NARRATOR: And, determined as he is, Raymond does just as his friends advise. He bides his time. He begs for extra jobs from his boss and anyone who will have him, and although he and his mother are desperately poor, he puts some money away, just a little, to rebuild his image. First, one or two new things. Shoes. Then a shirt or two. Loyisa arranges for him to have his hair cut to look good. But with all this extra work, his school hours are suffering, his grades are slipping, and he is tired, so little like his old self. Gone is the jovial character his friends have come to love. He is committed now to being the respectable boy that at least one girl might love, if his plan works. Months go by, and by the end of the year his image has changed entirely.
Raymond, Ashraf and Loyisa are once again sitting on the school grounds, in the same spot as where we first meet them. Once again Raymond is on the platform while the other two recline on the ground. Raymond seems agitated and tired. But he looks good. His shoes are newer and polished, his pants are ironed and have no holes in them. His hair looks expertly cut.
Ashraf tugs suddenly at Raymond’s clothes.
ASHRAF: Hey, Raymond, there she is! Don’t you think it’s time now you talked to her? I think you look good enough now. It’s now or never, boy.
Raymond pushes Ashraf’s hand away.
RAYMOND: Are you mad to pull at my clothes like that? You think I need a hole in them now? You know how much this cost me?
RAYMOND: Maybe tomorrow. I can talk to her tomorrow; I don’t feel like it now. I have to leave early anyway – Mr Salim’s going to paint the back wall there at the butcher and he said I can do it.
LOYISA: You work too hard, man. Why don’t you take a break? You’re not even bothering with school any more – didn’t you fail the last maths test? How come? You used to be so good at maths, yo.
RAYMOND: Yeah, later. I’m close now; I have a lay-bye on this phone I wanna get. It’s not too much, but it’s better than this piece of junk. If I do this painting and a few more shifts for two more weeks, I can get it.
ASHRAF: Oh, there she goes. You never even looked! What’s your problem, man?
Ashraf kicks lightly at Raymond, but he doesn’t react. He is too tired and distracted, so the other two turn to talking among themselves while Raymond scrolls on his phone. Portia, meanwhile, walks into the scene again, walking close to the group with one of her friends, and Ashraf waves at her from where he’s reclined on the ground. Raymond looks up at the last minute and gives Portia a weak wave and smile too, but immediately starts to yawn and by the time he has concluded his yawn, she has passed by.
LOYISA: Wasn’t this all to make Portia fall in love with you? Now you yawning in her face, brother; all she can see is a boy with holes in his teeth instead of holes in his pants. You out the game, man. Call it now, just give up.
RAYMOND: I’m almost ready for her. So what if she doesn’t like me now. I can get better, even if I wait a few more months.
Suddenly, Portia returns to the group. She is alone this time, standing above them, looking directly at Raymond. All three boys look surprised.
PORTIA: Uh, Ray– … Raymond. Can I talk to you?
Raymond hops off his platform and follows Portia a short distance away from the others. Ashraf and Loyisa nudge each other and giggle. Portia is carrying her bag, and she opens it as they walk.
PORTIA: A … a few months ago. In class. Um, they took this away from you and I thought … I just thought maybe you wanted it back or something.
Portia retrieves from her bag the teddy bear holding the heart. She gives it to Raymond.
PORTIA: I was in Mr Siphoyo’s class yesterday and he wanted … he wanted to throw it out. I just thought, um, maybe you wanted it back?
Raymond takes the bear, looks at it and scratches his head in amusement.
RAYMOND: Thanks. Thanks, Portia. I forgot about this.
Portia turns to leave, but stops. She spins and faces Raymond again, looking determined.
PORTIA: It’s not the same any more, you know. Here at school, without you. I don’t know if you’re working or what you are doing, but it’s not the same. I … I used to get excited to come to school mostly because you were here. I …
Portia is suddenly embarrassed and stops talking, turns on her heel and starts to leave. Raymond hurries after her.
RAYMOND: Portia! But it’s for you!
PORTIA: What? What’s for me?
Raymond laughs a little, scratching his head with embarrassment.
RAYMOND: All of it. The work, the clothes, this.
He hands her the bear and she takes it, gently.
RAYMOND: I know you come from a nice family, no way you would want to be with someone like me. So I wanted to show you I can, you know, earn my way to impress you.
Portia is still looking at the bear.
PORTIA: It’s for me?
Raymond looks down at the bear.
RAYMOND: Yeah, but it’s stupid, I know. They laughed at me when I bought it, said for you I should get something nice, you know, valuable. Not a stupid toy.
She pulls the bear close to her.
PORTIA: I’m going to say something now and please don’t laugh at me.
RAYMOND: What? OK.
PORTIA: The day Mr Siphoyo took that bear from you and put it on his desk, I started to dream it was meant for me. A present from you to me, and I knew it was just a dream, but it was a nice thing to dream about. When you didn’t say anything to me in all this time, and you barely even looked my way, I knew it wasn’t for me. And then … then you started to change. You went all quiet, all serious; you were hardly at school. You look… you look different. I was going to try to tell you I liked you, back before Siphoyo took the bear, but I was too shy, you know? And then I started to think you liked someone else, not me. And now you tell me you did all this for me? Gone all serious? Changed the way you look? But … but why?
RAYMOND: Portia, I’m the poorest in the school. Well, after Samuel Mgoduso, but they got that new house and all. And you, you come from a nice place, nice family. Both your parents have jobs. I can’t expect you to just take me like I am. I must earn it. So now that’s what I’m trying to do. And that bear, it’s stupid. I’m working more now – I can buy you something nicer. Just give me a couple of months.
PORTIA: If that’s what you think, then the bear is less stupid than you. I liked you from the first day of school. I like the way you make everyone laugh. I like your confidence, I like your face, and I like that you didn’t care what other people thought about you. I wanted to tell you since the beginning of school, but I was always too shy. I didn’t have your gifts – being funny, confident, smart. I kept trying to talk, but I never had the courage. But you, I thought you would never have been too afraid to talk to me. So I just assumed you didn’t like me.
RAYMOND: So I could have given you that bear months ago already?
RAYMOND: You know, I’m going to kill Loyisa.
PORTIA: So, will you go out with me? Wow, I wanted to say that for a long time now. I can’t believe it’s this bear that got me to finally ask you.
RAYMOND: But if I stop working, I’m not going to be able to look this good any more. Or at least once these clothes start to wear down.
PORTIA: Ray, you always looked good.
RAYMOND: Really? Now I’m going to kill Ashraf.
They laugh, take each other’s hands, and walk off the scene together, Portia holding the bear close. Loyisa and Ashraf are still goofing around, and can be heard throwing insults at each other as the scene ends.
Tell us: Do you think it’s right to care how much money someone has or not? What do you value in others?