“Props to you, Khali-L,” Banzi Magagula tells me as I leave the stage. “You aced it.”
“It needed polishing.” I feel I have to apologise for how raw my performance was.
“Polish isn’t always an improvement,” he says. “Sometimes polish shines so bright it hides the real things – like truth, and sincerity.”
Next thing, my girls are surrounding me, hugging me, and we’re all so excited, we even start jumping up and down.
Then I catch sight of Mongezi, standing with his friends. Okuhle and Irwin look like they’re enjoying themselves, but Mongezi … He’s wearing that look that scares me.
He hates what I’ve just done. My parents won’t approve either, if they hear; they’ve got this idea that rap is all bad, no good side. I think it has to do with the media, always focusing on the negatives, but every genre has its scandals and tragedies, if only they’d see it.
Banzi and Die-Mond are up on stage, heads together, talking seriously, probably calculating which songs got most applause. Then Die-Mond raises a hand, and the crowd quiets a little, but not much.
Chuma and Francine are holding my hands tightly as Die-Mond announces who’s through to the next round of the song competition.
“Numbers two, five, six, nine and 10. See y’all next week Friday; hear from y’all!”
“You’re through, you’re through!” Wandisa dives in for a group hug.
I’m laughing and crying, amped from too much emotion – too many emotions for one short evening. Lows and highs.
“And Mongezi is through too, because of my song.” I have to shake my head. “How am I supposed to feel about that?”
“I’ll tell you how you’re supposed to feel,” Francine says. “Proud of your song, pissed off with Mongezi for stealing it.”
I laugh, but I keep glimpsing Mongezi, and part of me is more afraid of what I’ve done, than angry at what he did. How crazy is that?
Banzi comes down from the stage.
“You’ve got a week, Khali-L for Lyrical.” He tips his head to one side in a way that’s both friendly and teasing. “Just don’t forget what I said about too much polish. People want real emotion more than they want a performance.”
“These girls were amazing, giving me a beat at very short notice. But I’ll need–”
I don’t get to finish. Mongezi has come pushing his way into our circle, bumping against Banzi and grabbing me around my elbow.
“Come Khaliso, we need to leave. Now.” Mongezi is pulling me away from the others.
“Hey!” Chuma shouts as he turns and knocks into her.
“Jeez dude, chill,” Banzi says.
Mongezi ignores him, dragging me after him, not slowing down, even when I stumble.
Outside, the winter air is cool on my hot skin, but nowhere close to the coldness I feel inside me as Mongezi swings me round to face him.
Tell us: Both Khaliso and Mongezi have got through to the next round of the competition, so why is Mongezi angry?