I was walking towards school, when I heard a name calling me behind my back, “Hey, Benard.” I turned back and it was Collen, my best friend.

As Collen came towards me, one could easily see the difference between him and me. He was wearing a brand new school uniform for the opening day of the school. His shoes were well polished and sparkling and his hair was well combed.

I, on the other hand, wore a torn up uniform. The uniform’s white colour shirt had become all yellowish and my trousers were too short. I’d worn it since I was in Grade 10 and now I am in Grade 12 – my final year.

“What’s up man, you seem a little, I don’t know…” Collen asked.

“Just woke up on the wrong side of bed,” I responded, as we were arrived at the front gate of the school. “Ha, ha, nothing bra. I just can’t believe that we’re now in matric,” I said.

Collen smiled excitedly, “Yeah bra, I really can’t believe that we’re in the final year of our school career.”

As we continued to walk, I noticed a beautiful girl walking towards us. It was Precious. My heart immediately started to pump faster. It went like this, “Lub dub, lub dub…”

Everything about her was just ‘precious’; her milk-coloured skin, her curly blondish hair, her oceanic kind of eyes, as well as her sweet little lips which were captivated by a lipstick making them shine. She looked more and more like one of those models from a magazine. I could go on and on describing her looks: she was just perfect.

As I was in this train of thought, I daydreamed about kissing her. But, then I stumbled on a rock and fell down. In the middle of a pool of mud! I felt the mud touch my skin as I landed. Everyone laughed at me, including Precious.

I stood up, embarrassed. This was so not happening to me on the first day of school! I looked at my shirt, the stain of the mud covered most of it.

“Are you okay?” Collen asked.

“Yeah, I am,” I responded.

The school bell rang and everyone went to their classes. But I went straight to the toilet. I opened the tap and tried to wash away the stain that was on my, now nearly destroyed, shirt. But the more I washed the stain out, the more it grew and became worse. I eventually gave up, leaving it the way it was and went to my new class in grade 12.

I’d waited for the bell that ends assembly to ring. I really couldn’t bear a lot of people looking and laughing at me in my sodden and grimy clothes.

I went to the Grade 12 class that I would be attending for the rest of the year. Our teacher Mr Solo, as he’s affectionately known, was teaching. His real name was Mr Solomon.

I knocked on the door and Mr Solo raised his eyebrow in shock. He was looking at the mud stain that almost covered the whole of my uniform shirt. As he did so, the whole class then roared with laughter at me.

As I went to sit down I heard someone say, “nice shirt”. It was Justin. That dude always tries to get me down whenever he can. I don’t know why.

With my head down, I sat at my desk. I couldn’t concentrate on the Maths lesson that Mr Solo was teaching us. After his period was over, I lifted my bag, covering myself with it, and closed my eyes.

I was woken up by a lot of whistles. I lifted my head slightly to see what was happening. My heart immediately sank when I saw who the whistles were for. My heart pumped and raced faster than normal. Even though the day was warm, my body felt cold and my hands shook. The whistles erupted even more when Justin called Precious to come and sit with him.

Precious smiling, nodded and went to sit with him. The other pupils filed into class too.

Collen quickly came over to my desk and said: “It’s better if we sit together. We don’t really know our neighbours that are coming in.”

What Collen really meant was that there were three History classes last year. We called the students at the other History classes our neighbours.

“I wonder why they’ve been offloaded onto our class,” Collen said.

“Can I have your attention, please.” My Solo said loudly. “As some of you know, there were a lot of people who failed our History class last year. So we’ll be mixing the classes together this year.”

There was a loud cheer for Mr Solo’s final sentence!

The rest of the day went faster than I had expected. Before I knew it, there were only five minutes left before the end of the lesson. Before that, my attention had been constantly taken up with watching Precious and Justin.

When the bell rang for break, I went to the tuckshop to buy some snacks with the little money that I’d earned at the local café in New Block Stallian. As I arrived at the tuckshop, I saw Justin buying fish and chips for Precious. “He’s bribing her,” I thought to myself.

When the bell rang again, all of us filed back into class. But Precious and Justin were nowhere to be seen.

After the fourth period they rejoined the class. Well, first Justin sauntered in and then Precious trailed behind – some minutes later.

The lessons weren’t too tough on the first day of the school year. Before I knew it, the bell for the end of the day sounded. As I was placing my books in my bag, I looked out the window and saw Precious and Justin passing by holding hands. My heart pumped – but this time, it wasn’t pumping fast but so, so slow. It felt as if someone had shot a bullet through my heart leaving a gaping hole.

“Time to go bra,” Collen said.

I took my bag and we went out.

“The opening day of school is usually boring,” Collen said.

I responded, “Yeah, it usually is.”

As we came to the school’s front gates, we saw Precious and Justin kissing each other passionately inside his car – a brand new Porsche 911 Turbo. I noticed Precious opening her eye and glancing at me. Soon Justin did the same, then started the car engine and went speeding off.

“That’s odd,” Collen said.

I didn’t respond, but just kept quiet for a few moments. Eventually I asked, “Hey, did you see that wonder goal yesterday?

“That’s my goal of the season,” he responded.

We carried on chatting till we reached a tar road. “I’ll check you tomorrow, dog,” Collen said.

“No problem bra, it’s a new day tomorrow,” I responded.

“Ha ha, make sure you wash your school shirt before the stain damages it permanently,” he said laughing.

“Ha ha, don’t worry about it, I will,” was my response.

He turned and headed off to the other side of Stallian – an area with lots of industries, shops and malls. This provided lots of job opportunities. In 2008, billions of rands were invested in the area to build shops and factories. Houses, infrastructure and facilities quickly followed. So the area where Collen lived had become quite upmarket and urban. It was now known as New Block Stallion or western Stallian.

I, on the other hand, lived in Old Block Stallian. This was largely known for the agricultural produce it provided for the town dwellers of New Block Stallian. To tell the truth, there were no proper facilities, nor infrastructure in Old Block. There was not even a single clinic. It would take someone from Old Block Stallian half an hour to get to a clinic on foot, but only ten minutes via taxi to one in New Block Stallian.

So, New Block Stallian is far more advanced than Old Block. Everything one may want is in New Block. And, did I mention how brilliant the houses are there? To tell you the truth, they’re fantastic – like pieces of art! The area feels cosmopolitan with western architectural styles mixed a bit with an African twist. There are many whites who live in New Block Stallian – and just a small number of black people. The streets are always clean. The streetlights bloom at night. The houses are built within different estates – each with its own high and protective security fence. Security guards patrol the area 24/7 and each house has its own electric fence. It’s not easy to get into the area and not draw attention to oneself. And, if you touch one of those electric wires, you’ll be toasted cheese – trust me.

I know all this because my mom works there as a domestic worker. She works for the Jacobs family. Mr Jacobs is the owner of the house. My mom once told me that his wife works far away in Cape Town. She usually comes back home in the holidays. Anyway, Mr Jacobs’ house is just a few blocks away from Collen’s. I don’t usually have time to go over and visit Collen as most afternoons I work a three-hour shift at the local café. After this there’s generally only time to go the couple of blocks to Mr Jacobs’ house to walk my mom home after her day at work.

Today I go straight home to our house in Old Block Stallian. I arrive at the small front gate of our home. It’s a tiny RDP house – like many others in Old Black Stallian. These houses are so small and close to each other that you can hear almost everything that happens next door – even the late night snores. It’s very funny, highly unlikely, but also completely true.

I changed into my normal clothes and carefully washed my school shirt. I had to arrive at two o’clock at the local café for work or otherwise my salary would be cut by a rand. The clock said it was just a quarter to two. I quickly finished and hung up the shirt on the line. I put on my old sandals and ran to the tar road. As I didn’t have a phone, I had learned through experience to use my brain to work out how much time I had to get to the shop on time. It usually took around 10 minutes to run to the tar road. So, I estimated that it was about five minutes to two, when I arrived there, gasping for breath. I saw a taxi coming and immediately raised my hand. As it stopped, I wished that it hadn’t. It was so full. But I squeezed into the taxi. I couldn’t sit down but had to bend my body in. It was an awkward position.

I asked an elderly lady the time and she said that it was five past two. “Damn, I’m screwed,” I thought to myself.

As we arrived at New Block Stallian I placed my hand in my pocket searching for the R5 to pay the driver. I couldn’t find it. I realised that I had left it at home on my bed while I was changing. “What to do now?” I panicked as the taxi stopped to offload the passengers that had already paid.

The driver, who had a big tattoo on his cheek, turned to greet another taxi driver who was passing by. I took the chance and immediately jumped off the taxi. I tried to walk as calmly as I could but then I heard someone shouting, “Hey, come back here!”

I turned back shamefacedly and went back to the taxi. One of the passengers looked at me and said very seriously, “You dropped your ID.”

What a relief. Thanking him, I took it. The driver was still chatting away to the other driver.

By now my calmness had disappeared. I raced down to the Indian shops of New Block Stallian. But then I started hearing, “Thief! Thief! Thief!” The voices were growing louder. I ran past a clinic and arrived at the mall. I ran inside a Jet store and then pretended I was looking at their clothes. As I watched in the mall outside, the taxi driver and a few others ran past. I tried to quietly make myself invisible amongst the clothing but the security guard saw me and said, “Stop right there!”

He came towards me, saying: “Are you trying to steal here, boy?”

With a firm grip, the guard placed his arm on me and threw me out the store. I looked quickly to see if the taxi driver was still around with his crew, but thankfully they weren’t.

As I turned around, I saw Precious right behind me. My heart started beating faster and my breathing became heavy. I couldn’t see her expression properly and stammered: “It’s not what you think. I can explain…”

“Ha ha,” she laughed. “I gotta post this on Facebook with a status like ‘Mr Goody-Two-Shoes was kicked out of Jet for attempted shoplifting! Sounds catchy, hey?”

“Please, you can’t tell anyone. I’ll do anything for you.” I pleaded.

“Anything?” she asked.

“Yes, anything,” I mumbled.

Then Precious looked me in the eye and with a ‘you’re gonna get what you wished for’ kind of smile, turned and walked away.

(The next chapter will be coming soon!)

Tell us what you think: What do you think that Precious has got planned for Benard?