I liked school. Home was a wreck with my dad drinking too much and my older sister Reena failing matric and hanging with the Denver Boys. Home was always loud, always hectic. School was quiet and orderly. School made sense to me. I knew school was my only way out and there was no ways I was going to blow it like my sister. I worked hard and got good grades.
I liked getting to school early. I’d sneak into an open classroom and do my homework or read in the cool morning silence. It was like some sort of meditation for me.
The day after the cellphone thing with Pearl I was in a classroom, early, reading history, when I heard noise outside the window. Someone was arguing. One of the people, a girl, was crying. I crept to the corner of the window to see who it was. I was surprised to see Pearl at the corner of the block. Her face was wet with tears, her eyes swollen and red. I could see she’d been crying for a while.
The other person was just around the corner, out of my sight. Pearl kept sobbing, “You can’t do this to me.”
I watched for a while. Pearl was getting more and more upset. But now students were starting to arrive at the gate. She saw them and stopped talking. She wiped her face with the sleeve of her jersey and walked toward the gate. She pushed through the students with her head bowed and headed down the road. I looked back to where she’d been arguing and the person came around the corner. I was not surprised to see it was Mr Phaladi.
The heat was still terrible. We hadn’t had rain for months; the air was crackling dry. The sun beat down on the earth like it was angry. I had English last period and most of the class was falling asleep in the heat, but I liked English. I was looking forward to getting my essay back. I wanted to see what I got.
Mr Phaladi passed out the papers. I was disappointed to see I only got 68%. I’d expected something higher. I think Mr Phaladi noticed. “Come see me after class and we can discuss it,” he said.
The other students left and I walked up to his desk. He indicated I should take the chair he’d pulled next to the desk. “It was a good essay, Kagiso, so you shouldn’t be disappointed with that mark,” he started. “I just expect more from you. You’re my best student. Exams are coming and I want to make sure you get an A+ in English, nothing less.”
He looked sincere. I was glad he cared about my marks. But I couldn’t shake off the information I had about him. Did he really sleep with students? A grown man like him? Someone once said he was married.
“Okay, thanks Mr Phaladi,” I said getting up to leave. Then I felt his hand on my arm.
“You know, if you’d like, I could give you some time after school. Some time to go over a few things I think you could work on.”
I was nervous. I wanted to leave. I pulled my arm away a bit too roughly. “I’ll think about it,” I mumbled as I went out the door.
Tell us what you think: What is Mr Phaladi doing? What should Kagiso do?