LAEL IS looking stressed and hassled, but her face lights up when she sees me.
“Trinity! There you are. I was just about to BBM you.” I give her a huge hug.
“I’m so glad you’re here at last. Isn’t there anyone seeing you off?”
As soon as the words leave my mouth, I feel like kicking myself, because her face falls instantly.
“No … no one,” she says. “You know my mom’s in Israel this term, which is why I’m boarding again?”
“She left yesterday and arranged for a driver to drop me off this morning. And as for Dad – I spent a couple of days with him over Chanukah, but now that the twins are starting Grade 0, you can’t possibly expect him to come and see his older daughter off to school. Or … you know … even phone her or anything.”
She sounds so depressed that I find myself rushing to fill the silence.
“Well, I’ve also been abandoned by my folks for the term, so we can be orphans together.”
Lael nods, but we both know the truth. For my parents to be away for three months is nothing like what she has to put up with. My mom will phone my brothers and me every single day, and my dad will come back loaded with gifts for us. Lael’s lucky if she gets to speak to her mom once a week.
It’s actually a miracle she’s so normal and nice.
But by the time the driver has carried her trunk up to our dormitory, she’s cheered up.
“It’s going to make such a difference having you here this term,” she says happily, claiming the cubicle next to mine. “We’re going to have so much fun!”
She opens her trunk and I help her hang up her clothes. I can’t help looking at them with more than just casual interest. We’ve been sharing clothes since we were about eleven years old. Not everything, of course, since she’s about 15 kgs heavier than me. But anything stretchy, all shoes, and accessories of every shape and size.
The only thing that stopped me bursting into tears when I said goodbye to three-quarters of my clothes two days ago was the thought that I’d at least get to share Lael’s. I can see she’s been shopping over the holidays. Her mom might be the worst parent ever – the “anti-Jewish mother”, as Lael calls her – but she’s not stingy. Lael always has the latest and nicest of everything.
“Hey, I met someone this morning who likes you!” I say, remembering that I have a compliment to pass on.
Lael pauses while folding a pile of tank tops. “Oh, yes? So who was it?”
“What was his name again…?” I press my fist against my forehead. “Oh, right. James Ellison.”
“Him?” says Lael, sounding disappointed. “That Grade 11 guy? He’s not very nice, is he? Why, what did he say about me?”
“Um … just that you were really pretty and everything. He thought you looked hot in your mini-skirt.”
No way on earth am I going to tell her about his anti-Semitic remarks. As a best friend, it’s my duty to keep Lael alerted to any guys who think she’s hot, but I’m not saying a word about his weirdo prejudices. She’d go completely ballistic.
Lael looks at herself in the full-length mirror on her cupboard door. She turns around and checks out her butt. “You don’t think the skirt’s a bit short? I’ve been scared about bending down all day.”
“Nah, it looks awesome. Those opaque tights are very flattering, and I love the chunky slip-slops.”
Not for the first time, I wish I could carry myself like Lael. She has so much confidence and moves so gracefully that her extra few kilos don’t matter at all.
Boys just flock around her and girls want to be her.
Every time I start a new diet and get to that miserable “I can’t face another skinless chicken breast” stage, I wish I could be more like Lael and eat what I like while still looking awesome.
Lael shoves her last few bras into a drawer and spins around to face me.
“Right. Let’s get going. We’ve got some serious stalking to do.”
“We do?” I have to jog to keep up with her as she strides out the dormitory.
“Yes, we do. Forget James Ellison. Forget every other lame little schoolboy in the whole of Gumede House – or Brentwood College. This term we’re going to be playing with the men, not the boys.”
“Not a teacher?” I say, standing stock-still in the middle of the corridor. “Please tell me you’re not talking about a teacher, Lael. Because that would be seriously creepy.”
“Of course I’m not talking about a teacher! Like …
eeuw. Now stop asking questions and just come on.”
She grabs me by the hand and drags me down the stairs and out into the sunshine.
“Where are you taking me? Oh…!”
We’ve stopped behind a bush outside the Postmatric Annexe. The plot thickens. This is where the guys who stay on for a year after matric live. It’s almost always guys – hardly ever girls. They stay on to do Cambridge A-levels, supposedly to try and get into overseas universities, but really to play first-team sport for one more year. Cricket, hockey and rugby are the three big sports that pack their first teams with postmatric players.
The thinking seems to be that all the other schools are doing it, so Brentwood might as well too.
The thing is, I remember all of last year’s matrics, and there’s not one that I could get excited about stalking.
“It’s not that Mpume guy, is it?” I say unenthusiastically. “Because his ego takes up so much space, there’s no room left over for a girlfriend.”
“Sshhh!” she says sharply as two guys come out of the Annexe. One is a cricket coach and the other is the great Mpume himself.
“No, of course it’s not Mpume! I haven’t changed that much over the holidays. No, this is a new guy. He was at Hilton College last year. I heard that Brentwood poached him for mega-bucks to play rugby for us.”
“A rugby player?” Now it’s my turn to pull a face. Rugby players are not usually the brightest bunnies in the hutch. Not that I’m exactly a Dux scholar myself, but I do like a guy with more between his ears than a scrum cap.
“I know … I know,” Lael whispers. “But this guy is different, trust me.” She sucks in a breath. “There he is now. Just … just look at him!”
She points through the leaves at a guy who is running lightly down the steps of the Annexe, thumbs hooked into the waistband of his jeans. And for once in my life I am completely speechless. I’m looking at the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. He’s about six foot or even a little taller. He’s got dark brown hair that’s kind of wavy and adorably messy, and the kind of golden tan that doesn’t fade in winter. His body is exactly the right combination of lean and muscular, but it’s his face that takes my breath right away.
It’s almost an old-fashioned kind of face – like it should belong on an Ancient Greek statue or something. I only get about two clear seconds to look at him before he heads down to the sports fields, but that’s enough.
His eyes are either blue or green, I can’t tell at this distance, but they’re set behind long, black eyelashes. Add the chiselled cheekbones, the straight nose, and the sculpted lips and you have a combination that’s making me weak at the knees.
We watch him walking down to the fields until he rounds a corner and disappears. Then we step out from behind the bush and stare at each other.
“Hey, snap out of it!” Lael says with a laugh, clicking her fingers in front of my face. “You look like you’re in a trance.”
I drag my eyes away from the point at which he disappeared and try to focus. “I feel like I’m in a trance.” “So? Do you believe me now? Was I exaggerating? Or do you concede that we have some stalk-worthy
I blow my breath out in a long sigh. “I concede. I concede.”
“Those eyes, hey? And that bod. And wait until you see him smile. I think we’ve got ourselves a project for the term, Trinity. Are you in?”
I nod mechanically.
Lael stops dancing from foot to foot and grinning. She looks at me more closely.
“Oops,” she says. “Oops what?” “You’ve got it bad.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’ve really fallen for him, haven’t you?”
“Don’t be silly!” I snort. “How could I fall for a guy after seeing him for just a few seconds? I’m not that lame.”
“It’s not lame, Trinity. You believe in love at first sight, don’t you?”
“I don’t know.” I rub my hands over my face. “I didn’t think I did.”
“Well, I do. When Cupid shoots his arrow, he doesn’t miss.”
I sit down on a low wall between Gumede House and the Postmatric Annexe. Suddenly I’m really depressed. “A guy like that wouldn’t be single, would he?” I say. “I mean he’s bound to have a girlfriend. And even if he doesn’t, some matric girl will snap him up in seconds. I wouldn’t stand a chance.”
“Oh, come on now. It’s not like you to be so defeatist.” “I’m just being realistic.”
“Well … we’ll see.” Lael sits down on the wall and puts her arm around me. “I almost wish I hadn’t shown him to you now. I hope I haven’t let you in for a lot of heartache.”
Tell us what you think: Do you believe in love at first sight?