“Be careful, little one,” Fezile says when he catches up with his sister, Khanyiswa, at their school’s main gate. “Don’t run across the road and don’t walk alone. Here,” he says, and slips the cord holding the house key around her neck. “Where’s Cebisa and Portia?” he asks, looking around for the friends she normally walks home with.

“Bayeza, bhuti. They will be here as soon as they’re done by Mr Hill,” she assures him. “But, ndiyacela maan,” she continues, nudging him in the ribs. “Please stop calling me ‘little one’. I’m in Grade 10, not primary school.”

Fezile chuckles as he places an arm around Khanyiswa’s shoulders and pulls her towards him. “You will always be my little one, even when you’re old and grey – with amazinyoeplastiki,” he says, grinning.

Khanyiswa roars with laughter. At the sound, a flock of birds takes flight from a nearby tree, in a flurry of fluttering wings.

“Dentures! Never!” she says, wiping away tears of laughter that cling to the sweeping lashes of her almond-shaped eyes. “I look after my teeth. Even Smiley said they’re beautiful.”

“I don’t like that guy, Khanyiswa. You be careful around him. Around any boy!” Fezile warns her. “Remember the seven Bs–”

“Books Before Boys Because Boys Bring Babies,” she interrupts him. “I know it like I know my own face,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Don’t you forget: Books Before Babes Because Babes Bear Babies,” she cautions him. “Now go, before you’re late for your study session.”

Laughing, he looks at his watch, but he starts moving away only when he sees her friends approaching.

“See you later, little one.”

Fezile’s Grade 12 study group meets three times a week in preparation for their upcoming mid-year exams. Though it’s only April, they are already thinking of their final exams. They’re determined to obtain a bachelor’s degree pass so that they can study towards their dream careers as architects, doctors and engineers.

“Mr Hill is starting to creep me–” Portia is saying, as she and Cebisa approach Khanyiswa.

“Ooh, Khanyi, your brother is a dish!” Cebisa shrieks.

“He’s so hot. Even hotter than Mrs Pillay’s curry magwinya!” Portia says, smacking her lips. All thought of Mr Hill is forgotten at the sight of Fezile’s fit frame.

“You girls are wasting your time dreaming about Fezile. He’s got big plans for his life and they don’t include girls looking for a good time,” Khanyiswa says, shaking a finger at them. “And wena, Cebisa, stop calling me Khanyi, neh!”

“Haibo! What’s wrong with calling you ‘Khanyi’? You should be flattered I’m even using your name shortened like the fabulous and famous Khanyi Mbau.”

She’s Khanyisile. Me,” says Khanyiswa, standing erect, “I am Miss Khanyiswa Sibewu! One day I’ll sit on the bench and you will call me ‘Your Honour’.”

“Excuse meee, Your Honour. Can we move along already? I’m starving,” says Cebisa. “The whole world and their pets already know you want to be a hot-shot lawyer.”

Laughing, the three friends link arms and start the short walk home.

“You’re always talking about your career, Khanyiswa. What about marriage and a family?” Portia asks.

“It will happen when it happens, Portia,” Khanyiswa answers. “We’re too young for all that responsibility now.”

“Hmm,” Portia hums, mulling over Khanyiswa’s reply, before turning to Cebisa. “How many children for you, Tebby?”

“I’m going to be like Angelina Jolie and adopt,” replies Cebisa. “I’m not spoiling my figure becoming a baby-making machine.” Cebisa flicks her imaginary hair extensions and struts ahead of them like a supermodel.

In high spirits and giggling at Cebisa’s antics, they reach her house, the first on Crest Avenue. Khanyiswa and Portia are next-door neighbours, further down the road.

“See you tomorrow, girls. And remember – you’re fabulous!”

“Thank you, chommie – you too,” Khanyiswa and Portia reply in unison.


Tell us: What do you think is a good age at which to have a first child?