“Thando, hurry up or we’ll be late for class,” Zinhle told her friend who came running from the toilets. “I can’t believe I waited for you. Now we’ll both be late and I’m supposed to set a good example.”
Thando just laughed. “Hey chommie, who was that you were talking to?”
“Just some new boy,” Zinhle whispered. As they entered the class Mr Dlamini stopped talking. He gave them a look that said, ‘I’m watching you’ then turned his back to them and wrote something on the board.
The girls sat down at their desks. As Zinhle turned to hang her bag on her chair, she looked up to see Sam staring at her from the desk next to the window. She felt the blood rush to her face and was surprised at how embarrassed and confused she felt.
Then Mr Dlamini turned to face them and cleared his throat. “Class, now that we are all present,” he said, glaring at Thando and Zinhle, “I would like to introduce a new student at Vulamasango High. This is Samuel Khoza. I know he is starting late so please assist him with his work.” Mr Dlamini smiled at Sam and the whole class turned to look at him.
“Don’t worry, Meneer. He is in good hands,” Xolani shouted from the back of the class.
“I wouldn’t wanna know where those hands have been,” Thando said, just loud enough for Xolani, who was sitting next to her, to hear.
“Are you sure?” Xolani winked at her.
Zinhle looked across at Sam again. Why was he starting at a new school in the second term? She thought of his smile and how she had felt her stomach twist on seeing it. She said his name in her head. Samuel, wow, such a strong biblical name. She remembered the name from her childhood Sunday school classes.
When she left the classroom at break time, she bumped into him standing in the passage with Xolani, chatting. The new boy obviously didn’t know anything about Xolani and what he got up to, she thought.
“Hey, Zinhle. Want to join us?” Xolani teased her. She ignored him and Sam and walked quickly past them and out into the quad to join Thando and her other friends. They were already gossiping about the new boy.
“I heard people say he was homeless and that Mr Sotshononda took him in,” Thando said.
“Oh! Really?” Nombu said, raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah, guys like him are trouble. Maybe he ran away from home or something? He could even be a part of Xolani’s gang because they seem to know each other.”
Thando looked over at Xolani and Sam who were now playing soccer with some of the Matric boys.
“Ewe sis. I heard he’s a street kid and he used to beg until Mr Sotshononda found him and gave him a place to stay,” Thando went on and on.
“Eish! Don’t you ladies have anything better to do than gossip about people? Theth’Inonsense oko, talking rubbish all the time.” The words flew out of Zinhle’s mouth before she could stop them. The girls looked at her then laughed and she felt even more confused.
“I think Zinhle likes the new boy. What do you say, girls?” Thando said, turning to her friends, who all nodded.
“Ah ha … I think you might be right,” said Nosipho just as Xolani passed them to get water from the tap. He winked at Zinhle.
Maybe they are right, Zinhle thought as she watched Sam share bread with Xolani and some other boys. But maybe they are wrong. Her mother always told her not to judge people until she knew them.
* * * * *
Sam sat next to Xolani in the taxi after school.
“So where do you stay?” Xolani asked, taking out a cigarette and lighting it.
An old woman looked at him and whispered to her friend, “Yhu! Abantwana bangoku abanambeko. Kids of today have no respect.”
Xolani wasn’t fazed by what she said, and ignored her. He looked at Sam, waiting for an answer.
Sam hesitated before he told Xolani, “I stay at that Haven Children’s home.” He had taken a chance telling Xolani and he was not sure how he would react. But he needed a friend at school and Xolani was the only person who had talked to him. That is, apart from Zinhle, whom he could not stop thinking about.
“I’ve heard of that place. What happened to your parents?” Xolani took a puff of his cigarette then put it out after the taxi driver scolded him.
“It’s a long story,” Sam said. He didn’t want to go into it.
“No worries, I understand. But if you ever need help with anything just let me know.” Xolani then quickly changed the subject and started to talk about the last match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Pirates, until Sam got off the taxi.
As they said goodbye they joked about the girls at the school. Sam asked Xolani why Zinhle hung around Thando and her group because she didn’t look as mean as them. “I don’t know bra. Girls are a mystery,” Xolani laughed. “I think Zinhle likes you,” he added as he ran off down the street.
* * * * *
Back at The Haven Sam lay on his bunk bed and thought about Zinhle. He was lost in daydreams when Thabo ran into the dormitory and jumped on his bed.
“So, aren’t you gonna tell me how your day went?” the youngster said, kicking off his shoes.
“Eish, yho, that school is amazing,” Sam began, and told him everything that happened, and about Xolani.
“Sounds like you had a great day.”
Just then Siphiwe came running into the room. “Have you heard what Mam’Gqwashu did?” He was out of breath. “She beat up one of the girls she takes care of.”
Siphiwe knew a lot of what took place at Mam’Gqwashu’s. He had been a foster child in her home for a short while, before he escaped. “The street is better than being prisoner there,” he would say. Luckily a place had come open in The Haven and now he had a home. But some of his friends were still trapped at Mam’Gqwashus.
Sam felt like his insides were one big knot. Could it be Sinethemba?
“The ambulance came and took the girl to the hospital, but Mam’Gqwashu had said that the girl had fallen down the stairs by mistake,” Siphiwe said, out of breath.
“She is lying!” Sam shouted and punched the pillow.
Sam was frightened to ask who the victim was, but he had to know.
“Do you know who the girl was?” he asked quietly.
“A girl called … um … Lindiwe,” Siphiwe replied.
Sam felt relief flood him, but then he tensed again. It could have been Sinethemba. It might be her next time. He had to get her out of there before it was too late. Then he thought of Xolani.
“If you need any help ask me.” That’s what he had said. But did he mean it? It could be dangerous rescuing Sinethemba from such a woman.
Tell us what you think: Should Sam tell Zinhle how he feels about her?