I get another SMS in the morning.
Lv S & L alone or b sorry
I arrive at school wondering if I should say something to those girls about the messages, or just ignore them.
“Hey, pretty lady.”
An improvement on the other names, and it’s Leleka saying it to me. I decide not to remind him that my name is Moya.
He’s sprawled across the front of the Principal’s car, maybe for a dare. His crew are hanging around. His attention gives me this fluttery sensation.
“Hey,” I say.
“Ama-get-down on Saturday. You gonna make it?”
“Where?” I ask, hoping I sound laidback.
“Parking area behind the community hall.” He gives me a smile that sends a thrill through me. “Starting out. Later, depends what’s happening. Be there.”
“Maybe,” I say.
The smile stops. “I said be there. What, you one of those amahaiza now? Too good for us? Like you keep such classy company these days? That chochoroach Sizwe Sekota?”
When he says that, I know his invitation has something to do with Sizwe walking with me. It’s not really about me at all.
“I said maybe.”
Leleka’s mouth takes on an ugly shape. It steals all the handsomeness from his face.
I should be scared, but I’m too angry. I don’t even care about the calls and laughter from Puleng and the others as I walk past.
Correction. As I stalk past. Head up, staring straight ahead. I won’t let them matter anymore.
That strong feeling lasts all through school and it’s still there when I get home. Lungelo is in front of the television as usual, so I take my Macrat notes and go sit outside on the front door step.
“This where you live?” It’s Sizwe Sekota.
He’s standing in the road. His face isn’t exactly friendly, like he doesn’t believe in smiling much. And that harsh haircut! But there’s something serious about him, a crease between his eyebrows, like he’s trying to work something out.
“Yes.” I try a smile.
No smile back. “What you reading?”
“Poetry notes for school.” I wish he wouldn’t stand so far away. “What you said the other day about having to work instead of going to school? What do you do?”
“Why do you want to know?” Something has changed in his face, as if he’s angry.
“Why do you want to know what I’m reading?” I send it right back at him.
He lifts his shoulders right up to his ears, lets them fall, and it’s like he gives himself a shake. “I get piece work,” he tells me. “There are no permanent jobs. Not for me.”
“Because you lack experience? Or skills?”
I hear bitterness, but I see frustration in the way he moves his head, like he’s in a trap, looking for a way out. I want to say something to help him, but what do I know about his life?
Instead I ask, “You going to this thing on Saturday night? In the car park?”
“Where’d you hear about that?” Now he’s suspicious.
I can see him thinking about my answer, but he only says, “I might come by, see what’s going down. You?”
The look he gives me seems almost … troubled.
“Got to go,” he says, and I guess he’s on his way to Leleka’s.
I watch him walk away, and wish he’d hung around a bit longer. He still scares me, especially if I think about what he does, the train-surfing, only it also makes me angry.
But I think I also like him.
Maybe that’s why I decide to go to the party on Saturday – to see Sizwe. I regret it almost the minute I get there.
I’m in a crush of people in the car park, my first open party, and not just young people. Men in their forties, it looks like. One tries to hug me. Gross. The smell of alcohol is stronger than the smells of scent, sweat, cigarettes and dagga.
“OMG, what is she wearing?” It’s Bonang and Tumiso, hanging on to each other.
My cheeks are burning. I’m wrong for this place. My clothes are wrong, at least by these girls’ standards.
“She’s got a cheek, pitching here.”
“Poor thing doesn’t know any better.”
“Shut up, you ladies. I invited her.” Leleka is so tall and slim, strolling towards me.
“You look hot tonight, babe. So you made it. Good call.”
I don’t like the way he says those last two words, as if I’ve saved myself from something bad. But I’m grateful to him, and so in awe of his beauty, I don’t even remind him my name is Moya.
“I hope so,” I say.
He’s got his arm round me now, and he’s saying, “I’ve got plans for you and me tonight, baby girl. Hey, what are you drinking?”
“Eish, I haven’t brought anything.” I’m realising nearly everyone has come with a six-pack at least, and whole crates or cooler bags in some cases.
“What a moegoe.”
“I don’t really drink,” I excuse myself.
“Then you must learn.” Leleka sounds arrogant. “You can share ours. There’s plenty.”
He’s steering me towards someone’s car. The open boot is full of cardboard boxes of bottles. On the ground in front of the boot is a big plastic baby bath that has beers and ciders and a few soft drinks clinking against each other in a mess of melting ice.
Sizwe is standing there with another boy who’s handing out drinks. When he sees me, that little crease appears between his eyebrows. I feel better, seeing him.
“Hi,” I say.
“Hi.” He doesn’t smile.
Leleka won’t let me have the soft drink I ask for.
“How can you enjoy yourself if you don’t get puza?”
I don’t like beer, so I choose a cider. Leleka moves away to greet some young men, and I read the label on my bottle: ‘5.5% Alc. Vol’.
“Look after your drink.” It’s Sizwe, come to stand beside me. “Don’t put it down, don’t let anyone hold it for you.”
“I know about that,” I say, and it gives me a good feeling, having him take the trouble to warn me.
“It happens so quickly.” He’s super-serious. “I’ve seen it.”
“Seen it, not done it, is OK.”
He shrugs. “I didn’t stop it.”
“Did you try?”
“Sort of. In a way.”
“And you’re warning me now.”
“Anyway, be careful. Watch yourself.”
He moves away, and I see how Bonang is looking at me. ‘Watch Bonang’ might be better advice.
The night is a blur, all movement and sound and colour. There’s dancing, the only part I like, except when Leleka gets heavy and wants to dance up close. I keep seeing Sizwe. Sometimes he’s looking back at me.
“We’re making a move later,” Leleka says, his arm around me again. “Someone’s house.”
“I don’t think so.” I try to pull away from him. His arm tightens and I feel like it’s imprisoning me.
“I do think so, baby.” There’s something threatening in his voice.
“Like you’re my owner?” Now I’m angry.
“And you love it. I mean, it’s the traditional way, right, rural? Hey, where’s your drink?”
“A soft drink this time,” I say.
“No,” Leleka objects. “We all have to get puza-faced tonight.”
“She wants a soft drink,” Sizwe says.
Then neither of them says anything more. They just stare hard at each other, and there’s something scary about the silence. It only ends when Leleka shrugs.
Sizwe starts to hand me a Coke, but Leleka sticks out the arm that isn’t keeping me clamped to his side and takes it from him. He makes a big production out of opening it and giving it to me.
He no longer seems so attractive.
Then we’re all dancing in a big group, me and Leleka and a whole crowd of others. I let the music take hold of me. I can’t think, anyway. Only Sizwe isn’t dancing. I see him watching us.
I wish he’d dance too. It would be good. I feel so free now, not like earlier. I’m relaxed and floppy.
Also, I’m starting to get clumsy. I’ve lost my rhythm, and I think I’m losing my balance. I’ve lost my drink too. Maybe I dropped it. I see Leleka signalling to some young men.
“OK baby, we’re ready to roll,” he shouts in my ear. “You’re with me.”
I open my mouth to say ‘I’m not going anywhere’. That’s when I discover I can’t speak clearly. Can’t do anything. I’m helpless.
Tell us: What is wrong with Moya? What will happen to her now?