I spend a horrible night tossing and turning, imagining awful things. Every time I do manage to fall asleep, I drop into an uneasy dream. Zach and Lael are both in it. At times they almost seem to be the same person.
By half-past five in the morning, I give up on sleep, and slip out of the dormitory for an early shower.
I’ll go and see Zach before breakfast, I decide. I can’t wait until tonight to have it out with him. And this isn’t the kind of thing you can talk about on the phone.
Hi, babes. Just phoning to say good night and to ask if you tried to get my friends and me expelled from school yesterday.
No, this is definitely something that needs to be discussed face-to-face.
I dress quickly in the early-morning darkness. The wake-up bell goes off at 6.30, but I’m planning to be long gone by then. Autumn is definitely coming. When term started it was broad daylight by six in the morning, but now the light is a kind of pale pinky-grey.
Scooping my hair up into a ponytail, I creep down the stairs and towards the side door. The Yale lock will still be on, but I can let myself out. I reach up for the latch.
The soft voice behind me makes me almost bite my tongue. I spin around and peer into the gloom. It’s James.
“Good grief, you scared me!” I whisper. “What are you doing here so early? And how did you get in anyway? Everything’s locked.”
He taps his chest. “I’m a ninja, remember?”
Meaning there’s probably a window open somewhere on the ground floor that he crawled through.
“What’s up?” I ask. “Were you looking for me?” I reach up for the Yale lock and give it a twist. As the door swings open, the soft early-morning light floods into the passage.
“Hang on a minute!” I say, turning to stare at him. “Your face!”
He touches a hand to his jaw self-consciously. “What about my face?”
“It’s fine! There’s nothing wrong with it.”
“No, I mean you don’t have any bruises.”
He raises his eyebrows. “Why would I have bruises?”
“I heard someone pushed you down the stairs and you were lying in the san.”
“Nope. Not me.”
“Oh, thank goodness!” Relief flows into me in a lovely warm rush. “I should have known Sophie was lying through her teeth. I should have known it.”
“Sophie? That’s the blonde, right? The gorgeous one.”
“If by ‘gorgeous one’ you mean ‘evil liar’, then yes.”
“And she said I had been beaten up and was lying in the san?”
“Well, then she is an evil liar.”
“Exactly! I can’t believe she had me thinking that Zach could be capable of such a thing. Oh, I need to go and see him right now and apologise for thinking horrible things about him.”
“But I wanted to talk to you about the shield. We need a new plan, and I think I’ve got one.”
“I can’t think about that now,” I say. “I’ve got to go and see Zach.”
“Sorry!” I dash out into the chilly morning. Then I turn around and wave. “Thanks for the warning yesterday. You totally saved us.”
I rush down to the Postmatric Annexe, sending Zach a BBM as I go.
The morning bell went ten minutes ago and Zach is an early riser, so I’m not too worried about getting him out of bed. And sure enough, about 30 seconds later I get a BBM back.
Okay, that doesn’t sound particularly friendly, but let’s face it, this is an odd time to be messaging anyone. I thumb in a quick reply.
I’m outside the Annexe. Can I see you quickly? Need 2 talk about something.
There’s quite a long pause, but then the reply comes back eventually.
OK. Wait in reception. Be down in a sec. Will have to be quick – acctncy tut at
I hurry into the Annexe and report to security, where a shift change seems to be in progress. Both the incoming and outgoing guards look surprised to see me, and say sternly that they’re not going to call anyone for me at this hour of the morning. I explain that I’m just waiting for someone.
“Okay,” says the incoming guard. “Wait quietly over there where I can see you. This isn’t a proper time for visiting.”
I make myself as unobtrusive as possible and wait in a corner. Five minutes later, Zach comes in, looking absolutely gorgeous in boxer shorts and a vest. His crisp black hair is all damp from the shower and he smells faintly of some delicious brand of shower gel.
In a rush of love, I jump up and throw my arms around his neck.
“I think I should visit you this early every morning from now on,” I say, kissing him. “You look and smell amazing.”
“Trinity.” He unwinds my arms from around his neck and leads me away from the security office. “What’s going on? Why did you need to see me?”
“Well, first of all I wanted to apologise for almost believing a horrible story I heard about you last night.”
“Really?” He ushers me into the silent common room and turns me around to face him. “And what horrible story was that?”
“I heard that someone had pushed James Ellison down the stairs yesterday, and that you might be responsible. I hardly slept last night for worrying about it.”
Keeping a grip on my shoulders, he watches me closely. “And now you don’t believe it anymore?”
“Well, of course not,” I say with a half-laugh. “I’ve just seen James and he’s walking around without a mark on him. So it was obviously a complete and utter lie. And when you think about the source of the story, it’s not surprising that it was all nonsense.”
Zach doesn’t take his eyes off my face. “So this person specifically told you that I pushed him down the stairs?”
“Yes, she…” I pause as I try to think back to what Sophie actually said. As I remember, a nasty prickle of embarrassment heats up my cheeks and neck. I take a deep breath and remind myself of my resolution to be completely honest with Zach from now on.
“Okay, no,” I say as bravely as I can. “To be perfectly honest, she didn’t tell me that. It was just me jumping to conclusions. It was because you seemed angry with James the other day when I told you he was helping us with our plan to steal the Gumede Shield. I’m so sorry, Zach.”
I bite my lip and stare at him. To my surprise, his frown lightens and a smile sweeps across his face.
“What is it?” I ask.
“Oh, nothing. I’m glad it’s only you having these thoughts about me. I wouldn’t like to know that other people were thinking the same thing.”
“I didn’t discuss it with anyone else, I promise.”
“Okay, good. So what was the second thing?
“Sorry?” I have no idea what he’s talking about.
“When I asked you why you wanted to see me this morning, you said ‘first of all’. So now I’m asking you what the ‘second of all’ was.”
“Oh, right. Okay, it’s about yesterday. You know, when we did our dry run for breaking into Dr Hussein’s office?”
“Well, the thing is … they were waiting for us. They knew we were coming. Someone had tipped them off. And … and since you were the only outside person any of us had told…”
“You thought it was me.”
“No, I didn’t! It was the other girls. When they found out that I’d mentioned the plan to you, they thought you might have accidentally let something slip.”
“Well, I didn’t.” He turns away to pick up a cushion from one of the common-room chairs. “I didn’t, and you can go back and tell them that.”
I wish I could leave it at that, but something makes me push on. “So you didn’t talk about it to anyone at all? Not one single person?”
“No. The only person I mentioned it to was someone who was already involved.”
“Who was that?”
“Sophie!” I sink down into one of the chairs. “You told Sophie about it?”
“Well, of course. I mean, she’s in your dorm, isn’t she?”
“Yes, but we’ve been keeping it a secret from her. She was the only one who didn’t know.”
“Yes.” I frown in confusion. “I’m sure I mentioned that the other night. Didn’t I tell you that Sophie mustn’t know?”
Zach’s blue eyes look calmly into mine. “No, you didn’t. I had no idea.”
I could have sworn I mentioned Sophie, but now I’m not sure anymore.
“Well … maybe I forgot,” I say uncertainly.
“You definitely forgot. You should have warned me, Trinity. I’ve known Sophie for a long time. Obviously I was going to mention it if I saw her.”
I give a little laugh. “I must be going crazy then. I really thought I’d told you.”
It’s such a relief to have that sorted out that it doesn’t bother me that my friends are less convinced than I am. All they care about is the fact that neither Zach nor I could keep our mouths shut.
“You blabbed. He blabbed. End of story.” Lael sums it up, while the others nod.
Now she’s basically not talking to me and I feel like a criminal in my own dorm. But the main thing is that Zach and I are okay again. I can handle getting the cold shoulder from my friends as long as everything’s okay with Zach.
It’s the weekend, and rumours about the attempted break-in are finally starting to die down. Someone wrapped the chimney of Dr Hussein’s house in toilet paper last night, so that has taken over as the main topic of conversation. His house is right next to the dining-
hall, so none of us could miss it when we got up this morning.
The perpetrators used rolls and rolls of multi-coloured loo paper to create an interesting rainbow effect. The dining-hall is buzzing with speculation about who might have done it. My money is on the Grade 8s. There’s a Brentwood tradition that the new Grade 8s have to pull off one major prank in the first term as a kind of initiation. In my year we dressed up the statue of Josiah Gumede as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. I’ve still got pictures of it on my phone. My dad thought it was “disrespectful”, but I still giggle whenever I think of it.
My Saturday just gets better and better as Zach invites me to watch his cricket practice in the afternoon. The practice doesn’t take long, thank goodness, and then we have a whole hour together before I have to be back for supper. Zach is in a great mood, joking and fooling around as we walk up from the cricket fields. He teases me about how often I BBM my mom, saying it’s time to cut the apron strings.
“I can’t help it,” I laugh. “It’s a habit. My mom was my very first BBM contact and I still chat to her all day long.”
“You’re sixteen years old, Trinity. Surely you don’t need to run everything past your mother?”
“I’m not running things past her. We just chat. She tells me what she’s up to and vice versa. That way it doesn’t feel as though she’s on the other side of the world.”
‘Well, I really think you need to cut back.”
I smile flirtatiously up at him. “I can’t. I’m an addict.”
I giggle as he pulls me behind some bushes.
“I don’t think you’re listening to me, Trinity,” he says, taking hold of my shoulders. “I want you to stop BBMing your mother all the time. You’re not five years old anymore.”
I look up at him, my smile slowly fading. Is he serious? I thought we were just kidding around.
The silence stretches out until I can’t stand it anymore. “I suppose I could try to cut back,” I say doubtfully.
“Do that. And while you’re about it, stop spending so much time with those girls in your dormitory. They’re a bad influence.”
“My friends?” I gape at him. “But why?”
“Just a few days ago you were only too ready to believe the worst of me, weren’t you? All because your friends said so. You trust them more than you trust me.”
“It’s not that I trust them more than you…”
“Yes, it is,” he interrupts. “It’s exactly that. You and your friends got together and started talking about me behind my back, and the next thing you burst into the Annexe and accuse me of being dishonest. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I am a liar. Are you calling me a liar, Trinity?”
I stare at him, appalled. How did this unravel so quickly? How did it go so wrong so fast? And, more importantly, how can I fix it?
“I honestly didn’t mean to…”
“Oh, so you are calling me a liar? You’re saying I’m just imaging the fact that you woke me up at dawn and starting accusing me of stuff I never did?”
“No! I mean, I would never call you a liar. Or … or even think that you are one. I was out of line, I admit it. I should have known you would never do any of
those things. I shouldn’t have asked you about it. I was wrong.”
He folds his arms across his chest. “Yes, you were.”
“I’m s-sorry!” My voice breaks on the last word, but I force myself to hold it together. I’m the one who’s at fault here. I shouldn’t be trying to manipulate the situation by bursting into tears.
“Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time, Trinity.”
“Wh-what do you mean?” My eyes are burning with tears, but I refuse to shed them.
“You keep saying you’re sorry, and then you go and make the same mistakes all over again.”
“But what can I do? How can I prove it to you? I’ll do anything!”
Zach pulls me deeper into the bushes. He gives me a hard shake. “Will you keep your voice down? Any minute now someone is going to come out to see what’s going on.”
“Sorry,” I whisper.
“Okay.” He drags a hand through his hair. “That’s better. Now, the problem as I see it lies with your friends.”
“Y-you mean Lael … and … and Nosipho…”
“Yes, all of them. I realise you’re in the same dormitory, so you can’t avoid them completely, but you have to realise what they’re doing here.”
I’m nodding my head, eager to understand, but not completely sure where he’s going with this.
“What they’re doing…?” I repeat cautiously.
“They’re jealous of us. We’re one of the most prominent couples in the school. They’d love to see us break up.”
“Okay…” I remember how Lael was the one who fancied Zach first. Yes, she stepped back when she saw I was serious about him, but maybe she never really got over it. Maybe she’s been jealous all along.
“I think you should be careful about getting too close to girls like that. You can’t trust them. They don’t care about you the way I do.”
I feel some of the tension go out of me. He still cares about me! It’s not all over.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Just stop hanging out with them so much.”
“Well, Lael isn’t really talking to me anyway, so it shouldn’t be that hard,” I say, a bit sadly.
He smiles. “Exactly. It’ll be much easier than you think. And obviously you’ll give up all this nonsense about the Gumede Shield.”
I feel a fierce little stab of regret. “Oh, but…”
“Trinity.” His smile is replaced by that flat-eyed look that makes my stomach dip. “If you carry on with that stupid plan and get expelled, do you know what will happen? Our relationship will be over. Is that really what you want?”
“Oh, I don’t think they’d actually expel us…” I start saying, but stop when he squeezes my shoulder. “No, you’re right. I’ll definitely give it up. I promise.”
He smiles again and I feel the knot in my stomach unclenching. “So we’re agreed then. You’ll give up on the Gumede Shield, you’ll stop BBMing your mother so much, and you’ll stay away from those girls in your dorm. You won’t even miss them because we’re going to be spending a lot more time together from now on. ”