Ntombi tried to forget what Zinzi had said as they waited for Loyiso to arrive. And when he sang his single she couldn’t believe she was standing so close to him. When he invited her up onto the stage to sing a verse with him, she thought she must be dreaming. He told her that she was very talented. But she knew that she hadn’t sung her best. And she was angry that she had let her feelings affect her singing. It wasn’t professional. How would she ever make it as a musician? It made her even angrier at her sister. How could she ruin everything for her?

She went outside. It was getting cold and darkness was coming, but she didn’t notice. She walked, not caring where. Why could it not be all good? Loyiso had sung with her – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – but she had been distracted, caught up in jealousy and confusion. She had been a fool. Zinzi was right. What kind of girl has to ask her sister to get her boyfriend to phone her? He should want to phone her – he shouldn’t have to be told. But he hadn’t. Why hadn’t she called Olwethu that night, before all this doubt and misunderstanding set in? Maybe none of this would have happened. But now it was too late – she had lost him. It was her fault. She felt guilty. Then she felt angry at Zinzi – she could hear in her sister’s voice just how pleased she was. What stupid game was she playing? Only 13 and already she was so manipulative. Where had she learned to be like that?

Ntombi sat down on a bench in the quad. She kept seeing Olwethu in her head chatting and laughing with a pretty girl. Pretty and sweet. Just the type of girl he would go for. Not a girl who would flirt with other guys like she had done.

Then she felt angry with him. She hadn’t done anything after all. What kind of boyfriend was he, to move on so quickly? How could he? No wonder he hadn’t called. He was avoiding her. And now she had found out from her sister – how humiliating.

How could she concentrate on the competition now, when, as she sang, Olwethu was probably making out with someone else? He was just like Mzi … false. It had been false love. Well, he could go to hell. No guys could be trusted. She would give up on boyfriends – they were a waste of time. She would just concentrate on her music. She didn’t need them.

But when her phone beeped, she felt a surge of excitement, thinking it was Olwethu phoning to tell her that he loved her and that Zinzi was just making trouble. Maybe this was a message from him explaining everything! But then she read,

dnt thnk u’re a wnner coz u’re on ur way out. enjy da trp.

She stood up and looked around, suddenly seeing shadows everywhere. It was the third message from this anonymous caller and they always came when she was feeling most vulnerable – like the person knew and was watching her. Who wanted to hurt her like this? What had she done? Was it Mzi? But how could he be here, in Jozi? She couldn’t think of anyone else who had a reason for such hatred. She wanted to run back to the safety, warmth and light of the rec room, but she was frozen with fear. And then out of the dark she heard a voice … a deep, rich voice, singing her song.

There was only one person it could be. She turned around – there was Alex coming towards her. She wanted to run into his arms. But then she saw Dirk behind him. They sat beside her, one on either side.

“Why so down?” asked Alex, seeing her tears. She felt his leg against hers. It was warm in the cold night.

She found herself sobbing. She couldn’t help it. “What’s wrong?” both boys asked. Alex put his arm around her.

She held out her phone to them. Dirk peered at the screen and whistled softly. “Somebody doesn’t like you. Who is it?”

“I don’t know,” Ntombi said, and then burst into tears again.

“Hey, don’t be sad. Let’s just phone the number and see who this asshole is.” Dirk took her phone and pressed call. Then after a few seconds he gave it back to her. Whoever it was just disconnected.”

“It makes me frightened,” said Ntombi, gulping back the tears. Alex was going to think she was one big crybaby.

Dirk pulled out a tissue for her. Alex grabbed it and wiped her face gently. “Forget it. Someone’s just jealous of you.”

Dirk looked at Alex with a strange expression on his face. Then he turned back to Ntombi. “You know what you need?”

“What?” sniffed Ntombi.

“You need cheering up. Hey, some of the guys are going out later. Why don’t you join us?”

She looked doubtful. She shouldn’t go – she had practice in the morning and there was only a day left until the finals. But she felt so lonely. And she couldn’t count on anyone at home to make her feel better.

“Mahlodi and Katrina can come too. Ask them.”

“Safety in numbers,” Dirk joked.

“Yes, I’ll come out with you,” she said.

“Great! We’ll meet you in the car park just after supper.”

As she walked down the corridor towards her room, she passed the twins’. She could see that they were getting dressed to go out too. That’s all I need, she thought.

“What’s happening with you and Alex?” asked Mahlodi, as she walked in. “He came here looking for you.”

“He found me. He was with Dirk. They wanted to ask me out … and you too.”

“Not me – I’m going to have an early night. Are you sure nothing’s going on?”

“I’m sure.”

“Better be,” joked Mahlodi. “Don’t forget your boyfriend.”

“Actually, I’m single again,” said Ntombi. “So I can do what I like.”

“He broke up with you?”

“He’s seeing someone else.”

“He told you that? The guy’s got guts! Normally they leave it for us to find out.”

“Well … not exactly. I heard it from my sister.”

“And you believed her?”

“She saw him with a girl … They were standing very close …”

“My advice – don’t do anything foolish to get back at your boyfriend. Not until you know the whole truth. How do you know it wasn’t just a friend?”

“My sister seemed so sure.”

“But you don’t know yourself. You didn’t see him, did you?”

“I guess so. Still, whether it’s true or not, I really want to go out tonight. I need to relax,” said Ntombi. “I’m under a lot of stress.” She showed Mahlodi the threatening SMS. “And there are two more,” she said. “So you see why I need to go out?”

“We’ll get to the bottom of this,” her friend promised. “And don’t worry, there are plenty of people to protect you.” She smiled. “Me included. Forget about the messages for tonight. Just go and enjoy yourself.” She wagged her finger. “But just be good!”

“OK, Mom,” said Ntombi.

“OK, I’ll back off. I get it,” said Mahlodi. They laughed.

When Ntombi was dressed and ready to go she looked great in her jeans and long green jacket. Mahlodi took a picture. “I’ll put this on Facebook. Make that boy of yours come running.”

But as Ntombi left the room, Mahlodi came running after her. She slipped something into Ntombi’s bag.

“What’s that?” asked Ntombi.


Ntombi looked horrified. “I’m not that kind of girl!”

“I’m not saying you are that kind of girl,” said Mahlodi. “I just know it’s better to be safe than sorry. I know lots of girls who said nothing would happen, and then they’ve ended up pregnant.”

“I promise you I won’t need those,” said Ntombi, blushing. “I’m not that stupid.”

“Just in case,” said Mahlodi, adding, with a laugh, “Have a jol in Jozi!”

“Thanks,” said Ntombi, and she really meant it.

Alex was waiting with a whole group of guys in the parking lot. And there were the twins, already complaining about the taxi they were travelling in – a kombi that belonged to somebody’s cousin. Ntombi sighed. With so many people going out tonight, it seemed unlikely that she would get to spend any time alone with Alex.