“Woah!” he laughs as I put my hand on his shoulder to steady myself.

“Uh … sorry!” 

It would appear that my brain has gone into freeze-frame mode – its fresh out of conversation and I’m standing here drowning in deep blue eyes with long dark lashes. Everything slows down and goes quiet except for the sound of music playing far off in the distance. And then eventually he blinks and the noisy disco suddenly returns to its normal speed and volume. He takes my hand off his shoulder and shakes it as he leans forward and shouts into my ear.

“I’m Simon.”

I smile.

“I’m Hope.”

And that’s as far as a conversation can really go when the music is so loud that the floor is vibrating. But Simon doesn’t let go of my hand and I’m totally fine with that, which is unusual for me. And we dance. And boy can the boy dance. I’m normally self conscious but his rhythm is so contagious that I’m pulling out the dance moves like it’s the most natural thing in the world.   

I’m not really one to forget about my friends but I’m almost surprised to see Nomusa and Deevya when they tap me on the back about half an hour later. Deevya raises an amused eyebrow. 

“We’re going to the chill out lounge. Come with us,” she shouts.

I look at Simon.

“You come too,” hollers Deevya and then turns and leads the way.

Simon nods and as he turns to follow her he lets go of my hand and it feels so … empty.

“Get a grip, Hope,” I mutter to myself as we fight our way across the dance floor, but not for a second do I take my eyes off the back of Simon’s head. There’s no way I’m going to lose him in the crowd. 

I’m the last to make it to the quiet, moody glow of the chill out lounge. Deevya, Nomusa and Simon are already chatting easily by the time I get there.

“You look really familiar,” he says to Nomusa.

“Are you a surfer?” she asks.

“Of course. I’m a Durban boy,” Simon smiles.

“I also surf,” says Nomusa, “you’ve probably seen me at the beach.”

She’s quite modest, our Nomusa, and doesn’t add that she is always in the top three in the surfing contests around the country and is the face of a big swimwear label as part of her sponsorship deal with them. Her face is probably familiar to Simon because it graces a few billboards around the city. 

“Cool. See you in the water then. I’m going to get a beer,” he continues. “May I buy you girls a drink? Hope? A beer?”

“Yes, please,” I say without thinking. 

Nomusa and Deevya both give me a look.

“I’d love a coke,” says Deevya, flicking her long hair over her shoulders and fixing him with a sultry look.

Simon blinks and smiles.

“Yeah, me too please,” says Nomusa.

“Are you sure? It’s New Year’s after all?” says Simon.

“A coke would be great thanks,” smiles Deevya, and Simon heads off to the bar.

“He’s cute!” exclaims Nomusa.

“He’s trouble!” says Deevya. 

I stare at her in disbelief.

“How can you say that! You don’t even know him!” 

“I’ve got good instincts. And you don’t know him either.”

“Oh please, you’re just jealous!” I snap.

Where did that come from? I don’t know who is more shocked by my words, Deevya or me. What a pathetic thing to say! 

Deevya gives me a look that lets me know I’m going to pay for that stupid comment. And then Nomusa intervenes and starts making random conversation to change the subject. She keeps chatting for a few minutes. It gives me time to think about how to apologise and explain myself to Deevya. I’m about to say sorry to Deevya when Simon returns with the drinks.

And maybe I was wrong about Deevya wanting to get me back for that ‘jealous’ comment, because she chats away happily to us and keeps the conversation going for which I’m very grateful. She even synchronises our cellphones to make sure we all have the same time, and sets our alarms for the New Years countdown. And then she turns her attention to Nomusa, which gives me a chance to chat to Simon properly. 

“So, have you finished school?” I ask, and realise I’ve probably just given my age away with my naïve question.

“I’ve just finished. And I got my excemption, which is a relief!”

“So what are you going to do next?”

“I’m taking a gap year this year to work as a photographer’s assistant. That’s what I want to be – a photographer you know. But I’m going to find out what it’s all about in the real world before I decide if I want to actually study photography.”

I’m about to reply when my cellphone alarm goes off and spurred on by the beer I’ve been drinking I leap to my feet and shout “Happy New Year!” 

Nobody else does. I look around in confusion as everyone looks at me and laughs. And then I fix Deevya with a death stare. She almost falling off her chair she’s laughing so hard. 

“Serves you right!” she manages to gasp out between giggles.