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For love or friendship by Lauri kubiutsile Chapter 5 & 6. The thrilling story continues

“Oh my baby, going on her first date!” my mother said, tweaking my cheek. “You look so beautiful. Tell me about this Michael fellow.”

“He’s a good guy. Quite smart, usually the top in our class. Plays chess. Likes to read.”

“He seems like the perfect guy for you.”

“Just about,” I said. I was trying to be excited about the date. It was true, Michael was great. He liked the things I liked, he was cute. Not as tall as Matlho but tall enough. Friendly, though a bit shy, like me that way.I was surprised that I was excited about the date. I had thought I had only agreed to it to please Matlho.

Matlho had borrowed his mother’s car and was to collect everyone. We were going to dinner and then a movie. A real date. I saw the car pull up outside the house. “Okay Ma, they’re here. I’m going!”

My mother rushed into the room. “No! Let them come in. I want to meet this Michael.”

I opened the door and Kaya, Matlho and Michael were already halfway up the garden path. I ran out to them. “Hi guys.”

Matlho smiled. “You look beautiful.”

“Thanks.” I noticed Michael at the back, looking awkward. I took his hand. “Hi Michael. My mother wants to meet you, if you don’t mind.”

We went into the house. Michael chatted with my mother politely. Kaya and Matlho stood to the side. Matlho kept looking at me. I had my long dreads piled up on my head, not the way I usually wore them. My mother had helped with my make-up: she’s better at it than me.

Kaya whispered in my ear, “You look so beautiful, baby.”

* * * * *

At dinner it was difficult to keep the conversation going. Matlho was behaving oddly, and Michael was very shy. We talked a bit about chess, about how difficult the English Lit exam had been. Kaya teased us about being brainiacs. I felt sorry for Michael – I wanted him to relax.

When Kaya and Matlho went to sort out the bill, I leaned forward and kissed Michael on the cheek. “I hope you’re having a good time,” I said.

“I am,” he smiled. “I really like you, Dineo. I have for a long time.”

He kissed me on the lips just as Matlho and Kaya came back to the table. “Whoa, Michael, moving kind of fast don’t you think?” Matlho said.

“Leave him alone,” Kaya laughed, thinking Matlho was teasing, but there was something about Matlho’s face that said he wasn’t.

At the cinema, Matlho and Kaya couldn’t agree on which film to see. They fought about it, but Matlho finally gave in reluctantly. Inside, again Matlho made a fuss about how people should sit. He wanted to sit next to me.

“What is wrong with you?” I asked quietly once we had sat down.

“Nothing!” he hissed, as the opening credits rolled. Then: “You seem to really like Michael all of a sudden.”

“Aren’t you the one who set this up?” I whispered back.

He turned away.

After the movie he dropped everyone off. Since our houses were near to each other, I was the last one in the car. He stopped in front of my house. “What was going on tonight?” he asked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Were you trying to make me jealous or what?”

“Jealous? What does that even mean? I’m trying to move on with my life. You were the one who said I needed to start dating. I guess you didn’t want the obligation of me when you now had Kaya!” I was getting angry.

“Obligation? You will never be an obligation to me.”

“Then what is it, Matlho?”

“I don’t know.” He shook his head as if to knock things back into place. “I don’t know why I behaved like that. I’m sorry.”

I got out of the car and went inside.

Chapter 6

“Hey babe,” Kaya greeted me. She was dressed in orange from head to toe. I sat down next to her on the green grass in the park. “Weird energy last night, eh?”

“Yeah, sorry. I don’t know what was going on with Matlho.”

“But you seemed to be hitting it off with Michael. That was good.”

“I think so. He called me this morning. He wanted to know if I’d come to some family thing they’re having tomorrow. I said yes. He’s sweet.”

“Yeah, he is.” Kaya looked out over the park where an old lady walked a tiny dog on a leash. “But you don’t think there was something else going on last night.”

“Something else like what?”

“I got the feeling Matlho was jealous – jealous of you and Michael.”

“No, I don’t think so.” Kaya looked at me closely. We both knew I wasn’t being completely honest. I explained, “We’re both getting used to a new way of seeing each other. It’s just some growing pains I think.”

“I hope so,” Kaya said. “You two need to be honest if things are not right. I really like Matlho, I won’t lie. But if you two have issues you need to sort them out. I’m your friend, remember that.”

I sat quietly. I didn’t know how to be a good friend to Kaya. It was all confusing. I had always understood Matlho: he was my safe place. But suddenly I understood nothing and nowhere was safe. How could I be honest about anything when I didn’t know what the truth was? “Kaya, when I understand everything, I’ll tell you – I promise.”

* * * * *

That night I stayed in, even though it was Saturday. I watched some TV with my mother then went to bed. I was just falling asleep when I heard a knock at my window. I pushed the curtain aside and there was Matlho. We used to do this a lot when we were kids: sneak over to each other’s houses in the night when we were meant to be asleep. I smiled at him, remembering those night-time adventures. He’d bring a torch and we’d go searching for ghosts or collecting frogs. Later we’d slip back into our beds, feet muddy, pyjama hems wet.

I opened the window. “What are you doing here?”Matlho held up a torch. “I thought we might go lion hunting.”

I slipped on my jeans and jersey and climbed out the window. He grabbed my hand and we ran across the garden to the gate and out onto the road. We headed for the park down the road. At the swings he said, “Get on.”

I climbed on and he pushed me high, and then even higher. I watched my feet fly to the stars. Then he got on the other swing. Pumping his legs hard, he was soon swinging even with me.

“Does everything suddenly seem confusing to you?” he asked.

“Yeah, it does.”

“What is it? What’s going on between us?”

“I don’t know. I guess we’re growing. Maybe we’re growing a bit apart. It was bound to happen.”

We let our swings slow down. Soon they came to a stop. I twisted mine so I was facing him. “Matlho, I don’t know what all of this is. It scares me. But I know one thing, you’re important to me. I can’t not have you in my life. I don’t know that kind of life. I don’t want to.”

“Me neither. You know, when this thing started with Kaya, I didn’t think it had anything to do with us. But it does, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does.”

He got off his swing and came to me. He took my hands and pulled me to my feet. The moon came from behind a cloud and suddenly his face was bright and clear. His eyes were full of tears unshed.

“I think we need to get home,” he said.

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