I scream so loudly all the dogs in the neighbourhood start barking.

“Hey, hey! Don’t get such a fright. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

I’m ready to take off like a rocket, but now I hesitate, gaping up at him. It’s Jayden Depaul – the guy every girl in Grade 10 has a crush on. Including me. Frankly, I’d almost rather he was a mugger.

“Were you following me?” I demand, my voice sharpened by fright. “Why were you following me?”

“You left this on the bus.” He pulls my netball kit out of his rucksack. “I saw you get off at my stop, so I followed you to give it back.”

“Oh … right … thanks.” 

I can feel my face getting hot as I take my kit from him and stuff it into my bag. This is already the longest conversation we’ve ever had. We were at a party once and he said he liked my jeans. I’d customised them myself with a tub of purple dye and some faded floral patches.

“Latoya …” He sounds a bit embarrassed. “What were you doing just now? Because it kind of looked like you were spying on those people.”

I open my mouth to deny it, but it’s like aliens have taken over my brain.Without at all meaning to, I find myself telling him the truth.

“That guy is my dad,” I explain. “My biological father. My mom had a… a fling with him 17 years ago. She was a data-capturer in his office. But he was already married, and his wife was expecting a baby. When he found out my mom was pregnant, he made her promise to keep it a secret – he said it would destroy his marriage. And she was so angry with him, she was happy to have nothing to do with him. He pays for my schooling, but only on condition that I keep out of his life. I’ve never … I’ve never even met him.”

To my horror, my voice turns wobbly and I can feel tears welling up. I risk a glance at Jayden, and find him smiling kindly down at me.

“Let’s get you back to Grayston Drive. I’ll find a taxi to take you home. This isn’t the answer, you know, spying on people.”

As we step out of the leafy coolness of Strathavon into the bustle of Grayston Drive, there’s already a taxi waiting, pointing towards Wynberg. Jayden pays my fare and pulls the door open for me.

As I turn to thank him, he suddenly leans down towards me.

Image: Steve Vosloo, CC-BY-SA-2.0

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is there anyone in your family that you wish you could get to know better or be closer to?