I feel like I’ve been run over by a train. The only reason I’m at school today is because my mom refused to let me stay at home. 

“You were so brave to express your feelings through your art and you must hold on to your courage. You’re amazing Hope L’Amour!” my mom gushed, “You’re an inspiration to us all. The world would be a better place if everyone wore their hearts on their sleeves. You’ve got absolutely nothing to be ashamed of – this is the time to hold your head high!”

It’s all well and good that my mom has convinced herself that this is a positive situation for me, but now I’m at school with my eyelids looking like those big round loaves of polony you can buy in the cold meats section at the supermarket. If you could actually see my heart on my sleeve it would look like road kill. Sorry mom, but I don’t know if this look can possibly inspire anyone. I cried myself to sleep last night after Zack D.U.M.P.E.D me on Valentine’s Day. And I really don’t feel amazing or like being out in the world for everyone to see that I look like a walking accident. 

“Hooooope!” Deevya shouts to me as arrives and spots me lurking next to my locker trying not to be noticed by anyone.

 She struts over, full of the joys of spring.

“I had the most amaaaaazing night! I went out with…” and then her sentence drifts off as she looks me in the face. “You look horrendous!”

I’m trying to think of what to say when Nomusa bounces over to us, clearly also on a bit of a post-Valentine’s high. When she gets to us she’s all smiles and then as she takes in my polony eyes she looks a bit shocked.

“Sheez Hope. You look BAD,” she exclaims.

“Thanks guys, actually I’m feeling so gorgeous I’m thinking of entering the Miss South Africa beauty pageant,” I retort, and then promptly lose my edge and burst into tears.  

They get the whole story out of me. How I was waiting for Zack, ready to surprise him with the personalised Valentine’s message I’d painted over the whole side of a huge building in one of the busiest streets in the whole of Durban, when I opened what I thought was a Valentine’s card from him to me and got the shock of my life.

“He dumped you?!!” Nomusa cries out in surprise.

“…with a letter!!!” shrieks Deevya. “Not even face to face?”

“But that doesn’t sound like Zack,” says Nomusa, aghast.

And then a group of girls spot us from behind.

“Hey Awesomes. Love your work on that building in Umbilo Road. It’s on our bus route to school,” I hear a voice say as they approach, “and we drive past it every day. It’s really cool!”

And then another voice chimes in.

“Hope I didn’t know you and Zack were such a big item!! He’s so hot!”

They’ve all got huge grins on their face as they reach us, and then they spot my polonies.

“Oh dear,” says the girl in the front, summing up the situation. “I’m guessing your public Valentine’s wish didn’t go down so well with Zack.”

This is what happens all day. There are nearly 1000 girls in my school. The news travels fast. They hear about the dumping letter and all day I can feel everyone’s pitiful eyes on me. You know what happens to road kill when it’s stuck in the fast lane of a busy highway? Well….

Deevya and Nomusa stay close all day and I’m grateful. If I’d had to survive this all on my own it would be even more unbearable.

“This is the worst of it,” says Nomusa. “Just hang in there today Hope. Things will get better.”

By the time I get home I feel flatter than a stamped on pancake. I’ve crept into my block of flats cautiously to make sure I don’t see Zack. As I’m about to close the front door I hear my next-door neighbour calling my name.

“Hope! Hope! This is all so exciting! What good news about you and Zack! This is sooo romantic! And now you’re famous!” she enthuses as she presents me with the front page of Durban’s most popular newspaper, the Daily News.

There, in prime front-page position, is a photograph of our giant, building-sized street art in Umbilo Road. The photographer has zoomed in on the words I wrote to surprise Zack. “Happy Valentines Day Zack! Kiss Me Now! Love Hope.”  

And the photograph is captioned: “Local girl Hope L’Amour went all out to declare her feelings on Valentine’s Day as The Awesomes unveiled this exciting piece of street art on Umbilo Road. Thousands of commuters stopped to snap photographs with their cellphones, to share the romantic experience with their loved ones.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can you relate to what Hope must be feeling? Do you think that all this public exposure makes the situation worse?