Nandi sat in the taxi on the way to school saying her lines over and over to herself. The deep bass beat of the music in the taxi drummed in her ears. Nandi looked out over the farm lands next to the road, her lips moving silently.

Everyone knew Luyanda would be playing Romeo. Luyanda was, simply, the best. Wonderful Luyanda! Nandi’s lips stopped moving as she thought of him. He was the man who stood next to her in her red carpet dreams. Nandi had noticed him from the first day she had arrived at the school in Grade 10, three years ago.

Luyanda had never really noticed her. All the girls fancied him, Nandi knew that. And especially Zinzi. Pretty Zinzi, with her long extensions and her painted nails. Zinzi was also doing Grade 12 Drama. Zinzi was also about to audition for the main role in the school play.

Beauty had already told Nandi that Luyanda and Zinzi had been together on and off for years. Beauty had even told her that Luyanda was rumoured to be the father of the baby that Zinzi had miscarried at the end of Grade 11.

But, Nandi pushed that thought away. Beauty was always telling tales and repeating idle gossip. Nandi refused to believe it. Beauty was also always telling her how Zinzi was known to visit the shebeen two houses down from them, and was with a different boyfriend every time.

The taxi was nearing the school gates. Nandi closed her eyes and whispered her lines over to herself one more time.

By the time Nandi climbed off the taxi her head was spinning. She was already tired. Maybe she should have gone to bed earlier? But it had been so difficult to read after she had done the dishes. Beauty, and Nandi’s aunt, played the television so loudly at night that Nandi could hardly think, never mind study.

Beauty had not let her sleep either because she had been so keen to whisper her latest money-making plan to Nandi. She had tried not to listen, but had said a few words in agreement just so that Beauty would let her sleep. Beauty had been whispering about a guy called Fernando and about a cellphone. But Nandi hadn’t listened properly. Beauty was always trying to make money quickly. Nandi had lain in the dark and tried to think her own thoughts.

It was not only the play auditions keeping her awake at night. There was also the Matric Farewell which felt even more impossible than a happy ending for Romeo and Juliet. Nandi had no dress, no partner, and no money.

Nandi glimpsed herself reflected in the window as she passed a classroom. She stood still. Her hair was plaited neatly against her head. She noticed, for the millionth time, how her body was such a ‘traditional’ curvy shape. Self-consciously she smoothed her shirt down and tucked it into her skirt, then tugged the skirt down over her hips. For a moment, and with a sudden pain in her heart, Nandi remembered her mother’s words to her: “You are a beautiful girl, my Nandi.” It was a long time since anyone had said anything like that to her.

Nandi walked on as the bell rang.


Tell us what you think: Will Nandi be confident enough to do well at the auditions? Will she ever believe that she is beautiful and talented and that she deserves to be loved?