I gave Jeremy the wrong number. Of course I did. I could never go on a date with him. What if Boineelo or Keletso or Farai spotted us together? That would be more shame than I could bear.

Even now that I was twenty, those Seboni sisters still haunted me. My mother and I had moved away from the Seboni’s backyard. Now we lived in a small house near a polluted river. So at least I didn’t have to face them daily. At least I didn’t have to watch from close by as their golden lives unfolded. As everything went right and wonderful for them.

But still they were always on my mind.

If I switched on the TV, there was beautiful Boineelo. She was a lead actress in a well-known soapie. Looking even more stunning. Her director and half the male cast were in love with her.

If I opened a magazine, there was Farai, smiling from society photographs. Her student-doctor boyfriend was now her husband. He was also a leading plastic surgeon, in great demand amongst the rich and famous. They were invited to the best parties. They rubbed shoulders with politicians and celebrities. Farai was still the social butterfly, surrounded by friends.

They lived in a mansion of their own, even grander than her father’s mansion.

As for Keletso the Clever: well, all her studying had paid off. She was promoted to CEO of a major bank, earning massive bonuses. Often she drove past me in the evenings in her SUV. Sometimes she even waved at me. But she never stopped to give me a lift – not even when the rain was pouring and the taxis were full.

And what did I have? A dead-end job at the take-away, frying chips for hours on end. The smell of the chip oil clung to my clothes, my hair, my skin.

My mother said, “Be grateful for your job, Neo. With so many people unemployed, you are lucky. At least we have enough to eat. Oh, and did I tell you the latest news about Boineelo?”

Mrs Seboni still phoned my mother often and told her all their news.

“No, Mama,” I said. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“Don’t be unkind,” said my mother. “Those three are lovely girls. They deserve all their good fortune.”

Well, I didn’t want to hear about their good fortune. As always, they were the winners. As always, I was the loser.

And that is why I gave Jeremy the wrong number. How could I date such an ugly man? If Boineelo or Keletso or Farai saw us together, I would feel like the biggest loser in the world.

It was the next Tuesday, I remember. I got home tired and wet through from the rain and stinking of chip oil.

My mother said, “Oh Neo, Mrs Seboni has just phoned. It is the most awful thing. Poor Farai! My heart just breaks for that girl.”


Tell us what you think: What awful thing has happened to Farai? Does Jeremy’s secret gift have anything to do with it?