In Standard Five when I was ten, Mum got a job at Westlands Primary School. This was perfect for her as we had just moved into our new house on Mwanzi Road in Westlands.
I missed the first three days of the new term due to a cold, and I was not happy about moving to a new school where I didn’t know anyone. When I walked into the classroom, there was only one wooden desk in front of the room that was unoccupied. But when I opened the battered desk, it was already full of stuff.
“I was using that as an extra desk. Now that you are here, I will have to clear it out,” said the boy behind me, frowning at me, making me feel even more unwelcome.
“Well, you shouldn’t have two desks anyway! So I am going to take out everything,” I replied, hauling out tattered exercise books, pencil stubs, a stick of chewing gum, and a toy car.
“Hey, give me that. Don’t try and steal my things.”
“I don’t want your rubbish,” I said, dumping the lot on his desk.
The boy who was tall and skinny with golden brown skin and brown hair that showed his Goan ancestry, glowered at me
“Just you wait, I’ll beat you up after school is over. Girls are always causing headaches,” he muttered under his breath.
“You didn’t even ask me nicely to clear it out,” he added.
“I am a good fighter, I’ll beat you easily,” I said with a bravado I didn’t feel.
“Ha. You’re just a girl, and girls can’t fight. Everybody knows that, meet me outside.”
So the whole day I sat nervously in class waiting for the fight. At three-thirty, I took my bag and went to the gate where I was supposed to meet the boy for our battle. I felt scared; I hadn’t fought anyone in a long time. The boy looked strong. What if I got hurt? The boy came and looked at me, waiting for him.
“It’s okay. I am not going to hit you. I don’t hit silly girls. You can go home,” he said, smiling at me as he sauntered off with his rucksack flung over one shoulder. I watched him go, he wore the same khaki shorts, green checked shirt, and green tie as the other boys, but on him, the uniform looked dashing.
It was an odd start to a friendship, but we soon became good friends. All the girls sat on the other side of the classroom, self-segregating in a rigid hierarchy. But I was stuck on the boy’s side with no one but Alain to talk to. He was Goan, an Indian Christian of mixed Portuguese and Indian ancestry. We helped each other with classwork and I chatted away to him.
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