LAEL CALLS a dorm meeting after dinner to discuss strategy for our plan to pinch the Gumede Shield.

All I want is to flop down on my bed and fantasise about my date with Zach, but she is determined.

“You’re going to get us expelled,” I groan.

“It’s our project for the term,” she says. “Sit up and focus, Trinity. We need to strategise.”

“It’s a mad idea. You should leave it alone.”

“Don’t be such a wuss. Don’t you want us to go down in history as the girls who captured the shield for Sisulu House? So that it could be shared equally between the boys and the girls?”

“Oh, please. That’s just a myth. Nosipho can’t even remember where she heard it. I bet the person who steals the shield will get booted out of school, not turned into some kind of hero.”

Lael’s lips tighten and a steely look comes into her eyes. “We’ll see about that. Anyway, you’re not worming out of it now. We’re doing this together or not at all.”

I’m tempted to say that I like the “not at all” option, but I know Lael when she’s in this mood. Resistance is futile. As the girls start filtering into the dormitory after supper, Lael nabs them one by one and drags them into her cubicle for the meeting. Sophie is at a violin lesson. We’ve pretty much decided not to include her in this. Her tell-tale tendencies are legendary.

“Okay, first order of business,” says Lael, clapping her hands together. “Secret Agent Luhabe reports that the Gumede Shield is protected by an infra-red beam that will trigger an alarm the moment the shield is removed from the display cabinet. How did you come by your information, Agent Luhabe?”

“Dr Hussein told us when he gave us that tour at the beginning of the year,” I say. “I told you all that.”

“Just confirming it for the record,” she says, typing madly on her iPad. “Now what else can you tell us about the security in that office?”

“The display cabinet is kept locked and the office is kept locked except when Dr Hussein is actually in it.

So basically it’s impossible,” I say, flinging myself back against the pillows on Lael’s bed. “We’re not a gang of professional burglers. There’s no way we’re getting anywhere near that shield. We might as well just give up right now.”

“Nonsense!” Lael says sternly. “We don’t do giving up. What we need is some inside information. Now which of you have friends or boyfriends staying in Gumede House?”

There’s a silence as we all look around at each other. “Well…” I say. “I suppose there’s always my brothers…”

Lael pulls a doubtful face. “They’re a bit young.”

“I know. They’re approximately the last people I’d trust to break into a maximum-security office, but they are male and they do live in Gumede House.”

“No, that’s no good,” Nosipho says. “Dr Hussein’s office is on the first floor, which is where the Grade 11s have their dormitory. Ideally we’d want a Grade 11 boy helping us. The only problem is, I don’t know any.

Lael, Priya, and Yasmin also shake their heads. “All my male friends are day boys,” says Priya. “Me too.”

“And me.”

A depressed silence falls. I know I haven’t been very enthusiastic about this idea, but it’s a bit annoying to fall at the first hurdle like this. Nosipho heaves a sigh and Yasmin shakes her head. They all look so defeated. Then a tiny little light goes on in the back of my head. “Hey, wait a minute!” I say. “Just hang on a minute. I do know one of the Grade 11 boys. I know James Ellison.” “Oh, right.” Lael perks up. “I’d forgotten about that.

How well do you know him? Would he help us with something like this?”

I think of James’ cocky grin and bad-boy attitude. “In a heartbeat.”

“Excellent!” says Lael. “His first job is surveillance. We need him to watch Dr Hussein’s office and see if there’s ever a time when the gate is left standing open. And also where the key to the display cabinet is kept. That kind of thing, okay?”

“Okay. But let’s say he finds the office standing open, with the key hanging in the lock. Shouldn’t he just pinch the shield and hand it over to us?”

Lael turns a shocked face towards me. “Absolutely not! That’s the last thing he should do. It doesn’t count if a boy pinches it for us. It has to be a girl who takes it because we’re striking a blow for women’s liberation here.”

“Right.” With an effort that makes my muscles creak, I manage not to roll my eyes.

“Don’t forget the alarm,” Yasmin reminds us. “As soon as someone lifts the shield out of the case, a scary-ass alarm is going to go off.”

“And it’s wired through to an armed response team,”

I add. “So a bunch of guys with guns will arrive five minutes after the alarm goes off.”

There’s a short silence.

“Well, anyway…” Lael goes on. “Surveillance is what we need. A full and detailed surveillance report. Agent Luhabe, can we leave it to you to brief your assistant Ellison in this matter?”

“You can,” I say solemnly.

“Then this meeting is adjourned.”

I walk out of Lael’s cubicle and do a jumpy little double-take as I see Sophie standing there. How long has she been there and how much did she hear? Then I notice she’s still holding her violin case and I relax. She must have just come in.

“Hey, Trinity,” she says with an easy smile. “Looking forward to your date with Zach tomorrow?”

“Sure…” I say, cautiously. “It’s not really a date, though. We’re just going to hang out for a while in the afternoon. No biggie.”

“Of course it’s a big deal,” she counters. “Zach Morris doesn’t just invite girls to hang out with him. It means he really likes you. What?” she adds as she notices the other girls staring at her.

“Nothing!” says Nosipho, shutting her mouth, which was hanging open.

“We’re wondering why you’re being so nice to

Trinity,” Lael explains. “I must say, I haven’t figured it out myself yet.”

“Don’t be silly!” Sophie laughs. “Trinity and I have been friends forever.”

“Hmm…” Lael gives her a long, hard look.

“Hey, I bet he takes you up to his room tomorrow!” says Sophie, turning back to me.

I blink at her. “Takes me to his room? He can’t do that. The Postmatric Annexe is strictly off-limits for girls. Except for the common room, and even then you have to be signed in to get that far.”

Sophie smiles patronisingly. “You don’t know Zach. Sneaking girls into his room is what he does. He had a hectic reputation at Hilton. I bet he finds some way of smuggling you up.”

* * *

As I settle down into bed after lights-out, a little wriggle of something that isn’t just nerves squirms through my tummy.

The last few days I’ve been mostly excited, but just a little bit nervous about my date with Zach. What Sophie said about him taking me up to his room has added a whole new level of terror to the mix.

I honestly thought we’d just hang out at school somewhere. In my wildest dreams, I saw us maybe holding hands. Maybe even kissing a bit.

Actually, I thought the kissing was far-fetched. This is Zach Morris we’re talking about. What are the chances he’s really interested in a Grade 10 like me?

But now Sophie, who knows him better than any of us, thinks he’s going to take me up to his room.

Her words keep going around in my head. He had a hectic reputation at Hilton … I bet he finds some way of smuggling you in.

Butterflies are turning somersaults in my tummy. A hectic reputation. We all know what that means, don’t we? It means he’s had lots and lots of girlfriends, and was having full-on sex with all of them.

I wonder how many girlfriends he’s had? Three, maybe? Or four? Okay, let’s be realistic and say six.

So that’s six girlfriends that he’s had sex with …

probably … fifty times each? Six times fifty equals 300.

So realistically speaking, he’s had sex approximately 300 times.

Which is 300 times more than I have.

I swallow and draw the duvet tight around my neck.

I was stupid not to have figured this out before. I mean, this guy’s a postmatric, for goodness’ sake. A gorgeous, stunning, postmatric from one of the poshest boys’ schools in the country. Of course he’s had sex loads of times. And of course he’s going to expect me to have sex with him. Tomorrow. In his room. Which he will have smuggled me up into.

Oh, God.

He’ll expect me to know all sorts of stuff, won’t he? Like techniques and positions and all that. And I only know approximately five positions. Okay, seven, if you stretch your imagination a bit. But there are whole books full of positions, aren’t there? Like that one, the Kama Sutra whatchamacallit. I should probably look it up on the internet. Try to swot up a few positions before tomorrow.

I give a huge yawn.

At last I’m getting sleepy. Don’t want to look like I’m smuggling designer handbags under my eyes tomorrow.

I give another yawn, and finally fall asleep.