They entered the hotel reception. It was filled with a small jungle of pot plants and there was a water feature that ran down the polished surface of one wall. Opposite the long reception desk was a meeting area with couches and a coffee table, and further into the building were wide doors that lead through to the hotel lounge.
It was all a lot more luxurious than Sbu had expected.
Three men in business suits were sitting on the sofas. Airtime bounded up to them.
“Hi! Are you from the quiz? I’m Mfundo,” he said, giving his real name.
One of the group, a slightly overweight man in glasses, stood up and shook Airtime’s hand warmly.
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Bhose. You spoke to me on the phone. Thank you very much for meeting us here. Would you mind posing for a photo?”
“Sure!” said Mfundo.
Mfundo and Bhose stood with their hands together in a frozen handshake as one of the quiz men took their photo on a fancy camera.
“That picture’s going to be in all the newspapers,” said Bhose. ” You’re the first person to win this prize!”
“Great!” said Airtime. “So how do we do this? What’s in the suitcase? Is it the money? I’ve always wanted a suitcase full of money.”
“I’m sorry,” said Mr. Bhose smiling. He put his briefcase on the table and opened the clasps. “These are just the papers we need so we can sign the money over to you. Come, sit down here, it won’t take long. There’s a lounge through those doors, if your friends don’t mind waiting.”
Airtime sat down with the quiz organisers, and K8 and Sbu walked through the automatic glass doors into to the hotel lounge. They were the only people in the room, apart from a barman wiping the counter. They sat down on a couch in the corner and K8 ordered two Cokes.
It was the first time Sbu had been alone with her for a while, and it felt good.
“So,” she asked. “Have you decided what you’re going to do after you finish school?”
“University,” said Sbu. “If we can get the money. My parents want me to go.”
She smiled at him. “You’ll get a scholarship,” said K8. “Easily. You’re smart enough.”
Sbu had known K8 for years, but she was slightly older than him. Her family was rich. It was like she was from a different world. So even though they spent a lot of time together, he’d never really thought about her as anything except a friend. But now that he was about to leave school, things were starting to change.
“I was thinking of taking another year off,” said K8. “So we could both go to university at the same time. It would be good to go with someone you know.”
Sbu looked K8 in the eyes. She looked right back, and they held that gaze for longer than they ever had before.
“Would you like that?” she asked.
“We’d be in the same class,” said Sbu.
“That’s right,” said K8.
He smiled back at her. They were so lost in the moment that they didn’t notice Airtime running in to the bar.
“Quick!” said Airtime, pushing between them. “I need two thousand bucks!”
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you ever fallen in love with a friend? How did it work out? Is it different from falling in love with a stranger?