As Hlengiwe was doing the last
braid there was a knock at the
door. Ntombi wondered who it
could be. Her sister or mother
wouldn’t knock because they both
had keys, and she wasn’t expecting
anyone. She opened the door to
see Olwethu’s sister, Linkie,
standing there. She looked so small
and nervous that Ntombi wanted
to take her in her arms and protect
her. “Is this a bad time?” Linkie
“Not at all. Come inside.” Ntombi
opened the door wider and let the
little girl in. She was obviously
“What’s happened? Is there
anything wrong? Is it your gogo?”
asked Ntombi. The girl shook her
head. “No, but I need to have a
word with you in private,” she
“Don’t worry,” said Ntombi. “The
girls were just leaving.”
“You look beautiful,” whispered
Ntombi walked outside to say
goodbye to the girls and Hlengiwe.
“I’ll see you tomorrow to finish
and twist, beautiful girl,” said
“We’ll come round and collect you
before the party,” said Asanda. “We
can all go to Thabiso’s together.”
“Unless you’ve got other plans?”
said Lettie, looking at her
“Speak to the hand, girlfriend. We
not good enough for you all of a
“Leave her be,” Asanda chipped in.
“If she wants to go with Mzi that’s
okay. We’ll see her there.”
“You trust him to pitch?” said
Lettie. “Rather you than me.”
Ntombi didn’t want what had been
a great afternoon to end in an
argument. She gave Lettie a hug.
“I’ll see you guys there,” she said.
“Now I have to go and see what
Lettie took her hand and looked in
her eyes; she was serious. “Just be
careful tomorrow night,” she said,
and then she joined Asanda who
was waving down a taxi.
* * *
Before Ntombi went back inside, a
cellphone message beeped in her
Thinking of u – cant wait to c u
It was as if Mzi had heard them
talking. Ntombi found herself
looking up and down the street,
half expecting Mzi to come walking
around the corner. But there was
no one. The girls had gone and the
street was empty. She went back
inside and closed the door. He
hadSMSed. Why had she worried so
much? She should have trusted
him. And now she felt that warmth
inside again, like a secret smile.
Lettie was wrong, she thought.
Linkie came and took her hand.
“I wish I could have braids like
you,” she said.
“One day you can have any
hairstyle you want to,” said
“I don’t know. I will have to get
money first,” said Linkie.
“Will you promise me something?”
“Promise me you’ll finish school.”
Linkie nodded. “I promise,” she
“Good,” said Ntombi. “Now what
can I do for you?”
“It’s a bit embarrassing.” Linkie
stared at the floor. “You see,
Olwethu doesn’t know I’m here.”
“It’s about him?”
Suddenly Ntombi felt worried. “Has
anything happened to him?”
Linkie shook her head. “No. Well,
“I don’t know how to say this.”
Linkie was studying her shoes
carefully. “You see I think Olwethu
would kill me if he knew I was
here talking to you, and that I was
about to tell you that…”
“That he really likes you, and I
know he wants to invite you to the
party at Thabiso’s tomorrow. But
he’s just too shy to ask. So I
thought I’d…” she said all in a rush,
and then looked up expectantly.
Ntombi felt her heart sink to her
shoes. How could she tell Linkie
that she was going to Thabiso’s
with someone else – one of the
coolest guys at school? She really
didn’t want to hurt Olwethu, or
this girl with all the hope shining
out of her eyes. But she had to.
“Listen, Linkie,” she said, sitting
down beside her on the couch and
taking her hands.
“You know I really like Olwethu?”
“Yes,” said Linkie, her eyes
glowing. “That’s what I thought.
Oh, I knew I was right to come
“I really like him but …” How could
Ntombi explain this? “I like him as
a friend, not as a boyfriend.”
“Oh.” Linkie looked confused.
“Olwethu’s great! We chat. I like
spending time with him…but…”
“Yes, that’s why I thought to come.
You see, I could tell you really liked
chatting and each other’s
company…” She looked like she
was thinking about something.
“You don’t think he’s good looking
– is that why?”
“No, I do. It’s just that…” How
could she explain chemistry to a
“I think I understand,” said Linkie
standing up. “And don’t worry.”
She turned to Ntombi. “I won’t tell
“Thanks,” said Ntombi walking to
the door with Linkie, and waving
goodbye. She felt terrible. But
what could she do? Why couldn’t
life be simple?
By six o’clock the next evening
Ntombi was in such a state she
didn’t know what she was going
to say to Mzi. What if the
conversation ran out? “Just be
yourself,” said her mother. That
was just great, thought Ntombi,
coming from her mother, who
hadn’t been herself since she met