery studio? My mind has gone completely blank.” Pottery studio.” I’m gabbling now as the first cricket boys appear at the top of the steps and start dispersing in different directions.” I say at last.
.. excuse me!” I say. I have to break into a run just to catch up with him before he disappears into the Annexe.. So much for casually intercepting him. no. He turns around..“Are you Trinity Luhabe?” she blurts out. gasping for breath. does my dad really own eighteen cars (no) and do we really have a ballroom at home (yes). Trinity. Smooth work. Like. I’m sweaty.” And I speed-walk away from her.. I thought there was this mentoring thing where students were allowed to ask postmatrics for help when they didn’t understand something. Not another groupie.. His eyes flick coldly over me as he waits for an answer. “But I’m afraid I really have to go now. no. At the top. flustered and out of breath. he turns to go.. really smooth. I mean . where I won’t be able to follow him. “Why would I do that?” Okay.” I gabble as I spot Zach coming up the steps.” Something flickers behind his eyes. “I . 46 Fiona Snyckers . please wait a moment. I thought . I am. he turns to walk towards the Annexe. “Abel Luhabe’s daughter?” Oh. “Could you help me with my trig homework?” “Help you with your trig homework?” he says.. We can talk another time. 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”. “Um . Not now. Most of the kids at school treat me normally. “Wait!” I say urgently. When one doesn’t come. disbelievingly. Sorrythanksbye. “Yes. as he hears my footsteps pounding up behind him. slightly startled. Please. I am now officially dying inside.
with lots of dark wooden panelling.” he sighs. Result! I walk nervously into the Annexe.” “Okay. “Like I said. “Oh God. I must admit I’ve finally got it.” I turn to the right page in our textbook and pass it to him. let’s get this over with. It’s surprisingly gloomy. I’m feeling even more flustered being indoors with him. “Have you got your calculator here?” I take my calculator out and he starts explaining... but by the end of his explanation. I think they must have learned a slightly different method at Hilton because it doesn’t sound completely familiar. and I couldn’t follow what she was saying. “It’s so easy! Do you really not understand it?” “I really don’t.. Okay. His shirt is clinging to his chest and some dark hair is flopping over his brow. I remember something about that. Students are only allowed in if accompanied by a postmatric. “It’s this. Team Trinity 47 . the teacher explained it too fast.” I say firmly. jerking an arm for me to follow him. His legs are so long they’re almost touching mine.” He strides into the Postmatric Annexe.. and even then we’re only allowed into the common room.“Oh. this?” he says. “So what’s the problem?” “Er. that.” I manage to tear my eyes away from his hair and start digging around in my bag. He flings himself down into an armchair and looks expectantly at me.” he says reluctantly. I have never set foot in here in my life. “Yes. The teacher explained it way too fast.
but I honestly thought that by this stage we’d be chatting away about other things. I know Lael said I should take a slow-burn approach. do you happen to know if they’re showing the big cage-fight tonight? You know. They’re used to dealing with the slower students. All I’ve done so far is irritate him. We’re walking down the passage. “Next time just put your hand up and ask your teacher to explain it again. “I said. and my chance will be gone forever. “I’ll walk you out. I have no choice but to straighten up.Then we do a few more examples to make sure that I really understand it. heading for the door and the blinding sunlight outside. but I know I’ll never have the guts to ask him for help again. In another moment I’ll be on the other side of that door.” he says. Sophie’s advice flickers across my brain. 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. “Do you happen to know if they’re showing the big cage-fight tonight?” My voice comes out all high and squeaky. hoisting my bag over my shoulder. standing up briskly. “That should do it. we’re finished. I need to turn this around. on TV?” 48 Fiona Snyckers . “I’m sorry?” I cough and try again. Now I wish I’d prepared another question to ask him. and before I know it. of course not. But how? For a second.” I’m packing my stuff back into my bag as slowly as I dare. pretending to drop my calculator.” he says impatiently as I dither.
Trinity Luhabe. obviously not in a bloodthirsty. basejumping and extreme sports in between extramurals this afternoon. Huge fan – that’s me.. I know. “Oh . I love it. so I don’t get to see his reaction to my surname.” I add for good measure. I mean.” He looks down at the ground for a moment.. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that there was a big fight on tonight. don’t you? Base-jumping too.” Okay. I sneak a glance at his face and see that he’s looking at me properly for the first time this afternoon. so it seems as though Sophie was indeed lying through her teeth. “What did you say your name was again?” “Um . Team Trinity 49 . he’s looking at me like I’ve lost it.“The cage-fight?” he repeats.. Terrible.. I find it completely fascinating. Just in case.. Then I did a bit more reading and realised that there’s a big fight on practically every night.. What a surprise. Just as a spectator. um . the fight between the Bulgarian Zoltov and the American Harris? I was just wondering if it’s going to be on ESPN tonight. Anyway. in the hope that it might grab his interest. of course. I didn’t actually. But you’d really need to see with your own eyes how hot he is before judging me. “Yes. You know . I did Google cage-fighting. want-to-get-up-theremyself-and-fight kind of way. I admit it. “How do you know about cage-fighting?” he asks cautiously. Did he recognise it or not? I’m ashamed to admit that I said it slightly more loudly than normal.. looking at me as though I’ve suddenly sprouted horns. But it’s Trinity..
I’m in Sisulu House this term while my folks are overseas. that’s for sure. I’ll organise it with your Matron. 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.After a moment he lifts his head and looks at me.. Dimples peep out in his cheeks and he looks younger and more mischievous. yes. I take a deep breath and pull myself together. “Why don’t you come and watch it here? We have all the DSTV channels right here in the Annexe.” “Well. 50 Fiona Snyckers . the fight will be on ESPN tonight. we do have DSTV at home.. His wonderful blue eyes become light and warm and adorably crinkled at the corners.. Trinity Luhabe.” he says formally as we shake. but I’m not staying at home at the moment.” As he speaks.” I stutter. Very pleased to meet you. “My name is Zach Morris.. likewise. yes. he smiles. Do you have DSTV at home?” “No . I feel as though I’m standing in a beam of sunlight. No ESPN. yes. I mean.. The main fight will be over by half-past eight. um ... Then he reaches out a hand to shake mine.” “Er . “Hello. “I mean...” “And in answer to your question. so there shouldn’t be a problem.” He hesitates for a moment.. I’ve never seen him smile before.
” She smiles. no. Then I stop. “Have you been waiting on tenterhooks? Then I won’t tease you. As soon as I see Lael in there finishing off her Science homework. I realise the only thing better than daydreaming about Zach is telling Lael all about him.CHAPTER 9 I FLOAT back to Sisulu House on a cloud of happy happiness. “Well. I want to hug everyone I see. “That’s great. love and joy.” “Nothing you say can ruin my good mood today!” I declare. kiss small babies. struck by a hideous thought. Please say it’s not that. I laugh. I breathe a sigh of relief.” “No. A blissfully floaty cloud of peace. I run up the stairs light as a feather. doing a few more pirouettes around the dormitory. and pirouette into the dormitory. thank goodness for that. jumping to her feet. it’s got nothing to do with Postmatric Guy. “Unless you’re going to tell me he’s already cancelled our TV date. and I want to hear all about it. now there’s nothing you can say that would upset me. and give twenty-rand notes to beggars. so what is it?” Team Trinity 51 . and I’m afraid you’re not going to like it.” she says. Okay. But first I need to tell you something. Your master-plan was a complete and total and utter success. “Thank goodness you’re back!” she says.
” “Our Sophie? Sophie Agincourt?” Lael nods gloomily. pointing at the one unoccupied bed in our dormitory. “Not just any old someone. her parents start where mine leave off. Ever. and try to do it better. Sophie gets.” This is unfortunately true. Sophie has never boarded. Sophie’s parents have gone overboard in terms of giving her every single thing she’s ever asked for. Sophie and I used to get on fairly well until we both entered the Miss Sandton 52 Fiona Snyckers . I should say. it would never have crossed Sophie’s mind. but Sophie’s room is roughly twice the size of mine.” she says darkly. She has to copy every single thing you do. Her house is not as big as ours (let’s face it. Anything Sophie wants. It’s Sophie. If you weren’t boarding this term. noticing that the bed is made up and there are pictures stuck up on the cubicle walls. “You know why she’s doing this. The thought of her voluntarily giving all that up to come and live in a dormitory with five other girls boggles my mind. very few houses are). don’t you?” Lael asks. Except for one thing. you should take a look at Sophie. In the whole history of her school career. “What do you notice?” “Someone’s moved in?” I hazard. because it includes a private sitting-room and a massive hotelsized bathroom.“Have a look over there. When it comes to spoiling. Sophie’s suite. If you think I’m spoiled. “Because I am?” “Yup. For a moment I’m too shocked to speak.
” Team Trinity 53 . I won. because I haven’t. sort of.” She fixes me with her baby-blue eyes. “Are you really seeing him tonight?” “Yes. And in other news. “It’s weird. He said I can come and watch the big cage-fight on ESPN at the Annexe with him. as we now know. “Is that so hard to believe?” she goes on. “It looks as though Sophie actually did something good for once. she’s taken our rivalry to a whole new level of thermonuclear insanity. all right..” Her forehead creases. sitting down on her bed. But don’t go thinking I’ve gone soft or anything.. Ever since then. which. Normally I’d be furious that she’d moved into Sisulu House. was totally on the money. low-flying piggies are expected over Joburg tonight. “I already told you I’d rather see Trinity with Zach than with some smug matric girl. makeup and wardrobe professionally styled – was my First Princess. even though I wasn’t wearing any makeup and just had my hair brushed down my back with an Alice band. Plus – and this is very important – Sophie was the one who gave me the cage-fighting tip.kiddies’ pageant when we were eleven years old. I can hardly even work up the energy. okay?” Lael and I both jump and turn around to find that Sophie has crept up behind us.” “I was just trying to be nice. I tell Lael all about my meeting with Zach. so I’ll go there straight after supper. And Sophie – who’d had her hair. and ask whether she doesn’t agree that this has earned Sophie a Royal Pardon. Well. I just need to clear it with Matron. but what with my TV date with Zach coming up.
so don’t say anything about how you think it’s the most boring career in the known universe. The standard shirt-and-skirt combo fits me just fine – skimming nicely over my butt and making my waist look smaller. The only good thing about them is that they pay well.” says Sophie as though to an idiot.” I nod.” I say vaguely. and quantity surveying – sound like the most boring jobs on earth. Sophie has at least seven Brentwood school shirts that are all cut slightly differently depending on what look she’s going for. well.” “Okayyyy. “Zach’s not the kind of boy you want to make mistakes with. Frankly I can’t be bothered.. of course. jumping up from her bed. There’s not going to be time to change after supper.” “Yeees. “I haven’t made up my mind yet. right. “But how are you going to customise it?” “Oh. and you basically have a thing for guys who go in for extreme sports. She must have them specially made at a tailor.“Okay.” I see what she’s saying. “Why’s she being like this?” Lael asks suspiciously. 54 Fiona Snyckers .” And she runs lightly out the dorm. I don’t think they’d even let me. “Well. There’ll be plenty of girls waiting to snap him up. And anyway.” “Also. “Got it. remember to say you also think basejumping is cool.” Although I do actually think that actuarial science – and accountancy.. he wants to study actuarial science next year. don’t take too long.” Sophie says. “What are you going to wear?” “Duh! School uniform.
even though it’s one of my favourites. They don’t really know what to make of it. because she’s never paid the slightest bit of attention to them before.” *** I’m so nervous at supper I can hardly eat. Instead I veer off towards the Annexe. In a moment. provided I’m back in Sisulu House at 8.” I say. I know. Maybe this is nature’s way of helping me lose a quick half-kilo in the next hour.” “But who cares. Then I catch Lael’s eye and we both start to giggle.“Maybe she’s turned over a new leaf. It feels weird not joining the stream of girls heading back to Sisulu House. but Sophie is as cool as a cucumber.” “Very unlikely. She’s busy being friendly to Nosipho. “Unlikely. Matron tells me I have permission to watch TV at the Postmatric Annexe tonight. Before I know it. 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. supper’s over and Lael is wishing me luck. and skip the chicken curry completely. I stick to foods that will not make my breath too stinky. Yasmin and Priya.30 on the dot. She makes it sound like she’s going to be standing at the door with a stopwatch. 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. Team Trinity 55 . there’s hardly anyone around.
There’s the other one.” “Come on in. hi! I’m here to visit Zach Morris?” “Name?” he asks in a bored voice. and I reckon there’ll be rain later. “Um . plucking insects out of the air. The sky looks inky to the south. the evening suddenly seems very quiet.” He makes me sign a register and makes a note of the time. I’m wondering whether he’s going to take me to the TV room himself. “Can I help you?” A guy in his twenties dressed in civvies opens the door. or whether I have to find my own way there when Zach walks in.. There’s a coolish breeze. Now what? Then I notice a doorbell tucked away and give it a timid prod. within seconds. “Oh. “Thanks. and swallows are swooping low around the grounds. but long shadows are starting to stretch across the playing fields and the world seems drained of colour. I can hear a faint buzzing sound and. We have two. Mike’s one of the wardens. “Trinity Luhabe. I can take it from here.. footsteps. “Hi. “Who was that?” I ask. Mike. I try the handle. but it is very definitely locked.” he says coolly. It’s still quite light. Trinity. They’re here to keep an eye on us.” He 56 Fiona Snyckers . I give a little shiver and cross my arms over my chest.” The guy called Mike leaves. The sight of the shut Annexe door brings me up short.As the sound of chatter disappears into Sisulu House. and Zach takes me through to the TV room where an ad for a dirt-biking show is playing.
“Of course I am. But in the first place. They keep having to stop the fight to patch up somebody’s split lip or flapping forehead skin. eeuw and gross! “You’re not really enjoying this. I don’t really trust myself to say anything intelligent. but they’re not. I’d probably be more freaked out if anyone were paying attention to me. who’s texting on his phone. there’s a tiny part of me – that seems to speak in the voice of Ms Potgieter. 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. so I limit myself to going “Ooh!” and “Aah!” Hopefully in all the right places. hardly any girls choose to do postmatric. The Postmatric Annexe is supposed to be co-ed. Every now and then I have to shut my eyes when the fighting on the screen gets too horrible. And. Even Zach is fixated by the TV screen. so what does she know? So I sit in an armchair next to Zach and put on my eager face. that rule was never intended to apply to anyone as hot as Zach – he’s clearly the exception. There’s blood flying all over the place. Ms Potgieter must be nearly thirty by now and she’s still single. And in the second place. It looks like the fight has already started. are you?” says Zach. so I’m the only girl in the place.nods in the direction of another older-looking guy in the TV room. Love it!” Team Trinity 57 . There are a few other guys scattered around the place. And this year there are none. but like I said. All I know about cage-fighting is what I picked up from Wikipedia in ten minutes flat this afternoon. I love cagefighting. Eeuw. okay. “What?” I say. It turns out cage-fighting is really awful – way worse than boxing. startled.
I don’t... Tell me more.” I gesture vaguely at the screen.” I clear my throat.” Whew. I’m staring at the screen so hard my eyes are almost watering when I become aware of Zach leaning in really close... And he’s not done yet.” No.. “I think it’s cute how you enjoy the sport.. But the fighting’s really cool. “You’re right. Zach watches for a few seconds and then turns to me.. Now I just need to get through the rest of this with my eyes open and no flinching. “But not you.” he says softly.. He’s definitely modelling himself on the Japanese fighters.“Then why do you keep wincing and shutting your eyes?” “Um . You can totally see the Japanese influence in that guy’s style. more feminine. “It makes you seem . that’s because of the blood. My heart is pounding in my chest. I don’t know . I’m not that good with blood... Feminine. “Well. to be honest. Zach Morris called me feminine. You’ve no idea how cute that is. but you still flinch at the sight of blood. You enjoy it for the skill and the technique. in how it evolved as a sport from several different martial arts traditions. but can’t stand the sight of blood. “A lot of the girls who watch extreme sports are really bloodthirsty. Whereas the other guy has more of a Brazilian influence.” I smile at him and swivel my head back to the screen. “I’ve always been interested in how .” I’m quoting 58 Fiona Snyckers .” he goes on. You’re different.
Now is my chance to get real with Zach. seriously.” Yes.” I add hastily.. “I don’t think I could ever really do it myself.. Trinity?” I pause for a moment. and also how it represents a search for the most effective form of unarmed combat in the world. “You know almost more about it than I do.. I’m a horrible liar who doesn’t deserve a guy like this. I love to watch it. Zach is looking at me with a new glow in his eyes.. movies. Which of course I am. It’s so great to finally meet someone who understands. What else do you do to relax.” “Wow.. “I’m ..” I hear myself saying. skydiving . as if he can’t quite believe that I’m real. so I should really start being honest with him about the stuff I enjoy doing. as though I’m thinking about my answer. But. and soon I’ll move on to base-jumping.. I get my reward right away.” No ways am I jumping out of a plane or off a cliff for this or any other guy.” He smiles.. of course.straight from Wikipedia here. what was I going to say when he asked me what I was interested in? Music. There are limits to love – very clear limits. “That’s amazing!” he says. “I started training to skydive in the December holidays. “And . “In a strictly .. Most people think I’m completely crazy when I tell them..” “Base-jumping!” he says eagerly. theoretical way.. um . I’m interested in all extreme sports really. but he doesn’t seem to notice.. I’ve already caught his interest with this cage-fighting stunt. I know what you’re thinking. “Base-jumping . fashion and cellphone apps? Do you know how shallow that would make me Team Trinity 59 . Otherwise our relationship will be built on a whole bunch of lies. but I’m fascinated by it.
Luckily. and all the new skills he has to learn. “Chill!” he says. I mean..” He leans back in his chair. It’s only when he reaches up a hand to push his hair back that I catch sight of the time on his watch. But maybe not at night next 60 Fiona Snyckers . wouldn’t it? Because I’d really like to see you again. has he? In fact. that would be a pity. “Well. I was supposed to be back at Sisulu House by halfpast eight.sound? And anyway. “They won’t let me out at night again. I’ve heard girls telling guys that they simply adore rugby or football or whatever. they’ll never let me come here again.” I start stuttering. So I just smile and nod.” Oh. Cringety cringe cringe.” There’s a short silence.” I say. A tidal wave of heat sweeps across my face as I realise what I’ve just said. When I happen to know they’re lying through their teeth. show me one girl who doesn’t lie a bit when she’s trying to get a guy interested. Because he hasn’t asked me to come here again. “Oh. my goodness!” I jump up. cringe. Zach seems to be smiling. “It’s no big deal. “It’s twenty-five to nine. even if they’ve never heard of them until that moment. he hasn’t even hinted at it. “If I mess up on my very first time out.. hooking his hands behind his head and stretching out his legs. And they always pretend to support whatever team the guy supports. You know . He stands up lazily and catches my hands in his.. “I . and agree with everything Zach says as he starts talking about the differences between skydiving and base-jumping..” “It is a big deal. to go anywhere...
absolutely! Definitely. I’ll get rid of it. Team Trinity 61 . I know I’ve got something on this Friday afternoon. “Great! Meet me at the tuckshop then. How does Friday at three sound? Are you free then?” “Oh. Don’t forget.” And he turns to lead me out of the Annexe. yes.time.” I nod madly. Three o’clock. but whatever it is.
but I get the feeling you don’t really know someone until you’ve shared a room with them. but she says her parents are hectic social climbers who want her to meet the “right” kind of friends at boarding-school. Yasmin’s parents live in Durban. I’ve known Lael. if you ask me. Ever. cutting her toenails. 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. there are three other girls in our dorm. She’s just letting the clippings fall onto the floor. Priya also lives in Joburg. Nosipho has been a boarder ever since the beginning of Grade 8. She doesn’t have the time to drive Nosipho around in the afternoons. and Priya since Grade 8. Which is a bit disgusting. and a good reminder never to walk around without slippers on. and wanted her daughter to have the same experience. Her mom is a single parent with a hectic fulltime job at Deloittes. Sophie. even though she lives right here in Illovo.CHAPTER 10 BESIDES LAEL and Sophie and me. but her mom went to Brentwood College when she was a girl. so she boards during the week and goes home on weekends. And Yasmin is perched at the foot of her bed. 62 Fiona Snyckers . Nosipho and Yasmin since primary school.
you know the Gumede Shield?” We all nod. I don’t see how anyone could ever really have done it. “Midnight swims in the lake? Kitchen raids? Attacks on Gumede House?” I’m feeling a bit restless. to tell the truth..” “Okay. It’s just one of those silly rumours. “No. there is this one thing. “Ag. that’s true. it’s not even worth talking about because it’s completely impossible. “What thing?” Nosipho shakes her head. yes. It’s starting to feel as though Friday will never arrive.” “Okay. but on the other hand I can’t imagine that it ever gets boring. “Well.. like stuff that everyone gets up to?” The others look at each other in a head-scratching kind of way..” “We won’t laugh. We know the Gumede Shield. running a brush through my hair as we all get ready for bed on Wednesday night. It was supposedly carried by a Brentwood boy in World War I. Nosipho. You’ll laugh. this is all a bit different to the privacy I’m used to at home. Don’t all boarding-schools have traditions? You know. But there must be something else we can do. “So what do we do for fun around here?” I ask. It’s this super historical thing made of bronze and wood that all Brentwood students get told about in Grade 1.” We all sit up and look at her. man.So. After a while. Well ..” “Done what?” we demand. says. Just tell us. remember. It was given to him by the Gumede House housemaster Team Trinity 63 . We’re in the middle of Joburg. Trinity. who has been boarding the longest. “You’ve been reading too much Spud. “What lake?” says Lael.
Anyway. making rolling motions with her hands. Ever since 1976. but nothing like that happened. the story goes that it 64 Fiona Snyckers . You can still see the mark where it glanced off the bronze. what about it?” Lael asks. and everyone goes ooh and aah. a Brentwood boy pinched the shield out of its display case and carried it with him when he joined the protest. Anyway. 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. It taught them a lesson. but now of course that boy is one of the heroes of the school. Only it wasn’t called Gumede House in those days. They had been letting a few black kids in for years. We all nod again. we all know about the Gumede Shield. “So . the legend is that the shield stopped a bullet or a shell or something that would have killed the Brentwood boy. “Okay.. So he bunked off school and joined the protest. but Jan Smuts House. the point is that yes. He just got caught smuggling it back into its display case. It would have made the story even better if the shield had stopped a policeman’s bullet and saved his life too.to bring him good luck when he went to war.. the Gumede Shield has been kept under lock and key in the headmaster’s office. Then when the 1976 Soweto uprising happened. though. In those days they thought he’d done a terrible thing and almost expelled him. That was back in the days when the school was still run by the Catholic Church. They show it to parents when they do guided tours of the school. “Well. you know how it was taken in 1976?” Nosipho goes on. which is how the whole story came out.
Team Trinity 65 . My mom nearly had a fit when she came looking for us. anyhow. that’s impossible so we should just forget about it. She decided that it was cruel to keep birds in cages and decided to release them all there and then. I’m happy to say. 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. now we come to the bit that I’m really not sure is true. it was complete and utter mayhem. “They say that if a Sisulu House girl ever succeeds in stealing the trophy again. “So.” I say quickly. 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.” “And the last bit of inequality between girls and boys at Brentwood will finally be removed!” Lael interrupts. But Lael’s not even listening.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. The owners ended up calling the cops. Well. obviously.” Nosipho says. I know that look well. Lael is a huge feminist and there’s a disturbingly fanatical look in her eye as she says this. and.. Her mom remembers when the girls had to fight to be recognised as equal members of the school. Yasmin once told us that girls used to be treated like second-class citizens in Brentwood.” “Wow!” says Lael thoughtfully. “Well. They say it was a girl. It’s not like that anymore.. the school will let it live for six months of the year in Sisulu House and the other six months in Gumede House.
Dr Hussein was very proud of it and showed my dad the whole thing. “his office has this huge steel security gate on the door. And if the only way to do that is to pinch it and put it in our display case. it detects when anything gets removed from the cabinet and sends an alarm through to the security company. 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.” “Lael. Plus!” I add. but it would never work.” I say as though I’m trying to calm a mental patient. Basically. “I got to see where the shield is kept.” “I prefer the word challenging.. “that has a brand-new alarm system installed in it. which is kept locked at all times.” “Okay. but.” *** 66 Fiona Snyckers . “Lights out in two minutes.“You know. We’ll talk about this again soon. girls. We should really split it. I never thought about it before. holding up a finger when she tries to speak again.” she says thoughtfully.” I interrupt ruthlessly. but it is discrimination that the shield should stay in Gumede House all year round.” she says. “I am if you’re ready to admit that stealing the shield would be impossible and insane.” “A display cabinet..” “Are you finished now?” she asks when I finally wind down. then that’s what we’re going to do. “It belongs to the girls just as much as to the boys. “It’s a nice idea.
If only this day would hurry up and finish. No. I wander down to the common room to spend some productive staring-out-the-window time. It’s usually empty at this time of the afternoon. we sneaked out of school and went to watch a movie at Sandton City. It’s the brown-haired. The one my brother warned me about. I wonder why I’m so obsessed with Brentwood’s non-existent lake. trendy-dresser guy. Trinity. stranger. it’s not. All I can think about is Friday afternoon and what Zach has in mind for us. I’ve even started dreaming about it.. I haven’t laid eyes on him in weeks.The rest of the week creeps past. until. “Hi. Also known as James Ellison. I take a few deep breaths and try to get a grip. and lean over towards me. getting closer and closer. so I bunked off to have some time alone. Where’ve you been hiding yourself?” Team Trinity 67 . so it’s a bit annoying to find that today of all days. Everyone seems to have something on this afternoon. It’s dead quiet in Sisulu House. Stop it. In last night’s dream. I literally have not been able to think of anything else all week. And then maybe he’ll take my hand in his. But I couldn’t face swimming practice. Then we were having a picnic down at the lake. He probably has nothing more exciting in mind than hanging out for a while. We were sitting under some willow trees. and we’ll just talk for a bit. He smiles as I come in. Then I see who it is and don’t feel quite so annoyed any more.. watching the sun go down. Maybe he’ll buy me an icecream from the tuckshop. including me.
“Who are you – my dad? Of course he’s good enough for me. “Well I like him enough for both of us.” he says. I was back by half past eight.” “I know what you mean.” He shifts restlessly in his chair. I suppose it’s all over the school by now.“I haven’t been hiding at all. It was like a madhouse. I suppose you’ve found a better spot for girl-watching?” “Sometimes I come in here because it’s quiet.” he announces.” “I hear you’ve been spending your time in the more rarefied atmosphere of the Postmatric Annexe lately.” “He’s not good enough for you. or mixed-race if you have to be picky 68 Fiona Snyckers . for goodness sake.” “His name is Zach Morris and you’re meeting him again tomorrow.” I say. “It’s not about anything.” I roll my eyes. first of all I consider myself black. The question is whether I’m good enough for him. and nothing happened. Gumede House can be insane at times.” “Oh. pool and table tennis all at the same time in the common room. looking at me closely. “What’s that about?” I giggle self-consciously. He must have noticed that?” I take a deep breath. Why do people even care?” “I don’t like him. The other day I went to visit my brothers. End of story. “You’re the one who hasn’t been around lately. I was just invited to watch TV with one of the postmatrics. “Okay. “Hasn’t he noticed that you’re Coloured?” “Excuse me?” “You’re Coloured and he’s white. and the boys were playing fussball.
and now he’s asked me to hang out with him tomorrow afternoon. How could he not have?” “And he doesn’t mind?” I drop my head in my hands. yes. “Let me put it this way. I’ll just cancel my date with the hottest guy in school because you think it would be best. “First he asked me to watch TV with him. And secondly. but I actually kind of did. This guy is unreal.” “Right. Yes.about it. no one else compares. Zach is so unbelievably gorgeous. of course he’s noticed.” I draw myself up and stalk out of the common room before I say something I might regret later.” He flashes me a cocky grin.” “And why would I do that?” “It would be best. Team Trinity 69 . He gave it to me without me even asking. I wouldn’t need to send him a note because I’ve got his BBM pin. It’s like talking to a wall. I have to assume this means he doesn’t have a problem with the colour of my skin. and by the way. That’s the kind of trusting guy he is. That’s totally going to happen. Oh. There’s something attractive about him. I know I told my brother that I didn’t.” I say at last. I can’t believe I used to have a crush on this guy.” “I think you should write him a note saying you can’t meet him tomorrow. But it would be impossible to like anyone else at the same time as Zach. in spite of his weirdo attitudes. “We’ll see who’s right.
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.”
Team Trinity 73
“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.
Team Trinity 75
76 Fiona Snyckers . Don’t want to look like I’m smuggling designer handbags under my eyes tomorrow. I give another yawn.At last I’m getting sleepy. and finally fall asleep.
That confidence puts a spring in my step as I head for the tuckshop. I wanted to get there at 3. but I swipe on some coloured lipgloss anyway.” Team Trinity 77 . I’ve got my outfit all laid out on my bed. but short enough to show off my calves and ankles. It’s long enough to hide my butt and thighs. “Don’t move for a second. I decided not to wear jeans for a change. boarders are allowed to change into civvies unless we’re taking part in some official school function. I hurtle back to Sisulu House to change out of my uniform.” a voice says behind me. “Okay. I know I’m looking good. On Friday afternoons. you can move now. but didn’t quite have the nerve. We’re not supposed to wear makeup at school. “Hold it right there. making me jump. but opted for a flirty little skirt instead.02 as I arrive and start scanning the groups of kids hanging around. When I step out of Sisulu House into the sharp. which are the best parts of my legs. Zach said three o’clock. So it’s approximately 3.05. I want to remember how gorgeous you look. I’ve teamed it with a frilly strappy top and a pair of gladiator sandals. bright sunlight.CHAPTER 12 WHEN THE bell goes for the end of the day at twentypast two on Friday afternoon.” I hear the shutter of a cellphone camera.
. I almost say “what fight?” when I suddenly remember that I’m supposed to be a big fan of cage-fighting. I should really keep tabs on the TV guide to see when these things are happening. slinging an arm over my shoulders as we walk up to the tuckshop counter. thinking fast. smiling at him. but then I remember how bubbly they are – I don’t want to spend the whole afternoon burping. “Is that a problem?” “No. “Uh . I’m about to ask for a Coke Zero.I turn around to see Zach slipping his phone into his pocket. We perch on the low wall around the fountain while he eats..” Zach gets himself a toasted sandwich and a can of cooldrink. “Did you just take a picture of the back of my head?” I ask. “No ESPN in Sisulu House. thanks. getting out his wallet. I listen 78 Fiona Snyckers . no. “So did you see the fight last night?” Zach asks between mouthfuls.” He grins back.” “It’s lovely. remember? So what happened?” “Oh.” I say.” he says. but no guy has ever said something like that to me before. I feel all lit up from the inside. “Yes. “You’re lovely. it was great!” He launches into a long description of a fight between a Russian and a Costa Rican. and hands me my water. “Would you like something?” he asks.” I think it’s much more likely that every girl in school is wishing she was me. “Just a still water. although I like to think the front view isn’t too bad either. Do you have any idea how pretty you look today? I bet every guy in school wishes he was me right now.
I mean. “Hey. I know it is. Yes.” What was fun? What? “Well. That was fun. lying like the sociopath she is. but I know she’s seen me. and you?” I answer guardedly.with half an ear while keeping an eye on what’s going on around us. The day kids are drifting home.” Team Trinity 79 . Specifically. I’m still not convinced that she doesn’t like Zach. look at him. she’s turning around and totally zeroing in on me. Sophie has foolproof radar when it comes to me. “I’ve hardly seen you since Howick in December.” he says. who has noticed that we’re hanging out together. BEEP BEEP BEEP. It’s beeping now. He’s practically a Greek god. She has her back to me. “I didn’t know you knew Trinity. We should do it again.” he says. enjoying having nothing urgent to do. Most people are just getting on with their normal Friday afternoon stuff. It starts beeping when we’re within a thirty metre radius of each other. I notice Sophie Agincourt standing in a noisy group near the swimming pool. I’ll be there over Easter again. BEEP BEEP BEEP. and who is looking green with envy. How can she not like him? “Hi. look. Sophie. See you then?” “Sure. The weekly boarders are packing up their stuff and waiting for their parents to collect them. And now she’s coming over. guys!” she says. “How’s it going?” “All right. And the term boarders like me are just hanging out.” Sophie adds. “We’ve been friends since Grade 1. with plans to meet up on the weekend.
Next to her. Then Zach shakes his head. I’m practically the Dalai Lama. telling us to have fun.” There’s another millisecond pause. those were her exact words. right?” I glare at Sophie. “Trinity. I smile weakly. the billionaire mining guy? The one who was on Robben Island?” She drills the point home. If you think I’m shallow and materialistic. your family is an asset that you really should exploit more. You might think that bit about my dad was meant to be bitchy. I suppose it’s true enough. but that’s not why I’m hanging out with Trinity. You know who her father is.“Really? I didn’t know that. If by friends.” Zach turns to me. But I know Sophie. “I know about that.” Sophie gives me a raised-eyebrow look as though to say. “Trinity’s a great girl. We watch her leave in silence. you mean mortal enemies. “Abel Luhabe. “Very useful contact for you when you’re looking for a job. Like she was trying to imply that Zach is only interested in me because of my family’s money. “See what a keeper this guy is?” Then she blows kisses to both of us and goes on her way. That’s enough reason for me. giving a cheeky little wave. but she’s not looking at me. 80 Fiona Snyckers .” She truly thought that if Zach didn’t already know who my dad was. she would be doing me a favour by telling him. Zach. In fact. “But not too much fun!” she adds. Zach pauses for a second and then nods. you should try Sophie Agincourt on for size. She’s gorgeous and funny and likes the same stuff as I do. She sees my family connections as an asset that I should exploit. I’m so glad you guys are getting to know each other.
I shouldn’t be sounding like one. I sound like the clueless virgin in a movie.. “But that’s against the rules. I am a virgin..“Trinity?” Zach is saying.. sure . I zoned out for a minute.” “Sorry about that.” My heart gives a huge thud and my eyes fly up to meet his. I want to kick myself. “Earth to Trinity. although it feels a bit weird being the only girl in the common room..” As I listen to my own voice bleating on. “I was saying that we should really go somewhere more comfortable. isn’t it? No girls allowed up in the rooms.” “Actually.” he says. I imagine us running into all my friends there. “Oh. Although the moment the words are out of my mouth. waving his hand in front of my face.” he says.” Zach brushes a finger against my cheek and hooks a strand of hair behind my ear. Zach leans forward until his lips are almost touching my ear. Team Trinity 81 . but I stop myself in time. I’m about to point out that it’s a plastics-only bin. right. “I want to be able to talk to you in peace and not be interrupted all the time. “Your room?” I say. A first date is not a great time to turn into a nag. You were saying?” Zach lobs his can and sandwich wrapper into the nearest rubbish bin. sounding a bit hoarse. “Have you never done something that was against the rules?” A delicious shiver goes down my spine. Come in. Trinity. I mean.” “How about the Sisulu House common room?” I suggest. “I was thinking of the Postmatric Annexe rather. but that’s beside the point. “I was thinking more along the lines of my room.
half-walking. I thought it was impossible.” Okay.” he breathes against my cheek. Shut. It’s really happening. shut up. Kama Sutra.. “Just wait around out here while I go and do a quick recce inside. peering into the gloom of the Annexe. Just. Okay. I mean. and giggling all the way. “But .” I stammer. And I never did get the chance to Google the Kama Sutra.. we’ll be in so much trouble. of course I have....” says Zach. “In fact. wow.” As he dives into the Annexe. if we get caught . “Come on! I can’t wait to show you how to do it.. He pulls back and grins at me like a little boy. Trinity. way against the rules.. I’m aware of little beats of panic hammering away inside my chest.” I agree. “Try to make it look like you’re waiting for someone to come out of Gumede House. brushing his lips against my ear.” he says. Underneath the manic excitement. Up.” “Nothing’s impossible. I wander casually up towards Gumede House with my phone clenched in my hand. This is it. quick.. We arrive at the door out of breath. How the heck do you spell that anyway? I try “Karma Sutra” and end up with a 82 Fiona Snyckers ..“Of . “Well then you won’t object to breaking this one tiny rule. We might even be expelled.” I follow Zach down to the Postmatric Annexe.. but how? I mean. halfrunning. Then he takes my hand and starts pulling me in the direction of the boarding-houses. my friend Lael and I are planning something way. I was just saying to Lael last night. Perhaps I can still slip off to the loo and look it up on my phone. “N-no.
book about a South African doctor. It’s tilted away from us. he starts tossing the bag up towards the camera. “Come on!” He grabs my hand and pulls me into the Annexe.” I say. There are other cameras inside.. What on earth? I swear. It’s just a live-feed. if my mom has gone and installed a net-nanny app on my phone again.. “Okay.” he says. for example. covering it completely..” “But what if we run into someone else? Like the warden. “So basically what we need to do is distract the guard so that he leaves his post. holding me pinned to the wall with his arm. “I never noticed that before. still keeping out of the sight of the camera. “Trinity!” Too late. I’ll. this is how it works. watch this. Then we just slip you into my room. trust me. “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.” 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 . Okay.” “Okay. but none of them are recorded. darn it. On his fourth try it lands neatly over the camera. Zach is waving at me from the door of the Annexe.” “There’s no one around on a Friday afternoon. but instead of joining me in the doorway. Then. I trot over.” This doesn’t look very promising to me.. “Huh. He opens the neck as wide as it will go. he pulls me around the corner and backs me against the wall.” “It’s monitored by a security guard who sits in a little office inside the Annexe.
extra-sweet frappuccino from Vida.” He’s looking hugely pleased with himself. “Do you have any tea?” “Sure. The 84 Fiona Snyckers . and along another passage. He’s nineteen. “Told you – nothing’s impossible. Zach pushes me out of sight. I only really enjoy it if it’s an extra-foamy.” “Great. Zach grabs my hand and hustles me out the room. Once again. We grin at each other. 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. Soon we both hear footsteps creaking on the floorboards as someone comes down the passage. thanks. He seems to be listening for something. up some stairs. We both almost fall inside and he slams and locks the door behind us. I wince. Two seconds later a man in a security uniform walks past the door carrying a screwdriver.where guests have to sign in. Of course he’s had practice. you are good!” I say. 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. “Wow. but sticks his head into the corridor. I’m going out with an older man now. I can’t expect him never to have had any girlfriends before. Then I give myself a shake. We walk quickly along the passage. for goodness sake.” The truth is I have an ambivalent relationship with coffee. Then Zach produces a key and opens one of the doors with a flourish. “Coffee?’ he asks. spooning two heaped teaspoons of Ricoffy into a mug.
I’m trying to imagine Zach and me falling onto the bed. but that’s because I’m comparing it to my cubicle. I know.. trying to get it over my head. I always do that. but I hate waiting for things. I notice. I’m just jiggling the teabag around with the spoon to make the tea stronger. It’s not possible for someone to Team Trinity 85 . His bed is neatly made with hospital corners and a wrinkle-free bedspread. “Sorry?” I look up blankly.thought of Zach’s super-strong instant with only a splash of milk makes me shudder.. “Oh. Oh God. If I’d seen it straight after coming from my own room at home.” “Yes. and a tidy little pile of work placed in the exact middle of the desk. it happens. He’s a bit of a neat freak.. We’d kiss for ages. you’ll get the same effect.” “You know if you just leave it to steep for five minutes. Right now it looks amazingly spacious to me. “What are you doing?” Zach’s voice breaks in on my thoughts.. I look around his room while he makes tea for me. I’ll deal with it then. He’s got pictures of cage-fighting and other extreme sports all over his walls. stop thinking about it. My eyes keep being drawn to it. with all the pens lined up on his desk in size order. If it happens. like scuba-diving and parachuting. and then at my hands clutching my mug. making my heart go skippity-skip.” A slow smile spreads over Zach’s face. and then he’d start tugging at my top . it would have seemed quite pokey. and lots of pics of himself taking part in all kinds of scary stuff. clutched in a passionate embrace.
He’s going to kiss me! He’s really going to kiss me. “I’m a modern rock freak. “You’re so impatient. I open my eyes and rock back into place. with a pair of serious-looking speakers attached. This is some of their new stuff. I close my eyes and kind of lean towards him.” he says. “Er . Then 86 Fiona Snyckers ..have such perfectly even white teeth. Or such gorgeous blue eyes and dark eyelashes. and then it’s gone again. Okay. so that wasn’t the big one. I’m left leaning forward with my eyes closed like an idiot. 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. The big one is sure to come later. and are still making music. firm and warm. “Lynryd Skynryd. feeling a bit flustered. Trinity.” he says. For one magical moment his mouth lands on mine. Avril Lavigne is about as hard rock as I get. “That’s what I love about you. I have to lip-read what he’s saying because the music’s so loud. That was just a peck. but my heart belongs to hip hop. “Shall we listen to some music?” Zach jumps up before I can answer and starts fiddling with his iPod. It’s really awesome. I wouldn’t say I hate it exactly. but after a while he turns it down..” I sip my tea and listen to the wailing vocals and screeching instrumentals of what I privately think of as “white people’s music”. and how ten years later they got back together again. Normally. what are we listening to?” I ask as screaming guitars and fast-pounding drums start up. It’s in a docking station on his bookcase. As his face gets nearer.” Then he leans forward to where I’m sitting perched on the corner of his chair.
“The guard only reacts when he sees a girl coming in. nervous again. We’re going to make it look like you were just meeting me at the entrance. and then he rushes me out the way I came. stalling for time. “Um . As we approach the camera at the entrance. we separate so that it looks as though I’ve just arrived from outside. “How do I get out of here? We can’t use that same trick with the bag again. “You weren’t thinking of going to that.” he laughs.. were you? Those things are so lame they need their own wheelchair. Because then he comes to make sure she signs in. I walk closely behind him that the camera will only see one person. I take a look at my phone and see that it’s nearly six.. can we?” “Getting out is much easier than getting in. Then Zach says it’s probably not safe for me to hang around in his room much longer. and I manage not to hurl at all the virtual blood flying around. you know it’s the boarders’ social then?” “Yes. “Of course I’m not going to it. “Are you going to be in next Friday evening?” Zach asks as he walks me back to Sisulu House.. Once we’re out the door. “Next Friday evening?” I repeat. How did that happen? I feel like I just got here. well . I was just about to say that Sisulu House will be really quiet while everyone else is at the social.” he says. I jump up.” I don’t miss a beat.. His friends are going to come knocking on the door to talk about plans for the evening.” Team Trinity 87 .he shows me the new cage-fighting game app on his iPad.” Zach does a quick scout around the corridors to make sure no one is hanging about.
you’re kind of a celebrity in these parts. Not exactly hideous. Cricket star. He’s got me bent over so far backwards that my hair is almost dragging on the ground.” “Then let’s give them something to talk about. They are staring. but we won’t be back late. trying to sound more casual. No biggie if you can’t. he whips me into his arms and brings his lips down on mine in a crushing kiss. There are lots of girls milling about. 88 Fiona Snyckers .” “Really?” He looks around with more interest. he pulls me up straight and lets go.” “That would be great!” I say enthusiastically.” I add. He reaches out a finger and chucks me under the chin.” I say with a smile. “Hilton Old Boy. of course. “Well. I stagger and almost fall. Girls notice these things.“Cool. I can practically hear the gasps of amazement around us.” Then he puts his hands in his pockets and walks away whistling. Just when I feel like I’m going to pass out. I feel like I’m in a Mills & Boon novel. Rugby star. “if you can make it. The guys and I are going out that night. It’s so obvious that even Zach notices. Well. “I mean. most of them shooting sidelong glances at us.” I whisper back. “So I guess I’ll see you next week.” Before my mind can even begin to compute what’s happening. And they talk about them. “Is it just me or are all those girls trying to pretend they’re not staring at us?” “It’s not just you.” We’re at Sisulu House now. “Uh huh. “But why?” He looks honestly puzzled. I’ll probably stop by some time to see you.
When you’re supposed to be getting ready for the social. Normally I’d be right in the middle of it. Don’t tell me you’re so in lurrrve you’ve forgotten about it?” I lower my magazine slightly to peep up at her. with Priya and Nosipho and everyone joining in. Everyone’s getting ready for the social. I need to think before I speak. and trying to force their hair into scary up-dos. In tracksuit pants. If there’s one thing that freaks Lael out (there are quite a few things. Lying on your bed. The air is thick with deodorant. WHAT’S wrong with this picture?” Lael asks. Reading a magazine. but this is a big one). staring down at me with her hands on her hips. “You. I need to play it carefully. perfume and hairspray. So unless I want a huge row in here. “I mean this. She’s not going to let this go easily. super-excited about my first social as a boarder. They’re comparing outfits.CHAPTER 13 “OKAY. Team Trinity 89 . The feminist in her strongly disapproves of such behaviour. waving her hand at me. and she’s not shy about letting you know what she thinks. it’s the girl who gives up her own plans to wait around at home for some guy. “What do you mean?” I lift my Heat magazine higher to hide my face. She has a very determined look on her face.” she says. borrowing clothes and shoes.
Because I am – very sorry. putting a bit of a tremor into my voice. We’re just going to have a bit of a dance and a laugh.” she says. Get up at once and start getting ready. But when it comes to a choice between dancing the night away with a bunch of Gumede House boys and possibly seeing Zach again..” I say cautiously as Lael looms over my bed. Trinity. “I just don’t really feel like it. “You’ve got me. Come on! There’s a rumour your brothers are going to slip a bottle of vodka into the non-alcoholic punch..I can’t pretend I’m not sorry to be missing it. which is way better than suspicious. “Nonsense. of course he’s not going to be there. Tell you what. you should come along anyway. babe. What’s the real reason? Come on.” “Hmmm.” What?” she booms. instead of staying here and moping.” 90 Fiona Snyckers . It’s just one night. is he? The postmatrics never come to these socials.” Her eyes gleam with suspicion. That’s not how it works. all right!” I fling my magazine down on the bed. Did you think he would? Sorry. “Aww! Don’t be sad. Why would you want to skip it?” “No reason.” I say casually. there’s really no choice.” “Well. “I haven’t forgotten about the social. Don’t make me choke it out of you. “I just thought I’d give it a skip tonight.” I say. that’s all. “I’m sooo disappointed. I admit it! I’m not going because Zach isn’t going to be there. “I don’t believe you. looking puzzled. “He’s not in Gumede House.” “Oh.” She’s looking all sympathetic now.
Now Yasmin. I smile weakly. “Plus I’m premenstrual. But staying behind makes me feel like putting my head down and having a long nap. but I really don’t feel like it. “But if you change your mind you can always get dressed and come up to the hall.” I add. There’s just Matron and a couple of her staff left. “I know I’m being silly. If I’d gone to the social. And since they all know me as a party animal of note. I’ve got a terrible case of the yawns.” *** By nine everyone has left and I’m practically all alone in Sisulu House. clutching a continental pillow pathetically to my tummy. they can’t understand why I’m bailing like this. Team Trinity 91 . Their faces clear and they start drifting back to their own cubicles. Nosipho and Priya are also crowding around my bed and urging me to get up. We’ll be going strong until about midnight. I’ll bring everyone else down. 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. I’d be wide awake and ready to party right now. in that case. so sleeping is not an option.” Lael relents. Maybe I’ll go down to the common room and watch some TV.” I can tell by the looks on their faces that none of them finds this a very tempting prospect. “Well. Goodness knows why. Okay. I’m going to have a long bubble-bath and an early night. okay.
A quick check in the mirror tells me I’ve nailed it. except that Zach is going to come around here to visit me later when he gets 92 Fiona Snyckers . and a pair of jewelled slipslops. I just don’t see the point of going. Black work-out pants (they’re from Lorna Jane and are very flattering to the butt and thighs). what’s the point? My girlfriend’s not going to be there. and I don’t feel like dancing with anyone else. but then I also shrug. I pick up my Heat magazine and head downstairs. “Ag.” “I didn’t even know you were dating someone. “Are you waiting to take someone to the social?” He gives me a grumpy look that tells me I’m way off the mark. just-spendinga-quiet-night-in outfit that I’ve been planning all day. Something about this guy makes me want to just be myself. tank top with ruffled. Why isn’t she going to be there?” A thought occurs to me.I change into my not-trying-too-hard. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “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 spot James hanging out in the common room. “Oh. quite pleased to see him. “Sort of for the same reason as you. hi!” I say. “Does she even go to Brentwood?” “She used to. “Why aren’t you at the social?” He gives a huge shrug. I brush my hair and don’t put on any makeup apart from a smudge of lip-gloss. sweetheart neckline (also very flattering).” He looks at me more carefully. but her parents moved away. As I reach the ground floor.
Do you think I want you to lie to me?” “Well. honestly. Must be nice to be a postmatric with your own car and everything. I flounce over to the coffee table to make myself a drink. grumpier than ever. ja.” I make the drinks and put his mug down in front of him with a click that almost spills some coffee. And seriously. Team Trinity 93 . I would have gone.back with his friends. “Aren’t you going to offer me some coffee?” he asks as I practically throw a teabag into a mug. And what kind of word is that anyway – sap? Who says that?” “It’s different for me.” “Ja.” “Don’t call you what?” “Dude. of course it is. White with one sugar. “Oh. This guy is unbelievable. of course. There. okay. 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. yes.” he says.” “Common? What century are you living in?” Still muttering to myself. no. all right then. There’s a beat of silence and then I relent. you would have gone to the dance?” I hesitate for a second. “No. dude. “So are you saying that if he weren’t coming to visit. Would you like some coffee?” “Yes.” “So? You’re making a sap of yourself over a girl. ‘Don’t call me that. “Honestly?” “Yes. are you happy now?” “It doesn’t make me happy to see you making a sap of yourself over a guy. please. don’t you think?” “I suppose. It sounds common coming from a young girl’s mouth.” I snap.
I’m just about to suggest switching on the TV when he clears his throat.” Oh. “And I don’t think you know girls very well.” This time he smiles a real smile.” I can’t help laughing.” “It’s just that you seem young.” “Uh huh?” “You will be careful with this Zach guy. He doesn’t have to follow the same rules as you do.” “Hey...” I put in quickly.” he goes on. but at your age. inexperienced. you’re practically the same age as me. The one that crinkles up his eyes and makes him seem somehow older than me.” I remind him. He’s got his own car. We sit together in companionable silence for a minute.” I say as I sit down opposite him.” “Only by three years. “Trinity. “He’s been a boarder since he was eight years old. and kind of . and. have I? The cheek of this guy. 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 .“That bad mood of yours must be catching. I don’t think you know what you’re getting yourself into..” This makes me laugh. “Three years is not ‘quite a bit’. Three years is nothing... won’t you?” “What do you mean?” “I mean he’s quite a bit older than you. it’s a lot. so now I’ve got a sign on my forehead that says “virgin”.. “Because now I’ve got it. Inexperienced – what does he mean by that? “Zach is different.” “Three years is nothing when you’re twenty-five and he’s twenty-eight. “That must be why I’m feeling better now – I’ve passed it onto you. “Sometimes you sound like my grandfather.
for that matter. So. Mom always said she wouldn’t let me have a varsity boyfriend until I was at varsity myself. I turn away from him and start flicking through my phone to pick up some Facebook messages. he’s out of school. and tell me how to live my life. it’s not as though he likes me himself – he made that perfectly clear at our first meeting. and I speak to her and my dad every couple of days. They also think the age gap is too big. all in all. I start to feel annoyed. Team Trinity 95 . They haven’t exactly forbidden me to see him. Who is this guy to judge me for going out with Zach? I mean. and b) he doesn’t think much of my taste in TV series. they’re not in class together. As I watch the disapproval harden in his eyes.The look on his face tells me that a) he has never watched Gossip Girl. and they don’t like the fact that. because he just keeps on at me. I’ve been keeping my mom up to date on BBM. I’m in no mood for being lectured by James. but I can tell they’re worried. they don’t play for the same sports teams. But he still seems to think he’s got the right to slag Zach off. strictly speaking. Or in guys. She’s not overly keen on the old-school-tie types that Sophie’s family knows. I told her that Sophie Agincourt knew his family. How could James possibly know anything about him? He couldn’t. But apparently he’s not fluent in body language. They don’t stay in the same boarding house. and going out with Zach is kind of pushing the boundaries. because my parents aren’t too thrilled about me going out with a postmatric boy either. This is a sore point at the moment. but that didn’t reassure her much. in his usual racist way. And it’s not as though he really knows Zach either.
. oh why..” “For the last time. but that doesn’t make me any less black.” He’s looking at me like I’m being deliberately thick. “Grooving?” I scoff. don’t I pay more attention in class? “It’s this group of people who have a common history involving slavery 96 Fiona Snyckers . ‘Coloured’ means something else. How does he know that? Could he have overheard us? “I’m right. 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. I am black!” I hiss at him. The Coloured community is . Trinity?” he goes on.” My heart is starting to beat uncomfortably fast. “Why couldn’t you have gone to the dance first and seen Zach afterwards? I bet he told you not to go. Why. “He didn’t like the idea of you grooving with the Gumede House boys.. They like a girl who plays hard to get.” “My people?” I repeat dangerously. but I refuse to let it show.. “And what people would those be?” “You know. aren’t I?” he persists.” I wave my hands around in frustration. wondering if steam is starting to rise from my ears. a girl doesn’t make herself more attractive to a boy when she puts herself at his beck and call. “Where did you learn your slang – some old movie from the 1960s?” He refuses to be diverted.“And what about tonight. it’s. “Coloureds.. “When will you get that into your head? I might be of mixed race. I’m sure it’s the same with your people. right?” My eyes fly up to meet his. Trinity. trying to remember what we learned in History.. Boys like a bit of a challenge. Nobody likes a girl who makes herself too easy. “You know. didn’t he? Probably told you it was childish or something.
but seriously? Yum. As I flip quickly through the sports channels. For goodness’s sake. What else can you do with such a maddening person? *** Two hours later. Team Trinity 97 . Of course. Okay. And you can tell him I said so. hoping to find a watchable movie or something decent on the Series Channel. I’ll need a buffer between me and this pest. I flick through channels. If I’m going to make it through the evening.) We’ve also watched the last half of a Mad Men episode. “You really shouldn’t shout like that. 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 can hear James muttering about how we should watch that seeing as I’m so keen on martial arts these days.” I make a noise that sounds like “aaarrgh!” and grab hold of the TV remote. I ignore him.” Now he’s pursing his mouth up into a kind of cat’s bum expression. including some cage-fighting programme. which James really seemed to enjoy. like. weren’t you in class in Grade 9? We learned all about it then. three hundred years ago. I know he’s old now.and stuff that started in the Western Cape. we have watched most of Pride and Prejudice (The Colin Firth one. Trinity. It’s most unattractive in a young girl.
And who knows when I’ll run into him again? 98 Fiona Snyckers . “Who?” I snap. But just as he’s leaving. I’d want to spend as much of my Friday night as possible with my girlfriend. it’s not you. why don’t you just go now? You also have to be out of here at twelve. He knows no visitors are allowed into the common room after midnight on a Friday. I hate him for saying out loud what I’ve thinking for the last hour. is it? You’re not Zach and he’s not you. 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. He’s probably on his way back with his friends and is going to pop by for a few minutes before twelve. You have no idea what he was doing tonight and nor do I.But now we have totally run out of stuff to watch.” says James. “Goodnight. “Do you really want me to go?” He’s looking all hurt now. In fact. If he were going to come and visit you.” “Yes. not looking at him.” I say. but I can’t bring myself to care. Trinity.” James stands up and moves silently towards the door. well.” “Goodnight. I wouldn’t be interested in what my friends were doing. I remember that I was supposed to ask him something.” “If it were me. “Zach. he would be here by now. “He’s not coming. you know. of course.” “Nonsense. remember?” “Is that what you want?” he asks. It’s half-past eleven and I just can’t help glancing at my watch every thirty seconds.
and I’m sorry. where the Grade 11 boys have their dormitory.. I was just upset about Zach not turning up and I took it out on you. Please come back and sit down..” For a second I can’t see him at all. I’m really sorry. And that said headmaster’s office is in Gumede House . I need to speak to you.” For a moment he hesitates. “Please come back. which would lose you a lot of respect. “You can’t possibly want me to steal the shield for you because that won’t count. We’ll totally take care of that ourselves. I know.” “I thought you couldn’t wait to get rid of me. If I forget again. “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. really need to ask you something. 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. Then I remind him that it’s kept in the headmaster’s office with a state-of-the-art security system. “I know. but then he heads back into the common room. my friends are going to kill me. “And what’s this all got to do with me?” he asks.. but then I spot him halfway down the corridor with his hands in his pockets doing his Elvis Presley walk. He looks back enquiringly.” he says stiffly.“Wait!” I shout.” “No. I need to speak to you. I really.. “Just hang on a minute. of course we don’t want you to do the actual stealing. We just Team Trinity 99 . Unless you lie about how you got it. on the second floor .
“Oh. I’ve been stood up – it’s as simple as that. 100 Fiona Snyckers . thanks!” We arrange to meet for a report-back in about a week’s time and I finally let him go.” I stare at him. It has to be a Grade 11 boy because you can hang around near his office and no one will get suspicious. I see that it’s already five minutes to midnight.” “So you’ll help us?” “Well .” “Never mind your irrelevant interruptions. not just to the boys. The point is this – do you think you could snoop around Dr Hussein’s office without being seen?” He gives a snort of laughter. and even if it does. don’t worry.. As I wander back into the common room..” he says. yes.” He sighs wearily.” “You know they’re talking about moving his office out of Gumede House and into the administration building?” “Yes. Not even I can kid myself that Zach is still going to appear. But it won’t happen this year. I think you’re all completely cracked. 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 shield will still stay in Gumede House. I know. I’ll help you. “Yes. And that’s the point – the shield should belong to everyone. but yes.” “That’s brilliant. “You feminists are getting completely out of hand with your Simone de Beauvoir and what-not. “Simone de who’s that now?” “Nothing. I think I could just about manage that.need you to do a recce of Dr Hussein’s office.
After all that.I start clearing away our mugs and find that James’ is still full. he didn’t even touch his coffee. Team Trinity 101 .
The theorems are all in the textbook. But instead I’m blissfully happy. there’s no relief in sight.CHAPTER 14 I’M SITTING in Maths class. But until then. and it’s not some vague “I might pop round later” arrangement. I can’t pretend I wasn’t upset by his no-show on Friday. I have no idea. My eyes may be pointing towards the board where the teacher is explaining some new geometry theorem. 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. hot February day. anyway. Especially when he BBMed me the next day and didn’t even mention it. but I honestly cannot think of one good reason why I should be trying to learn one now. The really hard part was that I had no one to talk to about it. It’s a hot. and my school shirt is clinging to my back. my chin propped in my hand. one-hundred-per cent definite date. How we are supposed to concentrate in this weather. Maths is my least favourite subject. It’s easily 32 degrees outside. It’s an official. I’m seeing Zach tonight. I didn’t want to admit to Lael or any of my other friends that I’d lied about why 102 Fiona Snyckers . I should be feeling all irritable right now. All you have to do is learn them off by heart for the exam. but they’re totally glazed over and my mind is a million trillion miles away.
So I didn’t nag Zach or reproach him or give him the cold shoulder. I’m Team Trinity 103 . 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. Lael just BBMed me a question that I read under my desk. because he’s invited me to a party at the Postmatric Annexe tonight. or use any of the million-and-one tactics I’ve used on boys in the past. When Zach messaged me the next day. The party starts at half-past seven. The only one who knew the whole story was James. 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 the one who turned it into a definite thing. but as it is. Instead I just acted friendly and normal. and I have to be back in my dorm by half-past nine. I can hardly sit still. he sounded so normal and friendly that I started seeing it from his point of view. And today I got my reward. I’m pretty sure he never actually said he would come and visit me on Friday night. I felt a lot better after that. If I were still living at home I’d be dashing out this afternoon to buy myself a new outfit.I hadn’t gone to the social. I’ve almost decided what I’m wearing – but not quite. and she said yes. He just said that he might pop by and that he’d probably see me then. I’m so excited about this. What u wearing tonite??? I’ve spent the last two hours thinking about nothing else. Each postmatric can invite a maximum of two guests.
this party is probably very informal. and the way he was talking about it made it sound like not that much of a big deal. Only problem is I can’t decide which one to choose. Lael’s right. using her laser pointer to take us through the steps of the theorem. Lilac gorj but maybe too smart? Urgh – I didn’t think of that. 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. I can see her holding her phone under the desk and frowning over my answer. I’ll go crazy. Tonight definitely calls for a dress. I’ll look like an idiot. About mid-knee is the perfect length for me. Luckily the teacher is still facing the board. Just some drinks and snacks. I’m normally careful with dresses. Zach said they hold one party a term. and I’ve got two dresses that are exactly that long. If I go over the top with my clothes. Blk is nice. our phones will be confiscated for 24 hours.restricted to what’s hanging in my cupboard. So now what? “Trinity?” 104 Fiona Snyckers . Lael’s not concentrating because she’s already quite good at Maths. My phone flashes and I open her reply. I send Lael a quick reply. Either lilac handkerchief-hem scoop-neck dress or black shift dress. If we get bust messaging each other in class. and I’m not concentrating because if I don’t get my outfit sorted for tonight.
“Um .. which hasn’t done wonders for my confidence. I heave a sigh of relief. thank goodness. Even Yasmin. “You’re in no position to be daydreaming. I jump and I drop my phone. and nothing looks right. The last thing I need is for it to be confiscated now... Your maths results so far have been nothing short of abysmal. “Yes. Ms Luhabe. So now Team Trinity 105 .” And then. Especially Yasmin. or worse? But I don’t dare take a peek under my desk. then I put it away. She’s so tiny that her dresses look like dolls’ clothes when I hold them up against me. coughing loudly to cover the sound of it hitting the floor. Lael was right. sorry?” She clicks her tongue. 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. The two dresses I was thinking of are far too smart for tonight. Come and see me for extra homework after class. she turns back to the board. My stress levels are through the roof as it is. So now I’ve tried on everything in my cupboard and everything in Lael’s cupboard.The teacher’s voice snaps me to attention. but they’re all the wrong size. What if the screen cracked . Nosipho and Priya have been waving their clothes under my nose for me to try. thank goodness. I’m having a full-on meltdown. It’s still in one piece. *** A few hours later. I shove my chair back and scrabble on the floor for my phone..
Any moment now. “Well. It has to be a dress. “Why does it absolutely have to be a dress.” I hear the slight weariness in Nosipho’s voice and realise that my friends are also sick of all the drama. That’s the kind of thing she’ll store up and use against me later. switching the tears off at once. Matron or one of her deputies is going to come steaming in here to see what all the fuss is about. it’s her. but I can’t seem to help it.” I say stubbornly. Some small part of me is looking down on this scene and realising that I’m acting like a total drama queen. I turn around. But Sophie listens carefully. Why are you doing this to yourself?” “Zach has seen me in jeans and a top too many times. Trinity?” Lael says. “Trinity’s going to the postmatric party with Zach tonight and she needs something to wear. “I want him to see that I can do other looks too.I’ve got tears pouring down my face. That’s non-negotiable.” “And does that absolutely have to happen tonight?” “Yes. then I honestly don’t know what you’re going to do. I’m way beyond the point of being rational. exasperated.” I wail. “What’s the problem?” Sophie asks Nosipho. “You’ve got so many divine little tops that you could wear with jeans or pants. If there’s one person I don’t like to fall apart in front of. Then she goes to her wardrobe 106 Fiona Snyckers .” says a soft voice behind us. “Perhaps I can help. It’s Sophie. and the thought that I’m going to have red eyes later makes me sob even harder.” This makes me break out in fresh wails.
Trinity. I hold my breath Team Trinity 107 . “You know. no. “Oh.” Sophie gives a satisfied smile. and I just don’t care anymore. it’s a colour I never wear for a start – a sort of inky purple. It has spaghetti straps. I’m making it sound quite formal. By now everyone knows I’m wearing mismatched underwear. I eye the dress she’s holding out to me with suspicion. “That’s very nice. “This has always been a bit big for me. no. until the hem is almost black. but it’s just a cotton frock – the kind of dress you could easily wear on a sunny day. Sophie. who says nothing. Try it on. because it’s already reaching out for the dress.and starts flicking efficiently through the clothes hanging there. “Hey. Then Sophie swishes it from side to side on the hanger and I notice that it’s lighter at the top.” she says. no! You’re not doing this to me.” A chorus of agreement breaks out among the others. “I think I’ve got just the thing. All except Sophie. We both know you’re skinnier than me.” “Not at all. that’s nice!” Lael says enthusiastically as I’m still pulling my arms through the dress. a bit of ruching over the bodice. No. and the kind of A-line skirt that I like. getting darker on the way down. You’re not going to humiliate me by making me try on something in a size 8. but that would look right in the evening too.” Sophie says with a calm smile. I just know it’ll look gorgeous on you. Okay. “I knew you’d want to try it on.” This almost makes me start crying again. My hand seems to have a mind of its own. I start flinging off my clothes in front of everyone.
To cover my embarrassment. I usually only look like this in fittingroom mirrors in shops. She’s taller. 108 Fiona Snyckers . 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. you’re just not trying. “We’re just going to be at a party with loads of other people.” I shut up when I notice how amused everyone is looking.as she walks slowly around me. Her hair always falls perfectly into place and she never has a shiny forehead or spots on her chin. “What do you think?” I ask. My arms look toned and smooth. my waist looks tiny. I’m sounding way too defensive. “It’s perfect!” she says. I feel a lot better. I don’t know what they do to those mirrors to make everything you try on look good. “If you don’t manage to seduce Zach in that dress. flattering line from my shoulders to my knees. That’s what I look like now. sexier. but something about the combination of Zach and Sophie does that to me. I have to be back here at half-past nine. and my legs look slimmer and longer than I know they are in real life. Trinity-in-my-head is way cooler than Trinity-in-themirror. Sophie’s dress emphasises all my good points and plays down the bad ones. unable to bear her silence any longer. I walk over to the full-length mirror on my cupboard door to take a look at myself. It falls in a smooth. Her face breaks into a smile. slimmer. And anyway. Immediately. It’s not like we’ll be allowed to slip off somewhere. checking out the dress from all sides. and more confident.” “I’m not out to seduce him!” I hate how flustered I sound.
I’ll be mature about it. Then I’m struck by a horrible thought.. I won’t give her the satisfaction of seeing I’m upset. really. I remind myself. I turn around to face the girls. and there’s no trick lighting in here. If she won’t let me wear it. She must finally be forgetting about that silly Miss Sandton feud all those years ago. “So. of course you can’t actually borrow it – what are you thinking. Trinity. That’s very kind of you.” I turn back to the mirror.. “No. and they don’t look half as good in a normal mirror. my hair is all over the place.Sprinkle them with fairy dust. Who says elephants can’t change their spots? I mean leopards. “Can I actually borrow this for tonight? Because if not. This is the dress for me. But I still look fantastic. I’ve got no makeup on. so can I.” “Well . Sophie has changed – she really has. She’s been making a real effort to be nice to me ever since the beginning of the year. thanks. so then she could say. even if it is a bit formal for tonight. It’s Team Trinity 109 . I’m going to stop expecting the worst from her all the time.” Sophie opens her big blue eyes as wide as they’ll go. I’ll just wear my black dress. “Of course you can borrow it tonight. Well. But I’m looking in a normal mirror now. feeling all warm and fuzzy.” I say casually. I decide. if she can be that mature. I want you to knock Zach’s socks off. it’s fine. That’s the whole point. are you nuts?” That’s exactly the kind of thing she’d do. 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. probably. And then you get the new clothes home. This is the dress I’m wearing tonight.
to be honest. The thought of it makes me shiver. I’d probably still be lying in wait for him outside the Postmatric Annexe. Once again. begging him to explain some stupid problem or other. I’d have given up by now. not to mention all that extra maths homework I got landed with today. If it weren’t for Sophie.” 110 Fiona Snyckers . like that’s going to happen. and Zach would be going out with some matric girl with a short skirt and a loud laugh. We are alone in the dormitory. much further behind. This gives me a slight twinge in the conscience department as I remember the biology assignment and history essay I haven’t quite finished. She looks up blankly. “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’m grateful that I’m not living at home or I’d be much. I went to a double session of supervised homework this afternoon and got a lot done. *** Just before supper. Yeah. It’s obvious she hasn’t heard a word I just said. “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. Actually. She’s packing her schoolbag for tomorrow and checking her homework. but I should really go to an evening session tonight to get it all finished. I’m trying to calm my nerves by hanging out with Lael. trigonometry textbook in hand.
“And there’s no way I can’t take it personally. She turns her face away.” “It’s just my mom. Then she sits back and looks at me.” “I guess. but you’ll probably feel better if you do. there is.” “You mean you agree?” “Yes.” I look more closely at Lael and notice that her eyes are sliding away from mine.” “It’s not nothing. “Tell me again. 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.” Lael finally finds her protractor and slides it into her bag. is there?” “Yes. I’m never going to change her. and maybe we should try to be a bit nicer to her.. And you also know she doesn’t mean half the stuff she says – you just take it too personally. “Nothing.” “What do you mean?” Lael hesitates and I feel a beat of apprehension. as usual..” I say sulkily. but I’d swear I’m not the only one who’s been crying. seeing as it’s aimed at me.” “It wasn’t much really. “Hey . it must be something.“Sorry.” “Oh. They’re also just a little bit red and swollen. I know all Team Trinity 111 .” Lael says bitterly. she means it this time. If it’s bothering you. It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. Why not? I’m sure you’re right. I didn’t notice it before while I was having my what-to-wear meltdown. “Just that I think she really has changed for the better. so there’s no point in talking about it. what’s up?” I sit down on the bed next to her and put my arm around her shoulders. You know it always helps to talk about it.
“What has she done now? You know you’re going to tell me anyway. “It’s this. “It’s not available in South Africa yet. She seems to be doing knee-bends for some mysterious reason.. Lael turns into a nervous and insecure version of herself. Whatever it is.” Lael pulls out a box and puts it on the bed next to me.” “She sent me something.” Lael says at last. There’s a picture of a skinny blonde woman wearing a tank top and tight shorts on the box. “A Brand New You” it promises in attractive pink writing. I stare at it for a moment.. and has a smug smile on her face.” Slowly she stands up and starts fiddling around in her cupboard – moving jeans and T-shirts out of the way. Mom found it in Los Angeles. Basically. “Show me. but keeps farming her out to friends and relatives so that she can spend all her time globetrotting. if you take the stereotype of the traditional Jewish mother – warm. apparently. some kind of diet?” I hazard. fussing over her kid. nurturing.. You can lose up to 4 kgs a month. making her wear a jersey when she goes out.about how she criticises Lael and runs her down all the time. then you’ll have Shirley Lieberman. How she can’t be bothered to be a real mother to her. “Is this . it’s well hidden. She bought me enough 112 Fiona Snyckers . And how whenever she does spend time with her daughter. cooking up delicious meals – and imagine the exact opposite of that. Lael nods miserably. There’s also a twirly graphic of a tape measure wrapped around the box.
. She thinks I’m more likely to stick to it that way. too. 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. Hang on. you know that’s not true.for three months. ‘I’m sure your friend Trinity would be delighted to join you on this weight-loss journey. For a start. honey. with lots of little “Brand New You” boxes inside it.” She unfolds a letter that was stuck between all the boxes. You’re gorgeous just the way you are.” Lael dives back into her cupboard and rootles around among her shoes. blah blah blah. blah. You have guys queuing up to go out with you. “She wants us to do the diet together. lose up to 4 kgs a month with this easy. “She wants . 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.” “She wants you to do the diet. I’ve got her letter here somewhere.” I put the box down and give her a hug. and have therefore included a month’s starter pack for her too. or else I’ll end up saying something Team Trinity 113 .. what was that again?” I ask carefully.’ So what do you think of that?” What I think is that I need to take a few deep breaths before I answer. I’m really looking forward to see a new. svelte you in the April holidays. She comes out with a much bigger DHL box. okay here it is. Let me read it to you. so she obviously thinks I need to lose at least 12 kgs. “Ah. blah. here it is. but that doesn’t mean you have to buy into it. The first box was obviously just the tip of the diet iceberg.. “Okay.” There’s a sudden silence.. blah. “Let’s see .
revealing an intriguing glimpse of Tupperware. Almost immediately. “Just replace two meals a day with our deliciously filling meal replacement shakes or soups. however much they might do it themselves. She takes out two information leaflets and we both settle down to read them.” I say in a fairly calm voice. “You can’t expect to lose 4 kgs every month. I’d be a size 10. 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. We’ve taken all the guesswork out of caloriecounting. I can feel myself being seduced. and enjoy a balanced meal with your family in the evening. “So that must mean she thinks I need to lose about 4 kgs.” 114 Fiona Snyckers . Simply choose three items from our extensive list of permitted foods and watch the weight melt off in all the right places. It’s my hips. No more needing to take a size 12 in some brands of clothes. I sit back down on Lael’s bed.about Lael’s mom that I’ll regret. bum and thighs that I’d like to change. I’m basically happy with my body from the waist up. Here’s the thing. Because no one likes you to slag off their family. Let us do the hard work for you. “Let’s say between three and four kilograms. It all sounds so reasonable and scientific.” Lael says. is it? I mean. sachets and pill bottles. “Let’s see what this diet is all about. I’m trying to imagine myself three to four kilos lighter than I am now. if I lost that much weight.” Lael breaks open two of the boxes. bordering on a size 8. And a month isn’t that long.” I stand up to look at myself in her mirror.
Lael has a similar faraway look in her eyes.” We start unpacking them like a couple of kids at Christmas. and three kinds of pill bottles labelled “vitamin and mineral complex”. There are lots and lots of sachets containing powder. but we can buy one on our next exeat. My glance lands on a section called “No Hunger Pangs” and my smile grows wider. just imagine.. I mean..I imagine the weight melting off in all the right places. do you?” I point out. I know it was a cheek for her to send it to us and everything.” “What else is in the boxes?” “I don’t know.” I say casually. “Except I don’t have a kettlebell. “Just imagine if it actually works. an exercise booklet!” says Lael. 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. “Energex-Z all-day energy formula” and “No-Hunger formula”. “Ooh. “No.” “Yeah. “You know. White Fennel is a herbal product that is scientifically proven to reduce hunger.” Team Trinity 115 . There a plastic shaker for mixing the soups and shakes. look. She holds up a little book featuring the skinny woman from the box doing all kinds of exercises with a kettlebell. but just . trying to keep the excitement out of my voice. while our patented formula Energex-Z will ensure that your energy levels stay constant. with no listless dips during the day. “This actually doesn’t sound too bad. Let’s have a look.. “Our specially formulated.” Lael says wistfully.
” “Awesome! And look. the shakes and soups come in different flavours so we won’t get bored. But the point is. It’s for the kids like us who don’t go home on weekends. we could pop into Verimark or one of those places and buy a couple of kettlebells.” 116 Fiona Snyckers .“Our next what?” “Exeat. and butternut. “We’re really doing this. and carrot and coriander for the soup. There are usually about two a term. aren’t we?’ “Yes!” I laugh. There’s chocolate. beef. Don’t you know about those? We get to go to Sandton City or Montecasino or somewhere for a few hours on some Saturdays. grab a coffee. strawberry and vanilla for the shakes. It’s a lot of fun. That’s Latin for outing. and do some shopping. You can go to the movies.” Lael looks at me and grins. “We really are.
It’s hard to say which is more irritating. you whale” faction. things might get a bit complicated tomorrow when we start refusing all food for breakfast and lunch. and apple crumble for dessert. with rice and veggies. This way we won’t feel deprived when the diet starts. but I reckon it will be okay. and mixing up shakes and soups in the dormitory.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. The need for secrecy is something we don’t even discuss. By the look on her face at the end of supper. so we make the most of it. 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. There’s lamb stew for supper. 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. But it was worth it. And who cares if it has an extra roll to forgive Team Trinity 117 . I’m slightly worried about fitting into Sophie’s dress after that second helping of dessert. The whole point of the dress is that it’s very forgiving. I have two helpings of everything. And then there’s the “So you’re finally going on a diet – about time too. she’s feeling just as uncomfortable as I am. and so does Lael. Tonight is our last night of not being on a diet. Yes. We just want to be left in peace to get on with it.
She gives me a sharp look as the zip sticks for a moment halfway up the dress. but manages not to make any comments about apple crumble. “Just relax and be yourself.tonight? I’m going to be losing loads of weight from tomorrow. You look fine just as you are.” Sophie says briskly. staring at myself in the mirror. “You’ll look like you’re trying too hard – like you’re expecting too much from tonight. “Yes. “No. In the old days.” “It’ll be great.” *** An hour later. Because all of this year’s 118 Fiona Snyckers . She even brushes my hair and helps me clip it back with a matching inkypurple clip. “Should I put on some makeup?” I ask. “What do you think it’s going to be like tonight? I suppose everyone will know everyone else except me. 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.” I sag against my cupboard. That’s something else that’s new.” says Sophie. You’ll be fine. I’m wondering whether just being myself is going to cut it this time. Sophie helps me get ready for the party. This party looks exactly like a suburban braai. with the women standing chatting in one corner of the room and the men in another. feeling a sudden rush of nerves.” says Lael.” “Okay.
and I know how she feels because I can’t quite believe it either. and most of them are glued to the TV. “Yes..” I pull a face. We’d be getting on better if the guys had introduced us to each other. but there’s some day-night cricket match going on.” she says. “Any relation to. There are a couple of matric girls. “Luhabe?” She looks at me more closely.postmatrics are guys. I notice a girl on the edge of the cricket-watching crowd peel away and come towards me.” I say resignedly. “Trinity Luhabe. all of their guests are girls. by the way. but the rest are in their first year at university or taking some kind of gap year. “I take it it’s not your favourite sport either?” “Not really.” Team Trinity 119 . but it’s an impossible situation. I’m making an effort to sound interested in her course. I’m the youngest by far. She obviously can’t believe she’s stuck talking to a Grade 10 at her boyfriend’s party. I’m trying to have a conversation with a girl who’s doing Graphic Design at Wits. putting out her hand.?” ‘Abel Luhabe.. and the girls mostly don’t know each other. I don’t dare. but with the house warden watching.” I shake her hand enthusiastically because I’m so grateful to be talking to someone at last. he’s my father. There are some snacks and drinks on offer. “I’m Vusi Maleka.” she says with a smile. “I’m tired of pretending to be interested in cricket. The Graphic Design student has wandered off without a word and I’m standing around feeling lost. and I’d love to sneak a Brutal Fruit.
Are you going out with him?” “For three years now. “And how do you like it? Is this a good school?” “I love it – it’s a great school. well.” she giggles. Where were you in matric?” “In Mpumalanga. “So. right .” she nods. Trinity?” she asks instead. but something in my expression warns her not to go there. “That’s right. though. Do you know him?” I can’t help laughing. “I know how to control it.“Oh. “On the contrary. but she doesn’t. of course I know him. why? Has he been acting like he’s single?” “No.” She looks as though she’s going to pursue the topic.. He’s one of the heroes of the school. He was our top athlete last year. He doesn’t go over the top with me. He’s always been completely immune to us Brentwood girls.. “Yes .” “And who are you here with?” “Mpume Thlogoane.. you’re a learner here. so Joburg is quite a different scene for me. and wanting to BBM the news to Lael and the girls 120 Fiona Snyckers . Like none of us were good enough for him.. “Yes. “Three years?” I’m gobsmacked.” I’m fascinated. “Really? So all this time he’s had a long-distance girlfriend?” She frowns slightly. Now I’m torn between wanting to pump her for more details about what Mpume is really like. that’s interesting.” I’m expect her to back off as soon as she hears how young I am. We thought he was suffering from a giant ego. you know? And all this time it was just because he already had a girlfriend. no!” I rush to clear up this misconception.” “He does have a slightly giant ego. I’m in Grade 10.
“Rained out. I had other people to talk to. even though they’re here with other guys. He really is quite ridiculously hot. “And the weather people say they probably won’t be able to come back on tonight. “Your ability to talk to anyone. and that means we’ll lose because our run rate is much slower than theirs.” I try to arrange my face into a suitably sympathetic expression. You don’t have to worry about me. but he’s already steering me towards the drinks table.” “Of course. I find myself losing interest in anything else. I’m about to introduce Zach to Vusi. As I watch the muscles in his throat move as he swallows.” he says.immediately. “That’s something else I love about you. He helps himself to a Windhoek Lager and twists the cap off in one practised move. looking annoyed. Looks like it’ll be a Duckworth-Lewis situation.” Zach smiles and flicks my cheek. and within seconds you were chatting away to people like you’d known them your whole life. “I understand. I’m fingering my phone longingly when the group gathered around the TV breaks up with loud cries of disappointment. “Sorry to have abandoned you like that.” he says.” Team Trinity 121 . I love how you arrived here knowing no one.” Zach says once he puts down his drink. but all I can think about is the Mpume news. “What’s wrong?” I ask as Zach comes up to me. A few of the girls are also paying attention.” I wave away his concern. “But it was a very important match. This is the best piece of spreadable gossip I’ve heard in ages. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
it’s nothing. Trinity. You’re smart and gorgeous and clever and . speaking somebody else’s lines.” “I’m never going to break up with you!” I say. gorgeous. “They’re in Chile.” I say. and I really don’t deserve you.. Of course I’m never going to get bored with you. All they’re thinking about is sinking mine shafts and having all their environmental 122 Fiona Snyckers . it’s not nothing. “I’m the lucky one. It’s crazy how a single word of praise from Zach can turn me to jelly. “Of course they don’t have a boyfriend lined up for me. You’re always so patient and cheerful. I bet they’ve got a boyfriend lined up for you already. I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you.” “But you’re the daughter of one of the most famous men in the country. “No. I have to force my mouth to drop open and my eyes to widen in shock. and . “I’m the lucky one. I mean. sexy.” I say.” he says gloomily..” “Of course you deserve me!” I’m incredulous.. “You’ll get bored with me long before I get bored with you. I almost feel like I’m an actor on stage. Every day I have to pinch myself to believe that this is real – that I’m really going out with you. alarmed by this sudden train of thought.. but inside I’m glowing with pride. Your parents must introduce you to amazing guys all the time.“Oh. You’re an amazing girl.” “So you admit you’re going to get bored with me?” “No! It was just a figure of speech.” He’s watching me closely to see my reaction. Then I give a little laugh to show how crazy I find it all. It’s just a matter of time before you realise that and break up with me.” “No.
But the point is that they’re not trying to choose a boyfriend for me. and chatting to some of his friends. 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. sipping his beer. but then somebody turns the music up really loud. It’s mainly the girls who take to the dance-floor at first. “I BBM my mom all day long. Nicki Minaj is singing her heart out and the party is really starting to heat up. trying to look extra sexy for him. I smile at him and shrug. If only I didn’t have such an early curfew – I feel I could keep this up all night. then hold out my hand for him to come and dance. so I really throw myself into the music. Team Trinity 123 . He shakes his head and mouths something that looks like “I’m not a dancer”. I’ve made it sound like my parents don’t care about me at all.” I explain.” “But you are in touch with them. I keep hoping that Zach will come and join me. I’m sure I’m the last thing on their minds. and it’s no longer possible to have a conversation unless you’re prepared to scream. right?” He looks so concerned that for a moment I think I’ve overdone it. “We’re in touch all the time. but he stays on the sidelines. I think they’d be happier if I didn’t have a boyfriend at all at the moment. a few of the guys do too. but after a while. Every now and then I see him glancing over at me. To be honest.ducks in a row. They think I’m too young and should be concentrating on schoolwork.” It looks as though Zach’s going to say something else.
” I whisper reluctantly into his ear.” *** Zach walks me back to Sisulu House without taking his arm off my shoulders. with his arm slung warmly over my shoulders. his breath tickling my cheek. snagging a bottle of water on the way. “Come along then. but if I’m late. The evening is very dark and quiet. “I know. “I’ve got to go in a minute. I’m here with Zach and it would be bad manners for me to dance all evening when he doesn’t feel like it. I can also hear the sound of my own breathing and feel my heart banging away inside my chest. as I notice the time creeping closer to half-past nine.” he murmurs back. Matron won’t let me out again this term. I break away from the dancers and head back to him. There’s the high-pitched chirr of crickets that for me is the sound of a Highveld night. “I wish you didn’t have to. Is he going to kiss me? We haven’t kissed since that day he took me to his room. There’s no moon and the only light is coming from the boarding houses. surely he will? It’s the perfect 124 Fiona Snyckers . It’s impossible not to feel proud. my body pulled firmly against his. Because this proves he didn’t invite me just as a friend. So after about twenty minutes. doesn’t it? Friends don’t hold friends the way Zach is holding me.” He smiles and gives me one last squeeze. me too.But of course I don’t. and his hand resting barely a millimetre above my butt. But tonight. He smiles and puts his arm around me.
Surely now would be a good time for a kiss? If we get any closer.” I say softly. Break it up. I slow down as we get closer to the entrance. Team Trinity 125 . pulling me even closer. A few heads turn to watch us curiously and at that exact moment. I jump away from Zach as if he’s burning hot. And immediately the spell is broken.” “I did too. “Okay. that’s enough. “Thanks for coming. but he gives Matron the full beam of his most charming smile. I hear a couple of wolfwhistles from girls who have stopped to watch. Then just as my knees feel like they’re starting to buckle. up the steps.opportunity. We’ve got a couple of minutes before I have to clock in with Matron. Zach swings me around to face him and brings his mouth down hard on mine. There’s no one around. and into the entrance. carrying a clipboard and looking seriously annoyed. And everything about the quiet atmosphere of the night – from the filtered golden light from Sisulu House. a voice barks. “I had a really great time tonight. Zach looks down at me and for a second I think he’s going to stop.” It’s Matron. to the faint scent of the rose garden – seems to whisper romance. It’s all bright lights and noise as the matrics clatter up the stairs after their last homework session of the night.” he replies. there will be too many people around.” Ha! I knew it. But then he keeps right on going. I knew he was watching me. The kiss takes my breath away with its intensity. “Thanks for inviting me. I loved watching you dance.
” he says. I’ll just be going then. I know she’s just trying to look out for me. as though she’s the only one who can physically restrain me from rushing back out and smooching the face off Zach. I mean. She glances at her watch and makes a sort of growling noise in her throat.” Matron isn’t buying it. as you can see. Matron escorts me all the way to the Grade 10 dormitory. I’m telling you this for your own good.“Thank you so much for letting Trinity come to the party tonight. “I’ve brought her back in good time. and what would my father say if he could see me now. Zach’s smile dims slightly. wondering why she’s not saying anything.” I turn my head so I can roll my eyes without her seeing. 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. As soon the door has closed behind 126 Fiona Snyckers . but I don’t agree with classifying people like that.” And he speed-walks towards the door. muttering at me in Xhosa about how boys won’t respect me if I carry on like that. 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. “Well . I look closely at Lael. my girl. They only want one thing. “You must be careful of the white boys.. 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. it’s not like we were in his room – like the kiss could develop into anything. You can’t trust them to know where to draw the line. and notice that her cheeks are bulging suspiciously.. I’m actually surprised I’m not in handcuffs by this point.
I’m not sure how enthusiastic I’m going to feel about drinking a strawberry-flavoured milkshake instead.. Lael and I are going to be the best dieters that Brand New You has ever had. as I polish off my first doughnut and take a second. of course. “Ooh .” “Oh . Okay. Lael pulls a box of doughnuts out from under her duvet. I think the official reason given is that the crumbs might attract rats and mice. and Brentwood has never had a rodent problem. I start to think how nice it would be to feel lean and empty for a change. reaching for the box and helping myself to one with white icing and sprinkles. Team Trinity 127 . But as the second doughnut goes down fast. I’d almost forgotten about the diet. gimme!” I say.. It’s one of those rules that everyone turns a blind eye to. “We’re celebrating our last night of freedom as nondieters. Of course.Matron. that feeling of over-stuffed nausea kicks in. We’re not really supposed to eat in our dorms. It’s omelette day at breakfast tomorrow. And. how nice it would be to zip up my jeans and find that they’re too loose for me. right. “Tomorrow we’re going to be as good as gold. They’re from the tuckshop. but tonight we stuff our faces.” Lael explains. and I take a bite of the third. But girls have been breaking this rule every day for the last twenty years. which makes the best doughnuts in the known world. although it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to flash a box of doughnuts right under Matron’s nose.” To be honest... now I’m getting my mojo back. I feel a twinge of anxiety at the thought. I can’t wait to get started on this diet. “What’s the occasion?” I ask.
improved me. This diet is going to be a great experience for us. but the other girls only take one each.” Nosipho pulls a face behind her back. By this time next week. Later. 128 Fiona Snyckers . I feel uncomfortable and a bit disgusted with myself. 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. running my hand over the unfamiliar bulge in my tummy. who takes none.Lael offers the box of doughnuts around the dorm. after lights out. but she’s actually done us a favour this time. making me giggle. And I can’t wait until Zach sees the new. “I’ve never had a sweet tooth. I lie in bed. “Give me a nice apple or some carrot sticks any day. I must have eaten more today than I ever have in my life before. Except for Sophie. watching in disbelief as I lick icing off my fingers. But never mind.” she explains.
This is a brand new start for me. better me. I don’t know what came over us.CHAPTER 16 I WAS secretly worried that some of my enthusiasm might have faded overnight. yawning and stretching. Team Trinity 129 .” “I couldn’t eat a doughtnut now if you gave me a million bucks. Then everyone drifts down to the dining-hall.. Just the smell of that box makes me want to hurl..” “I wonder if this is what a food hangover feels like.” I know exactly what she means. why did I have to think about that now? But apart from the food hangover. The other girls emerge from their cubicles. I’m on my way to a newer. I feel great. Urrgh . I can tell Lael feels the same. but I wake up the next morning feeling seriously motivated. and I can’t wait to get there. 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. while those who like to bath at night start pulling on their uniforms. Some head off to the showers. Put it back in the bin.” “Two million bucks. 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. It’s ridiculous. “Can you believe we ate all that?” “I know. I’ve got a slight headache.
We’ll be sabotaging ourselves before we’ve even got started. wait . There’s one tiny jug of fat-free at the teacher’s table. “Milk.” I say.” “Then it’ll have to be full-cream. “What about you?” “Vanilla. “I’m having strawberry this morning..” she calls back.” I say. not to mention the number of fat grams. but she also heads downstairs for breakfast. We’ll just have to do that then. that’s no good either. it says you can also mix one and a half sachets with plain water if you choose. “Right!” Lael says. We’ll have to go down to the dining-hall and pinch some. closing the door. pretending to be looking for something.“Coming?” Yasmin asks Lael and me.’ Oh. ‘Place contents of one sachet in a glass and mix with 250ml of fat-free milk.. “In a minute.. “Let’s get this show on the road. okay.. no!” We look at each other in dismay.” “No good. That’ll throw the calorie count right out. We haven’t got any milk.” I say. “Look.” 130 Fiona Snyckers .” We dig sachets of the Brand New You breakfast shakes out of our cupboards. “They only have full-cream. “Now what’s happened to the instructions? I know I put them . Then my face clears.” I stare at the sachet as though it might contain some suggestions on how to make milk appear out of thin air.” “So what are we going to do?” “I don’t know. It’ll be fine. but that’s it. I notice Sophie giving us a suspicious look.” “No. here they are.
Lael is much sportier than me. The powder floats spookily on top of the water. Not all that different from a real milkshake. We fit the tops of the shakers into place and start shaking for all we’re worth.. cheers! Bottoms up. I’ve never been all that keen on exercise.. “We really need to shape up.” I say vaguely... Sitting on top of about four doughnuts from last night. bending but not breaking the surface – like in a science experiment.” We drink our shakes straight out of the shakers seeing as we don’t have any cups or glasses either. rinsing her shaker under the tap. somehow.” I pull a face.. “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. ashamed at how out of breath I am.” Lael says.” I puff. They’re thicker too. “Yeah.” Lael says after about two minutes. well . “Not bad. “And it really fills you up. They taste .” I give my tummy an experimental prod. with a kind of fibre-y texture that you can almost chew. She’s right. If this is how exhausted we are after just mixing our shakes. “Okay . actually.. except not as sweet. quite nice..Lael decides to have strawberry as well so that we can use up three sachets without any leftovers. We empty the powder into our shakers and fill them up with tap water. I think we need to do some exercise. the milkshake has made me feel almost uncomfortably full. “And now for the pills!” Team Trinity 131 .. “That should do it.
And probably some help getting out of the seat too. It’s the pictures that I find most amazing. 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. It felt like we were getting more time to chill. Lael and I pack the evidence back into our cupboards. Come on. Lael and I just hung out on the sports field. Instead of going back to Sisulu House. There was this one woman who was so obese she was practically circular. I’m really proud of how I’ve coped with the morning.” I glance at my watch and see that she’s right. Then we head out to face the day. Googling weight-loss tips on our phones. We need to take two of each three times a day. The others will be coming back from breakfast soon. She looked like someone who would need a seatbelt-extender on an aeroplane. “What is all this anyway?” “Vitamin supplement with minerals and trace elements. but I manage to choke it down. I’m gagging. By the sixth one. It wasn’t even difficult to avoid the fruit and sandwiches at break. We’ve been faffing about for nearly twenty minutes. And then in the “after” picture. there she is nearly a hundred pounds lighter.I pull a face as Lael plonks three pill bottles in front of me. I start gulping down the pills with water. It was actually quite enjoyable not to have our break disturbed by food for once. What’s that – about 50 kgs or 132 Fiona Snyckers . *** By lunchtime. and natural appetite control supplement. carb and fat blocker. let’s get it down.
There’s that kettle in the matrics’ study. rich. Second break also passes happily in a haze of weightloss Googling. “Let’s go and do this in the common room. but I don’t think we should risk it. But by lunchtime. It’s thick. so she doesn’t count. my mom had three kids and she’s as skinny as anything. She was only nineteen when I was born. she’s always had the metabolism of a stick insect on speed. Gosh. warming me up and giving me energy. It sounds delicious. “Soup-time. We slip some sachets under our shirts and head downstairs to the common room. “Right. Mind you. and Creamy Butternut. it’s hard to choose. but I do Team Trinity 133 . 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. “Hearty Beef. Last night’s doughnuts have finally worn off and I’m looking forward to trying out one of the Brand New You soups. isn’t it?” “Never mind. Carrot and Coriander. And anyway. It’s absolutely amazing. If they catch us. I enjoy every mouthful. we’ll get through all of them in the end. feeling it slide down into my tummy. we’ll get detention.so? Now she’s a model who has just entered her fourth Body-Beautiful competition. what have we got?” Lael checks the sachets. And that’s after three kids as well. I have to admit I’m quite peckish.” And it is. I can’t say I enjoy swallowing the six pills nearly as much. rubbing her hands together. But she had us young. yummy!” Lael comes into the dormitory. hot and filling. I’m going to have the Creamy Butternut today.
Sure you don’t want to come?” I give a little shudder. Before long. I feel my eyes start to droop. seriously. To say that Lael is sportier than me is like saying Rihanna can sing better than me.it because I know I need them if I’m going to make this diet work. By rights she should be super-thin considering how active she is. with bugged-out eyes and waggling fingers. When I open them again – which can’t be more than five minutes later – I find James Ellison sitting in a chair opposite me.” Lael says as she comes back from rinsing her mug.” He says this in a serial killer voice. right? And you know what – I feel a bit lighter already. looking all fit and energetic in her red PE shorts and trainers. “Well. “I know.” “Suit yourself!” She bounces out. “No.. who does that? Would it kill you to clear your throat or something? I 134 Fiona Snyckers . I give a tiny gasp and sit bolt upright. thanks. Just sitting here.” I smooth a hand over my stomach.” “Oh. I’ll just sit here and let that soup settle a bit. catching up on everyone’s BBM updates.. I’m going for a run while everyone is still at lunch. Watching you sleep. nothing. convinced it feels flatter than yesterday. I’m not leaving it to chance. “We’re lucky to be on a diet that lets us have such great food. I refuse to smile. but since when does life ever play fair?I settle down in an armchair and start flicking through my phone. “Quite sure. Passing the time of day. “What are you doing here? You scared me half to death.
So. “I don’t think her religion is exactly relevant here. I take it all back.’ And then you made kissykissy noises with your mouth. for goodness sake. Shouldn’t you be in the dining-hall hoovering up a chicken burger?” As I say it. “Come back! Sit down. Armed response. The whole deal. “Groovy? Go steady? Not even in my dreams do I join the cast of Grease. as if he genuinely has no idea what I’m getting at. I want to go steady with him.” He gets up and swaggers towards the door.” This time I laugh out loud. ‘I love him. Or talking in my sleep. “Trying to get rid of me.could have been drooling. hey? Fine. He’s so groovy. I can’t help myself. even after the soup. And I won’t tell you about my secret-agent work in the headmaster’s study.” “Right. then. I wish Lael hadn’t picked now to go for a run. You said.” “Your Jewish friend? Is she the ringleader of this plan?” I give him a sharp look. knowing full well I’m going to scream for him to come back. the place is basically Fort Knox. okay?” He gives me a puzzled look. You can watch me sleep anytime you like. Security gate. Let’s just call her my friend.” Team Trinity 135 . I’m going to have to remember everything to tell her later.” “You were. She could have listened and taken notes. Your friend. “Okay. Alarm. What did you find out?” “Well. Beams. I’ll go. Just tell me what you found out. Mr Creepy. You’d think they were keeping the crown jewels in there. I suddenly realise that I am the teensiest bit hungry.
“Mrs Anderssen.” “No. For instance.” “Okay.. That’s when we’ve got what I like to call the human element to deal with.. that means weak point. Well.. Uh . But the daytime is a whole different kettle of fish. not her. I just said they’ve got excellent security.“I knew it. I wouldn’t suggest trying to break in when it’s all locked up for the night. you know. No.?” I’m trying to follow his logic here.. Mrs Andrews.” “Right. that’s no good either. there’s an internal door between her office and his. isn’t she? She works in the main admin offices. “I might not be white. the one I’m talking about is the headmaster’s personal secretary. she works in this little office that’s right next door to the headmaster’s study. and she doesn’t have a security gate on her door.” My mood dips.” “Is that any way to talk? I didn’t say it was hopeless. When I open them again.” I snap. or something.” “That’s right. I close my eyes to help me think.” “Anderssen. It was a silly idea anyway. but English is still my home language.. or beams. or anything.. “No. “Plus. “It’s hopeless. We’ll just have to give up. And the human element is definitely their Achilles heel. I can’t keep the disappointment out of my voice. Well. Sorry.” “You mean Mrs Pieterse? She’s a friend of my mom’s.” I correct. the human element I’m thinking of is the secretary. There is a door between the two offices. or alarms. Mrs Pieterse is the school secretary. but it’s made from reinforced 136 Fiona Snyckers .” “Hang on a minute!” I try to picture the office as I saw it in January.” “I know what it means.
It was something we’d have fun planning.. You know. “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. “Is this for real?” “Of course it is. Even if we do manage to get into his office. this plan felt like a game. She keeps all her paperwork on her desk for the week. “Wait a minute.” “Really?” “Really.” James shakes his head. Like when my brothers and I used to play at being the Famous Five or the Secret Seven.” A bit too possible.” He grins at my eager face.” I say. The beams are designed for someone who doesn’t know they’re there.steel. Dr Hussein’s big mistake was to tell you Team Trinity 137 .” “Trinity..” he says. while she makes tea. It’s actually very simple. Up until now.. wanders about. It takes her the whole morning and she basically leaves the inter-leading door unlocked the entire time. “Let’s not forget about the infra-red beams. maybe. and then on Wednesdays she files the lot. An alarm will go off and the armed response company will arrive. raising his eyebrows at me. Would I lie to you?” “But this is brilliant! This makes it all possible. We’d never get through it. Dr Hussein showed it to my dad. thinking hard. goes to the cloakroom.” “Not while it’s locked. we can’t just open the trophy cabinet and help ourselves to the shield. but would never actually do in real life. “Isn’t it always locked?” “Not on a Wednesday morning when Mrs Anderssen does her filing. anyway.. Trinity.
“What do you want a torch for?” “Find me one and you’ll see. I crouch down and start searching through the common-room TV cabinet. Matches. “Is there a point to this?” “That torch is the security beam and your hand is the Gumede Shield. “Switch it on. Imagine there’s another eye built into the back of your chair and take your hand away. let’s see.” I think hard for a moment. an alarm is triggered.” he says. But the beam doesn’t know or care what is in its way. torch. Loadshedding supplies. So as long as there is something in its way.” “Now hold your hand up to break the beam. Have you got a torch?” I’m mystified. 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. He doesn’t take it. an alarm will go off.about it in the first place. the alarm won’t go off. Battery-powered lamps.. So as soon as someone removes the shield. Aha! Here we go. As soon as the beam hits that other eye. I switch it on and am surprised to see that it works.. Candles. “Okay . Feebly.” “Okay.” “Done.. it’s almost too easy to get around. A torch. Because as soon as you know it’s there. “Now shine it against the back of your chair. Torch .” I look down at the bright disc of light reflected against the palm of my hand.” I straighten up and hold it out to him.” 138 Fiona Snyckers . but it works.
you know. I’m practically a ninja.” “Well.“I see!” I say. weren’t you?” He looks smug. We’re doing it for girls everywhere. The girls of Sisulu House thank you. “That’s so easy! I can’t believe it’s so simple. Are you sure that’s all there is to it?” “Absolutely. still. boy! Suppertime. we aren’t interested in any of that other stuff. No one saw what I was doing.” Team Trinity 139 . I hope you’re not going to get into any trouble.” *** “Oh. You might be a total and utter sexist pig most of the time. for example. It’s just a piece of wood with some brass on it. Exactly what we need. listen.” I say defensively. “So all we need to do is put a book or something in the way of the beam. “We’re not thieves. “Don’t worry about me. it’s designed for someone who doesn’t know it’s there. and then remove the shield. There’s other stuff in the office that’s much more valuable. You must have spent hours hanging around outside the office. excited.” “If you say so. but today you did a good thing. I don’t know how you managed to get all that information. It’s not like we’re pinching that shield for ourselves. You were careful. it’s not as though the shield has any actual value. thanks so much for doing this. And let’s face it.” “I do say so. But. Like I said. but it’s fantastic.” “Well.” “Exactly!” He looks pleased with himself. You couldn’t sell it for money.
but we can definitely have a square meal. “I know!” Lael has the same eager look on her face. It’s all I can do to keep from drooling. you know . “I mean.” “What?” “Maybe we should just .” “Oh. do we? Like maybe there are restrictions on the carbs or something.. right?” “I think so.I can’t help rubbing my hands together and grinning... Isn’t it six o’clock yet?” I glance at my watch for the millionth time.. “Okay.” 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. but she pulls herself together. boy!” she says happily. “Okay.” I say doubtfully. reading over her shoulder. “The milkshake and the soup were nice and everything.. Let’s do it. double-check what it says about suppers..” “We can basically eat whatever we like for supper tonight. I don’t think we can have dessert or anything like that. We don’t want to make a mistake... doesn’t it?” “Hang on. “That sounds all right. One roast potato instead of two – that kind of thing. “Still ten minutes to go. here it is.” Lael’s lip quivers for an instant.” “In the evening. 140 Fiona Snyckers . but I’m just about ready for some real food now. there’s more.” I say. “Listen.” Lael turns the page and there we are. you are free to enjoy a balanced. satisfying meal with your family. face to face with the bad news.
I bet when we start eating this evening we’ll find that it doesn’t take all that much to fill us up. no larger than a pack of playing cards. “‘Use a zesty squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to liven up your delicious salad. We thought we could basically eat anything we liked tonight.. “Whoever’s eating that lot has got it made. “As much salad or steamed vegetables as you desire.” “Exactly!” I say indignantly. “Look at that picture on the previous page.choosing items from the list below.” Lael continues.’ Oh no! This is a total swizz. Plus! Team Trinity 141 . We’d been looking forward to it all day.” “Your point being?” I ask sharply.” “About what?” Disappointment quivers in my voice.” “Okay. right? This isn’t what we were expecting. “My point being that we’ll get through this. a heap of roast potatoes with gravy. It’s just that our minds haven’t quite caught up yet. I can’t help it. “Well. “Let’s just back up for a moment and think. So I bet our stomachs have really shrunk. my voice rising to a wail. We’ve had hardly anything to eat the whole day – just a milkshake and some soup. your eyes are bigger than your stomach?” “Uh huh. “We’re feeling let down. running her fingers through her hair. You know that old expression..” “. and a pile of vegetables gleaming with butter.” I read.” Lael says..” I point to a full-colour photograph of a plate groaning with roast chicken.” My ouma uses that line on my brothers all the time.“One portion of lean protein. covered in crispy golden skin. Trinity. But it’s certainly not anyone on the Brand New You diet..
We can go completely mad on salad.” Lael says. Don’t forget that part. She’s in perfect-dieter mode and nothing is going to put her off. It’s lucky one of us is.” I say reluctantly. because I was teetering on the brink of giving up. 142 Fiona Snyckers . holding the booklet out to me. “Doesn’t she look happy? Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying her salad?” “She looks high. But Lael won’t be deterred. on the other hand.” “I guess. But her pep talk has worked.. We can eat three bowls of it if we like. “And anyway. I’m going into that dining-hall and I’m eating salad if it kills me. look at this picture of the Brand New You woman eating salad. staring at the expression of crazed ecstasy on the woman’s face. I’m back in the zone. work really well together.” I say. ‘Go completely mad’ and ‘salad’ are not concepts I’ve ever thought of putting in the same sentence before..We can eat as much salad as we like. ‘Go completely mad’ and ‘pizza’.
I keep telling myself I should just pull it together.. My phone rings. but somehow I can’t manage to. Today. I wake up feeling tired every single morning. Things I used to manage quite easily now seem to take up all my energy. I’ve never felt like this before. it’s me. And rings. He’s more of a BBMer. “Ja. If I even bother at all. uh .. I yawn hugely. it takes every ounce of strength I possess just to press the green button and grunt “Hi”. But these days I let it go the full eight rings before reaching into my pocket. wake you?” Team Trinity 143 .. Especially since he hardly ever phones me. “Trinity?” Zach sounds a bit unsure if it’s me.CHAPTER 17 I FEEL down. Sometimes it just feels like too much of an effort. It’s Zach. I remember a time when seeing his name pop up like this would have filled me with excitement. I usually pick mine up before the second ring.. And not just tired. but as though there’s nothing to look forward to.” “Did I . Normally I’m the ultimate Quickdraw when it comes to a ringing cellphone. Every day is a struggle. I wait seven rings before reaching for my phone and checking the display. I would probably have done a quick victory dance before answering the phone with a sexy “Hellooo?” Today.
Or should I say . It’s difficult to imagine worrying about anything ever again. no.” “Oh. This is fine. Once a year. “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. It’s a quarter to one. but then the meaning of what he’s saying penetrates my depression. “Um . right. “So it was all right.” “Oh? Well. with the teachers wearing academic gowns and everything. where you jump out of an aeroplane strapped to an experienced skydiver. I was awake.” I say vaguely. I did my first tandem jump this morning.” I say. “Am I catching you at a bad time?” I make an effort to pull myself together. this ought to cheer you up. soup-time? “No.” I say.” “Tandem jump? What’s that?” “You know. I’m just feeling a bit down. then?” “It was fantastic! I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.. all the kids at Brentwood who have been given scholarships to attend the school are invited to this swish dinner with the teachers.” He’s been talking about it for days. There’s a moment of silence. 144 Fiona Snyckers . “No. no I haven’t. although my dad has been the keynote speaker a couple of times.. Listen. Fifteen minutes to go before lunchtime. interrupting him. I’ve never been invited to one. I didn’t tell you about it because I didn’t want you to worry. It’s very formal. you know that scholarship dinner I’ve been invited to?” “Uh-huh..I can picture him looking at his watch in puzzlement. no..
or how offish you’ve been with me lately. “Well.” “Yeah. But it’s just too much effort to argue with him. “You think I’m teasing you... babe. “I knew you’d be pleased!” he says. I just wanted to call and make your day.” I say sarcastically. “You probably want to obsess over what you’re going to wear now. I’m too tired to figure it out now. “I’ve got good news for you. and c) that’s not the reason I’ve been a bit offish with him lately. it’s great.” he says. You’re probably worried I’ll get off with some brainy hot girl or something. You’re jealous because I’m going on my own.” “Really?” I say tiredly. well. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you change the subject every time I mention the dinner.” 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. “Yes. don’t you? And I’m going in to lunch. b) his stupid scholarship dinner has hardly even crossed my mind. So I make a noise that could be interpreted as agreement.” *** Team Trinity 145 . you have. don’t you? But it’s true. So you can come as my date! Isn’t that great?” “Yes. We’ve just been told that the postmatrics are allowed to bring partners to the dinner.He laughs indulgently. We just got the email from Dr Hussein now.” I’m dying to tell him that a) I’m not that insecure. Oh. So I’ll talk to you later. “You’ve really made my day.
Go and fetch them. It’ll do you good to climb the stairs. her olive skin an unattractive shade of ash. You’ve been sitting on your bum. Workout Girl. “Have you got the sachets?” she asks. I haven’t had the energy to go up and fetch them yet. just like I have. Trinity. “How could you? You knew I had Biology just before lunch.” “I’m more exhausted than you. You know it’s your turn. Her body looks about the same as before. The least you could have done was go and fetch our sachets. I stare resentfully at the girls twinkling 146 Fiona Snyckers . Trinity!” she whines. they’re still upstairs. “No. I don’t even bother trying not to hate them.” I open one eye and see Lael sinking down into the chair next to me.” “I’m burning enough calories just sitting here breathing. She looks pale and tired. 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. I’m completely exhausted. closing her eyes with a sigh. You’ll probably burn about 50 calories or something.I sink back into my chair and close my eyes.” “So am I. My legs feel like they’re made of lead. but you can’t really tell. but her face is showing the strain.” “Oh.” “You’re the big exerciser. and you had a free. “Hey. I can hear the thumps of the other girls coming downstairs and heading for the dining-hall. I’ve been staring into a microscope. I know she’s lost a kilogram so far.
I have a brief fantasy about my mom arriving at the school with steaming dishes of bobotie and tomato bredie to feed me up.” “Nothing. “I’m feeling really horrible. “Come on. “What’s the matter with you. this terrible feeling of hollowness? I reach into Lael’s cupboard and pull out three soup sachets.” “Shame. Trinity?” Matron asks as I make it to the top of the stairs. Then I remember that she’s in Chile. man. They’re just showing off. tuck them into Team Trinity 147 . Even Matron comes steaming past me and she must be fifty if she’s a day. she’s liable to phone your parents. If she thinks you’re not eating properly. How many calories are there in a Panado? Would it take away this grinding ache in my tummy. I turn a pitiful face to her – one that I don’t have to fake in the slightest. I deliberately choose the carrot and coriander flavour. You come to my office after lunch and I’ll give you some Panado. they’re not that steep. knowing it’s her least favourite.” I reel into the dormitory. she turns and stares at me with her hands on her hips.” I say in a wobbly voice. and give a little sigh. wondering if Panado could actually make me feel better. “What’s wrong? You look tired. Matron.” I puff. see?” “Thanks. “It’s my time of the month. The last person you ever want to know that you’re on a diet is Matron. Auntie.past me as though climbing steps is no big deal. When she reaches the top of the staircase. Matron doesn’t believe in diets.” she says as I stop to catch my breath halfway up.
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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“Where?” “No.” “Well.” says Lael. “The point is that you’re going. But in a rude kind of way. you can’t think about anything else. But my answer to him was very uncool.” Lael agrees. although we didn’t like to say anything.” “I know. You’ll just have to be extra nice to him 154 Fiona Snyckers . You’re just surviving from one meal to the next. “We’ve all noticed. I’d say they’ve dropped it now. man. “No .” she says. “Zach!” Everyone looks around. I need to write out a list of all the things I’m supposed to be doing and start ticking them off.were shovelling in pudding this evening. I was all offish.. I seem to remember saying yes. “Well. “You’d be acting oddly too if you were trying to survive on less than a thousand calories a day.” “Don’t tell me you said no?” Sophie asks anxiously. He’s not here! I’ve just remembered that he phoned me the other day.” “You just stay out of my cupboard. When you’re that hungry. “I’ve had a memory like a sieve all week. I try to remember our conversation.” Nosipho puts in. 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 must have been half-catatonic at the time. with most of those coming from drinks or salads. I squinch up my eyes in shame. “Yes.” I shrug.” I give a sudden gasp. It completely slipped my mind. you two have been acting a little oddly lately. Thank goodness. it is. He’s invited me to go to the scholarship dinner with him. actually.” Lael says between gritted teeth..” “That’s cool. that doesn’t matter.
“Don’t look at me so suspiciously. Now we need to help you sort out your outfit and your makeup. and for another.” Lael catches my eye and I can see she is thinking exactly the same thing as I am. Sophie is an artist. She’s made my eyes a bit smoky. the dress I’m wearing is cleverly cut to hide any bulges. We can’t keep up with Sophie’s sudden changes.” she says. And once again the hem-length is exactly right for the shape of my legs. and my lips a bit shiny. I’m starting to wonder whether schizophrenia runs in her family.to make up for it. we’ll be starting our new diet soon. One moment she’s snooping through Lael’s cupboard and finding our secret Brand New You stash so she can gloat at us. “I’m here to help you. and the next she’s offering to help me choose an outfit for my date. That kilogram I lost on the diet has come back with a vengeance. but I was wrong. amused. I thought Sophie would go overboard on the makeup tonight. There’s no other word for it. Team Trinity 155 . and left the rest natural. When have I ever steered you wrong when it comes to clothes?” I have to admit that the answer to that is never. but it doesn’t matter. I’m feeling pretty confident on the night of the dinner. I’m going to miss having access to her clothes when she finally comes to her senses and stops being nice to me. For one thing. 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. *** Thanks to Sophie’s help.
I guess. like prize-givings. Nearly as much as I do.” That does make me feel better. The Memorial Hall is usually used for smart occasions. checking the noticeboard to find their allocated tables. I need to tone it down. He’d probably be going out with some other girl by now. our parents have expected 156 Fiona Snyckers . The thought makes me squeeze his hand a bit harder. There’s a hum of well-bred conversation in the air. and makes me worry that I use too much makeup the rest of the time. The floor is packed with round tables covered in floorlength white cloths and striped overlays. It looks unrecognisable this evening. From the time my brothers and I turned twelve. I nearly chickened out of asking him for help with my work that first time. I must admit. that are too important for the normal hall where we have our morning assemblies. We’ve hosted quite a few in our home. As he walks me into Memorial Hall for the start of the dinner. I’d be feeling a lot more nervous if I weren’t used to attending black-tie dinners with my parents. I remember being too shy even to speak to him. too. All the walls and windows are draped in red and navy. Just be yourself and everyone will love you. He can hardly take his eyes off me. the school colours.It’s a good look. I can’t help thinking how far we’ve come as a couple.” “You don’t need to be. The light of a hundred candles sparkles off crystal and silverware. One look at Zach’s face tells me he appreciates Sophie’s efforts as much as I do. He looks down and smiles at me. Smartly dressed people are filing in ahead of us. Imagine if I had. “Nervous?” “A bit.
and a guy called Justin who I recognise from the Postmatric Annexe. All I know is that he’s happy to have me with him. Team Trinity 157 . without giving away any more than is already out there in the media. Zach’s parents couldn’t make it up from Howick to be with him tonight. but I honestly can’t tell whether this bothers him or not. I guess. We’re the last people to arrive at the table. I like to think I’m quite good at reading people. and I’m a bit surprised to find that we’ve been seated separately. Oh.us to put in an appearance at these dinners and make polite conversation. I find myself wedged between a Professor of Sociology who is a Brentwood old boy and now on the school board. well. But this has happened to me before at formal dinners. It could be worse. and I think I’ve handled it all pretty well. I’ve smiled so much in the course of the evening that my cheeks ache. Shooting a last smile at Zach. and to Justin Whatsisname talking about his plans for university. so I try to take it in my stride. Zach’s eye flicks over the seating plan. 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. I’ve listened to the professor burbling on about his research. it’s finally all over. *** A few hours later. I’ve answered endless questions about my family. I turn my head and start chatting to the professor.
I turn with a smile. As I hear the door slam shut behind me. Some proper one-on-one time. but he brings his gaze back to me. taking my arm in a firm grasp. “What do you mean?” “I just mean I don’t have to clock back into Sisulu House until midnight.I’ve sat through three courses of fancy. He didn’t seem to be getting on too well with his neighbours. He sounds so masterful. I feel a little shiver of excitement at the thought. I’ve got permission to stay out until midnight because it’s Friday night.” I say as I reach down for the silver clutch Sophie lent me. The one was somebody’s mother. Then we sneak up to Zach’s room. We wait until all the other postmatrics are safely inside the common room with their parents and their dates. Worst of all. “Let’s go back to my room then. I’m kind of hoping Zach and I will get to spend some more time together before he takes me back to Sisulu House. fiddly food – quite delicious. I practically skip into the room ahead of him.” he says. I’ve hardly exchanged two words with Zach the whole night. I must admit – and some absolutely endless speeches. But now it’s finally over and people are starting to leave. one of our teachers. 158 Fiona Snyckers .” Another little thrill shivers through me. “You know.” “Right. So we’ve got an hour to kill. The black-bag-over-the-camera trick works just as smoothly as it did the first time. It’s only eleven. I sneak a glance at my watch. “we’ve got a whole hour until I need to go back.” Zach is staring off into the distance. and the other was Mrs Radomsky.
you mean?” There’s a long silence.” He ducks himself away from my hands.” “It was a nice evening. sitting down on his bed. “You were unlucky with the people you were sitting next to.expecting him to scoop me into his arms.” Something about the way he says this makes me look at him more closely. just a little rooibos. And I’ll have coffee. Standing up. “Fine. But then maybe his expectations were higher.” “Mmm. “Is anything wrong?” “Wrong?” he repeats. heading for his kettle. They didn’t seem to have much to say for themselves. but people were really welcoming. “Unlike you. weren’t you?” I say sympathetically. I expected to feel like a gatecrasher.. It doesn’t look as though he had nearly as good a time tonight as I did. “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.” I don’t really feel like anything after that huge dinner. “Everyone was so friendly. He is obviously upset. the mom. I sink back onto his bed and stare at him in blank dismay. and I have absolutely no idea why.. “Coffee?” “Um . “Mrs Radomsky and that other lady. Some were more welcoming than others. “Zach?” I say hesitantly. Team Trinity 159 . but it seems rude to say no when he’s already put on the kettle. “Tea?” he says shortly. The last time I did this he said it really helped him to relax. I circle around behind him to start rubbing his shoulders. wasn’t it?” I say. But he walks past me. thanks.
“Oh yes.” “But I don’t!” “Oh no. I don’t think twice about it . I cast my mind back frantically.” I try to pull my wits together to answer him. How do you think it makes me look.“But what did I say? What did I do?” “Oh. I’m afraid I’m more of a straight-C girl than a straight-A girl. 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 can’t be real. hoping to see some sign of softening.” This is a nightmare. I’m a toucher. come on. Justin!” he says sarcastically. could you? If you’d touched his arm any more people would have thought you were his date instead of mine. “I was just being honest with him. That’s the way I am. But this seems to make him even angrier.” “That doesn’t mean you have to advertise it to the whole world. putting on a fake girlish voice. Don’t pretend you don’t know. Could it be true? Did I keep touching Justin? I seem to remember dabbing at his arm once or twice while I was talking. in a friendly way. Professor Raynor!” he says. We were discussing the relationship between the ANC and big business. “Do you know who you embarrassed most with your behaviour?” Zach asks between gritted teeth. 160 Fiona Snyckers . I think to myself.” I look anxiously at Zach’s face.” I say weakly.” “But it’s true. Trinity. “How could I forget? You couldn’t keep your hands off him. “I talked to that Justin guy about politics for ages. “I’m not one of the scholarship students.
” “But. And a small sobbing noise escapes me as tears start to pour down my cheeks. I d-didn’t.” And then I cover my face with my hands and start sobbing for real. nothing. And a second after that – wonderfully.” I stutter.. it was nothing.” “I’m sorry. compared with having him stand silently by while I cry. He was freaked out by a total stranger coming on to him at a formal dinner party. “I’m so. I blink. Trinity.” he says gently. “It’s not fair. I didn’t think. I didn’t mean to. “I’m sorry. “Justin.” I gasp again. but this is the absolute worst. For a moment Zach just watches me.” Team Trinity 161 . so sorry. Trinity? You don’t think. You know I can’t stand it. I mustn’t blink.” I stare at the floor.” “That’s the trouble. I’ve had some humiliating moments in my life. “At least.” he says. As long as I don’t blink. “Don’t cry.” I manage to gasp. I’ll manage not to cry. “The poor guy didn’t know where to look. feeling hot shame wash over me.I shake my head. blissfully – I feel Zach’s arms closing around me and pulling me against him. “I can’t help it. isn’t it. 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. my cheeks burning. If I thought I was humiliated before. A moment later I feel a weight sinking down onto the bed next to me.. I try to steady my voice.
instead of just breaking up with me straight away. “And I’m sorry for what I said about you never thinking.” I remember myself chattering away – babbling. but these are serious people. partygirl image is fine when you’re with your friends. The whole anti-intellectual. But you can be a little thoughtless at times. I made a total fool of myself. Trinity. You have to put your best foot forward when you’re with them. We’ve both had a stressful evening. But it’s all over now. That wasn’t true or fair. in fact – to Professor Raynor all evening.” I nod as I feel more tears threatening to spill.” I try to slow my breathing down like he says. Zach’s right. Gradually the sobs start to subside. In a moment we can talk about it calmly. otherwise it reflects badly on me. giving me one last hug. you must realise that the people who were at the dinner tonight are very important for my career.“Just breathe slowly. I’m so lucky he’s giving me a second chance.” I say for the third time. “The thing is. “I didn’t realise what I was doing. They’re the ones who will be writing reference letters for me one day. I just wasn’t thinking.” He passes me a tissue.” “I know you didn’t do it on purpose. In and out. and my toes curl with embarrassment. I’d better talk about the flirting thing.” Zach says. I take a shaky breath. 162 Fiona Snyckers . Then he moves away slightly so we can look at each other. “That’s better. and didn’t even realise it. “I’m so sorry. otherwise it’s just going to hang in the air between us forever.
well. “Yes. as we cross the grass behind Gumede House and veer left towards Sisulu. I’m sorry if he misunderstood it. Zach.“Look. but there’s no one around. I am still a bit hurt about that.” “Just put all the blame on me..” His lips tighten. “I know you will. to be honest. both girls and guys.. “I wish our evening didn’t have to end so soon.” Zach rewards me with a smile and a gentle stroke on the cheek. “As long as you understand what I was trying to say. If only I hadn’t wasted it. “Explain how I’m only in Grade 10. Look. “I’d better go upstairs and find Matron. holding the door open for me.” “I didn’t do it on purpose.” “Okay.” “Already?” I look at my watch and see with a jolt that he’s right. and not really used to formal dinners. But I’ll try to do better if you’ll just give me another chance. it wasn’t wasted. I really didn’t.” I say. You’ve put me in a very awkward position. It’s almost midnight. “About that thing with Justin. let’s not let this spoil our evening. I stick my head into the office and the common room.” Team Trinity 163 . so I’d better walk you back now.” I say eagerly. Our hour has whizzed past with all my crying and fussing.” “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. That’s just the way I talk to people.” he says.” I say awkwardly.
164 Fiona Snyckers .I turn towards him. The way he just brushed his lips against my cheek told me as clearly as words how disappointed he is in me. wondering if he’s going to give me one of those bone-melting goodbye kisses. I can feel hot tears pricking behind my eyes again. “Goodnight. but he just pecks me on the cheek.” As I walk up the stairs. Trinity.
but this isn’t something I want to share. but a few that I hate about it too. the common room. or moping around. and outside in the grounds. It’s sweet of her to be so concerned. But the flip side of that is that I never get to be alone when I really need to be. If I don’t find some peace and quiet soon. And this is one of those times. It feels like I’m living under a microscope. like I sometimes do at home. I only I could get away by myself for a short while. But where? There are always people in the dormitories. 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. but that doesn’t stop the anxious looks she keeps giving me. One of the things I love is having company all the time. I manage to avoid being interrogated by Lael when I come back from the dinner because she’s already fast asleep.CHAPTER 19 THERE ARE lots of things I love about boarding school. And some of those things are different sides of the same coin. It’s hard work evading her questions and telling her again and again that everything’s okay. It means I’m never lonely or bored. Just the thought of telling anybody how I behaved at the dinner makes me go cold all over. Eventually I manage to convince her that I really. Team Trinity 165 .
Looking around. I can see that girls come in here all the time. except that it’s obviously not as unused as I thought. I sink into a chair and rest my forehead on my arms. I haven’t seen him since the night of the dinner. But I just know that if I actually went into one. So as long as it’s not full of cobwebs and spiders. He’s been friendly. I can tell that he’s forgiven me.I wander restlessly all over Sisulu House. It’s a smallish room with floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with encyclopaedias. This would be the perfect place for me to hang out when I want to be on my own. I run up the stairs two at a time in my eagerness to check it out. but that he’s still disappointed 166 Fiona Snyckers . over the phone and on BBM. There’s a laptop cover on one of the desks. but slightly cold. trying to think calmly about what happened with Zach. with kettles and toasters and everything. with a lot of light coming in from the long windows. Then I remember the old library up on the fourth floor. They are such cosy. A quick look confirms that the school stopped buying new editions in 2005. and a pencil bag that I’m pretty sure belongs to Yasmin. I’d get caught and be given a detention. It’s clean and bright. looking for a quiet spot. this is not bad at all. And no one is using them at the moment. Okay. comfortable rooms. a Kit Kat wrapper. a school jersey. right about when learners stopped using anything except the internet for references. But the important thing is that it’s empty now. it’ll be the perfect place for me to hang out on my own for a bit. Hardly anyone goes in there anymore because we all do our research online these days. The matrics have really got it made with those studies of theirs.
ja. I take it now is not a great time to talk?” “You take it right. And even my considerable charm isn’t making you smile. or you’ll be spending the rest of your life in detention. Well. “So what’s up with you.” “Sorry. that all adds up to boyfriend trouble.. Ever.” I narrow my eyes at him. what did you just call me?” “Never mind.” he says.” He laughs and perches on one of the desks. “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.” “I told you before.” Team Trinity 167 . “Your eyes are all pink and swollen. see that you don’t get caught. You’ve come up here to be alone. Trinity? Apart from boyfriend trouble. when I like. I am the living shadow. I’d do anything – anything at all – to wipe that disappointment out of his voice. Greta Garbo.” “Go away.in me. not you again!” I blurt out. ja. “Oh. “I’m a ninja. “It’s lovely to see you too. That’s not going to happen. no. ‘boyfriend trouble’? Who says I’m having boyfriend trouble?” “Let’s see. At all. Shadow Boy. I tear up again and am just settling in for a good cry when something makes me look up.” “I . I want to be alone. that is?” “What do you mean. “How did you get up here anyway? Boys aren’t supposed to come upstairs. In my book. I go where I like.” He counts the items off on his fingers. Trinity.” “Ja.. aiming a slow-motion karate kick at my desk.
And I have to make it up to him so he can be proud of me again. Trust you to assume I must be upset over a boy. or my best friend.. He doesn’t interrupt. Flowers and chocolates. okay. I told you everything you needed to know over two weeks 168 Fiona Snyckers . “I should have known you wouldn’t understand.“Oh. “Well.” he says slowly. he doesn’t take his eyes off your face while you’re talking. what?” “What do you think? You must have some opinion. He didn’t do anything wrong. “I think you shouldn’t take him back until he apologises with flowers and chocolates.” There’s a beat of silence. Both. I did. you’re right. please. And make sure they’re the expensive kind.” “I repeat. “Well?” I say after a long silence. you’ll never get it! Can we please talk about something else?” “Fine. I heave a sigh.. “Yes.” This makes me sigh again. and he doesn’t judge. Not one or the other.” “Why don’t you tell me about it?” So I do. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about James. He just listens until you’ve finished telling him the whole sorry story. And then he says nothing. aren’t I?” he says. “I’m right.” “I think. What rubbish. I could be crying about anything.” I swat his suggestion away like it’s an annoying fly.” he says. “Oh. Don’t you get it? Zach hasn’t got anything to apologise for. I could have had a fight with my mother. it’s that he’s a good listener. “Let’s talk about why you girls still haven’t done anything about the Gumede Shield.
I didn’t say that. Is it your time of the month. although I must say she makes overweight look good.. aren’t you?” I gape at him. or something?” Team Trinity 169 . And we were so hungry and exhausted we couldn’t think about anything else. so we’ll be getting back to the shield any day now.” “No more diets for you then?” “No. “The ‘Bantu’ people? Do you know. Behind glass. We’ll be starting a new one soon.” “Of course you don’t. Your Jewish friend could stand to lose a few pounds. “The . “And what people might those be?” “You know – the Bantu people. but you’re the first person I’ve ever actually heard say it. We’ll be fine. that was because of the diet!” His face creases into a look of severe puzzlement.. Trinity. diet?” “Yes.” “I don’t know why you want to lose weight anyway. dangerously. But you people are meant to have big bums. aren’t you?” “You people?” I echo. So what’s up with that?” “Oh. On its shelf.” I sigh. You’re meant to have big backsides. This morning I walk past Dr Hussein’s office and what do I see? The shield. It’s one of those ‘eat as much as you like and still lose weight’ diets. We still have loads of weight to lose. that’s one of those words I’ve never heard in real life before? I’ve read it.ago. “You mustn’t be so sensitive. But we’re better now.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about. but that’s okay. Lael and I went on this stupid Brand New You diet where we had to drink milkshakes and eat soup all day long.
Still fuming. “Okay. where was I? Oh.” And he saunters out the door. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. for some reason. I was about to have a good cry. If only he weren’t such an incredibly racist pig. Go away before I scream for Matron. yes. I don’t feel like it. 170 Fiona Snyckers . get out! I mean. I’m gone.” He holds up his hands.” “What do you mean?” “I mean. Except now. Now. “You. Out.“That does it!” I stand up and point at the library door. Now. okay! I’m going. Because in some weird way – and I really don’t understand how – talking to James has made me feel better. I sit down again.
The one who sleeps in this dormitory. isn’t she?” “It depends which part you mean. “I didn’t think you could possibly be talking about that Sophie. “The evil cow part. before we get started. but I need to bring something up that isn’t on the official agenda.” “Okay. so let’s do a quick recap.. What about her?” “Well ...” “It’s about Sophie. Lael has taken the chair.” Nosipho chips in.. “It’s been weeks since our last meeting.” Yasmin mutters. “Right.CHAPTER 20 I CLEAR my throat and look around doubtfully at my friends The third official Operation Shield meeting is in progress. And I have a feeling it’s not going to go down well. I just wanted to make a suggestion.” “Proceed. I don’t know if you’re going to like it.” “Sophie who?” “Sophie Agincourt.” Priya suggests.. Yes. You know which Sophie I’m talking about.” Lael says thoughtfully.. Agent Luhabe. as usual. she’s a part of this dormitory. Team Trinity 171 . “Um . “The annoying part.” I say impatiently. “Our Sophie. I’ve just been thinking . Trinity?” she adds as I raise my hand hesitantly. girls!” There’s a sergeant-major snap to Lael’s voice as she opens her iPad and prepares to get going.
“Exactly. “But she’s been so nice about lending me her clothes and her makeup and helping me get ready for dates and everything.. you know ..A slightly bitchy laugh ripples around the room. “I know. I know.” “Better than what?” Lael asks huffily. I’m not finished yet.. it just doesn’t feel right holding these meetings without her. “Come on. that I was just . Agent Abdul. It feels almost like we’re sneaking around behind her back.. I mean..”You must admit she’s been better this term. “This is the girl who rifled through my undies to get at our diet supplies. 172 Fiona Snyckers . Now if there’s nothing else?” She gives her iPad a business-like click.. right? And we’re keeping it a secret from one of the legitimate members of that dormitory. thinking.” I say. “Hang on.. And you will be duly commended for your fine work. Comrade?” Nosipho demands.” I say sympathetically.” “We are sneaking around behind her back. It’s starting to look like she never will. It’s been over a week and she still hasn’t forgotten about it.. “Spit it out. remember?” Lael nods approvingly. this is supposed to be a joint venture of the Albertina Sisulu House Grade 10 dormitory.” I say. “I was the one who found out when she was having her violin lesson so that we could hold the meeting tonight.” Yasmin points out. Lael sighs and makes a “carry on” sweep with her hand. girls. you’re not being fair.” “The thing is . remember?” That really rankled Lael.” “Thinking what. It’s Item 4b on the agenda.
” Lael says.” There’s a long silence as I look around hopefully from girl to girl.” she says briskly. Nosipho?” “Nuh uh. wait!” I say. And once she knows about it. The only person she’s been nice to is you. please.” 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. but maybe we should consider bringing Sophie in on this. I was really touched. But from the looks on my friends’ faces.” “You mean you agree?” I can hardly believe it. I know you’ll think I’m crazy. Then finally. She was so sympathetic. she’s only nice when it has Team Trinity 173 . “Not to anyone else.” “It’s not only me! She’s been nicer to everyone. Lael nods. “You’re right. I’m afraid you’re outvoted. “I mean you’re right – we do think you’re crazy. And even then.” “Wait. Priya?” Lael asks. so that makes it pretty much unanimous. and gave me so many great tips on how to act in future.” “How about you.” “Yasmin?” “Not even a little bit. I’m the only one who feels this way.” Priya says. wait. She’s sneaky enough that she could make a valuable asset to our campaign. “Has Sophie been nicer to you. “Next order of business. we wouldn’t have to worry about hiding it from her any more.. “Aren’t you even going to think about it? Haven’t you noticed how much nicer she’s been this term?” “To you. Trinity.“Look. “Nope. “Sorry.” “And she’s been a complete cow to me.
Time to move on. proceeding to the summary of events so far.” Lael makes a note on her iPad.” “I agree.” says Yasmin.” “Plus. Not one single whisper of a hint of a rumour about what we’re planning.” “Well.” “Oh. We tell Sophie nothing. Otherwise we can kiss this whole plan goodbye. without success. whatever my friends might think. As we all know. “And that’ll be the end of all our plans. my conscience pricked me. It didn’t feel right to be taking her advice about Zach while planning a secret meeting behind her back. I’m not all that sorry to be outvoted. if we tell her what we’re planning to do with the Gumede Shield. to tell you the truth. she really wants the two of you to make it as a couple. But I’ve done my best to convince the others. “It’s either kind or creepy. “Motion denied. For some reason. isn’t it?” I say. I’m not a total moron. Agent Abdul’s mother was a learner at this institution in the 1970s and 80s.something to do with Zach. leans over to give me a quick hug. I know Sophie can’t really be trusted. It’s thanks to her that we know about the promise that the shield will be allowed 174 Fiona Snyckers . we’d be horrified. “I think if we knew what she was really up to. “Right. You always want to believe the best of everyone. “Agent Abdul has uncovered a valuable piece of historical evidence. But after she was so sweet to me last night.” Nosipho.” I hunch my shoulders and subside. who is sitting closest to me. all right. that’s kind of her. Trinity.” “Agreed. With some people.” says Lael.” Lael gets up to pace the room. you have to consider the possibility that there is no best. she’ll totally split on us to Matron. that’s your problem. “You’re too unsuspicious.
” “Oh. “Anyway. when the shield stopped a bullet and saved the life of the soldier who was carrying it.” “And some other countries too. “Okay.” Yasmin corrects. Florence Nightingale. “Although I’m sure it’s true. it was known as the Jan Smuts Shield. “My mom says it’s only a vague rumour she remembers hearing. I think.” “The alleged promise. “With the emphasis on lady.” “The Crimean War. And now Agent Abdul’s mother has remembered another piece of information about the shield. the point about the Crimean War is that the shield was originally known as the Florence Nightingale Shield. Which means that the reason Gumede House Team Trinity 175 .” she says. “It was that war between Britain and Russia. which means that the Gumede House Shield was originally named after a female. you have the floor.. 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. not the boy – obviously.to live half in Gumede House and half in Sisulu House if a girl ever succeeds in kidnapping it again. But apparently it has an even longer history than that.” Nosipho puts in. I know who she was at least.” “The alleged promise.” says Lael. Agent Abdul.” Lael agrees. that is. relieved.” I say. “It’s somewhere in here. scrolling through the messages on her phone.. “Yes.” “That’s right. “We did it in history. The grandfather. don’t you remember?” says Yasmin. this is an email from my mom. The nurse lady.” Lael sits down and gestures to Yasmin to stand up. We all know that after the First World War.” I say vaguely. Florence Nightingale was a woman.
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. And that means we have just as much right to it as they do. doesn’t it?” I admit. “That’ll teach them. Agent Luhabe’s co-conspirator Honourary Agent James Ellison has been a great help in spying for us.” I say slowly. And anyway. I bet they’ve known about the Florence Nightingale angle all along. “Now let’s get onto the practicalities. Lael nods. “Very tame.” Nosipho grins.” Lael makes another note on her iPad. we now know that the inter-leading door between Dr 176 Fiona Snyckers . It goes all the way back to Florence Nightingale. 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. This is a male conspiracy to keep the shield in Gumede House. we’ll fight dirty. Otherwise. “If all this is true..” I say. They wouldn’t have a leg to stand on..has always given for keeping it is nonsense. how would Yasmin’s mom have heard about it? They’ve been suppressing the evidence. In fact. They claim it was named after Jan Smuts – their founder. we have more right.” “Yeah!” Priya says.” “Okay. giving her a high five. Then we won’t have to go to all the trouble of stealing it. looking at the four disappointed faces around me.” I tail off. considering that she was a woman and we are a women’s boarding house. “Hang on a minute. “Yes.” “Motion carried. Thanks to him. If they want to fight dirty. “It sounds a bit tame. But it wasn’t. I bet even Matron would sign it. brilliant.
I suppose.” Lael says firmly. “Why? Do you know him?” “A little bit. would you kindly explain about the infra-red beam?” “Sure. Agent Luhabe.” I dig a torch out of my bag and demonstrate exactly how the security beam works.Hussein’s office and Mrs Anderssen’s office is unlocked on Wednesday mornings while she does her filing. “So basically all we need to do is place an object about the same size in Team Trinity 177 . is it? He’s the one who always comes and finds me.” I add.” I think of James’ habit of making racist and sexist comments all the time. I nod. slightly defensive.” “And also that she makes a habit of wandering about making tea and going to the Ladies. “Did James tell you all that?” Priya asks curiously. Honourary Agent Ellison gets Noddy points for helping us on our feminist mission.. “Enough to know he’s a fairly obnoxious guy who doesn’t like girls much.” It’s just that I’ve got used to him. all while leaving the door unlocked. “Obnoxious or not. “I suppose you’re right.. “He is assisting us in striking a blow for womanhood. 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. The obnoxiousness is so much a part of his personality for me that I hardly notice it any more. Because it’s not as though I go looking for him. so I don’t care how annoying he is. In fact. that’s pretty much the first word that comes to mind.” “Would you really call him obnoxious?” I ask.” “Oh well.” she says. He can be pretty offensive. “I would.
” “Then that’s it for tonight. Trinity. So we need to make a hundred per cent sure that we don’t get caught. “If this goes wrong.” 178 Fiona Snyckers . I reckon we’d be looking at expulsion. 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.” I say. we need to run through the whole operation up to and including unlocking the cabinet. “Do you really think they’d go that far?” “They might. we could all get into serious trouble. Now let’s start doing our normal stuff before Sophie gets back.” “We need to do a dry run. will you ask James if he’ll be our look-out? Check that the passage is empty and so forth?” “Sure. That way. And to do that. That way. the alarm won’t be activated.” “Expulsion?” Nosipho asks nervously.” Lael says. there’ll be no hidden surprises waiting for us when we do it for real.the way of the beam before removing the shield.
” Team Trinity 179 . seeing as I don’t do the pork thing. “Really and truly?” “Absolutely.” “And all that fat? Isn’t it a problem?” “Not at all. “No doughnuts for us tonight?” I ask as she changes into her nightie and gets into bed. we’ll be fine. “No. Just lettuce. and all the sausages you can eat. As long as we don’t have any toast or orange juice. You should too.” “Not to sound like my mother here. but I hang around with Lael to talk about the diet we’re starting tomorrow. Tomorrow morning you can have as many eggs as you like. but we can put as much dressing on as we like. 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. We’re allowed to eat as much as we like. We’ve still got practically a whole bottle left.” I still can’t quite believe this. We don’t need them because this isn’t a starvation diet.CHAPTER 21 THE OTHER girls drift back to their own cubicles. High-protein diets have been proved to work. Oh.” “So that means no fruit and veggies either?” “None. and we’re allowed some salad every night. Tomorrow we can wake up and eat a huge breakfast. And I’ll be having beef sausages and turkey bacon. as much bacon as you like. The only enemy is carbs. We have to cut out carbs completely.
“You have to drink that black. Lael has never steered me wrong yet. I wake up the next morning with a little flutter of excitement in my tummy. and dreaming of the day when I’ll be 4 kg lighter.“Well. Lael and I are practically the first ones down for breakfast. that doesn’t sound too bad.” she adds as I reach automatically for the sugar. I can’t help pouting at the thought of black. with some orange juice and toast. so I’m feeling optimistic. Of course. But the Drinking Man’s Diet sounds really good. but that was her mother’s idea. My normal breakfast is a bowl of Weet-Bix. that single kilo I lost went back on after just three days of normal eating. And we did actually lose weight on it. Okay.” Lael warns as I stretch for some milk to put into my tea. “And sugarless or with sweetener. If we’d been able to stick to it. not hers. If I’m really hungry I might have a boiled egg as well. that stupid Brand New You diet nearly killed both of us. But today I’m going to splash out on a full cooked breakfast and not feel guilty about it. we would have lost even more. sugarless tea. 180 Fiona Snyckers .” *** I go to bed feeling quite cheerful. I’m really looking forward to breakfast. 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. so I’m now back to exactly where I was before I started this dieting business.
you know. Sophie. And the horror of it is that she’s right.” “You two are just one slice of bacon away from a heart attack. Before anyone can answer. “Hungry. “You’re just jealous because soon we’re going to be slim and gorgeous. Her eyes sharpen. some other kind of high-protein diet then?” We look down at the table. “Well.” “I don’t need to be jealous because I’m slim and gorgeous already.” Lael shakes her head firmly. “I’ve got it! You’re doing the Atkins Diet. You can almost see the wheels turning inside her head.” She chews on her muesli for a while. “I knew it!” she crows.” “Rubbish.” “Absolutely not. “You should be careful. trying to distract her.” she says. aren’t you?” “No. running a hand down one lean hip. “So who’s looking forward to Gossip Girl tonight?” I say. “It’s not bad if you drink it black. “We’re not. huh? Hmmm. You can even die from them. We could have cream in our tea or coffee. Those high-protein diets are very bad for your kidneys. “What is this – national cholesterol day?” “No. staring off into the distance. *** Team Trinity 181 .“Why don’t you have rooibos instead?” she suggests. because it has a higher fat content and fewer carbs.” Sophie comments from across the table. she puts her spoon down with a clatter.” I say shortly. we’re just hungry. but of course there isn’t any.” Lael scoffs.” I confirm.
I hold my breath while he talks into the handset. so I’m going to force the issue. If it’s all over between us. and I let my breath out. asking the security guard to buzz Zach for me. A few minutes later. he said he needed more space. After supper I feel psyched enough to do something I’ve been putting off for days. I’m hoping things will get back to normal if I take the initiative. “He’ll be down in a minute. telling Zach there’s a Trinity Luhabe waiting downstairs for him. At least he’s agreed to see me. It’s a total win. right? I almost wear a groove in the thin carpet as I pace up and down waiting for Zach.The huge breakfast carries me happily to lunch. That’s got to be a good sign. I’d rather face up to it now. Well. I’ve hardly had any contact with Zach since that horrible night of the scholarship dinner.” says the guard. I’m going to visit Zach at the Annexe. This is the easiest diet I’ve ever been on. 182 Fiona Snyckers . he’s had enough space now. I’m slipping past a couple of postmatric guys on my way into the Annexe. You can’t have a relationship with someone if you never see them. I can’t help worrying that Zach might ask him to send me away. People are starting to ask why we never spend time together anymore. I’ve got permission from Matron and everything. Just a few BBMs and phone calls. at which I eat a huge pile of cold meat. I’m never hungry and I get to eat as much as I like. I can’t go on like this. butterflies sliding around in my stomach. And then at supper I have three chicken breasts and some more Rooibos tea. When I suggested getting together. When he finally appears. Then I’m standing in reception.
um. sorry. babe. that’s nice. okay. I really need to go. They’re probably back inside already. “Hey. With Andrew and Sheldon and some of the other guys. Is that for A-levels?” “Yes. n-no. Do you want to come?” “I’d love to!” I say happily. strolling over to peck me on the cheek.” “Hey.” I say.. so I decided to come over and surprise you. I want to rush over and hug him. A few of us are going to Monte this weekend to catch a movie and get a bite to eat. but I force myself to stand still and smile at him. We meet most nights.” “Right.” “Oh. But listen. “They were just going out for a smoke break. and then starts racing at about 200 beats a minute.” he says. “But will I be allowed?” “If you get written permission from your parents. but unfortunately I’m in the middle of a study group right now.” There’s a bit of a pause. “They were on their way out.” I say.my heart does a huge bound in my chest. hating the stammer that creeps into my voice. “Did we have something organised for tonight? I don’t have anything in my diary. “Hey. stops dead.. I saw Andrew and Sheldon as I came in. “Well.” “Then I’ll do that. it’s probably not a good idea to drop by like this in the Team Trinity 183 .” I try to hide my disappointment. I was going to call you.” There’s another slight pause. “I just thought we hadn’t seen each other for a while. you should be. I’ll BBM you to confirm. but listen.” “Oh. I didn’t even know you’d started one. Trinity.” “Oh . remembering.” “Great! Looking forward to it.
and we’ll set something up. He is so gorgeous – so Hollywood gorgeous – you want to pinch his face to check that it’s real. “First of all. sparkly top that says Friday night.” she corrects. two questions.” I practically float out on wings of happiness.” He gives me a much warmer kiss on the mouth.” Lael says. and second. I wouldn’t go borrowing one of Sophie’s dresses again or anything like that. and he’s my boyfriend. “It’s just a movie at Montecasino.” “Sure. but it’s a movie with Zach.” 184 Fiona Snyckers . Even after what I did at the scholarship dinner. agreed.” “It might be just a movie. “Great! Thanks for understanding. Jeans and a top – a cool. I knew I was right to visit him tonight! *** “Okay. We’ve got a date for Friday night! He has totally forgiven me and everything is back to normal. Next time. Zach and I are still together! He is still my boyfriend! The bestlooking guy in the entire school. what am I going to wear tonight. And he’s nice too.evenings. Just jeans and a top should be fine. what am I going to eat tonight?” “Those are both easy.” “Fine. he’s still prepared to go out with me.” I say. “That makes it a casual date. so I don’t think you need to try too hard.” “With Zach and a whole bunch of his friends. I’ll remember that. call first. I’ll help you choose one.” “Okay. Then I’ll see you on Friday. and it’s the best feeling in the world. I’m busy with the study group most nights.
” “No. Very Italian and all protein. Like. You won’t starve. too fast.. do you ever find yourself. with egg and cheese and stuff like that in it. And remember you can have a small side salad.” “It’s just what?” “Well .. you know. “I don’t know. and order the osso bucco or something. “That’s the beauty of the Drinking Man’s Diet. Hey. then try to have beef the next.” “Osso whatsit?” “It’s kind of a meat on the bone thing. Team Trinity 185 . It’s just. “What’s wrong?” Lael asks.. sometimes.. Me too. you can still just eat the burger patty and throw away the bun.. do you ever . you’re right. you know. I don’t want to break my diet now while it’s going so well. But just. What if there’s nothing I can eat?” “There’s always something you can eat. don’t worry.“Now what about dinner? I don’t even know which restaurant we’re going to. just think about it. even if you end up at McDonalds.” “I know..” Lael says. you can steer clear of the pasta and pizza.. getting a bit tired of meat and eggs and stuff?” “No!” she says. and that kind of thing.” “The trick is not to eat exactly the same thing every day. if you’re having lamb the one day..” “And isn’t it awesome to be able to eat as much as you like at every single meal? I mean. so totally legal from a diet point of view. “I mean . Even if you go to an Italian restaurant. You’re absolutely right. Hardly ever. hardly ever. I mean.” An involuntary spasm crosses my face at the words “egg and cheese”.
” “I know. But the weird thing is. It’s not like dating a different boy every week. But that’s a good sign. When you’re in a relationship. Please can I borrow something of yours?” Lael shakes her head. And I’ll wear a normal. walk-in dressing room at home. “Okay.” “Duh! Obviously no popcorn at the movie..” I skip over to my cupboard to check out what I’ve got in there. and we get to stuff our faces every time we eat. When we first started this diet. the guy you’re with is going to start 186 Fiona Snyckers .” A smile spreads across my face. and a whole pile of bacon for breakfast every day.. right?” “Oh. It’s a million times better than that stupid Brand New You diet. “Zach has already seen every single thing in this cupboard. Not for the first time. not-trying-too-hard outfit. You really need to get a grip and realise that you’re in a relationship now. Thin-girl appetites.” Lael nods fiercely. definitely. I really like the sound of that. “You know my clothes are all baggy on you. Now I can just about manage one egg and a bit of bacon. Trinity. I swear there is not one top in here that he hasn’t already seen me in.. What will probably happen is that once we go off this diet. I’m not as hungry as I used to be. where about seventy-five per cent of my clothes are hanging unworn..Here we are on diet. I wish I had access to my huge. so I’ll have some meat and a side salad for supper tonight. I used to eat four eggs. “Our appetites are normalising.” “And no popcorn at the movie. we won’t ever need to lose weight again in our lives because we’ll have thin-girl appetites. it’s amazing. three sausages.
How about you?” “Two kilos. “Okay. It’s a good thing.. “How much did you lose this week?” Lael asks casually.” Team Trinity 187 . You can even have a drink tonight if you like. or gin?” I shudder at the thought.” I say staunchly. You’re so lucky your arms and shoulders are so toned. giving my tummy a satisfied pat.” “Two kilos? Well done! That’s awesome. I’ll be grounded for the rest of the term. “You’re right.” “Okay. I’ll just choose something that Zach really likes. “The book warns that we’ll only lose water weight at first.” “You look lighter too.seeing you in the same clothes. I admit that doesn’t sound very tempting. but I definitely feel lighter. The last time I wore it. I swear it’s flatter.” “Thanks.” I take a deep breath. Like this!” I reach into my cupboard and pull out a black-andwhite halter top with sequin detail on the neckline. that’s pretty.” “Soon to become more toned..” She flashes me a quick smile. “And the best part is that we’re going into the weekend knowing we don’t have to starve ourselves. although to be honest. he said I looked beautiful. but at least you know you could if you wanted to. “Ja.” “True. or whisky.” “And if someone sees me drinking. There is that. not a bad thing.” “You mean like neat vodka.” I say. Good choice. I can’t really see a big difference yet. “A kilo.
188 Fiona Snyckers . He makes me feel dizzy enough.“I can’t run the risk of not being allowed out with Zach again. Anyway.” My soppy smile runs over into a giggle as Lael starts making vomiting noises. I don’t need alcohol.
But it makes me feel bad that my girlfriend hasn’t made as much of an effort as Ava.. “The last time I wore it. you said you loved it.” “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.” Team Trinity 189 . and I don’t feel as though you really did. I thought she looked a bit over-the-top myself.” I suggest.” Zach puts an arm around my shoulders. “You do look beautiful. Zach pulls a face.” I point out. but I’d not met their dates. and about a ton of makeup. You always do. but don’t quite succeed. Why?” “Trinity.” “And I do. “Um . yes.” I try to keep the hurt out of my voice. “Nazeera is in jeans. I already knew Ben and Muhammad from the Annexe. it is.” “I can change.. But that’s her. Don’t you think you should be wearing a dress? Ava is wearing one. “I know. “Montecasino is quite a smart place.” We’re at the Postmatric Annexe waiting for Zach’s two friends and their girlfriends to get back from the loo. before. Muhammad isn’t a particularly trendy guy. “Give me five minutes and I’ll dash back to Sisulu House to put on a dress. Ava and Nazeera.” Zach says patiently. It’s just that I made an effort tonight.
With makeup and stuff. “Feeling better?” “Yes.” She guides me backwards onto her bed and pushes my head down between my knees. I must be really unfit because I felt all woozy when I got to the top..” “You really should start running with me. “I thought you were going out with Zach. When you can’t even run up a flight of stairs without almost fainting.” “What happened?” Lael asks. Trinity. and throw myself into the dormitory. Like Ava has. the room does a sick spin around me. everything comes back into focus. thanks. maybe you could . Within seconds. but instead he nods his head like he’s thinking about it. “What? My eyes? Should I do something to my eyes?” “If you could kind of make them stand out a bit more..I’m expecting him to say that it doesn’t matter and not to bother. I bound up the stairs two at a time.” “What are you doing here.” He makes sweeping motions in front of his eyes. “I ran up the stairs. Lael and some of the others are getting ready to go to a social at St Declan’s High School. And while you’re at it. you know. are you all right?” Nosipho steps forward to catch my arm as I stumble. And I will.. Give me a second. sure.” I puff. As I try to catch my breath.” I whirl around and run out of the Annexe towards Sisulu House. The movie only starts at eight. “I guess there’s time. “Here. hovering anxiously. “Just a bit out of breath.” “Okay. sit down. that’s a wake-up call.. “Trinity! Hey..” 190 Fiona Snyckers .” “I know. anyway?” Nosipho asks.. Soon.
” I say. I don’t want to be the dowdy one.” Lael’s face clears. “You know what girls are like. Team Trinity 191 . I give his arm a squeeze and we settle into the backseat together. Well. “It’s the last weekend of the month. “I thought you looked fine the way you were. they’ve been waiting for me for a while. yanking open my cupboard and flipping through the hangers. Zach thought I’d be more comfortable if I smartened up a bit too. *** Montecasino is its usual hectic self. Trinity?” Muhammad asks.. one of them is.. “Why is it so crowded tonight?” Ava asks as we join the long queue to get through the security checkpoint. “I need to get moving.” Zach laughs. but judging from the way Zach is pressing his lips together.” “Well. I don’t want to keep everyone waiting.” I change in record time. “Did you really need to change?” Ben asks as we pile into his SUV. so I shrug.“I came back to change. swipe on a ton of mascara. only more so.” “Just to go to the movies?” Lael asks. This is something she can sympathise with. “What’s that. “It’s more about fitting in with the others. and dash back downstairs. “Your pink and black dress?” “That’s exactly what I was thinking. I thought I was quick.” I don’t really know what to say to this. The other girls are wearing dresses.” I agree.
“I love how everything is made up to look like a Tuscan village. “Everyone has just been paid. and now they can’t wait to lose all their money at the casino. But maybe that would sound boastful or know-it-all. It feels like we’re not really in Africa any more. I feel like Jonah being swallowed by the whale. “What movie are we going to see?” I ask as we join the queue for tickets. right!”says Nazeera. like I’ve cracked the theory of relativity. but his face is unreadable. This is a strange. disorienting place where the sun doesn’t rise or set. 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. trying to work out if I’m doing the right thing or not.” I say before my silence becomes ridiculous. 192 Fiona Snyckers .” he replies. As always when I walk into the endless twilight of Montecasino. but catch Zach’s eye and close it again. I’d decided that I was going to stay in the background tonight and not say too much. This must be one of their busiest nights of the month. I open my mouth to speak.” says Ava.” I subside into silence again as we hold out our bags to be searched and head down the escalators towards the movies. “That makes sense. as we stroll past a fake washing line. “I only said that it’s the last weekend of the month.” “Oh. I was going to say that I’d been to Tuscany a couple of times and it didn’t look anything like this. “Blood Frenzy. It’s better to say nothing. I glance nervously at Zach.
And as we join the popcorn queue. so it’s ridiculous to expect him to pay for me.“Yay! Is it out already? I’ve been dying to see it ever since I first heard they were making it.” I say as the server starts ringing up our purchases. In fact. I slip my arm through Zach’s and snuggle up against him as the queue inches forward. “Thanks!” he whispers against my ear. and I kind of hang back as though I’m expecting Zach to pay for mine. But I think I brushed through it pretty well. But obviously I get more pocket money than he does. I’ve been watching the Blood Frenzy series on TV ever since it started two years ago. and have to fumble for my purse. It stars all the original cast-members. and how the rivalry between the two factions originated.” Feeling a lot happier. but now it’s turning out to be awesome. and I read a rumour that Taylor Lautner makes a cameo appearance. sending little shocks of pleasure all the way down my spine. It’s more that I wasn’t concentrating and reacted a bit late. Apparently this movie is a prequel that explains exactly how the vampire-human hybrid community came into being. I should probably pay for him. It’s not as though I was actually waiting for him to pay for me. There’s one awkward moment when Ben and Muhammad pay for their girlfriends’ tickets. exactly. “I’ll get that. It’s one of my all-time favourites. I decide to do exactly that. My reward comes right away as Zach gives me a warm smile and takes my hand as we start filing into the movie theatre. to be fair. Team Trinity 193 . The evening might have started badly with my stupid choice of clothes. Then I realise that he’s not going to.
Muhammed and Nazeera kiss all the way through the movie. The movie is every bit as good as I expected – creepy and sexy at the same time. It’s nearly ten by now and I’m feeling a bit hollow from lack of food. When we walked out of the movies. More like the kind where there’s a rat gnawing away at your insides. Everyone else orders burgers. The waiter remembers to bring me little bottles of oil and vinegar instead of the creamy ranch dressing that they normally serve.I feel filled to the brim with love and happiness. but I go for the lamb chops and a side salad. But. and Zach will be even more attracted to me than he is now. it’s just that I’m not hungry for my chops. either. It’s the perfect meal for my diet. and I’m quite relieved that Zach doesn’t want to do the same – this is one movie I’m really keen on seeing. if I’m honest. it’s not that I’m not hungry. What’s the matter with me? I really need to eat. my hunger deserts me and the thought of cramming one more piece of meat into my mouth fills me with horror. as I’m about to start my second chop. just like the TV series. I felt like I was floating from hunger. And not the good kind of floating. The chops are perfect – crispy and slightly charred on the outside. And the first bite goes down really well. I feel a longing so strong 194 Fiona Snyckers . How can I possibly not be hungry now? Okay. buttery popcorn all around me while I’m clutching nothing but a diet soda can spoil my mood. Afterwards we go to a Bridles steakhouse for supper. somehow. Not even the fact that I can smell delicious hot. Getting thin will be totally worth the sacrifice. But when I look across the table at the golden pile of garlic bread gleaming next to Ava’s plate. and tender and pink on the inside.
dazed. where does she get off ordering garlic bread and a hamburger. I realised she was pregnant. “I just asked if you liked the movie. but you were a million miles away. anyway? Does the girl actually want to die of a carb overload? It would do her good to cut back a bit. I was thinking of something else. “It was in the second series. I can’t spend my whole life obsessing about carbs.” she says. Ava is waving a hand in front of my face. With an effort I pull it back to Nazeera.” “Really?” Nazeera leans across the table. “Er . Like why the Bloods and the Whites have been feuding for so long. smack her hand away.I can only call it a craving. “I didn’t get that. because you know that the child Hecate is carrying will turn out to be Ivan.” I say.. and that kind of thing. I need to finish my chops and Team Trinity 195 . Okay. and why a Blood female can only have children with a White male. It answered a lot of questions that the TV series left hanging.” Ava chimes in with some remark. and I go back to staring at the garlic bread. and he tells her that his mother’s name was Hecate. Ivan and Jessica are talking after the battle of the cave. but I didn’t know she was Ivan’s mom. And I loved the ending. I loved the movie. and grab all that bread for myself. Yes. “Sorry. Trinity?” “Yes?” I look up. I want to lean over the table. I thought it was awesome. 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 mean.” My attention wants to wander back to the garlic bread. this is not good. “Sure..
But all it does is make me aware of another craving. 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. Just after the movie. meat. It’s just not natural. It’s the first time I’ve been out with him since the scholarship dinner. I’ve even been having Coke Lite for breakfast. Fruit juice. No one should have to drink Coke Lite for breakfast. There! Take that. Stop it. and not to flash my opinions around all the time. and almost throw my cutlery down in a gesture of victory. I’m trying not to talk too much. Trinity. It would have led to a political argument. But I didn’t. It hasn’t been easy. I manage to finish the three small lamb chops without gagging.force my body to realise that it has eaten. 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. I’d give anything to drink a beverage that isn’t fizzy. 196 Fiona Snyckers . This is my big chance to prove that I’m not always a complete disaster in company. I try to focus on how this date is going. Tonight is very important for Zach and me. I pick up my knife and fork and attack my plate like a serial killer. Muhammad made some boring and predictable remark about how lame the ANC Youth League is. trying to enjoy the sweetness of the drink. Stop thinking about food. because that’s what got me into trouble last time. It’s been nearly two weeks since I had any fruit juice. I grab my glass of Coke Lite and take several long swallows. which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid.
and by 11. We pay the bill just after eleven and troop back to the SUV. I could have corrected him. but not too full of myself. There’s one awkward moment when it looks as though we might all be going to have coffee in the common room.25 and I send up a little prayer of thanks. There’s so much I want to say to him. and I’m dying to ask about them to make up for the time I showed no interest in his tandem jump. I know he’s been having skydiving lessons this week.34 we all say goodbye to each other. I know I’m not much of a soccer-watcher. but luckily Muhammad and Nazeera are just as keen on that idea as I am – which is to say not at all. Zach and I hold hands in the back seat and I find myself tensing up every time we stop at a red light.Then Ben said something that proved he was getting confused between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. At 11. Can’t this stupid car go any faster? Ben pulls up in front of the Postgrad Annexe at exactly 11. So all in all. not to score points off each other. I’ve been friendly and occasionally chatty. We have 23 whole minutes alone together! Team Trinity 197 . thanks to his blackbag-over-the-security-camera trick. I think I’ve done pretty well this time around. this will have been the perfect evening. but Zach doesn’t want me arguing with his friends. We’re out to have fun. 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.37 Zach and I are up in his room. 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.
Come back here. I run my fingers through his hair and sink into it. “It isn’t anything I’ve done. really.” He tries to pull me against him again. There’s no point in wasting time. is it?” He doesn’t answer. Now I’m sorry.” I say. But he’s looking preoccupied. There’s nothing wrong.” And he wraps his arms around me for another gorgeous kiss.?” 198 Fiona Snyckers . floaty feeling. but no one can really lose themselves in a kiss when their eyes are open. I open my eyes a crack and see that his are wide open. For about ten blissful seconds. I hesitate. Zach sits down on his chair. sounding weirdly like my own mother. “What’s wrong?” I ask.” I say. trying to recapture that lovely. while I sink onto the bed. it’s nothing. Something is definitely wrong. and then I feel him pulling away. He shakes his head.. he kisses me back. but this time I resist. I smile up at him. do you?” He shakes his head as though to clear it. “Now you have to tell me what the matter is. “No. “What is it?” I ask again. “Are you feeling okay? You don’t have a headache or anything. concerned. I put my arms around Zach and lift my face for a long kiss. thinking he wants to relocate to the bed or something. leaning back from the kiss but keeping my hands linked behind his neck. With a soft sigh. “No.” “If it wasn’t important. “Zach. I’m fine.. it wouldn’t be bothering you. But something’s not quite right. and my anxiety level ratchets up a notch. He feels distracted – like he’s not fully committed to this. “It’s nothing important.The second the door closes behind us.
I know Ben and Muhammad have met you before.” “I promise I won’t! I would never think that about you. You know what I mean?” I nod vigorously again. You hardly said a thing the whole evening. but they’ve never gotten to know you.” I say again..“I really don’t want to get into this.” “You’ve got me worried now. If you really want to know.. “Well. How else will I have a chance to fix it?” He drops his head into his hands.” He looks agonised for a moment. “Okay. “Then why were you so quiet and dull tonight?” he demands. What do you take me for?” “You’re just going to get upset. “I was really looking forward to showing you off to my friends. I know exactly what he means.” “I promise I won’t. And Nazeera and Ava didn’t know you at all. but you just sat there like a lump. “You’re just going to think I’m hypercritical. please tell me what it is. The other girls must have thought you were a total airhead.” I plead. looking down at his hands. I just wanted to show them what a cool girlfriend I’ve got. you know?” he says.” I nod to show I’m listening carefully. Everyone else was chatting away. “I mean. Like I’m always finding fault with you. If I’ve done something wrong.” Team Trinity 199 . I keep wanting to shout from the rooftops how lucky I am to have snagged Zach as my boyfriend. “Quiet and dull?” “Yes. it’s about tonight. but then comes to a decision. making me jump. I feel the same way.
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. “Trinity. “You see!” He bangs his hand on his desk. but..He looks up at me. I promised him I wouldn’t get upset.” I try to remember what other conversations I had tonight. I knew you were right about the scholarship dinner and that’s exactly why I was trying to be less talkative tonight. But instead you just came across as stupid. It’s like trying to think through thick porridge. he rages on. 200 Fiona Snyckers .” I finally manage. “But after the scholarship dinner.” he says patiently..... waiting for me to answer.” I say timidly. but I wasn’t totally silent the whole night. about. I talked to Ava about the movie. no.” “But . Then it fades and he drops his hands at his sides.. “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. “What I meant was. “I knew you’d say that I’m always criticising you. but my throat has closed up....” “No. I promised. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. I wanted to show them what a cool. fun girl you are. and I talked to Nazeera about . but my mind has gone blank. But as I open my mouth to reply.. “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 . you said I was talking too much.” My tongue is all tied up in knots. you see?” For a second the angry red flush in Zach’s face deepens.
where you basically just said yes and no. but then – thank goodness – he turns towards me and takes me into his arms. “I just don’t understand how someone with your upbringing can be such a funny little thing in company. Please give me another chance. shhh. Trinity.” For a moment he hesitates. I’ll do better next time.” I touch his shoulder gently. I’d have thought your parents would have taught you how to handle all kinds of social situations. aren’t you?” I give a little half-sob. honestly. his hand comes up to stroke my hair. I didn’t realise how quiet I was being. simple gesture unleashes my tears in a way that his earlier anger didn’t. I didn’t mean to let you down.” He cups his hand under my chin and makes me look up at him.. “Shhh .. “I’m so sorry.” he soothes as he feels me shaking silently against his chest. Don’t make me wonder the same thing.” He bites his lip and turns away from me.. “It’s okay. this sweet. Trinity. For some reason. I feel a familiar burn of anxiety in my belly. “Zach. half-laugh. “You really are a silly-billy.” Team Trinity 201 . So by mistake I went over to the opposite extreme and didn’t say enough. I was trying to compensate for talking too much the other evening.. doesn’t count. You’re doing your best – I know you are. 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. As I let my body melt against him. Then he reaches for a tissue and carefully dries my eyes.“One conversation the whole night. I’m still learning.
” I snuggle against his chest and let the warmth of his body soothe my worries away. I guess they never got round to it. All I can think of right now is how good it feels to be in Zach’s arms. I don’t think a boy your own age would be much use with this kind of thing. but everything is a bit confused. It’s lucky you’ve got me to help you. it’s not too late.I try to think back to the kind of life we led at home.” “Well... “I . 202 Fiona Snyckers .
They’re all chatting happily about who was there. but the rest of my evening was an absolute disaster. I get back to Sisulu House just as everyone else is returning from the social at St Declan’s. I’ve never once known her to be really hurt by a boy. we could have gone too and been part of the fun. having hooked up with a cute St Declan’s boy at the social. and who they got off with. I catch myself wishing my life could be as simple as Lael’s. it’s a relief that everyone is too preoccupied to ask me questions. It sounds like they had a really awesome time. but she doesn’t take it seriously. In a way. Lucky cow. Lael and Yasmin ask me how the movie was. at least I’m not obsessing about food any more. If only Zach didn’t look down on high-school socials. Team Trinity 203 .CHAPTER 23 ON THE bright side. 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. She’s in too much of a good mood. But the best part is that she never lets herself care too much. She’s been a boy magnet ever since the day she first started to grow breasts. I’m not sorry I got to see the movie. She enjoys the flirting and the dating. but mostly they’re just focused on rehashing the evening. I can’t help feeling a twinge of envy. who they talked to.
Then I remind myself that we don’t do jealousy or resentment in our friendship. “Why are you out of bed?” “You woke me with your crying. What the heck is that? When people get up to go to the loo. Then I feel the wetness on my pillow and realise that I’ve been crying in my sleep. “Shhhh!” hisses Lael. How pathetic is that? I’m not usually a cry-baby.” “What are you doing?” I hiss back. then freeze as I hear a stealthy movement on the other side of my cubicle. I wake up some time later to find the dorm pitch dark and silent. and I manage to snap out of it.” Somehow it’s easier in the dark. wondering what woke me. about ten seconds before lights out. pull on our PJs. and crash into bed. brush our teeth. they normally make way more noise than that. “What’s up. We take off our makeup. Tell Auntie Lael all about it. but lately I’ve been grizzling like a three-year-old.” A heavy weight descends on my toes as she sits down at the foot of the bed. babe? I thought you were looking peaky earlier. She wakes up if a fly farts in China. I lie still for a moment. but instead I go out like a light. 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 . “You know what Matron’s like. I dash my hands across my cheeks. but Matron’s last walkthrough of the night soon puts a stop to that. The whispered conversations carry on for a while. I worry that I’m going to lie awake thinking about what happened tonight.
It shows Lael’s face squinched up in a frown.” There is a little light filtering into the cubicle from the window above my bed. I didn’t mean to scare you..keeping from her.” “I know. Trinity and I have already discussed it.” she says after a pause.” she whispers. and Lael ducks out of sight behind my bed.. pounding a fist against her chest. Plus he hangs out with an older crowd. self-pitying rush. “We’ve talked it all through. Zach doesn’t blame me for any of it. I mean. I would have thought. I just don’t know what to say to them.” Lael says. In fact.” I sniff. “I couldn’t help hearing what you guys were saying. “I thought you were Matron for sure. “I’ve also thought of that. “But it’s okay now. Everything that’s been on my mind comes out in a great big. We’re going to work together to help me become more comfortable in company. “Sorry.” We both turn around sharply as we hear another noise. It’s got something to do with Zach. but I just wanted to say one more thing. I used to think you were pretty good at it. you scared me.. I love him so much that I get nervous around him.” Team Trinity 205 . And whatever I say seems to be wrong. “I don’t know what to say.” Sophie glides into my cubicle in one of the ivory satin negligee-thingies she always sleeps in.” I finish on a hiccupping sob. “That doesn’t sound like you at all.. Then we both relax as Sophie appears at the entrance to my cubicle. The scholarship dinner. You’ve never had trouble making small talk.” “Ja. “Geez. most of his friends are already at varsity. the movie this evening. but still .
Two seconds later. 206 Fiona Snyckers . I’ve told you now. Some of the people who were at the movie with you were discussing it this evening. This time when I fall asleep. I can’t help squirming. “The whole thing just sounds odd to me. she backs out and softly closes the door.” Lael snorts. I can show you the messages if you like. ‘Who is this Trinity girl and why can’t she speak up for herself? What does Zach see in her?’ and so on.” I’m cringing at the thought of people discussing me on BBM.” Sophie goes on. I stay that way until morning. “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. When she’s satisfied that all is quiet. Sophie and Lael melt back to their own cubicles like shadows. “What?” whispers Sophie. and I sink down under the covers.” I mutter. and that’s it. “Anyway. “How?” Lael demands. I reckon you’ve got one more chance with him. Lael is still frowning like a Shar Pei puppy.“You have?” Lael says. it was a big topic on BBM. They were all like. directing an accusing stare at me. haven’t I?” “I heard about tonight as well. Basically everyone’s taking bets on how soon Zach is going to break up with you. but I suppose it’s better to hear it from a friend than never to know about it. “On BBM. Matron puts her head around the door and stares at us for a long time. “She’d already heard about it.” “Well.
they weren’t really high-pressure dates like the scholarship dinner.*** It just goes to show that sometimes a wake-up call is all you need. Now never seems like a good time. I got through them okay. All right. The other day. and I tried to listen in a non-defensive way. I keep meaning to go over to Gumede House to buzz James and ask him to help us. I planned to join Lael on her Team Trinity 207 . Zach and I spoke honestly about how we both felt. we’ll never get anywhere. He told me openly what he wasn’t happy about. and take on board any advice he gives me. It would help if I didn’t feel so utterly exhausted all the time. and I’m starting to run out of excuses. but still. Like he says. I really believe that communication is the key to a successful relationship. and not one has been a disaster. There are only two things bugging me now: My insane craving for carbs. if I keep on bursting into tears every time he has a constructive suggestion to make. but I haven’t got around to it yet. Nosipho and Yasmin and Priya keep asking me when I’m going to do it. After each one. and My guilty conscience because I still haven’t set up the dry run for our plan to pinch the Gumede Shield. 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. I’ve now seen Zach three times since that night at Montecasino. and that’s all that counts.
let’s go now”. Instead of running and kettlebelling. Luckily she also seemed to be having a low-energy day. which makes me even less likely to take action. Bent double and dragging air into our lungs. Lael is as unmotivated as I am to do anything about the Gumede Shield. “Yes. we only made it as far as the Founders’ Block before we had to stop. It’s a bit mortifying to think how seldom we’ve actually used them. we decided to postpone our exercise session for another day. and then do a long session with those kettlebells we bought in Sandton City while we were still doing the Brand New You diet. There’s nothing weird about me being drastically unfit – that’s my default state – but Lael is a real exercise bunny. we really should” and “I’m going to count to ten and then we’re going to stand up”. They were supposed to tone and firm us all over. “Okay. I guess we must have caught the same bug or something. It’s strange that she should have been having a bad day at the exact same time as I was. Then we wasted another ten minutes saying stuff to each other like. 208 Fiona Snyckers .” Once we finally did manage to get going. The plan was to go for a run.early morning run. we ended up flopped on chairs in the common room. but I could hardly get out of bed. on ten then. “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. I’d feel better about it if we had recovered since then. We had such high expectations of those things. but we haven’t. taking about ten minutes just to tie the laces on our trainers. We’re both dragging ourselves around the school like a pair of ancient grannies.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I’m alone in the common room. “Sit over there if you don’t like it. “You look like something the cat dragged in..Luckily. I’ve been swilling Listerine like it’s going out of style. This is the third time someone has commented on my breath in the last week. your eyes are red. I wanted to know what was happening with this plan of yours to steal the Jan Smuts Shield.” “My breath. Lael and I have both caught some kind of virus. I usually have Drama at this time. I think about excusing myself to run upstairs and have another go with the Listerine.” I put a self-conscious hand in front of my mouth..” My head jerks up. We feel awful. but it doesn’t seem to make any difference.” “What’s that got to do with it?” He shakes his head. but it was cancelled. Trinity?” “What do you mean?” I yawn hugely and rub my eyes.” “Yes. I haven’t heard anything about it for weeks. “Are you sick or something?” “Seems like it. it’s you. We probably haven’t been washing our hands enough or something. I’m drifting in and out of a half-awake state. What’s wrong with you.” I say. I’m leaning my head back against the chair. James takes the decision out of my hands by coming looking for me.” Team Trinity 209 . “Your skin is grey. it’s me. “Never mind. “Oh. but I can’t be bothered. and your breath stinks to high heaven. eyes closed. waving at a faraway chair. And James must be standing at least three feet away from me. “What?” I stare dazedly up at James.
” *** About twenty minutes later. but I’m still exhausted. 210 Fiona Snyckers . because she might make us stay in bed and we’ve got the dry run to worry about. Not now. I say goodbye to James and start traipsing up the stairs. The idea was to get as far as unlocking the trophy cabinet. but not actually taking out the shield. Trinity. impulsiveness wrestling with tiredness. “Let’s do it tomorrow.” “Okay. “Tomorrow!” I say before I can change my mind. But we need to plan it out properly. But tomorrow. My knees are trembling and I’m light-headed. Extramurals will be over soon. One more flight of stairs to go. Talking strategy with James has cheered me up.” I pull a guilty face. I know. Tomorrow’s Wednesday. I want to catch a nap before I have to go down to Homework. is there?” “Fine. Maybe Lael and I should go and see Matron.“I know. when it’s all over. There’s no point in waiting. just to make sure no one walks in on us. obviously. Okay. We want to do a dry run – like a walkthrough of the plan. 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’ve been meaning to get hold of you for ages. Yes. that’s what we’ll do. Somehow I feel hungry and nauseous at the same time. “So when do you want to do this?” I hesitate. We wanted to ask if you would be our look-out. Impulsiveness wins.” he says. You can do this.
I try to summon up a bright smile as I hoist myself up the last couple of stairs. “Sure. Matron! I’m just fi---” And then I slide bonelessly to the ground at her feet. “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. Team Trinity 211 .
“I came out of my office because I heard you wheezing up the stairs like an asthmatic and then you fainted clean away.CHAPTER 24 I come to with the smell of something sharp and astringent in my nose.” Something about the way she says my name makes my eyes snap open in alarm.” “No. I’m not asthmatic. What on earth is wrong with me? I must be sick.” I say at last.” I close my eyes while she notes down my temperature and blood pressure. Trinity. “I’ll examine her when she gets back from extramurals.. are you.. yes and no. It seems to stab into my brain. She’s holding a little bottle of something horrible under my nose..” Matron says grimly. “What happened?” “You tell me. “Both normal. but right now let’s see what’s wrong with you. “Lael’s got it too. “That’s good.. isn’t it?” “Well . “What . forcing me to wake up. drinking some of the water she hands me.. what?” I open my eyes and find myself in Matron’s office.” I have to bite my cheeks against a ridiculous urge to burst into tears.. We haven’t been right lately. “I think I’ve caught a bug. You’re not asthmatic. Trinity? It’s not in your file.” she says. “What is it?” 212 Fiona Snyckers .” Matron sticks a thermometer under my tongue and attaches a blood-pressure cuff to my arm.
” she says patiently... now she’s coming at me with a needle. and you’ve had plenty of those. pressed-together lips. The d-word makes her practically froth at the mouth.” “Diabetes!” My heart gives a huge bound in my chest.. wriggling away as she reaches for my arm.. “Just a minute . and it said something about going into ketosis. If there’s anything worse than actually having diabetes. I know. Any minute now she is going to grab me by the ear and force me back onto the table. You need to know that it will be checked for suspected diabetes. Have you found that you are any thirstier than normal?” “Wait . “Roll up your sleeve. “This is no worse than getting a vaccination. like the one Lael and I are on.” Okay. Uh oh. just hang on a minute!” I squeal. I can smell it coming off your breath. Your body is actually consuming itself. it’s explaining to Matron that you’re on a diet. and everything will be fine. but it’s one of the symptoms of diabetes. I wasn’t paying much attention at the time. I was Googling highprotein diets. I can’t be.“I’m going to take some blood from you now to send off to the lab. wait. Ketosis? Wasn’t there something about that on Google? It’s coming back to me now. please. A very long.” “You’re in ketosis. but that word definitely rings a bell. sharp needle. I’m sorry. Trinity.. wait a minute. “But I’m not diabetic.” I screw up my face as I try to think.” “I know. “Trinity.” She watches me with tight. Team Trinity 213 .. Maybe I should just let her test me for diabetes – it’ll be negative. But just .
you’re-going-to-die kind of way. and my nostrils are attacked by an aroma.. “Wait here. My heart is pounding uncomfortably in my chest. I’m only too delighted to have someone take the decision out of my hands and force me to consume carbs for medicinal purposes. “Eat this.“Okay. That’s another thing I’ve noticed lately. that someone had been on a high-protein diet for a few weeks. the crunchiness. “Strawberry jam?” I say. and goes out of the room. Then she sighs and puts down the syringe. “No nonsense and no arguing. mouthwateringly blissful aroma. A wonderful.. Then I bite into it and it is literally the most delicious thing I have ever tasted in my life.” she says curtly. 214 Fiona Snyckers . If you refuse. groaning in protest. hypothetically speaking. pulling a face for form’s sake. the sweet tang of the jam. my heart jumps around in my chest in a super-unpleasant. I’m calling your mother right now. homey smell wash over me. of course.” I sit up. If I have any exertion or excitement. “Let’s just say.” I take a deep breath. The texture. Strawberry jam! At last! Come to my arms. Could that potentially cause these same symptoms? Hypothetically speaking. But the truth is that I have absolutely no intention of refusing.” Matron continues to eye me narrowly for a moment. sweet nectar of life! I lift up a piece of toast and let the wonderful. I hear footsteps coming down the corridor. But inside I’m going. A few minutes later.” Matron orders. shoving a plate of toast under my nose. enticing.
But as I turn towards our dormitory I hear Matron shouting down the stairs. I take a deep breath and slide off the examination table. I slink out of Matron’s office and look from side to side. she looks like I felt less than an hour ago. yeasty deliciousness of the bread. I give her a sympathetic smile. Matron watches me grimly as I practically inhale every morsel of the three slices of toast she has brought me. “Much better!” “You think you’re going to live?” “I do. but it doesn’t even seem to register. before I had my emergency injection of toast. and she’s puffing and panting as though her school bag weighs three tons. her eyes meet mine with dull disinterest. I wave my arms around experimentally and take a couple of steps across the room. Lael is reeling up them like a drunk person. Basically. Her skin is pale and pasty-looking. NOW!” I creep to the corner and peer down the stairs. As she gets to the top. I think I might faint all over again from the sheer joy of it. “Better?” she asks as I pick the final crumbs off the plate with the tip of my finger. “Lael Lieberman! I can see you.” *** Half an hour later. I’m planning on finding Lael to give her a heads-up that Matron is on the warpath. still alive but only just.” “Then sit down again so I can kill you. yes. I just hope she doesn’t keel over at the top of the stairs like I did. Get your sorry butt into my office. She is so caught up in the misery Team Trinity 215 .the wheaty.
The whole lecture was in the rapid-fire mixture of Xhosa and English that she uses when she gets excited. no more. pressing two fingers against a little wad of cottonwool on the inside of her arm. and how I should just sign up for more sport so I could get some exercise. 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. that’s for sure. And to add insult to injury. “The vampire got you too. Lael comes back into the dormitory. that sweaty sheen is gone from her skin. huh?” I say sympathetically. Just before suppertime. The lecture part wasn’t fun. There’s colour in her cheeks. but a tiny part of me is terrified that I’ve gone and seriously damaged my health. but apart from that she’s a completely different person to the zombie I saw climbing up the stairs. I’m pretty sure it’ll be fine. I’ll get the results back tomorrow. and she’s walking with a suggestion of the old bounce in her step. She’s looking a bit disgruntled. I’m just glad she’s going to get some carbs like I did. 216 Fiona Snyckers . Lael will just get the English part. but she won’t get off any easier than I did. She told me stuff about kidney function and organ failure that basically scared the spit out of me. Seriously. Then she launched into a diatribe about how my weight is completely healthy and normal. I decide.of feeling horrible that she’s not even curious about why Matron is calling her. Matron blasted me about the dangers of high-protein diets. No more diets for me.
anyway? I thought you had Drama. she was all like. before lifting the cotton pad and checking for bleeding. “They make me itch. hey! I totally forgot to mention that I ran into James today. She flops down on her bed and for a moment we look at each other.” I blurt out. “I got a plaster as well. I checked the website earlier – it’s apple pie and cream tonight. “Oh. “There’s no way we could have carried on like that. Matron! Lael is also on a diet.” Team Trinity 217 .’ That’s not how it happened. she tosses it into a dustbin.” she explains. when my meeting with James comes back to me in a rush.” I start explaining that it was cancelled. We’ve set up the dry run for tomorrow morning. “Apple pie and cream! I thought I’d never taste that again. Then she wanted to draw blood from me to check for diabetes.” “It’s just as well. ‘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 wasn’t like. ‘Oh. “Look.” A huge smile splits my face in half. Man. and that’s when I told her everything. It didn’t even cross my mind that it could be the diet. I didn’t tell on you. When I came around. pointing to the Bandaid that is still attached to my arm. When there’s none.” “Why were you here this afternoon.” I say.” she says. I’m looking forward to having some dessert after supper.” “So how did it happen?” “I was walking up the stairs and I fainted when I got to the top.She pulls a face.
She grabs her iPad and flicks to the Operation Shield file. We’ll start as soon as Sophie leaves. “You’ve what?” “The dry run. we have got time. Tomorrow’s Wednesday.” “But Trinity!” She’s drumming her fingers on her thighs like she does when she’s stressed out. I’ll work out a schedule for everyone and email it around just before supper. let’s do this.” Lael jumps off the bed with more energy than I’ve seen from her in weeks. the sooner we can pinch the shield for real.Lael sits bolt upright and goggles at me. And there are only a few weeks to go before the end of term. “We’ve got no time to set it up. so sorry. James is totally on board for tomorrow. it’ll be a whole week before we get another chance. And for dessert I help myself to a healthy wedge of apple pie with cream. The sooner we get this done. Sophie has a violin lesson at seven. I’ve organised with him that we’ll do it tomorrow. Just tell everyone there’s a strategy meeting tonight and we’ll go through all the details. “Okay. and some veggies. remember? If we don’t do it now. in case you’ve forgotten.” I say defensively.” *** At supper I choose a tiny bit of roast chicken (I really can’t face protein at the moment). We really need to get going on this. three pieces of roast potato. It 218 Fiona Snyckers . “I was a bit busy being unconscious and having blood drawn. Meeting in my cubicle after seven. Why didn’t you tell me before? You could have dropped me a BBM at least. so it’ll be perfect.” “Oh. And anyway.
” I say with a smile. “What’s up? Why are you so jumpy?” “Sorry. Plus I don’t have that cheesy taste in my mouth any more. “Trinity. I understand why all the Listerine in the world wasn’t helping. did we?” “We didn’t. we didn’t have an arrangement for this evening. I wish I could run through the whole thing with James one more time. I just want to get up and do something. I mean. “Oh. I notice Sophie giving a quick glance in our direction. With my new energy. I mean. It’s good that we have the dry run tomorrow..” I realise what I’ve just said. He must have come down to supper early and left already. And the sweetness of the apple pie has me almost swooning. but there’s no sign of him in the dining-hall. Now that I know it was actually coming from my lungs as I exhaled ketones. I know exactly what we need to do. “See you at seven. Anyway.” Lael mutters in my ear as she stands up from the table.” “Were you expecting someone else?” “No. no.” he says. it doesn’t matter. It’s so wonderful to feel something crunch between my teeth at last after all those weeks of chewing on fibrous pieces of meat.. “I don’t mean it’s good that we didn’t have an Team Trinity 219 .is literally the best food I have ever tasted in my life. but there’s no way she could have heard. He puts a hand on my shoulder and looks at me narrowly. I was in a bit of a dream-world.” Zach’s voice speaking directly behind me makes me jump almost out of my skin. that’s good. of course not. “You startled me. It’ll give me something to focus on.
” he says. Yasmin and Priya are all heading into Sisulu House. “What do you mean.. of course I’m not in a hurry.” “Are you in a hurry?” he asks. not exactly. honestly. I know. I force myself to stop talking and smile at him. The postmatrics are on a different schedule to the rest of us. I’ve got a bit of free time during your first break. Because my forgetting would have been bad. 220 Fiona Snyckers .. I bring my eyes back to Zach’s. It’s getting worse every day. you can’t? You know how seldom I manage to get time off during the day.. “I .. Trinity.. Are you telling me you’re already busy?” “I . They’re looking back over their shoulders at me. “You’re looking so tense. no . trying to scrape some kind of excuse together. It’s true that Zach and I don’t often manage to hang out at break time. You really ought to do something about it. Their A-level tutoring happens at odd times during the day. I can’t. The meeting is going to start soon. I just mean it’s good that we didn’t have an arrangement that I forgot about.” “That’s good.” “Yes.” And now I’m babbling. “You’re so absent-minded. “No. Nosipho.arrangement.” “I was just wondering whether you wanted to hang out tomorrow. as he notices me glancing past him.” “No.” I turn away from him. sliding a hand up my arm and starting to rub the back of my neck. not the arrangement. He shakes his head.. I’m not tense at all.” “Oh!” Disappointment clutches at me.” His eyebrows snap together.
In fact.. There’s no one else.” “You don’t even have a performance coming up.” “I can’t.. sorry! I was just trying to remember what I’ve got on at break tomorrow. It’s not important. Her eyes flick to where Zach’s hands are squeezing my upper arms and back up to his face. “You’re lying to me.” Zach grabs me by the shoulders and forces me around to face him. “Trinity?” Zach says impatiently as the silence stretches out between us. He immediately lets go and takes a step back.” he says stiffly.” “Trinity. no problem. I’ve got it now – it’s an extra Drama practice. Honestly. but you are. 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. “I’m not meeting anyone else. “No. Wednesday is usually one of those days. I don’t know why.depending on when their tutors are available.” “Skip it. We missed our practice this afternoon.. How can your practice be more important than spending time with me?” “We .. we usually manage it once or twice a week.. Team Trinity 221 . so we’re making up for it tomorrow at break-time. But it’s not totally unheard of for us to spend breaks together. uh. we have to meet so that we can organise the .” “Is there a problem here?” We turn around to find Matron glaring at us. And now that I think about it. “Sorry..” “The only one not being honest here is you.
” “Dinner is finished.. Matron. “I just said I had Drama because I have something else to do at break tomorrow. This situation is running away from me and I have no idea how to reel it back in. you should have just said so.” “Well. “There’s no problem.” “Really?” He narrows his eyes. It doesn’t have to do with meeting anyone or anything like that. in case you hadn’t noticed. “Trinity . trying to figure out how to handle this. and marches me out of the dining-hall..“Trinity?” She turns to me with raised eyebrows. the truth is that there is no Drama practice. Something very important. Just give me a minute. “Of course I don’t want to end it. and walks out. I rush on nervously.” She clicks her tongue. “Not to worry.” I take a deep breath as my mind races ahead like a freight train. I’d do anything to be with you. Zach grabs my arm again. This lie about Drama practice is making fools out of both of us.” I say desperately. We were just talking about some arrangements for tomorrow. He finds a quiet place next to the kitchen and spins me around to face him.” “Okay . It’s completely 222 Fiona Snyckers . The staff are trying to clear up. We’re just sorting out what time we’re going to meet tomorrow morning... We’ll take it outside. “All right. Then I’ll let Trinity get back to Sisulu House.” “Then tell me the truth. okay. if you wanted to end it. sort it out more quietly next time. just above the elbow.” Zach says with an easy smile.” I have to swallow against the tide of panic rising up in my throat.” “And we’re in the way. gives us one more glare. Zach. “I love you.
” I steal a glance up at him.” He pushes me backwards until my back bumps the wall of the kitchen behind me.” Zach’s face turns dark red and I know I’ve made a mistake. It’s not anything important. A liar is not somebody I want to have a relationship with. He’s kind of helping us a little bit with this thing we’re doing. “So . But we’ve all agreed to keep it secret. of course.. Trinity. no one. “No. Trinity. are we okay then?” I ask tentatively. slit-eyed look is not gone from his face. But we told him about it right at the beginning. “I’m giving you one more chance to answer me. WHO IS JAMES?” He shouts the last bit. I don’t like liars. making me jump. We all made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t tell anyone about this. My stomach clenches at the sight of it. so unfortunately I can’t tell you about it. “Who the hell is James?” “No one. funnily enough we are not okay.innocent – just something I’m doing with some of the girls from my dorm. Except for James..” “I’m not lying to you! I’m just asking you to trust me and not ask me any more questions.” I babble.” “Helping you with what?” Team Trinity 223 . He’s just helping us. really. He stops nodding and I see immediately that the angry. “He’s this guy in Grade 11. “Forget I said his name. but he’s just nodding his head. It’s a girls-only thing. He’s no one. “James Ellison.” I say quickly. You were lying to me before and you’re lying to me now.
” he says coldly.” “You’re the most important person in my life. Or am I wrong? I want to know where I stand here.” I say miserably. but I thought our relationship was more important to you than some stupid promise you’ve made to your girlfriends.” “Trinity. correct me if I’m wrong. You know that. “I really can’t.“I can’t tell you.” “Then prove it. 224 Fiona Snyckers . I promised. Zach.
A normal Wednesday. which would make it that much harder to take the shield for real. she seems to be in an exceptionally good mood today. Or at any other time. I give myself a mental headslap. but that I will finally do or Team Trinity 225 . getting caught won’t be too serious. If anything. Yet. My biggest fear is not that I will get caught and expelled from Brentwood. There’s virtually no conversation at the breakfast table. But even as it all churns around in my head. I can only be glad that she’s apparently happy and unsuspicious. come to think of it. Nothing is going to go wrong. with nothing more terrifying to look forward to than a History test after second break. strictly speaking we’re not allowed to wander around Gumede House in the middle of the morning. The only thing that worries me is that they might tighten up security if they do catch us. As nerves churn around in my stomach. but she nibbles her way serenely through her fruit and says nothing. I keep reminding myself that we’re not doing anything we could get into serious trouble for. We all are. But since we won’t be doing the actual shield-pinching today. Yes. The most trouble we’ll get into is for returning from break late. I know that today’s adventure isn’t what’s worrying me the most.CHAPTER 25 I’m jittery on Wednesday morning. I can’t help wishing it was a normal day for me too. I’m half-expecting Sophie to comment on our silence.
and have been since we first started dating. We make our way to Gumede House separately towards the end of break. so with luck Zach and I can get back on an even keel now. we are all psyched and ready for our mission. It was touch and go last night. Because let’s face it – I was lying to him. Just when I think we’re okay. James told me that Dr Hussein’s secretary. Anyway I think I smoothed everything over.30. Lael asked us all to keep it a secret. Fortunately we all have different classes at that time of day. I’m lucky he’s put up with me for this long. By the time I get there. I’ll have to be extra careful from now on because Zach is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. so that basically guarantees that we’re going to get back to class late. *** By the time break comes around. so it won’t be too noticeable when we all arrive late. I seem to do or say something to annoy him all over again. I’ve never seen him so angry. I can’t allow anything to mess that up. Mrs Anderssen. and they’ve agreed to stagger their return. and I didn’t trust Zach enough to tell him about our plan. with Yasmin hanging out in the girls’ bathroom for a minute or two to let Priya get back before her.35. and takes a tea-break at about 10. usually starts her filing at about 10am. It’s just Yasmin and Priya who are in the same French class.say something bad enough to make Zach to break up with me. Our break ends at 10. so I did. And with good reason too. You can’t be in a relationship with someone you don’t trust. I 226 Fiona Snyckers . My only defence is that I didn’t think of it like that.
I’ve been elected as the person who will actually go into Dr Hussein’s office. Of course I pointed out to him.spot Yasmin keeping watch at the front door and Priya guarding the side door. And if BBM fails – and let’s face it. “Yes. for approximately the millionth time. which is where Dr Hussein’s office is. they will alert Nosipho who is standing at the top of the first staircase. Mrs Pieterse. and possibly the school secretary. “I’m not keeping watch for those black or Indian girls. In fact. more importantly. that he wouldn’t let me down. or for the Jewish girl either. Since none of us knows the hoot of the Brown Owl. I didn’t repeat that to my friends. If anyone walks in while we’re inside. or even how to whistle through our teeth. but I might as well have saved my breath. so don’t expect me to. the only people who should be in Gumede House right now are Mrs Anderssen. how I knew. James will be patrolling the fourth floor. that I’m black too.” was the exact way he put it. a couple of cleaners. Needless to say. it’s been known to – we’ll just run up the stairs and whisper in each other’s ears. Team Trinity 227 . I was left wondering what I was doing trusting a guy like that. Dr Hussein is teaching matric English straight after break so he definitely won’t be around. somehow.” he replied with one of his charming smiles. and she will alert Lael at the top of the second staircase. mainly because James refuses to deal with anyone except me. Any boys who are off sick are more likely to be in the sanatorium than in their dormitories. but I know you. And. Those are the only two entrances to the building. our agreed method of alerting each other will be through BBM.
“She didn’t know.” “Other voices like who?” I hiss back. Very comforting” “I don’t know about this. But James will definitely be keeping watch. so I gather all is quiet on that side too.” “Well.” “If there are too many people wandering around.” I say as I get to her. “Don’t freak out.” 228 Fiona Snyckers .” “We can’t.” “Thanks for pointing that out. “If Mrs Anderssen has company. well maybe it’s a good thing. you’re likely to get caught. like I say. Or two at the most. I see Priya giving me a thumbs-up from the main entrance.” she mouths back. Other voices were most definitely not part of the plan.” “Okay. If we’re going to get it done this term. and head past her up the stairs to where Lael is waiting. I think we should cut our losses and come back another day. she might spend longer at her tea break.“Nobody has come in or out for the last five minutes. won’t he?” “Definitely. “Lael just came down to tell me that Mrs Anderssen and Mrs Pieterse are definitely both up there. be careful. so be careful. we can’t waste any more time. “It’s just Mrs Pieterse and one other person.” I whisper.” Yasmin reports as I head in through the side entrance. And she says she can hear other voices too. “I heard about the other voices. Trinity. I walk up one flight of stairs and Nosipho greets me with a tense smile. Something doesn’t feel right. We have to do the practice run today.” I promise.” “I will. By now I’m basically just mouthing the words.
Nothing. are you here? It’s Trinity. then you’re good to go. Its wooden staircases are even older than ours in Sisulu House. “James. they have a nasty habit of creaking. I need some kind of alibi in case I get Team Trinity 229 . trying to hear over the roaring in my ears. galvanising me into action. “James?” I say again. With my heart thundering in my chest. and to the left are Dr Hussein and Mrs Anderssen’s side-by-side offices. as I’m just discovering. Score one for James. Mrs Anderssen’s door is standing open. I really need to know which it is. I step into the corridor. I creep slowly up the stairs.” Walking on tip-toe and clutching onto the banister for dear life. A murmur of conversation and a little ripple of laughter reach me from somewhere on the floor. Gumede House is the oldest building in the whole school. And. Still nothing. or she’s safely in the teachers’ lounge enjoying a cup of tea. It’s all quiet at the moment.“Okay. Where the heck is James? He must be around here somewhere. 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. a little desperately. I pause on the top step and very slowly poke my head around the corner to look left and right.” I wait a moment. To the right are the Grade 11 dormitories. “James?” I whisper as loudly as I dare. I’m just going to have to stick my head into Mrs Anderssen’s office and hope she’s not in there. When I get to the fourth floor.
Quick! Let’s get out of here. I hear a woman’s voice behind me.caught. Behind us. “What’s wrong?” Suddenly. taking them four at a time. “It’s a trap. Ronel!” she screeches. “What?” I mouth back. Run! All of you!” Without hesitation. “Oh my God. “You were right.?” Lael just stares at me open-mouthed as I barrel down the steps towards her. There is someone here. They know you’re coming. I spin on my heel and sprint back down the corridor. uh . Now Nosipho is staring up at us. Just as I’m about to peer into her office. I’ll say I’m bringing her a message from . I practically fly down the stairs.. I tiptoe along the passage towards her door. The top half is glass and the bottom half is wood. I’ll figure something out. I grab her wrist in my other hand and the three of us hurtle down the last flight of stairs together. lifting my hands up in a frantic questioning gesture. skidding like a cartoon character. I can hear what sounds like a herd of Sumo 230 Fiona Snyckers .. feeling like I’m about to detonate a landmine or something. I figure out what he’s saying – almost as if I’m hearing the words in my head.. her eyes like saucers.. Call the security company!” At the words “security company”. “Go back! Go back!” he’s yelling. something makes me look up. someone.. As I turn down the stairs. “It’s a trap.” I grab her wrist and yank her down the next flight of stairs with me. “What the. James is standing behind it. There’s a door diagonally opposite me.. waving his hands wildly at me and mouthing something.
“Go straight back to class!” I hiss at Yasmin as we hurtle past the front entrance. “Are you serious?” “Apparently. He tells me it’s a trap. *** “What? How? Why?” Lael gasps as we all finally collapse against the wall behind the laundry room. the school secretary. but takes off like a rabbit up the hill towards the school. So I’m creeping along to Mrs Anderssen’s office. painful sucks. Very unfit Sumo wrestlers. excuse me!” I pant. actually. “It’s adrenalin. “Well. praying I don’t find her sitting in it. I’m so unfit it’s not even funny. and Mrs Anderssen are rather large ladies. So I’m all like. Zip.” “A trap?” Nosipho says sharply. and the four of us dash back to the relative safety of Sisulu House.” says Lael. when I spot James hiding behind this door. If it’s only them after us. “If anyone asks. And he was right. because then I hear Mrs Anderssen and Mrs Pieterse shouting at each Team Trinity 231 . “You’re so unfit it’s not even funny.wrestlers chasing us down the wooden stairs. And you’re not the one who almost walked into a trap. They know all about us.” I feel a small sense of relief that she doesn’t stop to ask questions. I got up to the fourth floor and there was no sign of James. ‘what the heck?’ Then I reckon I have to go ahead without him. Both Ronel Pieterse. Nada. I’m bent over with my hands on my knees. Nothing. we should make it. Lael snags Priya. you weren’t here and you know nothing. dragging air into my lungs in great. by the sound of it.
” Lael says. denial. I swear every hair on my head has just turned white.” “Listen. “Years. they can’t punish us. “That took years off my life.” “Did anyone see you?” “I don’t think so. Total ignorance and denial.” I try to replay the scene in my head.” Priya shakes her head.other to call security.” I puff. “Right now we have to get back to class. slowly getting my breath back. Remember what Trinity said to Yasmin – denial. “They were behind us. I tell you.” “I can’t understand it.” 232 Fiona Snyckers . denial. I don’t think they actually saw any of us. If they can’t prove it was us. we’ll talk about this later.
and Lael. I was quick to shut that one down. And since I would really. Teachers always say that when they’ve got nothing on you and are trying to make you split on your friends. they’re starting to believe we really weren’t involved.40. Mrs Pieterse and Mrs Anderssen are positive that the attempted break-in took place at 10. The bit that’s puzzling them is that we all got back to class on time. And since it’s impossible for us to have been in two places at once. The school is buzzing with rumours. A lot of suspicion is hanging over the Sisulu House Grade 10 dormitory.35. But our teachers swear we were sitting in their classes at 10. Team Trinity 233 . so everyone seems to have concluded that it was learners rather than actual burglars. We’ve all been questioned separately and told they’ll go easier on us if we come clean. We weren’t even late getting back from break. I’ve heard every theory from terrorists to druggies to a political conspiracy involving my dad. really prefer it if my parents never heard a single word about this. The cops haven’t been called in. Yasmin was even early.CHAPTER 26 By night-time. For some reason. news of an attempted break-in at Gumede House is all over the school. Priya and Nosipho were on time as well. I got to Life Orientation just as everyone was filing into the class.
to confuse everyone.40. for goodness’ sake. “In fact.” 234 Fiona Snyckers . unless James has superpowers.. That’s why the teachers are so convinced the break-in happened then. It was the secretaries’ watches. the whole story sounds like rubbish to me. Weird. okay.” ‘Why are you so grouchy today?” I ask. “What? Put that thing down. Please don’t go spreading it around. though. “I’ve heard that one. That’s the last thing I need. “What about clocks?” “Apparently all the clocks in Gumede House got stuck at 10.” “Well. but the main thing is that we didn’t get caught. “I mean. “Have you guys heard anything?” Lael shakes her head grumpily.” “They’re saying that your father.” “Hey.” She pouts.” I look around at the others. you know. a special electronic time-scrambler thingy. too. we haven’t heard anything about clocks.. “It wasn’t just the clocks. I know our plans were spoiled and everything. “You know. That would be so cool. I think we can safely assume it wasn’t him.” Lael says sarcastically. have you heard the latest?” Nosipho says.” “Oh. She’s been in a horrendous mood all day.“Hey. And even the time-display on the microwave in the matrics’ study. weird. or. I duck to avoid getting swiped by her bat. “What about the one about the clocks?” “No. They’re still trying to reset them and get them working again.” “Yes. then brightens up. maybe James did it!” I say.” Nosipho turns to me. yes!” I interrupt crossly. crashing into the dorm with her softball bat sticking out of her sports-bag. hey?” “Ja.
before shutting the door.” “Trinity. I know she’s checking that Sophie is nowhere around. “I’ll tell you why I’m grouchy. No way. Sophie does more extra-murals as the rest of us put together and virtually never gets back to the dormitory until just before suppertime. “Or me. I’m pretty sure I know where she’s going with this.” Lael pauses. They were ready and waiting for us. “Me either. “is that it was one of us. I find it highly unlikely that he blabbed. Someone set us up today. her eyes flicking to each of us in turn.” “Not me!” Nosipho says immediately.” I say. The only ones who knew about the plan were the five of us and James Ellison. “Is that so?” “Absolutely! Not me.” says Priya. I look at the floor. The secretaries knew we were coming.” “Well. “You want to know why I’m grouchy?” she says. And since James is the one who gave the alarm and saved all our butts.” “Why are you looking at me like that? It wasn’t me. “Trinity!” “Stop staring at me like that!” Team Trinity 235 . it’s got to be one of you four. “So what I’m thinking.. it definitely wasn’t me. but she needn’t worry.Lael stands up and walks to the door. “Who would I tell? All my closest friends are right here in this room. I promise you!” My voice cracks a bit.” adds Yasmin. She looks carefully left and right. And since I know it wasn’t me.” she goes on ominously.. Lael eyes me beadily for a moment.
“Look. And then he really freaked out. I sink down onto her bed and put my head in my hands. So then I told him I was doing something secret – something that I couldn’t tell him about. even when we were kids. Like you say. no!” Soft-hearted Yasmin swoops down next to me and puts an arm around my shoulders. He said we couldn’t carry on our relationship if I didn’t trust him. her eyes full of anger and disappointment. But there’s no way he went and told on us. Then I turn to Lael.” says Nosipho.” Nosipho agrees. I did tell someone. 236 Fiona Snyckers .” Lael turns away from me in disgust. You just couldn’t help yourself.” “It wasn’t like that!” “Then what was it like. Trinity?” She swings around.” “You just had to blab to your boyfriend. I’m a bad liar. “That’s manipulative!” says Lael. “What’s going on?” Yasmin sounds puzzled. Lael and Nosipho look less impressed. Never mind that we’ve been friends practically since we were born. He wanted to know the truth. “Damn right. so I immediately made up an excuse about having extra Drama practice. “Zach asked me to hang out with him at break today.“You always were bad at lying. “Was it Trinity or wasn’t it?” “It’s starting to look like it was.” “Oh. But he didn’t believe me. I admit it. Trinity?” I take a few deep breaths. “Why don’t you tell us about it. didn’t you?” Lael says bitterly. “Never mind that we’d made a promise not to tell anyone. No way on earth.
“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?”
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I promise. she didn’t tell me that. “Oh.” “Okay. she. 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 say with a half-laugh.” Keeping a grip on my shoulders. a nasty prickle of embarrassment heats up my cheeks and neck. It was just me jumping to conclusions. it’s not surprising that it was all nonsense. of course not. good. “So this person specifically told you that I pushed him down the stairs?” “Yes. “To be perfectly honest. no. nothing. “Okay.” Zach doesn’t take his eyes off my face. “And now you don’t believe it anymore?” “Well. As I remember. I hardly slept last night for worrying about it. his frown lightens and a smile sweeps across his face. So it was obviously a complete and utter lie. Zach. And when you think about the source of the story. So what was the second thing? Team Trinity 243 . To my surprise. I’m so sorry.” I bite my lip and stare at him.. “What is it?” I ask. he watches me closely.” I pause as I try to think back to what Sophie actually said. “I’ve just seen James and he’s walking around without a mark on him. and that you might be responsible. I take a deep breath and remind myself of my resolution to be completely honest with Zach from now on. I wouldn’t like to know that other people were thinking the same thing. I’m glad it’s only you having these thoughts about me.“I heard that someone had pushed James Ellison down the stairs yesterday.” I say as bravely as I can..” “I didn’t discuss it with anyone else.
” “Well. “When I asked you why you wanted to see me this morning. I didn’t. and you can go back and tell them that. Someone had tipped them off. when we did our dry run for breaking into Dr Hussein’s office?” He nods. I didn’t! It was the other girls.. they thought you might have accidentally let something slip. When they found out that I’d mentioned the plan to you. “So you didn’t talk about it to anyone at all? Not one single person?” “No. “You told Sophie about it?” “Well. “Well. and since you were the only outside person any of us had told. she’s in your dorm. but we’ve been keeping it a secret from her. And .“Sorry?” I have no idea what he’s talking about.” “Really?” 244 Fiona Snyckers .. So now I’m asking you what the ‘second of all’ was. it’s about yesterday. you said ‘first of all’.” “Who was that?” “Sophie Agincourt. isn’t she?” “Yes. I mean. Okay.” I wish I could leave it at that. “I didn’t. They knew we were coming. right. The only person I mentioned it to was someone who was already involved. You know.” “Oh...” “No..” “Sophie!” I sink down into one of the chairs. but something makes me push on. of course.. the thing is . they were waiting for us.” He turns away to pick up a cushion from one of the common-room chairs.” “You thought it was me. She was the only one who didn’t know.
He blabbed. Obviously I was going to mention it if I saw her. End of story. You should have warned me. Didn’t I tell you that Sophie mustn’t know?” Zach’s blue eyes look calmly into mine. maybe I forgot. “I must be going crazy then.” *** 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. It’s the weekend. “You definitely forgot. and rumours about the attempted break-in are finally starting to die down. but now I’m not sure anymore.. you didn’t.” I frown in confusion.. But the main thing is that Zach and I are okay again. “You blabbed.” I give a little laugh. I can handle getting the cold shoulder from my friends as long as everything’s okay with Zach.” Lael sums it up. so that has taken over as the main topic of conversation. “Well . Someone wrapped the chimney of Dr Hussein’s house in toilet paper last night. I had no idea. I really thought I’d told you. “No.” “But. “I’m sure I mentioned that the other night.“Yes..” I could have sworn I mentioned Sophie. I’ve known Sophie for a long time.” I say uncertainly. Trinity. His house is right next to the dining- Team Trinity 245 .. Now she’s basically not talking to me and I feel like a criminal in my own dorm. All they care about is the fact that neither Zach nor I could keep our mouths shut. while the others nod.
In my year we dressed up the statue of Josiah Gumede as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. “It’s a habit. The perpetrators used rolls and rolls of multicoloured loo paper to create an interesting rainbow effect. saying it’s time to cut the apron strings. joking and fooling around as we walk up from the cricket fields. He teases me about how often I BBM my mom. That way it doesn’t feel as though she’s on the other side of the world. Trinity. My Saturday just gets better and better as Zach invites me to watch his cricket practice in the afternoon. “I can’t.hall.” I giggle as he pulls me behind some bushes. The dining-hall is buzzing with speculation about who might have done it. My money is on the Grade 8s. 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 really think you need to cut back.” I smile flirtatiously up at him. I’ve still got pictures of it on my phone. My dad thought it was “disrespectful”.” I laugh. I’m an addict. and then we have a whole hour together before I have to be back for supper. Zach is in a great mood. but I still giggle whenever I think of it. My mom was my very first BBM contact and I still chat to her all day long. 246 Fiona Snyckers .” “You’re sixteen years old. We just chat.” ‘Well. She tells me what she’s up to and vice versa. thank goodness. The practice doesn’t take long. 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. “I can’t help it.
stop spending so much time with those girls in your dormitory. my smile slowly fading. Or . You’re not five years old anymore. You trust them more than you trust me.” I say doubtfully.. Are you calling me a liar.” “Yes.” he interrupts. and the next thing you burst into the Annexe and accuse me of being dishonest.” I look up at him.“I don’t think you’re listening to me.. how can I fix it? “I honestly didn’t mean to. “I suppose I could try to cut back. I admit it. I was out of line. How did this unravel so quickly? How did it go so wrong so fast? And. Is he serious? I thought we were just kidding around. “I want you to stop BBMing your mother all the time. taking hold of my shoulders. or even think that you are one.. I would never call you a liar.” “My friends?” I gape at him.” “Oh.” “It’s not that I trust them more than you. And while you’re about it. They’re a bad influence. “It’s exactly that. Trinity. 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.. You and your friends got together and started talking about me behind my back.. it is. Trinity?” I stare at him. Or maybe I’m wrong.. “Do that. Maybe I am a liar. more importantly. “But why?” “Just a few days ago you were only too ready to believe the worst of me. appalled. weren’t you? All because your friends said so. The silence stretches out until I can’t stand it anymore. I should have known you would never do any of Team Trinity 247 .” he says.
” He drags a hand through his hair. and . so you can’t avoid them completely.” I whisper.. but not completely sure where he’s going with this. “Yes. “Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time.” I’m nodding my head. eager to understand. “That’s better.. but you have to realise what they’re doing here. Trinity. and then you go and make the same mistakes all over again.” “But what can I do? How can I prove it to you? I’ll do anything!” Zach pulls me deeper into the bushes..” “Yes.” “Sorry.” “I’m s-sorry!” My voice breaks on the last word. We’re one of the most prominent couples in the school.” He folds his arms across his chest.” “Y-you mean Lael .. but I refuse to shed them. I’m the one who’s at fault here. “Will you keep your voice down? Any minute now someone is going to come out to see what’s going on. and Nosipho.. I shouldn’t be trying to manipulate the situation by bursting into tears.those things. “Okay. I shouldn’t have asked you about it. “They’re jealous of us. I realise you’re in the same dormitory. “What they’re doing.” “Wh-what do you mean?” My eyes are burning with tears. They’d love to see us break up. “You keep saying you’re sorry. you were. but I force myself to hold it together.. He gives me a hard shake. the problem as I see it lies with your friends. I was wrong.?” I repeat cautiously.” 248 Fiona Snyckers .. Now. all of them..
.” His smile is replaced by that flat-eyed look that makes my stomach dip. do you know what will happen? Our relationship will be over. she stepped back when she saw I was serious about him.” I start saying. They don’t care about you the way I do. “So we’re agreed then. I promise. but stop when he squeezes my shoulder. I’ll definitely give it up. “What do you want me to do?” “Just stop hanging out with them so much. It’ll be much easier than you think. And obviously you’ll give up all this nonsense about the Gumede Shield. but.” I feel some of the tension go out of me. You’ll give up on the Gumede Shield. “Exactly. but maybe she never really got over it.. ” Team Trinity 249 .” I remember how Lael was the one who fancied Zach first. “Oh. Lael isn’t really talking to me anyway. Yes. you’re right.. “I think you should be careful about getting too close to girls like that. He still cares about me! It’s not all over.” “Trinity.“Okay. a bit sadly. and you’ll stay away from those girls in your dorm. “If you carry on with that stupid plan and get expelled... I don’t think they’d actually expel us.” I say. Maybe she’s been jealous all along. “No.” “Well. He smiles.” I feel a fierce little stab of regret. You can’t trust them. you’ll stop BBMing your mother so much. Is that really what you want?” “Oh.. You won’t even miss them because we’re going to be spending a lot more time together from now on.” He smiles again and I feel the knot in my stomach unclenching. so it shouldn’t be that hard.
but by the third day it gets a lot harder. but it’s not that easy. It must mean that he loves me too much to share me with anyone else. So it’s easy for me to keep my promise to Zach for the first two days. What possible reason can I give Lael for continuing to ignore her after the official cut-off time? For me to freeze her out. When you’ve been friends with someone since you were both six years old. Yes. But then Lael calls a meeting for seven to discuss the Gumede Shield. you tend to get the whole fighting thing down to a fine art. When Lael is annoyed with me and we both know I’m in the wrong. and by that evening we’re BBMing up a storm as per usual.CHAPTER 28 The trouble with avoiding my friends is that it’s easier said than done. it’s pretty flattering that he wants to keep me all to himself like this. 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. but that’s not going to last. 250 Fiona Snyckers . Just thinking about it gives me a secret little thrill. By the afternoon of the third day she starts addressing random remarks to me. she gives me the cold shoulder for exactly two and a half days. she needs to have done something to me that puts her in the wrong. and things get really complicated. Lael is ignoring me at the moment. Still.
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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Practically everyone is having lunch in the dining-hall. “She must have locked up before she went to tea. Team Trinity 257 . I reach for the right key. James leads me confidently up the stairs. Empty. it’s unlocked. feeling disappointment crash over me. “No. he’s back and giving me the thumbs-up.” I whisper. But the door between her office and Dr Hussein’s office is shut.CHAPTER 29 In the end. and almost leap out of my skin as I hear a sound in the passage outside. The two boarding houses turn into ghost towns on the weekends anyway. The key to the display cabinet is hanging exactly where James said it would be. he tells me to wait and slips noiselessly down the passage to check whether Mrs Anderssen is still drinking her tea. My heart is banging away in my chest and I’m wincing at every creak of the stairs.” James whispers back. it’s like taking candy from a baby. In less than a minute. My heartbeat kicks up to a roar as I tiptoe to Mrs Anderssen’s office and peep inside. Thank goodness. as most of the students are weekly boarders who go home on Friday evenings.” I turn the handle of the inter-leading door and smile broadly as it opens smoothly and silently.” he tells me. I wish I could master the art of climbing stairs silently. Gumede House is dead quiet. When we get to the fourth floor. like James has. “Try it. “It’s the small gold key.
” My hands shaking. I remind myself. The glass doors open squeakily.” I pull my hand back as though I’ve been stung. This must be all your doing. I take a deep breath and slide the shield out of its former home. and no alarms have gone off. But James steps back. “The alarm. I feel a little glow of delight as I realise I’m holding it in my hands at last. won’t you?” I point to Dr Hussein’s bookcase.” I ease back from the cabinet and reach out to grab one of the books in Dr Hussein’s bookcase. Just a creak. “Wait!” James says urgently as I reach for the shield. and the whole place would be crawling with security guards in minutes. “Nothing. I can see the two eyes of the infra-red security beam built in on either side of the cabinet. Then I slide it carefully into place next to the Gumede Shield. 258 Fiona Snyckers . I can’t have any hand in it. The alarm would have gone off. I slide the key into the lock and turn it. The book I chose stands sturdily next to the shield.“What the heck is that?” I demand in a whispered scream. I rest my forehead against the door for a moment as my pulse slows to heart-attack speed. Hurry! Get that cabinet open. The alarm will only go off if they meet. She’s not going to be drinking her tea forever. right. Now that I look closely. “Pass me one of those books. As long as the beam stays interrupted I’m okay. and there it is – the Gumede Shield. I was about to grab the shield and just yank it out of the cabinet. remember?” “Oh. “What am I going to put in its place?” I whisper. “You must get it yourself.
” “Wait!” “What now?” “I can’t just waltz out of here with the shield all on my own. “All right. girls. I need to call in the other girls.” I say. but you’ll be back to calling me a racist. It has to be a joint effort. hang on a minute. “Ja. and start down the passage towards the stairs. you say that now. MOVE! There. sexist pig soon. Come and help.” “Trinity! There isn’t time. If that doesn’t get them here fast.” I type a message into the BBM group we set up to coordinate our shield-pinching efforts. let’s go. so I shove it down on Dr Hussein’s desk and scrabble for my phone in my pocket. Mrs Whatshername is going to finish her tea break in about three minutes.” But I can hear in his voice that he’s just as excited as I am. You really don’t want to be caught with that thing in your hand. Move.. but he just shakes his head and doesn’t take it.“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.” “Just . “Calling the others.” I hold the shield out to James. “What are you doing?” he demands.. It will deliver the message instantly to everyone. nothing will. “Now let’s get out of here. I’m at Gumede House. Holding Shield in my hand. Team Trinity 259 .
yes. “I can do that. I can definitely do that.” But he shakes his head and runs silently back up the stairs. You and the other girls. shooting a triumphant glance at James. girls. I’ve done my part by taking it out of Dr Hussein’s office. 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. Now one of you needs to carry it out of here. with Priya. “We need to get out of here quickly. because this whole thing was your idea.” He stops in his tracks. please stay!” I say. I think that the last person should be you. “It’s all thanks to you that we’ve got the shield. “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. You should be in on it.We’ve barely made it down two flights of stairs when I hear the thundering of Converse trainers approaching.” “We haven’t got time for this.” Lael’s face breaks into a smile. “Listen.” “Then let’s get moving.” says Yasmin. this is your moment. Lael. “Oh my gosh.” I tell them. “I knew that would bring them running. me too.” 260 Fiona Snyckers . Oh. someone else must take it into Sisulu House. “Ooh. That way it’ll be a proper group effort. “Ha!” I say.” “No. Nosipho and Yasmin hot on her heels. I don’t believe it!” Lael says as she comes panting up to me. and then someone else needs to smuggle it into the display cabinet.
and how she never would have thought it of us. So we spend the entire weekend sweating. When the shield is finally discovered.” says Nosipho.CHAPTER 30 The next few days pass in a blur. Team Trinity 261 .” Lael says. Life in Sisulu House is a rollercoaster of emotion. “It’s a disgrace the way they’ve let this cabinet go to rack and ruin. 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. That doesn’t happen until Monday when Dr Hussein comes into work. Then we have to wait for the teachers to discover the shield’s new home. Then there’s the suspense of waiting for the theft to be discovered. “That’s because it’s never had anything valuable in it before. 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. 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. with her hands on her hips and a disapproving glare on her face. Matron calls us all into the common room and gives us this huge big lecture about how disappointed she is in us. First there’s the thrill of slipping the shield into the display case. “Until now!” Yasmin giggles.
She’s just waiting for the chance to tell on us. but sometimes she impresses even me.Her words are harsh. “I’ll go and talk to Matron now. I’ve known her forever. and hope she doesn’t completely wig out when I tell her it was us. Yasmin and Priya can’t hear past her angry words. I think it’s because Nosipho and I both have Xhosa grannies who lose it with us every now and then. On Thursday morning we have a special assembly of the whole school. I’m going to trust you on this.” “You’d better do it soon. 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. Lael is brilliant. We don’t want Matron to think we’re only coming forward because Sophie spilled the beans. and shouldn’t be all that surprised by anything she does anymore. and her tone is rough and impatient. only Nosipho agrees with me. “Okay.” Lael rolls her shoulders like a boxer going into the ring. When I run this past the other girls. Lael. After morning prayers and announcements. “I didn’t like the look in Sophie’s eye when Matron was shouting at us.” *** You know. But somehow I know that underneath it all. “I’ll go and get it over with now. Dr Hussein tells us that one of the Grade 10 learners is going to address us. she’s proud of us.” Lael says when we all gather upstairs later. I feel a little clutch of panic when Lael stands up and marches to 262 Fiona Snyckers . she really is.” I warn her.” “True.
First she wanted a blow-by-blow account of how we did the actual stealing. It’s funny – my dad is the one who went to prison on Team Trinity 263 . My dad’s reaction was volcanic. I spent last night making sure my family were up to speed with everything. Then she wanted to email me a feminist manifesto that we could Prestik up onto the display cabinet “like Martin Luther”.the front of the hall. you’d swear he’d never heard of anyone breaking the law for their beliefs. They asked whether I was planning to call the folks and tell them too. then I could call my parents long distance and do the same. as expected. In fact. I could hear the pride behind the exasperation. like. if we felt so strongly about the Gumede Shield. I called my brothers together and told them what we’d done. She has told us absolutely nothing about what she’s been planning. she sounded almost excited. they promised to send a nice wreath to my funeral. she would only smile and put a finger to her lips when we asked. why couldn’t we have gone through the proper channels? Why did we have to break school rules to do it? And basically. After supper. where did he go wrong as a father? Honestly. But like with Matron. I asked if she meant that American Civil Rights dude from the 1960s but she just sighed. I did it. Which of course put me into a fantastic mood for phoning Chile. Then I got Mom on the line and she was much more sane about everything. Ever since coming back from talking to Matron. Anyway. He was all. I think if he’d been on the same continent as me. When I said I was. If Lael could walk into Matron’s office and confess. that wreath might have come in useful.
Goodness only knows when Lael wrote to Priya’s mom. This is what the email says: To whom it may concern. but my mom is the real outlaw at heart. But she’s as mystified as I am. She talks about how the shield was stolen once before and placed in Sisulu House. I’m starting to realise that she must have been planning this speech for a very long time. So even though my parents know all about it and are apparently not ready to disown me yet. Lael is totally in control of the situation. I turn to stare at Priya with a ‘what the heck?’ expression on my face. This 264 Fiona Snyckers . A few minutes into her talk. 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. She starts off with a history of the Gumede Shield. 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. they could keep it. going right back to its days as the Florence Nightingale Shield during the Crimean War. And how another Brentwood boy carried it with him when he marched in the June 16 protests in Soweto in 1976. Then she surprises everyone by pulling out an email from Priya’s mom. I still have my heart in my mouth when Lael gets up on that stage.Robben Island and everything. I know that I needn’t have worried.
“What does that mean?” “I think it means without admitting that we’re guilty of anything. “We.” A ripple of laughter runs through the staff members sitting at the back of the hall. Kind regards.was more than just a rumour. Those days are over. “We’re not trying to take the Gumede Shield away from Gumede House. We just want to share it with them. the Grade 10 boarders of Sisulu House. would like to make the following request – without prejudice of course. Like guests who were barely tolerated in what was still regarded as a boys’ school. It was well-known throughout the school. 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. We would also like the cabinet to be moved to a more prominent position. “And has been since 1966. and for it to be turned into Team Trinity 265 . I jab Nosipho in the ribs.” Lael goes on with a dead straight face. “we would like to request that it remain there for six months of every year. It’s an important part of Brentwood’s history. There was a time when girls were treated like secondclass citizens around here.” Lael continues as she looks up from the letter.” “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.
“The staff and governing body of Brentwood College unequivocally condemn the theft of the Gumede Shield.” I whisper.” “Shh. This kind of lawless behaviour is totally unacceptable on school grounds and will always be met with the severest penalties.” Lael sits down to some nervous applause from the students. 266 Fiona Snyckers . “we took several factors into account. and Dr Hussein takes the podium.. and are shocked at the breaking-and-entering that went into it. there will be nothing for us to do but accept our disappointment.” Dr Hussein continues. One was the fact that no damage was done to school property.a proper trophy display case to compare with the one in Gumede House.” “In considering how to respond to this outrage.” says Priya. we’ll just keep on pinching the shield until they do..” Nosipho whistles softly. “Severest penalties. “She’s basically threatening them.” My friends and I stare at each other with wide eyes.” I whisper back. “If this request is not granted. “Let’s see what Dr Hussein says. “He’s not done yet. 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. He eyes us all sternly. isn’t she? She’s saying that if they don’t do what we ask. “That sounds like expulsion. We remain mystified as to how exactly the theft was accomplished. doesn’t it?” “Just wait. but are grateful that nothing was damaged or vandalised.
as we stare innocently back at him. who headed up Brentwood from 1977 to 1981. When he looks up again... I have spoken to a number of teachers and parents who were pupils at the school in the 1970s and 80s. “As such. it remains an open question whether the shield can actually be regarded as stolen when it was never removed from the school. And it sounds like she’s not the only one. “However. Team Trinity 267 . there is a distinctly unfriendly expression on his face. We are essentially being held to ransom by the feminist agenda of certain female members of the pupil body. It might be more accurate to say that it has simply been moved.” “It’s a well-known fact that institutions targeted by blackmailers should never give in to them because that only encourages the perpetrators. The fact that several female members of staff have declared themselves in sympathy with this agenda is neither here nor there. and have been able to isolate the rumour to the headmastership – or perhaps I should say headmistressship – of one Eugenia Caxton.” He looks down at his notes and lifts a hand to adjust his glasses. “There remains the question of what I do not hesitate to call blackmail. “I told you Matron was secretly proud of us.” “Hah!” I say triumphantly.” continues Dr Hussein.” He sweeps our section of the hall with an eagle eye. 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.“We also have no evidence to suggest that the Gumede Shield was at any time removed from school property.
As the noise starts to die down. the teaching staff. stamping their feet and clapping their hands as hard as they can. starting immediately. A huge grin lights up my face.“It seems that this lady – a known eccentric – did indeed make some such promise after the shield was moved to Sisulu House once before. I turn to see Lael slipping back into line beside me. I feel something brush against my sleeve. The entire student body – and most of the teachers. 268 Fiona Snyckers . after consultation with the student forum. And much as I deplore her rashness. I wouldn’t be too surprised. If the whole place collapsed at this point. whistling. And therefore. I feel myself bound to honour her promise. and I wrap my best friend in a hard hug.” This time there is nothing nervous or hesitant about the applause. The noise is bouncing off the rafters of the old hall and thundering along the wooden floors. as far as I can see – are screaming. I am happy to announce that the Gumede Shield will henceforth spend six months of every year in Sisulu House. and the governing body of Brentwood College.
“Your name is James. to congratulate us and to talk to Lael about her speech. And she’s right.” she says. he’s looking completely puzzled by what she’s saying. isn’t it?” “Last time I checked. tugging at Lael’s arm. she’s got the wrong person. where did she see him? I scan the thinning crowd of students. “Okay. Team Trinity 269 . We do owe it all to him.” he says snootily. Then the bell rings again. James!” she shouts. Without his help. I’ve been wanting to introduce James to Lael for ages now. “This isn’t James. People keep coming up to us even after the bell has gone. wait up!” I turn around smiling.” “No I haven’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started asking for autographs. “There’s James Ellison – the guy we owe it all to. I rush over to them and pluck at her elbow. “Hang on a minute. looking for his familiar face. Lael has gone up to some completely arbitrary guy and is chattering away to him. “Hey. Not surprisingly. we’d better get along to Afrikaans. Now. James.CHAPTER 31 After assembly it take ages for everyone to get back to class. “Lael!” I say.” she says indignantly. as though someone is trying to make a point. a bit longer this time. But she has just spotted someone. You’ve got the wrong guy.” I say. I’ve been dying to thank him. Oh dear. our brilliant plan to pinch the shield would still be just that – a plan.
“Let’s put it this way – are you or are you not James Ellison of the Gumede House Grade 11 dormitory?” “I am. puzzled. can I just say that it really isn’t working. “He might be called James. have absolutely no idea.. “And if this was your way of getting me to notice you. “Trinity. She started shouting.” he says with a sneer.. and some discoloured bruises down the right side of his face.” “Are you telling me that’s not the guy who’s been helping us steal the Gumede Shield?” “Absolutely not.” I make a swooshing motion with my hand across my face.” he says.. “You can’t be.” Lael says.Okay.. but he’s still the wrong person.” “And yet I am. so she thought he was James Ellison. And he has this.” “And where did you ever get the idea that your guy was James Ellison?” 270 Fiona Snyckers .” Then he turns on his heel and walks away. Lael can be such a dweeb sometimes. I feel as though I’ve been punched in the stomach.” Lael looks from the guy to me and back again.” I say.. leaving me gaping after him like a goldfish. They don’t even look slightly alike. and – I can’t help noticing – he’s got one black eye.. sweep of hair over his forehead. This guy looks nothing like my James. “James! James!” and this dude turned around. “What’s going on?” “I . Trust me. “But . He’s shorter and chunkier. “Listen. And he’s a really snappy dresser – all retro and vintage-looking.. I know. My James is thinner and much better looking. like. I know what must have happened. And he’s much nicer than that obnoxious ass. but..” I stutter like an idiot. “And it’s kind of gelled at the back.
he doesn’t fit the profile at all. But I still can’t quite get my head around this. come to think of it.” *** By the end of the school-day. But for the rest. we’ll get detention. it’s all my brother’s fault. Well. so I start walking towards class.” We are now the only people still standing in the quad outside the hall. “Listen. not surprisingly. pulling Lael along with me. and he was the one who told me it was James Ellison.” I say. I think I’ve managed to piece it all together. And now I’ve spent the entire term thinking that my unknown friend is called James. I’ll give him that. “I can’t remember. we’ll talk about this later.“I don’t know!” I rub my hands over my face. He even warned me against him. Have I really been calling this guy by the wrong name all term? Why didn’t he correct me? In fact. “If we don’t get to class right now. I can see a couple of teachers headed our way. like I was going to rush out and start dating him. I remember. 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. Team Trinity 271 . right? Or can you? I honestly can’t remember. obnoxious guy with brown hair and retro clothes was. I can clearly remember asking Aaron at the beginning of the year who the racist. the real James Ellison is certainly obnoxious. And.
I’ve been pretty miserable for a while now. I realise how long it’s been since I felt this happy. I sink into an armchair with a happy sigh. and I find myself smiling. and when I open them again. There’s no one around. Everyone is either at extramurals or upstairs chilling in their dorms. Come to think of it. But then his face pops into my mind. All I need is a list of the students in the Grade 11 boys’ dormitory and I’ll find him. I’ve BBMed him a few times already. but she’s got tennis matches the whole afternoon. I have to sit down for a minute before I lug all my stuff upstairs. and they told us that the local community paper. I just didn’t realise it until I started feeling better. I close my eyes for a moment. and I know he lives in Gumede House. because there’s been no response. No – politeness is not exactly his strong point. Back in Sisulu House. but he must have had his phone off. As I sit there feeling the warmth of pride in our achievement. I make a beeline for the common room. What a day! I’m still glowing from our triumph in assembly this morning. the Sandton Chronicle. I’ll probably have to wait until suppertime. I know he’s in Grade 11.Maybe I’ve been saying the wrong name for months and he was too polite to correct me. would probably be calling for an interview as well. It’ll be easy enough to find out. Lael and I gave an interview to the school newspaper at break. Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any more perfect! He probably wants to congratulate us on the shield. 272 Fiona Snyckers . I’m dying to talk everything over with Lael. I see Zach coming into the common room. though. It’s a bit weird to realise that I now have no idea what his real name is.
“Sit down anyway. something is definitely wrong. And right now.” He takes a step towards me. do you? Even after I’ve made it one hundred per cent clear that I don’t want you to do something. A little whisper of unease curls up my spine. I’ve become fluent in my boyfriend’s body language.” He touches my arm briefly and then steps back.” “I don’t want any coffee. everything about him is saying “angry”.” I make a sweeping gesture with my hand. Something is wrong. “Um .. So instead of hugging him.. I’m not happy at all. like a waitress in a restaurant. Is he angry because I went ahead with the shield plan after he told me not to? But it all worked out so well. or even punished. Do you want to know why. “I don’t want to sit down.. don’t you?” Team Trinity 273 . “It’s so great to see you!” I say. Zach? You don’t look happy. which is what he was worried about. “Trinity.” he says through gritted teeth. you go behind my back and do it anyway. and for some reason.” I bite my lip. and the way he moves. “No. I’m not happy. “Is . “Okay.“Zach!” I jump up and run forward to give him a hug.. the tone of his voice. I’m a world expert on his facial expressions. Trinity?” He takes another step towards me. I find myself taking a step back. I stop short and give him a big smile. is something wrong. My happy glow fades. why?” “Because you never listen.” Okay. And I didn’t get expelled. “Have you got time for a chat? I can make some coffee if you’d like.
. I’m not sleeping with anyone. really? Who?” “I don’t know. There is still absolutely no one around. which feels bruised.” He laughs harshly.” “James!” he snaps.. “The thing is.. it all happened so fast that there wasn’t time for me to ask if you minded.” “What are you babbling about.For a moment.” “Sleeping with him?” I gasp.” “Nice try. 274 Fiona Snyckers .” I put a hand to my chest. “You . He’s asking for another stint in the san.” My brain feels like it’s short-circuiting. I know exactly what this is about.. “Of course I’m not sleeping with him.” I say desperately.” “Oh..” “Liar!” He shoves me hard in the chest so that I stumble backward. No one has shoved me like that since my brothers and I were still young enough to get into physical fights. “That fool. “It was you who pushed him down the stairs. Someone completely different. but there’s no point in playing dumb. right?” I say. And he wasn’t even the right person..” “Zach. My gaze flickers around the room and out into the deserted corridor. “I got his name wrong.. without thinking. you’re talking about the Gumede Shield. “You’d do anything to protect him. The guy who helped me was someone else. James arrived so suddenly and told me about the opportunity. I think about asking him to explain what he means. “So … it was you. Trinity?” “It wasn’t James Ellison. “You lie and you lie and you lie! I don’t think you even know what the truth is anymore. I still don’t know his name. wouldn’t you? I didn’t want to believe that you were sleeping with him... Zach .” I say. I didn’t have time to.. but now.
” He bends down over me. too stunned by pain to think for a moment. and for the first time..“Don’t you ‘Zach’ me. “He was going to hit me. My friend. His head flicks around and he looks straight at my friend.” I say. didn’t you?” Team Trinity 275 . like there’s nothing he couldn’t handle.” I call out. It was an accident.” He’s getting closer and I can feel the hard edge of the fireplace surround against the back of my foot. but he couldn’t possibly have wanted me to fall like that. Then I catch a glimpse of movement behind him. I’m saved! Thank goodness! He looks so calm and competent. I gasp and wince. The one whose name I still don’t know. and this time when he shoves me. “He was really going to hit me. I shake my head in confusion. You saw it. My boyfriend is going to hit me. and feel the edge of the grate slam into my back. and see James Ellison coming into the common room.” he goes on. as tears flood into my eyes. You should look where you’re going. thank goodness!” I blurt out. not James Ellison. maybe reaching down a hand to help me up.. wasn’t it? Yes. he pushed me. “You’ve betrayed me in every possible way since the day we started going out. I fall backwards onto the stone tiles of the fireplace surround. “You tripped. expecting to see Zach horrified by what he’s done. Relief washes through me like a wave. He’s going to hit me. I can see it in his eyes. “Oh. Then I roll off the icy grate and look up. But he just looks even angrier than before. I feel real fear. you stupid bitch. “Liar!” he says again. His hand is clenched into a fist. No . “I didn’t mean to. Zach stiffens.
“Help!” I scream. Then he starts clawing desperately at his collar. When he lets me go. His face is getting redder and redder. He just stares at me sadly. “Please help. Trinity. Then I open them again. aren’t you?” He turns back to me and grabs me by the arm. looking wildly around. “What’s happening?” But my friend just stands there. but I can see him clenching his hand into a fist and drawing it back. slowly and clearly. Then he shakes me until my eyes roll back in my head.” I take a half-step towards Zach.” But my friend just stands there.” he says.My friend doesn’t answer. and he coughs again.. “Don’t let him get away with it. Zach has spun away from me and is clutching at his neck as though something is choking him. who is now lying groaning on the floor. but I’m afraid of being grabbed again. I don’t understand what’s happening. He lets out a strangled wheeze. “There’s no one there. There is anger in his face as well as sadness. watching Zach lurching around.. You’re trying to trick me again. and his eyes are starting to bulge. Zach smirks. Then he turns to me. He coughs . “Who are you talking to?” Zach demands. “What’s going on?” I say. my head is spinning.” He draws his fist back and I close my eyes. “There’s no one here to help you. and stumbles around the room pawing at his neck. What should I do? Should I call someone? 276 Fiona Snyckers . Did he have something in his mouth? Is he choking on a piece of chewing gum? I want to help him. “Whatever happens – don’t let him get away with it.
. An icy shiver ripples down my back as I run blindly out the room. He’s gone. “I don’t know what to.I turn back to my friend. Team Trinity 277 ..” Then I stop.
I know the signs because my mom reacts in exactly the same way. and at the same time so coldly determined. 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 . only to spot some strange lights in the sky. All she cared about was that Zach had attacked me. When I first told her what had happened. I can’t help thinking that she should either give up the vodka. not the part about Zach being choked by an invisible person. Every time I read about some tannie in Texas or wherever who was driving along a lonely road at night. and knocked me over. That bit I’m keeping between Lael and me. and little green men got out. and one of the lights turned into a flying saucer and landed right next to her. I mean Lael. Without fussing over me. long holiday. she didn’t even seem to hear the part about the invisible person. or else check herself into rehab for a nice. And when I say no one. I have never seen Lael so angry. At least. because I haven’t been stupid enough to try to tell my story to anyone else. and that he was about to hit me in the face when something happened to interrupt him.CHAPTER 32 Now I know how all those people in America feel when they report UFO sightings. This is the kind of thing that sends Lael into a feminist frenzy. Only now I’m the loony tannie from Texas whose story no one believes.
I wish my life could go back to normal. and she insists that the school doctor be called in to examine me and write a report of his findings. print it out. Now that the worst of my shock is over. We give one copy to Dr Hussein. and how many people poke and prod at me. a horrible tiredness has come over me.the fireplace. and I find myself wishing that the whole thing would just go away. Then she takes photos of the grate to show how they match up. She makes me go to Matron and tell her exactly what Zach did to me. I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for a million years. and sign it with today’s date. When I think of trying to prove my word against his. I’m the ditzy rich girl who scrapes through school on a combination of luck and her family name. I hate all the stares and whispers that follow me around school. A lot of people think I’ve snapped. They look at Zach and they look at me. Because he’s the handsome sports hero. one copy to Matron. and they have no trouble in deciding who to believe. isn’t he? He’s the golden boy that the school managed to poach for its postmatric programme. Then she goes with Matron and me to the Sandton Police Station to open a docket of assault against Zach. After a couple of days. and we keep one copy ourselves. Lael lets me know that Zach is telling everyone who will listen that I tripped over the fireplace by accident. She makes me type the whole story out on my laptop. Most people couldn’t believe Zach was going out with me in the first Team Trinity 279 . Eventually I lose track of how many times I tell my story. and that I’ve made up this whole story to discredit him because he was trying to break up with me.
But here’s the thing – I’m not going to. and we’re all going to our house in Cape Town for a few weeks.” Lael’s smile is as sharp as a knife-blade. “Zach and his parents are going to be there. All the trees are wearing their autumn colours. “They’re probably deciding whether to expel him. Of course they think I would go ballistic if he ever broke up with me. “I’ve been called to an internal hearing. 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. He told me not to let it go. the pressure is mounting.” “Good. You just stick to the truth. There are times when the urge to let the whole thing drop is like a physical ache. trying not to wring my hands. but I persuaded them not to. They wanted to cut their trip short and come home early after what happened to me. and there’ll be nothing they can say to shake you. a sea of yellow and orange. Obviously I’d try to smear him with some made-up story about physical abuse. 280 Fiona Snyckers . First. 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. My parents will be back. I can’t believe it’s April already. I can see right over to Illovo from here.” I tell Lael. And I kind of made a promise to him in my head that I wouldn’t. *** A week later. Term is ending in a few days.place.
” “Ja.” I nod. Matron told me about it this morning. Not even Sophie would be that evil. Sophie knew all about how Zach treated those two girls. “But have you heard the other part of the rumour?” Lael goes on. even though I’m really going to miss living in Sisulu House. “I know.” Team Trinity 281 . “No ways. This part I know. So according to Yasmin. “The part about Sophie?” “No. I turn away from the window and back to Lael. and that’s why she was so keen for you to go out with him.” Having Matron in my corner has made the hugest difference to how I’m coping with everything. When I remember how grumpy I was about it at the beginning of the year. “Have you heard the rumours about Zach’s ex-girlfriends?” She nods. “What about her?” “Okay. Yasmin’s a sweetheart. Apparently these two exgirlfriends of Zach’s both live in KZN. and the other one from Howick. listen to this. “You mean the ones who have come forward and said that he did the same things to them?” “Yes. She is totally and completely on your side about everything. by the way. remember?” I wrinkle my nose. She kept encouraging it. who also comes from KZN. right? He dated them while he was still at Hilton.It’ll be great to see them again. I can hardly believe it.” I say. intrigued. “I don’t believe it. “The one comes from Pietermaritizburg.” I smile. You have to take everything she says with a pinch of salt.” I say. which is where Sophie’s family have their holiday home. but you know what a gossip she is.
seeing the look on my face.” I sit down on my bed.” For a moment I’m too dumbstruck to speak. taken down a peg. That’s how I got him to notice me that very first time. You know. Does Sophie really hate me that much?” “Apparently she thought it would be good for you to have your confidence knocked. “Are you okay?” Lael asks.” “And Sophie knew that?” “Absolutely. no. “How did he do it. Not the way he pushed me into the fireplace.” This is what has been bothering me most of all. “I can’t get my head around this. How she even did my makeup that one night. 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. “Apparently. and she’s not a gossip at all. 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. I rub my hands hard across my face. but listen. Lael?” 282 Fiona Snyckers . Think about it. I don’t know whether she knew that he might actually hurt you physically. She told me that Sophie was actually boasting about it. “Not really. I keep remembering how Sophie lent me clothes to go on dates with Zach. What gets me most is how he managed to destroy all my confidence in myself. or the fact that half the school thinks I’m a liar.” I am speechless. Not the bruises. Even Nosipho believes this.“No. “Is this for real?” I say at last. Trinity. It was common knowledge in Howick.
“How did he do what?” “How did he break me down like that? By the end. I can’t believe how much he changed me. it would actually be funny. But you’ve never had to deal with anyone like him before. Then you started coming back from dates and accusing yourself of being too quiet or too talkative or too clever or too stupid. 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 wanted me to give up trying to get the shield. and I was ready to go along with it. If it weren’t so ridiculous. and I agreed to that. I always thought I was quite a strong person. We all did.” “I should have been able to see through him. too. I was completely terrified of him. it’s very hard to shrug that off. You! Who’ve been hanging out with cabinet ministers and CEOs practically since you were born.” Lael makes me sit down on the bed next to her and gives me a huge hug. There must be something wrong with me for him to have been able to do that. we did for a while.” “Really?” “Well.” Team Trinity 283 . Trinity. but obviously I’m not. “You are a strong person. I would have done anything to please him – literally anything. Nothing you did was ever good enough. You are. You thought you were the luckiest girl in the world to be going out with him. Nothing you wore was ever right. None of us has. He made you believe you didn’t know how to behave in public.” “You were dazzled by him.
“Stop it! Stop thinking like that. So when she’s like. Trinity?” Maybe I should try again. “I still can’t get over the feeling that I embarrassed him in public. “What’s up.” Lael says.” “Well. you’re just crazy. ‘there’s nothing wrong with the lights. but she probably thought I was too traumatised to know what I was talking about. they’re not going dim. “Word is something has spooked him badly. And 284 Fiona Snyckers . Zach had just pulled his fist back to hit me. Why should she? I wouldn’t believe myself. Lael cocks her head to one side. with another one of those razor-sharp smiles.” “I guess. It was all him messing around with your mind. I was hurt and upset. In the last few days even I’ve started wondering whether my mind was playing tricks on me. remembering. Lael gives me a little shake. I’ve tried to talk to her about what happened in the common room that day. Maybe I should sit her down and make her listen seriously to what I have to say. I was terrified. nearly jumping out of his skin if anyone comes up behind him. didn’t he?” I say. screaming in his sleep. he’s having nightmares.” “Gaslighting?” I say. ‘what’s wrong with the lights.” I stare at her. puzzled. why are they going dim?’ he’s all. Of course I wasn’t thinking clearly.“He did do that.’ That’s exactly what Zach did to you. What do they call it – gaslighting. Apparently. I bet he’s sorry now. None of it was real. But I know she won’t believe me. “It’s from that old movie where this guy makes his wife think she’s going crazy by dimming the lights all the time. The other postmatric boys say he’s acting like he’s seen a ghost.
Honestly.this was after months of his mind-games. “Nothing. I wouldn’t believe myself anymore than I’d believe Darleen from Texas who said she’d just been abducted by aliens.” I say. “Nothing’s up. it’s a wonder I could still remember my own name at that point. No. shaking my head and forcing a smile.” Team Trinity 285 .
I’d be dying of embarrassment if I weren’t still so happy to see them. When you’re a day girl and school ends for the term. And when you’re a boarder who is moving out permanently. Of course. whispering and pointing. it’s a great big headache. 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. black cars they’ve got parked outside. it’s not that simple. When you’re a boarder. She’ll be spending the first week of the holidays with us before her mom comes to pick her up in Cape Town. too. instead of just packing them all into my trunk. So we’ve got all her stuff to pack up as well. A little group of students is standing around. you tend to forgive them the little things. My mom has already insisted that I take her on a pilgrimage to view the Gumede Shield in its brand. Gumede House too. My mom is pounding up and down the stairs clutching hairbrushes. my family have taken over Sisulu House completely. since my brothers are moving out of there. and tubes of lipgloss. Lael is coming home with us. Normally I’d be a puddle of mortification by now.CHAPTER 33 The last day of term is such a mission I can hardly believe it. but when you haven’t seen your parents in more than three months. you just pick up your bag and walk out. stray knickers. 286 Fiona Snyckers .
She took pictures of it from about a million different angles. brushing tears from her eyes. Honestly. hugged me until my ribs squeaked. just in time to support me through Zach’s hearing. Zach’s parents. We don’t know what will happen to him yet.” My parents arrived yesterday. and then took a million more pictures with Lael and me standing in front it. I know my parents only started to relax when they saw for themselves that I really was okay. I stood up in front of the head. I didn’t back down. you can’t take them anywhere. “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. “To think that my girls did this!” she keeps saying. because I’m finally sleeping properly again. and Zach himself. the deputy head. “TRINITY!” Mom yells up the stairs. Matron. It’s amazing how powerful that makes me feel. I didn’t take the easy way out. And if I come back next term to find him still at school. and I told the truth exactly as it happened. The important thing is that I told the truth. Whether the school chooses to believe him or me is actually irrelevant. Because I’m not scared of him anymore. “I’m so proud. Parents. We might only find out next term.spanking-new display case. It doesn’t change what happened. Peaceful too. But I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t really matter. my parents. and I feel some of my new-found tolerance wearing thin. I didn’t let myself get scared off. I’ll deal with it. Team Trinity 287 . I don’t know what to do with myself.
” “I have to show you something.” “Okay.” she says urgently. I’m going to show you some pictures. “Where have you been?” I ask. It’s a picture of the Brentwood Standard 9A class of 1966. and I want you to tell me if you recognise anyone in them..” she says. Does anyone there look familiar to you?” Completely mystified. go ahead. “I need you to keep me from murdering my mom. What’s up?” She puts the old books down on a table. Standard 9 . Let’s hurry.” I follow Lael into the study and shut the door behind us. The class photo. that’s what they used to call Grade 11. She opens a page marked with a post-it and hands it over to me. “What about a matric’s study? There’ll be no one there now.I look up and see Lael coming down the stairs clutching a bundle of musty-looking books. “I’ve got this. bound copies of the school magazine.” She opens the leather covers of the books and I see that they are old. “Go ahead. isn’t it? So these kids would have been about the same age as us. “That picture in the middle. Trinity. 288 Fiona Snyckers .. Really old – all yellow and crinkly. “Can we go somewhere that’s quiet?” I think for a moment. She hesitates. all right?” “Sure. and I notice for the first time that she’s looking mildly freaked out. I turn the book around to look at it properly.” “I’m just helping Lael with something. “Right. “Okay.” I call to my mom as she pounds past us with an armload of shoes.
? That looks exactly like.. And then I stop dead. The third photo is of the newspaper club.” She swallows. “Not exactly. half-terrified. This looks just like him.. My heart is pounding painfully in my chest. let’s first look at a few more pictures. moving my finger from face to face. so the chances of my recognising anyone are basically zero. stabbing at the picture with my finger..” Lael has a very strange expression on her face. before we go into all that. If I had to guess. “Who would this be?” I ask. To humour Lael. He’s sitting in the middle of the front row holding an edition of the Team Trinity 289 .. The second is a picture of the U16 tennis team. It’s a much bigger and clearer picture. “What is it?” she asks eagerly. “The boy who helped us steal the Gumede Shield. “What have you seen?” I squint at the photo again. I’m trying not to think about how much packing I still have to do. I go through the rows slowly.” “What do you mean?” “Okay . It’s all grainy and black and white.. Isn’t that.. looking at each one.But now they’d be the same age as my grandparents. but surely there’s something familiar about that boy’s smile – about the cocky gleam in his eye? “That looks exactly like him. The one who saved me from Zach... There’s that flat cap he’s always wearing. I pick him out easily in that. I’d say it was half-excited.” I look down at the desk and see that she has three more photos marked with post-its.” I say excitedly. “His father? His grandfather?” “Uh. And there’s his sweeping side-fringe with all the gel at the sides.
It’s really him. what was it called back then? Helen Keller House. “Sisulu is a girls’ boarding house. pointing to the list of names under the photo. This actually does ring a faint bell. But the resemblance is amazing. right?” “It wasn’t a she. I look down at the page.paper.” I say thoughtfully. “What do you mean it wasn’t a she?” I say..” she says. Doesn’t ring any bells. “Why are you showing me these pictures?” “His name was Jim Grey. He’s smiling into my eyes just as he has about a hundred times this year.. I almost thought it was him for a moment. And they all lived in Sisulu House. Even back in 1960-whatsit. With tears I don’t really understand pricking at my eyes.” Lael pauses until I look up and meet her eyes.. It takes up practically the whole page. Or . So why am I getting gooseflesh crawling all up my arms? “Who is this?” I say urgently. It’s him. Nobody knew who she was.. “Nope. okay. Grey. almost angrily. sort of.” Lael says.. That’s when the very first girl students were introduced. Infuriatingly 290 Fiona Snyckers . “Yes.” There’s a beat of silence. It always has been. It’s a big picture of him. “Remember we heard about that student who died in Sisulu House?” I frown... like he was the editor or something. “Grey . and she opens up the fourth and final picture for me to see. There he is. trying to remember.” “Trinity.. What would a boy have been doing in the girls’ hostel?” “No one knows. Or someone who looks a lot like him.
“He’s probably been hanging out here to find out what happened to his relative.” I give an uncertain laugh. Always so sure of himself. “Because a boy who died at the age of sixteen would obviously have had kids. The newspapers don’t say what the cause of death was. My friend. He was found dead in the common room the day after school broke up for the September holidays. my boyfriend. but let’s get a grip here. I follow Lael’s finger as she points to the caption under the picture.” I go on desperately.” “Or .smug. The guy I’ve been hanging out with this term must be some kind of relative of his. So then I checked through the old microfiche records in the library and I found some newspaper clippings. ‘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. He wasn’t even supposed to be here. Did anyone besides you ever see this guy? Or were you always alone when he appeared?” Team Trinity 291 .” Lael says. I guess because it all happened too long ago. my friends. “I got nothing.. All the students had gone home the day before.” “Trinity. A cleaner found him. “The school magazine doesn’t say how he died.” “Right.. James. I admit. Nobody seems to know exactly what happened. Insulting me.. that’s pretty weird. Handing out advice like Smarties. “Okay. or a nephew perhaps. so I Googled it. My nemesis. Jim.. Like his son or his grandson or something.” Lael nods.
“And oldfashioned clothes. 292 Fiona Snyckers . I thought you’d lost the plot for a while.” “You mean almost like he’s still living in the old South Africa?” “You’re nuts. and yes. I don’t know. But they must have. This isn’t some politically incorrect ghost we’re talking about. You make him sound like some kind of a . “He’s kind of a snappy dresser. I heard it. as you put it.” “When?” she demands... and he sometimes says some totally inappropriate things.. You picked him out of a blurry black-and-white group photograph. sharp silence.I snort.” “Yes. “So you did hear that. He’s got all these racist and sexist ideas. I’ve seen him with my own eyes. anyway. well. He wears these really cool retro clothes.” “Oh. and these shoes with sharp points at the toes..” I say at last. They must have. Yes. as it happens. He’s just a regular guy.. He’s as real as you and me. Trinity.. so I decided to do some research. Okay. he can be really irritating at times.” “You saw him choke Zach Morris without even touching him.” she says. “I thought you weren’t listening. But of course other people saw him.” “Well. do you know that? Completely nuts. But I could see it was really bugging you.. please. all right. “Appeared! He didn’t ‘appear’.” “And what was he like? Tell me a bit about him. didn’t you?” There’s a sudden.” “Winklepickers. “I . He walked in through the door like a normal human being. Makes sense..” I’m on surer ground now. nodding again. I was usually alone when I spoke to him.
I mean why hasn’t he passed on?” She makes giant circling motions in the air. and you need a priest to exorcise them. but I’m right. I feel like a total freak for saying this. to the other side. Why do ghosts normally hang around after death?” “Uh. and I know you don’t really want to admit it . if you know what I mean? Why is he still hanging around here. “No.” Lael’s right. “Because of unfinished business usually? And sometimes they haven’t realised that they’re dead.” “Good. Trinity. I do read a lot of this stuff. “Like. chatting up random students and saving them from their horrible. 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...” “You read vampire novels and all that spooky stuff. And sometimes they just want to set the record straight about how they actually died.” “Um . aren’t I?” I give a huge sigh and rub the heels of my hands over my eyes. “Then all that’s left for us to do is find out why he hasn’t passed on.” I try to think of some of the books I’ve read recently. In some books they want to punish someone. But sometimes they’re just really evil. yes. Team Trinity 293 . I know it’s a shock. abusive boyfriends?” “Oh. okay. but I do think you’re right. You’re the one who recognised him.. I thought the whole point was that he had passed on. or warn someone..I didn’t point him out to you..” Lael claps her hands together. “Okay .... I see what you mean.
there’s no one there. I catch a little flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. But when I turn my head to look.” “Sure it is. let’s go and finish up our packing. it’s going to help release his spirit into the afterlife. “But in the meantime. “Then that’s our project for next term.“Cool!” She rubs her hands together and smiles. THE END 294 Fiona Snyckers . We’re going to find out who he was and how he died. And when we do. okay?” As I steer Lael out of the matrics’ study and down the stairs.” 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.co.za .modjajibooks.
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