The three girls dreaded the last ever day of high school for different reasons. Nomthi had got a scholarship to study medicine. She was scared of the sight of blood, but eager to please her parents. She would be the first in her family to go to university.
Deirdre was worried because if today was the last day of matric it meant two months had passed since the pregnancy test and in another few weeks she would no doubt start to show. Once she began to show her troubles would double.
Leanne was neither heading to university nor was she pregnant. In fact, at seventeen, she’d managed to remain a virgin. This was mainly due to the exertions of her four older brothers who were feared by all the boys and responsible for sending out the necessary signals that their sister was off limits.
The three friends stood about the metal school gates; they didn’t want the afternoon to end. Some of their classmates were strolling around taking their friends’ signatures along the front of their shirts and dresses, swopping funny stories scribbled in journals, giggling. Leanne leafed through her journal, but not really seeing.
Leanne wished she was Nomthi, going somewhere with a proper library, with teachers who took you seriously and the potential for a real career. She, Leanne, would have no career. All she had waiting for her was a job. As she neared the end of her matric year, as he’d done with her four brothers, Leanne’s father, informed her that he’d secured her a job at the Bright Star Chicken Factory. Her father had worked there for forty years. It was his last gesture of parenthood, a signal that you were now an adult, responsible for your own life.
Leanne had hoped he would spare her the job and let her try and find a job at CNA or in a clothing shop. But it was a matter of pride for her father that he could find jobs for his children. Saying ‘no’ to him would have been like spitting in his eye.
“When do you start?” Deirdre asked Leanne. The school grounds were almost empty and the girls were avoiding hitching up their backpacks and walking home.
“Guys, I’ve got to go,” Nomthi said. “My Ma has invited the neighbours for dinner. She even made a photocopy of my report card for them.”
Leanne and Deirdre laughed. Nomthi shook her head, hugged both girls and walked off the school property. They watched her go down the road until she became just a smudge.
“What are you going to do?” Leanne asked Deirdre.
“I still have some time. Maybe I can find the cash… you know?”
Leanne rubbed her neck. “I better be going,” she said.
“I’ll walk with you.”
The girls kicked up dust as they walked, avoided bits of collected rubbish, turned down the streets they’d learnt to walk on, avoiding the ones they knew to avoid. Everyone in Daletown knew everyone else’s business but there were still a few things that only some knew. For instance everyone knew, when they saw Leanne walking, that there goes a girl whose mother died when she was three years old. Only some knew, though, that before she died Leanne’s mother told her husband of thirty years that she didn’t love him anymore and that she was tired.
Everyone knew Deirdre had been born with another that didn’t make it past day two. But not everyone knew that she dreamed every night of her lost twin brother, that he had grown with her and he was very tall now, and handsome.
Some secrets still slipped past the wizened look of the old women on their stoeps. They swore they could smell something on that Deirdre girl but couldn’t put their finger on it. As for the father of the seed inside her − he was a shadow at a party after too many Smirnoff Ices and too hard a pull at someone’s blunt.
“What time you start tomorrow?” Deirdre asked, as Leanne’s house came into view.
“Sjoe! See you after? I’ll come round. You can say how it went.”
They had grown up together and were each other’s opposites. Leanne wore her kinky hair chopped tight against her head; Deirdre wore hers long. Leanne in the hand-me-down jeans her brothers had done with; Deirdre convincing whoever she was currently dating to buy her only the latest fashions. Leanne studying; Deirdre and her dreams of Hollywood.
“Or Nollywood in Nigeria even,” she’d recently said, “Who says I have to go all the way to LA to get famous?”
Tell us what you think: Will Deirdre keep the baby, and if she chooses not to, will Leanne help her?