Thursday 11 May 2017

Read the first 6 Chapters of 'Swift Justice'

Read the first 6 chapters of Swift Justice

Chapter 1

The tall, slender young woman had her nose in the air as she looked down to where Tumi Moketla was standing. Tumi felt a wave of frustration rising in him. He was losing the case, the witness was being uncooperative, and he was running out of options. The strategy he had prepared simply wasn’t working. He took a deep breath, his full lips quivering as they took in air, and he breathed out to release the stress that had been building up inside of him. The final-year mock court sessions were very important for law students. Tumi could feel the eyes of the rest of his classmates as they sat in the gallery. He knew that each of the seventy students watching him were equally as ambitious as Tumi was, and that they would all be picking up on every mistake. Tumi had to pull it together.

He looked at the young woman in the witness stand, right next to the bench where his professor, Prof. Nkuna, was acting as judge on the case. The high-nosed woman next to Prof. Nkuna in the witness stand was a graduate from the Ridgemont University law school who was doing Prof. Nkuna a favor by playing the role of a witness in the mock court. Even so, she was inspiring real frustration in Tumi. The way she evaded questions and rolled her eyes when Tumi tried to become too forceful made Tumi clench his fists. He paced the room, not looking at the face of Prof. Nkuna. His professor had maintained a blank expression throughout the mock court, not giving any indication of whether or not Tumi was doing well. Prof. Nkuna had a regal quality to her, and in the judge’s robes, she looked even more intimidating. Her heavyset frame and her hair pulled tightly into a bun on her head gave her the look of a strict schoolteacher. Even though Prof. Nkuna had always been encouraging to Tumi – he knew that he was one of her favorite students – today, she was unreadable.

Tumi cleared his throat, rolling back his broad shoulders and adjusting the green and black tie which he was wearing. He had to look as professional as possible. His freshly-shaven head and very slight trimmed stubble accentuated his chocolate-brown skin. His sharp jawline and honey-brown eyes were trained on the woman in the witness stand. He would break her defenses and get her to admit that she knew something about the allegations brought before the mock court.

Tumi’s voice boomed through the room as he spoke, and he even frightened himself with how forceful it was: “Ms. Niemann, are you telling me that even though you worked with the accused for over a decade, you had no knowledge about the millions of rands he was receiving from the Zimbabwean officials? You had no idea that your company was involved in the illegal trade of classified information.”

Tumi’s heart almost stopped when he heard a voice call out behind him: “Objection!”

He spun on his heels to see who had interrupted his questioning. The student playing the defendant was sitting next to a team of four of Tumi’s classmates who made up the defense team, and one of them was standing with a finger raised in front of him. Tumi almost cursed out loud when he saw who it was.

The objecting figure walked out from behind the desk where the defendant and the other mock-lawyers sat watching attentively. There was a sickening smile across the pink lips, and the blaze of thick red hair matched the bright orange tie that he was wearing. It was the one person Tumi was hoping would just sit down and shut up during his questioning: Edgar Boatwright, the exchange student from the University of Cambridge, who thought that he knew more about South African law than any of the Ridgemont University students. Edgar walked up next to Tumi, still giving his taunting smile, and folded his arms in front of his chest as his eyes swept between Tumi and the stand. Prof. Nkuna looked annoyed at the unconventional approach, and said: “Mr. Boatwright, on what grounds do you object?”

Edgar spoke slowly, clearly savoring every moment of embarrassing Tumi. Tumi could feel beads of sweat forming in his tight collar, and he swallowed hard as he waited to hear what Edgar had to say.

“My Lady, I object to this line of questioning. Advocate Moketla is forgetting the precedence set in the Van Greunen v Botha case of 2003 where no foreign government spending can be used as reason for prejudice against a witness. The tone of Mr. Moketla’s questioning and the fact that he brought up the links of the defendant and the Zimbabwean government would qualify as prejudice in this court.” Edgar continued to explain a very complicated legal argument for why Tumi wasn’t allowed to ask the witness about her knowledge of the dealings. The entire time, Tumi’s mouth hung slightly open. What he was witnessing was nothing short of magic. Out of nothing, Edgar was constructing a watertight argument which had even Tumi convinced. Everyone knew it was a low blow, even Prof. Nkuna, whose eyebrow was so creased at trying to follow the various arguments that Edgar was presenting that Tumi thought she would hurt herself. Edgar’s arms gestured wildly as he paced in front of the stand, the mocking smile never far from his lips whenever he turned to look at Tumi with his sea-green eyes. But in the end, Edgar was completely convincing. Tumi bit on his full lips as he shook his head slowly. What a snake! Edgar clearly knew everything there was to know about South African case law, and the way he put his razor-sharp mind to use was impressive. Tumi would have been spellbound if he wasn’t fighting back anger. Even though Edgar was presenting a brilliant argument, he was being deliberately broad with his interpretation of the law and, at least in Tumi’s mind, he was obstructing the pursuit of the truth.

Edgar finally finished talking, and before Prof. Nkuna could even respond, he was walking back to his seat looking triumphant. The way he moved across the room was like a lion who had just made a kill, his lips still fresh with the taste of blood. And Tumi was the prey.

Prof. Nkuna finally spoke, and shook her head slightly, the bun not moving from the top of her head, her full cheeks making dimples as she pursed her lips. “Mr. Boatwright, your argument is sound. The witness will be excused, and no further questioning will be allowed. Mr. Moketla, you will have to call another witness from the list for our next session. Court is now adjourned.”

As Prof. Nkuna got up from her seat and removed the judge’s robe that she was wearing, the rest of the room erupted in a flurry of murmurs. What they had just witnessed was exhilarating to everyone. A group of the other final-year students rushed over to Edgar to talk through the argument he had just presented. The only person who was deflated after the session was Tumi. He walked over to the desk where the other students representing the prosecution were seated. They all shook his hand and said that there was nothing to be done. One of Tumi’s best friends, Judy, who was also on the side of the prosecution, looked shell-shocked as she said: “I don’t even know what just happened. You were doing so well. In fact, you were brilliant up there. And then he just ripped you to shreds. Absolute shreds!” Judy’s eyes were animated, and she seemed almost like she admired Edgar for a few moments until she composed herself and shot daggers at their red-headed opponent. “What an ass!” she said, lamely.

“It’s okay, Judy. Hopefully, next time we’ll be able to prepare for his sneaky arguments. That’s not the kind of law I practice. I hate it when people try and obscure the truth by playing silly legal games. But that’s what we’re up against, so we need to be ready next time.” Tumi rubbed his hand over his shaven head, feeling defeated. He grabbed his notes and waved to Judy and the rest of the team, needing a break after the tough mock court battle. Even Prof. Nkuna gave him a look of sympathy as she walked out of the room, like he was a child who had just been pushed down on the playground. It was all too much.

As Tumi made his way to the entrance of the Ridgemont University Law Building, he heard a familiar voice call out to him, and his blood ran cold. As he turned to look over his shoulder, Edgar was rushing up behind him.

“Tumi!” Edgar called out as came closer. “I hope there’s no hard feelings. I saw an opening and I went for it. You, of all people, should respect that, with who your mother is.” A smile was plastered all over Edgar’s face, and his features were alight with the afterglow of a great court performance. The gentle, handsome features and pale skin were striking from up close, but Tumi shook away the thought. He didn’t have time for any of this.

Tumi let out under his breath: “I’m not my mother. And I’d appreciate it if we can remain respectful in the courtroom. I didn’t appreciate you mocking me with that smile.”

Edgar looked like he had the wind knocked out of him. “I wasn’t mocking you Tumi. I just get excited when I’m doing what I love. I didn’t mean to offend you.” Edgar reached out his hand to shake Tumi’s, and the sounds of other students approaching them were ringing through the halls.

Tumi looked at the outstretched hand, and then looked back at Edgar’s sea-green eyes. Was this another attempt to humiliate Tumi? What was Edgar’s end-game? Clearly, he had everything going for him at Cambridge, so why would he come all the way to Ridgemont just to look down on the rest of the students? Tumi just turned away without shaking Edgar’s hand. “Sorry, I have to go. I’ll see you in court.”

Tumi rushed off, feeling Edgar’s stare searing into the back of his head. He had too much to think about to waste any time on an annoyance like Edgar Boatwright. Tumi reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a newspaper clipping. In the picture next to the headline of the clipping, Shack Fire Ravages Cape Township, there was a silhouette of a woman and a very young boy standing near to blazing flames. This was the woman Tumi was longing to meet. This was the past that he could never let go of. And he had finally figured out who this woman was. Now, he had to make sure that he met her when he had the chance. In only a few days, Tumi would be able to finally see her again and ask her all of the questions he had been holding inside of himself for sixteen years. Nothing was going to distract him from that goal.

Chapter 2

The black Mercedes was zipping through the traffic on the highway into Cape Town City. The lights on the harbor were just visible in the distance, and the large cargo ships sailing out from the dock looked peaceful under the evening sky. Edgar Boatwright had become transfixed by the sights of Cape Town as he sat in the back seat of the car. His three friends were chatting feverishly as they drove, laughing at a joke that Edgar hadn’t heard. His mind was on his mother, and what she had clearly seen in this country. She had always told Edgar stories about the country of her birth, the country she longed to return to. When Edgar was old enough, he had begun reading up about the country that he felt a strange connection to. At that moment, looking out over the vast ocean right next to the metropolis that was Cape Town City, Edgar had a vague sense of what made her fall in love with South Africa.

“What do you think, Edgar?” he heard his friend Hein’s voice calling out from the driver’s seat. Edgar was shaken back to reality. He smiled and called out in his London accent, a smile drawn on his face: “I haven’t heard a word you’ve said, Hein. I’ve been too bored by the nonsense you’ve been spewing about how you’ll do better than me in mock court!”

All of the guys in the car broke out in laughter, and Edgar rubbed his friend’s shoulder over the car seat in front of him to assure him that he was just teasing. Hein bit back with a catty remark, and said, “But seriously, what do you think of the guys at Ridgemont? Have you found the love of your life yet?”

Edgar smiled, and a sudden image of Tumi Moketla flashed in his mind. “I wouldn’t say that,” he replied to Hein. “But there are lots of enticing options.”

The car pulled into the city as another one of the guys in the car, Leo, spoke about how he knew that he would fail Prof. Nkuna’s course. Leo was a worry-wart, and not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was drop-dead gorgeous and very wealthy so Hein always dragged him along to the exclusive parties in town. Leo’s blond hair was gelled in spikes on top of his head, and his sharp, protruding chin gave him a look of sophistication that was immediately betrayed when he opened his mouth. The fourth friend in the car, Sylas, was trying to comfort Leo and assure him that he would pass Prof. Nkuna’s Constitutional Law class. Sylas had shaggy brown hair and freckled cheeks, and he was the smartest in the group of friends. Sylas often came off as a bit snobbish, never afraid to let the other guys know that he could run circles around them intellectually. He was one of those people who would order the most expensive wine just so that other people could see him drinking it.

Leo rested his head on Edgar’s shoulder flirtatiously as they sat on the back seat together. “I just want to be out of Ridgemont already and leave this country. There’s so much more out there in the world. Maybe I can come and join you in London, Edgar?” Leo adjusted his spiky blond hair, and Edgar worried that the gel would stain his t-shirt. Edgar knew that he was a hot commodity at Ridgemont, the alluring foreigner that had been adopted by the group of popular gay guys right away. Sylas and Leo had both been competing for his attention, but neither of them was Edgar’s type.

Edgar laughed and responded: “Oh, Leo, you’re welcome to visit any time. But I can’t promise that you won’t find me in the arms of a handsome man when you arrive.” Sylas let out a piercing cackle, but Leo sat up looking slightly hurt.

Sylas turned to Edgar from the front passenger seat and said, “I can’t wait to show you this place on the top of the Imperion Tower. It’s so exclusive that I had to call in a favor just to get us in the door. When we get there, I have to introduce you to my friend who works for Penner West, the actor. You’ll love him!”

Edgar tried to resist rolling his eyes at Sylas’s bragging, and instead feigned enthusiasm. While he loved partying with his new friends, he was starting to get bored of the routine he had fallen into over his past few months at Ridgemont. He felt like he was just living the same life as he had back at Cambridge, partying a lot and going to exclusive clubs and restaurants. And studying at Ridgemont wasn’t satisfying him either. It wasn’t at all like he had imagined it would be. There was something missing that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. A part of his experience of South Africa just wasn’t making sense to him.

Finally, as the boys drove down the bustling Long Street in Cape Town City, Hein announced that they had arrived. Edgar saw an impossibly tall building with a stylish entryway. There were pillars at either side of the entrance, large windows on the fa├žade, and low yellow lights in the magnificent foyer. The boys found parking and walked into the Imperion Building. The lobby was almost empty, with only a few people seated near the hotel restaurant’s entrance or waiting for the lift. The four friends stepped into the lift when it arrived and pressed the button for the top floor. “There’s a staircase up to the roof that you can only reach from the top floor,” Sylas said, trying to sound clever as he pushed his brown hair back from his face.

Edgar responded: “Sounds impressive,” and he could see Sylas beaming.

Finally, after going up 28 floors in the lift, they made it to the staircase that Sylas had told them about. A giant bouncer stood at the top of the staircase, wearing sunglasses even though it was already fairly dark inside. Sylas flashed tickets in the bouncer’s face, and they were let through the doorway to the roof.

Edgar was stunned when they reached the rooftop. The party was vibrant, with cool Afro-pop playing through the speakers set up around the deck, and only a light breeze blowing to cool the hot summer night. Girls were wearing elaborate costumes, and many of the guys were in skintight shirts. The male servers who were floating around the room were shirtless, and the female servers wore tight skirts and glittery crop tops. Most of the guests were sipping cocktails from tall glasses.

“Shots!” Leo shouted, and grabbed Sylas by the hand, leading him to the nearby bar. Edgar smiled and grabbed a cocktail from one of the trays that was carried past him, taking a large gulp. Hein smiled devilishly next to him.

“What do you think?” Hein winked. He had the most intensely blue eyes that Edgar had ever seen, and his jet-black hair made the color pop even more. Hein was tall and muscular, and was always impeccably dressed in the best brands. He was clearly a guy who took his appearance seriously, and Leo and Sylas had made it clear to Edgar early on that being friends with Hein was a major boost to one’s social standing.

“It’s great,” Edgar said, taking another big swig of the fruity cocktail and feeling it go straight to his head. “Just like the parties back home.”

Hein raised his eyebrow. “You seem off today. I would’ve thought you’d be ecstatic after how great you were in mock court today. You were ruthless with that Moketla guy. I loved it!”

“I wasn’t that bad, was I?” Edgar asked sheepishly. “Everyone knows that he’s the best student in class, so I studied even harder so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. But he seemed to give up so easily. It was almost a disappointment.”

Hein laughed, and a sinister look came over him. “I’m glad he could be brought down a few pegs. Just because he’s connected, the son of Koena Moketla, he acts like he’s God’s gift to Ridgemont. It was fun seeing you go at him like that.”

A sudden pang of guilt ran through Edgar, but he decided to drown it with another swig of his cocktail. Had he really been that hard on Tumi? Edgar said to Hein, “Why don’t we dance a bit and forget about class for tonight?” Hein nodded, bopping along to the music, and the two of them walked over to where Leo and Sylas were enjoying their third round of shots.

The night was a scorcher, and alcohol flowed freely. Edgar could feel himself getting drunk, and he laughed as he danced in-between the new friends he had made at Ridgemont University. For a brief moment, he forgot about life back in England and about how out of place he felt. Leo was grinding up against Edgar as they danced, clearly losing his inhibitions after the countless shots he had enjoyed. He whispered into Edgar’s ear: “You know, I’ve always had a thing for gingers…”

Edgar raised his eyebrow and, with a serious expression, responded, “Don’t call me a ginger.” He walked away from Leo, trying to find something else to distract him, and feeling his mind becoming fuzzier. He spotted the railing at the side of the building and decided to try and get some fresh air, and as he reached the edge he stepped up onto the ledge and looked over. The height of the building made him feel even queasier, and he saw the cars moving like toys on the ground far below him. His mind drifted to thoughts of his mother and of how much she loved South Africa. The sounds of the party drowned out behind him as he looked out at the city lights, mesmerized.

“What are you doing?” Hein’s voice called out to him.

Edgar smiled and called back to Hein over the music, “I’m living out my Titanic fantasies. Care to be my Jack Dawson?”

“You’re drunk,” Hein laughed, enjoying Edgar’s antics. “Come down here before you hurt yourself.”

“You’ll have to come up here and get me,” Edgar said, and made a show of leaning dangerously over the side of the building. Hein threw his head back in laughter.

“You’ll get yourself killed. And worse, you’ll get me thrown out of the party.” Hein reached up and grabbed Edgar’s arm, and Edgar stumbled. He pushed himself away from the railing, and Hein moved out of the way, causing Edgar to fall directly into one of the tall vases that adorned the rooftop. The vase tilted under Edgar’s weight, and just as Edgar found his feet, he heard the loud crash of the massive, heavy vase meeting the floor and splintering into a thousand pieces.

There was complete silence for a few seconds as everyone around Edgar stopped to look at what had happened. The music was turned off after the loud bang, and Edgar felt hundreds of eyes locked on him as he struggled to remain standing.

“Now look what you’ve done, you silly man,” Hein called out through his laughter, still clearly enjoying every second of Edgar’s mischievous behavior. Edgar felt his head spinning, and swallowed hard.

The crowd was broken up by a short man pushing through. He wore an oversized, cheap-looking suit, and his expression was panicked. The man’s face was completely red with anger. The man called out, “What happened here? Who is responsible for this?”

Edgar finally found his footing, and towered over the short man. “I am. What’s your problem?”

The short man was fuming, beads of sweat dripping from his bald head. “Young man, I am the manager here!” The manager pointed to the broken vase, “That is a R16000 vase you just broke. How do you propose to pay for it?”

Edgar reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet. “Does credit card work for you, or would you prefer direct deposit? And I’ll throw in a few thousand as a tip if you can have this cleaned up quickly so that we can return to our party. Is that in order, my good man?”

The manager looked flabbergasted, and stared at Edgar for a while without saying a word. Finally, he stammered: “W-w-why yes, sir, that will be in order. Can I get you anything else?”

The music was turned back on and everyone went on as if nothing had happened. Hein was laughing uproariously at all of it. Edgar went back to the bar, and he enjoyed another cocktail with his friends. His heart was racing, but he did his best to push any discomfort from his mind. He was determined to enjoy the party, and he wouldn’t allow a clumsy accident to ruin his night. But inside, he could already hear his father’s voice when he got the credit card bill.

Chapter 3

The Dumisane Tshabalala Memorial Hospital was one of the best-resourced teaching hospitals in South Africa, and all of the Ridgemont University medical students received their practical training there. Tumi walked into the courtyard at the west entrance of the hospital, which was decorated by a water feature and tall trees. The hospital’s public cafeteria was out in the courtyard, and neat benches could be found under the shade of the trees. The tranquil setting was in stark contrast to the way Tumi was feeling inside. He sat down at one of the benches, feeling his insides tangle into a knot. His honey-brown eyes were contorted into a frown, and dark circles were forming under them. He had spent sleepless nights thinking about what he was about to do, and he knew that the only person who could put his mind at ease was his brother, Mohale.

Mohale was a resident physician at Dumisane Tshabalala, and carried on the tradition of the Moketla family of becoming high-powered professionals. Mohale was dashing and handsome, with a light caramel complexion and neatly cropped hair, and unlike Tumi who maintained traces of the African accent that their parents still sported, Mohale had developed the posh accent of the Ridgemont elite. Tumi noticed his brother walking towards the bench where he was seated, dressed in a pair of fitted khaki pants and a light blue long-sleeved shirt. Mohale beamed a smile at Tumi as he approached.

Mohale reached in for a hug and exclaimed: “My brother! Abuti oa ka! U phela joang? How are you doing?”

“I’m well, Mohale. It’s good to see you.” Tumi forced a smile just as broad as his brothers.

“I brought you some coffee,” Mohale said, and for the first time Tumi noticed the two takeaway cups of coffee in his hands. “Sit, and let’s catch up. You live only ten minutes away from me but you never make the time to visit your big brother anymore!”

“Nonsense,” Tumi replied. “I just saw you two weeks ago at mom’s dinner party.”

“Two weeks is too long!” Mohale said in his usual charming manner. Tumi knew exactly why Mohale had always been so popular with women. There was something magnetic about his character, and he radiated the confidence and masculine allure that made South African women melt. If Mohale hadn’t been happily married for two years already, right after completing his internship at the hospital, he would be quite the ladies’ man. Tumi laughed at his brother’s comment and promised to visit more often. He looked up to his brother, and could always rely on him for advice. With everything that had been on Tumi’s mind, he knew that no one but Mohale would be able to give him the encouragement he needed.

Mohale told Tumi all about the new interns he was working with, the research he was doing and how he was vying for a new research grant in a few months. It all sounded very exciting, and Tumi felt a familiar pang of jealousy for how successful and together his brother was. Tumi knew that he had a lot to live up to with the surname Moketla. His mother was one of the most recognized constitutional lawyers in the country, his father was a businessman working at Terreblanche International, and now his brother was a hotshot doctor. He always felt the pressure to perform, even though his parents never directly pushed him into any career. But when Tumi announced that he would be studying law, he could see the pride beaming from his mother’s eyes. He knew that, just like everyone else, his parents expected him to live up to the family name.

After sharing some stories with Mohale about life at Ridgemont, Tumi finally found the opening to broach the subject he was anxious to talk about. He swallowed hard, feeling his mouth dry instantly, and the words struggled to form in his mouth. “Mohale, I need to talk to you about something serious. I need your advice.”

Mohale’s expression changed into one of concern. “Of course, abuti. Anything you need. You know I’m always here for you. What’s got you so worried? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Tumi nodded. “In a way, this is about a ghost. Someone from my past that I thought I had lost forever. I think I’ve figured out who my biological mother is, and I’m wondering whether it will be a good idea to talk to her when I get the chance.”

Mohale visibly recoiled, and was silent for a long time. “Tumi, abuti, what are you talking about? How could you possibly know who your biological mother is? We went through all of this years ago when you wanted to go back to the orphanage. I told you at the time that it was a bad idea, and you were depressed for weeks afterwards. Remember? They told you that the woman who gave birth to you specifically would not leave any information, and that she never wanted you to find her. I thought you had put this to rest a long time ago.”

Tumi felt crestfallen, but wanted to explain himself to his brother. It was true that Mohale had been very supportive of him when he had tried to find out about his past when he turned 18, and after the disappointment of reaching a dead end, Tumi had never spoken about it again. But he had always wondered if there was some way he could find out more. “I’ve been following some clues. I found out that the township where I was born had a fire around the time that I was two-years-old, and that I was put up for adoption not long afterwards. I found some newspaper clippings…” Tumi reached into his pocket to retrieve the folded clippings, and showed them to Mohale, “…this was a report on the fire. There were lots of pictures taken. Look at this woman and child. Doesn’t that look like me at that age?”

Mohale barely looked at the clipping in Tumi’s hand. “That could be anyone. And besides, you can’t even see the woman’s face clearly at all.”

“This isn’t the only thing I’ve found. I researched people from the area, other people who were linked to the orphanage, people who moved away from the township after the fire… I found someone who looks just like the woman in the picture, who actually looks a lot like me. She grew up in the same township, and left for Johannesburg around the time that I was two. I was so little, I don’t even remember anything about my biological mother, but I feel like this might be her. I just have a feeling deep down inside. I need to talk to her when she comes to Ridgemont.”

Mohale folded his arms across his chest, and sighed as he said: “And who is this woman, Tumi?”

Tumi had a half-smile as he said the name that left Mohale dumbfounded: “Angela Ngcobo.”

“The politician?” Mohale demanded. “You think Angela Ngcobo is your birth mother?”

“It all lines up, Mohale. I really think it could be her. Her biography said something about having to make the difficult choice to leave and start a new life for herself. I think she was talking about putting me up for adoption. She worked as a receptionist in Johannesburg before climbing the corporate ladder and finally going into politics a few years ago. It makes sense. I just need to speak to her, face to face, and ask her if it’s true. She’s speaking at Ridgemont in two weeks, and I’m planning on confronting her at the event. I just need your support. I need someone to talk to about all of this.”

Mohale suddenly went back to his caring demeanor, his eyes softening as he spoke gently to his brother. Tumi began to worry that Mohale wasn’t being sincere, and that he was playing up his charm to placate Tumi. But Tumi was determined; he would see this through with or without Mohale’s support. Mohale said: “It sounds like you are creating a fantasy here, Tumi. You have so much going right in your life, I just don’t want you to set yourself up for disappointment. It’s really far-fetched that Angela Ngcobo is your birth mother. And besides, you don’t need to go chasing after the past. You have a loving family. Are we not enough for you? Whoever your birth mother is, she had to put you up for adoption for a reason. Our parents are the only parents you need. I don’t think you need to go stirring up all of these things right now, especially when you’re in your final year of studies.”

Tumi was disappointed by his brother’s reaction, but he tried not to show it. Even though Mohale was a loving brother, he always tried to make sure that no one rocked the boat, and that the image of a perfect, pristine life was maintained. It was one of his best qualities to try and please everyone, but it also annoyed Tumi at times like these. “I guess you’re right,” Tumi said, eager to end the conversation. “I just always wonder about my past, about where I come from. Of course I’m happy to have the family that I have. And a great brother like you.”

Mohale smiled his glistening smile, and stood up to say goodbye to his brother. “I’d better go, abuti. I have to see patients soon. How about I come around to Ridgemont next week and we get a beer at Percy’s Pub? Sound good?”

Tumi stood up and hugged his brother. “Sounds great. Thanks for the chat,” he said, and turned towards the exit of the courtyard area. Tumi left the hospital with an uneasy feeling. After all of his sleepless nights and the stress of mock court, maybe Mohale had a point. Was Tumi putting too much energy into a fantasy. Despite his doubts, he had to talk to Angela Ngcobo when he had the chance. He had to find out if his intuition was correct and if she was really the woman he had been wondering about for so many years.

Chapter 4 

Tumi pulled his car into the driveway in front of the residence hall where he lived at Ridgemont University. The residence, called Initia Nova, was one of the largest and most exclusive on campus, with only the students with top grades and sporting achievements earning a place, unless they were properly connected. Tumi looked up at the tall, regal building, with its Grecian columns and shady trees leading up to the main entrance, and a large grass field in the center of the various halls with a Ridgemont emblem carved into stone at the center. Tumi walked across the grass field towards his room. He always felt a mixture of isolation and pride when he walked into Initia Nova. He loved the idea that he was one of the students who could live at such an exclusive residence, and it was a great place to live. But at the same time, many of the students there could be snobs. Some of the wealthiest and best-connected students lived at Nova, as they called it, and even though Tumi should have felt at home there based on the family he came from, he always felt like he was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

As Tumi reached the hall where he lived, he heard a group of students laughing. He immediately felt a rush of anxiety; he tried his best to avoid the groups of rowdy guys who hung out in the halls of Nova causing trouble, but this time there was a group right at the entrance to his hall. He walked in apprehensively, taking a deep breath. The students he saw were some of the most annoying ones in Nova, a group of law students who were in his Constitutional Law class. Their leader, Hein, was the worst of the lot. He would stare at Tumi with his cold, blue eyes whenever they passed each other in the halls of Nova. Hein was clearly wealthy and a big snob, always wearing designer labels even when going to class, and boasting about the skiing trips he took to the US, or the summer’s he spent in the south of France. It was nauseating, and Tumi immediately wanted to turn around when he saw Hein looking back at him in the hallway.

But Tumi couldn’t turn away when he saw what Hein and his friends, Leo and Sylas, were up to. They were laughing as Leo walked back and forth across the hall towards his room which was only a few doors away from Tumi’s. The cleaner of their hall, a stout, middle-aged woman named Lydia, was looking on with pained resignation all over her face and a mop in her hand. She had freshly mopped the floors of their hall, and Leo, the tall blond guy, was making a show of constantly “forgetting” something in his room as he walked across the wet floor. Hein and Sylas stood on laughing as Leo theatrically threw his hands on his head every time he approached the entrance to the hall, and muttered, “Oops, I left my phone again,” before walking back to his room and leaving fresh marks on the floor.

“What are you guys doing?” Tumi demanded as he walked closer, being careful to avoid the wet sections of the floor. The cleaner, Lydia, looked at Tumi in surprise. She was always quiet and dutiful, putting up with whatever the spoiled guys at Nova put her through. She motioned to Tumi with her hand to not say anything, and looked on pleadingly as Tumi stood with his arms folded staring at Leo.

Leo boomed out, almost provokingly, to Tumi, “I’m just being forgetful today. Why, do you have a problem?” Leo stood in the center of the hallway, right in the middle of the wet section of the floor, and sneered back at Tumi.

Tumi wanted to say a million things. All of the months of putting up with the rude behavior of guys like Leo, Hein and Sylas had made him finally reach his breaking point. And to see them disrespect someone who worked as hard as Lydia was pushing him over the edge. He said, “Can’t you see that Lydia is cleaning here? Why do you have to walk over the wet floor when you could go around it?”

Lydia’s eyes were increasingly nervous as she looked from Tumi to Leo. Tumi could see that she was feeling tortured, and he finally started to realise why: if Leo, or any of the other guys, complained about her, she stood to lose her job. That’s why she was so prepared to take the abuse from guys like that. Tumi just shook his head as Lydia’s gaze moved to her feet.

The few seconds of awkward silence finally ended when Hein walked up to Tumi, a look of intrigue on his face. “That cleaning lady… Lydia, you say? Her job is to clean these floors. Leo is just having a bit of fun. Are you having fun, cleaning lady?” he asked.

Lydia’s eyes were still lowered as she muttered, “Yes, baas.” Yes, boss.

Hein continued, “You’re not trying to cause any trouble, are you Moketla?”

Tumi bit his lip. He hated it when people called him by his surname, reducing him to nothing more than the family he came from. He looked once more at Lydia, who seemed completely frightened. Tumi couldn’t put her through any more than she had already gone through. He said, “No trouble. Just go. Have your fun somewhere else.”

Hein snorted a laugh as he continued staring at Tumi, and motioned with a flick of his head for his friends to follow him. As they left the hall, he turned to look back and called to Tumi, “You’re already on thin ice here, Moketla. Don’t make enemies of us. If you’d rather go and hang out with the cleaners, then go to the township; you have no place at Nova.”

Tumi bit his tongue as he watched the guys leave, and walked to his room. As he passed Lydia, he asked her, “Are you okay?” The woman’s face was lined with wrinkles. Years of struggle and hardship were visible in her eyes. Her dark brown skin looked ashen, and there was a patch of grey hair at each of her temples even though she was still relatively young.

Lydia shot daggers with her eyes, and said, “I can take care of myself.” With that, she grabbed her mop and bucket and left the hall.

Tumi walked towards him room with his hands in fists, thinking about how terribly Hein and his friends treated other people. He wished he could tell them exactly how he felt. He wished he could do something about their attitude. But when someone is as connected as Hein, they’re basically untouchable. Nothing Tumi could do would make any difference. He opened the door to his room to hear gentle jazz music coming from inside. His roommate, Neville, was sitting on his bed at the far side of the room, and Tumi collapsed onto his bed in a huff.

“What’s up, roommate?” Neville asked, his usual jovial demeanor making Tumi feel guilty for walking into the room with so much on his mind.

“Just been one of those days, you know?” Tumi said, not wanting to talk about his encounter with Hein.

Neville stood up, his loose open-button shirt falling back to expose the peace sign on his t-shirt underneath. Neville had always been a spirit from another era, and his carefree, optimistic attitude was often infectious enough to brighten even the most stressful of Tumi’s days. Neville reached for a cup and poured a foul-smelling green liquid out of a teapot into the cup. “Have some of this calming tea and tell me all about it.” He handed the cup to Tumi, who pretended to be grateful for it despite the smell already turning his stomach.

“It’s just been stressful lately trying to get through final year with good grades. I’m not sure if Prof. Nkuna was very impressed with my performance at mock court. I practiced so hard, studied so many cases, and then that annoying ass comes in with his convoluted argument to have the star witness dismissed. I’ve come up with a hundred counterarguments in the last few days, but I choked in the moment and couldn’t think of anything concrete.”

“He’s handsome though,” Neville smiled, sipping on his own cup of tea as he eyed Tumi’s untouched cup. “Edgar Boatwright. That’s a hot name. Sophisticated. And that accent is pretty sexy too, don’t you think?”

Tumi shifted on the bed, and almost spilled the tea that he was trying to keep as far away from his nose as possible. “I wouldn’t go that far, Neville. He’s arrogant and he’s clearly just another one of the spoiled, entitled guys we see around here every day. Do we really need more of those at Ridgemont?”

Neville laughed and raised his eyebrow, saying, “Sounds like you’ve got some very strong feelings about him. Maybe a crush disguised as annoyance?”

Tumi felt his cheeks flush with heat. “Don’t be silly. He’s not my type. Not even remotely. He’s underhanded and his argument was sneaky. That’s not the kind of person I want to be around if I can help it.”

Neville, clearly enjoying himself, said, “I think the lady’s protesting a bit too much. But anyway, that’s none of my business. And I know that eventually, you’ll wipe the floor with him in mock court and come out with the highest grades in the class. That’s just who you are, Tumi. You know the Constitution and the cases better than any of the rest of us. And everyone knows that you’re Prof. Nkuna’s favorite; don’t even try to deny that you know it too.”

Tumi smiled. For the first time in a while, he was feeling a bit better. Neville tended to have that effect. After all of the stress of mock court, the annoying Edgar Boatwright, and the fact that he might have finally found his birth mother in Angela Ngcobo, his life was filled with uncertainty. At least he knew that whenever he came home to Nova, he could have a good friend to talk to and to give him some disgusting tea, which he usually gulped down in the end and which often had the effect that Neville said it would.

Which is why it came as such a shock when Neville told Tumi his bad news: “Tumi, I have to tell you something. It’s tough to say, but it’s something I have to do. Kelly got an offer to do her master’s up at Wits, and she wants me to go with her. I put in the request to transfer a few weeks ago, and they’ve just given me the go-ahead. I have to go and be with her, even though I don’t want to leave Ridgemont. But we’re planning on moving in together and everything, and I want to make this work.”

Tumi sat with his eyes wide open, almost not believing what he was hearing. Neville had been a constant part of what kept him functional at Ridgemont, a good friend that he could rely on to have discussions about all of the absurdity of studying at a place with so much prestige in a country as impoverished as South Africa. Neville was always there to joke with and to have a beer with when things were rough. They had been a team of outsiders at Nova. And now, Neville was leaving. Tumi sat in silence for a while, trying to wrap his mind around it, and finally said, “I understand, Neville. Kelly is a great person and the two of you are perfect together. I’m going to miss you a lot, though.” He felt himself get a bit choked up just saying the words, and got up to give his friend a hug.

“Tell you what,” Neville said, trying to maintain good spirits, “why don’t we go to the law ball together tomorrow night? Kelly is meeting with some professors in Johannesburg, so I have an extra ticket. I’d love for you to be my date.” Neville winked at Tumi, a smile on his lips.

Tumi wasn’t really someone who enjoyed formal events like the law ball, but for his friend Neville, he was willing to do a lot of things that he wouldn’t normally do. He smiled and nodded at Neville, and said, “That sounds great. I’ll have to go and rent a tux, and be a dapper date for you.”

Neville hugged Tumi again tightly, and said, “Great! I’m glad you’ll be joining me. And you know we’ll still see each other a lot when I’m living up in Joburg. I’ll come and visit you here all the time! And we’ll have a couch waiting for you whenever you have a chance to visit us in Joburg.”

Tumi smiled, and picked up the cup that he had put down on his desk. He gulped down the tea, tasting the bitterness on his tongue. He savored the taste, knowing that he might not get the chance to drink Neville’s herbal teas for a long time.

Chapter 5

The smell of French toast and fresh, strong coffee filled Edgar’s nostrils. Bright sunlight shone in through the window, the heavy white curtains already drawn. It was after noon, and Edgar’s head was pounding with a hangover from the night out with his friends at Hunter’s.  The hotel he was staying at, the Lord Turnbill, was just a few blocks off campus in the lovely, quiet town of Ridgemont. The Ridgemont Valley was a popular tourist destination, and many luxurious hotels could be found near to Ridgemont University. Edgar often stayed at the Lord Turnbill when he was too drunk to drive back to his flat, which was about fifteen minutes away from the university. He sat up in the large king-sized bed and reached over to grab the cup of coffee that was waiting for him; he had a standing arrangement for breakfast to be delivered to his room at 11 a.m. if he hadn’t shown up to the hotel’s breakfast buffet in the morning. Edgar sipped on the strong, black coffee, feeling it invigorate his tired body. He could usually recover from a hangover very quickly after coffee and a few aspirin, and he was grateful that the pounding headache would soon be gone.

The night out at Hunters had been a lot of fun, and Edgar had flirted with a particularly handsome guy named Luke the night before, but nothing had come of it. He stood up from the bed and stood in the sunlight, staring out of the window overlooking the courtyard of the Lord Turnbill. The warm sun caressed his naked, pale torso, and the freckles on his body ran all the way down to the dark blue boxer shorts that he wore. Fine red hairs covered his chest, and his green eyes drank in the stunning scene of the courtyard with its shrubs and ornate benches. He thought about how magnificent Ridgemont was, and remembered his mother in that moment. She had told him stories about her time studying at Ridgemont when she was a young woman, before she had emigrated to England three years before Edgar’s oldest brother was born. She had left the country in the dying days of apartheid, no longer able to live in a country that was suffering through so much turmoil. In England, she had met Edgar’s father, who fell in love with her striking beauty and lively personality, and they had four children together. Edgar was the youngest, and had only nine years with his mother before she died. He had always been intrigued by South Africa, by the stories she had told him about a beautiful country where the people were resilient, fighters, dreamers, and where they were visited by so much horror that, as a young woman, she saw no way for things to get any better. At that moment, as Edgar stood looking out over the courtyard of the Lord Turnbill, he wondered what his mother would say if she could see the country of her birth again. She had never returned, and Edgar had no idea why. Perhaps the memories were too painful for her. But Edgar had wanted to visit South Africa ever since he was a boy, to know the country and in that way get to know something more about his mother, the woman that he loved so much and whose death had left a hole that he never been able to fill. It was a shame that the country was so much of a disappointment for him, and that all he could think about doing now was going back to London as soon as he was done with the Constitutional Law course that he was completing for his exchange program.

Edgar took another sip of the lukewarm bitter coffee, and placed the cup on the dresser next to the window. He walked to the en-suite bathroom and took a shower, feeling the headache disappearing slightly. He would have to shake off his hangover to meet his friends in the hotel’s restaurant at midday, something he had drunkenly promised Hein in an effort to impress him.

Edgar got dressed and walked down to the restaurant at a few minutes after twelve, leaving behind the cold French toast which still sat untouched on the tray next to his bed. He wore a white t-shirt and jeans with a dark brown cardigan, and he styled his full red hair into a charming side parting. He saw his reflection in the mirror at the restaurant’s main entrance, wondering about his connection to the country. Was there something of South Africa in him? Was there something that made this place home to him?

He walked into the neat room where about fifteen tables were decorated with white tablecloths and a blue vase with an arrangement of summer flowers at the center of each. Hein, Leo and Sylas were sitting at a table close to a large window which showed the courtyard beyond. Edgar walked over and greeted each one with a kiss on the cheek. “Nice to see you all this morning,” he said, forcing a smile.

“You’re looking fresh as a daisy after all those shots you had last night,” Sylas said, pushing his thick brown hair from his face. “I thought you’d still be a wreck this morning.”

“I’m a skilled partier, Sylas. You should know that by now,” Edgar quipped. He sat down at the table and motioned for a waiter, ordering another cup of black coffee.

“I could tell by the way you danced on the bar last night. I thought you were going to get us thrown out,” Leo cut in. His blond hair was combed back this time, making him look meeker than usual, and his sharp chin turned up as he took a sip of tea from his cup.

Edgar laughed at the memory, and said, trying to sound humble, “I can’t believe you let me do that! I must’ve looked such a mess.”

“Nonsense,” Hein said. “You looked adorable.” Hein’s intense blue eyes scanned Edgar’s face, and for a second their eyes connected.

Leo cut in again, saying, “Guess who we saw this morning… Your favorite classmate Moketla was trying to start something with us at Nova again. Honestly, the best part of my year so far was watching you destroy him in mock court. I can’t wait for the next session. He’s so smug, it’s fun seeing him being taught a lesson. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, that one. Thinks he’s royalty or something. He’ll get himself in some nasty trouble if he’s so uppity all the time.”

Everyone smiled at Leo’s words except for Edgar. He felt conflicted. On the one hand, Edgar had read many of the papers written by Tumi’s mother, the renowned constitutional law expert Koena Moketla. Edgar had read about the brilliant way she was able to use the law to bring about change in South Africa. He had immediately wanted to befriend Tumi, thinking that he would be a great contact to have. But on the other hand, Tumi had been nothing but disagreeable since Edgar had first spoken to him when he arrived at Ridgemont. Tumi was confrontational with Hein and the rest of the guys in their class, and he was a bit of a teacher’s pet, which reeked of leveraging his family’s name to get ahead. Even though Edgar had been intrigued by Tumi, and he obviously found him very attractive, the constant grumpy look on his face was more than annoying. Edgar turned to Leo and said, “I thought he was made of tougher stuff than it seems he is. He really didn’t put up much of a fight in mock court at all. What did he say to you guys this time?”

Leo laughed and the rest of his friends joined in. “He was just sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong again, trying to ruin our fun. You’re right, Edgar: he doesn’t fit in with us. I don’t even think he belongs at Ridgemont at all.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Edgar said, sensing that there was more to the story than the guys were letting on, but deciding that he didn’t want to get involved.

Hein spoke up then, still watching Edgar closely. “Maybe we’ll see him tonight and we can carry on with our conversation. You’re coming with us to the law ball, right?” His ice-blue eyes were searching Edgar’s face expectantly.

Edgar hesitated. “I don’t know,” he said lamely. “I’m preparing for the next session of mock court, and I’ve already been partying a lot lately.”

“Oh come on!” Sylas interjected, throwing his hands up theatrically. “It won’t be any fun unless you’re there, Edgar. Besides, I heard a rumor that Graham from our class is bringing the model Cindi Titus as his date. They’re apparently cousins or something. Wouldn’t you love to meet a world-famous model?” Sylas was clearly thrilled at the idea, his voice rising to a grating pitch.

Edgar shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose it’ll be good to network a bit. Prof. Nkuna will be there too, right?”

“All of the professors are there. They live for these kinds of things,” Sylas responded.

Leo bit his lip and said, “Maybe I can come for a few hours. It should be fun.”

Sylas clapped his hands and Leo smiled from ear to ear. “Excellent,” Hein said, putting his hand on Edgar’s forearm. “We’ll have fun tonight. We never really got a chance to chat yesterday.”

Even though Hein was clearly flirting with Edgar, Edgar’s mind was on someone else. He wondered what had happened between Tumi and the guys that morning. Was Tumi really trying to stir up trouble with his friends? There was something that drew Edgar to the mysterious Tumi Moketla. It looked like there was something below the surface with him, something that Edgar couldn’t quite put his finger on. He decided that if he had to go to the law ball, and if he was leaving Ridgemont in a few short months, it might be worth his time to try and figure out who Tumi Moketla really was, and to see why he had gone so easy on Edgar at mock court. Tumi was clearly a brilliant student and had a way with words, but Edgar felt that he had won his argument way too easily against Tumi. Maybe there was some reason that Tumi had let him win. Edgar had to figure out a plan to get Tumi alone at the law ball, and to try and make sense of him.

After a few more minutes of idle chatter, the waiter arrived to take away Edgar’s empty cup. Edgar asked for the bill, offering to pay for his friends’ refreshments, and everyone smiled in thanks. But when the waiter returned and tried to swipe Edgar’s credit card, a look of panicked embarrassment appeared on his face, and he adjusted his collar as he said to Edgar: “I’m sorry, sir, but your card has been declined.”

Edgar’s face contorted, and he wasn’t sure what to make of the situation. “That’s impossible. Please try it again.” The rest of the table were looking at the scene with a clear mixture of bewilderment and schadenfreude. After Edgar’s card was declined for the second time, he handed the waiter a different card, trying to laugh off the experience and saying, “There must be some problem with that card. I’ll call my bank later.” But none of the three other cards Edgar handed to the waiter would process a payment.

Finally, in an act of mercy, Hein took out his own wallet and dropped two R200 notes on the table. “Don’t worry about it, Edgar. I’ll get it this time, and you can buy us drinks again after the law ball.” Hein barely looked at the waiter as he waved him off and said, “Keep the change.” The waiter beamed and thanked them profusely for the very generous tip before walking off, but Hein paid him no attention. Edgar felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment, and knew that he was probably completely red.

“I don’t know what happened there, Hein, but thanks for covering me. It’s just not my day, it seems.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re always paying for us anyway. It’s nothing.” Hein put his hand on Edgar’s arm again, but the icy-blue eyes didn’t meet Edgar’s in the same way they had before.

“Okay,” Edgar said, trying to diffuse the situation, “let’s go to the law ball and party the night away! It should be fun!” Sylas clapped jubilantly and the guys planned their outfits as Edgar sat in dismay.  His cards had never been declined before. He would have to get in touch with his father as soon as possible to find out what the problem was.

Chapter 6 

The main hall of the Law Building at Ridgemont University was dazzling; thick blue curtains with the university’s emblem were hung across the hall’s main windows, the tables were decorated with black tablecloths and striking protea centerpieces. The suits and evening gowns that the guests wore only added to the grandeur of the evening’s festivities. The annual law ball was one of the most prestigious events on the Ridgemont calendar, a way to honor the final-year law students as they prepared for their final few months of the academic year. Tumi saw the resplendent green gown that Prof. Nkuna was wearing, again realizing how much he admired his Constitutional Law professor for her grace and poise. His classmates were chatting excitedly as he entered the hall with Neville, each of them holding a flute of sparkling wine and looking like they were right at home in their surroundings. Tumi took a glass from a server who passed him, and as he sipped from it he felt the bubbles go straight to his head. It had been a challenging few weeks, and even though he was apprehensive about the law ball, he was glad that Neville had persuaded him to go.

Tumi’s tux was fitted perfectly. He hardly ever got the chance to dress up, but his father had a tailor who was always on call for the Moketla family, and Tumi decided to take advantage of it. Lying to Neville about renting a tux was a defense mechanism; Tumi hated unnecessary displays of wealth. He wore a simple black bowtie and black leather pointed shoes, and felt self-conscious with how the pants fit around his ample butt. He took another sip of the sparkling wine and decided to forget about his discomfort and just enjoy the evening. Neville had told Tumi that he would be leaving in less than a week, and had already started packing earlier in the day. It was an emotional rollercoaster to think that someone Tumi cared about so much, someone who had made his life at Ridgemont a lot more bearable, would no longer be around. But Neville and his girlfriend Kelly had been together since freshman year, and had been deeply in love since their first date. Tumi couldn’t think of a more perfect couple. If Kelly was going to Joburg, Tumi knew that Neville had to follow her there. Tumi saw the law ball as a type of early goodbye to Neville; despite all of his concerns about meeting Angela Ngcobo, the woman Tumi had worked out had to be his mother, and despite the pressure of performing at mock court and the upcoming final exams, Tumi was determined to have a good time at the event.

“It looks amazing, doesn’t it, Tumi?” Neville asked, looking around at the room in wonder. Neville looked dashing in his suit, but went without a tie. He was always a bit of a rebel, and even in the highly formal setting of the law ball, Neville’s own unique style won out. Neville’s short, faded crew cut and caramel skin made him look both laid-back and highlighted his self-assuredness. Tumi felt proud to be walking into the room with such a stud, even though Neville was (mostly) straight.

“It’s great,” Tumi said, scanning more of the stunning decorations and well-dressed students. “They really go all-out with these things. Look at Judy’s dress!” Tumi pointed to one of his best friends from class, one of the students who was on the prosecution team alongside Tumi in mock court. She wore a magnificent blue vintage-inspired cocktail dress. Her thick brown hair was styled up, and the neckline of the dress plunged low to reveal her silky skin. Tumi waved at her, and she gave her usual goofy double-hand wave in greeting. Tumi smiled at seeing Judy. Even though most of the law students could be very pompous and arrogant, Tumi had managed to find great friends like Neville and Judy who were exactly the opposite of that. Judy walked over, leaving behind her date, who Tumi recognized to be her cousin on the swim team. Judy had a very troubled dating life, and had sworn off men a few months before after another disastrous Tinder date. She was now throwing herself into work, determined to be a human rights lawyer and to prove that she didn’t need a man to define her. Even though Tumi knew that she still desperately wanted a stable boyfriend, and that she never really deleted the dating apps like she claimed to, he knew that Judy took dating way too seriously, and supported her in taking a break from the complications that go along with men.

Judy hugged Tumi and Neville tightly, her thin, gangling arms poking into his sides as she squeezed him. Tumi said, “It’s so good to see you. You look fantastic! Have we missed anything dramatic so far?”

“Just the outfit that Prof. Nkuna is wearing. Have you seen it?” Judy said, her animated gestures and wide eyes amusing Tumi.

“I saw it!” Tumi responded, theatrically widening his own eyes.

“Anyway,” Judy said, “speaking of gorgeous outfits, the two of you are absolutely the most handsome guys in the room. Without a doubt. Tumi, where did you get those cufflinks? I’ve never seen you dressed up like this before. You’re almost making me regret letting you get away in freshman year.”

Tumi winced at the memory. During his first few months at Ridgemont, when he was still finding himself, he had experimented with dating girls. While Judy was very gracious when Tumi finally told her that he was definitely into guys, and while it was the start of their great friendship, it was still a reminder of an awkward time in his life. “Ah, yes, my two months of being straight. What a disaster,” he said, and Neville and Judy both laughed in response.

“You were still the best guy I’ve dated at Ridgemont, so that’s something,” Judy responded, and Tumi felt sorry for her all over again.

Neville touched Tumi’s shoulder and said, “Let’s take a turn about the room, what do you guys say?”

“Definitely,” Tumi smiled, and the three friends strolled to the far end of the room, chatting jovially and greeting a few friends along the way. Tumi was even happier that he had decided to go to the law ball. Over the past few months, his life had become nothing but studying and doing research about his past. It felt like Tumi had always been on a quest to find himself, and like he never really fit in anywhere. But with his friends, he felt at home. When he could just be himself around people who really cared about him, he knew that everything would be okay.

Tumi walked absentmindedly, in the middle of telling a story about the night he and Neville had first gone to Hunters, when he bumped into someone. He turned around quickly to apologize, feeling flustered, but he bit his tongue when he saw whom he had walked into. Edgar Boatwright’s perfectly groomed red hair and green eyes were right in front of Tumi’s face. He took a step backwards.

“No need to be sorry, Tumi. I quite enjoyed you bumping into me,” Edgar said, smiling that same smile as when they went up against each other in mock court.

“Don’t be gross,” Tumi said, annoyed. He wiped the front of his jacket instinctively. On either side of Edgar were the guys he often hung out with who all lived in Nova: Leo, Hein and Sylas. “So you’re all a pack now, eh?”

Edgar shook his head, seeming slightly embarrassed. “Listen, Tumi, I don’t know what your problem is with me. I’d really like to talk to you in private if you have a moment. Maybe we can straighten all of this up.” Edgar’s eyes seemed sincere, but the looks Tumi was getting from the guys next to him made Tumi close off even more.

“I’m enjoying my evening with my friends. I don’t have time for this.” Tumi turned on his heel, and led Neville and Judy away from the group of guys. In honesty, his annoyance with Edgar Boatwright didn’t really have any basis, but Tumi imagined that if Edgar could hang out with people like Hein and his lot, he must be just like them. Besides, Tumi just had a sense about Edgar, and the way he acted clearly showed that he was spoiled and pompous.

Tumi went to stand at a table a few feet away from Edgar and his friends. He couldn’t let them get to him on the night when he was meant to be having fun with Neville before he left Ridgemont. Judy turned to Tumi and said, “He’s really not that bad, you know.”

“Who, Edgar?” Tumi asked, his voice raised. Edgar turned to look in his direction, clearly having heard his name, but Tumi pretended like nothing had happened.

“Yes, Edgar. I worked with him on the short assignment for Prof. Nkuna’s course earlier in the semester. He was really friendly and helpful, and super smart. Like insanely smart. I know he was a bit intense during mock court, but I really think you’d like him if you got to know him. The way he thinks about the law kind of reminds me of you, actually.” Judy leaned against a wall, watching Edgar as she spoke.

“He rubbed me the wrong way since the first time I met him. He came up to me after our first class and asked me if I’m Koena Moketla’s son, trying to butter me up. You know how much I hate it when people only want to get to know me because of my family. And I don’t think we have anything in common when it comes to the law. The way he argued in mock court, he seemed to only care about winning, even when he was obscuring the truth. The law is about justice, not about winning.” Tumi’s breathing was speeding up, and he had no idea why he was getting so worked up just talking about Edgar.

Neville spoke in his gentle voice, saying, “You never really know someone from first impressions, Tumi. The three of us should know that better than most. The way you and I were judged when we first moved into Nova… But I think you might be right about this one. Look at what they’re putting that poor server through.”

Tumi looked over to see Sylas laughing hysterically as Leo sipped on a glass of wine, made a face of disgust and spat the wine back into the glass, making a show of demanding that the server bring him a new glass. When the server came back, he did the same thing, even smiling as he spat out the wine. It was disturbing to watch. Edgar stood to the side, saying something to Leo. Was he encouraging the rude behavior? Tumi couldn’t stand to look at it. This time, there was nothing standing in the way of him saying something about the spoiled guys who treated everyone else like dirt. He marched towards where the Dean of Law was standing and chatting with Prof. Nkuna. It was time to make sure that those guys got what they deserved.

Neville followed Tumi towards the dean, and clearly knew exactly what his friend’s intentions were. Tumi could see that Judy was walking over to Hein and the others to try and stop what was happening. Tumi felt proud in that moment that he had friends like the two of them.

But as Tumi reached the dean, he heard a voice over the loudspeaker. The speeches had begun, and the dean was being called to the stage to deliver his speech and officially welcome the guests. Tumi stood in place as the dean walked away from him, barely able to contain his anger. His brown eyes were fixed in a scowl, and he put his hand on his closely-shaven head in defeat. He would have to wait until the speeches were done before letting the dean know how the guys were acting. But his anger didn’t allow him to stay in the same room as them.

Tumi turned to Neville, and said, “I need to get some air, Neville. I’m going to take a walk for a few minutes, okay? I’m just a bit upset right now.”

“I get it,” Neville said. “Don’t worry about it. It looks like Hein and the other guys are leaving now anyway. Judy must’ve said something to them.” Tumi looked over to see that Sylas, Hein and Leo were making their way to the exit, expressions of annoyance on their faces. They turned to look at Tumi as they left, almost threateningly. Judy was still animatedly talking to Edgar, who seemed completely perplexed as he listened to her. But Tumi couldn’t think about any of that. He walked away, towards the law library at the far end of the hall. He needed some quiet. He failed to notice that someone was following him as he went.


The full novel will be released on May 28, 2017. To get an advance review copy, go to