The next morning Thabi began the search for a school for her sister. All the local schools were full.

“I’m sorry,” the secretary of the nearest co-ed high school said when she phoned her. “It’s April already. We’ve been full since January. Maybe if you put her name down now there will be a place for her next year. But for now she’s number thirty-five on the waiting list.”

Thabi sighed as she put the phone down. Her sister was still asleep, without a care in the world. She’d left all her dirty clothes on the bathroom floor last night. Thabi was sure she hadn’t been so selfish and rude when she was fifteen.

She might have to send her to the good school that Sim’s sisters attended, but that was in Khayelitsha. She’d have to travel so far every day to get there, and God knows what Lusi would get up to in a taxi. She was boy mad. The last thing Thabi needed was to have to phone her mother and tell her that her fifteen-year-old sister was pregnant. She was going to have to try the local private schools. There was one just down the road – St Matthew’s School. She had often looked through the fence as she walked past. It had grand old buildings, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and the parents drove big, fancy cars. She’d definitely get the best education there, and a really good start in life.

She looked up the number and dialled. “Yes, you’re in luck,” the receptionist said. “We have one place open in Grade 9. One of our families has just emigrated. Would you like to come in for an interview?”

“Can you give me an idea of the fees?” she asked.

“Certainly. Grade 9 is R4800.”

“Wow! That’s…well…” at first Thabi was shocked by the amount until she remembered the money she had been left, “I guess… that’s not too bad, for a term,” she added.

Then she heard the receptionist continue: “We prefer a debit order system, or you can pay the full R57 000 in a lump sum and receive a five per cent discount.”

OMG – that was R4800 a month, not a term. It was more than she used to earn each month at the coffee shop. She swallowed hard.

“Would you like to set up an appointment? The headmaster can see you at 2.15.”

What could she do? If the only choice was a private school or sending her to the school that was far away, she’d be better off at St Matthew’s. It was close by and she could walk home after school. Or Thabi could always fetch her to make sure she came straight home. But the money! “Ye…” She cleared her throat. “Yes, please.”

Bringing Lusi to live with her was turning out to be an expensive exercise. She had spent so much money helping out her mother that she had to be careful now, or what remained would all slip between her fingers. She’d have to tighten her belt, and spend less. Much less.

Lusi was smiling for once when Thabi woke her up with the good news. “Hey, that’s awesome, Sisi. A private school. Wait till my friends hear about it.” She hurried off to the bathroom to take yet another bath.

It was 3.30 when they’d finally finished seeing the headmaster and had been shown around the school. Lusi’s eyes were shining. “This school is awesome,” she said, giving Thabi a hug.

Thabi was busy reading the list of requirements – uniforms, tennis rackets, school bags, textbooks. Her heart sank. It was all so expensive.

“We have a second-hand shop upstairs,” the receptionist said. “It’s open right now, if you’d like to see what uniforms you can find there.”

Lusi tugged her arm. “I’m not wearing second-hand clothes to school. People will think we’re poor.”

“But Lusi, do you know what this is costing me?”

“So? You’re rich now. Ma told me you’re a millionaire. Don’t be so mean with your money.”

Thabi felt awful as they went to the car. She was spending too much, she knew it. She just couldn’t say no to the people she loved.

* * *

Tell us what you think: Should Thabi stand up more to her sister and tell her to stop being so rude and demanding?