The door creaked open and there stood Dirk. Ntombi gulped back her sobs and sat up as he came towards her. “Ntombi, what’s wrong?”

But she could tell he knew everything. “It’s Alex, isn’t it?” He sat down on the floor next to her and held her hand.

It made her want to start crying all over again. She nodded her head. She wanted to speak but couldn’t trust herself yet. She cleared her throat, wiped her eyes, then whispered, “Why did no one tell me he had a girlfriend?”

Dirk grimaced. “I thought you knew …”

“Don’t talk rubbish!” Ntombi couldn’t believe she was talking like this. But she was suddenly feeling a burning anger.

“Don’t talk rubbish!” she said again. “How could I have known when he was behaving like that? Don’t tell me he didn’t flirt with me – sit with me, ask me to dance … That isn’t the kind of stuff a guy does when he has a girlfriend at home.”

“Hey, you need to shout at Alex, not me,” said Dirk.

“Well, Alex isn’t here, is he?” said Ntombi. “Alex from Alex has gone to bed, after saying goodnight to his girlfriend. And you are here. And you knew and didn’t tell me! Everyone’s been laughing at me. The twins, Mahlodi, do they all know about the girlfriend?”

“No, no, Ntombi, only I do,” said Dirk. “The others don’t know Alex like I do. And his girlfriend is a friend of my sister. But nobody knows really.” He sighed. “I’m not surprised, Ntombi. Alex from Alex likes it when girls fall for him. Especially gorgeous girls like you.” He smiled at Ntombi, but she didn’t smile back. “Even if the girls have a boyfriend. Like you do.”

“I had a boyfriend,” said Ntombi bitterly. “Past tense.”

Dirk looked horrified. “No, Ntombi, don’t tell me you broke off with your boyfriend because of Alex?” Ntombi was tempted to say yes, because she wanted Dirk to feel guilty and she wanted Alex to know that he had messed with her life. But she couldn’t do it. She shook her head.

“Not really,” she started.

“Hey, there’s a message for you,” said Dirk, handing her the cellphone on the floor next to her. “Maybe it’s your boyfriend begging you to come back. I would if I were him, you know.” She had to smile at that.

But the message didn’t come with a name attached. This was another message from a scary, unknown place, and from a person full of hatred.

luza, sho it’s syf 2 liv ur bf bck in CPT? is he rlly w8ng 4 u? hrry home b4 u luz mre thn jus da competition. no mre endles lov…

“What is it?” asked Dirk.

She showed him the screen.

“Hate mail again,” he said. “Someone really wants to scare you. Don’t worry, I’ll find out who’s doing this … I have an idea already.” But how could Dirk find out? He didn’t know Mzi. And he was the only person who hated Ntombi that much. He and Priscilla knew about the competion. But they wouldn’t know what duet she was singing. How could they?

It was as if Dirk could read her thoughts. “It’s from somebody here,” he said. “No one else knows what song you and Alex are singing, do they?” She shook her head in reply. “Cheer up, girl,” he said. “Time for some detective work.”

He called the number, but it rang and then went dead. “Don’t worry,” he said, with a glint in his eye. He sent something from her phone to his. “Watch tomorrow,” he said. “I have a plan.”

Later Ntombi lay in her bed, struggling to sleep. It was already 4 a.m. She tried to empty her mind of all the thoughts whirling around in her head. Remember the club, she told herself. It felt so long ago that she had watched the twins fight. Then she remembered Alex dancing next to her, and felt a jolt of shame. So she thought of her song, and sang it over and over in her head until she fell asleep.