Noni stood up and flipped the sign on the door of the shop to read ‘Open’. It was still very early, and there would still be an hour or two before the first tourist bus would arrive.

Noni went to the back of the shop and put on the kettle, but she didn’t even notice when it boiled. She was so far away in her day dreams…

The school hostel was divided into boys and girls. The girls were on the top floor and the boys on the ground floor. The floors were separated by a number or large metal security gates that clanged shut and stayed locked.

The boys had spent of lot of time, that would have been better spent studying, on cracking the code to the security door between the upstairs and downstairs. The door that separated the two sections.

No boy was allowed in the girls’ section, and no girl was allowed in the boys’ section. The punishment for breaking this rule was severe, but that did not act as a deterrent to anybody.

The teachers, who slept on the floors with the children, were always carefully watched by the children. Their movements were monitored.

Mrs Bwala, who slept on the girls’ floor, followed the same routine every day. When she finished work she went into her flat, poured herself a brandy, and switched on the TV.

Young Mr Ngetu, who slept on the boys’ floor, was out till late most nights. Sometimes he didn’t come back at all, until the morning. He thought no one knew, but of course all the students did know.

Jabu’s and Noni’s was not the only romance that blossomed after hours in the hostel. Jabu was one of many boys and girls who softly punched the code in, and gently clicked the security gate open. They waited until late when all the lights were off, and Mr Ngetu and Mrs Bwala had issued their last stern command,

“There will not be another sound!”

The boys waited for Mr Ngetu to leave. They watched as he silently moved like a shadow, into the kitchen, and out the back door.

Jabu glided up the stairs without a sound, past Mrs Bwala’s flat door, to the third door from the bathrooms, on the left.

Noni’s roommates Gigi, Zinzi and Nomsa sat awkwardly around on their beds the first few times Jabu visited Noni. They all whispered together, and stifled giggles in the dark.

Jabu didn’t stay long those first few times, but after he left Noni lay in her bed for hours, clutching her sheets, feeling her heart fluttering and pounding in her chest.

During later visits Gigi, Zinzi and Nomsa left the room when Jabu visited Noni, allowing them to be alone.

Noni remembered how she had not intended to allow Jabu to have sex with her.

Noni had never liked the thought of sex at all. Noni had fought off her mothers’ various boyfriends for years. They had all revolted her. Noni had seen too much of her mother’s behaviour with men – she was disgusted by it.

Jabu was different.
Jabu made her forget things.
Jabu made it impossible for Noni to think straight.

Jabu had just been so difficult to resist. He had made Noni laugh, and he was so much older than her, already 19, and so experienced.

Alone in the dim light of the hostel room, with all the beds empty and the other girls finally away and giggling in another room, Jabu had convinced Noni that he really did love her.

Noni remembered the first rose that Jabu had brought her one night. It was still in her Bible, pressed and faded between the pages. Jabu had stolen the rose from the principal’s garden. Noni knew that, but no one had ever given her a flower before.

Noni had been sixteen, and once it had all begun, it had been impossible for Noni to stop it. Noni didn’t even think she wanted it to stop.

Nothing had mattered any more.
School hadn’t mattered any more.
Her mother hadn’t mattered any more.

Her friends’ warnings to her hadn’t mattered any more.

Only Jabu.

Jabu was all that had mattered.


Tell us what you think: Does Jabu really love Noni like he says he does? Are her friends behaving like good friends should?