I OPEN my mouth to moan some more, and then close it again. Mom was obviously saving that one for last. I can tell by the smug look on her face.

Okay, I admit … this does change things a bit.

Lael Lieberman is my best friend in the whole entire world. We’ve been friends since Grade 1. That’s when her mom and dad got divorced. I remember finding her crying in the girls’ bathroom one break-time, and making her tell me all about it. The grown-ups in her life had all told her how cool it would be to have two bedrooms and double presents for birthdays and all that stupid stuff. I just let her cry and listened while she talked. We’ve been best friends ever since.

The divorce didn’t exactly go well for her. Basically, her folks can’t stand the sight of each other. Lael’s dad got remarried almost immediately, moved to Pietermaritzburg, and started a brand new family. She sees him maybe once a year at Rosh Hashanah. Her mom is this scary socialite who travels the world and only comes home now and then to buy a new set of Louis Vuitton luggage and shout at Lael about putting on weight.

So, ja, Lael has seen the inside of the boarding-house more than once. When her mom is in town, they live together in this super-swish serviced apartment at the Raphael in Mandela Square. But when she’s off travelling, Lael becomes a boarder.

I didn’t know she’d be boarding this term, but if Mom says she is, then she probably is. Mom would have checked first.

I’m about to admit that I’m feeling a bit better about this whole parental abandonment thing when I’m struck by a sudden thought.

“What am I going to do about food?”

“They’ll feed you, obviously,” Dad says, a bit tetchily. “They don’t exactly starve their boarders, you know.”

“That’s not the point. Has not one single person in this room even remembered that I’m on a diet?”

My brothers snigger. Dad looks at Mom, and Mom looks at me.

“I’m on the blood-group diet,” I say crossly. “I’m only supposed to eat protein and steamed veggies. They’ll stuff me full of carbs that are all wrong for my blood type.”

“Sweetie,” Mom says patiently. “That might not be a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with your figure. You shouldn’t be messing with your eating patterns at your age.”

“Oh, what’s the point?” I snap. “You’ll never understand. Just because you were born thin, you don’t care what I have to go through.”

I flounce out of the room and slam the door.


Okay, that might not have been my most mature moment, but my mother seriously tries my patience. Just because she can eat whatever she likes and stay skinny, she has no idea what it’s like to be cursed with fatness. The other day I was trying on clothes in Foxy and the size 10 was too tight.

“Why don’t you try the size 12, sisi?” the salesgirl said with a sadistic smile. I refused to give her the satisfaction. I just marched out of the shop and off to Foschini where the size 10s still fit me.

Anyway. Moving along. The point is that I’m a whale and need to diet. And this boarding-school business is going to wreck my whole eating plan.

I fling myself down on my bed and phone Lael.

The squeal she gives when I tell her my news is enough to split my eardrum.

“Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! That is sooooo completely cool! We’ll be roomies. We can call each other roomie. Let’s start now. Can I call you roomie?”

“Please don’t.”

“Roomie, roomie, roomie. Oh, I am so happy. I really wasn’t looking forward to this term at all. Mom’s going to Israel again. The way she carries on, you’d swear the whole of Tel Aviv would grind to a halt without her. I was totally dreading it. But now that you’ll be there, we’re going to have so much fun.”

“What fun can you possibly have in a place where you’re watched every second of the day?” I ask grumpily.

“Ha! You’re a boarding-school virgin. Honey, you don’t have a clue. But don’t worry, I’ll show you the ropes. Trust me, there are as many ways to break the rules as there are rules themselves. And I know them all.”

“What? Are we going to be climbing down the drainpipes at night while slipping pillows under our duvets to fool Matron? That is so Malory Towers.”

“Not exactly, but there are ways and means. And don’t you remember begging to go to boarding-school after you read Malory Towers? So this is basically a dream come true for you.”


It’s true that I went through a slight boarding-school phase back in my Enid Blyton days. And then again in my Spud days. But I’ve outgrown all that now. Trust my parents to get the timing all screwed up. They completely ignored my begging all those years ago, and now they’re ignoring my begging to stay home. It’s totally and utterly unfair.

Still, at least Lael is happy. If I have to spend the rest of my life in an institution, at least I’ll know that my suffering is helping others.

“Stop sighing like that, Trinity. You’d swear you were being sent to prison.”

“That’s what it feels like.”

“Rubbish, man. It’s going to be awesome. You’ll see.”

To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse.co.za

Re: Room Allocations


Hi Trinity,

We look forward to welcoming you to Sisulu House in the New Year!

In answer to your question – no, I’m afraid we have no private rooms at all. Not even for “learners who have a really huge amount of stuff” as you put it. As a Grade 10 learner, you will be allocated to a six-sleeper dormitory, which I am sure you will find quite comfortable.

Even our matric learners sleep two to a room with an adjoining shared study. You will quickly grow accustomed to sharing a room, I assure you!

If there is anything else I can do to set your mind at ease, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Kind regards,

Grace Gcobani

Dean of Students
Sisulu House
Brentwood College

To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse.co.za

Re: Room Allocations


Dear Trinity,

Thanks for your prompt response to my previous email.

In answer to your question, no, I’m afraid none of the matric dormitories or studies will be vacant this term or “available for annexation, like Schleswig-Holstein” – although I am naturally delighted that some part of your Grade 9 history syllabus seems to have stuck.

Sisulu House is almost full this term. We only just managed to squeak you in at the last minute. Your father is a very persuasive man!

I’m happy to have cleared up this issue once and for all. If you have any queries on any other subject, please don’t hesitate to ask.


Grace Gcobani

Dean of Students
Sisulu House
Brentwood College

To: Trinity Luhabe trinityluhabe@gmail.com From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House gcobani@sisuluhouse.co.za

Re: Room Allocations


Dear Ms Luhabe,

The matrics have more space and privacy than other students because they are writing matric – the most important exam of their school careers. And yes, they will all be needing their studies.

I’m afraid that even if your father “donates a library or a new wing or something”, we will still be unable to accommodate you anywhere except in the Grade 10 dormitory. I would also much prefer it if you didn’t bring “tons of stuff” with you in order to “prove” that you need extra space. Each girl is permitted to bring one regulation-size trunk with her for the term. Anything that doesn’t fit into your wardrobe will have to return home with your parents.

I look forward to seeing you at the start of term, and don’t anticipate that you will need to contact me again before then.

Yours sincerely,

Grace Gcobani

Dean of Students
Sisulu House
Brentwood College


Tell us what you think: Do you think Trinity needs to be more understanding of the situation?