I lie in bed that night. I just can’t believe it. I am so confused.
Nothing makes sense anymore. Suddenly it seems like a summer dream has turned into a summer nightmare. Why would my summer secret – that’s how I think of him – have played such a cruel trick on me? He must have known that the photo was in the pocket of his jacket and that I would find it. Is he going out with the girl with the blonde hair? But why lead me on? Why kiss me in the water? For a laugh? What did I ever to do them, that they would treat me like this?
The other answer is too strange and creepy to even contemplate. I mean I’ve heard ghost stories before. But two ghosts? The ghost of a boy who was heartbroken? The ghost of a girl who drowned? But I touched the boy. We kissed in the water. His feet made footprints in the sand. And the girl was right next to me, talking to me in that circle of teenagers. But where had she gone when I got back?
I know that the only way to find out will be to go back to the beach in the morning with Bongi’s jacket and hand him the photograph of the girl. I lie in bed rehearsing what I will say: “Is this some kind of sick joke? What kind of people are you? How can you think hurting someone like this is fun?”
I find as I am lying there practising these words, that I am crying. The tears are streaking down my cheeks. What is worse is that I can hear my cousin laughing next door. She has no idea of what I am going through.
I don’t sleep a wink. I can’t. And as soon as it is light I get up and sneak out of the house. I know my parents will be really worried but I have to get down to the beach. I have to find him. I need to know the truth. I run through the streets and then catch a taxi to the beach. I am carrying the jacket in a plastic bag and the photograph is in my pocket. I wanted to tear it into a million tiny pieces, but then I would never know the truth.
The beach is empty when I get there. I stand waiting, feeling scared. I shouldn’t be here alone like this. What if someone attacks me? Nobody knows where I am. And then I think again of how I just went with Bongi to the rock pools, how I just trusted him, a stranger.
I hear a voice behind me. I spin around. There he is standing in the sand right behind me. I must have jumped.
“Wow, I didn’t hear you come up. You gave me a fright.” He’s got his surfboard with him.
“What’s the matter? You look so nervous.” He smiles and reaches over and squeezes my hand. How can this boy be a ghost? His hand is warm and the way he looks at me … How could he ever be cruel? “I just came to catch an early morning surf before the crowds arrive.” He pulls me towards him. I want him to take me in his arms and kiss me. But I have to know the truth. I don’t want to be hurt more.
“What’s up? Something’s wrong,” he says. “I was worried when I left you that you wouldn’t make it back safely. I watched you walking back across the sand to your friends. I wanted you to stay.”
I stare at him, then hand him the plastic bag with his jacket in it. “Thanks.” He takes it from me. “I hope it kept you warm.”
“What were you thinking?” I whisper. “Is this some sort of sick joke?”
“I don’t know what you mean.” He is looking at me now like I’m crazy. “I would never ever play a joke on you … I don’t understand.”
Then I hand him the photograph of the girl with the long blonde hair and green eyes. I see emotion in his eyes, but it’s not love for the girl in the photo. It’s anger.
“Where did you get this?” He has gone pale now. He looks shaken and ill.
“It was in the pocket of your jacket. I …” And then I realise what this means. I have gone looking through his pockets. That’s why he’s angry. But I have a right to be angry too. He led me on.
“Is she your girlfriend?” I ask him.
“No. I can explain,” he says, looking at the photo. I hate that sentence: ‘I can explain’. Guys use it all the time when they’ve cheated on you.
“Don’t bother,” I say and turn and walk towards the restaurant. As I get there I see the girl with the blonde hair and her friend get out of a car. I think she’s going to go down to find Bongi on the beach and have another laugh. But she goes into the restaurant with her friend.
I wait a minute and then follow them in. They are talking to the manager. I walk past them quickly, into the ladies’ room and hide in one of the toilet cubicles. What am I going to do now? And then I hear the door open and shut with a bang. I recognise the girl’s voice. “Did you see her face when I told her that story about the ghosts?”
“I can’t believe she fell for it …”
“She was terrified. And she went straight to look for Bongi. I knew she would.”
“How did you know he would be at the house?”
“I followed him earlier. It was so clever – just like in the movies. I would have made a good detective. I had watched them chatting on the beach. It made me sick. He even took her down to that rock pool. I waited until she had left. Then I followed him to that old house. I gave him the jacket. He had lent it to me when we first started going out. I said I was returning it.
What he didn’t know was that I put a photo of my mother in the pocket. She looked just like me at my age. It looked old. It would freak that girl out if she found it. Especially after she’d heard about the ghosts.”
“That will have got rid of her for good.”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Just as I am about to walk out and confront them, I hear the door opening again.
“I thought I’d find you in here.” It’s my cousin. I know her voice. She was in on it too. I don’t understand. “I’m looking for my cousin, Busi,” she says.
“Tell your cousin to stay away from my boyfriend,” says the girl.
“If you’re talking about Bongi, he’s not your boyfriend,” says my cousin. “He broke up with you months ago. Is that what this is about? What did you do to my cousin? What did you tell her?”
“I scared her a little. It will serve her right.”
“Well, now she’s disappeared and it’s your fault. Anything could have happened to her.” There is silence as the girls realise what this means.
“You just can’t get over the fact that he dumped you. I would have dumped you too. You’re mad!” My cousin is shouting now. “You’re mad and jealous. My friend told me you started stalking Bongi after you broke up, and now this! If anything has happened to my cousin …”
“Tell her to stay away from Bongi.”
“Don’t you think that’s up to Bongi?”
My heart is racing. Would I be here right now if I had told my cousin who my mystery boy was? Everyone is searching for me. What if I hadn’t looked in the pocket of the jacket? What if he hadn’t lent it to me? But now I realise that the girl is crazy.
She would do anything to keep me away from her ex. I wait as I hear them all go out, then I leave the toilet.
I quickly walk out of the restaurant. I can hear people shouting on the beach. When I get down there I see Bongi and the blonde girl in her waitressing outfit. She is screaming at him.
“If you go on stalking me I’m going to call the police,” he is saying.
“But I love you!” she shouts.
“How could you do this?” He holds up the photo. And then she turns and sees me walking towards them across the sand. She starts to run towards me like she’s going to attack me. I’ve seen girl fights before where hair gets pulled and nails rip skin. But before she can reach me, Bongi is there. He stands in front of me.
“Leave us,” he says as the girl screams.
The manager of the restaurant comes out onto the beach and tells the girl she will lose her job if she doesn’t get back inside – now! It seems like everyone is screaming except me. Then she turns and spits in the sand.
“I’ll get you!” she shouts back at me. “Nobody takes my boyfriend. He can’t protect you all the time.”
Bongi and I walk away down the beach. When we get to the rock pools Bongi takes me in his arms. I am shaking. “I’m so sorry,” he says. “I never thought she’d go to those lengths. She really couldn’t get over it when we broke up. I’m just sorry you got caught up in it all.”
We sit in silence for a while. Then he says. “We can start again. Would you like that?”
I nod. He holds out his hand. “I’m Bongi. And, you must be the cutest girl on the beach.”
“I’m Busi. Pleased to meet you …”
And then we kiss.
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