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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.”
I reckon Aaron’s right. “Most of her friends have babies. looking a bit tearful. and thinking about what they’ve been up to. Aaron does an eye-roll. but at least it means they’re not getting a divorce.. I’ll just have to move to Australia. Dad. A little clutch of fear grabs at my belly. He’s quiet for a moment. Didn’t you see them pawing at each other during dinner? It’s completely gross. 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). Mom and Dad come into the room at this point. If this is a new baby.” I remind him. “Please sit down everyone. “We are sitting down.” “What?” Caleb almost screams.? I mean.” Dad says. dude. but then I see Aaron shaking his head.” We fall silent thinking about this. the smaller squirt. No possible way. How could they.“Maybe they’re getting a divorce. they’re not exactly thrilled about it. Everyone will be staring at her and at my dad. “That’s impossible. What’s this all about?” 2 Fiona Snyckers . Then he says.” “So what do you think it is?” I ask. aren’t they too old?” “Mom’s 35. 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.. “I think Mom’s having another baby. That’s what it is – another kid. looking all serious and solemn. “No way. knocking authoritatively on a table in his best chairman-of-theboard manner.” says Caleb.
” Team Trinity 3 . and not as an invader..” “I knew it!” Caleb squeaks in his half-broken voice.” Okay..” “You won’t have to. “We’re planning to open three new mines there. lovey. your mother and I love you all very. You’ll be safe and properly looked after there. “It’ll take like an hour to get to school every morning. and work with the local communities to make sure they see us as a friend.. And your mother’s decided to come with me. “I’m not leaving Brentwood. either. as you know.” “You’re not going to do that. UbuntuGold is expanding into Chile.” Mom says soothingly. That’s exactly what I said! Wasn’t that what I said?” They both turn to look at him.” “And what about us?” Aaron bursts out. The three of you will be joining the boarding-house from the beginning of next term. We have to do a proper environmental impact study.Dad clears his throat. “And I’m not going to stay with Granny in Soweto. very much.. “What on earth made you think that? We’re just going away for a few months. But the whole thing needs to be correctly handled. but we’ve decided. “Going away?” I echo. I’ve decided to go out there for a few months to make sure it’s done right.” Caleb pipes up.” Mom says in a puzzled voice. “Well . “What do you mean?” “As you know. Not now that I’ve finally made the A team in cricket. and you’ll be able to carry on your schooling uninterrupted.” Dad says. “We’re not getting divorced. “I knew you were getting divorced. so not a baby then.
excuse me. They’ve been begging to become boarders for years now. And it’s really not so awful. but it’s true that I do have quite a few families that I babysit regularly for. and pack your school lunch. Trinity. “Um. darling.” “Happy?” My voice sounds higher than normal. and check that you do your homework? There’s no one I could trust to look after you properly except the 4 Fiona Snyckers . “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.” I say. you know. Brentwood has a lovely boarding-house. They’ll understand.My lame-o brothers jump to their feet and start punching the air. “Aren’t you happy? I thought you would be. lovey. “Does anyone care what I think about this?” ‘Of course we do.” says Mom. ever come home – not even on weekends. so of course they’re delighted. We’ll be back by Easter. No one seems to notice that I’m not exactly ecstatic. Who will drive you to extramurals in the afternoon. and the food isn’t bad. Mom and Dad are smiling. Why can’t I just stay here with someone to look after me?” “Because your life is too complicated.” “And what about my babysitting business? I’ll be letting all my clients down. “You can send them all emails explaining that you’ll be back after Easter.” “It’s only for a term. and fetch you from parties on weekends.” Perhaps “business” is a slight exaggeration. It’ll be over before you know it.
you’ll probably be in the same dorm.boarding-school. In fact. And anyway. Lael will be boarding next term as well. I think you’ve forgotten something.” Team Trinity 5 .
ja. We’ve been best friends ever since. 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. That’s when her mom and dad got divorced. and making her tell me all about it. I just let her cry and listened while she talked. Lael has seen the inside of the boardinghouse more than once. So. Mom was obviously saving that one for last. 6 Fiona Snyckers . The divorce didn’t exactly go well for her. and started a brand new family. Basically. moved to Pietermaritzburg. this does change things a bit. Lael Lieberman is my best friend in the whole entire world. I admit . Lael’s dad got remarried almost immediately. they live together in this super-swish serviced apartment at the Raphael in Mandela Square. I can tell by the smug look on her face. When her mom is in town... Okay. Lael becomes a boarder. I remember finding her crying in the girls’ bathroom one break-time. We’ve been friends since Grade 1. her folks can’t stand the sight of each other. She sees him maybe once a year at Rosh Hashanah. and then close it again. But when she’s off travelling.CHAPTER 2 I OPEN my mouth to moan some more. 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.
“You’ll never understand. Just because you were born thin. then she probably is. 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. a bit tetchily. “I’m only supposed to eat protein and steamed veggies.” Dad says. she has no idea what it’s like to be cursed with fatness.” “Oh. Just because she can eat whatever she likes and stay skinny. Mom would have checked first. what’s the point?” I snap. Has not one single person in this room even remembered that I’m on a diet?” My brothers snigger. you don’t care what I have to go through. you know.” I flounce out of the room and slam the door. *** Okay.” I say crossly. The other Team Trinity 7 . You shouldn’t be messing with your eating patterns at your age. “I’m on the blood-group diet.I didn’t know she’d be boarding this term. and Mom looks at me. but if Mom says she is. There’s nothing wrong with your figure. but my mother seriously tries my patience. Dad looks at Mom. “That might not be a bad thing. “They don’t exactly starve their boarders. obviously. “What am I going to do about food?” “They’ll feed you.” “Sweetie. that might not have been my most mature moment.” “That’s not the point.” Mom says patiently. They’ll stuff me full of carbs that are all wrong for my blood type.
“Ha! You’re a boarding-school virgin. “Why don’t you try the size 12. But don’t worry. The point is that I’m a whale and need to diet.” “What fun can you possibly have in a place where you’re watched every second of the day?” I ask grumpily. Can I call you roomie?” “Please don’t. we’re going to have so much fun. I just marched out of the shop and off to Foschini where the size 10s still fit me. The squeal she gives when I tell her my news is enough to split my eardrum. there are as many ways to break the rules as there are rules themselves.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.” 8 Fiona Snyckers . Mom’s going to Israel again. I’ll show you the ropes. Moving along. I was totally dreading it. I refused to give her the satisfaction. you’d swear the whole of Tel Aviv would grind to a halt without her. Honey. I am so happy.” “Roomie. Trust me. But now that you’ll be there. “Oh. roomie. Oh. my God! Oh. you don’t have a clue. And I know them all.” “What? Are we going to be climbing down the drainpipes at night while slipping pillows under our duvets to fool Matron? That is so Malory Towers. roomie. The way she carries on. my God! Oh. I really wasn’t looking forward to this term at all. sisi?” the salesgirl said with a sadistic smile. And this boarding-school business is going to wreck my whole eating plan. Let’s start now. Anyway. my God! That is sooooo completely cool! We’ll be roomies. We can call each other roomie.
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.” “Rubbish. And then again in my Spud days. You’ll see.” “That’s what it feels like. Still. If I have to spend the rest of my life in an institution. Trust my parents to get the timing all screwed up. “Stop sighing like that.” “Hmmph. It’s totally and utterly unfair.” Team Trinity 9 .“Not exactly. Trinity. You’d swear you were being sent to prison. and now they’re ignoring my begging to stay home. They completely ignored my begging all those years ago. man. at least I’ll know that my suffering is helping others. It’s going to be awesome. But I’ve outgrown all that now.” It’s true that I went through a slight boarding-school phase back in my Enid Blyton days. but there are ways and means. at least Lael is happy.
I assure you! If there is anything else I can do to set your mind at ease. you will be allocated to a six-sleeper dormitory.co.To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College 10 Fiona Snyckers . I’m afraid we have no private rooms at all. which I am sure you will find quite comfortable. Even our matric learners sleep two to a room with an adjoining shared study. Kind regards. As a Grade 10 learner.za Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Hi Trinity.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse. Not even for “learners who have a really huge amount of stuff” as you put it. 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. You will quickly grow accustomed to sharing a room.
please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m afraid none of the matric dormitories or studies will be vacant this term or “available for annexation. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College Team Trinity 11 .co. no. like Schleswig-Holstein” – although I am naturally delighted that some part of your Grade 9 history syllabus seems to have stuck. Regards. If you have any queries on any other subject. In answer to your question. Your father is a very persuasive man! I’m happy to have cleared up this issue once and for all. We only just managed to squeak you in at the last minute.To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail. Sisulu House is almost full this term.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House email@example.com Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Dear Trinity. Thanks for your prompt response to my previous email.
com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse. they will all be needing their studies. Anything that doesn’t fit into your wardrobe will have to return home with your parents. we will still be unable to accommodate you anywhere except in the Grade 10 dormitory. and don’t anticipate that you will need to contact me again before then. Grace Gcobani Dean of Students Sisulu House Brentwood College 12 Fiona Snyckers . I’m afraid that even if your father “donates a library or a new wing or something”. Each girl is permitted to bring one regulation-size trunk with her for the term. I look forward to seeing you at the start of term.za Re: Room Allocations ___________________________________________________ Dear Ms Luhabe. Yours sincerely.To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail. 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. And yes.co. The matrics have more space and privacy than other students because they are writing matric – the most important exam of their school careers.
they did shed a few. my brothers recover much faster than I do. Team Trinity 13 . I won’t go into detail. motherly kind of woman. but I’m pretty much a cried-out wreck by the time they leave. She’s a no-nonsense. We arrive on Monday. but they linger for ages. Caleb and I get packed off to school a day early. Term starts on Wednesday. where my dad’s Gulfstream jet is waiting to take them to Santiago. My parents are supposed to be rushing off to the airport. Me too. when the boarding house is like a ghost town. Lael has boarded before.CHAPTER 3 MY PARENTS have to leave for Chile just before the start of term. if I’m honest. so Aaron. Just talking to her seems to make Mom feel better. with an orientation day for new boarders on Tuesday. We’ve never really been away from them before. My mom introduces herself to the matron of Sisulu House and begs her to take extra good care of me. fussing over us and making sure we’ve got everything we need. I saw them) and are racing off to the field behind Gumede House – the boys’ hostel – to play a two-man game of soccer. As they drive off in the direction of Lanseria airport. It’s all quite emotional when we finally say goodbye to our parents. I won’t get to see another friendly face until Tuesday morning at the earliest. so she’s only arriving on Tuesday. Within minutes they’ve dried their tears (yes.
And speaking of my dorm. Sisulu House boasts some of the finest blah blah blah. I can see Hyde Park shopping centre. I got all of that out of the brochure Mom has been boring me with all holiday. okay. yes. Built in a gracious mockTudor style with half-timbering and authentic turn-ofthe-century period features. not sure which way to turn. It’s in a very leafy area. I turn around and look up at Sisulu House. “I’ll be just fine. We each have our own bedside cabinet 14 Fiona Snyckers . Mom unpacked my trunk while Matron gave me a lightning tour of Sisulu House. 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 trudge up the stairs and hesitate for a moment. which is going to be my home for the next three months. right. This could be worse. Then I stand at the entrance to the Grade 10 dormitory and take a proper look at it. sunny room. And if I lean out of my dorm window on the first floor. But. I’ll give you that. so I didn’t really notice much about it. with six beds in separate little cubicles. so you almost feel like you’re in the country. I’d better check the place out.“Don’t mind me!” I yell at their departing backs. Okay. This surprises a snort of laughter out of me and I start feeling a bit better. It’s a big. but Aaron’s gesture looks suspiciously like a middle finger. it’s quite attractive. which is very reassuring for my psychological wellbeing. Oh yes. it’s pretty. I’ll admit. Don’t give me another thought!” Caleb turns and gives me a thumbs-up sign. This could be a lot worse.
poking my nose into random rooms. a little bowl of flowers on the cabinet. and so do the showers and baths. yes. We’ve been doing sleepovers at each others’ houses since we were little. I catch myself wishing I could board when I’m in matric. Then I remind myself that I have a much nicer and completely private room at home. and the feeling goes away. and some family photos on the cupboard door. I go down to the common room to wait for lunch. The bathrooms are fine. the whole dormitory is slightly smaller than my bedroom at home. So my cubicle looks quite cosy and home-like. I can just about imagine myself sleeping here for the next three months. I’m relieved to see that the toilet cubicles all have doors on them. But I have no idea who the other girls will be. This is the one part of Sisulu House I know quite well from visiting Lael. which is cool. The matric dormitories are up on the second floor. so there’s no big adjustment there. But still. Their studies are so nice and private. so I wander aimlessly around the hostel. One of them will be Lael. It’s not bad at all. I had visions of having to deal with a line of showerheads. Mom has already put my own duvet cover on the bed. thank goodness. The bit I’m struggling with is imagining five other girls sleeping in here as well. And. like on Prison Break on the Series channel. never mind any of my other clothes. I have some time before lunch. just so I could have one. Showering and going to the loo are not group activities as far as I’m concerned.and built-in cupboard. and the cupboard is barely big enough for my school uniform. It’s a big comfy room with lots of squashy Team Trinity 15 .
I’ve been sitting here for over twenty minutes and no one’s been in to empty the bins. There’s a guy sitting on the other side of the room. chop. He’s also wearing his school cap indoors. “That’s nice. ignoring my question. This is the only part of Sisulu House that boys are allowed into.sofas.” I say. and I realise that I’m not alone. and he’s wearing civvies like me.” 16 Fiona Snyckers . Or did you have it specially made? “So you’re here at last?” he barks. It’s not just the ordinary peak cap that everyone wears. He’s tucked away in a gloomy corner. you know. old armchairs and beanbags on the floor. It feels a bit weird. me sitting on this side of the room. and a tea-table with a big urn on it.” I gape at him in astonishment. And that’s one thing that gets the teachers’ panties in a bunch. It’s this cool retro-style flat cap with the school badge and motto printed on it. so I paste a friendly smile on my face and move to a chair a bit closer. and even then they have to sign a register to get this far. He’s about my age. I wonder where he got it.” He claps his hands together twice. Is this some kind of joke? “Come on! Chop. “It’s about time. And look at that mess over there. which explains why I didn’t see him at first. pointing at his cap. “Clear that up and make it snappy. “Where did you get it? I’m sure they don’t sell them at McCullogh & Bothwell. I flop down in an armchair in front of the TV. “This room isn’t going to clean itself. and him sitting on the other.” He points to an empty soft-drink can and a crumpled sweet wrapper. There are TVs at both ends. I’m just reaching for the remote when something makes me turn around.
Who does this guy think he is? “Well. But of course he doesn’t budge.Oh. When is everyone else arriving?” “Tomorrow. relaxing back into the chair. I don’t know. They’re playing soccer down on the field. then?” “Ooh. hands on hips. What a flipping cheek! I know we’re living in South Africa. you know. “I prefer it in here. I do not believe this.” “Oh?” he says. which means I’ve got a lot more right to be here than you do. I admit I’m trying to get rid of him. seriously. there won’t be any birds to check out until 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. So who’s going to tidy up this mess. you know. “How about one of the real cleaners? But. Checking out the birds.” I say. You should go and say hi to them.” He sighs. Just because I’m black.” I say sarcastically. Don’t speak to them like that. My brothers have already moved into Gumede House.” Okay. glaring down at him. already bored with the subject. dude. I’m on my feet. “I thought you were one of the cleaners. “Who the heck do you think you are? I’m not a cleaner! I’m one of the students. but in this day and age I do not expect to be mistaken for a cleaner inside my own school. I guess. He thinks I’m one of the cleaners. They don’t have to take that kind of rudeness from a kid. I’m staying here in Sisulu House this term.” I don’t believe it. Team Trinity 17 . He just yawns and stretches. making air quotes with my fingers. “It’s so dull in here today. I like watching the new girls arrive.
” I say stiffly. “I’ve been here a lot longer than you have. It’s a big. “Are you coming?” Another cat-like stretch. my goodness.” I’m opening my mouth to blast him when I hear the very welcome sound of the lunch bell.” “Fit in?” He laughs. So I’m it for today. I’m not hungry. oldfashioned iron bell with a long wooden handle. If you want to fit in at Brentwood College. but you’re Coloured. “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.” Well. I think you must be the most racist person I’ve ever met. will you shut up?” I snap at him.” “Yes. thank goodness for that. You’re going to be very unpopular around here if that’s how you speak to people.” “Oh. “It’s lunchtime. One of the kitchen staff rings it before the start of every meal. I fit in just fine. “Nah.“Matron told me they’re not expecting anyone else today. 18 Fiona Snyckers . you need to watch your mouth. It doesn’t feel right to be checking you out.
CHAPTER 4 THERE’S A strict separation of the sexes going on in the dining-hall. and not Team Trinity 19 . I’m looking at a heap of rice. And what does the cottage pie have on top of it? That’s right – mashed potato. I carry my plate over to the other side of the hall. I look down at the food on my plate and realise that all my worst fears about boarding-school food have come true. three boiled potatoes. salad isn’t going to win the day when it’s up against that kind of competition. Matron waves me over to one of the girls’ tables as I start sitting down next to Aaron. So that’s three servings of carbs right there. along with a grand total of five boys. As I look around at the huge space between us. but let’s face it. I have a sudden urge to shout. The teachers sit at a long table raised up on a platform under some portraits of old headmasters of Brentwood. “Pass the salt!” Instead. But I still have to sit at a separate table from them. The only other person at my table is Matron. How am I supposed to stick to my diet when these are my options? Huh? Okay. there was some salad that I could have instead of the rice and potatoes. feeling a bit silly. with a yummy crispy cheese topping. is it? At least when I’m at home I can ask my mom to put only salad and protein on my plate. and a mound of cottage pie. I’m the only girl in the whole place. two of whom are my brothers.
Aaron?” I say as I’m queuing up for dessert behind him.” “Well. clueless...” “Mm. “That sounds like James. Oh.” Aaron gives me a narrow look.. Not that she listens or anything. isn’t he? Where did you meet him?” “In our common room.. “Hey. He’s a real bad boy. I’d steer clear of him if I were you.” “Of course I haven’t got a crush on him!” I hiss back. you must mean James Ellison. really? Well. I was just wondering who he was. really not a good idea.” “What?” “You haven’t got one of your crushes on him. “You are so . But still. She’s always trying to tempt me with carbs.. have you? Because I can tell you right now.let the potatoes anywhere near me.. He’s not very nice.” I stand on tiptoe and hold my hand up above my head.” “Oh...” Aaron thinks for a moment. He is pretty obnoxious. He said he was hanging around to check out the girls arriving.. And I’m just saying that Ellison is trouble. I. that is really. About this high. At least I have the illusion of control. I’ll start my diet again tomorrow.. But I know that look you get when you fancy a guy.. “Who’s that racist. that’s all. “Trinity. as one of the lunch ladies looks at us with interest. what the heck. obnoxious guy in Gumede House? Brownish hair.” 20 Fiona Snyckers . I kind of figured that out for myself. You don’t want to go getting involved with him. Kind of a trendy dresser. if you say so.” He laughs. all right. so .” “He said something about not being hungry.” “I wonder why he’s not at lunch. “Oh..
By now there are two spots burning in my cheeks. He really is gone. Only now I find I have no particular desire to sit there anymore. he’s only attracted to white girls. So I amble up the stairs to the Grade 10 dormitory. He basically told me that. Then he takes his bowl of icecream over to the boys’ table and leaves me alone with mine. remember? *** Even though I’m not at all attracted to this James guy.” Aaron pulls a face. I can’t help skimming my eyes across the common room as I walk past it after lunch. No sign of him. Team Trinity 21 . at that – has got me going out with the guy. The walls and cubicles are bare and flecked with old Prestik marks. thanks to my mom. my brother – my younger brother. But no. I stop and stick my head in to have a proper look. The beds are empty and waiting – stripped down to their mattresses and pillows. It’s creepily quiet and empty. For Pete’s sake. and the next thing I know. I don’t fancy him in the slightest. Good. but it just won’t come into focus. I’m trying to imagine Sisulu House bustling with people and echoing with the shouts of girls coming and going. Only my cubicle looks pretty and homelike. “Well. How did we get here? I ask an innocent question. And anyway. What? I said I’d start my diet tomorrow. so there’s no danger of that.
I wonder if there will be queues outside the bathrooms when term starts. Then I turn over in bed and snuggle deeper into my duvet. Nobody seems to know who she was. I can’t help remembering a story Lael told me once about a student who died here years ago.I spend the afternoon messing around on BBM and going for a walk around the grounds. or how she died. I hear Matron going up the stairs to bed. and a prefect standing at the door with a stopwatch. 22 Fiona Snyckers . And in just a few minutes I feel myself drifting peacefully off to sleep. Her sensible nurse’s shoes go “squeeeka squeeeka squeeeka” on the springy floorboards. It sounds like my friends are all enjoying their last couple of days of freedom before the new term starts. Every few minutes there’s a crack or a groan as the building settles. Her room is on the floor above me. Then I have a long bubble-bath after supper while I still have the chance. It’s a very creaky place. making sure we don’t take more than two minutes in the shower. I shiver slightly as I hear her footsteps getting fainter and fainter. probably thanks to all that wood. 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. I go to bed early and lie awake for ages listening to the unfamiliar noises of Sisulu House. At around half-past ten.
It’s a gorgeous January day. all clammy and nylony. School only starts officially tomorrow. I can’t stand the way they blow into the shower. and there are real doors instead of shower curtains. I fling open my narrow little wardrobe and stare at its ridiculously inadequate contents. Here it’s holding all my clothes for three months. love it! I jump out of bed. Okay. grab my sponge-bag. My mood improves even more when I see that new rain-jet showerheads have been fitted in all the showers. and head for the showers. The sky is nailpolish-blue and a bunch of birds are tweeting like mad in the big trees outside our window. Love. which makes this my last non-uniform day until the weekend. There are some fluffy white clouds in the sky. At home. I love Joburg. as though sucked in by some invisible force. 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. this skinny cupboard would barely hold my underwear and nighties. Team Trinity 23 . Focus. Just the thought makes me feel panicky. Trinity. I don’t want to sound spoiled or anything. love. I’d better make the most of it. but shower curtains give me the heebie-jeebies. and wrap themselves around your legs.
They’re Hilton Weiner. but the difference in my bum-to-waist ratio is quite dramatic. They can never just jump into a swimming pool without putting a cap on first. I brush my hair. I’m very glad I don’t have to fight with mine all the time. but that doesn’t make me spoiled. 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 they live with the smell of 24 Fiona Snyckers .” And. I team it with a super-feminine strappy top that’s salmonpink with white lacy trim. so I like to show them off whenever the weather cooperates. The only good points I got from my mom were her greenish eyes and her long straight hair. My cousins spend basically every Sunday clamped between the thighs of some township aunty while she braids their hair. but look as though they could just as easily have come from Woolies. I’ve got the bum and the thighs to survive for weeks without food in the Kalahari Desert. that might sound like a lot for one outfit to say. Not that I’ve got the world’s hugest bum. but not when you speak “clothes” as fluently as I do. “I might be the new girl at boarding-school.I need an outfit that says. When I see how some girls battle with their hair. My upper arms are just about my best part of my body. but that doesn’t make me unstylish. and I might be Abel Luhabe’s daughter. all right. the Xhosa genes mostly won hands down. even when I don’t go to gym. I reach for my new indigo-wash Levis – the bootylicious ones that go out at the bum and in at the waist. And last of all.
” “Well. Not even sitting at a big. I help myself to two fried eggs and a stack of toast and wave cheerfully at my brothers. “Jailbait”. I almost jump out of my skin. “Sorry about that. a voice in my ear says. I’m a fan of natural hair myself. The first arrivals are a bit of a disappointment. “You made me bite my tongue!” I say crossly. Like a farmer looking to buy a cow or something. lonely table all on my own can dampen my mood. I find myself crossing my arms over my chest. “The girls at this school aren’t here for your entertainment.” Team Trinity 25 . He laughs and throws himself into an armchair.hair-straighteners. “Don’t be so obnoxious. I come from good farming stock. practically skipping all the way. I can totally understand why some girls go for the ‘chiskop’ option. They’re all younger than me. I rush to the common room to watch the girls arriving at Sisulu House. As I watch some little Grade 8 students arriving. and finds it funny. My family have been mealie farmers near Brits for years. you know. It’s pathetic the way you eye them up. When are the older girls arriving? I’m bored with these flat-chested little kids. checking out my outfit. His grin tells me that he knows he’s made me uncomfortable. Without quite meaning to. There’s a huge baywindow that looks out onto the street. but we’re all under huge pressure to be fashionable.” He looks me up and down. I scoop my hair up into a messy ponytail – with some strands falling carefully around my face – and go down to breakfast. letting you see all the comings and goings at the school. After breakfast.” I say.
He shifts his attention to the window again and I take the opportunity to see what he’s wearing. “What’s up?” “Hellooo. wondering how he knows my name.” I’m craning my neck to see who he’s talking about. They look like they’ve been painted onto his legs. Come to papa.” 26 Fiona Snyckers . She’s really bright and a feminist and everything. Then she steps out into the open and I give a sharp gasp. He reminds me of my dog. very nice indeed. but she carries it very well. Stop talking about her like that. but I have to admit he makes it look good. Lael Lieberman. What a gorgeous girl.” I concede sulkily. is she? What’s her name?” I hesitate for a moment. it’s not her conversation I’m after. and he laughs. Trinity. Oh. you moron. Just a little on the chubby side. and he’s topped it all off with a floppy white shirt. “That’s my best friend. “Okay.” “I suppose. Maybe he’s just pretending to perv over girls. almost quivering with excitement. He’s chosen hectically skinny jeans today. But trust me when I say she wouldn’t look twice at you. She’s called Lael. She’d never be interested in you in a million years. I could easily find out from someone else. now. but she’s gone behind a pillar. “Hey. “Don’t be silly. Zero!” “Well. You’d have zero in common with her. baby. So she’s your best friend. when she hears the rustle of the Eukanuba bag. This guy dresses so well that for a second I wonder if he’s gay. Normally I hate that style on guys. Naledi. His shoes are black and kind of pointy in the toe. hold the phone!” He sits up in his chair.
I suppose I don’t. have you got a problem with that too?” He looks out the window again.. “Why. “Times change after all. don’t they?” “You are seriously annoying! Just stay out of my way from now on. Lael is bending down to pick up a small suitcase while her driver wrestles with her trunk.” he says slowly..” And I stalk out of the common room to go and meet my friend. She’s wearing leggings and a mini-skirt and even I can see she looks hot. Jewish?” “Yes. she’s bloody Jewish!” I explode. “You don’t mean she’s . Team Trinity 27 . “No.“Lieberman?” He wrinkles his nose.
“You know my mom’s in Israel this term. and my dad will come back loaded with gifts for us. but her face lights up when she sees me.” I give her a huge hug..CHAPTER 6 LAEL IS looking stressed and hassled. I’ve also been abandoned by my folks for the term. I was just about to BBM you. And as for Dad – I spent a couple of days with him over Chanukah. which is why I’m boarding again?” I nod.” she says. but now that the twins are starting Grade 0. “Trinity! There you are.” Lael nods. “She left yesterday and arranged for a driver to drop me off this morning. but we both know the truth... even phone her or anything.. Isn’t there anyone seeing you off?” As soon as the words leave my mouth. For my parents to be away for three months is nothing like what she has to put up with. you can’t possibly expect him to come and see his older daughter off to school. so we can be orphans together. you know . “No . Lael’s lucky if she gets to speak to her mom once a week. My mom will phone my brothers and me every single day. because her face falls instantly. “Well. 28 Fiona Snyckers . Or . I feel like kicking myself. no one. “I’m so glad you’re here at last.” She sounds so depressed that I find myself rushing to fill the silence...
I can see she’s been shopping over the holidays. of course. I met someone this morning who likes you!” I say. 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. We’ve been sharing clothes since we were about eleven years old. “It’s going to make such a difference having you here this term. what did he say about me?” “Um . “Oh. But anything stretchy.. “That Grade 11 guy? He’s not very nice. remembering that I have a compliment to pass on. He thought you looked hot in your mini-skirt. yes? So who was it?” “What was his name again.” she says happily. Lael always has the latest and nicest of everything.?” I press my fist against my forehead. right. “We’re going to have so much fun!” She opens her trunk and I help her hang up her clothes.. she’s cheered up. But by the time the driver has carried her trunk up to our dormitory. James Ellison. claiming the cubicle next to mine.. As a best friend. I can’t help looking at them with more than just casual interest. “Oh..” “Him?” says Lael.” No way on earth am I going to tell her about his antiSemitic remarks. Lael pauses while folding a pile of tank tops.It’s actually a miracle she’s so normal and nice. it’s my duty to keep Team Trinity 29 . is he? Why. just that you were really pretty and everything. all shoes. Her mom might be the worst parent ever – the “antiJewish mother”. “Hey. as Lael calls her – but she’s not stingy. and accessories of every shape and size. Not everything. sounding disappointed. since she’s about 15 kgs heavier than me.
” “We do?” I have to jog to keep up with her as she strides out the dormitory.Lael alerted to any guys who think she’s hot. Lael looks at herself in the full-length mirror on her cupboard door. “Yes. “Please tell me you’re not talking about a teacher. I wish I could be more like Lael and eat what I like while still looking awesome. Let’s get going. “Right. Every time I start a new diet and get to that miserable “I can’t face another skinless chicken breast” stage.” Not for the first time. Forget James Ellison. She turns around and checks out her butt. Lael.” “Not a teacher?” I say. standing stock-still in the middle of the corridor. She has so much confidence and moves so gracefully that her extra few kilos don’t matter at all. I wish I could carry myself like Lael. Now stop asking questions and just come on. but I’m not saying a word about his weirdo prejudices.” 30 Fiona Snyckers . not the boys. it looks awesome.” “Nah. She’d go completely ballistic. Those opaque tights are very flattering. eeuw.” “Of course I’m not talking about a teacher! Like .. Lael shoves her last few bras into a drawer and spins around to face me.. We’ve got some serious stalking to do. Because that would be seriously creepy. we do. Boys just flock around her and girls want to be her. Forget every other lame little schoolboy in the whole of Gumede House – or Brentwood College. This term we’re going to be playing with the men. “You don’t think the skirt’s a bit short? I’ve been scared about bending down all day. and I love the chunky slip-slops.
this is a new guy.” She sucks in a breath. He was at Hilton College last year.. of course it’s not Mpume! I haven’t changed that much over the holidays. This is where the guys who stay on for a year after matric live. but really to play first-team sport for one more year. so Brentwood might as well too.!” We’ve stopped behind a bush outside the Postmatric Annexe. is it?” I say unenthusiastically. trust me. “There he is now. “I know . Cricket.She grabs me by the hand and drags me down the stairs and out into the sunshine. “Because his ego takes up so much space. Just . there’s no room left over for a girlfriend. No. It’s almost always guys – hardly ever girls. Not that I’m exactly a Dux scholar myself. just look at him!” Team Trinity 31 . The plot thickens. I remember all of last year’s matrics. They stay on to do Cambridge A-levels.” “A rugby player?” Now it’s my turn to pull a face..” “Sshhh!” she says sharply as two guys come out of the Annexe. I know.. Rugby players are not usually the brightest bunnies in the hutch. “It’s not that Mpume guy..” Lael whispers.. The thinking seems to be that all the other schools are doing it. I heard that Brentwood poached him for mega-bucks to play rugby for us. “No. “Where are you taking me? Oh. “But this guy is different. supposedly to try and get into overseas universities. but I do like a guy with more between his ears than a scrum cap. One is a cricket coach and the other is the great Mpume himself. The thing is.. hockey and rugby are the three big sports that pack their first teams with postmatric players. and there’s not one that I could get excited about stalking.
black eyelashes. I only get about two clear seconds to look at him before he heads down to the sports fields. snap out of it!” Lael says with a laugh. but that’s enough. “Hey.” “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. I’m looking at the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. His eyes are either blue or green. I concede.” 32 Fiona Snyckers . the straight nose. “You look like you’re in a trance. thumbs hooked into the waistband of his jeans.” I drag my eyes away from the point at which he disappeared and try to focus. Then we step out from behind the bush and stare at each other. clicking her fingers in front of my face. but it’s his face that takes my breath right away. We watch him walking down to the fields until he rounds a corner and disappears. but they’re set behind long. It’s almost an old-fashioned kind of face – like it should belong on an Ancient Greek statue or something. Add the chiselled cheekbones. and the sculpted lips and you have a combination that’s making me weak at the knees. And for once in my life I am completely speechless. His body is exactly the right combination of lean and muscular. He’s got dark brown hair that’s kind of wavy and adorably messy. He’s about six foot or even a little taller. and the kind of golden tan that doesn’t fade in winter. “I concede. I can’t tell at this distance. “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.
” I rub my hands over my face. You believe in love at first sight. “Oops what?” “You’ve got it bad. And wait until you see him smile. Lael stops dancing from foot to foot and grinning. And even if he doesn’t.” “Well. I think we’ve got ourselves a project for the term. haven’t you?” “Don’t be silly!” I snort. “A guy like that wouldn’t be single. “I almost wish I hadn’t shown him to you now. Are you in?” I nod mechanically.” she says.” “It’s not lame.” Lael sits down on the wall and puts her arm around me. “I didn’t think I did.” “Oh.” Team Trinity 33 . When Cupid shoots his arrow. some matric girl will snap him up in seconds.” I sit down on a low wall between Gumede House and the Postmatric Annexe.” “What are you talking about?” “You’ve really fallen for him. he doesn’t miss. Trinity.. I do.” “I’m just being realistic. come on now. would he?” I say. don’t you?” “I don’t know. It’s not like you to be so defeatist. Suddenly I’m really depressed.” “Well . I hope I haven’t let you in for a lot of heartache. hey? And that bod. She looks at me more closely.. we’ll see. “How could I fall for a guy after seeing him for just a few seconds? I’m not that lame. I wouldn’t stand a chance. “I mean he’s bound to have a girlfriend.“Those eyes. Trinity. “Oops.
The wonderful. I can’t say I care very much. But that’s fine because Matron gives us a little handbook to put next to our beds in case we forget anything.CHAPTER 7 THE REST of the day passes in a slight blur. Lael keeps shooting worried glances at me because I’m not being the life and soul of the party. How pathetic is that? 34 Fiona Snyckers . I can’t think of anything except when I’ll get to see him again. of some kind of orientation meeting in the afternoon. blue-eyed (I’m pretty sure his eyes are blue – or maybe green). We get told so many house rules that there’s no way I can possibly remember them all. I keep replaying that scene of him coming out of the Annexe in my mind. A really nice group of girls has joined us in the dormitory. I’m actually wondering if I could pretend to trip and faint into his arms. Just to give you a clue how desperate I am. Only one bed in the far corner is still empty. but I don’t care. of Matron welcoming us all at lunch. floppy-haired. No one seems to know if it’s going to stay that way or if a new roommate will still arrive. and that’s the boy whose name I don’t even know yet. fit-bodied boy who’s living practically next door to Sisulu House. And how I can get to meet him for real. I know I must look like an idiot staring off into space with a silly smile on my face. There’s only one thing on my mind at the moment. I’m vaguely aware of girls arriving.
I’m just a random Grade 10 and he’s one of the kings of the school. I snuggle down into my bed. and one minute after that. and now I can hardly imagine it empty. just poof. We’ve got some free time after supper and everyone is chilling out and changing into their PJs. a prefect comes around to make sure we’re not using our Blackberries as torches under the covers. thinking it’s a power failure. Then all is quiet. Team Trinity 35 . trying to fall asleep surrounded by the unfamiliar noises of other girls coughing. There are two prefects and a Junior Matron on our floor. Within two minutes everyone has scrambled into their own beds. If Brentwood really paid a fortune to poach him from Hilton. There are enough baths and showers for us to take as long as we need. I can’t help comparing tonight to last night. lights out. I give a little scream.The sad truth is. 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. No warning. thank goodness. Twentyfour hours ago I couldn’t imagine the dormitory full of girls. sighing and shuffling in their beds. but they leave us pretty much alone unless we start making too much noise. At ten o’clock the lights go out as someone flicks a master switch somewhere. this guy is so far removed from me he might as well be Justin Bieber. It looks like queueing for the bathrooms won’t be an issue. but it turns out that’s how it works every night.
It’s still early days.. Trinity.” This sets off an interesting train of thought. In fact. “Yes. remember?” “Oh.CHAPTER 7 THERE’S A friendly buzz in the dining-hall at breakfast the next morning. a lot of what our dear headmaster says goes in one ear and out the other.” “What about him?” I keep my voice casual. As long as the food stays good and the bed stays comfortable. I reckon I can tough it out for the next three months.. “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. yes. “And do they have to help us if we ask them?” “I think so. because she leans across her bowl of Weet-Bix and says in my ear. Dr Hussein announced that new postmatric tutoring thing?” “Um . now that I’ve seen him. we’re allowed to ask the postmatrics for help. Apparently Lael is reading my mind. 36 Fiona Snyckers .” I have no idea what she is talking about. but I’m starting to think I can do this. you do! Come on. wild horses couldn’t drag me back home. think! How if we’re struggling with a subject. But then. really?” I perk up a bit. “I’ve been thinking about Postmatric Guy.
For instance. I’ll give you Team Trinity 37 .“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. this is your best way of getting to know Postmatric Guy. Pretending I need help won’t stretch my acting abilities at all. stop it!” I say as she giggles some more. As Grade 10 gets underway. Oh. maybe.” “Ha ha. It’s not that I’m an airhead.” *** Turns out Lael was right. She often is. Maybe I won’t have to pretend all that hard. I quickly realise that work is going to be a nightmare this year. “It could happen. even if you do suddenly turn into a model student. “What?” “I’m just imagining you pretending to have trouble with work. ask me about any celebrity’s children – biological or adopted. there’ll be queues around the block to ask him for help.” “Well. It’s one of her most annoying features.” “Ja . exactly. Go on. sending a little fountain of milk off her spoon and into her bowl. But you never know – this might finally be the year I get my act together and start cracking my schoolwork. once the other girls get a look at him. It’s just that my brain has this strange reluctance to remember anything boring. I actually have a brilliant memory for certain things. ask me. Mind you... Very funny.
sports. The point is. Then she sets us some homework and I’m looking at words like sin and cos. 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. and they might as well be Greek to me. you stare at them. She says that looking at him is like looking at the most gorgeous pair of shoes in the world. I know they are actually Greek. The same goes for fashion. I just seem to have a block about what the teacher is saying. but after a while her voice just fades into this blah blah blah background noise. movies. I am literally the world expert on iPhone apps. I really do. “Okay. My mind just grabs hold of information like that and hangs onto it. 38 Fiona Snyckers . It was a joke. And Trigonometry in extra particular. I was worried that she might really like him too. You drool over them. And who better to help me than Postmatric Guy? Lael is totally on board with this. And yes. “Today’s the day. you imagine walking into a room with them. and that we’d end up competing for the same guy. and favourite brand of trainers without having to look it up. But she’s honestly not interested. But somehow my brain goes a little fuzzy when it comes to schoolwork. Maths in particular. I’m falling so far behind in Trigonometry that I’ll be in real trouble if I don’t catch up soon. music. schools. dummy. ages.their names. but you don’t actually want to date them. and I’m off wondering what’s going to happen on the next episode of Sixteen and Pregnant. vampire novels and cellphone apps. I start off trying to concentrate.
” The thought of jumping on Postmatric Guy makes me feel light-headed. 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..” “Yes.” “No buts. I think. They thought I’d gone nuts at the sports office – wanting to know the exact time the first team finished cricket practice. Why would you say that?” “Because you have a very chicken look on your face.” Team Trinity 39 . but I. Lael is looking at me narrowly. The only but I’m interested in is you getting your butt down to the Annexe this afternoon at half-past four.” “Rubbish!” “Because I didn’t go to all that trouble for nothing. The year is still so new I haven’t got the hang of my timetable yet. you know.He has cricket practice until half-past four this afternoon. You’re looking all scared like a big old Scaredy McChicken.” “That’s perfect then. “Four o’clock. I had to find out his timetable and everything. What time does your last extramural end?” “Um.” “I do not. I’ve got djembe drumming after drama.” “Yes?” “You’re not going to chicken out are you?” “No. “Trinity. I didn’t go through all that embarrassment only to have you wimp out on me. you do...” I have to think about this for a minute.. of course not. I’m getting chilly in the foot department... The idea of marching up to him and demanding help with my homework makes me want to run and hide.” “No. Now that this is actually happening.
so hip. so simple. Ma’am?” “Granted. remember? Zach Morris. “I can’t see a thing. We both jump away from the wall and look at each other.” Lael explains. sexy names? Zach Morris.” Lael can be quite strict at times. Just don’t call him that to his face or your beautiful relationship will be over before it starts. Ma’am. So cool. If he ditches you again. you just smile sweetly and say thanks. “So what do I do if Postmatric Guy ditches me after five minutes?” “We’ll work out a plan.” “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. Then you wait a week and try again with a different trig problem. you wait ten days and 40 Fiona Snyckers . It’s where they keep sports equipment like orange cones and skipping ropes and volleyball nets. I love it.’ “How could I forget?” Isn’t that just the scrummiest.” We take a giant step backwards to continue our conversation. you want to try a slow burn approach. His name is Zach. “The way I see it. sexiest name in the history of scrummy. “What the heck was that?” Lael peers through a window into the gloom. “Permission to ask a question. “If he ditches you after five minutes. It must have been a rat or something.“Yes.
“You’re sixteen years old. it doesn’t sound like a scuffle so much as a giggle. grinning from pierced ear to pierced ear. but there’s not a trace of shame on her perfect. and you’re still creeping around listening to people’s private conversations. Lael and I exchange glances. Don’t expect a major result today. I march up to the shed and wrench open the door. Only this time. most of the time). “Like how certain people have crushes on certain Hilton College old boys and are plotting stalking strategies.. This is not good. And the problem is. Plus she’s Team Trinity 41 . mortal enemy. Sophie Agincourt – apart from being my number-one nemesis.” She goes off into a peal of irritating laughter.try again. which is supposed to be locked.” She stops as we hear another noise from inside the shed. A blonde girl who was leaning against it from the inside almost falls out onto the grass. You’d expect her to be mortified at being caught eavesdropping.. as I have to admit in my more honest moments (although I do have better dress sense. rosy face. evil twin and the all-round antiTrinity – is also a boyfriend-stealer of note. until he’s got used to having you around. I wouldn’t know what was going on. A very familiar giggle. She bounces up and dusts herself off. if I didn’t listen. she’s gorgeous. Way more gorgeous than I am. This is not good at all.” she says. When are you ever going to grow up?” “Hey. It’s enough for her just to know that I like a guy to start taking aim at him. And so on and so forth. Sophie’s one of those awful girls who can eat whatever she likes without putting on weight. “Sophie!” I say angrily.
um . she can turn on the sex appeal in a way that just mows the boys down. He’s totally into extreme sports. I don’t know. did you?” Lael says casually. Face it. She looks all sweet and innocent. “I can give you some tips on breaking the ice with him if you like.” “Yeah. If Sophie is interested in getting her claws into him. About ten years. honestly. Just get him talking about that stuff.” 42 Fiona Snyckers .” “I’ve met him. seriously. really. right!” Sophie snorts. but when she wants to. I can give up on Postmatric Guy right now. Why?” “Don’t you think that’s long enough for me to know when you’re trying to trick me?” “No. She’s actually got a crush on . man. “You didn’t take all that seriously.. I’m giving you the inside scoop on this guy.” “Sure you can. Mpume Thlogoane. “No.” I say wearily. He does like those things. “Zach Morris. You should be thanking me. He was at school with my brother last year. you know.” Sophie says off-handedly.. Trinity doesn’t really like him. I saw him at a few socials. “How long have I known you?” “Ooh.. Listen here.. When we went down to our place in Howick for the holidays. isn’t he?” I grunt.. He’s hot.” “No. and you’ll have him eating out the palm of your hand. “We were just kidding around.” “Sophie. He’s crazy about cagefighting and base-jumping..got the whole blonde-haired. This time I’m really not. blue-eyed Taylor Swift thing going on.
but he really doesn’t do it for me. but today I’m not getting any clear vibes either way. “I don’t have any chemistry with him. “Why would you try and help me?” I ask suspiciously.” Hmmm. I can see he’s hot and everything. Team Trinity 43 .I look at her closely. “I mean. Over the years I’ve got pretty good at detecting whether or not Sophie is lying.” she says with a yawn. And I’d rather you got him than some snooty matric cow.
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. This is happening. Now the only thing that can go wrong is if he goes somewhere else after practice. I sneak a glance at my phone and realise with a jolt of shock that it’s 4. 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. The way the grounds are laid out. I feel a bit silly. I reckon he’ll want to hit the showers before dinner. 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. thank goodness. There’s no sign of Sophie Agincourt. but you can easily stand up at the top where the school buildings are and look down at the players. So at least I know I haven’t missed him. just hanging around in the open like this but nobody seems to be paying any attention. But I’m not too worried. It’s 4.CHAPTER 8 WHEN I finish my drumming class.29pm. My heart starts thundering in my chest and for a moment I think I might be sick. This is really happening. The way the sun is beating down today. 44 Fiona Snyckers . I make my way to the Postmatric Annexe via a route that loops past the cricket fields.15 and cricket practice is still in full swing.
slightly behind them. It’s like she’s glued to the ground.” Pottery studio. “What? What?” A little Grade 8 girl is standing behind me. The cricket boys are getting closer. There’s this little door in the art room that leads straight into the pottery studio. Okay. “I didn’t mean to make you jump. I’m happy to see that Zach is too mature for all that.. Okaypleasurebye. right. But the Grade 8 girl is not shifting. You’ll find it with no problem. Thank goodness. Pottery studio? My mind has gone completely blank. climbing up the steps. “Okay. He’s walking on his own.” I say at last. I just wanted to ask if you knew where the pottery studio is?” “Umm. Team Trinity 45 .. They’re kidding around – laughing and pushing each other like guys do. I swear they make them smaller every year. and then the cricketers appear in the distance. Think. “Sorry. At least Zach is still behind them.” I’m gabbling now as the first cricket boys appear at the top of the steps and start dispersing in different directions.” she says nervously. Trinity. “Okay. they’re getting closer.” I jump as though a dog has just taken a bite out of my leg. the pottery studio. Get ready. Do you know where that is – in the Founders Block?” She nods. “Excuse me. Trinity. it’s next to the art classroom. Think! “Oh..After a few minutes I can hear the sound of voices getting closer..
Most of the kids at school treat me normally. 46 Fiona Snyckers . as he hears my footsteps pounding up behind him.. please wait a moment. he turns to go.. no. really smooth. Smooth work.. I am now officially dying inside.” And I speed-walk away from her.” I gabble as I spot Zach coming up the steps. flustered and out of breath. gasping for breath. “But I’m afraid I really have to go now. So much for casually intercepting him. where I won’t be able to follow him. Not now. “Abel Luhabe’s daughter?” Oh. does my dad really own eighteen cars (no) and do we really have a ballroom at home (yes). I am. slightly startled. disbelievingly. excuse me!” I say.. We can talk another time. Please. His eyes flick coldly over me as he waits for an answer. “Yes. no. “Wait!” I say urgently. Not another groupie. Sorrythanksbye. I mean ... I’m sweaty. I thought there was this mentoring thing where students were allowed to ask postmatrics for help when they didn’t understand something. “I .. “Could you help me with my trig homework?” “Help you with your trig homework?” he says. he turns to walk towards the Annexe.” Something flickers behind his eyes. I thought . He turns around..“Are you Trinity Luhabe?” she blurts out. Like. “Um . 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”. “Why would I do that?” Okay. I have to break into a run just to catch up with him before he disappears into the Annexe. When one doesn’t come. Trinity. At the top.
Team Trinity 47 . “Like I said. Result! I walk nervously into the Annexe. “Have you got your calculator here?” I take my calculator out and he starts explaining. “Oh God.. The teacher explained it way too fast. I have never set foot in here in my life. “It’s this. It’s surprisingly gloomy. He flings himself down into an armchair and looks expectantly at me.” I manage to tear my eyes away from his hair and start digging around in my bag. this?” he says. and even then we’re only allowed into the common room. “Yes. Students are only allowed in if accompanied by a postmatric. but by the end of his explanation. His shirt is clinging to his chest and some dark hair is flopping over his brow. His legs are so long they’re almost touching mine. I’m feeling even more flustered being indoors with him.” He strides into the Postmatric Annexe. the teacher explained it too fast. jerking an arm for me to follow him.. with lots of dark wooden panelling.” he says reluctantly.. I think they must have learned a slightly different method at Hilton because it doesn’t sound completely familiar. that.” I say firmly. and I couldn’t follow what she was saying.” I turn to the right page in our textbook and pass it to him. let’s get this over with. “So what’s the problem?” “Er. I must admit I’ve finally got it.“Oh. Okay. “It’s so easy! Do you really not understand it?” “I really don’t.” “Okay. I remember something about that..” he sighs.
” he says. We’re walking down the passage. but I honestly thought that by this stage we’d be chatting away about other things.” he says impatiently as I dither. 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. All I’ve done so far is irritate him. Now I wish I’d prepared another question to ask him. 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. “I’ll walk you out. In another moment I’ll be on the other side of that door. but I know I’ll never have the guts to ask him for help again. of course not. on TV?” 48 Fiona Snyckers . and my chance will be gone forever.” I’m packing my stuff back into my bag as slowly as I dare. “Do you happen to know if they’re showing the big cage-fight tonight?” My voice comes out all high and squeaky. I have no choice but to straighten up. “Next time just put your hand up and ask your teacher to explain it again. heading for the door and the blinding sunlight outside. standing up briskly. “I said. pretending to drop my calculator.Then we do a few more examples to make sure that I really understand it. “I’m sorry?” I cough and try again. and before I know it. But how? For a second. “That should do it. I need to turn this around. we’re finished. hoisting my bag over my shoulder. Sophie’s advice flickers across my brain. I know Lael said I should take a slow-burn approach.
“What did you say your name was again?” “Um .” He looks down at the ground for a moment. Team Trinity 49 . Did he recognise it or not? I’m ashamed to admit that I said it slightly more loudly than normal. “How do you know about cage-fighting?” he asks cautiously. he’s looking at me like I’ve lost it. “Oh .. Huge fan – that’s me. Then I did a bit more reading and realised that there’s a big fight on practically every night... I mean. What a surprise. “Yes. in the hope that it might grab his interest. But it’s Trinity. obviously not in a bloodthirsty.. don’t you? Base-jumping too. I love it. Just in case. want-to-get-up-theremyself-and-fight kind of way. I know.“The cage-fight?” he repeats.” Okay. I did Google cage-fighting. I didn’t actually... I sneak a glance at his face and see that he’s looking at me properly for the first time this afternoon. basejumping and extreme sports in between extramurals this afternoon. so I don’t get to see his reaction to my surname. Terrible. But you’d really need to see with your own eyes how hot he is before judging me. I find it completely fascinating.” I add for good measure. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that there was a big fight on tonight. so it seems as though Sophie was indeed lying through her teeth. You know . the fight between the Bulgarian Zoltov and the American Harris? I was just wondering if it’s going to be on ESPN tonight. I admit it. looking at me as though I’ve suddenly sprouted horns. um . of course... Anyway. Just as a spectator. Trinity Luhabe.
” “Well. I’ll organise it with your Matron.” He hesitates for a moment... No ESPN. we do have DSTV at home. I take a deep breath and pull myself together. “Hello.. he smiles. “I mean. likewise..” “Er . but I’m not staying at home at the moment. Trinity Luhabe.” “And in answer to your question. yes.” As he speaks. yes. “Why don’t you come and watch it here? We have all the DSTV channels right here in the Annexe.” he says formally as we shake. the fight will be on ESPN tonight. 50 Fiona Snyckers . I’ve never seen him smile before.. so there shouldn’t be a problem. And we only have the channels the girls voted for last year. I mean.. I feel as though I’m standing in a beam of sunlight. Dimples peep out in his cheeks and he looks younger and more mischievous. Very pleased to meet you. “My name is Zach Morris.After a moment he lifts his head and looks at me. Do you have DSTV at home?” “No . The main fight will be over by half-past eight. His wonderful blue eyes become light and warm and adorably crinkled at the corners. I barely manage to stammer out a thank-you before he turns and walks back into the Annexe.” I stutter... I’m in Sisulu House this term while my folks are overseas.. yes. um . Then he reaches out a hand to shake mine. that’s for sure..
I breathe a sigh of relief. Your master-plan was a complete and total and utter success. “Thank goodness you’re back!” she says. love and joy. thank goodness for that. it’s got nothing to do with Postmatric Guy. “Have you been waiting on tenterhooks? Then I won’t tease you. no.” she says. jumping to her feet. kiss small babies. struck by a hideous thought. so what is it?” Team Trinity 51 . “Unless you’re going to tell me he’s already cancelled our TV date.CHAPTER 9 I FLOAT back to Sisulu House on a cloud of happy happiness. A blissfully floaty cloud of peace.” “No. I laugh. Please say it’s not that. I want to hug everyone I see.” “Nothing you say can ruin my good mood today!” I declare. now there’s nothing you can say that would upset me. and give twenty-rand notes to beggars.” She smiles. and I’m afraid you’re not going to like it. As soon as I see Lael in there finishing off her Science homework. I run up the stairs light as a feather. “Well. and I want to hear all about it. Then I stop. and pirouette into the dormitory. But first I need to tell you something. “That’s great. doing a few more pirouettes around the dormitory. I realise the only thing better than daydreaming about Zach is telling Lael all about him. Okay.
” This is unfortunately true. because it includes a private sitting-room and a massive hotelsized bathroom. but Sophie’s room is roughly twice the size of mine. “What do you notice?” “Someone’s moved in?” I hazard. Except for one thing. Sophie gets. Anything Sophie wants. don’t you?” Lael asks. “Because I am?” “Yup. Ever. Sophie and I used to get on fairly well until we both entered the Miss Sandton 52 Fiona Snyckers . If you weren’t boarding this term. her parents start where mine leave off. very few houses are). If you think I’m spoiled. The thought of her voluntarily giving all that up to come and live in a dormitory with five other girls boggles my mind. Sophie’s suite. noticing that the bed is made up and there are pictures stuck up on the cubicle walls. Her house is not as big as ours (let’s face it. it would never have crossed Sophie’s mind. In the whole history of her school career. pointing at the one unoccupied bed in our dormitory.” she says darkly. She has to copy every single thing you do.“Have a look over there. Sophie has never boarded. “You know why she’s doing this. and try to do it better. For a moment I’m too shocked to speak.” “Our Sophie? Sophie Agincourt?” Lael nods gloomily. I should say. “Not just any old someone. Sophie’s parents have gone overboard in terms of giving her every single thing she’s ever asked for. It’s Sophie. you should take a look at Sophie. When it comes to spoiling.
“Are you really seeing him tonight?” “Yes.kiddies’ pageant when we were eleven years old. And Sophie – who’d had her hair. makeup and wardrobe professionally styled – was my First Princess. was totally on the money. but what with my TV date with Zach coming up. “Is that so hard to believe?” she goes on. which. But don’t go thinking I’ve gone soft or anything. and ask whether she doesn’t agree that this has earned Sophie a Royal Pardon. even though I wasn’t wearing any makeup and just had my hair brushed down my back with an Alice band. she’s taken our rivalry to a whole new level of thermonuclear insanity. low-flying piggies are expected over Joburg tonight.” “I was just trying to be nice. I can hardly even work up the energy. He said I can come and watch the big cage-fight on ESPN at the Annexe with him. “It looks as though Sophie actually did something good for once.” She fixes me with her baby-blue eyes. “It’s weird.” Her forehead creases. Plus – and this is very important – Sophie was the one who gave me the cage-fighting tip. Ever since then. And in other news. sitting down on her bed. Normally I’d be furious that she’d moved into Sisulu House. I won. I tell Lael all about my meeting with Zach.. okay?” Lael and I both jump and turn around to find that Sophie has crept up behind us. all right. sort of. Well. “I already told you I’d rather see Trinity with Zach than with some smug matric girl. because I haven’t.. as we now know.” Team Trinity 53 . so I’ll go there straight after supper. I just need to clear it with Matron.
” “Okayyyy. “But how are you going to customise it?” “Oh.” I see what she’s saying. well. The standard shirt-and-skirt combo fits me just fine – skimming nicely over my butt and making my waist look smaller. There’s not going to be time to change after supper. And anyway. and quantity surveying – sound like the most boring jobs on earth.” Although I do actually think that actuarial science – and accountancy. “Zach’s not the kind of boy you want to make mistakes with. She must have them specially made at a tailor. of course.” says Sophie as though to an idiot. Frankly I can’t be bothered. “Well. so don’t say anything about how you think it’s the most boring career in the known universe.” “Also. I don’t think they’d even let me. 54 Fiona Snyckers . he wants to study actuarial science next year. don’t take too long. and you basically have a thing for guys who go in for extreme sports..” And she runs lightly out the dorm. remember to say you also think basejumping is cool.” I say vaguely.” Sophie says. “Got it. The only good thing about them is that they pay well. right. “Why’s she being like this?” Lael asks suspiciously. “What are you going to wear?” “Duh! School uniform. “I haven’t made up my mind yet. There’ll be plenty of girls waiting to snap him up..” I nod.“Okay. jumping up from her bed.” “Yeees. Sophie has at least seven Brentwood school shirts that are all cut slightly differently depending on what look she’s going for.
even though it’s one of my favourites. It feels weird not joining the stream of girls heading back to Sisulu House. Then I catch Lael’s eye and we both start to giggle. Before I know it. They don’t really know what to make of it.” I say. supper’s over and Lael is wishing me luck.“Maybe she’s turned over a new leaf. Lael and I are a bit silly and giggly all through supper. Instead I veer off towards the Annexe.” “But who cares. Team Trinity 55 . but Sophie is as cool as a cucumber. and skip the chicken curry completely.” “Very unlikely. there’s hardly anyone around. provided I’m back in Sisulu House at 8. 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.30 on the dot. I stick to foods that will not make my breath too stinky. Maybe this is nature’s way of helping me lose a quick half-kilo in the next hour. Yasmin and Priya. She’s busy being friendly to Nosipho. because she’s never paid the slightest bit of attention to them before. “Unlikely. In a moment. Matron tells me I have permission to watch TV at the Postmatric Annexe tonight. I know.” *** I’m so nervous at supper I can hardly eat. She makes it sound like she’s going to be standing at the door with a stopwatch. 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.
and swallows are swooping low around the grounds. There’s the other one. We have two. The sight of the shut Annexe door brings me up short. I can take it from here.As the sound of chatter disappears into Sisulu House. The sky looks inky to the south. “Can I help you?” A guy in his twenties dressed in civvies opens the door. Trinity.. within seconds. There’s a coolish breeze.” He 56 Fiona Snyckers . I’m wondering whether he’s going to take me to the TV room himself. “Hi. “Trinity Luhabe. Now what? Then I notice a doorbell tucked away and give it a timid prod. It’s still quite light. I try the handle.” he says coolly. hi! I’m here to visit Zach Morris?” “Name?” he asks in a bored voice..” “Come on in. or whether I have to find my own way there when Zach walks in. but it is very definitely locked. and I reckon there’ll be rain later. “Thanks. footsteps.” He makes me sign a register and makes a note of the time. plucking insects out of the air. the evening suddenly seems very quiet. “Um . Mike’s one of the wardens. They’re here to keep an eye on us. and Zach takes me through to the TV room where an ad for a dirt-biking show is playing. but long shadows are starting to stretch across the playing fields and the world seems drained of colour. Mike. I give a little shiver and cross my arms over my chest.” The guy called Mike leaves. “Who was that?” I ask. “Oh. I can hear a faint buzzing sound and.
But in the first place. there’s a tiny part of me – that seems to speak in the voice of Ms Potgieter. so what does she know? So I sit in an armchair next to Zach and put on my eager face. Ms Potgieter must be nearly thirty by now and she’s still single. I love cagefighting. And. 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. It looks like the fight has already started. who’s texting on his phone. Love it!” Team Trinity 57 . The Postmatric Annexe is supposed to be co-ed. There are a few other guys scattered around the place. so I’m the only girl in the place. okay.nods in the direction of another older-looking guy in the TV room. I’d probably be more freaked out if anyone were paying attention to me. but they’re not. All I know about cage-fighting is what I picked up from Wikipedia in ten minutes flat this afternoon. I don’t really trust myself to say anything intelligent. startled. eeuw and gross! “You’re not really enjoying this. And this year there are none. Even Zach is fixated by the TV screen. so I limit myself to going “Ooh!” and “Aah!” Hopefully in all the right places. Every now and then I have to shut my eyes when the fighting on the screen gets too horrible. are you?” says Zach. “What?” I say. And in the second place. hardly any girls choose to do postmatric. that rule was never intended to apply to anyone as hot as Zach – he’s clearly the exception. They keep having to stop the fight to patch up somebody’s split lip or flapping forehead skin. It turns out cage-fighting is really awful – way worse than boxing. There’s blood flying all over the place. Eeuw. “Of course I am. but like I said.
that’s because of the blood. You enjoy it for the skill and the technique. but you still flinch at the sight of blood. Feminine. And he’s not done yet.... Zach watches for a few seconds and then turns to me. I’m not that good with blood.. He’s definitely modelling himself on the Japanese fighters.” he says softly. “I’ve always been interested in how . more feminine. Zach Morris called me feminine. But the fighting’s really cool. My heart is pounding in my chest.“Then why do you keep wincing and shutting your eyes?” “Um . “You’re right.. Whereas the other guy has more of a Brazilian influence.” I gesture vaguely at the screen.” he goes on. You’re different.” I’m quoting 58 Fiona Snyckers .. I’m staring at the screen so hard my eyes are almost watering when I become aware of Zach leaning in really close..” Whew. “I think it’s cute how you enjoy the sport.. I don’t know . You’ve no idea how cute that is. “A lot of the girls who watch extreme sports are really bloodthirsty.” I clear my throat. Tell me more. “Well.” I smile at him and swivel my head back to the screen. “But not you. but can’t stand the sight of blood... in how it evolved as a sport from several different martial arts traditions. “It makes you seem . to be honest. You can totally see the Japanese influence in that guy’s style. I don’t. Now I just need to get through the rest of this with my eyes open and no flinching.” No.
Trinity?” I pause for a moment. I’ve already caught his interest with this cage-fighting stunt. What else do you do to relax. It’s so great to finally meet someone who understands.” He smiles. “I don’t think I could ever really do it myself. but I’m fascinated by it. Now is my chance to get real with Zach. what was I going to say when he asked me what I was interested in? Music... Zach is looking at me with a new glow in his eyes. so I should really start being honest with him about the stuff I enjoy doing. as though I’m thinking about my answer. “In a strictly . I’m interested in all extreme sports really.. I know what you’re thinking.. um . “And .. movies.” “Base-jumping!” he says eagerly. 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.” No ways am I jumping out of a plane or off a cliff for this or any other guy..” Yes. as if he can’t quite believe that I’m real.straight from Wikipedia here. skydiving . but he doesn’t seem to notice.. But. “That’s amazing!” he says. theoretical way.” I hear myself saying. “You know almost more about it than I do.. of course. seriously. and also how it represents a search for the most effective form of unarmed combat in the world.” I add hastily. Most people think I’m completely crazy when I tell them. “I’m . I love to watch it. “I started training to skydive in the December holidays. “Base-jumping .. There are limits to love – very clear limits.. and soon I’ll move on to base-jumping. I’m a horrible liar who doesn’t deserve a guy like this.. Which of course I am..” “Wow. I get my reward right away.
. It’s only when he reaches up a hand to push his hair back that I catch sight of the time on his watch.” I start stuttering.” “It is a big deal.. wouldn’t it? Because I’d really like to see you again. “It’s twenty-five to nine. cringe.” Oh. hooking his hands behind his head and stretching out his legs. You know . 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. my goodness!” I jump up. even if they’ve never heard of them until that moment. has he? In fact. Zach seems to be smiling. Luckily. So I just smile and nod. he hasn’t even hinted at it. Cringety cringe cringe. I was supposed to be back at Sisulu House by halfpast eight. “They won’t let me out at night again.. that would be a pity. “Oh.sound? And anyway. But maybe not at night next 60 Fiona Snyckers ..” There’s a short silence. and agree with everything Zach says as he starts talking about the differences between skydiving and base-jumping. “Chill!” he says. He stands up lazily and catches my hands in his.” He leans back in his chair. to go anywhere. I’ve heard girls telling guys that they simply adore rugby or football or whatever. “Well. and all the new skills he has to learn. “If I mess up on my very first time out. “It’s no big deal.. they’ll never let me come here again. Because he hasn’t asked me to come here again..” I say. And they always pretend to support whatever team the guy supports. I mean. show me one girl who doesn’t lie a bit when she’s trying to get a guy interested. “I .
Three o’clock. Team Trinity 61 . I’ll get rid of it.” And he turns to lead me out of the Annexe.” I nod madly. but whatever it is. yes. Don’t forget. I know I’ve got something on this Friday afternoon.time. How does Friday at three sound? Are you free then?” “Oh. “Great! Meet me at the tuckshop then. absolutely! Definitely.
if you ask me. She doesn’t have the time to drive Nosipho around in the afternoons. and a good reminder never to walk around without slippers on. Which is a bit disgusting. Nosipho has been a boarder ever since the beginning of Grade 8. Her mom is a single parent with a hectic fulltime job at Deloittes. even though she lives right here in Illovo. I’ve known Lael. and wanted her daughter to have the same experience. Priya also lives in Joburg. so she boards during the week and goes home on weekends. but I get the feeling you don’t really know someone until you’ve shared a room with them. Ever.CHAPTER 10 BESIDES LAEL and Sophie and me. 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. 62 Fiona Snyckers . Sophie. And Yasmin is perched at the foot of her bed. there are three other girls in our dorm. Nosipho and Yasmin since primary school. but she says her parents are hectic social climbers who want her to meet the “right” kind of friends at boarding-school. She’s just letting the clippings fall onto the floor. and Priya since Grade 8. but her mom went to Brentwood College when she was a girl. Yasmin’s parents live in Durban. cutting her toenails.
It was given to him by the Gumede House housemaster Team Trinity 63 . “What lake?” says Lael. like stuff that everyone gets up to?” The others look at each other in a head-scratching kind of way. “So what do we do for fun around here?” I ask. It’s starting to feel as though Friday will never arrive. “Ag. this is all a bit different to the privacy I’m used to at home. After a while. that’s true. It’s this super historical thing made of bronze and wood that all Brentwood students get told about in Grade 1. We know the Gumede Shield. Nosipho. “You’ve been reading too much Spud. who has been boarding the longest.” We all sit up and look at her.. “No. It was supposedly carried by a Brentwood boy in World War I. Don’t all boarding-schools have traditions? You know.” “Okay.” “Okay. yes.. I don’t see how anyone could ever really have done it.So. We’re in the middle of Joburg. you know the Gumede Shield?” We all nod. But there must be something else we can do. man. Well .” “We won’t laugh. remember. says. to tell the truth. You’ll laugh.. Just tell us. Trinity. running a brush through my hair as we all get ready for bed on Wednesday night. “What thing?” Nosipho shakes her head. it’s not even worth talking about because it’s completely impossible. there is this one thing. “Well.” “Done what?” we demand. but on the other hand I can’t imagine that it ever gets boring.. It’s just one of those silly rumours. “Midnight swims in the lake? Kitchen raids? Attacks on Gumede House?” I’m feeling a bit restless.
. It would have made the story even better if the shield had stopped a policeman’s bullet and saved his life too. “Okay. the Gumede Shield has been kept under lock and key in the headmaster’s office.. the legend is that the shield stopped a bullet or a shell or something that would have killed the Brentwood boy. you know how it was taken in 1976?” Nosipho goes on. You can still see the mark where it glanced off the bronze. and everyone goes ooh and aah. though. Only it wasn’t called Gumede House in those days. what about it?” Lael asks. They show it to parents when they do guided tours of the school. but nothing like that happened. we all know about the Gumede Shield. In those days they thought he’d done a terrible thing and almost expelled him. It taught them a lesson. Ever since 1976. They had been letting a few black kids in for years. but now of course that boy is one of the heroes of the school. the story goes that it 64 Fiona Snyckers . So he bunked off school and joined the protest. We all nod again. “So . which is how the whole story came out. “Well. Then when the 1976 Soweto uprising happened.to bring him good luck when he went to war. but Jan Smuts House. the point is that yes. Anyway. He just got caught smuggling it back into its display case. making rolling motions with her hands. a Brentwood boy pinched the shield out of its display case and carried it with him when he joined the protest. 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. That was back in the days when the school was still run by the Catholic Church. Anyway.
She decided that it was cruel to keep birds in cages and decided to release them all there and then. “Well. Things only got smoothed over when my dad arrived and started writing out cheques. I know that look well. and.. Yasmin once told us that girls used to be treated like second-class citizens in Brentwood. “So. They say it was a girl. it was complete and utter mayhem.” “Wow!” says Lael thoughtfully.. But Lael’s not even listening.” I say quickly. the school will let it live for six months of the year in Sisulu House and the other six months in Gumede House. It’s not like that anymore. and that she was trying to make some kind of point about how the shield belonged to the whole school and not just to the boys. Team Trinity 65 . My mom nearly had a fit when she came looking for us. Her mom remembers when the girls had to fight to be recognised as equal members of the school. Well. Lael is a huge feminist and there’s a disturbingly fanatical look in her eye as she says this. obviously. I’m happy to say. “They say that if a Sisulu House girl ever succeeds in stealing the trophy again. anyhow. that’s impossible so we should just forget about it. It’s the same gleam she got when we were about ten years old and came across a pet-shop at Sandton City. 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.was stolen again in the 1980s. now we come to the bit that I’m really not sure is true.” “And the last bit of inequality between girls and boys at Brentwood will finally be removed!” Lael interrupts.” Nosipho says.
it detects when anything gets removed from the cabinet and sends an alarm through to the security company.” “Are you finished now?” she asks when I finally wind down. Plus!” I add. We’ll talk about this again soon. holding up a finger when she tries to speak again. “It’s a nice idea. but it is discrimination that the shield should stay in Gumede House all year round. girls. but.” “Lael. It’s locked in a display cabinet in his office.” “Okay. “I am if you’re ready to admit that stealing the shield would be impossible and insane.” she says thoughtfully. “It belongs to the girls just as much as to the boys.” I say as though I’m trying to calm a mental patient. Remember at the beginning of the year when Dr Hussein gave my family a tour of Gumede House?” She nods. Basically.” *** 66 Fiona Snyckers .” “I prefer the word challenging. then that’s what we’re going to do.” I interrupt ruthlessly. We should really split it. “that has a brand-new alarm system installed in it..” she says. “his office has this huge steel security gate on the door. Dr Hussein was very proud of it and showed my dad the whole thing.” “A display cabinet. which is kept locked at all times. I never thought about it before. but it would never work. And if the only way to do that is to pinch it and put it in our display case. “I got to see where the shield is kept.. “Lights out in two minutes.“You know.
we sneaked out of school and went to watch a movie at Sandton City. I wander down to the common room to spend some productive staring-out-the-window time. He smiles as I come in. Maybe he’ll buy me an icecream from the tuckshop. Everyone seems to have something on this afternoon. But I couldn’t face swimming practice. Also known as James Ellison. Stop it. He probably has nothing more exciting in mind than hanging out for a while. trendy-dresser guy. It’s dead quiet in Sisulu House. If only this day would hurry up and finish. We were sitting under some willow trees. Then I see who it is and don’t feel quite so annoyed any more. All I can think about is Friday afternoon and what Zach has in mind for us. so it’s a bit annoying to find that today of all days. Then we were having a picnic down at the lake. until. “Hi. Trinity. I wonder why I’m so obsessed with Brentwood’s non-existent lake. getting closer and closer. I haven’t laid eyes on him in weeks. Where’ve you been hiding yourself?” Team Trinity 67 . so I bunked off to have some time alone. watching the sun go down. No.. I’ve even started dreaming about it. The one my brother warned me about.. I literally have not been able to think of anything else all week. it’s not. including me. and we’ll just talk for a bit. And then maybe he’ll take my hand in his. It’s usually empty at this time of the afternoon. It’s the brown-haired. I take a few deep breaths and try to get a grip. and lean over towards me.The rest of the week creeps past. In last night’s dream. stranger.
“What’s that about?” I giggle self-consciously. and the boys were playing fussball. He must have noticed that?” I take a deep breath.“I haven’t been hiding at all. “Well I like him enough for both of us.” he announces.” I say. “It’s not about anything. I suppose you’ve found a better spot for girl-watching?” “Sometimes I come in here because it’s quiet. The question is whether I’m good enough for him. or mixed-race if you have to be picky 68 Fiona Snyckers . pool and table tennis all at the same time in the common room.” “Oh. Why do people even care?” “I don’t like him. looking at me closely.” “I know what you mean. “You’re the one who hasn’t been around lately. for goodness sake. “Hasn’t he noticed that you’re Coloured?” “Excuse me?” “You’re Coloured and he’s white. I suppose it’s all over the school by now. I was just invited to watch TV with one of the postmatrics.” “His name is Zach Morris and you’re meeting him again tomorrow.” “He’s not good enough for you.” I roll my eyes. The other day I went to visit my brothers. and nothing happened. “Who are you – my dad? Of course he’s good enough for me.” he says. End of story. I was back by half past eight.” He shifts restlessly in his chair. first of all I consider myself black.” “I hear you’ve been spending your time in the more rarefied atmosphere of the Postmatric Annexe lately. Gumede House can be insane at times. It was like a madhouse. “Okay.
“Let me put it this way.” He flashes me a cocky grin. It’s like talking to a wall.about it. This guy is unreal.” “Right. I’ll just cancel my date with the hottest guy in school because you think it would be best.” “And why would I do that?” “It would be best. How could he not have?” “And he doesn’t mind?” I drop my head in my hands. I have to assume this means he doesn’t have a problem with the colour of my skin. That’s the kind of trusting guy he is. Zach is so unbelievably gorgeous. I wouldn’t need to send him a note because I’ve got his BBM pin. of course he’s noticed.” I say at last. Team Trinity 69 . “We’ll see who’s right. no one else compares. I know I told my brother that I didn’t. I can’t believe I used to have a crush on this guy. There’s something attractive about him. Oh.” “I think you should write him a note saying you can’t meet him tomorrow. yes. and now he’s asked me to hang out with him tomorrow afternoon. And secondly. but I actually kind of did. But it would be impossible to like anyone else at the same time as Zach. “First he asked me to watch TV with him. He gave it to me without me even asking. in spite of his weirdo attitudes.” I draw myself up and stalk out of the common room before I say something I might regret later. and by the way. That’s totally going to happen. Yes.
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.
70 Fiona Snyckers
“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.
Team Trinity 71
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
I give another yawn. and finally fall asleep. Don’t want to look like I’m smuggling designer handbags under my eyes tomorrow. 76 Fiona Snyckers .At last I’m getting sleepy.
“Don’t move for a second. “Hold it right there. So it’s approximately 3.” Team Trinity 77 . I wanted to get there at 3. I decided not to wear jeans for a change. but didn’t quite have the nerve. you can move now. We’re not supposed to wear makeup at school. Zach said three o’clock. but opted for a flirty little skirt instead. On Friday afternoons. bright sunlight. but short enough to show off my calves and ankles. “Okay. making me jump. It’s long enough to hide my butt and thighs.” I hear the shutter of a cellphone camera.05. I’ve got my outfit all laid out on my bed. boarders are allowed to change into civvies unless we’re taking part in some official school function. I want to remember how gorgeous you look.” a voice says behind me. I hurtle back to Sisulu House to change out of my uniform. That confidence puts a spring in my step as I head for the tuckshop.CHAPTER 12 WHEN THE bell goes for the end of the day at twentypast two on Friday afternoon. but I swipe on some coloured lipgloss anyway. I know I’m looking good. When I step out of Sisulu House into the sharp.02 as I arrive and start scanning the groups of kids hanging around. I’ve teamed it with a frilly strappy top and a pair of gladiator sandals. which are the best parts of my legs.
I almost say “what fight?” when I suddenly remember that I’m supposed to be a big fan of cage-fighting. I feel all lit up from the inside.” “It’s lovely. slinging an arm over my shoulders as we walk up to the tuckshop counter. no. smiling at him. but then I remember how bubbly they are – I don’t want to spend the whole afternoon burping. remember? So what happened?” “Oh. “Would you like something?” he asks. I should really keep tabs on the TV guide to see when these things are happening.” I say..I turn around to see Zach slipping his phone into his pocket. it was great!” He launches into a long description of a fight between a Russian and a Costa Rican. getting out his wallet.” I think it’s much more likely that every girl in school is wishing she was me. We perch on the low wall around the fountain while he eats. I listen 78 Fiona Snyckers . “Did you just take a picture of the back of my head?” I ask. “So did you see the fight last night?” Zach asks between mouthfuls. “Just a still water. “No ESPN in Sisulu House.” he says. thanks. Do you have any idea how pretty you look today? I bet every guy in school wishes he was me right now. and hands me my water. “You’re lovely. I’m about to ask for a Coke Zero. but no guy has ever said something like that to me before. “Yes. “Uh . although I like to think the front view isn’t too bad either.. thinking fast.” Zach gets himself a toasted sandwich and a can of cooldrink.” He grins back. “Is that a problem?” “No.
and you?” I answer guardedly. I know it is. Sophie. Sophie has foolproof radar when it comes to me. It’s beeping now. Yes. BEEP BEEP BEEP. who has noticed that we’re hanging out together. “How’s it going?” “All right.” he says. and who is looking green with envy. but I know she’s seen me. See you then?” “Sure. How can she not like him? “Hi.” Team Trinity 79 . She has her back to me. guys!” she says.” he says. That was fun. And the term boarders like me are just hanging out.” What was fun? What? “Well. with plans to meet up on the weekend. she’s turning around and totally zeroing in on me. lying like the sociopath she is. “I’ve hardly seen you since Howick in December. “I didn’t know you knew Trinity. enjoying having nothing urgent to do. BEEP BEEP BEEP. look. “Hey. I’m still not convinced that she doesn’t like Zach. I mean. We should do it again.” Sophie adds. Most people are just getting on with their normal Friday afternoon stuff. He’s practically a Greek god. The day kids are drifting home. look at him.with half an ear while keeping an eye on what’s going on around us. “We’ve been friends since Grade 1. Specifically. The weekly boarders are packing up their stuff and waiting for their parents to collect them. I’ll be there over Easter again. 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. And now she’s coming over.
We watch her leave in silence. She’s gorgeous and funny and likes the same stuff as I do. telling us to have fun. You know who her father is. I’m practically the Dalai Lama. If by friends. you mean mortal enemies. “But not too much fun!” she adds. If you think I’m shallow and materialistic.“Really? I didn’t know that. “Trinity. but that’s not why I’m hanging out with Trinity. Then Zach shakes his head. giving a cheeky little wave. 80 Fiona Snyckers .” Zach turns to me. “See what a keeper this guy is?” Then she blows kisses to both of us and goes on her way. She sees my family connections as an asset that I should exploit. I’m so glad you guys are getting to know each other. those were her exact words. “Trinity’s a great girl. the billionaire mining guy? The one who was on Robben Island?” She drills the point home. “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. you should try Sophie Agincourt on for size. But I know Sophie. You might think that bit about my dad was meant to be bitchy.” There’s another millisecond pause.” Sophie gives me a raised-eyebrow look as though to say. “Abel Luhabe. Zach.” She truly thought that if Zach didn’t already know who my dad was. Next to her. I suppose it’s true enough. That’s enough reason for me. “I know about that. right?” I glare at Sophie. Zach pauses for a second and then nods. I smile weakly. she would be doing me a favour by telling him. but she’s not looking at me. In fact. your family is an asset that you really should exploit more.
“Have you never done something that was against the rules?” A delicious shiver goes down my spine.” he says. “I was saying that we should really go somewhere more comfortable. A first date is not a great time to turn into a nag. “Oh.” “How about the Sisulu House common room?” I suggest. “I was thinking of the Postmatric Annexe rather. “Your room?” I say.“Trinity?” Zach is saying. sure . “Earth to Trinity.. I want to kick myself. You were saying?” Zach lobs his can and sandwich wrapper into the nearest rubbish bin.. Come in. “But that’s against the rules.” he says. Team Trinity 81 . Although the moment the words are out of my mouth.” “Actually. Zach leans forward until his lips are almost touching my ear. “I was thinking more along the lines of my room.” “Sorry about that. I zoned out for a minute. “I want to be able to talk to you in peace and not be interrupted all the time. I am a virgin. but I stop myself in time. I imagine us running into all my friends there. I’m about to point out that it’s a plastics-only bin. but that’s beside the point.” My heart gives a huge thud and my eyes fly up to meet his. isn’t it? No girls allowed up in the rooms. I mean. Trinity. right. I shouldn’t be sounding like one.” Zach brushes a finger against my cheek and hooks a strand of hair behind my ear. waving his hand in front of my face. I sound like the clueless virgin in a movie... although it feels a bit weird being the only girl in the common room.” As I listen to my own voice bleating on. sounding a bit hoarse.
.. We arrive at the door out of breath. peering into the gloom of the Annexe. “But . “Well then you won’t object to breaking this one tiny rule. Just. Up. and giggling all the way. I thought it was impossible.” I follow Zach down to the Postmatric Annexe. “Come on! I can’t wait to show you how to do it. “N-no. halfrunning. Underneath the manic excitement. way against the rules. “In fact. if we get caught .“Of . I wander casually up towards Gumede House with my phone clenched in my hand.. but how? I mean.” he breathes against my cheek. half-walking. quick. Then he takes my hand and starts pulling me in the direction of the boarding-houses...” As he dives into the Annexe. Okay.. my friend Lael and I are planning something way. of course I have. brushing his lips against my ear. Trinity. wow.” says Zach. We might even be expelled. we’ll be in so much trouble.” Okay. Shut. How the heck do you spell that anyway? I try “Karma Sutra” and end up with a 82 Fiona Snyckers . “Try to make it look like you’re waiting for someone to come out of Gumede House. He pulls back and grins at me like a little boy. I mean.” “Nothing’s impossible. I’m aware of little beats of panic hammering away inside my chest.” I agree. shut up.. “Just wait around out here while I go and do a quick recce inside. This is it..” I stammer. And I never did get the chance to Google the Kama Sutra.” he says. Perhaps I can still slip off to the loo and look it up on my phone.. I was just saying to Lael last night. Kama Sutra.. It’s really happening.
. he pulls me around the corner and backs me against the wall.” I say. There are other cameras inside. “Trinity!” Too late. but instead of joining me in the doorway. “Come on!” He grabs my hand and pulls me into the Annexe.book about a South African doctor. but none of them are recorded. holding me pinned to the wall with his arm. I trot over. covering it completely.. still keeping out of the sight of the camera.. for example. watch this. trust me.. We slip into the little room near the entrance Team Trinity 83 .” “It’s monitored by a security guard who sits in a little office inside the Annexe.” He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a black nylon bag with a long string attached to it. Zach is waving at me from the door of the Annexe. this is how it works. Then. He opens the neck as wide as it will go. he starts tossing the bag up towards the camera. Okay. It’s tilted away from us.” This doesn’t look very promising to me. It’s just a live-feed. darn it. if my mom has gone and installed a net-nanny app on my phone again.” “There’s no one around on a Friday afternoon. What on earth? I swear. Then we just slip you into my room. “Huh. I’ll.” “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. On his fourth try it lands neatly over the camera.” he says. “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. “I never noticed that before.” “Okay. “Okay.
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. “Told you – nothing’s impossible. you are good!” I say. Then Zach produces a key and opens one of the doors with a flourish.” “Great. He seems to be listening for something. He’s nineteen.” The truth is I have an ambivalent relationship with coffee. but sticks his head into the corridor.where guests have to sign in. I wince. Then I give myself a shake. Of course he’s had practice. “Do you have any tea?” “Sure. The 84 Fiona Snyckers . for goodness sake. “Wow. 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. We walk quickly along the passage. I’m going out with an older man now. thanks. extra-sweet frappuccino from Vida. Once again. Zach pushes me out of sight. We grin at each other. up some stairs. spooning two heaped teaspoons of Ricoffy into a mug. and along another passage. I can’t expect him never to have had any girlfriends before.” He’s looking hugely pleased with himself. Two seconds later a man in a security uniform walks past the door carrying a screwdriver. “Coffee?’ he asks. I only really enjoy it if it’s an extra-foamy. Zach grabs my hand and hustles me out the room. Soon we both hear footsteps creaking on the floorboards as someone comes down the passage. We both almost fall inside and he slams and locks the door behind us.
and a tidy little pile of work placed in the exact middle of the desk. I notice. you’ll get the same effect.. and lots of pics of himself taking part in all kinds of scary stuff.. I’m just jiggling the teabag around with the spoon to make the tea stronger. clutched in a passionate embrace. If it happens. “Sorry?” I look up blankly. I’ll deal with it then.” “You know if you just leave it to steep for five minutes. I know.. “Oh. but I hate waiting for things.thought of Zach’s super-strong instant with only a splash of milk makes me shudder. It’s not possible for someone to Team Trinity 85 . stop thinking about it. like scuba-diving and parachuting. Oh God. making my heart go skippity-skip. We’d kiss for ages. it happens. and then he’d start tugging at my top .” A slow smile spreads over Zach’s face. My eyes keep being drawn to it. with all the pens lined up on his desk in size order. but that’s because I’m comparing it to my cubicle. If I’d seen it straight after coming from my own room at home. it would have seemed quite pokey. I’m trying to imagine Zach and me falling onto the bed. I always do that. He’s a bit of a neat freak. trying to get it over my head.” “Yes.. Right now it looks amazingly spacious to me. “What are you doing?” Zach’s voice breaks in on my thoughts. He’s got pictures of cage-fighting and other extreme sports all over his walls. His bed is neatly made with hospital corners and a wrinkle-free bedspread. and then at my hands clutching my mug. I look around his room while he makes tea for me.
It’s really awesome. but my heart belongs to hip hop. “That’s what I love about you..” he says. Then 86 Fiona Snyckers . That was just a peck.. Trinity. I wouldn’t say I hate it exactly. “Er . and then it’s gone again. Or such gorgeous blue eyes and dark eyelashes. The big one is sure to come later. I close my eyes and kind of lean towards him. Normally. “Lynryd Skynryd. “You’re so impatient. This is some of their new stuff. As his face gets nearer. I open my eyes and rock back into place. “I’m a modern rock freak. Avril Lavigne is about as hard rock as I get. I’m left leaning forward with my eyes closed like an idiot. firm and warm. “Shall we listen to some music?” Zach jumps up before I can answer and starts fiddling with his iPod. and how ten years later they got back together again. what are we listening to?” I ask as screaming guitars and fast-pounding drums start up. For one magical moment his mouth lands on mine. so that wasn’t the big one. and are still making music. feeling a bit flustered. with a pair of serious-looking speakers attached. but after a while he turns it down.” Then he leans forward to where I’m sitting perched on the corner of his chair. He’s going to kiss me! He’s really going to kiss me. Okay.” he says.have such perfectly even white teeth. I have to lip-read what he’s saying because the music’s so loud.” I sip my tea and listen to the wailing vocals and screeching instrumentals of what I privately think of as “white people’s music”. It’s in a docking station on his bookcase. 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.
“How do I get out of here? We can’t use that same trick with the bag again. I jump up. well . “Are you going to be in next Friday evening?” Zach asks as he walks me back to Sisulu House. you know it’s the boarders’ social then?” “Yes. can we?” “Getting out is much easier than getting in. “Next Friday evening?” I repeat. stalling for time. “Um . nervous again. were you? Those things are so lame they need their own wheelchair. We’re going to make it look like you were just meeting me at the entrance. I take a look at my phone and see that it’s nearly six.” Team Trinity 87 .. Once we’re out the door. His friends are going to come knocking on the door to talk about plans for the evening. As we approach the camera at the entrance. I walk closely behind him that the camera will only see one person. we separate so that it looks as though I’ve just arrived from outside. Then Zach says it’s probably not safe for me to hang around in his room much longer. “You weren’t thinking of going to that.. and I manage not to hurl at all the virtual blood flying around.” Zach does a quick scout around the corridors to make sure no one is hanging about.” he laughs. and then he rushes me out the way I came. Because then he comes to make sure she signs in.” I don’t miss a beat. I was just about to say that Sisulu House will be really quiet while everyone else is at the social. How did that happen? I feel like I just got here.. “The guard only reacts when he sees a girl coming in.” he says. “Of course I’m not going to it.he shows me the new cage-fighting game app on his iPad..
No biggie if you can’t. I’ll probably stop by some time to see you. There are lots of girls milling about.” “Then let’s give them something to talk about.” I whisper back. “Well. “I mean. you’re kind of a celebrity in these parts. “But why?” He looks honestly puzzled. Not exactly hideous.” We’re at Sisulu House now. he pulls me up straight and lets go. “if you can make it. most of them shooting sidelong glances at us. Well. he whips me into his arms and brings his lips down on mine in a crushing kiss. I can practically hear the gasps of amazement around us.” Then he puts his hands in his pockets and walks away whistling. The guys and I are going out that night.” “That would be great!” I say enthusiastically. Girls notice these things. Just when I feel like I’m going to pass out. trying to sound more casual.“Cool. “Uh huh. Rugby star. Cricket star. 88 Fiona Snyckers . but we won’t be back late. I feel like I’m in a Mills & Boon novel. “So I guess I’ll see you next week.” I say with a smile.” Before my mind can even begin to compute what’s happening.” I add. And they talk about them. of course.” “Really?” He looks around with more interest. He reaches out a finger and chucks me under the chin. I stagger and almost fall. “Is it just me or are all those girls trying to pretend they’re not staring at us?” “It’s not just you. It’s so obvious that even Zach notices. They are staring. “Hilton Old Boy. He’s got me bent over so far backwards that my hair is almost dragging on the ground.
Everyone’s getting ready for the social. super-excited about my first social as a boarder. They’re comparing outfits.CHAPTER 13 “OKAY. Lying on your bed. Team Trinity 89 . When you’re supposed to be getting ready for the social. I need to play it carefully. In tracksuit pants. She has a very determined look on her face. “I mean this. perfume and hairspray. Don’t tell me you’re so in lurrrve you’ve forgotten about it?” I lower my magazine slightly to peep up at her. WHAT’S wrong with this picture?” Lael asks. The feminist in her strongly disapproves of such behaviour. Normally I’d be right in the middle of it. and she’s not shy about letting you know what she thinks. staring down at me with her hands on her hips. borrowing clothes and shoes. So unless I want a huge row in here. with Priya and Nosipho and everyone joining in. The air is thick with deodorant. and trying to force their hair into scary up-dos. If there’s one thing that freaks Lael out (there are quite a few things. “You. She’s not going to let this go easily. it’s the girl who gives up her own plans to wait around at home for some guy. but this is a big one). waving her hand at me. “What do you mean?” I lift my Heat magazine higher to hide my face. Reading a magazine.” she says. I need to think before I speak.
. That’s not how it works. looking puzzled.” she says. Tell you what. “Nonsense. I admit it! I’m not going because Zach isn’t going to be there.” I say casually. Come on! There’s a rumour your brothers are going to slip a bottle of vodka into the non-alcoholic punch.” I say.” “Oh. “You’ve got me. Did you think he would? Sorry. Get up at once and start getting ready. Why would you want to skip it?” “No reason. Don’t make me choke it out of you. “He’s not in Gumede House.I can’t pretend I’m not sorry to be missing it. is he? The postmatrics never come to these socials. “I’m sooo disappointed. all right!” I fling my magazine down on the bed. Trinity.” I say cautiously as Lael looms over my bed. “I haven’t forgotten about the social. putting a bit of a tremor into my voice. that’s all. instead of staying here and moping.” What?” she booms. We’re just going to have a bit of a dance and a laugh. “I just thought I’d give it a skip tonight.. you should come along anyway. “I don’t believe you. babe. there’s really no choice. It’s just one night.” Her eyes gleam with suspicion. which is way better than suspicious. But when it comes to a choice between dancing the night away with a bunch of Gumede House boys and possibly seeing Zach again.” “Hmmm.” 90 Fiona Snyckers .” She’s looking all sympathetic now. “I just don’t really feel like it. “Aww! Don’t be sad. What’s the real reason? Come on. of course he’s not going to be there. Because I am – very sorry.” “Well.
they can’t understand why I’m bailing like this. Goodness knows why. Okay. in that case.” I can tell by the looks on their faces that none of them finds this a very tempting prospect. But staying behind makes me feel like putting my head down and having a long nap.” Lael relents. Team Trinity 91 . “I know I’m being silly. I’d be wide awake and ready to party right now. “But if you change your mind you can always get dressed and come up to the hall.” I add. I smile weakly. 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. And since they all know me as a party animal of note. I’ll bring everyone else down. but I really don’t feel like it. okay. so sleeping is not an option. I’m going to have a long bubble-bath and an early night. Their faces clear and they start drifting back to their own cubicles. Maybe I’ll go down to the common room and watch some TV. clutching a continental pillow pathetically to my tummy. “Plus I’m premenstrual. We’ll be going strong until about midnight.” *** By nine everyone has left and I’m practically all alone in Sisulu House. Nosipho and Priya are also crowding around my bed and urging me to get up.Now Yasmin. If I’d gone to the social. I’ve got a terrible case of the yawns. There’s just Matron and a couple of her staff left. “Well.
“Are you waiting to take someone to the social?” He gives me a grumpy look that tells me I’m way off the mark. “Ag.I change into my not-trying-too-hard.” “I didn’t even know you were dating someone. I pick up my Heat magazine and head downstairs. Why isn’t she going to be there?” A thought occurs to me. but her parents moved away. Black work-out pants (they’re from Lorna Jane and are very flattering to the butt and thighs). I just don’t see the point of going. “Oh.” He looks at me more carefully. I spot James hanging out in the common room. “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. 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. and I don’t feel like dancing with anyone else. “Does she even go to Brentwood?” “She used to. A quick check in the mirror tells me I’ve nailed it. what’s the point? My girlfriend’s not going to be there. but then I also shrug. hi!” I say. “Sort of for the same reason as you. quite pleased to see him. Something about this guy makes me want to just be myself. sweetheart neckline (also very flattering). “Why aren’t you at the social?” He gives a huge shrug. As I reach the ground floor. tank top with ruffled. just-spendinga-quiet-night-in outfit that I’ve been planning all day. “What’s wrong?” I ask. I brush my hair and don’t put on any makeup apart from a smudge of lip-gloss.
‘Don’t call me that.” “Common? What century are you living in?” Still muttering to myself.” I make the drinks and put his mug down in front of him with a click that almost spills some coffee. grumpier than ever. White with one sugar. “No. “So are you saying that if he weren’t coming to visit. honestly. Would you like some coffee?” “Yes. don’t you think?” “I suppose. It sounds common coming from a young girl’s mouth.” “Don’t call you what?” “Dude. Team Trinity 93 . Do you think I want you to lie to me?” “Well. all right then. yes. are you happy now?” “It doesn’t make me happy to see you making a sap of yourself over a guy. Must be nice to be a postmatric with your own car and everything. This guy is unbelievable.” he says. There. dude. I flounce over to the coffee table to make myself a drink. no. I would have gone.” “Ja. of course it is. “Aren’t you going to offer me some coffee?” he asks as I practically throw a teabag into a mug.” “So? You’re making a sap of yourself over a girl. “Honestly?” “Yes. you would have gone to the dance?” I hesitate for a second.” I snap. ja. okay. “Oh. And what kind of word is that anyway – sap? Who says that?” “It’s different for me. 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. And seriously.back with his friends. There’s a beat of silence and then I relent. of course. please.
“That must be why I’m feeling better now – I’ve passed it onto you.” I say as I sit down opposite him.” This makes me laugh. The one that crinkles up his eyes and makes him seem somehow older than me.” “Only by three years.” Oh.. so now I’ve got a sign on my forehead that says “virgin”.” I put in quickly.” “Uh huh?” “You will be careful with this Zach guy.” “Three years is nothing when you’re twenty-five and he’s twenty-eight..” I can’t help laughing. 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 . We sit together in companionable silence for a minute. “Three years is not ‘quite a bit’.“That bad mood of yours must be catching. Three years is nothing. He doesn’t have to follow the same rules as you do. have I? The cheek of this guy. and kind of . it’s a lot. “Because now I’ve got it. Inexperienced – what does he mean by that? “Zach is different. you’re practically the same age as me.” “It’s just that you seem young.. “Sometimes you sound like my grandfather.” I remind him.. I don’t think you know what you’re getting yourself into.. but at your age.” “Hey.. “Trinity. He’s got his own car.” This time he smiles a real smile. and. inexperienced. won’t you?” “What do you mean?” “I mean he’s quite a bit older than you. “And I don’t think you know girls very well. I’m just about to suggest switching on the TV when he clears his throat.” he goes on. “He’s been a boarder since he was eight years old.
in his usual racist way. they’re not in class together. They haven’t exactly forbidden me to see him. they don’t play for the same sports teams. As I watch the disapproval harden in his eyes. But apparently he’s not fluent in body language. This is a sore point at the moment. And it’s not as though he really knows Zach either. She’s not overly keen on the old-school-tie types that Sophie’s family knows. I start to feel annoyed. Or in guys. and I speak to her and my dad every couple of days. strictly speaking. How could James possibly know anything about him? He couldn’t. I turn away from him and start flicking through my phone to pick up some Facebook messages. because he just keeps on at me. it’s not as though he likes me himself – he made that perfectly clear at our first meeting. because my parents aren’t too thrilled about me going out with a postmatric boy either. and tell me how to live my life. and b) he doesn’t think much of my taste in TV series. They don’t stay in the same boarding house. Who is this guy to judge me for going out with Zach? I mean. and going out with Zach is kind of pushing the boundaries. he’s out of school. But he still seems to think he’s got the right to slag Zach off. Mom always said she wouldn’t let me have a varsity boyfriend until I was at varsity myself. I told her that Sophie Agincourt knew his family. for that matter. So. all in all. and they don’t like the fact that. They also think the age gap is too big. I’ve been keeping my mom up to date on BBM. but that didn’t reassure her much.The look on his face tells me that a) he has never watched Gossip Girl. I’m in no mood for being lectured by James. Team Trinity 95 . but I can tell they’re worried.
‘Coloured’ means something else. Trinity?” he goes on. Nobody likes a girl who makes herself too easy.. “And what people would those be?” “You know. “Where did you learn your slang – some old movie from the 1960s?” He refuses to be diverted.. Trinity. Boys like a bit of a challenge.. trying to remember what we learned in History.. right?” My eyes fly up to meet his.” “For the last time. “You know.“And what about tonight. “Why couldn’t you have gone to the dance first and seen Zach afterwards? I bet he told you not to go. “When will you get that into your head? I might be of mixed race. wondering if steam is starting to rise from my ears. “Coloureds. it’s. “Grooving?” I scoff.” I wave my hands around in frustration. “He didn’t like the idea of you grooving with the Gumede House boys. Why. How does he know that? Could he have overheard us? “I’m right. aren’t I?” he persists. a girl doesn’t make herself more attractive to a boy when she puts herself at his beck and call. I’m sure it’s the same with your people. but that doesn’t make me any less black.. don’t I pay more attention in class? “It’s this group of people who have a common history involving slavery 96 Fiona Snyckers . but I refuse to let it show. They like a girl who plays hard to get.” He’s looking at me like I’m being deliberately thick. The Coloured community is .” “My people?” I repeat dangerously. I am black!” I hiss at him. didn’t he? Probably told you it was childish or something..” My heart is starting to beat uncomfortably fast. oh why. 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.
” Now he’s pursing his mouth up into a kind of cat’s bum expression. It’s most unattractive in a young girl. we have watched most of Pride and Prejudice (The Colin Firth one. but seriously? Yum. Trinity. As I flip quickly through the sports channels. weren’t you in class in Grade 9? We learned all about it then. I ignore him. I’ll need a buffer between me and this pest. hoping to find a watchable movie or something decent on the Series Channel. three hundred years ago. If I’m going to make it through the evening.and stuff that started in the Western Cape. Of course.) We’ve also watched the last half of a Mad Men episode. He must be a hardcore fan because he kept pointing out to me how some brand of cigar the actors were smoking wasn’t a hundred per cent authentic and how they really should have made the lapels on Don Draper’s suit wider or something. What else can you do with such a maddening person? *** Two hours later. I know he’s old now. I can hear James muttering about how we should watch that seeing as I’m so keen on martial arts these days. Okay. I flick through channels. like. which James really seemed to enjoy.” I make a noise that sounds like “aaarrgh!” and grab hold of the TV remote. “You really shouldn’t shout like that. For goodness’s sake. And you can tell him I said so. including some cage-fighting programme. Team Trinity 97 .
not looking at him.” “Nonsense. I hate him for saying out loud what I’ve thinking for the last hour. Trinity. well. If he were going to come and visit you. you know.” James stands up and moves silently towards the door. I remember that I was supposed to ask him something. 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 would be here by now. why don’t you just go now? You also have to be out of here at twelve.” “Goodnight. He knows no visitors are allowed into the common room after midnight on a Friday. He’s probably on his way back with his friends and is going to pop by for a few minutes before twelve.” “Yes. remember?” “Is that what you want?” he asks. I wouldn’t be interested in what my friends were doing. “Zach. “Do you really want me to go?” He’s looking all hurt now. it’s not you. is it? You’re not Zach and he’s not you. It’s half-past eleven and I just can’t help glancing at my watch every thirty seconds.But now we have totally run out of stuff to watch. And who knows when I’ll run into him again? 98 Fiona Snyckers . You have no idea what he was doing tonight and nor do I. but I can’t bring myself to care. “Goodnight. I’d want to spend as much of my Friday night as possible with my girlfriend.” “If it were me. In fact.” says James. “He’s not coming. But just as he’s leaving.” I say. “Who?” I snap. of course.
If I forget again. but then he heads back into the common room.” “I thought you couldn’t wait to get rid of me. I need to speak to you.“Wait!” I shout.. He looks back enquiringly. I need to speak to you. I was just upset about Zach not turning up and I took it out on you.. on the second floor .” he says stiffly. I’m really sorry. “Please come back. I really. And that said headmaster’s office is in Gumede House . Please come back and sit down. “You can’t possibly want me to steal the shield for you because that won’t count. where the Grade 11 boys have their dormitory.” “No. “I know. We’ll totally take care of that ourselves. my friends are going to kill me. “So what’s up? What the big emergency?” I take a deep breath and tell him all about the Gumede House Shield and our plans to steal it and put it in the Sisulu House display cabinet. but then I spot him halfway down the corridor with his hands in his pockets doing his Elvis Presley walk. “Just hang on a minute. We just Team Trinity 99 . which would lose you a lot of respect. I know.” For a second I can’t see him at all.” For a moment he hesitates.. and I’m sorry. Unless you lie about how you got it. 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. “And what’s this all got to do with me?” he asks. of course we don’t want you to do the actual stealing.. Then I remind him that it’s kept in the headmaster’s office with a state-of-the-art security system.
I know. the shield will still stay in Gumede House. Not even I can kid myself that Zach is still going to appear. don’t worry. And that’s the point – the shield should belong to everyone.need you to do a recce of Dr Hussein’s office. It has to be a Grade 11 boy because you can hang around near his office and no one will get suspicious. “You feminists are getting completely out of hand with your Simone de Beauvoir and what-not. But it won’t happen this year. I think I could just about manage that.” “That’s brilliant. I see that it’s already five minutes to midnight. As I wander back into the common room. and even if it does. The point is this – do you think you could snoop around Dr Hussein’s office without being seen?” He gives a snort of laughter. not just to the boys..” “So you’ll help us?” “Well . 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. but yes. Like find out where he keeps the keys to the cabinet and if there’s any way of to get around the security system.” “Never mind your irrelevant interruptions. yes. 100 Fiona Snyckers ..” he says. “Simone de who’s that now?” “Nothing. “Oh. I think you’re all completely cracked.” “You know they’re talking about moving his office out of Gumede House and into the administration building?” “Yes. “Yes. I’ve been stood up – it’s as simple as that.” He sighs wearily. I’ll help you.
After all that. Team Trinity 101 . he didn’t even touch his coffee.I start clearing away our mugs and find that James’ is still full.
Maths is my least favourite subject. one-hundred-per cent definite date. How we are supposed to concentrate in this weather. It’s an official. I can’t pretend I wasn’t upset by his no-show on Friday. I didn’t want to admit to Lael or any of my other friends that I’d lied about why 102 Fiona Snyckers . The theorems are all in the textbook. It’s a hot. but they’re totally glazed over and my mind is a million trillion miles away. I should be feeling all irritable right now. and my school shirt is clinging to my back. hot February day. But instead I’m blissfully happy.CHAPTER 14 I’M SITTING in Maths class. Especially when he BBMed me the next day and didn’t even mention it. there’s no relief in sight. and it’s not some vague “I might pop round later” arrangement. My eyes may be pointing towards the board where the teacher is explaining some new geometry theorem. I have no idea. 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. It’s easily 32 degrees outside. I’m seeing Zach tonight. my chin propped in my hand. The really hard part was that I had no one to talk to about it. All you have to do is learn them off by heart for the exam. but I honestly cannot think of one good reason why I should be trying to learn one now. anyway. But until then.
The only one who knew the whole story was James. I’ve almost decided what I’m wearing – but not quite. and he’d already told me what he thought. What u wearing tonite??? I’ve spent the last two hours thinking about nothing else. When Zach messaged me the next day. So I didn’t nag Zach or reproach him or give him the cold shoulder. I felt a lot better after that. I’m pretty sure he never actually said he would come and visit me on Friday night. I can hardly sit still. I’m the one who turned it into a definite thing. I’m so excited about this. Lael just BBMed me a question that I read under my desk.I hadn’t gone to the social. Basically it wasn’t his fault at all – I was the one who jumped to conclusions. And today I got my reward. and I have to be back in my dorm by half-past nine. Each postmatric can invite a maximum of two guests. or use any of the million-and-one tactics I’ve used on boys in the past. Instead I just acted friendly and normal. because he’s invited me to a party at the Postmatric Annexe tonight. The party starts at half-past seven. I’m Team Trinity 103 . but as it is. 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. and she said yes. If I were still living at home I’d be dashing out this afternoon to buy myself a new outfit. He just said that he might pop by and that he’d probably see me then. he sounded so normal and friendly that I started seeing it from his point of view.
and the way he was talking about it made it sound like not that much of a big deal. If I go over the top with my clothes. About mid-knee is the perfect length for me. I can see her holding her phone under the desk and frowning over my answer. My phone flashes and I open her reply. Lael’s right. Only problem is I can’t decide which one to choose.restricted to what’s hanging in my cupboard. I’ll go crazy. and I’m not concentrating because if I don’t get my outfit sorted for tonight. Tonight definitely calls for a dress. Blk is nice. 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. Just some drinks and snacks. Zach said they hold one party a term. using her laser pointer to take us through the steps of the theorem. Either lilac handkerchief-hem scoop-neck dress or black shift dress. and I’ve got two dresses that are exactly that long. our phones will be confiscated for 24 hours. Lael’s not concentrating because she’s already quite good at Maths. Luckily the teacher is still facing the board. If we get bust messaging each other in class. I’m normally careful with dresses. Lilac gorj but maybe too smart? Urgh – I didn’t think of that. I’ll look like an idiot. So now what? “Trinity?” 104 Fiona Snyckers . this party is probably very informal. I send Lael a quick reply.
What if the screen cracked . My stress levels are through the roof as it is. or worse? But I don’t dare take a peek under my desk. Ms Luhabe. Nosipho and Priya have been waving their clothes under my nose for me to try. 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. but they’re all the wrong size. The last thing I need is for it to be confiscated now.. So now I’ve tried on everything in my cupboard and everything in Lael’s cupboard. Even Yasmin. The two dresses I was thinking of are far too smart for tonight. I shove my chair back and scrabble on the floor for my phone. “You’re in no position to be daydreaming. “Yes. *** A few hours later.. It’s still in one piece. she turns back to the board. Your maths results so far have been nothing short of abysmal. Especially Yasmin. sorry?” She clicks her tongue. “Um . I’m having a full-on meltdown. then I put it away. which hasn’t done wonders for my confidence. thank goodness. I jump and I drop my phone. 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. thank goodness..The teacher’s voice snaps me to attention. I heave a sigh of relief. and nothing looks right.. So now Team Trinity 105 .” And then. Come and see me for extra homework after class.
Any moment now. It has to be a dress. “Well.” says a soft voice behind us. “I want him to see that I can do other looks too. It’s Sophie. Trinity?” Lael says.I’ve got tears pouring down my face. then I honestly don’t know what you’re going to do. “Why does it absolutely have to be a dress. exasperated. Why are you doing this to yourself?” “Zach has seen me in jeans and a top too many times. I turn around.” I hear the slight weariness in Nosipho’s voice and realise that my friends are also sick of all the drama. Then she goes to her wardrobe 106 Fiona Snyckers . I’m way beyond the point of being rational.” I wail. That’s the kind of thing she’ll store up and use against me later. and the thought that I’m going to have red eyes later makes me sob even harder.” I say stubbornly. “Trinity’s going to the postmatric party with Zach tonight and she needs something to wear. “Perhaps I can help. “What’s the problem?” Sophie asks Nosipho.” “And does that absolutely have to happen tonight?” “Yes. But Sophie listens carefully. That’s non-negotiable. it’s her. Matron or one of her deputies is going to come steaming in here to see what all the fuss is about. “You’ve got so many divine little tops that you could wear with jeans or pants. but I can’t seem to help it. switching the tears off at once. Some small part of me is looking down on this scene and realising that I’m acting like a total drama queen. If there’s one person I don’t like to fall apart in front of.” This makes me break out in fresh wails.
no! You’re not doing this to me. “Oh. “Hey. Then Sophie swishes it from side to side on the hanger and I notice that it’s lighter at the top. Okay. “That’s very nice.” Sophie gives a satisfied smile.” she says. Sophie. because it’s already reaching out for the dress. I start flinging off my clothes in front of everyone. it’s a colour I never wear for a start – a sort of inky purple. I just know it’ll look gorgeous on you. We both know you’re skinnier than me. no. My hand seems to have a mind of its own. but that would look right in the evening too. “This has always been a bit big for me. All except Sophie. “You know. No. “I think I’ve got just the thing. but it’s just a cotton frock – the kind of dress you could easily wear on a sunny day. and I just don’t care anymore.” A chorus of agreement breaks out among the others. I’m making it sound quite formal. until the hem is almost black. Trinity. It has spaghetti straps. Try it on.” This almost makes me start crying again.” Sophie says with a calm smile. “I knew you’d want to try it on. By now everyone knows I’m wearing mismatched underwear.and starts flicking efficiently through the clothes hanging there. who says nothing. no. getting darker on the way down. You’re not going to humiliate me by making me try on something in a size 8. I eye the dress she’s holding out to me with suspicion. I hold my breath Team Trinity 107 . that’s nice!” Lael says enthusiastically as I’m still pulling my arms through the dress. a bit of ruching over the bodice.” “Not at all. and the kind of A-line skirt that I like.
That’s what I look like now. 108 Fiona Snyckers . “We’re just going to be at a party with loads of other people. checking out the dress from all sides. I have to be back here at half-past nine. “If you don’t manage to seduce Zach in that dress. unable to bear her silence any longer. I usually only look like this in fittingroom mirrors in shops. It’s not like we’ll be allowed to slip off somewhere. “It’s perfect!” she says. 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. “What do you think?” I ask. Sophie’s dress emphasises all my good points and plays down the bad ones. and more confident. and my legs look slimmer and longer than I know they are in real life. Her hair always falls perfectly into place and she never has a shiny forehead or spots on her chin. I walk over to the full-length mirror on my cupboard door to take a look at myself. Trinity-in-my-head is way cooler than Trinity-in-themirror. I feel a lot better. And anyway. To cover my embarrassment. my waist looks tiny. Immediately. slimmer. Her face breaks into a smile. flattering line from my shoulders to my knees. She’s taller. My arms look toned and smooth. sexier.as she walks slowly around me.” “I’m not out to seduce him!” I hate how flustered I sound. I don’t know what they do to those mirrors to make everything you try on look good. It falls in a smooth. I’m sounding way too defensive. but something about the combination of Zach and Sophie does that to me.” I shut up when I notice how amused everyone is looking. you’re just not trying.
This is the dress for me.” I say casually. thanks. Well. “Can I actually borrow this for tonight? Because if not. It’s Team Trinity 109 .” I turn back to the mirror. and they don’t look half as good in a normal mirror. I’ll be mature about it. really. I turn around to face the girls. Sophie has changed – she really has. probably.” “Well . are you nuts?” That’s exactly the kind of thing she’d do. Who says elephants can’t change their spots? I mean leopards. That’s very kind of you. And then you get the new clothes home. it’s fine. of course you can’t actually borrow it – what are you thinking.. feeling all warm and fuzzy. Then I’m struck by a horrible thought. But I’m looking in a normal mirror now. “No.Sprinkle them with fairy dust. “Of course you can borrow it tonight. my hair is all over the place. and there’s no trick lighting in here. I won’t give her the satisfaction of seeing I’m upset. But I still look fantastic. 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. if she can be that mature. I’ve got no makeup on. I want you to knock Zach’s socks off. so then she could say. Trinity. so can I. This is the dress I’m wearing tonight.” Sophie opens her big blue eyes as wide as they’ll go. She must finally be forgetting about that silly Miss Sandton feud all those years ago.. “So. even if it is a bit formal for tonight. I’ll just wear my black dress. I’m going to stop expecting the worst from her all the time. If she won’t let me wear it. She’s been making a real effort to be nice to me ever since the beginning of the year. That’s the whole point. I decide. I remind myself.
completely thanks to her that I’m in this relationship with Zach at all. I’m trying to calm my nerves by hanging out with Lael. I’d probably still be lying in wait for him outside the Postmatric Annexe. I’m grateful that I’m not living at home or I’d be much. Yeah. begging him to explain some stupid problem or other. Actually. but I should really go to an evening session tonight to get it all finished. trigonometry textbook in hand. This gives me a slight twinge in the conscience department as I remember the biology assignment and history essay I haven’t quite finished. I’d have given up by now. much further behind. I went to a double session of supervised homework this afternoon and got a lot done. The thought of it makes me shiver. It’s obvious she hasn’t heard a word I just said. Once again. like that’s going to happen. She’s packing her schoolbag for tomorrow and checking her homework. “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. We are alone in the dormitory.” 110 Fiona Snyckers . and Zach would be going out with some matric girl with a short skirt and a loud laugh. *** Just before supper. She looks up blankly. not to mention all that extra maths homework I got landed with today. to be honest. “So do you agree?” I ask as Lael hunts distractedly for a lost protractor. If it weren’t for Sophie.
“Tell me again. “And there’s no way I can’t take it personally.” “You mean you agree?” “Yes.” “What do you mean?” Lael hesitates and I feel a beat of apprehension.” Lael says bitterly. seeing as it’s aimed at me.” “It’s not nothing.” “It’s just my mom.” Lael finally finds her protractor and slides it into her bag. what’s up?” I sit down on the bed next to her and put my arm around her shoulders. but you’ll probably feel better if you do.. It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. I’m never going to change her. I know all Team Trinity 111 . there is. “Just that I think she really has changed for the better. She turns her face away.” I say sulkily. Then she sits back and looks at me. I didn’t notice it before while I was having my what-to-wear meltdown.” I look more closely at Lael and notice that her eyes are sliding away from mine. as usual.“Sorry..” “Oh. 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.” “I guess.” “It wasn’t much really. And you also know she doesn’t mean half the stuff she says – you just take it too personally. so there’s no point in talking about it. They’re also just a little bit red and swollen. “Hey . Why not? I’m sure you’re right. she means it this time. and maybe we should try to be a bit nicer to her. “Nothing. but I’d swear I’m not the only one who’s been crying. If it’s bothering you. You know it always helps to talk about it. is there?” “Yes. it must be something.
.” Slowly she stands up and starts fiddling around in her cupboard – moving jeans and T-shirts out of the way. “It’s not available in South Africa yet.. “Show me. Whatever it is. if you take the stereotype of the traditional Jewish mother – warm. “A Brand New You” it promises in attractive pink writing. then you’ll have Shirley Lieberman. making her wear a jersey when she goes out.. You can lose up to 4 kgs a month. There’s also a twirly graphic of a tape measure wrapped around the box. I stare at it for a moment. nurturing. And how whenever she does spend time with her daughter. apparently. She bought me enough 112 Fiona Snyckers .” Lael says at last. it’s well hidden. “What has she done now? You know you’re going to tell me anyway. some kind of diet?” I hazard. Mom found it in Los Angeles.” “She sent me something. Lael turns into a nervous and insecure version of herself. Lael nods miserably. Basically.about how she criticises Lael and runs her down all the time. “Is this . fussing over her kid.” Lael pulls out a box and puts it on the bed next to me. She seems to be doing knee-bends for some mysterious reason. but keeps farming her out to friends and relatives so that she can spend all her time globetrotting. “It’s this. cooking up delicious meals – and imagine the exact opposite of that. There’s a picture of a skinny blonde woman wearing a tank top and tight shorts on the box. How she can’t be bothered to be a real mother to her. and has a smug smile on her face.
honey. For a start. Hang on.” There’s a sudden silence. blah. Let me read it to you.for three months. ‘I’m sure your friend Trinity would be delighted to join you on this weight-loss journey.. 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 unfolds a letter that was stuck between all the boxes. too. or else I’ll end up saying something Team Trinity 113 . lose up to 4 kgs a month with this easy. here it is. She thinks I’m more likely to stick to it that way. I’ve got her letter here somewhere. blah. I’m really looking forward to see a new. “She wants us to do the diet together.’ So what do you think of that?” What I think is that I need to take a few deep breaths before I answer. you know that’s not true. okay here it is..” I put the box down and give her a hug. She comes out with a much bigger DHL box.” “She wants you to do the diet. “She wants . “Okay.” Lael dives back into her cupboard and rootles around among her shoes. what was that again?” I ask carefully.. The first box was obviously just the tip of the diet iceberg. You’re gorgeous just the way you are. 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. with lots of little “Brand New You” boxes inside it. svelte you in the April holidays. blah blah blah.. so she obviously thinks I need to lose at least 12 kgs. blah. but that doesn’t mean you have to buy into it. and have therefore included a month’s starter pack for her too. “Ah. “Let’s see . You have guys queuing up to go out with you.
is it? I mean. No more needing to take a size 12 in some brands of clothes. Because no one likes you to slag off their family.” I stand up to look at myself in her mirror. if I lost that much weight.” I say in a fairly calm voice. “So that must mean she thinks I need to lose about 4 kgs. “Let’s see what this diet is all about. I sit back down on Lael’s bed. And a month isn’t that long. I’m trying to imagine myself three to four kilos lighter than I am now. Almost immediately. Simply choose three items from our extensive list of permitted foods and watch the weight melt off in all the right places. and enjoy a balanced meal with your family in the evening. “Let’s say between three and four kilograms. I’d be a size 10.” Lael says. I’m basically happy with my body from the waist up.about Lael’s mom that I’ll regret. “You can’t expect to lose 4 kgs every month. We’ve taken all the guesswork out of caloriecounting. Let us do the hard work for you. “Just replace two meals a day with our deliciously filling meal replacement shakes or soups. sachets and pill bottles. It’s my hips. It all sounds so reasonable and scientific. revealing an intriguing glimpse of Tupperware. 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. I can feel myself being seduced.” Lael breaks open two of the boxes. bordering on a size 8. Here’s the thing.” 114 Fiona Snyckers . She takes out two information leaflets and we both settle down to read them. bum and thighs that I’d like to change. however much they might do it themselves.
Lael has a similar faraway look in her eyes. while our patented formula Energex-Z will ensure that your energy levels stay constant. There are lots and lots of sachets containing powder.. trying to keep the excitement out of my voice. “No. “This actually doesn’t sound too bad. There a plastic shaker for mixing the soups and shakes. with no listless dips during the day. She holds up a little book featuring the skinny woman from the box doing all kinds of exercises with a kettlebell. I know it was a cheek for her to send it to us and everything. White Fennel is a herbal product that is scientifically proven to reduce hunger. “Our specially formulated.” Lael says wistfully. an exercise booklet!” says Lael. “Except I don’t have a kettlebell. but we can buy one on our next exeat.” I say casually.” “What else is in the boxes?” “I don’t know. “You know.” “Yeah. and three kinds of pill bottles labelled “vitamin and mineral complex”. My glance lands on a section called “No Hunger Pangs” and my smile grows wider.. Let’s have a look. “Ooh. all-natural capsules will ensure that you suffer no hunger pangs and have plenty of energy to face your day. “Just imagine if it actually works..” We start unpacking them like a couple of kids at Christmas.I imagine the weight melting off in all the right places. but just . do you?” I point out..” Team Trinity 115 . “Energex-Z all-day energy formula” and “No-Hunger formula”. I mean. just imagine. look. It’s such an attractive prospect that the corners of my mouth tug upwards.
Don’t you know about those? We get to go to Sandton City or Montecasino or somewhere for a few hours on some Saturdays. beef. “We’re really doing this. But the point is. It’s a lot of fun.” 116 Fiona Snyckers . and butternut.” “Awesome! And look. There are usually about two a term. aren’t we?’ “Yes!” I laugh.” Lael looks at me and grins. and carrot and coriander for the soup.“Our next what?” “Exeat. grab a coffee. the shakes and soups come in different flavours so we won’t get bored. You can go to the movies. we could pop into Verimark or one of those places and buy a couple of kettlebells. and do some shopping. It’s for the kids like us who don’t go home on weekends. “We really are. strawberry and vanilla for the shakes. There’s chocolate. That’s Latin for outing.
But it was worth it. and apple crumble for dessert. Tonight is our last night of not being on a diet. and mixing up shakes and soups in the dormitory. But we’ll worry about that when it happens. but I reckon it will be okay. This way we won’t feel deprived when the diet starts. The need for secrecy is something we don’t even discuss. and so does Lael. And then there’s the “So you’re finally going on a diet – about time too. There’s lamb stew for supper. And who cares if it has an extra roll to forgive Team Trinity 117 . so we make the most of it. she’s feeling just as uncomfortable as I am. things might get a bit complicated tomorrow when we start refusing all food for breakfast and lunch. I’m slightly worried about fitting into Sophie’s dress after that second helping of dessert. you whale” faction. 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. with rice and veggies. It’s hard to say which is more irritating. We just want to be left in peace to get on with it. The whole point of the dress is that it’s very forgiving. I have two helpings of everything. Yes. By the look on her face at the end of supper. There’s the “why do you want to go on a diet when you’re perfect the way you are?” school of thought.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.
I’m wondering whether just being myself is going to cut it this time. Sophie helps me get ready for the party. Because all of this year’s 118 Fiona Snyckers .” says Lael. That’s something else that’s new. She gives me a sharp look as the zip sticks for a moment halfway up the dress. “What do you think it’s going to be like tonight? I suppose everyone will know everyone else except me. feeling a sudden rush of nerves. “You’ll look like you’re trying too hard – like you’re expecting too much from tonight.” says Sophie.” I sag against my cupboard.” Sophie says briskly. staring at myself in the mirror. “Yes. This party looks exactly like a suburban braai. with the women standing chatting in one corner of the room and the men in another. “Should I put on some makeup?” I ask.” “It’ll be great. You look fine just as you are. You’ll be fine. She even brushes my hair and helps me clip it back with a matching inkypurple clip. but manages not to make any comments about apple crumble. “Just relax and be yourself. “No.” “Okay.tonight? I’m going to be losing loads of weight from tomorrow.” *** An hour later. 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. In the old days.
I’m trying to have a conversation with a girl who’s doing Graphic Design at Wits. and I know how she feels because I can’t quite believe it either. “Yes. “I take it it’s not your favourite sport either?” “Not really.” I say resignedly. We’d be getting on better if the guys had introduced us to each other.” she says. She obviously can’t believe she’s stuck talking to a Grade 10 at her boyfriend’s party. I don’t dare. by the way. “I’m Vusi Maleka. I notice a girl on the edge of the cricket-watching crowd peel away and come towards me. “Trinity Luhabe. I’m making an effort to sound interested in her course. I’m the youngest by far. and the girls mostly don’t know each other.” she says with a smile. but the rest are in their first year at university or taking some kind of gap year.postmatrics are guys.” I shake her hand enthusiastically because I’m so grateful to be talking to someone at last. “I’m tired of pretending to be interested in cricket. but it’s an impossible situation. “Luhabe?” She looks at me more closely.. all of their guests are girls. he’s my father.” Team Trinity 119 . but with the house warden watching. 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. but there’s some day-night cricket match going on. There are a couple of matric girls. There are some snacks and drinks on offer. “Any relation to.” I pull a face.. and most of them are glued to the TV.?” ‘Abel Luhabe. putting out her hand.
” “And who are you here with?” “Mpume Thlogoane. Are you going out with him?” “For three years now. why? Has he been acting like he’s single?” “No. “Three years?” I’m gobsmacked. Where were you in matric?” “In Mpumalanga. “Yes. but she doesn’t... Like none of us were good enough for him. Now I’m torn between wanting to pump her for more details about what Mpume is really like. Do you know him?” I can’t help laughing. He was our top athlete last year. “That’s right. “On the contrary. so Joburg is quite a different scene for me. though.. He’s always been completely immune to us Brentwood girls.” “He does have a slightly giant ego.” She looks as though she’s going to pursue the topic. you’re a learner here. “And how do you like it? Is this a good school?” “I love it – it’s a great school. no!” I rush to clear up this misconception. right . and wanting to BBM the news to Lael and the girls 120 Fiona Snyckers . “Really? So all this time he’s had a long-distance girlfriend?” She frowns slightly. He’s one of the heroes of the school. I’m in Grade 10.” I’m expect her to back off as soon as she hears how young I am. of course I know him. “I know how to control it. “So.” she giggles. but something in my expression warns her not to go there. you know? And all this time it was just because he already had a girlfriend.” she nods.“Oh.. well.” I’m fascinated. that’s interesting. He doesn’t go over the top with me. Trinity?” she asks instead. “Yes . We thought he was suffering from a giant ego.
“What’s wrong?” I ask as Zach comes up to me. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. “Your ability to talk to anyone. Looks like it’ll be a Duckworth-Lewis situation. You don’t have to worry about me. but he’s already steering me towards the drinks table. I find myself losing interest in anything else. I love how you arrived here knowing no one.” he says. “And the weather people say they probably won’t be able to come back on tonight.” Zach says once he puts down his drink. “Rained out. “Sorry to have abandoned you like that. He helps himself to a Windhoek Lager and twists the cap off in one practised move. “I understand.” Team Trinity 121 . even though they’re here with other guys.” he says. “That’s something else I love about you. He really is quite ridiculously hot.” I try to arrange my face into a suitably sympathetic expression.” I wave away his concern. This is the best piece of spreadable gossip I’ve heard in ages.” “Of course. As I watch the muscles in his throat move as he swallows. A few of the girls are also paying attention. looking annoyed. but all I can think about is the Mpume news.” Zach smiles and flicks my cheek. I’m about to introduce Zach to Vusi. and within seconds you were chatting away to people like you’d known them your whole life.immediately. “But it was a very important match. I had other people to talk to. and that means we’ll lose because our run rate is much slower than theirs. I’m fingering my phone longingly when the group gathered around the TV breaks up with loud cries of disappointment.
“No. Then I give a little laugh to show how crazy I find it all.. it’s not nothing. sexy.” I say. It’s just a matter of time before you realise that and break up with me. I have to force my mouth to drop open and my eyes to widen in shock.” “No. speaking somebody else’s lines. alarmed by this sudden train of thought.” I say.” he says gloomily. You’re smart and gorgeous and clever and . and I really don’t deserve you.” “Of course you deserve me!” I’m incredulous.“Oh. “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.” “But you’re the daughter of one of the most famous men in the country.” He’s watching me closely to see my reaction. and . Your parents must introduce you to amazing guys all the time. but inside I’m glowing with pride. Of course I’m never going to get bored with you. “I’m the lucky one. You’re an amazing girl.. it’s nothing.” “So you admit you’re going to get bored with me?” “No! It was just a figure of speech. “You’ll get bored with me long before I get bored with you. Trinity. All they’re thinking about is sinking mine shafts and having all their environmental 122 Fiona Snyckers .” “I’m never going to break up with you!” I say.. I mean. Every day I have to pinch myself to believe that this is real – that I’m really going out with you. “I’m the lucky one. I almost feel like I’m an actor on stage. “They’re in Chile. It’s crazy how a single word of praise from Zach can turn me to jelly.. I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you. gorgeous.
but he stays on the sidelines. then hold out my hand for him to come and dance.” “But you are in touch with them. and it’s no longer possible to have a conversation unless you’re prepared to scream. He shakes his head and mouths something that looks like “I’m not a dancer”. but then somebody turns the music up really loud. I’ve made it sound like my parents don’t care about me at all. Every now and then I see him glancing over at me. trying to look extra sexy for him. It’s mainly the girls who take to the dance-floor at first. “I BBM my mom all day long. sipping his beer. “We’re in touch all the time. right?” He looks so concerned that for a moment I think I’ve overdone it. To be honest. but after a while.” I explain. They think I’m too young and should be concentrating on schoolwork. and chatting to some of his friends. I’m sure I’m the last thing on their minds.” It looks as though Zach’s going to say something else. so I really throw myself into the music. 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. Team Trinity 123 . If only I didn’t have such an early curfew – I feel I could keep this up all night.ducks in a row. 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. I smile at him and shrug. But the point is that they’re not trying to choose a boyfriend for me. I keep hoping that Zach will come and join me. Nicki Minaj is singing her heart out and the party is really starting to heat up.
surely he will? It’s the perfect 124 Fiona Snyckers . with his arm slung warmly over my shoulders. It’s impossible not to feel proud.But of course I don’t.” He smiles and gives me one last squeeze. and his hand resting barely a millimetre above my butt.” *** Zach walks me back to Sisulu House without taking his arm off my shoulders. me too. Matron won’t let me out again this term. Because this proves he didn’t invite me just as a friend. as I notice the time creeping closer to half-past nine. but if I’m late. So after about twenty minutes. But tonight. “I know. his breath tickling my cheek. “I wish you didn’t have to. doesn’t it? Friends don’t hold friends the way Zach is holding me. snagging a bottle of water on the way. “Come along then. He smiles and puts his arm around me. I can also hear the sound of my own breathing and feel my heart banging away inside my chest. Is he going to kiss me? We haven’t kissed since that day he took me to his room. I’m here with Zach and it would be bad manners for me to dance all evening when he doesn’t feel like it. There’s no moon and the only light is coming from the boarding houses.” I whisper reluctantly into his ear. my body pulled firmly against his. The evening is very dark and quiet. There’s the high-pitched chirr of crickets that for me is the sound of a Highveld night. I break away from the dancers and head back to him.” he murmurs back. “I’ve got to go in a minute.
to the faint scent of the rose garden – seems to whisper romance.” It’s Matron. but he gives Matron the full beam of his most charming smile. Zach looks down at me and for a second I think he’s going to stop. There’s no one around. that’s enough. Break it up. “I had a really great time tonight. And everything about the quiet atmosphere of the night – from the filtered golden light from Sisulu House. Surely now would be a good time for a kiss? If we get any closer. A few heads turn to watch us curiously and at that exact moment. We’ve got a couple of minutes before I have to clock in with Matron. “Thanks for coming. I hear a couple of wolfwhistles from girls who have stopped to watch.opportunity. I jump away from Zach as if he’s burning hot. Zach swings me around to face him and brings his mouth down hard on mine.” I say softly. I slow down as we get closer to the entrance.” Ha! I knew it. It’s all bright lights and noise as the matrics clatter up the stairs after their last homework session of the night. up the steps. and into the entrance. there will be too many people around. Then just as my knees feel like they’re starting to buckle. pulling me even closer. I loved watching you dance. a voice barks.” he replies. Team Trinity 125 . I knew he was watching me. And immediately the spell is broken. carrying a clipboard and looking seriously annoyed.” “I did too. The kiss takes my breath away with its intensity. “Okay. “Thanks for inviting me. But then he keeps right on going.
I’m telling you this for your own good. 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. it’s not like we were in his room – like the kiss could develop into anything. as you can see. As soon the door has closed behind 126 Fiona Snyckers . “I’ve brought her back in good time.” he says. She glances at her watch and makes a sort of growling noise in her throat. You can’t trust them to know where to draw the line. but I don’t agree with classifying people like that. I mean. Zach’s smile dims slightly. I’ll just be going then. and notice that her cheeks are bulging suspiciously. and what would my father say if he could see me now.” I turn my head so I can roll my eyes without her seeing.” And he speed-walks towards the door. Matron escorts me all the way to the Grade 10 dormitory.” Matron isn’t buying it.. 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. I know she’s just trying to look out for me. wondering why she’s not saying anything. I look closely at Lael.. 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. my girl. “Well .“Thank you so much for letting Trinity come to the party tonight. They only want one thing. muttering at me in Xhosa about how boys won’t respect me if I carry on like that. “You must be careful of the white boys. I’m actually surprised I’m not in handcuffs by this point. as though she’s the only one who can physically restrain me from rushing back out and smooching the face off Zach.
I’d almost forgotten about the diet. “Tomorrow we’re going to be as good as gold. I feel a twinge of anxiety at the thought. But as the second doughnut goes down fast. It’s omelette day at breakfast tomorrow. and I take a bite of the third. gimme!” I say.” Lael explains. Of course.Matron.. It’s one of those rules that everyone turns a blind eye to. We’re not really supposed to eat in our dorms.” “Oh . I’m not sure how enthusiastic I’m going to feel about drinking a strawberry-flavoured milkshake instead.. I think the official reason given is that the crumbs might attract rats and mice. now I’m getting my mojo back. “Ooh . Lael and I are going to be the best dieters that Brand New You has ever had. of course. right. Okay. although it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to flash a box of doughnuts right under Matron’s nose.. I start to think how nice it would be to feel lean and empty for a change.. I can’t wait to get started on this diet. “We’re celebrating our last night of freedom as nondieters. but tonight we stuff our faces. how nice it would be to zip up my jeans and find that they’re too loose for me.” To be honest. reaching for the box and helping myself to one with white icing and sprinkles. that feeling of over-stuffed nausea kicks in. And. Lael pulls a box of doughnuts out from under her duvet. But girls have been breaking this rule every day for the last twenty years. which makes the best doughnuts in the known world. They’re from the tuckshop. and Brentwood has never had a rodent problem. Team Trinity 127 . “What’s the occasion?” I ask. as I polish off my first doughnut and take a second.
but the other girls only take one each. but she’s actually done us a favour this time. who takes none. “I’ve never had a sweet tooth.” Nosipho pulls a face behind her back. This diet is going to be a great experience for us. By this time next week. running my hand over the unfamiliar bulge in my tummy. that bulge will be gone and my tummy will be flatter than ever. I feel uncomfortable and a bit disgusted with myself. Except for Sophie. I must have eaten more today than I ever have in my life before.” she explains. after lights out. I lie in bed. And I can’t wait until Zach sees the new.Lael offers the box of doughnuts around the dorm. Later. watching in disbelief as I lick icing off my fingers. But never mind. “Give me a nice apple or some carrot sticks any day. improved me. 128 Fiona Snyckers . I don’t usually see eye to eye with Lael’s mother. making me giggle.
Team Trinity 129 . I can tell Lael feels the same. Put it back in the bin.. Some head off to the showers.” “Two million bucks..CHAPTER 16 I WAS secretly worried that some of my enthusiasm might have faded overnight. I don’t know what came over us. The other girls emerge from their cubicles. Just the smell of that box makes me want to hurl.” I know exactly what she means. 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.” “I couldn’t eat a doughtnut now if you gave me a million bucks.” “I wonder if this is what a food hangover feels like. 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. Then everyone drifts down to the dining-hall. yawning and stretching. This is a brand new start for me. I’ve got a slight headache. and I can’t wait to get there. but I wake up the next morning feeling seriously motivated. It’s ridiculous. Urrgh . why did I have to think about that now? But apart from the food hangover. I feel great. while those who like to bath at night start pulling on their uniforms. better me. “Can you believe we ate all that?” “I know. I’m on my way to a newer.
it says you can also mix one and a half sachets with plain water if you choose. We’ll just have to do that then. that’s no good either.” I stare at the sachet as though it might contain some suggestions on how to make milk appear out of thin air. “Now what’s happened to the instructions? I know I put them . We’ll be sabotaging ourselves before we’ve even got started.. closing the door. “Right!” Lael says. okay.” I say.’ Oh. but she also heads downstairs for breakfast. Then my face clears.” “Then it’ll have to be full-cream. “What about you?” “Vanilla. “Look. but that’s it. here they are. “Milk. no!” We look at each other in dismay.” “So what are we going to do?” “I don’t know. not to mention the number of fat grams.” I say. I notice Sophie giving us a suspicious look. There’s one tiny jug of fat-free at the teacher’s table. “Let’s get this show on the road. ‘Place contents of one sachet in a glass and mix with 250ml of fat-free milk. It’ll be fine. “In a minute. “I’m having strawberry this morning. “They only have full-cream.” I say.” We dig sachets of the Brand New You breakfast shakes out of our cupboards.“Coming?” Yasmin asks Lael and me... We haven’t got any milk.” she calls back..” “No good. We’ll have to go down to the dining-hall and pinch some. wait .” “No.” 130 Fiona Snyckers . That’ll throw the calorie count right out. pretending to be looking for something.
She’s right. “And it really fills you up. “Not bad. the milkshake has made me feel almost uncomfortably full... rinsing her shaker under the tap.. “That should do it. bending but not breaking the surface – like in a science experiment.Lael decides to have strawberry as well so that we can use up three sachets without any leftovers. We fit the tops of the shakers into place and start shaking for all we’re worth. actually. The powder floats spookily on top of the water.” We drink our shakes straight out of the shakers seeing as we don’t have any cups or glasses either.” Lael says after about two minutes.. cheers! Bottoms up. somehow.” I say vaguely. We empty the powder into our shakers and fill them up with tap water. They taste . I think we need to do some exercise. Lael is much sportier than me. quite nice...” I puff.. They’re thicker too. “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. except not as sweet. If this is how exhausted we are after just mixing our shakes. I’ve never been all that keen on exercise.” I give my tummy an experimental prod. “Okay . “And now for the pills!” Team Trinity 131 . “Yeah.” I pull a face. Not all that different from a real milkshake. “We really need to shape up.” Lael says. well . with a kind of fibre-y texture that you can almost chew. Sitting on top of about four doughnuts from last night. ashamed at how out of breath I am..
I pull a face as Lael plonks three pill bottles in front of me.” I glance at my watch and see that she’s right. let’s get it down. It was actually quite enjoyable not to have our break disturbed by food for once. There was this one woman who was so obese she was practically circular. We need to take two of each three times a day. Then we head out to face the day. We’ve been faffing about for nearly twenty minutes. By the sixth one. I even found the Brand New You website and read the real-life testimonials of people who lost huge amounts of weight on the programme. I start gulping down the pills with water. I’m really proud of how I’ve coped with the morning. *** By lunchtime. there she is nearly a hundred pounds lighter. Lael and I pack the evidence back into our cupboards. I’m gagging. It’s the pictures that I find most amazing. and natural appetite control supplement. Lael and I just hung out on the sports field. Instead of going back to Sisulu House. Come on. What’s that – about 50 kgs or 132 Fiona Snyckers . but I manage to choke it down. It felt like we were getting more time to chill. “What is all this anyway?” “Vitamin supplement with minerals and trace elements. And probably some help getting out of the seat too. She looked like someone who would need a seatbelt-extender on an aeroplane. carb and fat blocker. And then in the “after” picture. The others will be coming back from breakfast soon. Googling weight-loss tips on our phones. It wasn’t even difficult to avoid the fruit and sandwiches at break.
But she had us young. “Let’s go and do this in the common room. But by lunchtime. warming me up and giving me energy. 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. but I don’t think we should risk it. hot and filling. She was only nineteen when I was born. Carrot and Coriander. rich.” And it is. Second break also passes happily in a haze of weightloss Googling. I have to admit I’m quite peckish. We slip some sachets under our shirts and head downstairs to the common room. I enjoy every mouthful. “Soup-time. And that’s after three kids as well. It’s thick. If they catch us. It’s absolutely amazing. yummy!” Lael comes into the dormitory. but I do Team Trinity 133 . I can’t say I enjoy swallowing the six pills nearly as much. it’s hard to choose. Mind you. There’s that kettle in the matrics’ study. isn’t it?” “Never mind. feeling it slide down into my tummy. Gosh. so she doesn’t count. I’m going to have the Creamy Butternut today. we’ll get detention. rubbing her hands together. “Hearty Beef. she’s always had the metabolism of a stick insect on speed. “Right. my mom had three kids and she’s as skinny as anything. And anyway. what have we got?” Lael checks the sachets.so? Now she’s a model who has just entered her fourth Body-Beautiful competition. Last night’s doughnuts have finally worn off and I’m looking forward to trying out one of the Brand New You soups. It sounds delicious. we’ll get through all of them in the end. and Creamy Butternut.
who does that? Would it kill you to clear your throat or something? I 134 Fiona Snyckers . I feel my eyes start to droop. catching up on everyone’s BBM updates. Sure you don’t want to come?” I give a little shudder. I’ll just sit here and let that soup settle a bit. Watching you sleep. but since when does life ever play fair?I settle down in an armchair and start flicking through my phone. convinced it feels flatter than yesterday..” He says this in a serial killer voice. Before long. 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.” “Suit yourself!” She bounces out. looking all fit and energetic in her red PE shorts and trainers. “What are you doing here? You scared me half to death. “We’re lucky to be on a diet that lets us have such great food. Just sitting here.” “Oh. I’m not leaving it to chance. “I know. “No. Passing the time of day.it because I know I need them if I’m going to make this diet work. I refuse to smile.” I smooth a hand over my stomach. By rights she should be super-thin considering how active she is. I give a tiny gasp and sit bolt upright. thanks. To say that Lael is sportier than me is like saying Rihanna can sing better than me. seriously. “Well. I’m going for a run while everyone is still at lunch. “Quite sure. right? And you know what – I feel a bit lighter already. nothing. with bugged-out eyes and waggling fingers..
for goodness sake.” “You were. “Come back! Sit down.” “Right. Mr Creepy. I’ll go. “I don’t think her religion is exactly relevant here.could have been drooling. So. then. hey? Fine. I suddenly realise that I am the teensiest bit hungry. I’m going to have to remember everything to tell her later. okay?” He gives me a puzzled look. Security gate. I want to go steady with him. I can’t help myself. ‘I love him. as if he genuinely has no idea what I’m getting at. Beams. What did you find out?” “Well. Just tell me what you found out. You said. the place is basically Fort Knox. Alarm. “Trying to get rid of me.” “Your Jewish friend? Is she the ringleader of this plan?” I give him a sharp look. Armed response.’ And then you made kissykissy noises with your mouth. You can watch me sleep anytime you like.” He gets up and swaggers towards the door. knowing full well I’m going to scream for him to come back. She could have listened and taken notes. “Okay. Your friend. Or talking in my sleep.” Team Trinity 135 . And I won’t tell you about my secret-agent work in the headmaster’s study. even after the soup. He’s so groovy. Let’s just call her my friend. The whole deal.” This time I laugh out loud. I take it all back. You’d think they were keeping the crown jewels in there. “Groovy? Go steady? Not even in my dreams do I join the cast of Grease. I wish Lael hadn’t picked now to go for a run. Shouldn’t you be in the dining-hall hoovering up a chicken burger?” As I say it.
isn’t she? She works in the main admin offices. or alarms. Mrs Pieterse is the school secretary. there’s an internal door between her office and his. or beams. Mrs Andrews. “Mrs Anderssen.” “Anderssen. When I open them again.” My mood dips. Well.” I correct. And the human element is definitely their Achilles heel.” “Okay. that means weak point. I close my eyes to help me think.. Well.?” I’m trying to follow his logic here. the one I’m talking about is the headmaster’s personal secretary..” “No. and she doesn’t have a security gate on her door..” “That’s right.. “I might not be white. But the daytime is a whole different kettle of fish. “Plus. the human element I’m thinking of is the secretary.” “Hang on a minute!” I try to picture the office as I saw it in January. she works in this little office that’s right next door to the headmaster’s study.” “Right.. I can’t keep the disappointment out of my voice. I just said they’ve got excellent security. or something. Uh . We’ll just have to give up. but it’s made from reinforced 136 Fiona Snyckers . not her.” I snap. I wouldn’t suggest trying to break in when it’s all locked up for the night. you know. It was a silly idea anyway. that’s no good either.. There is a door between the two offices. Sorry. No. “No.“I knew it. but English is still my home language.” “Is that any way to talk? I didn’t say it was hopeless. or anything.” “You mean Mrs Pieterse? She’s a friend of my mom’s. That’s when we’ve got what I like to call the human element to deal with.” “I know what it means. For instance. “It’s hopeless.
. It’s actually very simple. “Wait a minute.” “Really?” “Really.” “Not while it’s locked. Trinity. maybe. we can’t just open the trophy cabinet and help ourselves to the shield. Dr Hussein’s big mistake was to tell you Team Trinity 137 .” He grins at my eager face.” James shakes his head. anyway.” “Trinity. Up until now. while she makes tea. wanders about. raising his eyebrows at me. “Is this for real?” “Of course it is.” I say. Dr Hussein showed it to my dad.. Would I lie to you?” “But this is brilliant! This makes it all possible. She keeps all her paperwork on her desk for the week. Even if we do manage to get into his office. this plan felt like a game. It takes her the whole morning and she basically leaves the inter-leading door unlocked the entire time. An alarm will go off and the armed response company will arrive. but would never actually do in real life.. You know.” A bit too possible. Like when my brothers and I used to play at being the Famous Five or the Secret Seven. “Isn’t it always locked?” “Not on a Wednesday morning when Mrs Anderssen does her filing. It was something we’d have fun planning. goes to the cloakroom. “Let’s not forget about the infra-red beams.” he says.steel. thinking hard. We’d never get through it. and then on Wednesdays she files the lot. The beams are designed for someone who doesn’t know they’re there.. “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.
He doesn’t take it. torch.” “Now hold your hand up to break the beam. Because as soon as you know it’s there.. “Switch it on. I switch it on and am surprised to see that it works. Feebly.about it in the first place.” “Done. Imagine there’s another eye built into the back of your chair and take your hand away. A torch. an alarm is triggered.” I think hard for a moment.” “Okay. “Now shine it against the back of your chair.” 138 Fiona Snyckers . So as soon as someone removes the shield. Loadshedding supplies. Torch . Candles. As soon as the beam hits that other eye. “Okay . It has no way of recognising the shield in particular. the alarm won’t go off. “Is there a point to this?” “That torch is the security beam and your hand is the Gumede Shield.” I straighten up and hold it out to him. Matches. So as long as there is something in its way. it’s almost too easy to get around.” he says. But the beam doesn’t know or care what is in its way. Aha! Here we go. I crouch down and start searching through the common-room TV cabinet.. Have you got a torch?” I’m mystified.” I look down at the bright disc of light reflected against the palm of my hand.. but it works.. “What do you want a torch for?” “Find me one and you’ll see. 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. Battery-powered lamps. let’s see. an alarm will go off.
It’s just a piece of wood with some brass on it. for example. weren’t you?” He looks smug. I’m practically a ninja. but today you did a good thing.” “Exactly!” He looks pleased with himself.” Team Trinity 139 . “Don’t worry about me. But. It’s not like we’re pinching that shield for ourselves. Are you sure that’s all there is to it?” “Absolutely. “We’re not thieves. it’s designed for someone who doesn’t know it’s there. “That’s so easy! I can’t believe it’s so simple. you know. The girls of Sisulu House thank you.” “If you say so. thanks so much for doing this. I hope you’re not going to get into any trouble.“I see!” I say. Like I said. And let’s face it.” I say defensively. excited.” “I do say so. boy! Suppertime. but it’s fantastic. You must have spent hours hanging around outside the office. listen. and then remove the shield. You might be a total and utter sexist pig most of the time.” “Well. There’s other stuff in the office that’s much more valuable.” *** “Oh. You were careful. we aren’t interested in any of that other stuff. You couldn’t sell it for money. No one saw what I was doing. We’re doing it for girls everywhere. Exactly what we need. “So all we need to do is put a book or something in the way of the beam. I don’t know how you managed to get all that information. still.” “Well. it’s not as though the shield has any actual value.
” “In the evening. satisfying meal with your family. right?” “I think so... “Still ten minutes to go. there’s more. 140 Fiona Snyckers .” 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.” Lael turns the page and there we are. It’s all I can do to keep from drooling. One roast potato instead of two – that kind of thing. face to face with the bad news. Isn’t it six o’clock yet?” I glance at my watch for the millionth time.. but we can definitely have a square meal.. Let’s do it.. boy!” she says happily. doesn’t it?” “Hang on. do we? Like maybe there are restrictions on the carbs or something.. but she pulls herself together. double-check what it says about suppers. I don’t think we can have dessert or anything like that.” “We can basically eat whatever we like for supper tonight. you know ..” “What?” “Maybe we should just .I can’t help rubbing my hands together and grinning.. “Listen. you are free to enjoy a balanced. “I know!” Lael has the same eager look on her face.” Lael’s lip quivers for an instant. here it is. “Okay. “That sounds all right.” I say. reading over her shoulder. “I mean. “Okay.” “Oh. “The milkshake and the soup were nice and everything.” I say doubtfully. but I’m just about ready for some real food now. We don’t want to make a mistake.
“‘Use a zesty squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to liven up your delicious salad. covered in crispy golden skin.. your eyes are bigger than your stomach?” “Uh huh.” “About what?” Disappointment quivers in my voice. “Whoever’s eating that lot has got it made.“One portion of lean protein.. Trinity.” “. my voice rising to a wail.” “Exactly!” I say indignantly.” Lael continues. So I bet our stomachs have really shrunk. “As much salad or steamed vegetables as you desire. “Look at that picture on the previous page.. Plus! Team Trinity 141 . But it’s certainly not anyone on the Brand New You diet. “Well.” Lael says. and a pile of vegetables gleaming with butter. I bet when we start eating this evening we’ll find that it doesn’t take all that much to fill us up..” I read.’ Oh no! This is a total swizz. “Let’s just back up for a moment and think.” I point to a full-colour photograph of a plate groaning with roast chicken. running her fingers through her hair.” “Your point being?” I ask sharply. “We’re feeling let down.choosing items from the list below. We’ve had hardly anything to eat the whole day – just a milkshake and some soup. We’d been looking forward to it all day. right? This isn’t what we were expecting. a heap of roast potatoes with gravy. We thought we could basically eat anything we liked tonight. “My point being that we’ll get through this.” My ouma uses that line on my brothers all the time. no larger than a pack of playing cards. You know that old expression.” “Okay. I can’t help it. It’s just that our minds haven’t quite caught up yet.
” I say reluctantly. work really well together.. But Lael won’t be deterred. holding the booklet out to me. staring at the expression of crazed ecstasy on the woman’s face.. look at this picture of the Brand New You woman eating salad. because I was teetering on the brink of giving up. But her pep talk has worked. ‘Go completely mad’ and ‘pizza’.” “I guess.We can eat as much salad as we like. We can go completely mad on salad. on the other hand. I’m going into that dining-hall and I’m eating salad if it kills me. Don’t forget that part. “Doesn’t she look happy? Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying her salad?” “She looks high. I’m back in the zone. It’s lucky one of us is.” Lael says. She’s in perfect-dieter mode and nothing is going to put her off. “And anyway. 142 Fiona Snyckers . We can eat three bowls of it if we like.” I say. ‘Go completely mad’ and ‘salad’ are not concepts I’ve ever thought of putting in the same sentence before.
Things I used to manage quite easily now seem to take up all my energy.. Every day is a struggle. He’s more of a BBMer.CHAPTER 17 I FEEL down. “Trinity?” Zach sounds a bit unsure if it’s me. uh . Especially since he hardly ever phones me. I keep telling myself I should just pull it together.. Sometimes it just feels like too much of an effort. If I even bother at all. I would probably have done a quick victory dance before answering the phone with a sexy “Hellooo?” Today. but somehow I can’t manage to. it takes every ounce of strength I possess just to press the green button and grunt “Hi”. Normally I’m the ultimate Quickdraw when it comes to a ringing cellphone. And not just tired. but as though there’s nothing to look forward to. wake you?” Team Trinity 143 . I remember a time when seeing his name pop up like this would have filled me with excitement. “Ja. I wait seven rings before reaching for my phone and checking the display. it’s me. My phone rings. And rings. But these days I let it go the full eight rings before reaching into my pocket.” “Did I . I wake up feeling tired every single morning. Today.. I’ve never felt like this before. I yawn hugely. It’s Zach. I usually pick mine up before the second ring..
but then the meaning of what he’s saying penetrates my depression. no.” “Tandem jump? What’s that?” “You know. I’m just feeling a bit down. all the kids at Brentwood who have been given scholarships to attend the school are invited to this swish dinner with the teachers. “So it was all right. although my dad has been the keynote speaker a couple of times. I did my first tandem jump this morning. Fifteen minutes to go before lunchtime.” I say. There’s a moment of silence. It’s difficult to imagine worrying about anything ever again. “Um ..” I say vaguely. you know that scholarship dinner I’ve been invited to?” “Uh-huh. right. I’ve never been invited to one. then?” “It was fantastic! I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.I can picture him looking at his watch in puzzlement. with the teachers wearing academic gowns and everything. It’s a quarter to one. I didn’t tell you about it because I didn’t want you to worry...” “Oh. this ought to cheer you up. I was awake. Or should I say . where you jump out of an aeroplane strapped to an experienced skydiver. This is fine.. interrupting him.” He’s been talking about it for days. soup-time? “No.” “Oh? Well. Once a year. no. no I haven’t. Listen. “Am I catching you at a bad time?” I make an effort to pull myself together. “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.” I say. 144 Fiona Snyckers . It’s very formal. “No.
We’ve just been told that the postmatrics are allowed to bring partners to the dinner.He laughs indulgently. you have.” “Yeah. “I’ve got good news for you. it’s great. “You think I’m teasing you.” I say sarcastically. babe. “You probably want to obsess over what you’re going to wear now. well. “Yes.. don’t you? But it’s true. So you can come as my date! Isn’t that great?” “Yes.” *** Team Trinity 145 . or how offish you’ve been with me lately. don’t you? And I’m going in to lunch.” he says.” “Really?” I say tiredly. “I knew you’d be pleased!” he says. You’re probably worried I’ll get off with some brainy hot girl or something. So I make a noise that could be interpreted as agreement. “Well. We just got the email from Dr Hussein now. b) his stupid scholarship dinner has hardly even crossed my mind. You’re jealous because I’m going on my own.” 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. and c) that’s not the reason I’ve been a bit offish with him lately.. “You’ve really made my day. I’m too tired to figure it out now. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you change the subject every time I mention the dinner.” I’m dying to tell him that a) I’m not that insecure. Oh. So I’ll talk to you later. But it’s just too much effort to argue with him. I just wanted to call and make your day.
I stare resentfully at the girls twinkling 146 Fiona Snyckers . “No. The least you could have done was go and fetch our sachets. My legs feel like they’re made of lead. “How could you? You knew I had Biology just before lunch.” “I’m burning enough calories just sitting here breathing.” “You’re the big exerciser. I don’t even bother trying not to hate them. Her body looks about the same as before. I know she’s lost a kilogram so far. closing her eyes with a sigh. Workout Girl.” “Oh. and you had a free. her olive skin an unattractive shade of ash. You’ll probably burn about 50 calories or something. Go and fetch them. You’ve been sitting on your bum. It’ll do you good to climb the stairs. they’re still upstairs. You know it’s your turn. Trinity. just like I have. Trinity!” she whines. 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’ve been staring into a microscope.” “So am I.” I open one eye and see Lael sinking down into the chair next to me.” “I’m more exhausted than you. “Have you got the sachets?” she asks. but you can’t really tell. I’m completely exhausted. but her face is showing the strain. “Hey.I sink back into my chair and close my eyes. I haven’t had the energy to go up and fetch them yet. She looks pale and tired. I can hear the thumps of the other girls coming downstairs and heading for the dining-hall.
“It’s my time of the month. I have a brief fantasy about my mom arriving at the school with steaming dishes of bobotie and tomato bredie to feed me up. and give a little sigh. tuck them into Team Trinity 147 . Matron. Auntie. I deliberately choose the carrot and coriander flavour. she’s liable to phone your parents. “I’m feeling really horrible. Even Matron comes steaming past me and she must be fifty if she’s a day. I turn a pitiful face to her – one that I don’t have to fake in the slightest. If she thinks you’re not eating properly. “Come on. Then I remember that she’s in Chile. When she reaches the top of the staircase. man.” “Shame. You come to my office after lunch and I’ll give you some Panado. Trinity?” Matron asks as I make it to the top of the stairs. “What’s wrong? You look tired.” I reel into the dormitory.” she says as I stop to catch my breath halfway up.” “Nothing. they’re not that steep. this terrible feeling of hollowness? I reach into Lael’s cupboard and pull out three soup sachets. she turns and stares at me with her hands on her hips.past me as though climbing steps is no big deal. They’re just showing off.” I puff. Matron doesn’t believe in diets.” I say in a wobbly voice. “What’s the matter with you. knowing it’s her least favourite. How many calories are there in a Panado? Would it take away this grinding ache in my tummy. The last person you ever want to know that you’re on a diet is Matron. wondering if Panado could actually make me feel better. see?” “Thanks.
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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” says Lael. “Yes. He’s invited me to go to the scholarship dinner with him. I was all offish. “Zach!” Everyone looks around. it is. I need to write out a list of all the things I’m supposed to be doing and start ticking them off. When you’re that hungry.” I shrug. I seem to remember saying yes. “Well. “Where?” “No. although we didn’t like to say anything.” “Well. But in a rude kind of way. I’d say they’ve dropped it now. man.” she says.” “That’s cool. He’s not here! I’ve just remembered that he phoned me the other day. “I’ve had a memory like a sieve all week.” “Don’t tell me you said no?” Sophie asks anxiously. Thank goodness. with most of those coming from drinks or salads. actually. I squinch up my eyes in shame. “We’ve all noticed. You’re just surviving from one meal to the next. “No .” I give a sudden gasp.” Lael says between gritted teeth. “You’d be acting oddly too if you were trying to survive on less than a thousand calories a day.” Lael agrees. that doesn’t matter. “The point is that you’re going. you can’t think about anything else. All I could think was that I’d be at a three-course dinner and not allowed to eat anything except meat and salad. But my answer to him was very uncool. You’ll just have to be extra nice to him 154 Fiona Snyckers . I must have been half-catatonic at the time. I try to remember our conversation. It completely slipped my mind.” “I know..” Nosipho puts in.” “You just stay out of my cupboard..were shovelling in pudding this evening. you two have been acting a little oddly lately.
Sophie is an artist. the dress I’m wearing is cleverly cut to hide any bulges. and the next she’s offering to help me choose an outfit for my date. I’m going to miss having access to her clothes when she finally comes to her senses and stops being nice to me. “Don’t look at me so suspiciously. we’ll be starting our new diet soon. She’s made my eyes a bit smoky. And once again the hem-length is exactly right for the shape of my legs. Team Trinity 155 . That kilogram I lost on the diet has come back with a vengeance. “I’m here to help you. amused. There’s no other word for it. I’m starting to wonder whether schizophrenia runs in her family. I’m feeling pretty confident on the night of the dinner. Tonight’s dress is a little black number that’s cut on the bias so it clings in all the right places and skims over all the wrong ones. One moment she’s snooping through Lael’s cupboard and finding our secret Brand New You stash so she can gloat at us. and left the rest natural.” Lael catches my eye and I can see she is thinking exactly the same thing as I am.” she says.to make up for it. but it doesn’t matter. For one thing. but I was wrong. Now we need to help you sort out your outfit and your makeup. We can’t keep up with Sophie’s sudden changes. When have I ever steered you wrong when it comes to clothes?” I have to admit that the answer to that is never. *** Thanks to Sophie’s help. I thought Sophie would go overboard on the makeup tonight. and my lips a bit shiny. and for another.
Smartly dressed people are filing in ahead of us. It looks unrecognisable this evening. The thought makes me squeeze his hand a bit harder. As he walks me into Memorial Hall for the start of the dinner. Imagine if I had. I must admit. We’ve hosted quite a few in our home. checking the noticeboard to find their allocated tables. I guess. The Memorial Hall is usually used for smart occasions. He’d probably be going out with some other girl by now. Just be yourself and everyone will love you. The light of a hundred candles sparkles off crystal and silverware.” That does make me feel better. I need to tone it down.It’s a good look. I remember being too shy even to speak to him. He can hardly take his eyes off me. our parents have expected 156 Fiona Snyckers . One look at Zach’s face tells me he appreciates Sophie’s efforts as much as I do. that are too important for the normal hall where we have our morning assemblies. and makes me worry that I use too much makeup the rest of the time. There’s a hum of well-bred conversation in the air. “Nervous?” “A bit. He looks down and smiles at me. too. the school colours. I can’t help thinking how far we’ve come as a couple. The floor is packed with round tables covered in floorlength white cloths and striped overlays. Nearly as much as I do. I’d be feeling a lot more nervous if I weren’t used to attending black-tie dinners with my parents. All the walls and windows are draped in red and navy. I nearly chickened out of asking him for help with my work that first time.” “You don’t need to be. From the time my brothers and I turned twelve. like prize-givings.
without giving away any more than is already out there in the media. but I honestly can’t tell whether this bothers him or not. and to Justin Whatsisname talking about his plans for university. and I think I’ve handled it all pretty well. We’re the last people to arrive at the table. I’ve listened to the professor burbling on about his research. it’s finally all over. I find myself wedged between a Professor of Sociology who is a Brentwood old boy and now on the school board.us to put in an appearance at these dinners and make polite conversation. and a guy called Justin who I recognise from the Postmatric Annexe. Zach’s parents couldn’t make it up from Howick to be with him tonight. I turn my head and start chatting to the professor. Team Trinity 157 . I like to think I’m quite good at reading people. so I try to take it in my stride. Zach’s eye flicks over the seating plan. But this has happened to me before at formal dinners. well. Oh. *** A few hours later. Shooting a last smile at Zach. It could be worse. I’ve answered endless questions about my family. I’ve smiled so much in the course of the evening that my cheeks ache. All I know is that he’s happy to have me with him. I guess. 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. and I’m a bit surprised to find that we’ve been seated separately.
” “Right.” he says. He sounds so masterful. The one was somebody’s mother. “What do you mean?” “I just mean I don’t have to clock back into Sisulu House until midnight. one of our teachers. Some proper one-on-one time. taking my arm in a firm grasp. “we’ve got a whole hour until I need to go back. But now it’s finally over and people are starting to leave. As I hear the door slam shut behind me. I must admit – and some absolutely endless speeches. I feel a little shiver of excitement at the thought. “You know. I’ve got permission to stay out until midnight because it’s Friday night.” Zach is staring off into the distance. The black-bag-over-the-camera trick works just as smoothly as it did the first time. We wait until all the other postmatrics are safely inside the common room with their parents and their dates. I sneak a glance at my watch. I’ve hardly exchanged two words with Zach the whole night. Worst of all. but he brings his gaze back to me.” I say as I reach down for the silver clutch Sophie lent me. 158 Fiona Snyckers . fiddly food – quite delicious. I’m kind of hoping Zach and I will get to spend some more time together before he takes me back to Sisulu House. I turn with a smile. Then we sneak up to Zach’s room. I practically skip into the room ahead of him. He didn’t seem to be getting on too well with his neighbours. and the other was Mrs Radomsky. “Let’s go back to my room then. So we’ve got an hour to kill. It’s only eleven.I’ve sat through three courses of fancy.” Another little thrill shivers through me.
but it seems rude to say no when he’s already put on the kettle. Team Trinity 159 .” “Mmm. “You were unlucky with the people you were sitting next to. And I’ll have coffee. “Tea?” he says shortly.” “It was a nice evening. “Coffee?” “Um . and I have absolutely no idea why. “Zach?” I say hesitantly. heading for his kettle. The last time I did this he said it really helped him to relax. “Is anything wrong?” “Wrong?” he repeats. “Fine. wasn’t it?” I say. Some were more welcoming than others. But then maybe his expectations were higher. “Mrs Radomsky and that other lady.expecting him to scoop me into his arms. He is obviously upset.” Something about the way he says this makes me look at him more closely. I sink back onto his bed and stare at him in blank dismay. but people were really welcoming.. It doesn’t look as though he had nearly as good a time tonight as I did.. I expected to feel like a gatecrasher. “Unlike you. They didn’t seem to have much to say for themselves. I circle around behind him to start rubbing his shoulders.” I don’t really feel like anything after that huge dinner. the mom.” He ducks himself away from my hands. thanks. just a little rooibos. “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. Standing up. you mean?” There’s a long silence. weren’t you?” I say sympathetically. But he walks past me. sitting down on his bed. “Everyone was so friendly.
160 Fiona Snyckers . “I’m not one of the scholarship students. putting on a fake girlish voice. I don’t think twice about it . come on. “I talked to that Justin guy about politics for ages. could you? If you’d touched his arm any more people would have thought you were his date instead of mine.” “But it’s true. Trinity. “Do you know who you embarrassed most with your behaviour?” Zach asks between gritted teeth. But this seems to make him even angrier. I’m afraid I’m more of a straight-C girl than a straight-A girl.” I look anxiously at Zach’s face.” I say weakly. How do you think it makes me look. Professor Raynor!” he says. I’m a toucher. This can’t be real.” “That doesn’t mean you have to advertise it to the whole world. Don’t pretend you don’t know.” I try to pull my wits together to answer him. in a friendly way. I think to myself. I cast my mind back frantically. “How could I forget? You couldn’t keep your hands off him. Justin!” he says sarcastically. “Oh yes.” This is a nightmare. hoping to see some sign of softening. being at the dinner with a girl who can’t even pretend to be interested in serious academic matters?” “But I was! I did.“But what did I say? What did I do?” “Oh. We were discussing the relationship between the ANC and big business. Could it be true? Did I keep touching Justin? I seem to remember dabbing at his arm once or twice while I was talking. That’s the way I am. “I was just being honest with him.” “But I don’t!” “Oh no.
” I manage to gasp. And a second after that – wonderfully. Trinity. A moment later I feel a weight sinking down onto the bed next to me. “It’s not fair. 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. I’ll manage not to cry. I blink.” “I’m sorry. compared with having him stand silently by while I cry.. And a small sobbing noise escapes me as tears start to pour down my cheeks.” he says gently. I didn’t think.” Team Trinity 161 .” I gasp again. “I can’t help it. “At least. If I thought I was humiliated before. but this is the absolute worst..” And then I cover my face with my hands and start sobbing for real. feeling hot shame wash over me. “I’m sorry. As long as I don’t blink. I didn’t mean to. I d-didn’t. “I’m so.” he says. “Justin.” I stutter. You know I can’t stand it. I try to steady my voice. I mustn’t blink. I’ve had some humiliating moments in my life.” I stare at the floor. nothing. so sorry. Trinity? You don’t think. isn’t it. “Don’t cry.I shake my head. it was nothing. “The poor guy didn’t know where to look. For a moment Zach just watches me. He was freaked out by a total stranger coming on to him at a formal dinner party.” “That’s the trouble. my cheeks burning.” “But. blissfully – I feel Zach’s arms closing around me and pulling me against him.
“That’s better. In and out. The whole anti-intellectual.” Zach says. “The thing is. I take a shaky breath.” I remember myself chattering away – babbling.” He passes me a tissue. We’ve both had a stressful evening. 162 Fiona Snyckers . Gradually the sobs start to subside. instead of just breaking up with me straight away.” “I know you didn’t do it on purpose.” I nod as I feel more tears threatening to spill. in fact – to Professor Raynor all evening. That wasn’t true or fair. They’re the ones who will be writing reference letters for me one day. partygirl image is fine when you’re with your friends. you must realise that the people who were at the dinner tonight are very important for my career. You have to put your best foot forward when you’re with them. and my toes curl with embarrassment. Trinity.” I try to slow my breathing down like he says.“Just breathe slowly. Zach’s right. “I’m so sorry. But you can be a little thoughtless at times. but these are serious people. In a moment we can talk about it calmly.” I say for the third time. otherwise it’s just going to hang in the air between us forever. otherwise it reflects badly on me. I’d better talk about the flirting thing. I’m so lucky he’s giving me a second chance. and didn’t even realise it. I just wasn’t thinking. But it’s all over now. “I didn’t realise what I was doing. “And I’m sorry for what I said about you never thinking. giving me one last hug. I made a total fool of myself. Then he moves away slightly so we can look at each other.
” “I didn’t do it on purpose. and not really used to formal dinners. “I wish our evening didn’t have to end so soon. “I know you will. Zach. That’s just the way I talk to people. well..” I say eagerly. If only I hadn’t wasted it. You’ve put me in a very awkward position.” “Just put all the blame on me. But I’ll try to do better if you’ll just give me another chance.” His lips tighten. I really didn’t.” “Already?” I look at my watch and see with a jolt that he’s right. “Yes.“Look. I stick my head into the office and the common room..” I say awkwardly.” he says. but there’s no one around.” “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. as we cross the grass behind Gumede House and veer left towards Sisulu.” “Okay.” Zach rewards me with a smile and a gentle stroke on the cheek.” I say. I’m sorry if he misunderstood it. It’s almost midnight. Look. both girls and guys. to be honest. let’s not let this spoil our evening. “About that thing with Justin. Our hour has whizzed past with all my crying and fussing. I am still a bit hurt about that. holding the door open for me.” Team Trinity 163 . “Explain how I’m only in Grade 10. “I’d better go upstairs and find Matron. so I’d better walk you back now. “As long as you understand what I was trying to say. it wasn’t wasted.
but he just pecks me on the cheek.I turn towards him. I can feel hot tears pricking behind my eyes again. “Goodnight. The way he just brushed his lips against my cheek told me as clearly as words how disappointed he is in me.” As I walk up the stairs. wondering if he’s going to give me one of those bone-melting goodbye kisses. 164 Fiona Snyckers . Trinity.
But the next morning she takes one look at my face and immediately knows something’s wrong. Team Trinity 165 . Eventually I manage to convince her that I really. And some of those things are different sides of the same coin. and outside in the grounds. If I don’t find some peace and quiet soon. I manage to avoid being interrogated by Lael when I come back from the dinner because she’s already fast asleep. I only I could get away by myself for a short while. but this isn’t something I want to share. really don’t want to talk about it. It means I’m never lonely or bored. It feels like I’m living under a microscope. or moping around. like I sometimes do at home. It’s sweet of her to be so concerned. the dining-hall.CHAPTER 19 THERE ARE lots of things I love about boarding school. And this is one of those times. but a few that I hate about it too. One of the things I love is having company all the time. Just the thought of telling anybody how I behaved at the dinner makes me go cold all over. But the flip side of that is that I never get to be alone when I really need to be. But where? There are always people in the dormitories. but that doesn’t stop the anxious looks she keeps giving me. the common room. It’s hard work evading her questions and telling her again and again that everything’s okay. I’m going to scream.
I haven’t seen him since the night of the dinner. but slightly cold. They are such cosy. And no one is using them at the moment. A quick look confirms that the school stopped buying new editions in 2005. Okay. with a lot of light coming in from the long windows. and a pencil bag that I’m pretty sure belongs to Yasmin. This would be the perfect place for me to hang out when I want to be on my own. I can tell that he’s forgiven me. It’s clean and bright. right about when learners stopped using anything except the internet for references. Hardly anyone goes in there anymore because we all do our research online these days. this is not bad at all. a school jersey. trying to think calmly about what happened with Zach. but that he’s still disappointed 166 Fiona Snyckers . The matrics have really got it made with those studies of theirs. So as long as it’s not full of cobwebs and spiders. except that it’s obviously not as unused as I thought.I wander restlessly all over Sisulu House. It’s a smallish room with floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with encyclopaedias. He’s been friendly. I can see that girls come in here all the time. it’ll be the perfect place for me to hang out on my own for a bit. a Kit Kat wrapper. Looking around. I’d get caught and be given a detention. But the important thing is that it’s empty now. comfortable rooms. with kettles and toasters and everything. Then I remember the old library up on the fourth floor. I sink into a chair and rest my forehead on my arms. But I just know that if I actually went into one. over the phone and on BBM. looking for a quiet spot. I run up the stairs two at a time in my eagerness to check it out. There’s a laptop cover on one of the desks.
see that you don’t get caught..” “Go away. when I like.” I narrow my eyes at him. “How did you get up here anyway? Boys aren’t supposed to come upstairs. that is?” “What do you mean.” “Sorry. ja. aiming a slow-motion karate kick at my desk. “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. no. Trinity? Apart from boyfriend trouble. I tear up again and am just settling in for a good cry when something makes me look up.. or you’ll be spending the rest of your life in detention. That’s not going to happen. Well. Shadow Boy.” “I . Trinity. “Your eyes are all pink and swollen.” “Ja.in me. I’d do anything – anything at all – to wipe that disappointment out of his voice. Ever. And even my considerable charm isn’t making you smile. I take it now is not a great time to talk?” “You take it right. ‘boyfriend trouble’? Who says I’m having boyfriend trouble?” “Let’s see. In my book. I want to be alone. “Oh.” He laughs and perches on one of the desks. “I’m a ninja. You’ve come up here to be alone. I go where I like. that all adds up to boyfriend trouble.” Team Trinity 167 .” He counts the items off on his fingers. I am the living shadow. not you again!” I blurt out. ja. what did you just call me?” “Never mind. Greta Garbo. “So what’s up with you.” he says. “It’s lovely to see you too. At all.
” “I repeat. I did. “Well.” This makes me sigh again.” I swat his suggestion away like it’s an annoying fly. He just listens until you’ve finished telling him the whole sorry story. Not one or the other. you’ll never get it! Can we please talk about something else?” “Fine. what?” “What do you think? You must have some opinion. I could have had a fight with my mother. I heave a sigh. And I have to make it up to him so he can be proud of me again. He didn’t do anything wrong. Trust you to assume I must be upset over a boy. “I’m right.” “Why don’t you tell me about it?” So I do.” There’s a beat of silence. Flowers and chocolates. I told you everything you needed to know over two weeks 168 Fiona Snyckers . please.” “I think. he doesn’t take his eyes off your face while you’re talking...” he says.“Oh. What rubbish. I could be crying about anything. “Yes. “Oh. you’re right. And make sure they’re the expensive kind. “Let’s talk about why you girls still haven’t done anything about the Gumede Shield. Don’t you get it? Zach hasn’t got anything to apologise for. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about James. or my best friend. “I should have known you wouldn’t understand. aren’t I?” he says. it’s that he’s a good listener. He doesn’t interrupt. and he doesn’t judge.” he says slowly. “Well?” I say after a long silence. Both. And then he says nothing. “I think you shouldn’t take him back until he apologises with flowers and chocolates. okay.
But we’re better now. But you people are meant to have big bums. Your Jewish friend could stand to lose a few pounds. although I must say she makes overweight look good. 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.” I sigh. So what’s up with that?” “Oh.ago. On its shelf. aren’t you?” “You people?” I echo.” “I don’t know why you want to lose weight anyway. or something?” Team Trinity 169 ...” “Of course you don’t. that was because of the diet!” His face creases into a look of severe puzzlement. Is it your time of the month.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about. “You mustn’t be so sensitive. You’re meant to have big backsides. dangerously. “The ‘Bantu’ people? Do you know. but that’s okay. I didn’t say that.” “No more diets for you then?” “No. aren’t you?” I gape at him. We’ll be starting a new one soon. Behind glass. This morning I walk past Dr Hussein’s office and what do I see? The shield. so we’ll be getting back to the shield any day now. We’ll be fine. “And what people might those be?” “You know – the Bantu people. And we were so hungry and exhausted we couldn’t think about anything else. Lael and I went on this stupid Brand New You diet where we had to drink milkshakes and eat soup all day long. It’s one of those ‘eat as much as you like and still lose weight’ diets. diet?” “Yes. but you’re the first person I’ve ever actually heard say it. Trinity. “The .
“That does it!” I stand up and point at the library door. Still fuming.” And he saunters out the door. Out. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. 170 Fiona Snyckers . I don’t feel like it. If only he weren’t such an incredibly racist pig. Now. for some reason. Because in some weird way – and I really don’t understand how – talking to James has made me feel better. get out! I mean.” “What do you mean?” “I mean. Except now. “Okay. I was about to have a good cry.” He holds up his hands. okay! I’m going. Now. yes. I’m gone. I sit down again. Go away before I scream for Matron. “You. where was I? Oh.
” “Proceed. I don’t know if you’re going to like it.. I just wanted to make a suggestion.” “Sophie who?” “Sophie Agincourt. isn’t she?” “It depends which part you mean.” Nosipho chips in. I’ve just been thinking .” Lael says thoughtfully. “It’s been weeks since our last meeting. What about her?” “Well . Agent Luhabe. girls!” There’s a sergeant-major snap to Lael’s voice as she opens her iPad and prepares to get going. Yes...” “Okay. “Our Sophie. “Right. Lael has taken the chair. as usual. “The annoying part.” Priya suggests. And I have a feeling it’s not going to go down well. You know which Sophie I’m talking about.” Yasmin mutters.” “It’s about Sophie.” I say impatiently... “Um . The one who sleeps in this dormitory. she’s a part of this dormitory. “I didn’t think you could possibly be talking about that Sophie. but I need to bring something up that isn’t on the official agenda. Team Trinity 171 . Trinity?” she adds as I raise my hand hesitantly. so let’s do a quick recap.CHAPTER 20 I CLEAR my throat and look around doubtfully at my friends The third official Operation Shield meeting is in progress. before we get started. “The evil cow part..
. It’s Item 4b on the agenda. “I know... “This is the girl who rifled through my undies to get at our diet supplies. It’s starting to look like she never will. I’m not finished yet.. Agent Abdul. “I was the one who found out when she was having her violin lesson so that we could hold the meeting tonight. It’s been over a week and she still hasn’t forgotten about it. 172 Fiona Snyckers . Comrade?” Nosipho demands. Lael sighs and makes a “carry on” sweep with her hand. It feels almost like we’re sneaking around behind her back. you’re not being fair. that I was just . And you will be duly commended for your fine work. remember?” Lael nods approvingly.A slightly bitchy laugh ripples around the room. right? And we’re keeping it a secret from one of the legitimate members of that dormitory. remember?” That really rankled Lael. I know.” “Better than what?” Lael asks huffily. I mean. “Come on. this is supposed to be a joint venture of the Albertina Sisulu House Grade 10 dormitory. thinking.” I say. “Hang on. girls. it just doesn’t feel right holding these meetings without her.” Yasmin points out. “Exactly.” “The thing is . Now if there’s nothing else?” She gives her iPad a business-like click.”You must admit she’s been better this term.” I say sympathetically...” “Thinking what. “Spit it out.” “We are sneaking around behind her back. you know .” I say. “But she’s been so nice about lending me her clothes and her makeup and helping me get ready for dates and everything...
so that makes it pretty much unanimous. “Next order of business.” Lael says.” 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.” “And she’s been a complete cow to me. “Sorry. and gave me so many great tips on how to act in future. she’s only nice when it has Team Trinity 173 . but maybe we should consider bringing Sophie in on this.” “Wait. I’m afraid you’re outvoted.” Priya says. And once she knows about it.” There’s a long silence as I look around hopefully from girl to girl. Priya?” Lael asks.” she says briskly. Lael nods. She’s sneaky enough that she could make a valuable asset to our campaign. Nosipho?” “Nuh uh. we wouldn’t have to worry about hiding it from her any more. I’m the only one who feels this way. “Not to anyone else. I was really touched. “I mean you’re right – we do think you’re crazy. please. And even then.” “It’s not only me! She’s been nicer to everyone. wait!” I say. Trinity. “Aren’t you even going to think about it? Haven’t you noticed how much nicer she’s been this term?” “To you.” “Yasmin?” “Not even a little bit. Then finally.“Look.” “You mean you agree?” I can hardly believe it. “Nope. But from the looks on my friends’ faces. She was so sympathetic. The only person she’s been nice to is you. I know you’ll think I’m crazy. “You’re right.” “How about you.. “Has Sophie been nicer to you. wait.
” Nosipho. isn’t it?” I say.” “I agree. all right.” “Agreed. whatever my friends might think. Time to move on. But after she was so sweet to me last night. to tell you the truth. leans over to give me a quick hug. “Right. “And that’ll be the end of all our plans. “Motion denied. Otherwise we can kiss this whole plan goodbye.” “Oh. For some reason. I’m not all that sorry to be outvoted.” says Lael. I know Sophie can’t really be trusted. “I think if we knew what she was really up to. my conscience pricked me.” I hunch my shoulders and subside. We tell Sophie nothing. Not one single whisper of a hint of a rumour about what we’re planning. As we all know.” says Yasmin. without success.” “Plus.” Lael gets up to pace the room. Agent Abdul’s mother was a learner at this institution in the 1970s and 80s. But I’ve done my best to convince the others. You always want to believe the best of everyone. It didn’t feel right to be taking her advice about Zach while planning a secret meeting behind her back. “Agent Abdul has uncovered a valuable piece of historical evidence.” “Well. she’ll totally split on us to Matron. if we tell her what we’re planning to do with the Gumede Shield. that’s kind of her. It’s thanks to her that we know about the promise that the shield will be allowed 174 Fiona Snyckers . “You’re too unsuspicious. proceeding to the summary of events so far. “It’s either kind or creepy.” Lael makes a note on her iPad. who is sitting closest to me.something to do with Zach. we’d be horrified. that’s your problem. With some people. I’m not a total moron. Trinity. you have to consider the possibility that there is no best. she really wants the two of you to make it as a couple.
not the boy – obviously. I think.” she says. But apparently it has an even longer history than that.” says Lael. The grandfather. “It was that war between Britain and Russia.” Nosipho puts in. “My mom says it’s only a vague rumour she remembers hearing. The nurse lady. 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. you have the floor. Florence Nightingale was a woman.” “The alleged promise. “Yes. the point about the Crimean War is that the shield was originally known as the Florence Nightingale Shield.” I say. And now Agent Abdul’s mother has remembered another piece of information about the shield. “Anyway.” Lael agrees. that is.” I say vaguely. Which means that the reason Gumede House Team Trinity 175 . it was known as the Jan Smuts Shield. I know who she was at least. “Okay.” “The alleged promise. don’t you remember?” says Yasmin. “It’s somewhere in here.” “The Crimean War..” “Oh. this is an email from my mom.” “And some other countries too. which means that the Gumede House Shield was originally named after a female. scrolling through the messages on her phone.to live half in Gumede House and half in Sisulu House if a girl ever succeeds in kidnapping it again.” Lael sits down and gestures to Yasmin to stand up. relieved..” “That’s right. “With the emphasis on lady. Florence Nightingale. “We did it in history. when the shield stopped a bullet and saved the life of the soldier who was carrying it. “Although I’m sure it’s true. We all know that after the First World War. Agent Abdul.” Yasmin corrects.
we have more right. Lael nods. 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. considering that she was a woman and we are a women’s boarding house. brilliant. They claim it was named after Jan Smuts – their founder.” Nosipho grins. In fact. It goes all the way back to Florence Nightingale. But it wasn’t.has always given for keeping it is nonsense. I bet even Matron would sign it.” I tail off. “Hang on a minute. doesn’t it?” I admit. Otherwise. we now know that the inter-leading door between Dr 176 Fiona Snyckers . I bet they’ve known about the Florence Nightingale angle all along.” “Okay. Then we won’t have to go to all the trouble of stealing it. “It sounds a bit tame. They wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Thanks to him.” “Yeah!” Priya says.. how would Yasmin’s mom have heard about it? They’ve been suppressing the evidence. looking at the four disappointed faces around me.” Lael makes another note on her iPad. “Yes. Agent Luhabe’s co-conspirator Honourary Agent James Ellison has been a great help in spying for us. “Now let’s get onto the practicalities. And that means we have just as much right to it as they do..” “Motion carried. “If all this is true. “Very tame. And anyway. “That’ll teach them. we’ll fight dirty.” I say.” I say slowly. giving her a high five. This is a male conspiracy to keep the shield in Gumede House. 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. If they want to fight dirty.
” “Oh well. “Enough to know he’s a fairly obnoxious guy who doesn’t like girls much. Agent Luhabe.. He can be pretty offensive. The obnoxiousness is so much a part of his personality for me that I hardly notice it any more. slightly defensive. I suppose. “Obnoxious or not. In fact. “I suppose you’re right. is it? He’s the one who always comes and finds me. would you kindly explain about the infra-red beam?” “Sure. all while leaving the door unlocked. I nod. that’s pretty much the first word that comes to mind.” I add.. 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. Honourary Agent Ellison gets Noddy points for helping us on our feminist mission.” I think of James’ habit of making racist and sexist comments all the time. “So basically all we need to do is place an object about the same size in Team Trinity 177 .” Lael says firmly.” “And also that she makes a habit of wandering about making tea and going to the Ladies.” It’s just that I’ve got used to him.” she says.” I dig a torch out of my bag and demonstrate exactly how the security beam works. “Why? Do you know him?” “A little bit.” “Would you really call him obnoxious?” I ask. so I don’t care how annoying he is. “I would.Hussein’s office and Mrs Anderssen’s office is unlocked on Wednesday mornings while she does her filing. “Did James tell you all that?” Priya asks curiously. Because it’s not as though I go looking for him. “He is assisting us in striking a blow for womanhood.
Now let’s start doing our normal stuff before Sophie gets back.” I say.” “Expulsion?” Nosipho asks nervously. we could all get into serious trouble. “Do you really think they’d go that far?” “They might. That way. “I’ll ask him the next time I see him.” “Then that’s it for tonight. So we need to make a hundred per cent sure that we don’t get caught. “If this goes wrong. That way. will you ask James if he’ll be our look-out? Check that the passage is empty and so forth?” “Sure. we need to run through the whole operation up to and including unlocking the cabinet.” 178 Fiona Snyckers . I reckon we’d be looking at expulsion. there’ll be no hidden surprises waiting for us when we do it for real.” “We need to do a dry run.the way of the beam before removing the shield. The point is that we need to make very sure we don’t get caught.” Lael says. And to do that. Trinity. the alarm won’t be activated.
We’re allowed to eat as much as we like. You should too. “Really and truly?” “Absolutely. We don’t need them because this isn’t a starvation diet. We have to cut out carbs completely.” “So that means no fruit and veggies either?” “None. And I’ll be having beef sausages and turkey bacon. High-protein diets have been proved to work. seeing as I don’t do the pork thing. and all the sausages you can eat. Tomorrow we can wake up and eat a huge breakfast. as much bacon as you like.” “And all that fat? Isn’t it a problem?” “Not at all.” I still can’t quite believe this. but we can put as much dressing on as we like. “No doughnuts for us tonight?” I ask as she changes into her nightie and gets into bed.” “Not to sound like my mother here. and we’re allowed some salad every night. The only enemy is carbs. We’ve still got practically a whole bottle left. Just lettuce. Oh.” Team Trinity 179 . we’ll be fine. As long as we don’t have any toast or orange juice. 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. Tomorrow morning you can have as many eggs as you like. but I hang around with Lael to talk about the diet we’re starting tomorrow. “No.CHAPTER 21 THE OTHER girls drift back to their own cubicles.
so I’m now back to exactly where I was before I started this dieting business. But the Drinking Man’s Diet sounds really good. And we did actually lose weight on it. with some orange juice and toast. I wake up the next morning with a little flutter of excitement in my tummy.” she adds as I reach automatically for the sugar. that stupid Brand New You diet nearly killed both of us.“Well. not hers. that doesn’t sound too bad. If we’d been able to stick to it.” Lael warns as I stretch for some milk to put into my tea. 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. sugarless tea.” *** I go to bed feeling quite cheerful. Lael has never steered me wrong yet. “You have to drink that black. I’m really looking forward to breakfast. but that was her mother’s idea. Lael and I are practically the first ones down for breakfast. Of course. we would have lost even more. so I’m feeling optimistic. If I’m really hungry I might have a boiled egg as well. and dreaming of the day when I’ll be 4 kg lighter. that single kilo I lost went back on after just three days of normal eating. My normal breakfast is a bowl of Weet-Bix. I can’t help pouting at the thought of black. Okay. 180 Fiona Snyckers . But today I’m going to splash out on a full cooked breakfast and not feel guilty about it. “And sugarless or with sweetener.
“What is this – national cholesterol day?” “No. “Well. staring off into the distance. Her eyes sharpen.” Lael shakes her head firmly.” I say shortly. you know.” I confirm. huh? Hmmm.” she says. *** Team Trinity 181 .” “You two are just one slice of bacon away from a heart attack. “I knew it!” she crows. “You’re just jealous because soon we’re going to be slim and gorgeous. “Hungry. “So who’s looking forward to Gossip Girl tonight?” I say. some other kind of high-protein diet then?” We look down at the table. We could have cream in our tea or coffee. “It’s not bad if you drink it black. You can even die from them. she puts her spoon down with a clatter. Those high-protein diets are very bad for your kidneys. And the horror of it is that she’s right. Sophie. aren’t you?” “No. running a hand down one lean hip.” “Rubbish. trying to distract her. You can almost see the wheels turning inside her head.” She chews on her muesli for a while. we’re just hungry. “I’ve got it! You’re doing the Atkins Diet. but of course there isn’t any. Before anyone can answer. because it has a higher fat content and fewer carbs.” “I don’t need to be jealous because I’m slim and gorgeous already.” Lael scoffs.” Sophie comments from across the table.” “Absolutely not.“Why don’t you have rooibos instead?” she suggests. “You should be careful. “We’re not.
“He’ll be down in a minute. at which I eat a huge pile of cold meat. When he finally appears. and I let my breath out. I’ve hardly had any contact with Zach since that horrible night of the scholarship dinner. That’s got to be a good sign. asking the security guard to buzz Zach for me. I’m going to visit Zach at the Annexe. right? I almost wear a groove in the thin carpet as I pace up and down waiting for Zach. A few minutes later. Well. I hold my breath while he talks into the handset. At least he’s agreed to see me. You can’t have a relationship with someone if you never see them. Just a few BBMs and phone calls. It’s a total win.” says the guard.The huge breakfast carries me happily to lunch. butterflies sliding around in my stomach. When I suggested getting together. This is the easiest diet I’ve ever been on. I’d rather face up to it now. After supper I feel psyched enough to do something I’ve been putting off for days. he’s had enough space now. 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. And then at supper I have three chicken breasts and some more Rooibos tea. I can’t go on like this. I’ve got permission from Matron and everything. 182 Fiona Snyckers . If it’s all over between us. I’m never hungry and I get to eat as much as I like. so I’m going to force the issue. telling Zach there’s a Trinity Luhabe waiting downstairs for him. he said he needed more space. I’m slipping past a couple of postmatric guys on my way into the Annexe. I’m hoping things will get back to normal if I take the initiative. Then I’m standing in reception.
” There’s another slight pause. “I just thought we hadn’t seen each other for a while.” I say. I was going to call you.” “Great! Looking forward to it.” I say. “But will I be allowed?” “If you get written permission from your parents. it’s probably not a good idea to drop by like this in the Team Trinity 183 . “Well. A few of us are going to Monte this weekend to catch a movie and get a bite to eat..” There’s a bit of a pause.. you should be.” “Oh. “They were on their way out. I didn’t even know you’d started one. but I force myself to stand still and smile at him. but unfortunately I’m in the middle of a study group right now. but listen. strolling over to peck me on the cheek. um. “They were just going out for a smoke break.” “Oh. babe.” “Oh . remembering. They’re probably back inside already. “Hey. hating the stammer that creeps into my voice.my heart does a huge bound in my chest.” I try to hide my disappointment. But listen. Is that for A-levels?” “Yes. so I decided to come over and surprise you. stops dead.” “Hey.” “Right. Do you want to come?” “I’d love to!” I say happily. and then starts racing at about 200 beats a minute. Trinity. I really need to go. I’ll BBM you to confirm. “Did we have something organised for tonight? I don’t have anything in my diary. I saw Andrew and Sheldon as I came in.” “Then I’ll do that. I want to rush over and hug him. “Hey. okay.” he says. With Andrew and Sheldon and some of the other guys. We meet most nights. that’s nice. n-no. sorry.
sparkly top that says Friday night. and second. Zach and I are still together! He is still my boyfriend! The bestlooking guy in the entire school.evenings. two questions. and he’s my boyfriend. what am I going to eat tonight?” “Those are both easy.” “Fine. “It’s just a movie at Montecasino. he’s still prepared to go out with me. so I don’t think you need to try too hard.” she corrects. I’m busy with the study group most nights.” “Sure. I wouldn’t go borrowing one of Sophie’s dresses again or anything like that. and we’ll set something up. Just jeans and a top should be fine. Even after what I did at the scholarship dinner. what am I going to wear tonight. Next time.” “Okay.” 184 Fiona Snyckers . We’ve got a date for Friday night! He has totally forgiven me and everything is back to normal. He is so gorgeous – so Hollywood gorgeous – you want to pinch his face to check that it’s real. call first. Then I’ll see you on Friday. “That makes it a casual date. Jeans and a top – a cool. “Great! Thanks for understanding. I’ll remember that.” I say. I knew I was right to visit him tonight! *** “Okay. and it’s the best feeling in the world. “First of all.” “With Zach and a whole bunch of his friends. but it’s a movie with Zach.” Lael says. agreed.” “It might be just a movie.” I practically float out on wings of happiness.” He gives me a much warmer kiss on the mouth. I’ll help you choose one. And he’s nice too.
But just. Me too. don’t worry. Like. you’re right.. “I mean . Very Italian and all protein. and that kind of thing. you can steer clear of the pasta and pizza.” “It’s just what?” “Well . do you ever . “That’s the beauty of the Drinking Man’s Diet. hardly ever. Hey. with egg and cheese and stuff like that in it. “I don’t know. What if there’s nothing I can eat?” “There’s always something you can eat.... do you ever find yourself. You won’t starve. You’re absolutely right. you know. and order the osso bucco or something.“Now what about dinner? I don’t even know which restaurant we’re going to. getting a bit tired of meat and eggs and stuff?” “No!” she says.” “Osso whatsit?” “It’s kind of a meat on the bone thing. then try to have beef the next.. if you’re having lamb the one day. so totally legal from a diet point of view.” “I know. I mean. Team Trinity 185 . too fast. you can still just eat the burger patty and throw away the bun. Hardly ever..” “No..” “The trick is not to eat exactly the same thing every day. you know. I don’t want to break my diet now while it’s going so well.” “And isn’t it awesome to be able to eat as much as you like at every single meal? I mean.” An involuntary spasm crosses my face at the words “egg and cheese”. It’s just. sometimes. “What’s wrong?” Lael asks. And remember you can have a small side salad. just think about it. even if you end up at McDonalds. Even if you go to an Italian restaurant.” Lael says..
it’s amazing. where about seventy-five per cent of my clothes are hanging unworn.” “And no popcorn at the movie. I wish I had access to my huge. I used to eat four eggs. three sausages. Not for the first time.. we won’t ever need to lose weight again in our lives because we’ll have thin-girl appetites.” A smile spreads across my face. When we first started this diet. so I’ll have some meat and a side salad for supper tonight. What will probably happen is that once we go off this diet.. But that’s a good sign. When you’re in a relationship. not-trying-too-hard outfit. I’m not as hungry as I used to be. It’s a million times better than that stupid Brand New You diet. It’s not like dating a different boy every week.” “Duh! Obviously no popcorn at the movie. Thin-girl appetites. and we get to stuff our faces every time we eat. walk-in dressing room at home. right?” “Oh. “You know my clothes are all baggy on you.. I swear there is not one top in here that he hasn’t already seen me in. Please can I borrow something of yours?” Lael shakes her head.” “I know. Now I can just about manage one egg and a bit of bacon. You really need to get a grip and realise that you’re in a relationship now.” I skip over to my cupboard to check out what I’ve got in there. I really like the sound of that.. But the weird thing is. definitely.” Lael nods fiercely. “Zach has already seen every single thing in this cupboard. the guy you’re with is going to start 186 Fiona Snyckers . Trinity.Here we are on diet. “Okay. and a whole pile of bacon for breakfast every day. “Our appetites are normalising. And I’ll wear a normal.
I’ll be grounded for the rest of the term.” “And if someone sees me drinking.” “You mean like neat vodka.” “Thanks. I admit that doesn’t sound very tempting. You can even have a drink tonight if you like.” Team Trinity 187 . “Okay. not a bad thing. “You’re right. How about you?” “Two kilos.. Like this!” I reach into my cupboard and pull out a black-andwhite halter top with sequin detail on the neckline. “The book warns that we’ll only lose water weight at first.” “True.” I take a deep breath. although to be honest. “Ja. he said I looked beautiful. “How much did you lose this week?” Lael asks casually.” I say.. that’s pretty.seeing you in the same clothes. Good choice.” She flashes me a quick smile.” I say staunchly. but at least you know you could if you wanted to.” “Okay.” “Soon to become more toned. There is that. The last time I wore it. I’ll just choose something that Zach really likes.” “Two kilos? Well done! That’s awesome. but I definitely feel lighter. It’s a good thing. giving my tummy a satisfied pat.” “You look lighter too. or gin?” I shudder at the thought. You’re so lucky your arms and shoulders are so toned. “And the best part is that we’re going into the weekend knowing we don’t have to starve ourselves. I can’t really see a big difference yet. or whisky. I swear it’s flatter. “A kilo.
” My soppy smile runs over into a giggle as Lael starts making vomiting noises. He makes me feel dizzy enough. I don’t need alcohol. Anyway.“I can’t run the risk of not being allowed out with Zach again. 188 Fiona Snyckers .
You always do. you said you loved it. “The last time I wore it. Don’t you think you should be wearing a dress? Ava is wearing one. “Montecasino is quite a smart place. and I don’t feel as though you really did.” We’re at the Postmatric Annexe waiting for Zach’s two friends and their girlfriends to get back from the loo.” I point out. but I’d not met their dates.” Zach puts an arm around my shoulders. “Give me five minutes and I’ll dash back to Sisulu House to put on a dress. and about a ton of makeup. Why?” “Trinity.” I try to keep the hurt out of my voice. Muhammad isn’t a particularly trendy guy. Zach pulls a face.” I suggest.CHAPTER 22 “IS THAT what you’re wearing tonight?” I tug self-consciously at my top. before. I already knew Ben and Muhammad from the Annexe.” “And I do. “I know.” “You said I looked beautiful in this top. “You do look beautiful. I thought she looked a bit over-the-top myself. yes. “Nazeera is in jeans. but don’t quite succeed. But it makes me feel bad that my girlfriend hasn’t made as much of an effort as Ava.” “I can change. it is.” Team Trinity 189 . But that’s her.” Zach says patiently. Ava has gone all out in a slinky dress and heels. “Um .. It’s just that I made an effort tonight.. Ava and Nazeera.
” “I know. When you can’t even run up a flight of stairs without almost fainting. Within seconds. that’s a wake-up call. Like Ava has. sure.. are you all right?” Nosipho steps forward to catch my arm as I stumble. “I guess there’s time..” She guides me backwards onto her bed and pushes my head down between my knees. “I thought you were going out with Zach.” “What happened?” Lael asks. Lael and some of the others are getting ready to go to a social at St Declan’s High School. Trinity.” “Okay. “I ran up the stairs.. Soon. sit down. the room does a sick spin around me.” 190 Fiona Snyckers . With makeup and stuff. “Trinity! Hey. And while you’re at it..” “What are you doing here. you know. And I will.. and throw myself into the dormitory.” I whirl around and run out of the Annexe towards Sisulu House. “What? My eyes? Should I do something to my eyes?” “If you could kind of make them stand out a bit more. thanks. everything comes back into focus. but instead he nods his head like he’s thinking about it. As I try to catch my breath. The movie only starts at eight.” I puff. maybe you could .” “You really should start running with me. anyway?” Nosipho asks.I’m expecting him to say that it doesn’t matter and not to bother. hovering anxiously. “Here.” He makes sweeping motions in front of his eyes. I bound up the stairs two at a time. Give me a second. I must be really unfit because I felt all woozy when I got to the top.. “Feeling better?” “Yes. “Just a bit out of breath.
yanking open my cupboard and flipping through the hangers. one of them is. “It’s the last weekend of the month. “Did you really need to change?” Ben asks as we pile into his SUV. Trinity?” Muhammad asks. Well. but judging from the way Zach is pressing his lips together. “It’s more about fitting in with the others. swipe on a ton of mascara.” I change in record time.” I agree. only more so.” Lael’s face clears. and dash back downstairs. This is something she can sympathise with.” I say. “What’s that. “I need to get moving. I thought I was quick.” “Well.. *** Montecasino is its usual hectic self. I don’t want to be the dowdy one.” Zach laughs. I give his arm a squeeze and we settle into the backseat together. Zach thought I’d be more comfortable if I smartened up a bit too. I don’t want to keep everyone waiting. they’ve been waiting for me for a while. “Your pink and black dress?” “That’s exactly what I was thinking. so I shrug. “You know what girls are like. The other girls are wearing dresses.” “Just to go to the movies?” Lael asks.. “Why is it so crowded tonight?” Ava asks as we join the long queue to get through the security checkpoint. “I thought you looked fine the way you were. Team Trinity 191 .” I don’t really know what to say to this.“I came back to change.
and now they can’t wait to lose all their money at the casino. I open my mouth to speak. like I’ve cracked the theory of relativity. but his face is unreadable. I feel like Jonah being swallowed by the whale. I glance nervously at Zach. As always when I walk into the endless twilight of Montecasino. “I love how everything is made up to look like a Tuscan village. as we stroll past a fake washing line. trying to work out if I’m doing the right thing or not.” says Ava.” he replies.” “Oh. right!”says Nazeera. It’s better to say nothing. but catch Zach’s eye and close it again.I shrink a bit as all eyes swivel towards me. This is a strange.” I say before my silence becomes ridiculous. I was going to say that I’d been to Tuscany a couple of times and it didn’t look anything like this. disorienting place where the sun doesn’t rise or set. 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. “Everyone has just been paid.” I subside into silence again as we hold out our bags to be searched and head down the escalators towards the movies. But maybe that would sound boastful or know-it-all. “That makes sense. 192 Fiona Snyckers . “What movie are we going to see?” I ask as we join the queue for tickets. It feels like we’re not really in Africa any more. “Blood Frenzy. I’m still feeling a bit freaked about making a fool of myself at the scholarship dinner. “I only said that it’s the last weekend of the month.
but now it’s turning out to be awesome. “I’ll get that.“Yay! Is it out already? I’ve been dying to see it ever since I first heard they were making it. It’s one of my all-time favourites. I decide to do exactly that. I slip my arm through Zach’s and snuggle up against him as the queue inches forward. Then I realise that he’s not going to. exactly. and I read a rumour that Taylor Lautner makes a cameo appearance. to be fair. But obviously I get more pocket money than he does. It’s not as though I was actually waiting for him to pay for me. But I think I brushed through it pretty well.” Feeling a lot happier. and have to fumble for my purse.” I say as the server starts ringing up our purchases. Apparently this movie is a prequel that explains exactly how the vampire-human hybrid community came into being. and I kind of hang back as though I’m expecting Zach to pay for mine. I’ve been watching the Blood Frenzy series on TV ever since it started two years ago. My reward comes right away as Zach gives me a warm smile and takes my hand as we start filing into the movie theatre. And as we join the popcorn queue. I should probably pay for him. and how the rivalry between the two factions originated. In fact. “Thanks!” he whispers against my ear. sending little shocks of pleasure all the way down my spine. The evening might have started badly with my stupid choice of clothes. It stars all the original cast-members. so it’s ridiculous to expect him to pay for me. Team Trinity 193 . There’s one awkward moment when Ben and Muhammad pay for their girlfriends’ tickets. It’s more that I wasn’t concentrating and reacted a bit late.
buttery popcorn all around me while I’m clutching nothing but a diet soda can spoil my mood. and Zach will be even more attracted to me than he is now. Getting thin will be totally worth the sacrifice. How can I possibly not be hungry now? Okay. either. 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. and tender and pink on the inside. it’s not that I’m not hungry. What’s the matter with me? I really need to eat. And not the good kind of floating. Muhammed and Nazeera kiss all the way through the movie. if I’m honest. somehow. Afterwards we go to a Bridles steakhouse for supper. just like the TV series. as I’m about to start my second chop. Not even the fact that I can smell delicious hot. The chops are perfect – crispy and slightly charred on the outside. It’s nearly ten by now and I’m feeling a bit hollow from lack of food. And the first bite goes down really well. I felt like I was floating from hunger. More like the kind where there’s a rat gnawing away at your insides. it’s just that I’m not hungry for my chops. Everyone else orders burgers. It’s the perfect meal for my diet. I feel a longing so strong 194 Fiona Snyckers . and I’m quite relieved that Zach doesn’t want to do the same – this is one movie I’m really keen on seeing. But. But when I look across the table at the golden pile of garlic bread gleaming next to Ava’s plate. my hunger deserts me and the thought of cramming one more piece of meat into my mouth fills me with horror. When we walked out of the movies. The movie is every bit as good as I expected – creepy and sexy at the same time.
“Er . and I go back to staring at the garlic bread. Ivan and Jessica are talking after the battle of the cave. I need to finish my chops and Team Trinity 195 .” “Really?” Nazeera leans across the table. smack her hand away. I realised she was pregnant. “It was in the second series. and grab all that bread for myself. “I didn’t get that.” she says. Trinity?” “Yes?” I look up. Like why the Bloods and the Whites have been feuding for so long. Okay. With an effort I pull it back to Nazeera. and he tells her that his mother’s name was Hecate. And I loved the ending. “Sorry.” Ava chimes in with some remark... where does she get off ordering garlic bread and a hamburger. I can’t spend my whole life obsessing about carbs. because you know that the child Hecate is carrying will turn out to be Ivan.I can only call it a craving. I mean. and why a Blood female can only have children with a White male. this is not good. I was thinking of something else.” I say. I want to lean over the table. “Sure. I thought it was awesome. dazed. I loved the movie. Ava is waving a hand in front of my face. Yes. “I just asked if you liked the movie.” My attention wants to wander back to the garlic bread. but I didn’t know she was Ivan’s mom. anyway? Does the girl actually want to die of a carb overload? It would do her good to cut back a bit. but you were a million miles away. and that kind of thing. 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. It answered a lot of questions that the TV series left hanging.
Stop thinking about food. Fruit juice. Stop it. I’d give anything to drink a beverage that isn’t fizzy. It would have led to a political argument. I manage to finish the three small lamb chops without gagging. 196 Fiona Snyckers . 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. There! Take that. because that’s what got me into trouble last time. and not to flash my opinions around all the time. trying to enjoy the sweetness of the drink. I pick up my knife and fork and attack my plate like a serial killer. and almost throw my cutlery down in a gesture of victory. It’s the first time I’ve been out with him since the scholarship dinner. Tonight is very important for Zach and me. It’s been nearly two weeks since I had any fruit juice.force my body to realise that it has eaten. Trinity. meat. Just after the movie. which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. I grab my glass of Coke Lite and take several long swallows. I try to focus on how this date is going. It’s just not natural. But all it does is make me aware of another craving. It hasn’t been easy. Lael and I buy cans of the stuff at the tuck shop and keep them in our cupboards to drink when we come back from breakfast. I’m trying not to talk too much. Muhammad made some boring and predictable remark about how lame the ANC Youth League is. No one should have to drink Coke Lite for breakfast. I’ve even been having Coke Lite for breakfast. This is my big chance to prove that I’m not always a complete disaster in company. But I didn’t.
but not too full of myself.25 and I send up a little prayer of thanks. not to score points off each other. So all in all. We pay the bill just after eleven and troop back to the SUV. At 11. There’s so much I want to say to him. We’re out to have fun. 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. I think I’ve done pretty well this time around. but luckily Muhammad and Nazeera are just as keen on that idea as I am – which is to say not at all. thanks to his blackbag-over-the-security-camera trick. Can’t this stupid car go any faster? Ben pulls up in front of the Postgrad Annexe at exactly 11. this will have been the perfect evening. but even I know where Chiefs are standing in the play-offs at the moment.34 we all say goodbye to each other. There’s one awkward moment when it looks as though we might all be going to have coffee in the common room.37 Zach and I are up in his room. Zach and I hold hands in the back seat and I find myself tensing up every time we stop at a red light. It looks like I’ve finally managed to find the right balance. I know I’m not much of a soccer-watcher. I know he’s been having skydiving lessons this week. We have 23 whole minutes alone together! Team Trinity 197 . and I’m dying to ask about them to make up for the time I showed no interest in his tandem jump.Then Ben said something that proved he was getting confused between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. I’ve been friendly and occasionally chatty. I could have corrected him. but Zach doesn’t want me arguing with his friends. and by 11.
For about ten blissful seconds. “It’s nothing important.. There’s no point in wasting time. leaning back from the kiss but keeping my hands linked behind his neck. Zach sits down on his chair. trying to recapture that lovely. I run my fingers through his hair and sink into it. floaty feeling. Come back here. and then I feel him pulling away. I’m fine. but this time I resist. He shakes his head. But he’s looking preoccupied. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “No. really. “What is it?” I ask again. I smile up at him.. it wouldn’t be bothering you.” And he wraps his arms around me for another gorgeous kiss.” I say.” He tries to pull me against him again. I hesitate. “No. “Now you have to tell me what the matter is. thinking he wants to relocate to the bed or something. sounding weirdly like my own mother. He feels distracted – like he’s not fully committed to this. he kisses me back. “Zach.” “If it wasn’t important. But something’s not quite right. There’s nothing wrong. Now I’m sorry.?” 198 Fiona Snyckers . do you?” He shakes his head as though to clear it. it’s nothing. but no one can really lose themselves in a kiss when their eyes are open.” I say. “Are you feeling okay? You don’t have a headache or anything. I put my arms around Zach and lift my face for a long kiss. With a soft sigh. Something is definitely wrong.The second the door closes behind us. “It isn’t anything I’ve done. concerned. and my anxiety level ratchets up a notch. I open my eyes a crack and see that his are wide open. while I sink onto the bed. is it?” He doesn’t answer.
You know what I mean?” I nod vigorously again. I just wanted to show them what a cool girlfriend I’ve got. but then comes to a decision.” “I promise I won’t. What do you take me for?” “You’re just going to get upset. making me jump. “Then why were you so quiet and dull tonight?” he demands. looking down at his hands. Everyone else was chatting away.” I nod to show I’m listening carefully.“I really don’t want to get into this. it’s about tonight. “I mean. “You’re just going to think I’m hypercritical.” Team Trinity 199 .” “You’ve got me worried now. “Well. And Nazeera and Ava didn’t know you at all. If I’ve done something wrong.. you know?” he says. You hardly said a thing the whole evening.” I plead. “Okay.” I say again. I keep wanting to shout from the rooftops how lucky I am to have snagged Zach as my boyfriend. The other girls must have thought you were a total airhead.” “I promise I won’t! I would never think that about you. Like I’m always finding fault with you. “I was really looking forward to showing you off to my friends. “Quiet and dull?” “Yes. but they’ve never gotten to know you. but you just sat there like a lump. I know Ben and Muhammad have met you before. please tell me what it is. If you really want to know. I feel the same way. I know exactly what he means. How else will I have a chance to fix it?” He drops his head into his hands..” He looks agonised for a moment.
It’s like trying to think through thick porridge. he rages on. “You see!” He bangs his hand on his desk. and I talked to Nazeera about . I promised. about.” he says patiently..” “But . 200 Fiona Snyckers ..” “No. waiting for me to answer. but.” My tongue is all tied up in knots. “Trinity... I talked to Ava about the movie. you said I was talking too much. I knew you were right about the scholarship dinner and that’s exactly why I was trying to be less talkative tonight. “Don’t you see that it makes me look bad when you just sit there with nothing to say for yourself? Those were my good friends. but my throat has closed up. no.... But instead you just came across as stupid. fun girl you are. 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. Then it fades and he drops his hands at his sides. “But after the scholarship dinner. “What I meant was.” I try to remember what other conversations I had tonight. “I knew you’d say that I’m always criticising you. but I wasn’t totally silent the whole night. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.. 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 see?” For a second the angry red flush in Zach’s face deepens.” I finally manage.He looks up at me. but my mind has gone blank.” I say timidly.. I promised him I wouldn’t get upset. I wanted to show them what a cool.
” Team Trinity 201 . his hand comes up to stroke my hair. Trinity. As I let my body melt against him. “You really are a silly-billy.” I touch his shoulder gently. “Shhh . but then – thank goodness – he turns towards me and takes me into his arms. shhh...“One conversation the whole night. this sweet. 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. simple gesture unleashes my tears in a way that his earlier anger didn’t. I didn’t realise how quiet I was being. honestly.” For a moment he hesitates.. Then he reaches for a tissue and carefully dries my eyes. I didn’t mean to let you down. half-laugh. I feel a familiar burn of anxiety in my belly. “I’m so sorry. “It’s okay. I’m still learning. doesn’t count. “I just don’t understand how someone with your upbringing can be such a funny little thing in company. Please give me another chance.” He bites his lip and turns away from me. I’d have thought your parents would have taught you how to handle all kinds of social situations. Don’t make me wonder the same thing. So by mistake I went over to the opposite extreme and didn’t say enough. For some reason. where you basically just said yes and no.” He cups his hand under my chin and makes me look up at him. I was trying to compensate for talking too much the other evening. You’re doing your best – I know you are. aren’t you?” I give a little half-sob.” he soothes as he feels me shaking silently against his chest.. Trinity. I’ll do better next time. “Zach.
202 Fiona Snyckers . It’s lucky you’ve got me to help you..I try to think back to the kind of life we led at home. it’s not too late. but everything is a bit confused. I don’t think a boy your own age would be much use with this kind of thing.” I snuggle against his chest and let the warmth of his body soothe my worries away. “I . All I can think of right now is how good it feels to be in Zach’s arms.. I guess they never got round to it.” “Well.
and who they got off with. She enjoys the flirting and the dating. I can’t help feeling a twinge of envy. we could have gone too and been part of the fun. at least I’m not obsessing about food any more. Team Trinity 203 . I’ve never once known her to be really hurt by a boy. She’s in too much of a good mood. They’re all chatting happily about who was there.CHAPTER 23 ON THE bright side. It sounds like they had a really awesome time. but she doesn’t take it seriously. But the best part is that she never lets herself care too much. Lucky cow. but mostly they’re just focused on rehashing the evening. 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. but the rest of my evening was an absolute disaster. If only Zach didn’t look down on high-school socials. I get back to Sisulu House just as everyone else is returning from the social at St Declan’s. who they talked to. She’s been a boy magnet ever since the day she first started to grow breasts. Lael and Yasmin ask me how the movie was. having hooked up with a cute St Declan’s boy at the social. In a way. 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. I’m not sorry I got to see the movie.
and I manage to snap out of it.” “What are you doing?” I hiss back. pull on our PJs. I worry that I’m going to lie awake thinking about what happened tonight.” A heavy weight descends on my toes as she sits down at the foot of the bed. She wakes up if a fly farts in China. “What’s up. How pathetic is that? I’m not usually a cry-baby. What the heck is that? When people get up to go to the loo. “Why are you out of bed?” “You woke me with your crying. but instead I go out like a light.Then I remind myself that we don’t do jealousy or resentment in our friendship. I wake up some time later to find the dorm pitch dark and silent. they normally make way more noise than that. babe? I thought you were looking peaky earlier. Tell Auntie Lael all about it. brush our teeth. I dash my hands across my cheeks. “You know what Matron’s like. and crash into bed. The whispered conversations carry on for a while.” Somehow it’s easier in the dark. wondering what woke me. then freeze as I hear a stealthy movement on the other side of my cubicle. 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 . We take off our makeup. “Shhhh!” hisses Lael. I lie still for a moment. but lately I’ve been grizzling like a three-year-old. about ten seconds before lights out. Then I feel the wetness on my pillow and realise that I’ve been crying in my sleep. but Matron’s last walkthrough of the night soon puts a stop to that.
” she says after a pause. but I just wanted to say one more thing. “We’ve talked it all through.” There is a little light filtering into the cubicle from the window above my bed. the movie this evening. “But it’s okay now. “I don’t know what to say.” We both turn around sharply as we hear another noise.” I finish on a hiccupping sob. “I’ve also thought of that.” she whispers.. but still . I used to think you were pretty good at it. We’re going to work together to help me become more comfortable in company. Plus he hangs out with an older crowd.” I sniff. most of his friends are already at varsity. Then we both relax as Sophie appears at the entrance to my cubicle. It shows Lael’s face squinched up in a frown.” Sophie glides into my cubicle in one of the ivory satin negligee-thingies she always sleeps in. I would have thought.” Team Trinity 205 .” Lael says. Zach doesn’t blame me for any of it. “I thought you were Matron for sure. “That doesn’t sound like you at all. and Lael ducks out of sight behind my bed. “Sorry. “I couldn’t help hearing what you guys were saying. The scholarship dinner. It’s got something to do with Zach. pounding a fist against her chest. In fact.. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just don’t know what to say to them. And whatever I say seems to be wrong. Trinity and I have already discussed it. you scared me. You’ve never had trouble making small talk. I mean.” “I know. self-pitying rush.. Everything that’s been on my mind comes out in a great big.. I love him so much that I get nervous around him.” “Ja. “Geez.keeping from her.
and I sink down under the covers.” Lael snorts. and that’s it. “On BBM. I can’t help squirming. I can show you the messages if you like. she backs out and softly closes the door.“You have?” Lael says. “How?” Lael demands. This time when I fall asleep.” Sophie goes on. They were all like. Matron puts her head around the door and stares at us for a long time. but I suppose it’s better to hear it from a friend than never to know about it. “The whole thing just sounds odd to me. I’ve told you now. “Isn’t it better for her to know about this stuff than to find out about it when it’s too late?” Lael is about to say something when we all hear a noise in the passage outside the dormitory.” I mutter. directing an accusing stare at me. Lael is still frowning like a Shar Pei puppy.” “Well. haven’t I?” “I heard about tonight as well. When she’s satisfied that all is quiet. Some of the people who were at the movie with you were discussing it this evening. I stay that way until morning. “Anyway. Basically everyone’s taking bets on how soon Zach is going to break up with you. 206 Fiona Snyckers .” I’m cringing at the thought of people discussing me on BBM. I reckon you’ve got one more chance with him. Two seconds later. ‘Who is this Trinity girl and why can’t she speak up for herself? What does Zach see in her?’ and so on. “What?” whispers Sophie. “She’d already heard about it. Sophie and Lael melt back to their own cubicles like shadows. it was a big topic on BBM.
*** It just goes to show that sometimes a wake-up call is all you need. Now never seems like a good time. There are only two things bugging me now: My insane craving for carbs. I really believe that communication is the key to a successful relationship. Zach and I spoke honestly about how we both felt. but still. and not one has been a disaster. I got through them okay. and I tried to listen in a non-defensive way. He told me openly what he wasn’t happy about. All right. and that’s all that counts. and I’m starting to run out of excuses. The other day. So instead I try to listen calmly. We’re getting on brilliantly at the moment and I’m more in love with him than ever. we’ll never get anywhere. Nosipho and Yasmin and Priya keep asking me when I’m going to do it. they weren’t really high-pressure dates like the scholarship dinner. and take on board any advice he gives me. After each one. I’ve now seen Zach three times since that night at Montecasino. I keep meaning to go over to Gumede House to buzz James and ask him to help us. and My guilty conscience because I still haven’t set up the dry run for our plan to pinch the Gumede Shield. It would help if I didn’t feel so utterly exhausted all the time. I planned to join Lael on her Team Trinity 207 . but I haven’t got around to it yet. Like he says. if I keep on bursting into tears every time he has a constructive suggestion to make.
Then we wasted another ten minutes saying stuff to each other like. we ended up flopped on chairs in the common room. We had such high expectations of those things. on ten then. 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. but we haven’t. “Yes. and then do a long session with those kettlebells we bought in Sandton City while we were still doing the Brand New You diet. “Okay. The plan was to go for a run. Bent double and dragging air into our lungs. which makes me even less likely to take action.” Once we finally did manage to get going. Lael is as unmotivated as I am to do anything about the Gumede Shield. I guess we must have caught the same bug or something.early morning run. Luckily she also seemed to be having a low-energy day. “Okay. let’s go now”. There’s nothing weird about me being drastically unfit – that’s my default state – but Lael is a real exercise bunny. taking about ten minutes just to tie the laces on our trainers. They were supposed to tone and firm us all over. we decided to postpone our exercise session for another day. Instead of running and kettlebelling. It’s strange that she should have been having a bad day at the exact same time as I was. It’s a bit mortifying to think how seldom we’ve actually used them. We’re both dragging ourselves around the school like a pair of ancient grannies. we only made it as far as the Founders’ Block before we had to stop. 208 Fiona Snyckers . we really should” and “I’m going to count to ten and then we’re going to stand up”. I’d feel better about it if we had recovered since then. but I could hardly get out of bed.
. I wanted to know what was happening with this plan of yours to steal the Jan Smuts Shield. This is the third time someone has commented on my breath in the last week. We probably haven’t been washing our hands enough or something.Luckily. “Sit over there if you don’t like it.. but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. And James must be standing at least three feet away from me.” “Yes. Lael and I have both caught some kind of virus. “You look like something the cat dragged in. “Your skin is grey. I think about excusing myself to run upstairs and have another go with the Listerine. eyes closed. waving at a faraway chair. “Are you sick or something?” “Seems like it. but I can’t be bothered. Trinity?” “What do you mean?” I yawn hugely and rub my eyes. I usually have Drama at this time. it’s me. but it was cancelled. and your breath stinks to high heaven. James takes the decision out of my hands by coming looking for me.” My head jerks up. It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I’m alone in the common room.” I say. “Oh. I’ve been swilling Listerine like it’s going out of style.” I put a self-conscious hand in front of my mouth. I’m leaning my head back against the chair. your eyes are red. What’s wrong with you. I’m drifting in and out of a half-awake state. We feel awful.” “What’s that got to do with it?” He shakes his head.” “My breath. “Never mind. “What?” I stare dazedly up at James.” Team Trinity 209 . I haven’t heard anything about it for weeks. it’s you.
“So when do you want to do this?” I hesitate. Maybe Lael and I should go and see Matron.” I pull a guilty face. is there?” “Fine. My knees are trembling and I’m light-headed. Talking strategy with James has cheered me up. Okay. I want to catch a nap before I have to go down to Homework.” *** About twenty minutes later. but I’m still exhausted. You can do this. that’s what we’ll do. One more flight of stairs to go. impulsiveness wrestling with tiredness. We want to do a dry run – like a walkthrough of the plan. “Let’s do it tomorrow. Trinity.“I know. 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. We wanted to ask if you would be our look-out. I say goodbye to James and start traipsing up the stairs. Not now. Extramurals will be over soon.” “Okay. There’s no point in waiting. “Tomorrow!” I say before I can change my mind.” he says. Somehow I feel hungry and nauseous at the same time. But tomorrow. “I’ve been meaning to get hold of you for ages. 210 Fiona Snyckers . The idea was to get as far as unlocking the trophy cabinet. Impulsiveness wins. I know. but not actually taking out the shield. Yes. Tomorrow’s Wednesday. because she might make us stay in bed and we’ve got the dry run to worry about. when it’s all over. obviously. But we need to plan it out properly. just to make sure no one walks in on us.
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. “Sure. I try to summon up a bright smile as I hoist myself up the last couple of stairs. Matron! I’m just fi---” And then I slide bonelessly to the ground at her feet. “Are you okay?” she asks me in Xhosa. Team Trinity 211 .
” Matron says grimly. “What is it?” 212 Fiona Snyckers .. “I came out of my office because I heard you wheezing up the stairs like an asthmatic and then you fainted clean away. “Both normal..” “No. “That’s good. isn’t it?” “Well . “What .” Matron sticks a thermometer under my tongue and attaches a blood-pressure cuff to my arm.. “Lael’s got it too. forcing me to wake up. are you. You’re not asthmatic. Trinity. I’m not asthmatic..” I have to bite my cheeks against a ridiculous urge to burst into tears. yes and no. “I think I’ve caught a bug.. We haven’t been right lately. drinking some of the water she hands me. what?” I open my eyes and find myself in Matron’s office. It seems to stab into my brain. but right now let’s see what’s wrong with you.CHAPTER 24 I come to with the smell of something sharp and astringent in my nose.” I say at last.” Something about the way she says my name makes my eyes snap open in alarm.” she says. Trinity? It’s not in your file. She’s holding a little bottle of something horrible under my nose. “I’ll examine her when she gets back from extramurals.. What on earth is wrong with me? I must be sick. “What happened?” “You tell me.” I close my eyes while she notes down my temperature and blood pressure.
but it’s one of the symptoms of diabetes.” I screw up my face as I try to think. I wasn’t paying much attention at the time. wait a minute. “This is no worse than getting a vaccination. Team Trinity 213 . wait. “Just a minute . like the one Lael and I are on. it’s explaining to Matron that you’re on a diet.” “Diabetes!” My heart gives a huge bound in my chest.” Okay. Uh oh. sharp needle. and everything will be fine. please. Maybe I should just let her test me for diabetes – it’ll be negative.. I’m sorry. Any minute now she is going to grab me by the ear and force me back onto the table. just hang on a minute!” I squeal. If there’s anything worse than actually having diabetes. wriggling away as she reaches for my arm. and you’ve had plenty of those.. Trinity.. I was Googling highprotein diets. The d-word makes her practically froth at the mouth. now she’s coming at me with a needle. I know. Have you found that you are any thirstier than normal?” “Wait . But just . I can’t be...“I’m going to take some blood from you now to send off to the lab. “Roll up your sleeve..” she says patiently. You need to know that it will be checked for suspected diabetes. Ketosis? Wasn’t there something about that on Google? It’s coming back to me now.” “I know.” She watches me with tight. Your body is actually consuming itself. I can smell it coming off your breath. A very long. and it said something about going into ketosis. but that word definitely rings a bell. “Trinity. pressed-together lips. “But I’m not diabetic.” “You’re in ketosis.
But the truth is that I have absolutely no intention of refusing. A few minutes later. sweet nectar of life! I lift up a piece of toast and let the wonderful. and goes out of the room.. “Wait here. hypothetically speaking. But inside I’m going. mouthwateringly blissful aroma. I hear footsteps coming down the corridor. The texture.. “Eat this. If you refuse. the sweet tang of the jam. shoving a plate of toast under my nose.” Matron orders. of course. Strawberry jam! At last! Come to my arms. Then I bite into it and it is literally the most delicious thing I have ever tasted in my life. “Let’s just say.“Okay. “Strawberry jam?” I say. pulling a face for form’s sake. you’re-going-to-die kind of way. groaning in protest. that someone had been on a high-protein diet for a few weeks. My heart is pounding uncomfortably in my chest. the crunchiness. I’m calling your mother right now. homey smell wash over me. “No nonsense and no arguing. enticing. If I have any exertion or excitement.” I sit up. I’m only too delighted to have someone take the decision out of my hands and force me to consume carbs for medicinal purposes. A wonderful. and my nostrils are attacked by an aroma.” Matron continues to eye me narrowly for a moment. Then she sighs and puts down the syringe. 214 Fiona Snyckers .” I take a deep breath.” she says curtly. That’s another thing I’ve noticed lately. my heart jumps around in my chest in a super-unpleasant. Could that potentially cause these same symptoms? Hypothetically speaking.
Basically. NOW!” I creep to the corner and peer down the stairs. I’m planning on finding Lael to give her a heads-up that Matron is on the warpath.” “Then sit down again so I can kill you. but it doesn’t even seem to register. Lael is reeling up them like a drunk person. yes. her eyes meet mine with dull disinterest. “Better?” she asks as I pick the final crumbs off the plate with the tip of my finger.” *** Half an hour later. I slink out of Matron’s office and look from side to side. still alive but only just. But as I turn towards our dormitory I hear Matron shouting down the stairs. Get your sorry butt into my office. “Lael Lieberman! I can see you. yeasty deliciousness of the bread. I give her a sympathetic smile. I think I might faint all over again from the sheer joy of it. “Much better!” “You think you’re going to live?” “I do.the wheaty. Her skin is pale and pasty-looking. Matron watches me grimly as I practically inhale every morsel of the three slices of toast she has brought me. she looks like I felt less than an hour ago. before I had my emergency injection of toast. She is so caught up in the misery Team Trinity 215 . I just hope she doesn’t keel over at the top of the stairs like I did. As she gets to the top. I wave my arms around experimentally and take a couple of steps across the room. I take a deep breath and slide off the examination table. and she’s puffing and panting as though her school bag weighs three tons.
and she’s walking with a suggestion of the old bounce in her step. Seriously. No more diets for me. that sweaty sheen is gone from her skin. and how I should just sign up for more sport so I could get some exercise. Lael will just get the English part. The lecture part wasn’t fun. but apart from that she’s a completely different person to the zombie I saw climbing up the stairs. 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. Just before suppertime. I’m pretty sure it’ll be fine. She’s looking a bit disgruntled. but she won’t get off any easier than I did. huh?” I say sympathetically. I’m just glad she’s going to get some carbs like I did. but a tiny part of me is terrified that I’ve gone and seriously damaged my health. She told me stuff about kidney function and organ failure that basically scared the spit out of me. no more. I decide. There’s colour in her cheeks. Matron blasted me about the dangers of high-protein diets. Then she launched into a diatribe about how my weight is completely healthy and normal. Lael comes back into the dormitory. And to add insult to injury. pressing two fingers against a little wad of cottonwool on the inside of her arm. that’s for sure.of feeling horrible that she’s not even curious about why Matron is calling her. “The vampire got you too. The whole lecture was in the rapid-fire mixture of Xhosa and English that she uses when she gets excited. 216 Fiona Snyckers . I’ll get the results back tomorrow.
When there’s none. I’m looking forward to having some dessert after supper.’ That’s not how it happened. I checked the website earlier – it’s apple pie and cream tonight.” A huge smile splits my face in half. when my meeting with James comes back to me in a rush.” “Why were you here this afternoon.” I say. “They make me itch. Then she wanted to draw blood from me to check for diabetes. Man.” she says. I didn’t tell on you. It didn’t even cross my mind that it could be the diet. before lifting the cotton pad and checking for bleeding. hey! I totally forgot to mention that I ran into James today.” Team Trinity 217 .” “So how did it happen?” “I was walking up the stairs and I fainted when I got to the top. “There’s no way we could have carried on like that. ‘Oh. She flops down on her bed and for a moment we look at each other. Matron! Lael is also on a diet. she was all like. “Oh.” I blurt out. “Look. anyway? I thought you had Drama.” she explains.” “It’s just as well. she tosses it into a dustbin. pointing to the Bandaid that is still attached to my arm. We’ve set up the dry run for tomorrow morning. “I got a plaster as well. “I wasn’t like. When I came around.” I start explaining that it was cancelled. ‘What the heck?’ So I told her I thought you and I had caught a bug because we’d been feeling so lousy lately. and that’s when I told her everything. “Apple pie and cream! I thought I’d never taste that again.She pulls a face.
Meeting in my cubicle after seven. “We’ve got no time to set it up.” Lael jumps off the bed with more energy than I’ve seen from her in weeks. let’s do this. we have got time. And there are only a few weeks to go before the end of term. Just tell everyone there’s a strategy meeting tonight and we’ll go through all the details.Lael sits bolt upright and goggles at me. It 218 Fiona Snyckers . “Okay. “I was a bit busy being unconscious and having blood drawn. in case you’ve forgotten. the sooner we can pinch the shield for real.” *** At supper I choose a tiny bit of roast chicken (I really can’t face protein at the moment). and some veggies. She grabs her iPad and flicks to the Operation Shield file. I’ll work out a schedule for everyone and email it around just before supper. We’ll start as soon as Sophie leaves.” I say defensively. it’ll be a whole week before we get another chance. “You’ve what?” “The dry run.” “Oh. so sorry. And anyway. And for dessert I help myself to a healthy wedge of apple pie with cream. so it’ll be perfect. three pieces of roast potato. Why didn’t you tell me before? You could have dropped me a BBM at least. We really need to get going on this. Tomorrow’s Wednesday. James is totally on board for tomorrow. Sophie has a violin lesson at seven. The sooner we get this done.” “But Trinity!” She’s drumming her fingers on her thighs like she does when she’s stressed out. I’ve organised with him that we’ll do it tomorrow. remember? If we don’t do it now.
” Lael mutters in my ear as she stands up from the table.” “Were you expecting someone else?” “No.” I realise what I’ve just said. “See you at seven. I know exactly what we need to do.. I notice Sophie giving a quick glance in our direction. I mean. it doesn’t matter. “Oh. no. It’ll give me something to focus on. did we?” “We didn’t. He must have come down to supper early and left already. 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 say with a smile. Plus I don’t have that cheesy taste in my mouth any more. but there’s no sign of him in the dining-hall. And the sweetness of the apple pie has me almost swooning. “You startled me.” Zach’s voice speaking directly behind me makes me jump almost out of my skin. With my new energy. I was in a bit of a dream-world. we didn’t have an arrangement for this evening.” he says. Now that I know it was actually coming from my lungs as I exhaled ketones. Anyway. “Trinity. I just want to get up and do something. “What’s up? Why are you so jumpy?” “Sorry. that’s good.. I wish I could run through the whole thing with James one more time. I understand why all the Listerine in the world wasn’t helping. He puts a hand on my shoulder and looks at me narrowly. It’s good that we have the dry run tomorrow. “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. of course not. I mean. but there’s no way she could have heard.
They’re looking back over their shoulders at me. I just mean it’s good that we didn’t have an arrangement that I forgot about. honestly.” And now I’m babbling. I know..arrangement. I’m not tense at all. “I . He shakes his head. “What do you mean.” “That’s good. “You’re so absent-minded. Because my forgetting would have been bad.. not exactly.” “No. 220 Fiona Snyckers .” “I was just wondering whether you wanted to hang out tomorrow. of course I’m not in a hurry.” His eyebrows snap together. I can’t. trying to scrape some kind of excuse together. you can’t? You know how seldom I manage to get time off during the day. no . It’s getting worse every day. You really ought to do something about it. as he notices me glancing past him.. I bring my eyes back to Zach’s.” I turn away from him. “You’re looking so tense. I’ve got a bit of free time during your first break..” “Are you in a hurry?” he asks. I force myself to stop talking and smile at him. Are you telling me you’re already busy?” “I . “No. Nosipho. Yasmin and Priya are all heading into Sisulu House.. Their A-level tutoring happens at odd times during the day.” “Oh!” Disappointment clutches at me. Trinity. not the arrangement.” “Yes. sliding a hand up my arm and starting to rub the back of my neck. The meeting is going to start soon.” he says.. It’s true that Zach and I don’t often manage to hang out at break time. The postmatrics are on a different schedule to the rest of us.
” “Is there a problem here?” We turn around to find Matron glaring at us.. We missed our practice this afternoon.” he says stiffly. But it’s not totally unheard of for us to spend breaks together. “You’re lying to me. In fact.. “I’m not meeting anyone else. And now that I think about it. There’s no one else.” Zach grabs me by the shoulders and forces me around to face him. Honestly. we usually manage it once or twice a week.” “You don’t even have a performance coming up. I don’t know why. no problem.” “I can’t. so we’re making up for it tomorrow at break-time.. Her eyes flick to where Zach’s hands are squeezing my upper arms and back up to his face. uh. “No. How can your practice be more important than spending time with me?” “We .. Wednesday is usually one of those days.. 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. “Sorry.” “Trinity. It’s not important. sorry! I was just trying to remember what I’ve got on at break tomorrow. He immediately lets go and takes a step back. but you are.” “The only one not being honest here is you. Team Trinity 221 . we have to meet so that we can organise the . I’ve got it now – it’s an extra Drama practice..” “Skip it.depending on when their tutors are available. “Trinity?” Zach says impatiently as the silence stretches out between us.
I’d do anything to be with you. This lie about Drama practice is making fools out of both of us. It doesn’t have to do with meeting anyone or anything like that.” I say desperately.” “And we’re in the way.. gives us one more glare. okay. just above the elbow. The staff are trying to clear up. “There’s no problem. and walks out. trying to figure out how to handle this. you should have just said so.. “I just said I had Drama because I have something else to do at break tomorrow. Then I’ll let Trinity get back to Sisulu House. Zach. “Not to worry. “All right. We were just talking about some arrangements for tomorrow. sort it out more quietly next time. in case you hadn’t noticed.” “Well..” “Then tell me the truth. Zach grabs my arm again.” I take a deep breath as my mind races ahead like a freight train. Matron.” Zach says with an easy smile. Something very important.” She clicks her tongue. “Trinity . and marches me out of the dining-hall.“Trinity?” She turns to me with raised eyebrows. I rush on nervously.” “Really?” He narrows his eyes.” I have to swallow against the tide of panic rising up in my throat. the truth is that there is no Drama practice. “I love you.. “Of course I don’t want to end it.” “Dinner is finished. We’ll take it outside. It’s completely 222 Fiona Snyckers . This situation is running away from me and I have no idea how to reel it back in.” “Okay . Just give me a minute. if you wanted to end it. We’re just sorting out what time we’re going to meet tomorrow morning. He finds a quiet place next to the kitchen and spins me around to face him.
It’s not anything important. It’s a girls-only thing. He’s kind of helping us a little bit with this thing we’re doing. WHO IS JAMES?” He shouts the last bit. I don’t like liars. You were lying to me before and you’re lying to me now. are we okay then?” I ask tentatively. But we’ve all agreed to keep it secret.” I say quickly. Except for James. He’s just helping us.” Zach’s face turns dark red and I know I’ve made a mistake. funnily enough we are not okay.” “I’m not lying to you! I’m just asking you to trust me and not ask me any more questions. Trinity. so unfortunately I can’t tell you about it. of course.” I steal a glance up at him. We all made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t tell anyone about this.” “Helping you with what?” Team Trinity 223 . “Forget I said his name. but he’s just nodding his head. “Who the hell is James?” “No one.” He pushes me backwards until my back bumps the wall of the kitchen behind me. He stops nodding and I see immediately that the angry. A liar is not somebody I want to have a relationship with.. “James Ellison.. “He’s this guy in Grade 11. “So . My stomach clenches at the sight of it. But we told him about it right at the beginning.innocent – just something I’m doing with some of the girls from my dorm. “No. “I’m giving you one more chance to answer me. Trinity. no one. really. slit-eyed look is not gone from his face. He’s no one.” I babble. making me jump.
” he says coldly.” I say miserably. 224 Fiona Snyckers . but I thought our relationship was more important to you than some stupid promise you’ve made to your girlfriends. Or am I wrong? I want to know where I stand here. I promised. Zach.” “You’re the most important person in my life. correct me if I’m wrong.“I can’t tell you. “I really can’t.” “Trinity.” “Then prove it. You know that.
CHAPTER 25 I’m jittery on Wednesday morning. There’s virtually no conversation at the breakfast table. but she nibbles her way serenely through her fruit and says nothing. come to think of it. But even as it all churns around in my head. with nothing more terrifying to look forward to than a History test after second break. We all are. The most trouble we’ll get into is for returning from break late. Yet. I can’t help wishing it was a normal day for me too. but that I will finally do or Team Trinity 225 . As nerves churn around in my stomach. which would make it that much harder to take the shield for real. Nothing is going to go wrong. But since we won’t be doing the actual shield-pinching today. I give myself a mental headslap. I’m half-expecting Sophie to comment on our silence. I can only be glad that she’s apparently happy and unsuspicious. Yes. If anything. My biggest fear is not that I will get caught and expelled from Brentwood. getting caught won’t be too serious. I know that today’s adventure isn’t what’s worrying me the most. The only thing that worries me is that they might tighten up security if they do catch us. I keep reminding myself that we’re not doing anything we could get into serious trouble for. she seems to be in an exceptionally good mood today. A normal Wednesday. strictly speaking we’re not allowed to wander around Gumede House in the middle of the morning. Or at any other time.
You can’t be in a relationship with someone you don’t trust. and have been since we first started dating. I seem to do or say something to annoy him all over again. so with luck Zach and I can get back on an even keel now. we are all psyched and ready for our mission. I 226 Fiona Snyckers . My only defence is that I didn’t think of it like that. It was touch and go last night. Our break ends at 10. By the time I get there. and they’ve agreed to stagger their return.30.say something bad enough to make Zach to break up with me. I’ve never seen him so angry. I’ll have to be extra careful from now on because Zach is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. usually starts her filing at about 10am. so that basically guarantees that we’re going to get back to class late. Lael asked us all to keep it a secret. Anyway I think I smoothed everything over. Because let’s face it – I was lying to him. Just when I think we’re okay. Mrs Anderssen. I’m lucky he’s put up with me for this long.35. and takes a tea-break at about 10. *** By the time break comes around. so I did. We make our way to Gumede House separately towards the end of break. James told me that Dr Hussein’s secretary. and I didn’t trust Zach enough to tell him about our plan. I can’t allow anything to mess that up. And with good reason too. with Yasmin hanging out in the girls’ bathroom for a minute or two to let Priya get back before her. It’s just Yasmin and Priya who are in the same French class. Fortunately we all have different classes at that time of day. so it won’t be too noticeable when we all arrive late.
or even how to whistle through our teeth. the only people who should be in Gumede House right now are Mrs Anderssen. I’ve been elected as the person who will actually go into Dr Hussein’s office. Any boys who are off sick are more likely to be in the sanatorium than in their dormitories. “I’m not keeping watch for those black or Indian girls.” was the exact way he put it. a couple of cleaners. which is where Dr Hussein’s office is. And if BBM fails – and let’s face it. how I knew. but I know you. our agreed method of alerting each other will be through BBM. In fact. and she will alert Lael at the top of the second staircase. I was left wondering what I was doing trusting a guy like that. more importantly. Those are the only two entrances to the building. somehow. Of course I pointed out to him. Needless to say. Mrs Pieterse. so don’t expect me to. they will alert Nosipho who is standing at the top of the first staircase. that he wouldn’t let me down. Dr Hussein is teaching matric English straight after break so he definitely won’t be around. mainly because James refuses to deal with anyone except me. Since none of us knows the hoot of the Brown Owl. but I might as well have saved my breath.spot Yasmin keeping watch at the front door and Priya guarding the side door. and possibly the school secretary. that I’m black too. Team Trinity 227 . If anyone walks in while we’re inside. “Yes.” he replied with one of his charming smiles. I didn’t repeat that to my friends. or for the Jewish girl either. And. for approximately the millionth time. it’s been known to – we’ll just run up the stairs and whisper in each other’s ears. James will be patrolling the fourth floor.
By now I’m basically just mouthing the words. “I heard about the other voices. Trinity. And she says she can hear other voices too. like I say.” I say as I get to her. so I gather all is quiet on that side too. “Lael just came down to tell me that Mrs Anderssen and Mrs Pieterse are definitely both up there. “If Mrs Anderssen has company.” she mouths back. and head past her up the stairs to where Lael is waiting. won’t he?” “Definitely.” “Okay. I see Priya giving me a thumbs-up from the main entrance.” “Thanks for pointing that out.” “I will. “It’s just Mrs Pieterse and one other person. be careful. Very comforting” “I don’t know about this. I think we should cut our losses and come back another day. I walk up one flight of stairs and Nosipho greets me with a tense smile. “Don’t freak out. so be careful. But James will definitely be keeping watch.” “We can’t.” Yasmin reports as I head in through the side entrance.” I promise. you’re likely to get caught.” “Other voices like who?” I hiss back. If we’re going to get it done this term. Something doesn’t feel right. well maybe it’s a good thing. “She didn’t know.” I whisper. We have to do the practice run today. she might spend longer at her tea break.” “If there are too many people wandering around.” “Well. Other voices were most definitely not part of the plan. we can’t waste any more time. Or two at the most.“Nobody has come in or out for the last five minutes.” 228 Fiona Snyckers .
trying to hear over the roaring in my ears. I pause on the top step and very slowly poke my head around the corner to look left and right. are you here? It’s Trinity. It’s all quiet at the moment. Score one for James. When I get to the fourth floor. Its wooden staircases are even older than ours in Sisulu House. Mrs Anderssen’s door is standing open.” Walking on tip-toe and clutching onto the banister for dear life. Nothing.“Okay. A murmur of conversation and a little ripple of laughter reach me from somewhere on the floor. or she’s safely in the teachers’ lounge enjoying a cup of tea. they have a nasty habit of creaking. I need some kind of alibi in case I get Team Trinity 229 . 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. To the right are the Grade 11 dormitories. And. Where the heck is James? He must be around here somewhere. “James?” I whisper as loudly as I dare.” I wait a moment. Still nothing. I creep slowly up the stairs. and to the left are Dr Hussein and Mrs Anderssen’s side-by-side offices. With my heart thundering in my chest. then you’re good to go. “James?” I say again. I’m just going to have to stick my head into Mrs Anderssen’s office and hope she’s not in there. Gumede House is the oldest building in the whole school. galvanising me into action. “James. I step into the corridor. a little desperately. as I’m just discovering. I really need to know which it is.
There is someone here. Run! All of you!” Without hesitation.. I spin on my heel and sprint back down the corridor. something makes me look up. uh . They know you’re coming.. Call the security company!” At the words “security company”. Quick! Let’s get out of here. The top half is glass and the bottom half is wood. “What?” I mouth back. someone. waving his hands wildly at me and mouthing something. “Go back! Go back!” he’s yelling... As I turn down the stairs. “It’s a trap. I hear a woman’s voice behind me. “It’s a trap.. lifting my hands up in a frantic questioning gesture. I practically fly down the stairs. There’s a door diagonally opposite me.. Behind us. James is standing behind it. I’ll figure something out. “What the. “What’s wrong?” Suddenly. I can hear what sounds like a herd of Sumo 230 Fiona Snyckers .?” Lael just stares at me open-mouthed as I barrel down the steps towards her. I figure out what he’s saying – almost as if I’m hearing the words in my head. I grab her wrist in my other hand and the three of us hurtle down the last flight of stairs together.caught. Now Nosipho is staring up at us. “You were right. Ronel!” she screeches. feeling like I’m about to detonate a landmine or something. skidding like a cartoon character. “Oh my God. taking them four at a time.” I grab her wrist and yank her down the next flight of stairs with me. her eyes like saucers. I’ll say I’m bringing her a message from . I tiptoe along the passage towards her door. Just as I’m about to peer into her office.
you weren’t here and you know nothing.” says Lael. “It’s adrenalin. dragging air into my lungs in great. “Well. “Are you serious?” “Apparently. we should make it. He tells me it’s a trap. the school secretary. I’m so unfit it’s not even funny. Both Ronel Pieterse. Zip. painful sucks.” “A trap?” Nosipho says sharply. ‘what the heck?’ Then I reckon I have to go ahead without him. And he was right. They know all about us. and the four of us dash back to the relative safety of Sisulu House. Lael snags Priya. praying I don’t find her sitting in it. “You’re so unfit it’s not even funny. So I’m all like. when I spot James hiding behind this door. excuse me!” I pant. “Go straight back to class!” I hiss at Yasmin as we hurtle past the front entrance. Very unfit Sumo wrestlers.wrestlers chasing us down the wooden stairs. “If anyone asks.” I feel a small sense of relief that she doesn’t stop to ask questions. and Mrs Anderssen are rather large ladies. I got up to the fourth floor and there was no sign of James. Nothing. And you’re not the one who almost walked into a trap. I’m bent over with my hands on my knees. actually. If it’s only them after us. by the sound of it. but takes off like a rabbit up the hill towards the school. Nada. because then I hear Mrs Anderssen and Mrs Pieterse shouting at each Team Trinity 231 . *** “What? How? Why?” Lael gasps as we all finally collapse against the wall behind the laundry room. So I’m creeping along to Mrs Anderssen’s office.
I swear every hair on my head has just turned white.” Priya shakes her head. I don’t think they actually saw any of us.” Lael says. “That took years off my life. they can’t punish us.” I puff. “Right now we have to get back to class. we’ll talk about this later. If they can’t prove it was us.” “Did anyone see you?” “I don’t think so. denial.” I try to replay the scene in my head.” “Listen. I tell you. Remember what Trinity said to Yasmin – denial. “Years. denial. “They were behind us.” “I can’t understand it. Total ignorance and denial. slowly getting my breath back.” 232 Fiona Snyckers .other to call security.
And since I would really. The cops haven’t been called in. Yasmin was even early. they’re starting to believe we really weren’t involved.40. 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. Priya and Nosipho were on time as well. And since it’s impossible for us to have been in two places at once. so everyone seems to have concluded that it was learners rather than actual burglars. The bit that’s puzzling them is that we all got back to class on time. Teachers always say that when they’ve got nothing on you and are trying to make you split on your friends. I got to Life Orientation just as everyone was filing into the class. A lot of suspicion is hanging over the Sisulu House Grade 10 dormitory. news of an attempted break-in at Gumede House is all over the school.CHAPTER 26 By night-time. and Lael. The school is buzzing with rumours.35. For some reason. Mrs Pieterse and Mrs Anderssen are positive that the attempted break-in took place at 10. Team Trinity 233 . I was quick to shut that one down. We weren’t even late getting back from break. But our teachers swear we were sitting in their classes at 10. We’ve all been questioned separately and told they’ll go easier on us if we come clean.
Weird. “What about the one about the clocks?” “No.” Lael says sarcastically. unless James has superpowers. you know. weird.“Hey. I think we can safely assume it wasn’t him. It was the secretaries’ watches.” “They’re saying that your father.. the whole story sounds like rubbish to me.40. I duck to avoid getting swiped by her bat. maybe James did it!” I say. They’re still trying to reset them and get them working again. “In fact. “What about clocks?” “Apparently all the clocks in Gumede House got stuck at 10. we haven’t heard anything about clocks.” “Well.” ‘Why are you so grouchy today?” I ask. though. crashing into the dorm with her softball bat sticking out of her sports-bag. “I’ve heard that one. too.” “Hey. That would be so cool. Please don’t go spreading it around. “Have you guys heard anything?” Lael shakes her head grumpily. a special electronic time-scrambler thingy. to confuse everyone.” “Oh. I know our plans were spoiled and everything. She’s been in a horrendous mood all day.” 234 Fiona Snyckers .” “Yes. That’s why the teachers are so convinced the break-in happened then. And even the time-display on the microwave in the matrics’ study. hey?” “Ja. or.” Nosipho turns to me. “You know. That’s the last thing I need. “It wasn’t just the clocks. okay. for goodness’ sake. but the main thing is that we didn’t get caught. then brightens up. “What? Put that thing down. have you heard the latest?” Nosipho says.” She pouts. “I mean.” I look around at the others. yes!” I interrupt crossly..
And since James is the one who gave the alarm and saved all our butts. The secretaries knew we were coming. I promise you!” My voice cracks a bit.. I’m pretty sure I know where she’s going with this.. “Who would I tell? All my closest friends are right here in this room.” she goes on ominously. Lael eyes me beadily for a moment. “is that it was one of us.” “Well.” says Priya. No way. before shutting the door. They were ready and waiting for us. her eyes flicking to each of us in turn.” “Why are you looking at me like that? It wasn’t me. And since I know it wasn’t me. it definitely wasn’t me. She looks carefully left and right. I look at the floor. “So what I’m thinking. I know she’s checking that Sophie is nowhere around.” “Not me!” Nosipho says immediately. Someone set us up today.Lael stands up and walks to the door. I find it highly unlikely that he blabbed. “I’ll tell you why I’m grouchy.” “Trinity. The only ones who knew about the plan were the five of us and James Ellison. but she needn’t worry. “You want to know why I’m grouchy?” she says. “Me either.” Lael pauses. “Is that so?” “Absolutely! Not me. it’s got to be one of you four. Sophie does more extra-murals as the rest of us put together and virtually never gets back to the dormitory until just before suppertime.” I say. “Or me. “Trinity!” “Stop staring at me like that!” Team Trinity 235 .” adds Yasmin.
no!” Soft-hearted Yasmin swoops down next to me and puts an arm around my shoulders. No way on earth. “Look. Like you say. “Never mind that we’d made a promise not to tell anyone. Trinity?” She swings around.” “It wasn’t like that!” “Then what was it like. “Was it Trinity or wasn’t it?” “It’s starting to look like it was. Then I turn to Lael. You just couldn’t help yourself. didn’t you?” Lael says bitterly. I sink down onto her bed and put my head in my hands. He said we couldn’t carry on our relationship if I didn’t trust him. And then he really freaked out. I admit it. He wanted to know the truth. “Damn right. “What’s going on?” Yasmin sounds puzzled. I did tell someone. her eyes full of anger and disappointment. “That’s manipulative!” says Lael.” “You just had to blab to your boyfriend. But he didn’t believe me. Never mind that we’ve been friends practically since we were born. Trinity?” I take a few deep breaths. even when we were kids. I’m a bad liar.“You always were bad at lying. 236 Fiona Snyckers . “Why don’t you tell us about it.” says Nosipho. Lael and Nosipho look less impressed.” Lael turns away from me in disgust.” Nosipho agrees. So then I told him I was doing something secret – something that I couldn’t tell him about. But there’s no way he went and told on us. “Zach asked me to hang out with him at break today.” “Oh. so I immediately made up an excuse about having extra Drama practice.
“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.
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I spend a horrible night tossing and turning, imagining awful things. Every time I do manage to fall asleep, I drop into an uneasy dream. Zach and Lael are both in it. At times they almost seem to be the same person. By half-past five in the morning, I give up on sleep, and slip out of the dormitory for an early shower. I’ll go and see Zach before breakfast, I decide. I can’t wait until tonight to have it out with him. And this isn’t the kind of thing you can talk about on the phone. Hi, babes. Just phoning to say good night and to ask if you tried to get my friends and me expelled from school yesterday. No, this is definitely something that needs to be discussed face-to-face. I dress quickly in the early-morning darkness. The wake-up bell goes off at 6.30, but I’m planning to be long gone by then. Autumn is definitely coming. When term started it was broad daylight by six in the morning, but now the light is a kind of pale pinky-grey. Scooping my hair up into a ponytail, I creep down the stairs and towards the side door. The Yale lock will still be on, but I can let myself out. I reach up for the latch. “Trinity.” The soft voice behind me makes me almost bite my tongue. I spin around and peer into the gloom. It’s James.
Team Trinity 239
“Good grief, you scared me!” I whisper. “What are you doing here so early? And how did you get in anyway? Everything’s locked.” He taps his chest. “I’m a ninja, remember?” “Right.” Meaning there’s probably a window open somewhere on the ground floor that he crawled through. “What’s up?” I ask. “Were you looking for me?” I reach up for the Yale lock and give it a twist. As the door swings open, the soft early-morning light floods into the passage. “Hang on a minute!” I say, turning to stare at him. “Your face!” He touches a hand to his jaw self-consciously. “What about my face?” “It’s fine! There’s nothing wrong with it.” “Gee, thanks.” “No, I mean you don’t have any bruises.” He raises his eyebrows. “Why would I have bruises?” “I heard someone pushed you down the stairs and you were lying in the san.” “Nope. Not me.” “Oh, thank goodness!” Relief flows into me in a lovely warm rush. “I should have known Sophie was lying through her teeth. I should have known it.” “Sophie? That’s the blonde, right? The gorgeous one.” “If by ‘gorgeous one’ you mean ‘evil liar’, then yes.” “And she said I had been beaten up and was lying in the san?” “Yup.” “Well, then she is an evil liar.”
240 Fiona Snyckers
“Exactly! I can’t believe she had me thinking that Zach could be capable of such a thing. Oh, I need to go and see him right now and apologise for thinking horrible things about him.” “But I wanted to talk to you about the shield. We need a new plan, and I think I’ve got one.” “I can’t think about that now,” I say. “I’ve got to go and see Zach.” “But, Trinity...” “Sorry!” I dash out into the chilly morning. Then I turn around and wave. “Thanks for the warning yesterday. You totally saved us.” *** I rush down to the Postmatric Annexe, sending Zach a BBM as I go. The morning bell went ten minutes ago and Zach is an early riser, so I’m not too worried about getting him out of bed. And sure enough, about 30 seconds later I get a BBM back.
Okay, that doesn’t sound particularly friendly, but let’s face it, this is an odd time to be messaging anyone. I thumb in a quick reply.
I’m outside the Annexe. Can I see you quickly? Need 2 talk about something.
There’s quite a long pause, but then the reply comes back eventually.
Team Trinity 241
OK. Wait in reception. Be down in a sec. Will have to be quick – acctncy tut at 7.45.
I hurry into the Annexe and report to security, where a shift change seems to be in progress. Both the incoming and outgoing guards look surprised to see me, and say sternly that they’re not going to call anyone for me at this hour of the morning. I explain that I’m just waiting for someone. “Okay,” says the incoming guard. “Wait quietly over there where I can see you. This isn’t a proper time for visiting.” I make myself as unobtrusive as possible and wait in a corner. Five minutes later, Zach comes in, looking absolutely gorgeous in boxer shorts and a vest. His crisp black hair is all damp from the shower and he smells faintly of some delicious brand of shower gel. In a rush of love, I jump up and throw my arms around his neck. “I think I should visit you this early every morning from now on,” I say, kissing him. “You look and smell amazing.” “Trinity.” He unwinds my arms from around his neck and leads me away from the security office. “What’s going on? Why did you need to see me?” “Well, first of all I wanted to apologise for almost believing a horrible story I heard about you last night.” “Really?” He ushers me into the silent common room and turns me around to face him. “And what horrible story was that?”
242 Fiona Snyckers
she.” I bite my lip and stare at him. “Oh. she didn’t tell me that. of course not.” I say with a half-laugh. and that you might be responsible. his frown lightens and a smile sweeps across his face.” I pause as I try to think back to what Sophie actually said. 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. a nasty prickle of embarrassment heats up my cheeks and neck. good. “So this person specifically told you that I pushed him down the stairs?” “Yes. “To be perfectly honest. And when you think about the source of the story.. It was just me jumping to conclusions. no. To my surprise. it’s not surprising that it was all nonsense. “And now you don’t believe it anymore?” “Well. I take a deep breath and remind myself of my resolution to be completely honest with Zach from now on.” “I didn’t discuss it with anyone else. “What is it?” I ask. So what was the second thing? Team Trinity 243 .” Zach doesn’t take his eyes off my face. I wouldn’t like to know that other people were thinking the same thing. he watches me closely. nothing. “I’ve just seen James and he’s walking around without a mark on him.” “Okay. I’m so sorry. “Okay..” I say as bravely as I can. As I remember. Zach.“I heard that someone had pushed James Ellison down the stairs yesterday. I’m glad it’s only you having these thoughts about me.” Keeping a grip on my shoulders. So it was obviously a complete and utter lie. I hardly slept last night for worrying about it. I promise.
“Sorry?” I have no idea what he’s talking about. I didn’t! It was the other girls. When they found out that I’d mentioned the plan to you. The only person I mentioned it to was someone who was already involved. Someone had tipped them off.. “When I asked you why you wanted to see me this morning.” “You thought it was me. but something makes me push on.. “You told Sophie about it?” “Well. and since you were the only outside person any of us had told.” “Who was that?” “Sophie Agincourt.. I didn’t.” He turns away to pick up a cushion from one of the common-room chairs. So now I’m asking you what the ‘second of all’ was. you said ‘first of all’. they were waiting for us.” “Sophie!” I sink down into one of the chairs. You know. and you can go back and tell them that. They knew we were coming. but we’ve been keeping it a secret from her.. they thought you might have accidentally let something slip. of course. when we did our dry run for breaking into Dr Hussein’s office?” He nods. “Well.” “No. I mean. Okay. right. the thing is . She was the only one who didn’t know.” “Really?” 244 Fiona Snyckers .. “I didn’t.” “Well. isn’t she?” “Yes. she’s in your dorm.” I wish I could leave it at that. “So you didn’t talk about it to anyone at all? Not one single person?” “No. And . it’s about yesterday..” “Oh.
. I can handle getting the cold shoulder from my friends as long as everything’s okay with Zach. I had no idea. “I must be going crazy then. maybe I forgot. Now she’s basically not talking to me and I feel like a criminal in my own dorm. But the main thing is that Zach and I are okay again. He blabbed. I really thought I’d told you. you didn’t.” I give a little laugh.” Lael sums it up.” *** 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..” I frown in confusion. “I’m sure I mentioned that the other night. It’s the weekend. and rumours about the attempted break-in are finally starting to die down. “Well . His house is right next to the dining- Team Trinity 245 .“Yes. but now I’m not sure anymore. All they care about is the fact that neither Zach nor I could keep our mouths shut. Didn’t I tell you that Sophie mustn’t know?” Zach’s blue eyes look calmly into mine. You should have warned me.. Obviously I was going to mention it if I saw her. “You definitely forgot. I’ve known Sophie for a long time.” I could have sworn I mentioned Sophie. so that has taken over as the main topic of conversation. while the others nod.” “But. “No. Trinity. End of story. Someone wrapped the chimney of Dr Hussein’s house in toilet paper last night.. “You blabbed.” I say uncertainly.
246 Fiona Snyckers . My mom was my very first BBM contact and I still chat to her all day long. In my year we dressed up the statue of Josiah Gumede as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. My dad thought it was “disrespectful”. Zach is in a great mood.” I giggle as he pulls me behind some bushes. He teases me about how often I BBM my mom. I really think you need to cut back. The practice doesn’t take long. My Saturday just gets better and better as Zach invites me to watch his cricket practice in the afternoon. The dining-hall is buzzing with speculation about who might have done it.” “You’re sixteen years old. “I can’t help it. My money is on the Grade 8s. The perpetrators used rolls and rolls of multicoloured loo paper to create an interesting rainbow effect. 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.hall.” I smile flirtatiously up at him. so none of us could miss it when we got up this morning. Trinity. “I can’t.” ‘Well. thank goodness.” I laugh. saying it’s time to cut the apron strings. We just chat. I’ve still got pictures of it on my phone. That way it doesn’t feel as though she’s on the other side of the world. but I still giggle whenever I think of it. I’m an addict. “It’s a habit. joking and fooling around as we walk up from the cricket fields. and then we have a whole hour together before I have to be back for supper. She tells me what she’s up to and vice versa. Surely you don’t need to run everything past your mother?” “I’m not running things past her.
Are you calling me a liar. Trinity?” I stare at him. Maybe I am a liar... “Do that. stop spending so much time with those girls in your dormitory. 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. it is. And while you’re about it. Trinity.” “Yes. How did this unravel so quickly? How did it go so wrong so fast? And. I was out of line. Or maybe I’m wrong. and the next thing you burst into the Annexe and accuse me of being dishonest. weren’t you? All because your friends said so. You trust them more than you trust me. You’re not five years old anymore. You and your friends got together and started talking about me behind my back. “But why?” “Just a few days ago you were only too ready to believe the worst of me.. Is he serious? I thought we were just kidding around. appalled. “I suppose I could try to cut back. more importantly.” “Oh. how can I fix it? “I honestly didn’t mean to.” I look up at him. I should have known you would never do any of Team Trinity 247 . I admit it. The silence stretches out until I can’t stand it anymore.” he says. Or . or even think that you are one.” “My friends?” I gape at him.” “It’s not that I trust them more than you.. I would never call you a liar.“I don’t think you’re listening to me. “It’s exactly that... taking hold of my shoulders. my smile slowly fading.” I say doubtfully. “I want you to stop BBMing your mother all the time.” he interrupts. They’re a bad influence.
all of them. “What they’re doing. He gives me a hard shake. and Nosipho.” “Yes. but not completely sure where he’s going with this. so you can’t avoid them completely..” He folds his arms across his chest. I realise you’re in the same dormitory. eager to understand. They’d love to see us break up.” I whisper.” “But what can I do? How can I prove it to you? I’ll do anything!” Zach pulls me deeper into the bushes. I’m the one who’s at fault here. “Yes. “Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time.” “I’m s-sorry!” My voice breaks on the last word. “Will you keep your voice down? Any minute now someone is going to come out to see what’s going on. “You keep saying you’re sorry. and then you go and make the same mistakes all over again...” He drags a hand through his hair.?” I repeat cautiously. I shouldn’t have asked you about it. the problem as I see it lies with your friends. but I force myself to hold it together. but you have to realise what they’re doing here. you were.. We’re one of the most prominent couples in the school.. “They’re jealous of us. Now.those things. and ...” I’m nodding my head.” “Wh-what do you mean?” My eyes are burning with tears.” “Y-you mean Lael . I was wrong. “That’s better. I shouldn’t be trying to manipulate the situation by bursting into tears. “Okay.. Trinity. but I refuse to shed them.” “Sorry.” 248 Fiona Snyckers .
you’ll stop BBMing your mother so much. I promise. “Oh. And obviously you’ll give up all this nonsense about the Gumede Shield. It’ll be much easier than you think.” I say.” His smile is replaced by that flat-eyed look that makes my stomach dip. I don’t think they’d actually expel us.” I feel some of the tension go out of me. They don’t care about you the way I do. He smiles. Maybe she’s been jealous all along. Yes.” I remember how Lael was the one who fancied Zach first. I’ll definitely give it up. “I think you should be careful about getting too close to girls like that.. and you’ll stay away from those girls in your dorm. “If you carry on with that stupid plan and get expelled. ” Team Trinity 249 ... “No. so it shouldn’t be that hard. do you know what will happen? Our relationship will be over. but.“Okay. You’ll give up on the Gumede Shield. He still cares about me! It’s not all over.” “Well.” I feel a fierce little stab of regret.” I start saying..” “Trinity.. “Exactly. you’re right. “What do you want me to do?” “Just stop hanging out with them so much. You won’t even miss them because we’re going to be spending a lot more time together from now on. but maybe she never really got over it. Is that really what you want?” “Oh.. she stepped back when she saw I was serious about him. a bit sadly.” He smiles again and I feel the knot in my stomach unclenching. but stop when he squeezes my shoulder. “So we’re agreed then. Lael isn’t really talking to me anyway. You can’t trust them.
and by that evening we’re BBMing up a storm as per usual. By the afternoon of the third day she starts addressing random remarks to me. it’s pretty flattering that he wants to keep me all to himself like this. What possible reason can I give Lael for continuing to ignore her after the official cut-off time? For me to freeze her out. But then Lael calls a meeting for seven to discuss the Gumede Shield. When Lael is annoyed with me and we both know I’m in the wrong. 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. and things get really complicated. but by the third day it gets a lot harder. It must mean that he loves me too much to share me with anyone else. Yes. but that’s not going to last. 250 Fiona Snyckers .CHAPTER 28 The trouble with avoiding my friends is that it’s easier said than done. Just thinking about it gives me a secret little thrill. Still. 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. So it’s easy for me to keep my promise to Zach for the first two days. Lael is ignoring me at the moment. When you’ve been friends with someone since you were both six years old. you tend to get the whole fighting thing down to a fine art. but it’s not that easy.
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
Team Trinity 251
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?”
254 Fiona Snyckers
“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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” he tells me. Practically everyone is having lunch in the dining-hall.CHAPTER 29 In the end.” James whispers back. he tells me to wait and slips noiselessly down the passage to check whether Mrs Anderssen is still drinking her tea. as most of the students are weekly boarders who go home on Friday evenings. Team Trinity 257 . and almost leap out of my skin as I hear a sound in the passage outside. “Try it. When we get to the fourth floor. “It’s the small gold key. The key to the display cabinet is hanging exactly where James said it would be. But the door between her office and Dr Hussein’s office is shut. it’s like taking candy from a baby. Gumede House is dead quiet. My heart is banging away in my chest and I’m wincing at every creak of the stairs. The two boarding houses turn into ghost towns on the weekends anyway. it’s unlocked. “No.” I whisper. I wish I could master the art of climbing stairs silently. Thank goodness. Empty. James leads me confidently up the stairs.” I turn the handle of the inter-leading door and smile broadly as it opens smoothly and silently. like James has. My heartbeat kicks up to a roar as I tiptoe to Mrs Anderssen’s office and peep inside. he’s back and giving me the thumbs-up. I reach for the right key. In less than a minute. feeling disappointment crash over me. “She must have locked up before she went to tea.
I slide the key into the lock and turn it. As long as the beam stays interrupted I’m okay. Then I slide it carefully into place next to the Gumede Shield. Now that I look closely. and the whole place would be crawling with security guards in minutes. I was about to grab the shield and just yank it out of the cabinet. remember?” “Oh. I can see the two eyes of the infra-red security beam built in on either side of the cabinet. I rest my forehead against the door for a moment as my pulse slows to heart-attack speed. She’s not going to be drinking her tea forever. and there it is – the Gumede Shield. “What am I going to put in its place?” I whisper.” I pull my hand back as though I’ve been stung. Hurry! Get that cabinet open. won’t you?” I point to Dr Hussein’s bookcase. “Wait!” James says urgently as I reach for the shield. This must be all your doing. Just a creak. “The alarm. I can’t have any hand in it. The alarm will only go off if they meet. I remind myself. But James steps back.” I ease back from the cabinet and reach out to grab one of the books in Dr Hussein’s bookcase.“What the heck is that?” I demand in a whispered scream. and no alarms have gone off. “You must get it yourself. I feel a little glow of delight as I realise I’m holding it in my hands at last. “Pass me one of those books. “Nothing. right. The alarm would have gone off.” My hands shaking. The glass doors open squeakily. 258 Fiona Snyckers . The book I chose stands sturdily next to the shield. I take a deep breath and slide the shield out of its former home.
” I type a message into the BBM group we set up to coordinate our shield-pinching efforts.” I say. “What are you doing?” he demands. It has to be a joint effort. I’m at Gumede House. but you’ll be back to calling me a racist. so I shove it down on Dr Hussein’s desk and scrabble for my phone in my pocket. “Ja..” But I can hear in his voice that he’s just as excited as I am.” “Trinity! There isn’t time. If that doesn’t get them here fast. 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. girls. It will deliver the message instantly to everyone. “Calling the others.. nothing will. and start down the passage towards the stairs. “All right. let’s go. Holding Shield in my hand. hang on a minute. You really don’t want to be caught with that thing in your hand. you say that now. Mrs Whatshername is going to finish her tea break in about three minutes. Move. sexist pig soon. Team Trinity 259 . I need to call in the other girls. Come and help. MOVE! There.” “Just . “Now let’s get out of here.” I hold the shield out to James.” “Wait!” “What now?” “I can’t just waltz out of here with the shield all on my own.
and then someone else needs to smuggle it into the display cabinet.” “We haven’t got time for this. “We need to get out of here quickly. “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. I’ve done my part by taking it out of Dr Hussein’s office. You and the other girls. with Priya. “Ooh.We’ve barely made it down two flights of stairs when I hear the thundering of Converse trainers approaching. It’s only right that you should be the one to put it into its new home. “I can do that.” says Yasmin. Now one of you needs to carry it out of here. Lael. yes. “I knew that would bring them running. “Oh my gosh.” “Then let’s get moving. I can definitely do that. That way it’ll be a proper group effort. shooting a triumphant glance at James. I think that the last person should be you. You should be in on it.” He stops in his tracks. girls. Nosipho and Yasmin hot on her heels. please stay!” I say. me too. this is your moment. “It’s all thanks to you that we’ve got the shield. Oh.” But he shakes his head and runs silently back up the stairs. I don’t believe it!” Lael says as she comes panting up to me. I’m going to split now. someone else must take it into Sisulu House.” 260 Fiona Snyckers . because this whole thing was your idea.” “No. “It’s much bigger than I thought it would be. “Listen.” I tell them.” Lael’s face breaks into a smile. “Ha!” I say.
CHAPTER 30 The next few days pass in a blur. When the shield is finally discovered. 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. 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. “Until now!” Yasmin giggles. “It’s a disgrace the way they’ve let this cabinet go to rack and ruin. First there’s the thrill of slipping the shield into the display case. So we spend the entire weekend sweating. 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. Life in Sisulu House is a rollercoaster of emotion.” Lael says. Team Trinity 261 .” says Nosipho. 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. “That’s because it’s never had anything valuable in it before. Then there’s the suspense of waiting for the theft to be discovered. and how she never would have thought it of us.
We don’t want Matron to think we’re only coming forward because Sophie spilled the beans.” *** You know.” “True. “I didn’t like the look in Sophie’s eye when Matron was shouting at us. and hope she doesn’t completely wig out when I tell her it was us. Lael is brilliant. She’s just waiting for the chance to tell on us. But somehow I know that underneath it all.” Lael rolls her shoulders like a boxer going into the ring. Lael. “Okay. Dr Hussein tells us that one of the Grade 10 learners is going to address us. I think it’s because Nosipho and I both have Xhosa grannies who lose it with us every now and then.Her words are harsh. I feel a little clutch of panic when Lael stands up and marches to 262 Fiona Snyckers . I’ve known her forever. but sometimes she impresses even me. On Thursday morning we have a special assembly of the whole school.” Lael says when we all gather upstairs later. I’m going to trust you on this. she’s proud of us. After morning prayers and announcements.” I warn her. “I’ll go and get it over with now. 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. and her tone is rough and impatient. only Nosipho agrees with me. “I’ll go and talk to Matron now. she really is.” “You’d better do it soon. When I run this past the other girls. Yasmin and Priya can’t hear past her angry words. and shouldn’t be all that surprised by anything she does anymore.
they promised to send a nice wreath to my funeral. If Lael could walk into Matron’s office and confess. Which of course put me into a fantastic mood for phoning Chile. where did he go wrong as a father? Honestly. But like with Matron. Ever since coming back from talking to Matron. then I could call my parents long distance and do the same. I think if he’d been on the same continent as me. she sounded almost excited. In fact. 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. When I said I was. Then I got Mom on the line and she was much more sane about everything. She has told us absolutely nothing about what she’s been planning. that wreath might have come in useful. as expected. First she wanted a blow-by-blow account of how we did the actual stealing. They asked whether I was planning to call the folks and tell them too. Then she wanted to email me a feminist manifesto that we could Prestik up onto the display cabinet “like Martin Luther”. I could hear the pride behind the exasperation.the front of the hall. I did it. Anyway. I asked if she meant that American Civil Rights dude from the 1960s but she just sighed. He was all. if we felt so strongly about the Gumede Shield. you’d swear he’d never heard of anyone breaking the law for their beliefs. It’s funny – my dad is the one who went to prison on Team Trinity 263 . I called my brothers together and told them what we’d done. I spent last night making sure my family were up to speed with everything. like. My dad’s reaction was volcanic. she would only smile and put a finger to her lips when we asked.
So even though my parents know all about it and are apparently not ready to disown me yet. This 264 Fiona Snyckers . but my mom is the real outlaw at heart.Robben Island and everything. Lael is totally in control of the situation. I know that I needn’t have worried. This is what the email says: To whom it may concern. She starts off with a history of the Gumede Shield. Goodness only knows when Lael wrote to Priya’s mom. they could keep it. I’m starting to realise that she must have been planning this speech for a very long time. going right back to its days as the Florence Nightingale Shield during the Crimean War. A few minutes into her talk. She talks about how the shield was stolen once before and placed in Sisulu House. 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. But she’s as mystified as I am. 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. I still have my heart in my mouth when Lael gets up on that stage. 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. I turn to stare at Priya with a ‘what the heck?’ expression on my face.
We just want to share it with them. Like guests who were barely tolerated in what was still regarded as a boys’ school. There was a time when girls were treated like secondclass citizens around here. Those days are over. I jab Nosipho in the ribs. would like to make the following request – without prejudice of course. “What does that mean?” “I think it means without admitting that we’re guilty of anything.was more than just a rumour. It was well-known throughout the school. and it’s only fair that it should belong as much to the girls as to the boys. “We. We now make up half of the student body and enjoy equal rights in every respect. and for it to be turned into Team Trinity 265 .” “Now that the Gumede Shield has mysteriously and inexplicably found its way into the Sisulu House display cabinet.” Lael continues as she looks up from the letter. It’s an important part of Brentwood’s history.” Lael goes on with a dead straight face. We would also like the cabinet to be moved to a more prominent position. Kind regards.” A ripple of laughter runs through the staff members sitting at the back of the hall. “we would like to request that it remain there for six months of every year. Sameer Padayachee “Brentwood College is a co-ed school. the Grade 10 boarders of Sisulu House. “We’re not trying to take the Gumede Shield away from Gumede House. “And has been since 1966.
” “In considering how to respond to this outrage. “If this request is not granted. “Severest penalties. “we took several factors into account. doesn’t it?” “Just wait. This kind of lawless behaviour is totally unacceptable on school grounds and will always be met with the severest penalties. “That sounds like expulsion.a proper trophy display case to compare with the one in Gumede House. We remain mystified as to how exactly the theft was accomplished. “He’s not done yet. “The staff and governing body of Brentwood College unequivocally condemn the theft of the Gumede Shield. “She’s basically threatening them.” says Priya.” I whisper back. and Dr Hussein takes the podium. isn’t she? She’s saying that if they don’t do what we ask. One was the fact that no damage was done to school property. but are grateful that nothing was damaged or vandalised..” My friends and I stare at each other with wide eyes.” Nosipho whistles softly.” Dr Hussein continues. He eyes us all sternly.” I whisper. “Let’s see what Dr Hussein says. there will be nothing for us to do but accept our disappointment. we’ll just keep on pinching the shield until they do.. 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.” “Shh. 266 Fiona Snyckers .” Lael sits down to some nervous applause from the students. and are shocked at the breaking-and-entering that went into it.
” He looks down at his notes and lifts a hand to adjust his glasses. “As such.“We also have no evidence to suggest that the Gumede Shield was at any time removed from school property. It might be more accurate to say that it has simply been moved. Team Trinity 267 ..” “It’s a well-known fact that institutions targeted by blackmailers should never give in to them because that only encourages the perpetrators. and have been able to isolate the rumour to the headmastership – or perhaps I should say headmistressship – of one Eugenia Caxton. The fact that several female members of staff have declared themselves in sympathy with this agenda is neither here nor there. I have spoken to a number of teachers and parents who were pupils at the school in the 1970s and 80s. And it sounds like she’s not the only one. there is a distinctly unfriendly expression on his face. as we stare innocently back at him. We are essentially being held to ransom by the feminist agenda of certain female members of the pupil body.. 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. “I told you Matron was secretly proud of us. “There remains the question of what I do not hesitate to call blackmail. it remains an open question whether the shield can actually be regarded as stolen when it was never removed from the school.” continues Dr Hussein. who headed up Brentwood from 1977 to 1981. “However.” “Hah!” I say triumphantly. When he looks up again.” He sweeps our section of the hall with an eagle eye.
stamping their feet and clapping their hands as hard as they can. And much as I deplore her rashness. 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. starting immediately. I feel myself bound to honour her promise. A huge grin lights up my face. The entire student body – and most of the teachers.” This time there is nothing nervous or hesitant about the applause. And therefore. the teaching staff. I turn to see Lael slipping back into line beside me. The noise is bouncing off the rafters of the old hall and thundering along the wooden floors.“It seems that this lady – a known eccentric – did indeed make some such promise after the shield was moved to Sisulu House once before. and I wrap my best friend in a hard hug. As the noise starts to die down. I feel something brush against my sleeve. as far as I can see – are screaming. whistling. If the whole place collapsed at this point. 268 Fiona Snyckers . after consultation with the student forum. I wouldn’t be too surprised.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they started asking for autographs.” he says snootily. Then the bell rings again. Team Trinity 269 . I’ve been wanting to introduce James to Lael for ages now. Not surprisingly. where did she see him? I scan the thinning crowd of students. to congratulate us and to talk to Lael about her speech. isn’t it?” “Last time I checked. You’ve got the wrong guy.” she says. our brilliant plan to pinch the shield would still be just that – a plan.” “No I haven’t. “Your name is James. “There’s James Ellison – the guy we owe it all to. Lael has gone up to some completely arbitrary guy and is chattering away to him. But she has just spotted someone. People keep coming up to us even after the bell has gone. we’d better get along to Afrikaans. “Hang on a minute. “This isn’t James.” I say. Now. a bit longer this time. she’s got the wrong person. Without his help. Oh dear. We do owe it all to him. “Okay. And she’s right. he’s looking completely puzzled by what she’s saying.CHAPTER 31 After assembly it take ages for everyone to get back to class. “Hey. I rush over to them and pluck at her elbow.” she says indignantly. tugging at Lael’s arm. as though someone is trying to make a point. James!” she shouts. I’ve been dying to thank him. James. “Lael!” I say. wait up!” I turn around smiling. looking for his familiar face.
” “Are you telling me that’s not the guy who’s been helping us steal the Gumede Shield?” “Absolutely not. like.” “And where did you ever get the idea that your guy was James Ellison?” 270 Fiona Snyckers . “Let’s put it this way – are you or are you not James Ellison of the Gumede House Grade 11 dormitory?” “I am. have absolutely no idea. “You can’t be. “Listen.” Then he turns on his heel and walks away.” I say. I feel as though I’ve been punched in the stomach.. “What’s going on?” “I . but he’s still the wrong person.” he says. but. leaving me gaping after him like a goldfish. Trust me. “James! James!” and this dude turned around..” Lael says.” Lael looks from the guy to me and back again. They don’t even look slightly alike.. “And it’s kind of gelled at the back. And he has this. puzzled. can I just say that it really isn’t working.” he says with a sneer. I know what must have happened.. so she thought he was James Ellison. And he’s much nicer than that obnoxious ass..” I stutter like an idiot. Lael can be such a dweeb sometimes. He’s shorter and chunkier.Okay. “But . “He might be called James. and some discoloured bruises down the right side of his face. “And if this was your way of getting me to notice you.. My James is thinner and much better looking.. This guy looks nothing like my James. sweep of hair over his forehead.” I make a swooshing motion with my hand across my face.” “And yet I am. She started shouting. and – I can’t help noticing – he’s got one black eye. And he’s a really snappy dresser – all retro and vintage-looking. I know.. “Trinity.
Team Trinity 271 . But for the rest. pulling Lael along with me. “I can’t remember. I think I’ve managed to piece it all together. I’ll give him that.” We are now the only people still standing in the quad outside the hall. “Listen. and he was the one who told me it was James Ellison. come to think of it. I remember. And. right? Or can you? I honestly can’t remember. Have I really been calling this guy by the wrong name all term? Why didn’t he correct me? In fact.“I don’t know!” I rub my hands over my face. I can see a couple of teachers headed our way. it’s all my brother’s fault. Well. “If we don’t get to class right now. we’ll get detention. I can clearly remember asking Aaron at the beginning of the year who the racist. the real James Ellison is certainly obnoxious. He even warned me against him. not surprisingly. 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. he doesn’t fit the profile at all. And now I’ve spent the entire term thinking that my unknown friend is called James. so I start walking towards class.” *** By the end of the school-day. obnoxious guy with brown hair and retro clothes was. But I still can’t quite get my head around this. like I was going to rush out and start dating him. we’ll talk about this later.” I say.
and they told us that the local community paper. 272 Fiona Snyckers . I’ve been pretty miserable for a while now. What a day! I’m still glowing from our triumph in assembly this morning. I’ve BBMed him a few times already. I have to sit down for a minute before I lug all my stuff upstairs. and I find myself smiling. and when I open them again. I sink into an armchair with a happy sigh. and I know he lives in Gumede House. Lael and I gave an interview to the school newspaper at break. Back in Sisulu House. I just didn’t realise it until I started feeling better. I see Zach coming into the common room. the Sandton Chronicle. Come to think of it. But then his face pops into my mind. though. I make a beeline for the common room.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. No – politeness is not exactly his strong point. It’s a bit weird to realise that I now have no idea what his real name is. As I sit there feeling the warmth of pride in our achievement. I’ll probably have to wait until suppertime. All I need is a list of the students in the Grade 11 boys’ dormitory and I’ll find him. I’m dying to talk everything over with Lael. but she’s got tennis matches the whole afternoon. because there’s been no response. Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any more perfect! He probably wants to congratulate us on the shield. I know he’s in Grade 11. There’s no one around. but he must have had his phone off. I close my eyes for a moment. It’ll be easy enough to find out. Everyone is either at extramurals or upstairs chilling in their dorms. I realise how long it’s been since I felt this happy.
which is what he was worried about. the tone of his voice..” He takes a step towards me.” he says through gritted teeth. like a waitress in a restaurant. So instead of hugging him. something is definitely wrong.. My happy glow fades. is something wrong. or even punished. and for some reason. I’m not happy at all. I stop short and give him a big smile. and the way he moves. “It’s so great to see you!” I say.” “I don’t want any coffee. I’m not happy.“Zach!” I jump up and run forward to give him a hug. A little whisper of unease curls up my spine. don’t you?” Team Trinity 273 . “I don’t want to sit down.. “Trinity. I’ve become fluent in my boyfriend’s body language.” He touches my arm briefly and then steps back. Trinity?” He takes another step towards me. “No. everything about him is saying “angry”. I find myself taking a step back. do you? Even after I’ve made it one hundred per cent clear that I don’t want you to do something. “Okay. Do you want to know why. Zach? You don’t look happy. Is he angry because I went ahead with the shield plan after he told me not to? But it all worked out so well.. I’m a world expert on his facial expressions.” I bite my lip. “Is . And I didn’t get expelled. “Um .” Okay. Something is wrong.” I make a sweeping gesture with my hand. you go behind my back and do it anyway. “Sit down anyway. And right now. “Have you got time for a chat? I can make some coffee if you’d like. why?” “Because you never listen.
” “James!” he snaps.” “What are you babbling about. I still don’t know his name. The guy who helped me was someone else. I didn’t have time to.” “Oh. James arrived so suddenly and told me about the opportunity. No one has shoved me like that since my brothers and I were still young enough to get into physical fights.” I say.. Trinity?” “It wasn’t James Ellison.” I say desperately.For a moment. And he wasn’t even the right person. I’m not sleeping with anyone. Zach . without thinking.” “Zach. “Of course I’m not sleeping with him.. There is still absolutely no one around. Someone completely different. “The thing is. I think about asking him to explain what he means.” My brain feels like it’s short-circuiting. 274 Fiona Snyckers . “You .” “Liar!” He shoves me hard in the chest so that I stumble backward. “I got his name wrong.. it all happened so fast that there wasn’t time for me to ask if you minded. really? Who?” “I don’t know. “You lie and you lie and you lie! I don’t think you even know what the truth is anymore. He’s asking for another stint in the san. “You’d do anything to protect him. “It was you who pushed him down the stairs. wouldn’t you? I didn’t want to believe that you were sleeping with him.. “That fool.” He laughs harshly.” I put a hand to my chest... but now.. My gaze flickers around the room and out into the deserted corridor. “So … it was you. I know exactly what this is about. you’re talking about the Gumede Shield. which feels bruised. but there’s no point in playing dumb... right?” I say.” “Nice try.” “Sleeping with him?” I gasp..
expecting to see Zach horrified by what he’s done. “Oh. too stunned by pain to think for a moment. and see James Ellison coming into the common room. It was an accident. The one whose name I still don’t know. I shake my head in confusion.” I say. His hand is clenched into a fist. and for the first time. My boyfriend is going to hit me. Zach stiffens. My friend.. but he couldn’t possibly have wanted me to fall like that. you stupid bitch.” he goes on. I fall backwards onto the stone tiles of the fireplace surround. You saw it. not James Ellison.. His head flicks around and he looks straight at my friend. and this time when he shoves me. I’m saved! Thank goodness! He looks so calm and competent. as tears flood into my eyes. “Liar!” he says again. He’s going to hit me. didn’t you?” Team Trinity 275 . thank goodness!” I blurt out. Then I catch a glimpse of movement behind him. “He was really going to hit me. No . Relief washes through me like a wave. “You’ve betrayed me in every possible way since the day we started going out. “He was going to hit me. “I didn’t mean to. he pushed me. I feel real fear. I can see it in his eyes.” He bends down over me. “You tripped. like there’s nothing he couldn’t handle. maybe reaching down a hand to help me up. I gasp and wince. Then I roll off the icy grate and look up.” He’s getting closer and I can feel the hard edge of the fireplace surround against the back of my foot.“Don’t you ‘Zach’ me. wasn’t it? Yes. But he just looks even angrier than before. You should look where you’re going.” I call out. and feel the edge of the grate slam into my back.
Then he starts clawing desperately at his collar. When he lets me go. Then he turns to me. What should I do? Should I call someone? 276 Fiona Snyckers .” He draws his fist back and I close my eyes. my head is spinning. and he coughs again. There is anger in his face as well as sadness. Zach has spun away from me and is clutching at his neck as though something is choking him. but I’m afraid of being grabbed again. “What’s going on?” I say. looking wildly around. “Who are you talking to?” Zach demands. He coughs .” I take a half-step towards Zach. slowly and clearly. Then I open them again. He lets out a strangled wheeze. but I can see him clenching his hand into a fist and drawing it back. watching Zach lurching around.. Trinity.” he says. “Please help. 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.. “Help!” I scream. I don’t understand what’s happening. He just stares at me sadly. His face is getting redder and redder. Zach smirks. Then he shakes me until my eyes roll back in my head. “Don’t let him get away with it. You’re trying to trick me again. “What’s happening?” But my friend just stands there. and his eyes are starting to bulge.” But my friend just stands there. aren’t you?” He turns back to me and grabs me by the arm. who is now lying groaning on the floor. “There’s no one here to help you. “There’s no one there.My friend doesn’t answer. and stumbles around the room pawing at his neck.
I turn back to my friend. He’s gone. Team Trinity 277 . An icy shiver ripples down my back as I run blindly out the room...” Then I stop. “I don’t know what to.
long holiday. I know the signs because my mom reacts in exactly the same way. At least. and little green men got out. This is the kind of thing that sends Lael into a feminist frenzy. Without fussing over me. she didn’t even seem to hear the part about the invisible person. not the part about Zach being choked by an invisible person. I mean Lael. Every time I read about some tannie in Texas or wherever who was driving along a lonely road at night. and that he was about to hit me in the face when something happened to interrupt him. 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 . because I haven’t been stupid enough to try to tell my story to anyone else.CHAPTER 32 Now I know how all those people in America feel when they report UFO sightings. and one of the lights turned into a flying saucer and landed right next to her. When I first told her what had happened. or else check herself into rehab for a nice. And when I say no one. Only now I’m the loony tannie from Texas whose story no one believes. I can’t help thinking that she should either give up the vodka. and knocked me over. only to spot some strange lights in the sky. and at the same time so coldly determined. All she cared about was that Zach had attacked me. I have never seen Lael so angry. That bit I’m keeping between Lael and me.
Eventually I lose track of how many times I tell my story. I hate all the stares and whispers that follow me around school. We give one copy to Dr Hussein.the fireplace. A lot of people think I’ve snapped. a horrible tiredness has come over me. and we keep one copy ourselves. I’m the ditzy rich girl who scrapes through school on a combination of luck and her family name. print it out. and she insists that the school doctor be called in to examine me and write a report of his findings. Then she takes photos of the grate to show how they match up. After a couple of days. and that I’ve made up this whole story to discredit him because he was trying to break up with me. Lael lets me know that Zach is telling everyone who will listen that I tripped over the fireplace by accident. isn’t he? He’s the golden boy that the school managed to poach for its postmatric programme. I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for a million years. She makes me go to Matron and tell her exactly what Zach did to me. They look at Zach and they look at me. Now that the worst of my shock is over. and how many people poke and prod at me. She makes me type the whole story out on my laptop. and sign it with today’s date. Most people couldn’t believe Zach was going out with me in the first Team Trinity 279 . When I think of trying to prove my word against his. and I find myself wishing that the whole thing would just go away. Because he’s the handsome sports hero. I wish my life could go back to normal. Then she goes with Matron and me to the Sandton Police Station to open a docket of assault against Zach. one copy to Matron. and they have no trouble in deciding who to believe.
First. They wanted to cut their trip short and come home early after what happened to me. I can’t believe it’s April already. the pressure is mounting. “Zach and his parents are going to be there. You just stick to the truth. Of course they think I would go ballistic if he ever broke up with me. He told me not to let it go. but I persuaded them not to.” I tell Lael.” I wander over to the dorm window to look out over the school grounds. and there’ll be nothing they can say to shake you.place. “I’ve been called to an internal hearing. *** A week later. Obviously I’d try to smear him with some made-up story about physical abuse. trying not to wring my hands. 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. There are times when the urge to let the whole thing drop is like a physical ache.” Lael’s smile is as sharp as a knife-blade. I can see right over to Illovo from here. All the trees are wearing their autumn colours. But here’s the thing – I’m not going to. 280 Fiona Snyckers . and we’re all going to our house in Cape Town for a few weeks. “They’re probably deciding whether to expel him. a sea of yellow and orange. Then there’s my friend – the one I thought was James Ellison. My parents will be back. And I kind of made a promise to him in my head that I wouldn’t. Term is ending in a few days.” “Good.
She is totally and completely on your side about everything. Not even Sophie would be that evil. Matron told me about it this morning. I turn away from the window and back to Lael. “The part about Sophie?” “No. even though I’m really going to miss living in Sisulu House. intrigued. “What about her?” “Okay. which is where Sophie’s family have their holiday home.” I say.” “Ja. Sophie knew all about how Zach treated those two girls. remember?” I wrinkle my nose.” I nod. “But have you heard the other part of the rumour?” Lael goes on. You have to take everything she says with a pinch of salt. She kept encouraging it. by the way. and that’s why she was so keen for you to go out with him.” I smile. I can hardly believe it. “I don’t believe it. but you know what a gossip she is. So according to Yasmin.” I say. right? He dated them while he was still at Hilton.It’ll be great to see them again. who also comes from KZN.” Team Trinity 281 . “The one comes from Pietermaritizburg. “Have you heard the rumours about Zach’s ex-girlfriends?” She nods. “You mean the ones who have come forward and said that he did the same things to them?” “Yes. This part I know. When I remember how grumpy I was about it at the beginning of the year. listen to this.” Having Matron in my corner has made the hugest difference to how I’m coping with everything. Yasmin’s a sweetheart. “I know. Apparently these two exgirlfriends of Zach’s both live in KZN. and the other one from Howick. “No ways.
That’s how I got him to notice me that very first time. “Are you okay?” Lael asks. I keep remembering how Sophie lent me clothes to go on dates with Zach. I don’t know whether she knew that he might actually hurt you physically. taken down a peg.” I am speechless. “Is this for real?” I say at last. and she’s not a gossip at all. It was common knowledge in Howick. “I can’t get my head around this. seeing the look on my face. Does Sophie really hate me that much?” “Apparently she thought it would be good for you to have your confidence knocked.” For a moment I’m too dumbstruck to speak. How she even did my makeup that one night.” This is what has been bothering me most of all. You know. I rub my hands hard across my face. or the fact that half the school thinks I’m a liar. “Not really.“No. no. And how she was the one who told me about his cage-fighting obsession so that I could pretend to be interested in it as well. Not the way he pushed me into the fireplace. Not the bruises. “How did he do it.” “And Sophie knew that?” “Absolutely. Even Nosipho believes this. Lael?” 282 Fiona Snyckers . What gets me most is how he managed to destroy all my confidence in myself. 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. Think about it.” I sit down on my bed. “Apparently. Trinity. but listen. She told me that Sophie was actually boasting about it.
“You are a strong person. There must be something wrong with me for him to have been able to do that. I can’t believe how much he changed me. it’s very hard to shrug that off. Nothing you did was ever good enough. You are.” Lael makes me sit down on the bed next to her and gives me a huge hug.“How did he do what?” “How did he break me down like that? By the end.” “Really?” “Well. I always thought I was quite a strong person. Nothing you wore was ever right.” “You were dazzled by him. I would have done anything to please him – literally anything. but obviously I’m not. and I agreed to that. too. If it weren’t so ridiculous. You thought you were the luckiest girl in the world to be going out with him. We all did. and I was ready to go along with it. we did for a while.” “I should have been able to see through him. You! Who’ve been hanging out with cabinet ministers and CEOs practically since you were born. I was completely terrified of him. 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. He wanted me to give up trying to get the shield. Trinity. He made you believe you didn’t know how to behave in public. When someone you think you’re in love with starts telling you you’re not good enough.” Team Trinity 283 . None of us has. it would actually be funny. But you’ve never had to deal with anyone like him before.
” “Gaslighting?” I say. Of course I wasn’t thinking clearly.” “Well. ‘there’s nothing wrong with the lights. puzzled. Why should she? I wouldn’t believe myself. Trinity?” Maybe I should try again. nearly jumping out of his skin if anyone comes up behind him. why are they going dim?’ he’s all. they’re not going dim.“He did do that. Lael cocks her head to one side. What do they call it – gaslighting. but she probably thought I was too traumatised to know what I was talking about. with another one of those razor-sharp smiles. Lael gives me a little shake. The other postmatric boys say he’s acting like he’s seen a ghost.” I stare at her.’ That’s exactly what Zach did to you. In the last few days even I’ve started wondering whether my mind was playing tricks on me. I was hurt and upset. Zach had just pulled his fist back to hit me. screaming in his sleep. So when she’s like. And 284 Fiona Snyckers . “Word is something has spooked him badly.” Lael says. Apparently. But I know she won’t believe me. I was terrified. remembering. ‘what’s wrong with the lights. “Stop it! Stop thinking like that. Maybe I should sit her down and make her listen seriously to what I have to say. he’s having nightmares. It was all him messing around with your mind.” “I guess. I’ve tried to talk to her about what happened in the common room that day. “I still can’t get over the feeling that I embarrassed him in public. None of it was real. you’re just crazy. “What’s up. I bet he’s sorry now. “It’s from that old movie where this guy makes his wife think she’s going crazy by dimming the lights all the time. didn’t he?” I say.
this was after months of his mind-games.” I say. “Nothing’s up. I wouldn’t believe myself anymore than I’d believe Darleen from Texas who said she’d just been abducted by aliens. Honestly. No.” Team Trinity 285 . shaking my head and forcing a smile. it’s a wonder I could still remember my own name at that point. “Nothing.
A little group of students is standing around. So we’ve got all her stuff to pack up as well. it’s not that simple. instead of just packing them all into my trunk. I’d be dying of embarrassment if I weren’t still so happy to see them. Normally I’d be a puddle of mortification by now. and tubes of lipgloss. black cars they’ve got parked outside. whispering and pointing. you just pick up your bag and walk out. And when you’re a boarder who is moving out permanently. 286 Fiona Snyckers . too. When you’re a day girl and school ends for the term. My mom has already insisted that I take her on a pilgrimage to view the Gumede Shield in its brand. Lael is coming home with us. Of course. My mom is pounding up and down the stairs clutching hairbrushes. She’ll be spending the first week of the holidays with us before her mom comes to pick her up in Cape Town.CHAPTER 33 The last day of term is such a mission I can hardly believe it. my family have taken over Sisulu House completely. 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. you tend to forgive them the little things. but when you haven’t seen your parents in more than three months. Gumede House too. When you’re a boarder. since my brothers are moving out of there. stray knickers. it’s a great big headache.
I stood up in front of the head. and I feel some of my new-found tolerance wearing thin. I’ll deal with it. She took pictures of it from about a million different angles. I don’t know what to do with myself. Peaceful too. It’s amazing how powerful that makes me feel. the deputy head. “TRINITY!” Mom yells up the stairs. and then took a million more pictures with Lael and me standing in front it.spanking-new display case. We might only find out next term. The important thing is that I told the truth.” My parents arrived yesterday. I didn’t let myself get scared off. I didn’t take the easy way out. “To think that my girls did this!” she keeps saying. Honestly. Matron. Because I’m not scared of him anymore. “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. you can’t take them anywhere. Team Trinity 287 . and Zach himself. just in time to support me through Zach’s hearing. But I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t really matter. “I’m so proud. and I told the truth exactly as it happened. Zach’s parents. Whether the school chooses to believe him or me is actually irrelevant. brushing tears from her eyes. because I’m finally sleeping properly again. my parents. I know my parents only started to relax when they saw for themselves that I really was okay. Parents. It doesn’t change what happened. I didn’t back down. We don’t know what will happen to him yet. hugged me until my ribs squeaked. And if I come back next term to find him still at school.
.” she says urgently.” She opens the leather covers of the books and I see that they are old. I’m going to show you some pictures. isn’t it? So these kids would have been about the same age as us. that’s what they used to call Grade 11. It’s a picture of the Brentwood Standard 9A class of 1966. “Okay. Standard 9 . all right?” “Sure. I turn the book around to look at it properly. What’s up?” She puts the old books down on a table.” she says.” I call to my mom as she pounds past us with an armload of shoes. bound copies of the school magazine. “I need you to keep me from murdering my mom. She hesitates. Trinity. The class photo.” “Okay. “Right. Really old – all yellow and crinkly.” “I’m just helping Lael with something.I look up and see Lael coming down the stairs clutching a bundle of musty-looking books. “Can we go somewhere that’s quiet?” I think for a moment. “I’ve got this. “That picture in the middle.” “I have to show you something. Let’s hurry. “Where have you been?” I ask. Does anyone there look familiar to you?” Completely mystified. and I want you to tell me if you recognise anyone in them. 288 Fiona Snyckers . and I notice for the first time that she’s looking mildly freaked out. “Go ahead. “What about a matric’s study? There’ll be no one there now.. go ahead.” I follow Lael into the study and shut the door behind us. She opens a page marked with a post-it and hands it over to me.
but surely there’s something familiar about that boy’s smile – about the cocky gleam in his eye? “That looks exactly like him. half-terrified. I’m trying not to think about how much packing I still have to do. let’s first look at a few more pictures. moving my finger from face to face. I’d say it was half-excited. This looks just like him.” I say excitedly. The second is a picture of the U16 tennis team.” I look down at the desk and see that she has three more photos marked with post-its. “The boy who helped us steal the Gumede Shield. looking at each one. It’s a much bigger and clearer picture. “His father? His grandfather?” “Uh..” Lael has a very strange expression on her face. And then I stop dead.? That looks exactly like. My heart is pounding painfully in my chest. “What is it?” she asks eagerly. before we go into all that. The third photo is of the newspaper club..” She swallows. Isn’t that. If I had to guess. “Who would this be?” I ask. He’s sitting in the middle of the front row holding an edition of the Team Trinity 289 ... I go through the rows slowly. It’s all grainy and black and white. “What have you seen?” I squint at the photo again. There’s that flat cap he’s always wearing.But now they’d be the same age as my grandparents.. “Not exactly.. To humour Lael. so the chances of my recognising anyone are basically zero..” “What do you mean?” “Okay . The one who saved me from Zach. And there’s his sweeping side-fringe with all the gel at the sides. I pick him out easily in that.. stabbing at the picture with my finger.
“Grey . “Sisulu is a girls’ boarding house. Grey.” “Trinity. “Remember we heard about that student who died in Sisulu House?” I frown. what was it called back then? Helen Keller House.” Lael pauses until I look up and meet her eyes.” There’s a beat of silence.. “Yes. Infuriatingly 290 Fiona Snyckers .. There he is.. He’s smiling into my eyes just as he has about a hundred times this year.. And they all lived in Sisulu House. “Why are you showing me these pictures?” “His name was Jim Grey. pointing to the list of names under the photo. like he was the editor or something. trying to remember. and she opens up the fourth and final picture for me to see.” Lael says... almost angrily. Even back in 1960-whatsit. sort of.. Or .” I say thoughtfully. I almost thought it was him for a moment. It’s him. It’s really him. Nobody knew who she was. Or someone who looks a lot like him. “Nope. So why am I getting gooseflesh crawling all up my arms? “Who is this?” I say urgently. What would a boy have been doing in the girls’ hostel?” “No one knows. right?” “It wasn’t a she. It always has been. This actually does ring a faint bell. With tears I don’t really understand pricking at my eyes. But the resemblance is amazing. okay. “What do you mean it wasn’t a she?” I say.. I look down at the page. Doesn’t ring any bells. It’s a big picture of him. It takes up practically the whole page. That’s when the very first girl students were introduced.paper.” she says.
. A cleaner found him. Handing out advice like Smarties. I guess because it all happened too long ago. James.smug. The newspapers don’t say what the cause of death was.. so I Googled it. “Because a boy who died at the age of sixteen would obviously have had kids.” “Right. Always so sure of himself. Like his son or his grandson or something. Did anyone besides you ever see this guy? Or were you always alone when he appeared?” Team Trinity 291 . my friends.” I go on desperately. The guy I’ve been hanging out with this term must be some kind of relative of his.” Lael nods. My nemesis. ‘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. I admit. but let’s get a grip here.” “Trinity. Jim. my boyfriend. So then I checked through the old microfiche records in the library and I found some newspaper clippings. My friend.” “Or .. He wasn’t even supposed to be here. “I got nothing.. He was found dead in the common room the day after school broke up for the September holidays. All the students had gone home the day before. that’s pretty weird. I follow Lael’s finger as she points to the caption under the picture.” I give an uncertain laugh. “Okay. Insulting me. or a nephew perhaps. “He’s probably been hanging out here to find out what happened to his relative.” Lael says. “The school magazine doesn’t say how he died. Nobody seems to know exactly what happened.
This isn’t some politically incorrect ghost we’re talking about. Okay. and yes..” I say at last..” she says.. He’s just a regular guy. I was usually alone when I spoke to him. do you know that? Completely nuts. and he sometimes says some totally inappropriate things. well.” “Well. He’s got all these racist and sexist ideas.. he can be really irritating at times. He’s as real as you and me. as you put it. He wears these really cool retro clothes. Trinity.. and these shoes with sharp points at the toes.” “Yes. “He’s kind of a snappy dresser.” “Winklepickers. please..I snort. He walked in through the door like a normal human being.” “When?” she demands. I heard it. But I could see it was really bugging you. You make him sound like some kind of a . I don’t know. Yes. I thought you’d lost the plot for a while.. “I . They must have.” “Oh. You picked him out of a blurry black-and-white group photograph. “I thought you weren’t listening. as it happens. “So you did hear that. But of course other people saw him.” “You mean almost like he’s still living in the old South Africa?” “You’re nuts. so I decided to do some research. “Appeared! He didn’t ‘appear’. didn’t you?” There’s a sudden.” “And what was he like? Tell me a bit about him. But they must have. all right.” I’m on surer ground now. 292 Fiona Snyckers . nodding again. Makes sense. anyway. I’ve seen him with my own eyes.” “You saw him choke Zach Morris without even touching him. “And oldfashioned clothes. sharp silence..
okay. I do read a lot of this stuff. chatting up random students and saving them from their horrible.” Lael claps her hands together. to the other side. and you need a priest to exorcise them. Team Trinity 293 .” “Um . if you know what I mean? Why is he still hanging around here..” I try to think of some of the books I’ve read recently. 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. Trinity.. I thought the whole point was that he had passed on..” Lael’s right. but I do think you’re right. “Because of unfinished business usually? And sometimes they haven’t realised that they’re dead. I mean why hasn’t he passed on?” She makes giant circling motions in the air. I feel like a total freak for saying this. In some books they want to punish someone. “Then all that’s left for us to do is find out why he hasn’t passed on. You’re the one who recognised him. And sometimes they just want to set the record straight about how they actually died. yes. But sometimes they’re just really evil.I didn’t point him out to you.. or warn someone. but I’m right.. aren’t I?” I give a huge sigh and rub the heels of my hands over my eyes... “Okay . “Like. I see what you mean. “No. Why do ghosts normally hang around after death?” “Uh. abusive boyfriends?” “Oh.” “Good. I know it’s a shock. and I know you don’t really want to admit it ..
” I say soothingly. okay?” As I steer Lael out of the matrics’ study and down the stairs. “But in the meantime. “Then that’s our project for next term.“Cool!” She rubs her hands together and smiles. We’re going to find out who he was and how he died. And when we do. there’s no one there. let’s go and finish up our packing.” “Sure it is. it’s going to help release his spirit into the afterlife. THE END 294 Fiona Snyckers . But when I turn my head to look. I catch a little flash of movement out of the corner of my eye.
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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