Tiaan pushed his chair back and quickly stood up.
"I don't want to be here, mum! That's what!"
He swung around and headed for the door. He didn't want to see his mother's anxious eyes. He doesn't want to explain to her that he doesn't want to start a new life from scratch. At the front door, he was struggling with the security lock.
"Flippit!" You can't even slam the door when you are angry in this country! By the time all the locks opened and shut again, he wasn't angry anymore. Tiaan then just stood on the step. He thought he should just go and borrow the science book, seeing that he is already outside.
He reached into his pants for the piece of paper Suzanne gave him at school. "It's my address," she said, "come any time this afternoon or tomorrow." Welgelegenstraat 105. He doesn't even know the town, how would know where it is? But when he turned the paper around he saw a map on the back with street names and arrows from his home to her house. He frowned. He does she know where he lives? Maybe he told her and couldn't remember. He shrugged and started walking. The conversation last night with his mother carried on playing in his head.
"Is it not a bit soon to decide that you don't fit in, Tiaan? You haven't even been at the school for a week yet."
"Four days is enough, mum. The children here are…weird.” That was the best word he could think of to describe them.
He found the street and turned right, up the hill. The house got bigger the further he went. He thought of Suzanne - blonde hair in a braid, glasses, neat and precise and super clever. Welgelegenstraat 105 is the last house on the street and the biggest at that.
He rang the bell and waited. He felt uncomfortable. What if her mother opens? What would he say to her? Hello, Auntie, I’m the new kid in school that is so behind in science that I need Suzanne’s work?
The gate opened, and Tiaan stands there, uncertain. Does this mean he should go in?
“Of course, you monkey!” He scolded himself. The garden path winds up to a large front door, but when he lifted his hand to knock, it swung wide open.
“Hey, Tiaan. Good to see you.”
He swallowed before he got a word out.
“Um…hey, Suzanne.” His voice sounded strange in his ears.
“Come in,” she said. She then turned around.
The girl who stood before him was no the Suzanne of the school. This one has long blonde hair and big blue eyes and bare feet with pink toenails and large earrings.
“Riami, bring another glass, Tiaan is here!” She called out to a door at the top of the stairs.
Who is Riami? The name sounds familiar. There is a person in his class, but he can’t remember her clearly. Maybe it’s the girl with the terribly short hair?
He walked behind Suzanne and noticed that his hands were trembling. He tried to think of something to say, but his mind was blank.
“My father was busy setting up the bookshelves, so it’s a little messy. Move the boxes aside; then you can just sit on the bed,” said Suzanne as they walked into her room.
A little messy? Tiaan smiles and relaxes. This mess is not because of the new bookshelf. It has been weeks since Suzanne last cleaned.
While she rummaged through her bag for the science book, he saw a CD. The Four Seasons by Joshua Bell. His tongue comes loose. “When did you get this?” Can we play it? I cannot wait to listen to how it sounds!”
“My aunt sent it from New York.” She then gives the science book to Tiaan and with her other hand she moves a bunch of stuff out the way to get to the buttons of the CD player.
While the music played, they don’t talk. Tiaan’s head changes into high gear. He is such a monkey! How could he be so stupid yo get so excited about a guy who plays the violin?
“Oh please, not another concerto fan!”
Tiaan’s mouth was wide open.
Riami stands at the door with a bottle of Coke under her arm and four glasses on a tray. It is the girl that he knows, but she also looks different at school. Her short hair stands straight up on her head, and it is purple.
“Don’t worry about Riami, Tiaan,” said Suzanne as she turned down the music. “She is hooked on rock and roll.”
“Please pour some Coke in, I couldn’t open the bottle,” said Riami as she puts the bottle in Tiaan’s hand - which no longer shake.
Riami sits crossed-legged on an arm chair atop a pile of clothes. She picks up a huge bundle of wool and begins to knit.
“Can you swim? I am short a person for the relay team that is going to swim against the parents next week.” Tiaan saw that she suddenly looked at him and he steered his eyes away from the needles, with some difficulty.
“Yes. Yes, I can swim. I was in the swim team at my old school and…”
“Great. We practice on Monday afternoon. Can you be at the pool at 5? Suzanne, which colour should I use now? Orange or green?” She held two balls of wool in the air.
Tiaan feels the knot in his stomach loosen because it is not the u15 champion that is going to swim it is just going to be him, regular Tiaan. Hy has to clench his mouth not to laugh. Wonderful. Tiaan is in the relay team with a girl that knits and has purple hair on the weekend.
The doorbell starts ringing.
“It can only be Richard. I’ll be right back.”
Riami gives the needles to Suzanne violently, and Tiaan has a chance to get to see what she looks like. She’s quite nice, purple hair and all.
“Tiaan do you know Richard? He’s in 9C. This is Tiaan; he’s new in the school.”
Tiaan knows Richard. He was on the stage on Monday for a sports award. Tall and full of muscle. Tiaan’s stomach knot comes right back. He must be careful what he says.
“Yes, Tiaan! Bad, huh? To be in a new school. I hate it. I was in a lot of schools. My dad and his friends could not decide where they wanted to stay and every time I had to move with them.” Hy pours Coke for himself, takes Tiaan’s glass and pours again without asking.
Tiaan listens while the other guys talk about things that he doesn’t know about. He suddenly remembers that he just came here to borrow a book and that he didn’t tell his mum where he was going. But he sits still and listens to the voices that come from far.
His past life feels imaginary, far away as if he didn’t play the main character in the game. Swim, swim and more swimming so that he can get muscles like the other kids. So that he doesn’t stick out. Swim till the point where he can’t anymore so that everyone can think that Tiaan is a true sportsman.
“I’m hungry, and you guys?” asks Suzanne as she packs the glasses back onto the tray. “Let’s go make pizza.”
Riami threw her knitting aside and stood up. “I hope you’re not as fussy as this guy,” she says as she motions to Richard. “He only eats sushi and Indian curry.”
“That is better than the rice and meat you love, Riami!”
While they are laughing down the stairs, Tiaan remembers what he told his mum: “The children are…weird.”
They are really weird - but not in the way he expected. In the kitchen, Suzanne gives him a grater and cheese. He begins, reluctantly, en looks at Richard. He nearly grazes his finger because Richard-with-the-muscles is busy chopping onions.
“What do you want on your pizza, Tiaan? Mushrooms? Ham? Pineapple-?”
“Oh no, Suzanne,” Richard interrupts her, “surely not pineapple. Sweetness on a pizza - that’s out!”
She raised her eyebrows at Tiaan. “Richard believes he makes the best pizza in the world, but it’s just him in his rugby-friends who think that. Pineapple on pizza is nice, so what?”
“I better walk,” says Richard as he stomps out the door.
When the pizzas are done, Riami sticks them in the oven and runs the water to wash the dishes. Suzanne softly hums along with the tune of a piano that comes from somewhere. Tiaan stands with a towel in his hand. The song comes from The Lion King.
“Who is playing the piano?” asks Suzanne. “Your mother?”
“Oh definitely not! She can only play tennis. It’s Richard.”
Richard. Richard-with-the-muscles plays the piano and makes pizza for his rugby-friends.
“Come back here, Tiaan, I want to show you something. Riami, come as well?” asks Suzanne.
“No thanks, I have already seen it. Ten times. Enjoy,” she says as she picks up a newspaper and goes to sit by the table.
Suzanne walks behind the backyard to a garage door.
“Nice, hey? Or what do you think?” she asks as she opens the door.
In the middle of the floor stands a blood red motorbike. Bright and loud. Tiaan walks closer to it and becomes aware of the black leather seat. He walks around it two times before looking at Suzanne and smiling.
“Wow! This is nice. Is it your dad’s or your brother’s?”
Suzanne laughs and taps on the handlebar.
“It is not my brothers or my dad’s. It’s mine, and I am counting down the days till I turn 16 - that you can be sure of!”
Tiaan stares at Suzanne. To normal - that's what he thought of her before. When they walked back into the kitchen, Riami was licking her fingers. Richard slid the pineapple pizza to Tiaan and Suzanne with a disapproving look.
“How long have you been playing the piano? It sounded…amazing,” said Tiaan carefully.
“How long? About seven years. No, eight,” said Richard between bites. “And you? Do you play as well?”
Tiaan put the piece of pizza in his hand and leant back comfortably.
“No,” he replied, and he looked Richard in the eyes. “I play the violin.”