‘I have brought the assignment from my first year if you would like to see it’, Karabo said to Samantha as he decidedly moved on from Nicole’s aggression. He was referring to the assignment he had aced during his first year after writing a constitution on how the two parts of Sudan (north and south) could end violence and begin to build a democratic country. He moved to sit with Samantha on the other side of the table and took out his laptop and placed it on the table.
‘Of course now I am not sure if my ideas are still applicable or relevant now that Sudan and South Sudan have split to form two independent countries’, he added as he switched on the computer.
‘Let me be the judge of that Kay’, Samantha said flirtingly as if to massage Karabo’s ego. Overhearing the tone of her sister’s statement, Nicole stared at Samantha with judging eyes. She had gone back to helping Sello with the design of the site after her sparring with Karabo. Smiling mischievously, Samantha stuck her tongue out, mocking her sister.
‘Have you thought about what sort of constitution are you going to draft? Is it for a country, a political party, a union?’ Karabo looked to Samantha for an answer.
‘Honestly speaking, I have not had a chance to sit down and understand what I have to do. All my attention lately has been focused on launching the newspaper.’
The couple opposite them was glued to the laptop, or at least one of them. Nicole pretended to be focusing on the screen but she still had her ear out listening to anything that might be suspicious. She did not trust her younger sister around Karabo. She did not trust Karabo.
While Nicole sat eavesdropping on Karabo and Samantha’s conversation, pretending to be helping Sello with the look and feel of the site, the user interface as it commonly referred to by graphic designers and software developers, the two of them seemed not to care. A security guard came over to ask them to tone down their voices.
‘Sorry guys, you are speaking loud’, the lady in a grey uniform politely said.
‘I am sorry sisi’, Karabo apologised and promised to speak softly.
The room where the four youth were seated, was a part reserved for students to have group discussions. Students were allowed to talk provided they did not make noise. While they were not exactly talking loudly, the laughter between the two was getting out of control.
‘Tell them sisi’, Nicole stoked the fire.
Samantha rolled her eyes at her sister. Karabo acted as if nothing happened. He took out a memory stick out of his backpack and inserted it into his laptop to copy the assignment. He handed the USB to Samantha, continuing not to pay Nicole attention.
‘So are you having a launch party for your newspaper?’ Karabo asked Samantha.
‘That is not a bad idea’, Sello jumped in from behind the laptop before Samantha could respond. Karabo was surprised to hear him speak. He had been quiet for most of the time.
‘And where will the money for the launch party come from sweetheart?’ Nicole sarcastically asked.
‘It doesn’t have to be a huge thing. I know a few people who might be able to help with…’ Before Karabo could finish his sentence, Nicole interrupted. ‘Thanks Karabo but I think we will handle this.’ She smiled at him, a smile that conveyed irritation and disapproval more than appreciation and gratitude.
Samantha was not impressed. Once again she rolled her eyes at her sister while Sello, like a defeated dog with a tail between its legs went back to coding the website. It was now visibly awkward around the table. Everyone was confused as to what was happening. Nicole’s animosity towards Karabo worried Samantha. She kept wondering what it is that so irks Nicole so much about Karabo.
Karabo shut his laptop and put it back into his backpack. He could no longer pretend to not be affected by Nicole’s hostility towards him. He decided to leave.
‘Sam, I have to run. Let me know how the assignment goes’, he said as he stood up from the table.
Karabo stoop up from the table. He bade Samantha farewell, shaking her hand gently as if he was holding a precious glass. He looked to Sello to say goodbye.
‘Champ, ke tla go bona’, he said as he extended his hand to Sello.
Instead of just stretching his hand to Karabo over his laptop, Sello stood up to shake his hand properly – a sign of respect. ‘Sho morena. Give me your email address so I can send you the link to the website once we are finished. We should be done in two days.’
From his demeanour Sello was impressed by Karabo. His manner, his approach, visible intelligence and confidence were qualities he could appreciate in a friend. In addition to his sense of humour and sarcasm, Karabo could stand up to his girlfriend whom he could never challenge as an equal. Frankly speaking, Sello was afraid of Nicole.
‘Fantastic. I look forward to it’, Karabo said as he handed Sello a small note from which he had scribbled both his email address and cellphone number. He lifted his backpack and like a small bag of mealie meal, he swung it on his back.
‘Folks, I have to bounce, Nice to meet you all, especially Nicole’, he looked at her with a naughty smile as he waited for a response. Nicole responded with a fake smile.
‘Bye Sam’, Karabo said as he deliberately bade Samantha farewell in a sensual tone, taunting Nicole one last time.
‘Bye Kay. Hope to see you soon’, she returned the favour.
The atmosphere at the table remained tense as Karabo walked away, his bag slung over his back. Samantha could not hold herself any longer.
‘What is your problem with Kay? Did you have to make the poor guy feel so unwelcomed?’ She was angry. Nicole continued to act as if Samantha was being unreasonable, that she was reading too much into the situation.
‘He is a player and I just don’t want you to get hurt. Plus you heard him say that he has a girlfriend’, Nicole answered as if to ask Samantha to drop the matter. She was getting nervous. She knew that Samantha will continue to press on until she got the truth from her, however uncomfortable. Yet this was not the time nor the place to do it.
‘Now could you please let this go and focus back on this project’, Nicole stretched her hand across the table to caress Samantha’s hand, pleading for her silence on the matter.
Sello continued to punch away on his computer, completely ignorant to the heated yet civil discussion between the two sisters seating with him at the table, one of whom was the love of his love, at least that is what he believed. He hacked away at the front-end of their news site, determined to make it look and feel better than that of Mail & Guardian, the country’s leading newspaper if not that of The New York Times, the Serena Williams of newspapers. It was typical of him to get lost in his work, particularly if it had anything to do with computers. He was in his element.
‘Okay, for now I will let it slide’, Samantha assured her sister, realising that this could be a sensitive matter which was not meant for Sello’s ears. She stood up and came around to the other side of the table to have a look at how far the site was.
‘Mr. S, are you winning? You have been quietly punching away at that keyboard as if you have a score to settle’, Samantha teased Sello as she confusedly looked at his screen. She knew he was writing code and as for what he was doing exactly at that moment, she was as lost as an honest priest at a brothel.
‘Yes, I am. I believe I will be done by this evening. And then tomorrow I will just do some touch ups. You can have a look’, Sello said as he pressed the button to update the page and switched to an open tab that displayed an unpublished site of their newspaper.
‘Oh My God! Sello, this is absolutely beautiful. The site does not resemble anything that was started by students. This is brilliant work.’ Samantha complimented Sello. She was extremely happy.
She had not expected the website to look shabby, but she had not expected it to look that professional either. Instead of the usual black and white colours that most papers used, which was sort of the accepted standard, Sello had opted to design the site in a way that resembles a modern-day magazine look and feel yet still retained the originality of a newspaper.
‘Thank you Sam, but remember that this newspaper is not about the appearance. It is about the context that makes it a reputable paper; the aesthetics are just a part of it. So you better tell your writers not to mess it up’, he said dryly as he defused the moment not to be about him. Compliments always made him feel insecure, naked. He liked them but he resented that they put him in a spotlight.
‘Stop being modest love, it is beautiful’, Nicole chimed in as she gently ran her hand down Sello’s back.
‘Well done you guys. You both did an excellent job…and yes Mr. S, I will make sure the writers do not mess up both your hard work’, Samantha said as she covered both Sello and Nicole with her arms, a warm back hug that symbolised gratitude and pride.
In exactly seven days, these three bright students of the University of Western Cape – a university that was once deemed an institution for an inferior race – would begin on a path that would forever cement their names in the history books, but they did not know it. For now they were, in their minds, merely establishing a newspaper to cover a patch ignored by the mainstream.