I’m chilling with Ncumisa in the stairwell. We’re bunking P.E. I hate it, and so does she. She says everyone makes fun of her arms.

I hate it because, well, I just do. I always get picked last. It’s mean. They should totally cancel P.E. The only people who like it are jocks.

Anyway …

“Then, he lifts me up,” I say, “and I swear it was like a movie.”

“Oh my word,” she breathes. “He’s so handsome too.”

“Tell me about it. I thought I must be dreaming.”

Ncumisa just looks at me in wonder. She also has a secret crush on David maybe? But if she does, she’s not being competitive about it. Ncumisa is one of my squad. She’s dope.

Before I know what’s happening the door on the landing above us opens and Mdu and Songezo come down the stairs, pull me by my blazer, lift me up off my feet, and abduct me toward the door they came from.

I scuffle. I try to shout but Mdu puts his hand over my mouth. Ncumisa screams, but Songezo kicks her; she rolls down the stairs. It’s so hectic, I’m so scared!

Ncumisa lands at the bottom of the stairs. “Leave him alone!” she yells, but they’ve already pulled me out of the stairwell, and into the storeroom where they keep extra chairs – I don’t know how they got the key.

It’s pitch dark. Mdu pulls a little string and a weak light bulb prickles to life uncertainly.

Mdu puts his face into mine. “Do you know what you are?”

My breath is shallow. Is this the moment? The moment that has woken me from nightmares: the knife at my back, the bullet to my temple? I have seen the blood these men want. They want to kill, and I know it is true; I know the intensity of their hatred; it could burn the world into a cinder, it is so strong.

He gives me a slap to the face as if trying to wake me up. That’s when I realise I have been too stunned to speak.

“I said,” he starts, his voice dangerous, low, almost a whisper, “do you know what you are?”

“No,” is all I can think of to say.

There is a deathly silence. The kind of silence you get at a funeral. The kind of silence before a death.

A pause.


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