“Lereko? I was looking for you,” Xikosi said.
A twitch from Rhandzeka let Lereko know the other girl was as surprised to hear this as she was. Xikosi looking for her, not for Rhandzeka? And Xikosi flashing her his smile, so warm and wide, one of his most attractive features, as if he didn’t have a hundred others.
Aargh! Why did she have to sound so breathless, like a child expecting a treat?
“You left so quickly after the lecture, you weren’t around when the message came. The Matsulu co-op trip is cancelled for today, protesters blocking the road…Bummer, hey?” Sympathy in his voice as he noticed her disappointed expression, but then his smile blazed out again. “But the message was to stand by to go later in the week.”
“Thanks for letting me know,” Lereko said.
Rhandzeka stepped forward, laying a hand on Xikosi’s arm. “Great, now let’s go, Xikosi, let’s get off campus into town and find somewhere decent to eat.”
The two of them looked so perfect standing there together, like a couple in a commercial for some luxury product.
Xikosi was tall, and athletically built without being too muscly, but it wasn’t his appearance that was important to Lereko. It was the things his smile said about him, and the way he talked about things that mattered, like food security. He seemed so — connected with the world, somehow.
“Sorry Rhandzeka, not today.” He freed his arm gently. “There’s something I need Lereko’s help with.”
“Hers? The mind boggles.” Rhandzeka pouted. “Can’t it wait?”
“Not really. Listen, I’ll see you later anyway. Have you forgotten my family are all coming over to celebrate your mother’s birthday tonight?”
Lereko was too stunned at hearing Xikosi needed her help to study Rhandzeka’s reaction, but she seemed to accept the dismissal.
“I hope you don’t mind?” Xikosi addressed Lereko, as Rhandzeka strolled away with a sway of her hips and a little backward wave.
“No…um, of course not.” Recovering slightly, she laughed. “Although I cannot for one second imagine what you might need my help with.”
Xikosi laughed too. “Don’t be so modest. Do you think I haven’t noticed how confident you are with subjects like animal science and husbandry? But maybe you haven’t noticed that I struggle with those. Why should you? So I thought — I mean, I was hoping you could share some tips with me, fill in the blanks in my knowledge.”
It was true, Lereko hadn’t noticed him struggling with any subject. He came across so at ease, sure of himself, in every class.
“Of course, I’d be happy to try.” Her answer was soft and uncertain.
“That’s a relief.” And he really did sound relieved, expelling a breath. “And, fair exchange, I’ve noticed you’re not so confident about agronomy, my absolute best, so what do you say? Let’s get together.”
Tell us: Clearly Xikosi has noticed Lereko more than she imagined, but would she be foolish to get her hopes up, with Rhandzeka on the scene?