The restaurant is noisy and hot inside. I’m not hungry. Everyone around me is ordering steaks and burgers but I just can’t eat.
This must be love. I hope it doesn’t show.
Then my cousin walks in. She’s even more gorgeous. She’s had her hair braided and she’s wearing this pink dress that hugs her curves, and these strappy silver sandals.
“She lights up a room,” my mom says. I try to smile. She is so friendly and bubbly that I can’t help liking her all over again.
I can’t help talking about girl things with her – and boys.
“Hey, you look like you’re in love,” she whispers. I must look shocked because then she says, “You are in love, aren’t you? You have to tell me everything. Is he a Jozi boy?”
I shake my head.
“Ah … so he’s local. You met him on the beach.”
“I knew it,” she says. “I have to meet him.” I smile weakly.
How can I stop it from happening? But I will sound jealous and silly if I say she can’t. “You’ll have to introduce us tomorrow. I’ve got a new bikini,” she laughs.
Now there is definitely no way I am going to let her anywhere near him. “He’s had to go and visit his parents,” I lie. I realise I don’t even know if he has parents.
“When he comes back then – we’ve got all holiday. I want to see the boy who’s made my cousin crazy in love.” I laugh and she puts her arm around me and squeezes me. Then she shows me her new cellphone.
“Why don’t you girls take a walk before dessert,” says my dad. “It’s really busy and it’s going to be a while. I’m sure you want to catch up somewhere quieter. I can’t even hear myself think in here.”
“Hey, let’s go down to the beach.” I look out of the window of the restaurant. A group of teenagers are sitting in a circle having some kind of party. “Come on,” my cousin drags me up.
We are down on the sand. She’s running and pulling me to the group. She knows them from school. “Hey, come join us, babes! And bring your friend,” they shout.
I look around the circle and am relieved to see that Bongi isn’t one of them. I sit down next to my cousin, but she’s chatting to the guy next to her. Then some white boy, a friend of theirs from school, starts talking about the new development beyond the rock pools on the stretch of land that pushes out into the sea, past the forest.
“Hey, guess who’s going to be living down there on the new estate.”
“A multi-millionaire,” says his friend.
“A dude in my class. His dad is the developer.”
“Ja, I heard something weird about that development the other day,” says his friend. Suddenly I am listening closely.
“There’s this house, right. It’s really old. They’ve cleared everything else, pulled down all the other old houses. But every time they try and pull this house down there’s an accident. The digger turned over, a guy with a jack hammer lost control of it and landed up in hospital. A boy fell off a ladder.”
“It’s true. I swear. It’s like there’s a curse on that place. It’s like there are ghosts there or something and they don’t want them to build, or to destroy the house.”
“You lie. That double storey – they aren’t pulling it down, they want to renovate it. The developer wants the house for himself. It’s got the best view,” another boy chips in.
“They don’t know the real story,” I hear a soft voice beside me say. I didn’t even see the girl come up and sit down. I turn to look at her. She has long blonde hair and green eyes. And it’s like she’s speaking only to me.
“You’re not from here,” she says. I shake my head. “I’ll tell you the true story. Do you want to hear it?”
“Sure.” But I am so nervous. Suddenly I don’t know if I want to hear it. I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. Suddenly I want to go back to the restaurant. But I can’t move.
“It is a love story,” she says softly. “It’s like Romeo and Juliet.
This guy in my class told it to me. His family used to live in one of the old houses up there, before they pulled it down.” She’s staring at me, like she knows something about me. “There was this boy,” she continues. “He was very handsome. He had dark curly hair and coffee coloured skin.”
Now I’m starting to feel really creeped out. It feels like cold fingers running down my spine.
“His mom was white. She lived there in that double storey house. She inherited it from her parents. But then she fell in love with the gardener.”
“The gardener?” I say in disbelief.
“You know how women do that. The pool guy, the plumber.
Why not the gardener? He was tall and well built and she was lonely. The only problem was that he was black and this was in the 1970s. Their love was illegal. But they had a child. Her family disowned her. She sent her coffee coloured boy to the white school. She said he was Portuguese. Anyway, he fell in love with this white girl in his class. She used to sneak out and visit him at the house on the point.”
White girl, long blonde hair – I’m thinking that it sounds like her. Is she playing with me now?
“Do you want to hear the end or not?” I nod. “So the boy and the girl used to go and hang out and swim down there by the rock pools.”
Now I’ve got goosebumps. I see my cousin looking at me. Part of me thinks this must be a joke. That Bongi is going to appear at any minute and they will have set me up. And everyone will laugh. “Anyway, one day the girl’s dad found out where she was going every day. He followed her along that path through the trees.” She stops and looks to see what effect this story is having on me.
“He found out that the boy’s dad was black. He forbade his daughter to see him ever again.”
“That’s the end of the story?”
“No. You see the girl couldn’t live without the boy. So one night she sneaks out, she goes to the big old house down on the point, but he isn’t there. In fact no-one is there. But there is a light on. She calls for him. No answer. She goes down to the rock pools where she always met him. It’s high tide, she slips in the dark, hits her head on the rocks, and drowns.”
“No!” I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
“It broke his heart. A few days later his body washed up on the beach. He’d drowned.”
“He killed himself?”
“Nobody knows. Maybe it was an accident. That’s why they can’t build there. His mother went mad with grief. They say that every day he waits on the beach, at that pool. He’s waiting for that girl to come back. People swear that they’ve seen his ghost.”
I stand up. It’s not the same, I tell myself. Ghosts don’t come out during the day. But I am remembering the way Bongi knew about the development. How he took me to the rock pools. How he didn’t want to speak about his family. How my dad ignored him like he wasn’t there.
I find my cousin, who’s being chatted up by some boy. “Tell my mom and dad I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”
“Ah … so you’re going to meet your new boyfriend.” She winks at me.
“Busi and her boyfriend swimming in the sea. K I S S I N G.”
As soon as I am out of sight I start running in the dark. I am out of breath when I reach the end of the beach. I expect to find him at the rock pool but there’s no-one there. There is the sign.
Danger – Ingozi. The path is dark but the moon is out. What if my dream was true? I need to know the truth about him now.
I know it’s crazy and dangerous but I start to walk down that path through the forest. My feet make a scrunching sound on the twigs underfoot. It’s really loud. My heart is thumping now.
The path seems longer than in my dream.
At the end there is the lawn, overgrown like in my dream. I look up at the house. There is a light shining from one of the upstairs rooms. I walk across the lawn and up the flight of steps.
The door is open like he’s waiting for me. I know I’m going to find him in the room upstairs. And then I become quite calm.
The terror has gone. How could I be afraid of him? I am at the top of the stairs now. I put my hand on the doorknob and turn the handle.
There he is, sitting cross legged on the floor. He looks up as I come in. “What’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he laughs. “They told you the story, didn’t they?”
I am so relieved. So it is a joke. He’s in on it.
“It freaked me out,” I say, suddenly angry that this was all a set up.
“Those guys never know when to stop. Did you really think I was a ghost?” he laughs. “I just wanted to see you again tonight.
I knew you’d come to see for yourself. Now we can be alone.”
He reaches over and traces my face with his finger. I shiver. “I suppose they told you about the white girl with the long blonde hair who drowned.”
“You believed them.”
I don’t know anymore. I’m not sure of anything suddenly.
There is a noise outside and I catch my breath. I half expect them all to rush in and switch on the light like there’s a surprise party.
“But you’ve felt me.” He can see that part of me doesn’t believe him. “You can’t feel ghosts. They are just thin air. Come here. Don’t be frightened.”
“Why are you here?” I ask him. “Why did you wait for me here? How did you know I would come.”
“I didn’t,” he says simply. “But I hoped.They are pulling the house down tomorrow. It’s the last house. It used to belong to my grandmother. I just wanted to come here one last time.”
“I haven’t got long. I have to get back.”
“You’re cold,’ he says, taking off his jacket and wrapping it around me. I put my head on his shoulder. It feels like the most natural thing to do. We stare out of the window at the moon above the sea. I can hear the waves crashing on the shore. Then he kisses me, and I forget everything. I have never been kissed like that before. I want it to go on forever.
“I’ll come with you down the path, through the spooky forest,” he laughs.
We run hand in hand. When we get to the beach I can see the party of teenagers have made a fire. Some of them are dancing.
“Watch out for the ghosts,” he laughs.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?” I ask.
As I run back I realise I am still wearing his jacket. I turn back to give it to him, but he’s gone already. I’ll have to give it back to him tomorrow. When I get back to the group I look around the circle for the blonde girl who told the ghost story. I want to tell her that I’m not that stupid to fall for it. That I know the truth. But she’s gone.
My cousin runs up, all excited. “So, did you kiss?” I nod.
“I knew it.” We get back in time for coffee at the restaurant.
Later, back at my gran’s house I say goodnight to my cousin.
She winks at me. “I’ll keep your secret, all summer,” she says.
I can still feel his lips on mine.
Before I go to sleep I unfold his jacket that I have brought back from the restaurant. I hold it to my face. It smells of him.
There is something old fashioned about it. Maybe he got it at a second hand store. It’s quite cool to be retro these days. I slip my hand into the outside pockets. What do I think I will find? I want something else to remind me of him.
Then I find an inside pocket to the jacket. I slip my hand inside and pull out a photograph. I hold it up to the light. I feel sick. It’s an old photograph, I can tell. It’s like the ones my gran has. But I can still see the image clearly. I look at the girl in the picture. She is smiling. She looks happy. She has long blonde hair and green eyes.
What did you think? Are you enjoying the story? Would you be happy if it ended like this?