“You are the real deal, Lereko,” Xikosi said, at the end of another exchange of knowledge, the two of them sitting on the same wall as before. “I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”

Looking up into his smiling eyes, hearing the appreciation in his tone, Lereko felt as if she was gently caught and held in some sort of golden space, honey-sweet and warm.

“I don’t think I’m really giving you much.” She was being honest rather than humble, because again it had struck her that he wasn’t truly in any need of help.

“Yes, you are!” Xikosi was fierce.

“Now reverse it, and you’re giving me a whole new understanding of crop farming. I’m so grateful, Xikosi.”

“Eish, gratitude.” He was dismissive. “I’m happy to be of help.”

He leaned over into the space between them. Lereko thought he wanted to give her a friendly kiss on the cheek, but somehow their lips were meeting, and —

The golden place changed to fiery, hot and sizzling. Lereko couldn’t think; she could only feel.

And that feeling! So good, so right.

As they drew back from each other, she didn’t know what to say. In a way, she was glad of the interruption as they were joined by Candice and Ikhutse, the two members of their class who most often shared this wall space.

Blushing, Lereko glanced at their faces. Had they seen? Ikhutse seemed to have become good friends with Xikosi. Would he tease him, make some joke?

“Friday at last.” Candice shrugged off her backpack and sat. “Only, I’m not going home this weekend, Lereko. Petrol allowance used up again, so I can’t give you a lift.”

Candice boarded with her aunt in Nelspruit, but she was from Lydenburg and sometimes gave Lereko a lift home to Mashishing in her rusty little bakkie, appreciating her company up the winding Long Tom Pass.

“Don’t worry, I wasn’t counting on it. I need to study anyway.” Lereko smiled at her.

“I thought I’d find you here, Xikosi.” Rhandzeka had joined them. “With some of your new farmer friends. You know, I’ve been thinking, it’s time I got to know you people…OK, I sort of know Lereko already, we’ve had a conversation. So listen, why don’t the three of you come to this party at my family’s place tonight? Xikosi will be there, obvs…Oh, but I suppose transport might be a problem for you.”

She was looking at Lereko as she spoke, clearly guessing she didn’t have her own wheels and couldn’t really afford most other means of travel.

“Oh, I might have just enough fuel left to get myself and Lereko there,” Candice said. “Give us the address.”

“I thought everyone knew where we lived.” Rhandzeka’s sleek eyebrows rose to surprised arches.

“We’re not from Nelspruit,” Lereko reminded her.

Xikosi wore a complicated expression. “Or I could pick you up.”

“No, it’s fine.” Lereko spoke quickly, catching Rhandzeka’s irritated twitch as he made the offer.

All the same, it looked like Rhandzeka might be coming round to his career choice, if she was willing to get to know his fellow agri students. He had to be pleased about that. It meant Rhandzeka wasn’t lost to him.

And she shouldn’t read too much into his kiss, Lereko realised unhappily.

Tell us: Is Rhandzeka sincere about wanting to get to know Xikosi’s student friends?