Nandi got out of the taxi at school the next day and there was lightness in her step. She’d left Beauty sleeping soundly, having told her aunt that Beauty seemed to have a bit of a cold. Beauty would be fine in a day or two.

Nandi glimpsed herself again in the school windows. She smiled. This morning she knew exactly who it was that she saw reflected in the glass. She felt proud of herself.

Nandi waited patiently for the Drama class to start. Today she felt at peace about what the results of the audition would be. Somehow it just didn’t matter so much any more.

When the Drama teacher called out the names of who had got the lead roles it was her name that was called.

Nandi as Juliet. Luyanda as Romeo.

The class applauded as they stood up, smiling. Zinzi clapped as well – Nandi saw that. Zinzi would still be in the play, but she would act in a supporting role.

* * * * *

The rehearsals had soon started in earnest. All Nandi’s free time was taken up in rehearsing her role, day after day.

Beauty had begun to show a real interest in what Nandi was doing and would offer, sometimes, to read the part of Romeo, so that Nandi could practise her lines. In return Nandi had to listen to all the latest gossip about the neighbours and the church, but she didn’t mind so much anymore.

The drama teacher had taken Nandi aside the day after she announced who had got the roles in the play. She told Nandi that it was Nandi’s purity and innocence that had shone through, and that is why she had awarded her the role.

Juliet had been a sweet, young, innocent girl too.

Nandi remembered Fernando’s lips twisting as he had held Beauty by her shirt, ripped it open, and shouted into her face. Nandi’s stomach still churned at the memory. Nandi didn’t dare think about what might have happened that Sunday afternoon.

* * * * *

On opening night Nandi stepped out onto the stage under the dazzling lights and did not forget a single line.

The weeks of rehearsing had allowed Nandi to get to know Luyanda. She liked him even more. As the curtains closed on the final scene of the play, Luyanda was by Nandi’s side. In the darkness, before the lights came on again, he kissed her.

Before Nandi could react they had to stand up together for a curtain call. As the audience applauded, Luyanda took Nandi’s hand and led her off the stage.

In the wings he stopped and, looking into Nandi’s eyes, he told her how much, how deeply, he had fallen in love with her.

Nandi stood speechless.

Luyanda told her what a wonderful actress she was. He told her how beautiful she was. He told her how honoured he felt to be acting opposite her in this play.

Nandi couldn’t help starting to cry a little. Luyanda hugged her, gently but firmly.

The audience were still clapping.

Luyanda and Nandi had to go out on stage together again for another curtain call.

Beyond the brightness of the lights Nandi could just make out Beauty standing up in the crowd. She was smiling and waving.

When the curtains closed for the last time Luyanda put his arm around Nandi.

“I meant to ask you…” he said. She waited anxiously. “I meant to ask you…will you will be my partner to the Matric Farewell?”


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