Now, with each visit I took a small object from Busi’s house, to join the egg. It became a game; seeing if I could find private moments to slip something into my pocket. One afternoon, when everyone was outside at the pool, I went inside to the toilet, and on my way took the gold pen from next to the phone, then quickly ran upstairs and hid it in the bottom of my weekend bag. Another evening, when all the kids were watching a movie, I slipped out of the TV room into the lounge and took another crystal ornament from the shelf. These private moments of victory gave me a rush of adrenalin and excitement.
Nobody will notice, I convinced myself. And nobody did.
However, I felt guilty taking their things. I loved Busi’s family, and I knew that stealing was wrong, and I had never stolen anything before. But I also felt that these things could have been mine. It was as if I was taking some of the life that had been denied to me.
Yet, even if we had all this wealth, I couldn’t imagine my mother ever wasting money on something as ornate and ridiculous as Swarovski crystal ornaments.
When I got back to school on Sunday nights, I would pack away my weekend treasures into an old lunchbox that I kept in my suitcase under my bed. I still didn’t have a room-mate, so nobody saw me.
Then, every night, just before bedtime, I’d take out my treasure box. I’d turn each object over in my hands then arrange them in different patterns on my desk. Sometimes, I’d even give the objects voices, and play silly games with them, making them talk to one another.
This nightly ritual gave me peace and comfort. Playing with the treasures made me feel as if I was back in the comfort and warmth of Busi’s home and not all alone in my boarding school room.
I always made sure I packed them away before the house mother came to check that all our lights were out.
Until the night I lost track of time…
I was so involved in my world of treasures, that I didn’t notice the time or hear the knock on the door.
“Why are you up so late Lindi? What are you doing?” said the house mother, walking into my bedroom.
“Um…nothing…” I replied, jumping up and pushing my treasures aside. “Just playing.”
The house mother walked over to my desk. “What are all of these?”
“Just pretty things.”
“Yes, very pretty,” she replied, picking up the crystal egg, “and very expensive. Where did you get them?”
“My friend Busisiwe gave them to me.”
She picked up a gold bracelet belonging to Busi’s mother.
“Really? She gave you Swarovski crystal and a gold bracelet?”
“And where did Busisiwe get these things from?”
“From her mother,” I replied. My heart was pounding in my chest.
“Does her mother know she gave these things to you?”
I hesitated. “Yes.”
“Well, I think I need to check up on that, Lindi. This isn’t a box of sweets you’re playing with. Pack them up and give them to me.”
I didn’t move, just stared at the edge of the flower petal on a hair clip I was holding.
“Go on, hurry up.”
“No,” I said. “They’re mine, and you’re stealing them from me.”
“I’m not stealing them from you Lindiwe. I’m just checking that you are supposed to have them.”
“Why? Do you think I’m a thief?”
“No, I don’t think you’re a thief, but I think it’s strange that a schoolgirl is in possession of Swarovski crystal ornaments and a gold bracelet. Now go on, pack them in the box.”
Slowly I packed each object into the lunch box. In total I had two crystal ornaments a gold pen, a gold bracelet, a flowered hair clip, a small porcelain dog, a small lavender soap, a silver teaspoon, and two silk flowers.
“Hurry up Lindiwe. I haven’t got all night!”
I put the lid on the box and handed it to her.
“I’ll show these to Busisiwe in the morning. Once she has confirmed your story, you can have your box of treasures back.”
She marched towards the door, holding the box under her arm, then turned off the light.
“Now, go to sleep. Good night.”
She shut the door behind her.
Shaking all over, I climbed into bed and began to sob.
* * *
Tell us what you think: What is going to happen to Lindi now?