Rozena sat on the bench in the foyer by the Headmaster’s office, trying to ignore the stares of her fellow students as they filed by on their way to class.

This was a nightmare. It couldn’t be happening. In fact, it began to seem almost funny. She’d been so nervous about the interview, worrying about not getting into the final round of the Rising Star competition, and losing her chance of winning a scholarship. The worst thing she’d been able to imagine was losing her chance at that scholarship.

Now, all of that seemed laughable compared to the danger of that tiny, insignificant-looking, plastic bag that had fallen out of her folder.

Melinda Gosling had wanted to call the police immediately, convinced that the bag contained some kind of illegal drug, but the other adults had calmed her down. Now, all of them were all in the Headmaster’s office while Rozena waited outside.

Rozena heard heels clicking on the polished floor of the corridor. A familiar figure in a nurse’s uniform was approaching. “Rozena! What in the world–?”

“Mom!” Rozena rushed over to her mother and tried to hug her, but her mother held her off.

“What is going on, Rozena? I get a call from your school, I have to take time off work …”

Rozena nodded wretchedly. She knew that the people at the hospital did not look kindly on staff taking time off for personal affairs.

“I’m sorry Mom.” Suddenly she was struggling not to cry. “At the interview, when I was … I don’t know, there was this little bag, and they think it’s drugs.”

“Drugs!” Her mother stiffened, her eyes widening. “Rozena! What are you doing with drugs?”

“No, Mom, you don’t understand!” Rozena tried to grab her mother’s hand, but her mother pulled away just as Mr Peterson, the Headmaster, emerged from his office.

“Ah! Mrs Claasens,” he said. “Thank you so much for coming at such short notice. Please come inside.”

“Good day Mr Peterson.” Rozena’s mother looked even more worried. “I’m sorry it took me so long to get here, but I had to take a taxi–”

“No problem, no problem. Please.” He gestured at the open door. “Come and join us. Rozena, if you could just wait here for a bit longer.”

As the office door closed behind her mother, Rozena sat down again, wiping away the angry tears. Why did her mother always assume the worst? Rozena had never had anything to do with drugs. She’d never even been drunk in her entire life. But just at the mention of the word ‘drugs’ her mother acted as if she believed the worst.

The minutes ticked by. At last, the door opened again and Mr Peterson called Rozena inside.

“Rozena, we’ve had a long talk about this unfortunate situation. Mrs Gosling here,” he said, and nodded at Melinda, “has agreed that there is not enough evidence to disqualify you from the competition yet. We don’t know whether the substance in that bag is, in fact, anything illegal. And while it looks very bad that it was found in your case, that’s not quite enough evidence to prove you are guilty of breaking the law. So, we have made a plan.”

Mr Peterson sat down behind his desk and straightened some papers. “We need to investigate this further. But while we look into things, you are suspended from school.” He nodded at Rozena’s gasp. “I’m afraid that is inevitable. We do have some time in which we can investigate this. In four days, we’ll have another meeting. If by then you can produce evidence that you’re not guilty, Rising Star say they will accept you back into the competition, and the school won’t expel you.”

With that, the meeting was over.

“So, Rozena,” said Rozena’s mother, picking up her handbag. “I’ll be taking you home now.”

“Mom,” said Rozena. “I can go home by myself. I always–”

But her mother ignored her. Neither of them spoke as they left the school. Rozena was in a daze, following her mother as they walked to the nearest bus stop. She tried hard not to cry, but her eyes watered and her nose ran despite her efforts. She patted the pockets of her school jacket, looking for tissues, but all she found was a small piece of tightly folded paper.

Rozena frowned at the paper. Where had that come from? She came to a stop and unfolded it, revealing the message that was written on it.

Rozena. We can help. Meet us at the spaza shop on Camber Road. Come alone. We really can help.

Tell us: What do you think of the way Rozena’s mother has reacted to her over this situation?