I WAKE up the next morning buzzing with energy and feeling just a bit embarrassed at my nervousness last night.
It’s a gorgeous January day. The sky is nailpolish-blue and a bunch of birds are tweeting like mad in the big trees outside our window. There are some fluffy white clouds in the sky, maybe building up for a thunderstorm this afternoon. I love Joburg. Love, love, love it!
I jump out of bed, grab my sponge-bag, and head for the showers. My mood improves even more when I see that new rain-jet showerheads have been fitted in all the showers, and there are real doors instead of shower curtains. I don’t want to sound spoiled or anything, but shower curtains give me the heebie-jeebies. I can’t stand the way they blow into the shower, as though sucked in by some invisible force, and wrap themselves around your legs, all clammy and nylony.
School only starts officially tomorrow, which makes this my last non-uniform day until the weekend. I’d better make the most of it. I fling open my narrow little wardrobe and stare at its ridiculously inadequate contents. At home, this skinny cupboard would barely hold my underwear and nighties. Here it’s holding all my clothes for three months. Just the thought makes me feel panicky.
Okay. Focus, Trinity.
I need an outfit that says, “I might be the new girl at boarding-school, but that doesn’t make me unstylish, and I might be Abel Luhabe’s daughter, but that doesn’t make me spoiled.”
And, all right, that might sound like a lot for one outfit to say, but not when you speak “clothes” as fluently as
I reach for my new indigo-wash Levis – the bootylicious ones that go out at the bum and in at the waist. Not that I’ve got the world’s hugest bum, but the difference in my bum-to-waist ratio is quite dramatic. I team it with a super-feminine strappy top that’s salmon-pink with white lacy trim. My upper arms are just about my best part of my body, even when I don’t go to gym, so I like to show them off whenever the weather cooperates.
I slide my feet into a pair of black ballet flats. They’re Hilton Weiner, but look as though they could just as easily have come from Woolies. And last of all, I brush my hair.
Can I just say that in the fight between my mother’s skinny boeremeisie genes and my dad’s chunky Xhosa genes, the Xhosa genes mostly won hands down. I’ve got the bum and the thighs to survive for weeks without food in the Kalahari Desert.
The only good points I got from my mom were her greenish eyes and her long straight hair. When I see how some girls battle with their hair, I’m very glad I don’t have to fight with mine all the time. My cousins spend basically every Sunday clamped between the thighs of some township aunty while she braids their hair. They can never just jump into a swimming pool without putting a cap on first, and they live with the smell of hair-straighteners. I can totally understand why some girls go for the ‘chiskop’ option. I’m a fan of natural hair myself, but we’re all under huge pressure to be fashionable.
I scoop my hair up into a messy ponytail – with some strands falling carefully around my face – and go down to breakfast, practically skipping all the way.
Not even sitting at a big, lonely table all on my own can dampen my mood. I help myself to two fried eggs and a stack of toast and wave cheerfully at my brothers. After breakfast, I rush to the common room to watch the girls arriving at Sisulu House. There’s a huge bay-window that looks out onto the street, letting you see all the comings and goings at the school.
The first arrivals are a bit of a disappointment.
They’re all younger than me.
As I watch some little Grade 8 students arriving, a voice in my ear says, “Jailbait”.
I almost jump out of my skin.
“You made me bite my tongue!” I say crossly.
He laughs and throws himself into an armchair. “Sorry about that. When are the older girls arriving? I’m bored with these flat-chested little kids.”
He looks me up and down, checking out my outfit. Without quite meaning to, I find myself crossing my arms over my chest. His grin tells me that he knows he’s made me uncomfortable, and finds it funny.
“Don’t be so obnoxious,” I say. “The girls at this school aren’t here for your entertainment, you know. It’s pathetic the way you eye them up. Like a farmer looking to buy a cow or something.”
“Well, I come from good farming stock. My family have been mealie farmers near Brits for years.”
He shifts his attention to the window again and I take the opportunity to see what he’s wearing. He’s chosen hectically skinny jeans today. They look like they’ve been painted onto his legs. Normally I hate that style on guys, but I have to admit he makes it look good. His shoes are black and kind of pointy in the toe, and he’s topped it all off with a floppy white shirt. This guy dresses so well that for a second I wonder if he’s gay. Maybe he’s just pretending to perv over girls.
“Hey, now, hold the phone!” He sits up in his chair, almost quivering with excitement. He reminds me of my dog, Naledi, when she hears the rustle of the Eukanuba bag.
“Hellooo, baby. Come to papa. Oh, very nice indeed. Just a little on the chubby side, but she carries it very well. What a gorgeous girl.”
I’m craning my neck to see who he’s talking about, but she’s gone behind a pillar. Then she steps out into the open and I give a sharp gasp.
“That’s my best friend, you moron. Stop talking about her like that. She’d never be interested in you in a million years. She’s really bright and a feminist and everything. You’d have zero in common with her. Zero!” “Well, it’s not her conversation I’m after. So she’s
your best friend, is she? What’s her name?”
I hesitate for a moment, and he laughs. “Don’t be silly, Trinity. I could easily find out from someone else.”
“I suppose,” I concede sulkily, wondering how he knows my name. “Okay. She’s called Lael. Lael Lieberman. But trust me when I say she wouldn’t look twice at you.”
“Lieberman?” He wrinkles his nose. “You don’t mean she’s … Jewish?”
“Yes, she’s bloody Jewish!” I explode. “Why, have you got a problem with that too?”
He looks out the window again. Lael is bending down to pick up a small suitcase while her driver wrestles with her trunk. She’s wearing leggings and a mini-skirt and even I can see she looks hot.
“No, I suppose I don’t,” he says slowly. “Times change after all, don’t they?”
“You are seriously annoying! Just stay out of my way from now on.”
And I stalk out of the common room to go and meet my friend.
Tell us what you think: What do you think of James’ attitude towards girls?