“I’ve seen how you look at Xikosi.”

Lereko stared at the beautiful girl who had said those words: real name Rhandzeka, but known around UMP campus as The Princess, for acting like royalty. She had never lowered herself to speak to Lereko before.

“Hey, this is a surprise.” Lereko’s sense of humour rose. “I didn’t think you’d seen me at all. Seen, as in noticed me. Why does it matter how I look at Xikosi? He never looks at me.”

Then a thought hit her. If this superior creature had noticed her, then it was possible that Xikosi had also seen her — seen how she looked at him.

Lereko’s cheeks burned at the idea.

Oh, but she was crazy to even imagine such a thing. As if Xikosi would ever notice her. She was a country girl from a humble family, while he had grown up right here in Mbombela, son of a well-known lawyer, and everything about him was super-sophisticated.

The only thing they had in common was that they were both studying agricultural science, something that got Xikosi some teasing, but he was always good-natured about it.

Rhandzeka now: she was studying law. The only reason Lereko had come in any sort of contact with her was that Rhandzeka sometimes came looking for Xikosi here at this wall where the agri students often gathered.

Had Rhandzeka seen her sitting here alone for once, and grabbed the chance to say whatever it was?

Rhandzeka was looking amused now. “You’re not very polished, are you? My dear, I just wanted to do you the kindness of letting you know it’s hopeless. You and Xikosi, I mean.”

Well, she already knew that, didn’t she? Did Rhandzeka think she was stupid? 

The way she was looking at her faded jeans, and the pair of rubber boots she had dumped on the wall, ready for when her class went out to the co-op farm in Matsulu later this morning! Rhandzeka always looked as if she was on her way to a cocktail party, or one of those elite clubs where big money, fame, and your connections got you in.

“But I have no hope anyway…um, Rhandzeka.” She felt self-conscious using the other girl’s first name, and quite honestly, this whole thing was embarrassing and a bit silly.

“I’m relieved to hear it.” Rhandzeka ran her hands over her hips, as if her peach-pink skirt wasn’t already lying smoothly, a perfect fit. “It saves me and Xikosi having to feel uncomfortable for you. Our families would dearly love a match between us. You know our fathers founded a law firm together? A marriage between the senior partners’ children, what could be more perfect? We grew up together, went to the same school. If only Xikosi would see sense and switch to law, we could both transfer to one of the bigger varsities. I mean, who wants to be a student and living at home?”

“Some don’t have a choice.” Lereko was irritated, thinking of her many fellow-students who couldn’t afford campus residence fees, and of her own family, making sacrifices to pay for the cheap off-campus accommodation she shared with four other students.

Rhandzeka shrugged. “I’m only here at the University of Mpumalanga because I need to work on Xikosi and get him to drop this crazy idea of being a farmer…Oh, here he comes now. You probably shouldn’t say anything about this discussion of ours. You don’t want to embarrass him, do you?”

Or embarrass myself, Lereko thought, watching Xikosi walk toward them.

Tell us: Why would Rhandzeka take the trouble to warn Lereko not to get her hopes up about Xikosi?