Amahle keeps her eyes on the road and her lips sealed. Musa looks at her face and sees no hint that she’s heard him. She maintains the ‘boy-repellent’ frown on her face.

“Amahle,” Musa talks louder.

Still, Amahle keeps walking as if Musa is not there. Musa stretches out a hand to tap Amahle on the shoulder, but she swerves away.

“No!” Amahle’s voice boils with the same frustration mothers’ voices have when their toddlers try to touch anything hot. She’s tired of saying the same thing over and over again but she has no choice but to say it again. “I don’t want to talk or walk with you. Please leave me alone!”

Musa freezes with his arm still stretched out. His face twitches as it struggles to express confusion, hurt and anger at the same time. “What did I do wrong?”

Amahle quickens her stride and forces herself to not look back at the damage she’s left behind. Ahead, Ziyanda, Amahle’s friend, is waiting for her as usual. From her face, it is clear she has seen Musa’s failed approach.

“Please don’t ask,” Amahle says to Ziyanda when she sees the disappointment on Ziyanda’s face.

“Look, his friends are laughing at him, Amahle,” Ziyanda points at Musa’s friends who are grabbing and shaking him, laughing, stomping their feet and clutching their stomachs. Amahle doesn’t look back. “Was he rude to you? Does he deserve what’s happening to him?”

“Come on, Zee. Just let it go,” the ‘boy-repellent’ frown disappears from Amahle’s face. A gentle smile with dimples appears instead. She opens her arms to hug Ziyanda. “How are you today?”

Ziyanda steps back and folds her arms. Amahle quickly drops her arms, embarrassed. She looks away from Ziyanda and frowns.

“See how that feels?” Ziyanda says. “There’s a difference between not being interested in a boy and being a mean person, Amahle. I know Musa, we used to go to the same church. He’s not one of the boys who go after every girl. The fact that he tried to talk to you means he really likes you, and I’m sure he would’ve left you alone if you’d asked him nicely. You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know, Ziyanda, but–”

“Come here,” Ziyanda opens her arms. Amahle returns the hug with less enthusiasm than before, and then they continue down the road. “But what?”

“Mom,” says Amahle. “You know how she is,” she takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. “To be honest, my friend, I actually would like to have a boyfriend now. I don’t want to turn eighteen and go to university as the girl who has never hugged or kissed a boy. But Mom always seems to know when I talk to boys and she goes crazy.”

“Why is that woman so angry all the time?”

“That’s just how she is,” Amahle shrugs. Her open hand splatters on her face like paint thrown on a wall. “And she has successfully trained me to always be angry towards boys. I’ve said no to them so many times that I doubt I’ll ever be able to say yes again.”

Ziyanda smiles. “Then say yes to me,” she puts her arm around Amahle’s shoulder and pulls her close. “Give Musa another chance to talk to you. I swear he’s the nicest guy ever, and he’s very funny. Please Amahle, I’ll organize the whole thing and there’s no way your mom will find out.”

“Seems like you want him for yourself,” Amahle gives Ziyanda a questioning look.

“Yeah, but he chose you,” Ziyanda shrugs. “Please give him a chance, okay? For me.”

Amahle blushes. “I don’t know, Zee. I guess I’ll try.”

Tell us: What should Amahle do?