Masego lies on her bed, her eyes closed. It’s no longer a light, excited fluttering she feels in her stomach when she thinks of Odwa; it’s like all the butterflies have flown away and left a gnawing emptiness.

Her friend, Malebo, tries to cheer her up by playing their favourite songs, but nothing works. In fact, hearing Davido’s smooth jams only makes it all worse. Tears well up and flow down her face. She wishes they could wash away the memory of Odwa’s kisses. Him standing with her at the corner one midweek evening … he had kissed her forehead and then her cheeks. Then, while running his finger gently down the back of her neck, he had kissed her passionately on the mouth.

“Come on, Zee. You’ll get over him,” Malebo says, coming to lie next to her friend and offering her a tissue. “Never trust hot sauce. You deserve way better than Odwa.”

“How could I have …?”

“Zee, how could you have known? In the video Odwa’s face was hidden the whole time. You can’t blame yourself for falling in love. We don’t have control over such things. Look at me, dating a dwarf, when my dream man is tall, dark and handsome. Absolutely no choice; the heart chooses for itself,” Malebo says.

How had it all come to this: Masego weeping, inconsolable, full of self blame.

How had it started? This chain of events that led to her lying on her bed feeling that her heart was broken. Perhaps Malebo starting up with Boikago and  neglecting her, had started this. She had felt that her friend’s focus was on her boyfriend and Masego needed to find a boyfriend too? She thought of Boikago and what lengths he had gone to get Malebo…

Boikago was the class nerd. Not Malebo’s type at all. When he asked her for a date on WhatsApp earlier in the year, Malebo was unimpressed. But, two weeks later, she melted. At the end of the school day, he had asked the school secretary to give him a chance to say something on the intercom. After the announcements about uniform policy and netball practice and the next day’s cake sale, the woman gave the mic to Boikago.

“Malebo, this time don’t turn me down. I may be short and nerdy, but, you’ll see, we’ll have fun together. I’ll make you laugh. Come on a date with me this weekend.”

All the girls in Malebo’s class were seriously impressed. Those who dated gave their boyfriends dagger eyes for never thinking of such a dramatic, romantic gesture.

That weekend, Malebo indeed went out with ‘short and nerdy’ Boikago. He had a big personality and made Malebo laugh. The rest was history.

As their teenage love affair grew stronger, Malebo had spent less and less time with her friend. Masego began to feel abandoned and lonely – but only until a new boy transferred to their school after the June holidays. He was in Grade 10, a grade lower than Masego.

Masego heard about the boy from Kimberley before she saw him. It was rumoured that he had broken the heart of a girl called Masedi back there. And that he now lived with his aunt and cousin. For some reason his parents had decided that he needed a fresh start.

He was also downright hot. There was no disputing his hotness. Even Katlego, Masego’s younger brother, admitted that the new boy was hot. The Grade 10s couldn’t stop talking about him. The boys went on about how he was going to steal their girlfriends and the girls threatened to leave their boyfriends for him.

And then the day came. They were waiting outside the Life Orientation class when she saw him passing. It was only four days since he had started at the school and, already, he was late for class. He was tall, with a stylish haircut and intense, penetrating eyes. His crisp shirt was tucked in and he wore what looked like a tailor-made blazer. She was blown away by his handsomeness.

“Hi Odwa,” some girls from Masego’s class called out to him as he passed. He flashed them a smile and waved.

“Zee, you’d better close your mouth. Flies are going into it,” Malebo teased.

“Come on, Male. I wasn’t drooling,” Masego said, suddenly embarrassed.

“Well, I can hardly blame you. Kuruman ain’t seen nothin like this. A boy hotter than Nando’s peri-peri, I tell you,” Malebo said, sending Masego into stitches of laughter as they entered the class.

Masego couldn’t listen as Ms Diketso – or Ms Dee as the learners called her – went on and on about personal hygiene. All she could do was daydream about what might happen when she got to officially meet and talk to the hot newcomer.

As soon as Ms Dee left the class to make photocopies in the office, Masego asked Kele, the school gossip, what the hottie’s name was.

“Moghel, his name is Odwa and he transferred from Kimberley. That’s all I know for now. Give me two weeks and I’ll have the full file,” Kele said, high fiving her. Masego high-fived her back awkwardly, not quite believing that she had asked after a boy.

“Zee, the thirst is real,” Malebo said, surprised by her friend’s bold move.

Before this, Masego had hardly ever thought about boys. And, when she did, she was very idealistic. Or so Malebo would tell her. When they sat together paging through travel magazines at the local library, she would tell Malebo that she wanted to complete her first degree cum laude, study abroad, and travel the world.

“Just imagine, Male, dying in old dusty Kuruman when God took all that precious time to create the world? Nah, son,” she would say, studying the blue waters of Greek beaches and the vibrant markets of Accra.

It wasn’t long before the hot new boy spoke to Masego. She was waiting for Malebo outside the school office when Odwa came out.

“Hi,” he said, looking Masego right in the eyes. “I’d like to take you out to a movie this weekend.”

“Just like that?” Masego said, trying to sound cool, but failing hopelessly.

“I’ve been watching you since I got here,” he said. “And when I saw you again today, outside your classroom, I knew that I had to ask you out. You’re amazing. What’s your cell number?”

Masego looked in her backpack for a piece of paper and wrote down her number, like the waitresses do in the movies. She gave it Odwa just as Malebo was coming out of the office.

Her usually supportive, encouraging friend said nothing, just watched Odwa as he walked down the passage back towards the classrooms.

“Are you dreaming?” Malebo said, putting her hands on Masego’s shoulders.

“I gave Odwa my number,” Masego said, distractedly. “He asked me out on a date. The hottie asked me out on a date.” Then she freed herself from Malebo’s grasp to do her signature victory dance: it resembled Michael Jordan scoring a goal.

“Someone is already in love,” Malebo said with a grin.

 * * *

Tell us: Is it okay to give your cell number to a guy you have only just met?