Down Sisulu Road the drain overflows onto the road. Dogs bark and give a man rushing to work trouble. On Ntantala Road people are queuing, some still in their morning gowns, for amagwinya.
I am on my way to my new school.
“What is your name again?” a girl asks me, like I have told her before. She looks me up and down.
“Nana. Nana is my name,” I tell her.
She leans on the gate of Masiphumelele High School.
“No earrings. Is there a problem?” she asks. “You’re new here.”
“You don’t know me.”
“Oh, ok. About the earrings. Is it by choice that you don’t wear earrings? You know, you don’t make those kind of choices here. These boys won’t look at you.”
“I don’t care if boys don’t look at me,” I tell her. I think of the man in my dream.
“You want a boyfriend don’t you?” She looks at me like I am crazy.
“Vuyiseka, Vuyiseka!” her friends call her.
“Please come meet my friends.” She has a smile on her face when she says this. I walk into the school grounds with her, and over to a group of girls.
“Guys, meet Nana. She does not believe in earrings.”
“Hi Nana – get yourself a pair of earrings,” the one called Yandiswa says.
“I will consider that advice, thank you Yandiswa.”
We go into the school’s main hall for our first assembly. This year is said to be the busiest, jam-packed with activities, the principal tells us. A week from now the school will have a modelling competition.
“Guess what Nana? We are going to watch you strut your stuff on stage very soon,” Vuyiseka says.
“I don’t think so. Modelling is not my thing you know.”
“That is where you are wrong Nana. Modelling is so a girl thing you know,” she says, snapping her fingers. “Why do you think us girls have to make sure that we grow up with no stomachs and very slender.”
“Guys, please, I am not entering the modelling competition.”
“Shut up, wena. What is the matter with you? That body is not to be hidden under baggy pants and big jerseys.”
“It is my body.”
“You have to show it to the men and let them chase!” They all laugh.
This conversation is making me feel sick. I don’t want to be part of the modelling competition but it looks like I don’t have a choice.
After break Miss Ngele calls out my name as one of the girls who will be taking part in the modelling competition. Oh, my word. How did this happen?
“You are all to meet at the main hall today after school at three o’clock. Do not be late.” Her voice and words are painful to me.
“What is your name?” Miss Ngele asks me.
“My name is Nana.”
“You need to do something with your hair. And how on earth can you enter a modelling competition without earrings?”
If only she knew that I didn’t enter the competition. Someone must have entered my name for me.
“Mam, I actually did not enter this competition…” I try to tell her. But she is not hearing me.
“I do not have time for jokes wena,” is all she says.
High heels and flirty fashion are just not my style. I am not sure what I want, but I know that I don’t want to be up there on the stage.
All the girls are laughing and giggling as they prance down the stage, but I feel wobbly on the high-heeled shoes Miss Ngele makes me wear. The others can’t wait for the boys to see them with their flirty moves. Sometimes I wonder why I am not interested in what boys think. Sometimes I ask myself the question: Why do you feel so different? But I am afraid of the answer.
I run home in tears after the modelling practice run. I ask and ask myself who would have entered my name into this stupid modelling contest. It must be one of my new friends but no-one will own up and tell me. Already I do not like what my new school friends are doing to me.
Tell us what you think: Why is Nana frightened of asking herself about why she feels different? Are you enjoying the story so far?
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