” You #*$#% $%#&,” my aunt swears at me when I get back to the shack without Disprin.

She has more lines on her face than I’ve ever seen before
and her eyelids are thick and droopy. Badly Hung Over. I’ve seen her like this
so many times. This is the first time I know how she actually feels. If I
didn’t feel so sick myself I might actually feel sorry for her.

Bang! Slam! Crash! She storms out of the shack with the kids, leaving me there on my own. The racket ricochets against my own hangover and I hold my head in my hands.

I blink in surprise at the silence that follows.

Alone again. I don’t mind right now. I flop onto my bed and
a cloud of dust takes flight, each spec glimmering gold in the light streaming
through the burglar-guarded window. As I watch all the tiny pieces twirl and
spin my mind swirls around all the fragments of life that have happened in the
last few days. 

Sisipho going away. The party. Getting drunk. Kissing
Themba. Making friends with Lindiwe and Gugu. Meeting the Minister of Finance.
And then there’s Thandoza – who seems to effortlessly attract friends, love
and money. Thandoza. She’s the restless thought that keeps swirling and won’t
settle.

Sigh. All I want is to be somebody like her. I wonder if she
still wants to be my friend.

Anxiety curls its way around my stomach like a snake sliding onto a warm rock. I leap to my feet. I can’t lie still anymore.

I get up and grab my phone. Sisipho. I wish I could call her
and hear her voice, and tell her all about the last 24 hours since she left.
But I’ve got no airtime, and no idea how to get money to buy more. I think of
Thandoza with all the airtime tucked into her bra. I bet you she’s lying on her
bed phoning all her friends to find out about their 16 December parties.

The door moans on its hinges as I step outside. The streets
that crisscross between the hive of shacks in Harare are quiet for a Saturday.
Khayelitsha may rock on the 16 December, but it’s one giant, quiet hangover
hospital on the 17th

I’ve got nowhere to go, but I need to move. I lock the door
and start walking. I remember how Thandoza sashayed over to her Minister of
Finance last night, and I think I might just try that walk out for myself. I
give it a go. At least it gives me something to think about other than the pain
in my head.

“Buhle!” the sound of my name is like the crack of a whip,
and I get such a fright I nearly jump out of my skin. I turn guiltily, caught
out by very the person I was trying to imitate.

Thandoza’s standing right in front of me, and the look in
her eyes ain’t friendly. 

“Oh! Hi Thandoza.” I splutter, a little bit shocked that
she’s appeared just as I was thinking about her. 

And then I do the one thing I think might win her over, and
I smile that smile I’ve learnt from her.

She doesn’t smile back. Anger sparks in her eyes.

‘Who do you think you are to start interfering in my life?’
she barks.

I gape at her blankly. I wasn’t expecting that. 

“Where’ve you been this afternoon, Buhle? Who’ve you been with? What have you been doing?”

Geez. What’s going on?

Thandoza’s standing really close to me.

“Nothing, I…” I’m about to tell her I’ve been at home by myself, but I figure that admitting that I’ve got nobody to hang out with isn’t exactly going to make Thandoza want to be my friend.”Don’t you lie to me,” she spits. “I can tell by that look on your face, and the way you’re walking that you’re up to no good.”I feel anger start to creep up my belly, but I’m not one to fight.

“Don’t you lie to me!” she spits. “I can tell by that look
on your face, and the way you’re walking that you’re up to no good.”

I can smell booze on her breath as she steps even closer to
me, full of aggression.

I feel anger start to stir in my belly, but I’m not one who
likes to fight.

“Hang on a second Thandoza,” I say in the calmest voice I can summon, “maybe you need to tell me what’s going on here.”

I need to tell you?” she explodes. “Last night you were sucking up to my girlfriends and you kissed Themba, and this morning you were flirting with my Minister of Finance. What’s going on here is that you are trying to take away everything that’s important to me in my life!” Her sentence ends in a piercing screech, and she’s so angry she’s shaking.

She jabs me in the chest to emphasise each point, and
carries on.

“What’s going on here is that you are trying to take away
everything that’s important to me in my life!” Her sentence ends in a piercing
screech, and she’s so furious she’s shaking. 

I’m totally shocked. Me? Trying to take anything away from Thandoza? No ways! She’s my idol. I don’t know
what to say, so I start with the first thing that comes into my mind. 

“I didn’t know that you and Themba know each other…?”

For an instant I swear I see her eyes cloud with tears, but then she shudders and her words shoot out like poisonous venom.

“Listen Buhle, just face it, Themba’s so not into you. That’s what he wanted to tell you this morning. You were so pushy you didn’t give him a chance to say no to you last night. 

“I…I…I…” I stop, stuck for words.

Thandoza leans in so close our faces are almost touching.
Her beautiful face is twisted with cruelty.

“Don’t even think of trying that approach on my Minister of
Finance. You think you’re hot stuff now, but you have no idea how to hold a
man’s interest Buhle. You need real beauty and personality to get a man, to be
someone, to go to the right places and to be liked. Trust me – you don’t have
what it takes. You’re nobody, so do us all a favour and give it up now.”

I look into Thandoza’s eyes to try and understand, but I
can’t fathom the look of pain and anger I see there. 

Her words feel like they’ve bitten into me with sharp teeth.
My throat aches from holding back tears I refuse to cry in front of Thandoza. Inside
me it feels like I’m swaying dangerously on the edge of a high building. I
stare at her wordlessly, my brain frozen. Even my skin feels sore from the graze
of her words. 

Silence gapes.

I have no words. I stare at the ground for a long time. I
can hear Thandoza’s ragged breathing. I can feel her angry presence.

Before I walk away I look Thandoza straight in the eye. 

And as I show her my back I hear a voice inside me quietly
promise. “I’ll show you Thandoza.”

****Remember that chapters roll out daily. Come back for Chapter 9 tomorrow!****