Chapter 5: No Short Skirts Pt. 2
Lindani gets off on the wrong foot with Mrs. Kaunda and discovers that not everyone is as friendly as they seem.
I can’t find any prefects and I’m starting to panic. Mrs. Kaunda hates latecomers. Am I going to be kicked out? My mother will kill me if she has to tell the women at church that I no longer go here.
I am outside the common room, pinching myself to keep from crying when a Form Three girl asks me what’s wrong. That’s when I burst into tears like the baby that I am. I manage to tell her the reason through my many sobs.
“You just need to get to the uniform shop. I think I just saw Clara leaving with some girls to take them there.”
I don’t stop calling out my thanks until I’m out the gate and sprinting as fast as I can. I catch up with Clara and the group of Mlonyeni girls she’s with just outside of the reception building. The girls stop and look at me as I approach.
“Are. You. Going. To. The. Uniform. Shop?”
Clara smiles at me.
“Yeah, did you miss your time too?”
I nod as she continues to walk. She has three other girls with her. They all seem to know each other and are chatting easily as I trail behind them.
“So what’s your name?”
I look up at her. She is taller than I am with long limbs that would make any other girl self-conscious but she wears them with confidence. Her long black braids sway below her shoulder blades, which is against the rules. She swings them recklessly as we walk.
She extends one of her long arms and I shake her hand as we walk.
“Alinafe but everyone calls me Ali. This is Clarissa,” She points to the shorter girl who hasn’t left her side “and Temwa.”
I am about to say hello to both girls when Ali interrupts me.
“So are you a Bishop Mack girl?”
“No I went to-.”
“I didn’t think so. I would remember you if you were. We’re all Bishop girls and Temwa and I are in the same club.”
“We both have older sisters who are prefects. Clara is my big sister,” Ali sticks her chest out proudly, “Even though she’s in Gomani I asked to be in Mlonyeni because you can’t leave your girls you know?”
“So where did you go to primary school?”
“Oh yeah. I think there are some Phoenix girls in Gomani. Why aren’t you there?”
“I asked to switch but they wouldn’t let me.”
“That’s too bad because we’re already friends you know?”
Ali doesn’t stop talking until we get to the tailors shop. Clarissa has been listening to every word she says and laughing even when it isn’t that funny. Temwa, on the other hand, has been silently playing with her tamagotchi. I didn’t think a virtual pet needed that much attention in such a short space of time.
It looks like there are hundreds of people outside the shop; girls and boys talking in groups of different sizes, some of them holding up their uniform. Clara says goodbye to us and leaves. Ali, Temwa, and Clarissa peel off to go talk to some other girls I recognize from my corridor.
“Lindani! Over here!”
My roommate, Sophie, is waving at me through the sea of faces. I almost trip trying to get to her. She’s not a Bishop Mackenzie girl and for that I’m grateful. Sophie shows me her uniform, a grey skirt, cream shirt, a green and gold tie.
“There are ties with the logo on them but you only get those if you’re a prefect. Did you get yours yet?”
“No I just got here.”
“Better get in there quick then. They’re doing it by last name.”
I push my way into the tiny shop. There are about fifty of us crammed into a space that should only fit twenty. Mrs. Kaunda is standing right in the middle of it all with more than enough space to move freely. She towers over everyone else. She is wearing a dark green suit that is just a little too small and her weave is cut into a dangerous bob right at the nape of her neck. Mrs. Kaunda has a large clipboard in her hand, her face stern as she inspects each girl and boy before ticking them off.
Somebody hands me two packages with a clean pressed shirt inside one and a grey skirt in the other. I take out the skirt and hold it against myself.
“This skirt is too long,” I say to one of the tailors “Could I get a shorter one?”
“Who is that asking for a shorter skirt?”
The only thing I can hear is the ceiling fan turning endlessly as the room goes quiet. Mrs. Kaunda is striding towards me, everyone parting like the red sea to make way for her.
“It’s just…too long.”
I hold up the skirt to show her.
“What’s your name?”
I’ve heard that Mrs. Kaunda prefers new students with siblings that have already been to the school. It gives her a good idea of whether or not you will be a troublemaker. I have no one. I can see her trying to place my face when she finds my surname.
“You were supposed to be here a long time ago. Why are you late?”
“I’m sorry. I missed my prefect and-.”
“So how did you get here?”
“I came with some other girls,” I look around and point at Ali when I spot her, “I came with her and another prefect.”
“You there. Is that true? Did you and Lindani come here together?”
Ali looks me over slowly before turning to Mrs. Kaunda.
“No Miss. I don’t know that girl.”
My heart is about to burst from my chest. Mrs. Kaunda is looking down at me with triumph.
“So you are a latecomer and a liar. These are things I don’t tolerate Lindani. You are in high school now. I expect my boys to be charming and my girls to be demure. Do you know what demure means?”
“ Then you understand why I won’t allow short skirts in this school. If you want to wear your mini skirts there are plenty of schools that will let you do that but not here. You will keep the skirts you have been given.”
“Do you want a punishment before classes have even begun?”
I bite my bottom lip to keep from saying something I will regret and walk away from her.
A hand grasps my arm on my way out and I turn to see Ali grinning at me.
“See what happens when you cross me?” She says.
“What are you talking about? You just got me in trouble for no reason.”
“The thing about not having any connections when you get here is that most people consider you DOA until you prove yourself otherwise.”
“Dead On Arrival.” Ali’s nails are digging deeper into my arm “I never forget a wrong Lindani so the next time you decide to cut me in the shower, think again.”