Zinzi was excited. She was going to play netball for the Under-13s and she wasn’t even at Harmony High yet. And her dad had given her R100. The world was suddenly a great place to be. She wouldn’t even let her guilt about lying to Ntombi spoil her day. Even if Ntombi was worrying about Olwethu, she would still be having fun with her ‘duet partner’ and nothing bad would happen. Ntombi wouldn’t be unfaithful – she was too much of a ‘good girl’ to do that. And she, Zinzi, wouldn’t cause any more trouble.
She would borrow her mother’s cellphone and send a message to Ntombi and it would all be sorted.
Her mother was getting dressed up in smart clothes, putting on lipstick. “Mama, you don’t need to get all dressed up for my netball game. You’ll look funny,” Zinzi laughed.
“What are you talking about?” said her mother. “I’m going to town.”
Zinzi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “But it’s my match today, Mama, I told you. I even asked you to bring Dad.”
Her mother’s hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, Zinzi, I forgot.”
“It’s all right,” said Zinzi. “It hasn’t started yet. I have to be there to play, remember.”
“But I’ve made a plan to meet Samnukelo in town,” said her mother. “I’m buying a dress for Jozi.”
Zinzi felt hot with anger. “No!” she shouted. “You can’t miss my game just to go shopping. You are so selfish!”
“Don’t talk to me like that!” her mother shouted back. “You are the one being selfish. This is the only time I can go to town and you want to drag me off to school for a sports game. You must be mad!”
Zinzi opened her mouth and closed it again. The day had gone dark suddenly. There was no more anger, but a deep, deep hurt. She wanted to tell her mother how much this game meant to her, how hurtful it was that her mother had forgotten it, and worse, didn’t even want to come. Instead she was getting ready to go to Ntombi’s concert, like that was the only thing in the universe. She was not going to come and watch Zinzi’s first game with the U13s, the game that could launch her netball career. Zinzi wanted to say all these things and more. But the words just wouldn’t come out. And her mother was still looking angry, as if Zinzi was in the wrong.
She saw her mother’s cellphone on her dressing table. But there was no way she was going to SMS Ntombi now. Bitterness was brewing in her heart. No, she wasn’t going to say anything to Ntombi. In fact, there was something she wanted to say to Olwethu. Maybe Ntombi wasn’t the innocent girlfriend that everyone thought she was. Knowledge was power, they said. And Zinzi had knowledge.
Ntombi might have her mother jumping for her, she might be about to receive fame and money, but that didn’t mean that everything about her life was perfect. And Zinzi felt a strong desire to make it as far from perfect as she possibly could.
She played well in the netball game. She didn’t score any goals and she didn’t perform any dramatic defences, but the coach congratulated her. Her mother and father would have seen her shine. But there was nobody there to watch her. The other girls slapping her on her back and welcoming her to the team should have made her feel good. But instead they made her feel worse. Strangers were congratulating her when her mother couldn’t even be bothered to come.
On the way home she looked out for Olwethu. But Olwethu wasn’t at the taxi rank, and he was nowhere to be seen on the street. She would have to find him later.
She went to look for Babalwa. “Chommie, I just need to give a message to Olwethu. From my sister. Will you come with me?”
Babalwa was pleased. “You’ve been so mean about your sister. Good thing you’re being nice now.”
“Oh, Babalwa, you don’t know Ntombi properly,” said Zinzi. “She’s a pain, I tell you.”
“Well, she doesn’t hit you, like Phati did when I borrowed her jersey. And she doesn’t swear at your mom. And go drinking. No, you’re lucky, I tell you.”
Zinzi sighed. She didn’t really feel like talking to Babalwa about how wonderful Ntombi was. “Just come with me now, OK, chommie.”
Together they made their way to Olwethu’s house. And while they were chatting and laughing, part of Zinzi was planning exactly what to say to Olwethu – those words would change everything …