As I exit the sports field, leaving behind the cheering and laughter, and step into the out-of-bounds area, I’m a bit shaky.
Wandering around the school building, after Ms Ngema explicitly warned us to stay on the sports field, is something I’d never do under normal circumstances. I may feel a little less paranoid if it was Mr Mulder who gave us the warning (the man just wears the title of Principal but it’s really Ms Ngema who runs the show), but I’m not much of a rule breaker.
Yet here I am, breaking the rules because nobody knows where Cheryl is. Friends break rules for friends, right?
It’s so dark around here, it’s almost spooky. I rub my hands up and down my arms covered in goose-bumps, my breath catching every time the rustling wind picks up and drops fallen leaves.
Near the toilets, I’m affronted by a pungent smell that makes me gag. Curls of smoke drift through the air, followed by snickering.
I duck behind a wall, sighing in relief when I see who the snickering belongs to.
“Ja, hey. I say it’s good to catch a destress now and again.”
“True, bru. Haha! I’m rhyming now, bru. This some powerful stuff.”
“Hey, Jazzy,” Obakeng says, his eyes a flaming red. “Want a puff?”
“Uh, no, thank you, Obz. Have you guys seen Cheryl by any chance?”
“Nooooo,” Brent says, shaking his head. “But there was this hot blonde chi–”
“Oh, ja. She had a weird mask thingie on. Could have been Cheryl.”
“Where did she go?” I ask
Brent and Obakeng point in different directions then crack up about it, slapping each other on the back.
“The chick had that scary-looking cat with her,” Brent supplies as an afterthought. “Maybe she went to feed it.”
I wave the two goodbye as they head back down to the carnival, grateful that I at least have a lead, even if it is from two boys high on dagga.
Mr Solomon keeps some cat food in his classroom. Maybe he asked Cheryl to feed Sox? I mean, it’s a possibility worth exploring.
I head toward Mr Solomon’s classroom, the sound of my sandals slapping against concrete, making me cringe. Against the backdrop of an eerie silence, it’s about the only other sound I can hear apart from my breathing.
Quieting my breathing and footsteps, I enter the Science block.
It’s deserted. No school cat. No Cheryl.
But … there’s this faint sound of voices? And it seems to be coming from Mr Solomon’s classroom.
“I’m sorry. Everyone’s probably wondering where I am. Naledi is going to kill me. And Jazz. God, what am I going to tell her? She’s never going to speak to me again.”
“Hey, look at me. It won’t be for much longer now.”
“I just don’t want anyone to get hurt. I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“Do you trust me, Cheryl?”
“I do. You know I do. I love you.”
“That’s my girl.”
The guy’s voice … I can’t quite pin it. It’s muffled and sounds slightly fluey, but there’s just something so familiar about that tone. Maybe I’ve heard it before? I must have. I’m sure I have–
“Do you hear that? It sounds like an ambulance!”
“Cheryl, you need to go back to the carnival. Now.”
“Go now! If something’s happened, the teachers will be on high alert.”
Footsteps shuffle toward the door, and in a panic, I rip my sandals off my feet and take off, running faster than I’ve ever run.
Tell us what you think: What secret is Cheryl keeping from Jasmine?