Fiona found me after school. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I said, aware that Fiona had a way of figuring me out. I tried to change the subject: “Do you have a calculator? I need one for maths and someone stole mine. I don’t know what I’m going to do during exams. They don’t let people share.”

It was true. I did lose my calculator, though that wasn’t the only problem troubling me − but the other was one I was not going to share with Fiona.

She handed me her calculator. “Your parents are going to have to buy you a new one.”

“Yeah, right,” I said sarcastically. “Another big fight last night. Apparently my father’s been put on probation for his drinking. Next step he’s fired. I doubt they’re going to want to buy me a calculator.”

“You must get Reena to get one of her Denver Boys to steal you one. You might find you get your own calculator back!” Fiona threw her head back and laughed her big laugh. She didn’t care what anyone thought about anything. I wished I was that way. I wish I could not care.

“No! I’m not doing that. I wish Reena would leave those guys. They’re bad news all around. You know they sell tik?”

“Sure.” Fiona got serious. “You’re right though; they’re bad news.”

We walked some more in silence. Though I spoke to Fiona about home, she didn’t really get it. She lived in a nice house with running water and electricity, two parents who behaved like adults. Life was safe. My life always felt like it was balanced on a cliff, rocking back and forth, always read to tumble over the steep edge. She couldn’t understand that.

That night I lay in bed listening to my mother fighting with Reena. She’d come in late, and high. My mother was screaming at her and every few minutes Reena would just grunt in response.

I lay thinking about Mr Phaladi. I knew what he wanted. Obviously he was done with Pearl, and he was looking for another girl, and I was the one. I was the one he chose from all of the other girls. I couldn’t help it: I felt special. No-one ever treated me as if I were special, different from everyone else.

Pearl was a fool, I knew that. But I wasn’t. I wouldn’t flash around Blackberries and behave like I was better than everyone because I was sleeping with a teacher. I wouldn’t cry in public making a spectacle of myself. I had more pride than that.

But if I could get a bit of money I could sort out a lot of things. I could replace my lost calculator. Without it I had no way of passing maths. I had to do something. And this was easier than asking my parents or Reena. What could be wrong with giving Mr Phaladi a chance?


Tell us what you think: What advice would you give Kagiso?