“Hey, hold up! Hurry up slower!” Taylor shouts as she runs after Ntsiki.
Ntsiki keeps walking, her head bent down against the bitter south-easterly wind.
“Where’s … the … fire?” Taylor gasps for air when she catches up to Ntsiki. “Didn’t you … hear me … calling you?”
“I suppose the wind … carried my voice away.” Taylor manages to steady her breathing. “How you doing? You’ve been quiet.”
Taylor skids to an abrupt halt. “Hold up a minute. Something’s very wrong with this picture. Why are you freezing me out?”
“Bullcrap! It’s not ‘nothing’. I know you, Ntsiki, and something’s bugging you. Is it Themba?” Taylor touches Ntsiki’s arm.
“If you must know,” Ntsiki begins, and jerks her arm away from Taylor. “It’s you. You’re the problem. You couldn’t keep your big mouth shut, could you? You had to go tell Jakes about Themba and the test,” Ntsiki’s voice rises above the howl of the wind. “Why did you do it, Tay?”
“Cat suddenly got your tongue?”
“Wow, Ntsiki, it’s not like I said anything bad about you. In fact, Jakes admires you for asking Themba to take an HIV test,” Taylor says, smiling.
“It was none of his business!”
Taylor’s face drops and she takes a deep breath. “You know what your problem is? You’ve been with that asshole, Themba, for so long, you can’t even see when people really care about you – and Jakes is a great guy.”
“Don’t talk rubbish, Tay. You had no business discussing me.”
“I didn’t ‘discuss’ you. I only told Jakes that Themba wouldn’t take the test. I’m sorry. I didn’t think telling him would be a problem.”
“Well, it is.”
“I’ve apologised, but you want to be angry at someone, and it shouldn’t be me.” She turns away from Ntsiki. “You know where to find me when you’ve cooled off.”
In maths class, before first break, Taylor sneaks her phone under her desk and sends Ntsiki a message.
Hey girl I miss u. Hope u feel better.
Ntsiki reads the message, looks over in Taylor’s direction, then looks away. I don’t want to talk to her. She should not have told anyone about my business, she thinks.
When the bell rings announcing break time, she shoves her books into her bag and slips out of the room. She heads to the furthest corner of the school, where the ground slopes down. No-one will spot me here. I hate the way everyone stares at me now, as if I’ve committed a crime, she tells herself.
She’s just settled down and taken a bite from her sandwich when she hears a familiar voice. “Why are you hiding, Ntsiki?”
“Them–” she splutters, then swallows the contents in her mouth. “Themba … Did you follow me?”
“Maybe,” he says, smiling. “Mind if I join you?”
Ntsiki frowns. “Why? Ufuna ntoni?”
Themba sits down in front of her and leans in. “I want you, Ntsiki Nkala.”
Tell us: Taylor says: “I’ve apologised, but you want to be angry at someone…” Do you think Tay has read her friend’s emotional state correctly? Or is Ntsiki right to still be angry?