“What the fuck, K-girl?” Chuma shouts in my ear, her fingers biting into my shoulder. “That’s your song.”

I shake my head, blinded by tears. “How … how could he?”

“You had no idea?” Wandisa asks.

“Look at her! Of course she didn’t.” Francine is furious. “That piece of rubbish. That thieving trash. That … You’ve got to do something, K-girl. Lodge a protest.”

“How? Listen to the crowd, look at them.” I wipe my eyes, so I can see them. “He’s got the crowd.”

The way I’ve always got them with that song, over at Giraffe’s Neck. God! Was Mongezi recording me, playing with his phone while I was rehearsing? So he could memorise the words?

“You’ve got make-up everywhere,” Chuma says, pulling a wad of tissues out of her big bag.

Mongezi reaches the end of the song – to mad applause, whistling and screams from the crowd.

“Thank you,” he says into the mic. “I call that song My Lyin’ Eyes.

So he’s not even going to give me credit for the lyrics. It’s his song now.

That’s when my pain starts to morph into something like anger, but not only anger.

“This was my chance,” I tell my girls, all three clustered around me, with Chuma mopping and wiping my wet face with her tissues. “The audience is going crazy. That proves I would have killed it, like that guy said – Die-Mond’s helper?”

“So what will you do?” Wandisa wants to know.

“It’s still my chance. I’m not losing it now,” I say, and I understand that what has come along with the anger is determination.

“You’re still going on?” Francine asks. “Have you got another song?”

“I need words, and I haven’t got long.”

I stand there, closing my eyes. Words fly in and out of my head. I snatch at some, let others go. I don’t hear the contestants who follow Mongezi, seven, eight, nine. I’m in my special word-zone, the place that has always made sense and no sense at all, ever since I was a kid, making up rhymes to pass the time, or to help me get through something difficult.

My girls surround me in a close huddle, and their support gives me strength.

“It’s time.” Chuma’s sharp elbow in my side brings me back. “Number nine is just finishing.”

I open my eyes. “My face?” I ask.

“It’s fine. You just lost a whole lotta mascara is all.”

“When I look at you, give me a beat, hard and fast, like we used to do,” I tell them, and start pushing my way towards the steep wooden steps leading up to the stage, where Die-Mond has grabbed the mic back from the very young schoolboy who was contestant nine.

“You still in?” Die-Mond’s assistant is waiting at the foot of the steps, and I see him noticing my eyes that are probably red and still a bit wet. “Still going on?”

“Yebo.” My voice is firm.

“That guy took your song, didn’t he?” There’s sympathy and anger all mixed up in the way he says it. “So have you got another song?”

“I’ve got something,” I answer him.


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