“So how’s it?” Malebogo said, sitting down next to me for lunch. “Where’s your new student you’re supposed to be babysitting?”
“Kabelo’s taken over, thank god.” I bit into my sandwich.
“Why? I’d have kept control over that one.”
“He’s not as cute as he looks. Severely interested in himself if you ask me. Hardly said a word to me the whole morning. He’s one of the discriminating ones I think.”
“Who’s that?” Lorato said, sitting down opposite us. I kept quiet. I’m usually not keen on talking to Lorato and the feeling was mutual, which made me wonder what she wanted from us today. Lorato waited for one of us to fill her in, but we were both suddenly busy with our food. “Okay fine. Don’t tell me. I want to know more about that new boy in your class. I saw you with him. What’s his name?”
Malebogo, much against our agreed policy, said: “Reginald.”
I glared at her and she shrugged her shoulders as if to say it was no big deal. But it was a big deal. Normally Lorato had no interest in us. The problem with Eastend Academy was that nearly everyone there came from a rich family, except for the handful of students like me and Malebogo who were poor kids on a scholarship. Lorato came from a rich family and we didn’t, so according to her we were nothing, except when she needed something. I didn’t play her game and I thought Malebogo didn’t either. It felt like a betrayal when she answered Lorato’s question.
“Reginald,” Lorato said, as if testing the name on her tongue. “Nice…my date for the school dance. Okay, ta ladies!”
When she was gone I glared at Malebogo. “What?” she asked.
“Why did you tell her his name? I thought we agreed: Lorato and her group are out. We don’t need to be friends with her kind.”
“I thought he’s horrible. What do you care if Lorato knows a horrible boy’s name? I would think it’s a good thing.”
I thought about it while watching Lorato make her move. Kabelo and Reginald sat at a table two over, and Kabelo was Lorato’s way in. She knew Kabelo because he was also from one of the rich families out in Phakalane. They went to primary school together. But where Lorato was a stuck-up snob, Kabelo was a nice enough guy.
“Now look, she’s already sinking her claws in,” I said, not quite ready to let go of my anger.
Malebogo looked then turned back to her food. She peeled her banana. “So what are we going to do about the school dance?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, are we going with dates? Or should we just go together?”
“Did someone ask you?”
“No, not yet. But maybe someone will.” Malebogo smiled. She is a good friend for someone like me to have. I know I tend to be a bit pessimistic, but Malebogo is an optimist. She always had hope that things would turn out right.
The problem was: who was going to ask us to the school dance? The only other scholarship kid in our class was Michael and he was about a hundred metres tall and so shy he barely ever talked to anyone, especially girls.
Malebogo and I would end up going together, if we went at all. And I’d prefer not going at all, since we’d never manage to sort out clothes up to the standard of the rich kids. But I didn’t like letting Malebogo down, so I usually gave in eventually. Then I had a horrible time at the dance, after searching frantically through the entire neighbourhood to find something to wear, and it was never right.
I looked over at Lorato leaning into Reginald, laughing and touching his shoulder. It annoyed me. I’m not sure why but the entire thing annoyed me. Who did this new boy think he was? Acting all funny with me when I was just trying to help him out.
* * *
Tell us: How would you feel if you were one of the ‘scholarship kids’?