By night-time, news of an attempted break-in at Gumede House is all over the school.
The cops haven’t been called in, so everyone seems to have concluded that it was learners rather than actual burglars. A lot of suspicion is hanging over the Sisulu House Grade 10 dormitory. We’ve all been questioned separately and told they’ll go easier on us if we come clean.
Teachers always say that when they’ve got nothing on you and are trying to make you split on your friends.
The bit that’s puzzling them is that we all got back to class on time. We weren’t even late getting back from break. I got to Life Orientation just as everyone was filing into the class, and Lael, Priya and Nosipho were on time as well. Yasmin was even early.
For some reason, Mrs Pieterse and Mrs Anderssen are positive that the attempted break-in took place at 10.40. But our teachers swear we were sitting in their classes at 10.35. And since it’s impossible for us to have been in two places at once, they’re starting to believe we really weren’t involved.
The school is buzzing with rumours. I’ve heard every theory from terrorists to druggies to a political conspiracy involving my dad. And since I would really, really prefer it if my parents never heard a single word about this, I was quick to shut that one down.
“Hey, have you heard the latest?” Nosipho says, crashing into the dorm with her softball bat sticking out of her sports-bag.
I duck to avoid getting swiped by her bat. “What? Put that thing down, for goodness’ sake.”
“They’re saying that your father…”
“Yes, yes!” I interrupt crossly. “I’ve heard that one. Please don’t go spreading it around. That’s the last thing I need.”
“Oh, okay.” She pouts, then brightens up. “What about the one about the clocks?”
“No, we haven’t heard anything about clocks.” I look around at the others. “Have you guys heard anything?”
Lael shakes her head grumpily. She’s been in a horrendous mood all day. “What about clocks?”
“Apparently all the clocks in Gumede House got stuck at 10.40. That’s why the teachers are so convinced the break-in happened then. They’re still trying to reset them and get them working again. Weird, hey?”
“Hey, maybe James did it!” I say. “You know, to confuse everyone. That would be so cool.”
Nosipho turns to me. “It wasn’t just the clocks, though. It was the secretaries’ watches, too. And even the time-display on the microwave in the matrics’ study.”
“Well, unless James has superpowers, or, you know, a special electronic time-scrambler thingy, I think we can safely assume it wasn’t him,” Lael says sarcastically. “In fact, the whole story sounds like rubbish to me.”
‘Why are you so grouchy today?” I ask. “I mean, I know our plans were spoiled and everything, but the main thing is that we didn’t get caught.”
Lael stands up and walks to the door. She looks carefully left and right, before shutting the door. I know she’s checking that Sophie is nowhere around, but she needn’t worry. Sophie does more extra-murals as the rest of us put together and virtually never gets back to the dormitory until just before suppertime.
“You want to know why I’m grouchy?” she says. “I’ll tell you why I’m grouchy. Someone set us up today. The secretaries knew we were coming. They were ready and waiting for us. The only ones who knew about the plan were the five of us and James Ellison. And since James is the one who gave the alarm and saved all our butts, I find it highly unlikely that he blabbed.”
Lael pauses, her eyes flicking to each of us in turn. I look at the floor. I’m pretty sure I know where she’s going with this.
“So what I’m thinking,” she goes on ominously, “is that it was one of us. And since I know it wasn’t me, it’s got to be one of you four.”
“Not me!” Nosipho says immediately.
“Me either,” adds Yasmin.
“Or me,” says Priya. “Who would I tell? All my closest friends are right here in this room.”
“Well, it definitely wasn’t me,” I say.
Lael eyes me beadily for a moment. “Is that so?”
“Absolutely! Not me. No way.”
“Why are you looking at me like that? It wasn’t me, I promise you!” My voice cracks a bit.
“Stop staring at me like that!”
“You always were bad at lying, even when we were kids.” Lael turns away from me in disgust. I sink down onto her bed and put my head in my hands.
“What’s going on?” Yasmin sounds puzzled. “Was it Trinity or wasn’t it?”
“It’s starting to look like it was,” says Nosipho. “Why don’t you tell us about it, Trinity?”
I take a few deep breaths. Then I turn to Lael.
“Look, I did tell someone, I admit it. But there’s no way he went and told on us. No way on earth.”
“You just had to blab to your boyfriend, didn’t you?” Lael says bitterly. “Never mind that we’d made a promise not to tell anyone. Never mind that we’ve been friends practically since we were born. You just couldn’t help yourself.”
“It wasn’t like that!”
“Then what was it like, Trinity?” She swings around, her eyes full of anger and disappointment.
“Zach asked me to hang out with him at break today, so I immediately made up an excuse about having extra Drama practice. But he didn’t believe me. Like you say, I’m a bad liar. He wanted to know the truth. So then I told him I was doing something secret – something that I couldn’t tell him about. And then he really freaked out. He said we couldn’t carry on our relationship if I didn’t trust him.”
“Oh, no!” Soft-hearted Yasmin swoops down next to me and puts an arm around my shoulders.
Lael and Nosipho look less impressed. “That’s manipulative!” says Lael.
“Damn right,” Nosipho agrees.
“No, it’s not!” I say defensively. “He’s right. If you’re in a relationship with someone, you have to share all your secrets with them.”
“Your secrets, yes. Not other people’s.”
“He thought I was seeing someone else, Lael! He thought I was meeting another guy behind his back. In fact, he thought it was James.”
“Oh, really? Well it’s nice to see how much he trusts you.”
“What is your problem?” I demand, standing up, and putting my hands on my hips. Somehow I’ve gone from being guilty and apologetic to totally annoyed with my best friend.
“My problem is that you blurted out our biggest secret – one we’ve spent months preparing for – to your boyfriend, who then went straight to tell the school secretary.”
“He didn’t!” I almost scream. “He wouldn’t have. Why would he tell on us? He’s a postmatric, for goodness’ sake. He’s never even been in Gumede House. Why would he care whether we were planning to pinch the…”
“Sshhh!” Priya hisses. “Someone’s coming.”
A hush falls over the dorm as the door opens and Sophie saunters in. She looks at the five of us frozen into place like statues.
Sophie smiles. “Hey, girls! Have you heard the latest?”
“You mean about the break-in?” Lael asks grittily.
“Oh for goodness sake, no. Not that tedious old topic. I’m talking about James Ellison.”
My eyebrows snap together. “What about him?”
“He’s in the san with bruises and a black eye. Apparently someone pushed him down the stairs on the way back from cricket.”
“Who?” I demand.
“He doesn’t know. He couldn’t see who it was.”
Sophie sashays past us to her cubicle where she starts putting her sports kit into a laundry bag.
“Well,” I say cautiously, “those stairs as you come up from the cricket fields are pretty steep. Anyone would be bruised if they fell down there.”
Sohie gives me an indulgent smile. “Sure they would, Trinity.”
I automatically turn to Lael to share an eye-roll with her, but she looks away from me.
I pick up my toiletry bag to go and freshen up before dinner. As I reach the door, Lael speaks.
“I think you need to go and have a word with your boyfriend, Trinity. I really do.”
I nod my head. I really do too.