“Lereko, wait!” Xikosi was urgent. “Please let me explain.”

But Lereko didn’t wait, walking away very fast, relieved to find Candice almost immediately.

“Can we leave now?” she pleaded. “At once? Please.”

Candice took a look at her face, shrugged, and said, “Sure.”

“Lereko.” Xikosi caught up as they fought their way through a cluster of people playing some drinking game.

“Nothing to explain, Xikosi, you’ve admitted what you did.” Lereko kept her voice low, but he must hear her bitterness. “Well, I proved I’m as stupid as you clearly thought I was…We’re leaving.”

“What happened?” Candice asked when they were in the bakkie, heading down to town.

Feeling she owed her an explanation, Lereko told her, ending with, “Sorry to drag you away.”

“No worries, it wasn’t my sort of party. Sjoe!” Candice added. “I can’t believe Xikosi would do something like that. He seems such a nice guy.”

“And yet he did.” Lereko couldn’t stop the tears beginning to leak from her eyes.

Dropped off at her shared accommodation, she got out her lecture notes, hoping to read herself into exhaustion. How else was she going to get to sleep?

It didn’t work, so her head felt as heavy as her heart on Saturday morning as she made tea, unable to face anything more solid.

“Someone to see you, Lereko—” one of the other students began from the kitchen entrance, then jumped in surprise because the visitor had followed her through from the front door.

“Thank God Ikhutse had your address.” Xikosi stepped into the kitchen, while the student looked from one face to the other and tactfully left them alone. “Lereko, don’t you want to know why I pretended I needed your help with coursework?”

“As part of your plan to win your bet.” Lereko’s voice was flat as she stood there stirring and stirring her tea although she hadn’t added any sugar.

She didn’t want to look at him. Just the one glance as he walked in had both hurt her heart and made her breathless.

“What bet? Lereko, I misled you as a way of getting to spend time with you. You’re so genuine, the real deal like I said. I was sure you must feel I was a fake. You know, privileged background, no real experience of the realities of rural life…Then I started to realise you didn’t see me that way, but I so loved spending time with you, I just let it continue. I should have told you, I know, and I’m sorry.”

His voice vibrated with so much feeling, and his face was so serious, Lereko felt something beginning to melt deep within her.

No! She had to harden her heart.

“It’s a pretty explanation, Xikosi, but what about the bet you had with your old friends, about getting me to fall for you?”

What?” His shock had to be real. “That would be a totally disgusting thing to do—”

“Rhandzeka told me,” she interrupted.

“Rhandzeka!” Xikosi rolled his gaze up to the ceiling. “Haven’t you realised what she’s like? I suppose you haven’t known her that long. She’s a liar, and she manipulates people. She likes to pretend I’m her boyfriend. Yes, our families would like it to be true, but my brother and I have always seen through her…You’re the one, Lereko. What I feel for you is real.”

There was no doubting his passionate sincerity. Lereko moved towards him, beginning to smile.

“The real deal?”

“Exactly!” Xikosi said.

And then they were in each other’s arms, lips finding lips, hearts celebrating.

Tell us: What did you think of this story?  Happy ever after, or happy for now?