Masego threw herself onto her bed and replayed the encounter over and over in her mind. Oops, I must tell him that this isn’t Kimberley with big malls and a cinema, Masego thought to herself. How are we going to go out to the movies in boring old Kuruman?

Suddenly she remembered that her phone was on silent and that she might have missed a call from Odwa. She searched through her bag and found it. Indeed, four missed calls from a number she didn’t know. She played the ‘should I call’ mind game, not wanting to come across as an eager beaver. But surely the eager beaver was the one who had made four missed calls, she rationalised.

So she dialled. A caller tune welcomed her and she laughed out loud. Who has a caller tune in 2019, she thought?

“Hi,” the voice said. Smooth and deep. For a moment Masego said nothing, thinking it couldn’t be Odwa. The voice sounded mature and relaxed, like the person expected the call and had rehearsed the greeting many times before.

“Masego, ke Odwa,” he said, breaking the silence.

“Oh, your voice …,” Masego said, unsure of how to explain it.

“Apparently I have a voice for radio,” he said and laughed, a soft chuckle that sounded like it didn’t belong to the deep, smooth voice.

“You do … have a voice for radio, I mean,” Masego said, not knowing what to say next. Phone calls made her feel weird; she preferred texting. She was not shy, but writing gave her more time to articulate what she wanted to say.

“So, I tried calling you, like, a million times,” said Odwa, again breaking the silence. “I asked you out for a movie, and then when I got home I realised that Kuruman doesn’t have a cinema. Mmmmm,” he said and paused, as if to give her a chance to say something.

“We can always do something else: picnic maybe, or even take a walk. I don’t know. I’ve never really been out on a date before,” she said, now feeling shy.

Her ex-boyfriend, Kgosi, never took her out on a date. They went to different high schools and stayed in different areas. They usually met at church, where they couldn’t quite indulge the needs of a romantic relationship. After church they would stand awkwardly in the presence of other boys and girls their age, silently wishing to touch each other’s hands.

Later, at night, Kgosi would pay her endless compliments over WhatsApp. He would praise her on her dress sense and her hair, which she tied in a bun every Sunday. (‘Like a good Christian girl,’ her mother would say.) Some days he would call her smile “beautiful” and, on others, “enchanting”.

They broke up when Kgosi went to university. He had promised that he would come back and marry Masego as soon as he had graduated, but he was soon seen posing on Facebook with a girl from Limpopo, with the hashtag #BaeThings.

He didn’t deny it when Masego asked if he was dating the Limpopo girl. Instead he said, “What kind of man would I be if I spent my varsity years alone? You’ve never been to varsity; you won’t understand.”

Masego never called him again. She blocked him on Facebook and on WhatsApp.

Her mind had wandered. Odwa’s voice startled her.

“I have a better plan. Maybe you can come to my place and I’ll make popcorn and we can watch movies together,” he said.

His voice brought butterflies to Masego’s stomach. Experiencing the feeling for the first time, she didn’t want it to end. Without thinking twice she said happily, “Great. Let’s talk more on Friday. Bye.”

She clenched her fists in excitement. She was going on a date!

“Masego,” Odwa said before hanging up.

“Yes,” Masego answered, starting to panic, thinking that this was a prank; that a guy like Odwa could never be interested in her. Cool boys never asked girls like her out. Girls of modest beauty and short hair. Girls of higher grades and strict parents. What the hell was she thinking?

“I like you,” the smooth, deep voice said, then hung up.

Masego could not believe it. She looked at her phone for a while and then hugged it. Then she threw herself back on the bed and started to imagine spending the day with her crush.

After a while she stood up to look at the chores timetable her mother had pasted at the back of her door. The time was 16:38. She was supposed to have started cooking supper at 16:30. She changed out of her school uniform, begging God to help her move faster. By 16:42 she was standing in the kitchen, looking at the menu.

Oh dear! She had to roast chicken and prepare vegetables and gravy – and she had forgotten to take the chicken out in the morning to defrost. The last time she did something like this, her mother threatened to slap her and her father had to intervene. But now, when she opened the fridge, there was the chicken, defrosted and marinated.

Katlego always had her back. Often, he was mistaken for being Masego’s older brother because he looked after his sister so well. A true gentleman.

She knew that she would soon have to return the favour, but she called out anyway, “Kat, my Kat!”

“What?” Katlego answered, irritated, from his bedroom.

“I love you,” she said as she took the roasting tray out of the oven and began to cook. She wondered if she should tell her younger brother about Odwa and the tummy butterflies he gave her. Normally she would tell him everything.

Maybe not just yet. It would be her secret. She stood in the middle of the kitchen with her hand on her stomach and thought, how do I make the butterflies stop?

 * * *

Tell us what you think: Is inexperienced Masego playing with fire, going for a guy like Odwa? Or should she just follow her heart?