WHEN I finish my drumming class, I make my way to the Postmatric Annexe via a route that loops past the cricket fields. The way the grounds are laid out, you have to go down about five million steps if you want to get to the actual fields, but you can easily stand up at the top where the school buildings are and look down at the players.
It’s 4.15 and cricket practice is still in full swing. I can see Postmatric Guy bowling at someone in the nets. So at least I know I haven’t missed him. Now the only thing that can go wrong is if he goes somewhere else after practice. But I’m not too worried. The way the sun is beating down today, I reckon he’ll want to hit the showers before dinner.
I do another loop around the back of the Annexe and station myself at a strategic point where I can see the players as they come up from the fields.
I feel a bit silly, just hanging around in the open like this but nobody seems to be paying any attention. I’ve got my schoolbag with me and I’m planning to drop down on one knee and start rummaging through it if anyone comes near me. There’s no sign of Sophie Agincourt, thank goodness.
I sneak a glance at my phone and realise with a jolt of shock that it’s 4.29pm. My heart starts thundering in my chest and for a moment I think I might be sick. This is happening. This is really happening.
After a few minutes I can hear the sound of voices getting closer, and then the cricketers appear in the distance, climbing up the steps. They’re kidding around – laughing and pushing each other like guys do. I’m happy to see that Zach is too mature for all that. He’s walking on his own, slightly behind them. Okay, they’re getting closer. Get ready, Trinity.
I jump as though a dog has just taken a bite out of my leg.
A little Grade 8 girl is standing behind me. I swear they make them smaller every year.
“Sorry,” she says nervously. “I didn’t mean to make you jump. I just wanted to ask if you knew where the pottery studio is?”
Pottery studio. Pottery studio? My mind has gone completely blank. The cricket boys are getting closer. Think, Trinity. Think!
“Oh, right, the pottery studio,” I say at last. “Okay, it’s next to the art classroom. Do you know where that is – in the Founders Block?”
She nods. Thank goodness.
“Okay. There’s this little door in the art room that leads straight into the pottery studio. You’ll find it with no problem. Okay pleasure bye.”
I’m gabbling now as the first cricket boys appear at the top of the steps and start dispersing in different directions. At least Zach is still behind them. But the Grade 8 girl is not shifting. It’s like she’s glued to the ground.
“Are you Trinity Luhabe?” she blurts out. “Abel Luhabe’s daughter?”
Oh, no. Please, no. Not now. Not another groupie. Most of the kids at school treat me normally, but every now and then you get one who has seen some stupid article in a stupid magazine and wants to ask me about our so-called “lifestyle”. Like, does my dad really own eighteen cars (no) and do we really have a ballroom at home (yes).
“Yes, I am,” I gabble as I spot Zach coming up the steps. At the top, he turns to walk towards the Annexe. “But I’m afraid I really have to go now. We can talk another time. Sorrythanksbye.” And I speed-walk away from her.
So much for casually intercepting him. I have to break into a run just to catch up with him before he disappears into the Annexe, where I won’t be able to follow him.
He turns around, slightly startled, as he hears my footsteps pounding up behind him. I’m sweaty, flustered and out of breath. Smooth work, Trinity, really smooth.
“Um … excuse me!” I say, gasping for breath. “Could you help me with my trig homework?”
“Help you with your trig homework?” he says, disbelievingly. “Why would I do that?”
Okay, I am now officially dying inside.
His eyes flick coldly over me as he waits for an answer. When one doesn’t come, he turns to go.
“Wait!” I say urgently. “I … I mean … please wait a moment. I thought … I thought there was this mentoring thing where students were allowed to ask postmatrics for help when they didn’t understand something.”
Something flickers behind his eyes.
“Oh, that,” he says reluctantly. “Yes. I remember something about that. Okay, let’s get this over with.” He strides into the Postmatric Annexe, jerking an arm for me to follow him.
I walk nervously into the Annexe. I have never set foot in here in my life. Students are only allowed in if accompanied by a postmatric, and even then we’re only allowed into the common room. It’s surprisingly gloomy, with lots of dark wooden panelling.
He flings himself down into an armchair and looks expectantly at me. I’m feeling even more flustered being indoors with him. His legs are so long they’re almost touching mine. His shirt is clinging to his chest and some dark hair is flopping over his brow.
“So what’s the problem?”
“Er…” I manage to tear my eyes away from his hair and start digging around in my bag. “It’s this. The teacher explained it way too fast, and I couldn’t follow what she was saying.”
I turn to the right page in our textbook and pass it to him.
“Oh God, this?” he says. “It’s so easy! Do you really not understand it?”
“I really don’t,” I say firmly. “Like I said, the teacher explained it too fast.”
“Okay…” he sighs. “Have you got your calculator here?”
I take my calculator out and he starts explaining. I think they must have learned a slightly different method at Hilton because it doesn’t sound completely familiar, but by the end of his explanation, I must admit I’ve finally got it.
Then we do a few more examples to make sure that I really understand it, and before I know it, we’re finished.
“That should do it,” he says, standing up briskly. “Next time just put your hand up and ask your teacher to explain it again. They’re used to dealing with the slower students.”
I’m packing my stuff back into my bag as slowly as I dare. Now I wish I’d prepared another question to ask him, but I honestly thought that by this stage we’d be chatting away about other things.
I know Lael said I should take a slow-burn approach, but I know I’ll never have the guts to ask him for help again. All I’ve done so far is irritate him.
I need to turn this around. But how?
For a second, Sophie’s advice flickers across my brain.
Am I really desperate enough to try something suggested by my evil nemesis – the girl who has dedicated her life to trying to bring me down? No, of course not.
“I’ll walk you out,” he says impatiently as I dither, pretending to drop my calculator. I have no choice but to straighten up, hoisting my bag over my shoulder.
We’re walking down the passage, heading for the door and the blinding sunlight outside. In another moment I’ll be on the other side of that door, and my chance will be gone forever.
“Do you happen to know if they’re showing the big cage-fight tonight?” My voice comes out all high and squeaky.
I cough and try again. “I said, do you happen to know if they’re showing the big cage-fight tonight? You know, on TV?”
“The cage-fight?” he repeats, looking at me as though I’ve suddenly sprouted horns.
“Yes. You know … the fight between the Bulgarian Zoltov and the American Harris? I was just wondering if it’s going to be on ESPN tonight.”
Okay, I admit it. I did Google cage-fighting, base-jumping and extreme sports in between extramurals this afternoon. Just in case. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that there was a big fight on tonight. Then I did a bit more reading and realised that there’s a big fight on practically every night.
Anyway, he’s looking at me like I’ve lost it, so it seems as though Sophie was indeed lying through her teeth. What a surprise.
“How do you know about cage-fighting?” he asks cautiously.
“Oh … um … I love it. Huge fan – that’s me. I mean, obviously not in a bloodthirsty, want-to-get-up-there-myself-and-fight kind of way. Just as a spectator. I find it completely fascinating, don’t you? Base-jumping too, of course,” I add for good measure.
I sneak a glance at his face and see that he’s looking at me properly for the first time this afternoon.
“What did you say your name was again?”
“Um … I didn’t actually. But it’s Trinity. Trinity Luhabe.”
He looks down at the ground for a moment, so I don’t get to see his reaction to my surname. Did he recognise it or not? I’m ashamed to admit that I said it slightly more loudly than normal, in the hope that it might grab his interest.
Terrible, I know. But you’d really need to see with your own eyes how hot he is before judging me.
After a moment he lifts his head and looks at me. Then he reaches out a hand to shake mine.
“Hello, Trinity Luhabe,” he says formally as we shake. “My name is Zach Morris. Very pleased to meet you.”
“Er … likewise.”
“And in answer to your question, yes, the fight will be on ESPN tonight. Do you have DSTV at home?”
“No … um … I mean, yes…” I stutter. I take a deep breath and pull myself together. “I mean, yes, we do have DSTV at home, but I’m not staying at home at the moment. I’m in Sisulu House this term while my folks are overseas. And we only have the channels the girls voted for last year. No ESPN, that’s for sure.”
“Well…” He hesitates for a moment. “Why don’t you come and watch it here? We have all the DSTV channels right here in the Annexe. I’ll organise it with your
Matron. The main fight will be over by half-past eight, so there shouldn’t be a problem.”
As he speaks, he smiles. I’ve never seen him smile before. His wonderful blue eyes become light and warm and adorably crinkled at the corners. Dimples peep out in his cheeks and he looks younger and more mischievous. I feel as though I’m standing in a beam of sunlight.
I barely manage to stammer out a thank-you before he turns and walks back into the Annexe.