The walk from the principal’s office was disturbing. I was watched by every eye that was present. I wondered if the walls did talk, I wondered if the conversation had been overheard. The stares were unbearable. I had to run through the corridor.

“Simi, wait!” I heard a voice.

I didn’t wait, I knew who it was. Ms Mthembu would have to wait for my obituary to learn my life story. I ran on. After Mrs Qambu reassurance, I felt alive yet again.

The school bell rang its last tune and I watched as leaners emerged from their classrooms. Fridays were the best days in Nelson Mandela Secondary School. I remembered the joyfulness the day had brought in the past, the last day of school. I’d feel resentment towards the teacher who dared to give homework over the weekend – that was how life had always been here. No! Homework on Fridays? The teachers knew better.

I had forgotten about Asanda, we always walked home together after school. As I approached her classroom, I saw no one there. I wondered if she was mad at me; I had left her without any explanation during the break.

Did she decide to walk alone today? I wondered. “She is my best friend, but this is too much for her to bear, I’m protecting her,” I convinced myself.

“Simza!” I heard her voice

I turned back. She was coming down the corridor, waving in my direction.

Mngani, I thought you left already,” I replied.

“No, friend, I was in the toilet. I was gonna wait for you by the gate,” she said. “Let me grab my schoolbag, then we can leave.”

We left the schoolyard, and it seemed everyone else had left too. The school building seemed abandoned, as if the structure was uninhabited and all the children had run away from it. We were the only evidence that the structure was actually a school. We were the last to leave five minutes after the bell had rung.

“What is happening with you, girl?” Asanda asked, “What did principal want?”

I hated lying to Asanda, I could tell she didn’t trust me anymore. I saw her eyes when I told her why the principal wanted to see me. “She wanted me to enter the next Grade 12 Math competition,” I lied to her. I lied to everyone. Is this who I’m becoming, a liar? I wondered. I would tell her everything tomorrow, I decided.

I felt sceptical about Mrs Qambu’s plan, but I trusted her. Now, I needed to.

Molo, mntanam (Hello, my child),” Mr Zwane, our neighbour, waved at me when I passed his neat, corrugated-iron shack.

“Molo Tata, (Hello, Sir),” I replied.

I had arrived at the place where I never wished to be, but today I was a little bit excited to be here. I made my way to the door. I knocked and listened. No one was there. I turned and looked at Mr Zwane who was occupied by his dying garden.

It was January, and the summer temperatures where high. It hadn’t rained yet and the sky didn’t show any promise of rain any time soon. I thought the water we received from the government tanks was too precious to be wasted on plants, but I guess we all had to make sacrifices at some point in life.

I entered the house. Everything was the same as I had left it in the morning.

I went behind the room divider and grabbed my clothes as I had been instructed.

I quickly called Mrs Qambu on my phone. “Molo Ma’am, he’s not at home,” I said. Mrs Qambu had followed me and Asanda home, and was waiting outside.

“Okay, I’m coming in,” she said.

I’d managed to pack my clothes in the yellow Shoprite bag, I didn’t have that many clothes after all, and went to the kitchen, where I could hear Mrs Qambu moving around.

She was busy hiding a tape recorder in the kitchen, where I told her the first altercation might take place.

“Simi, I’m proud of you,” she told me. “I’ll need you to be strong.”

“I will, I promise.” I replied.


Tell us: What do you think of Mrs Qambu’s plan?