Winnie, Mira and Rachel alighted from the school bus chatting amongst themselves but Rachel
was unusually silent.

“Are you okay?” Mira asked her.

Rachel didn’t speak she was walking towards their class in silence.

“Rachel!” Winnie called out.

Rachel still didn’t respond so Mira tapped her on her
shoulder.

“Hey!” Rachel half-screamed and turned to regard her
friends.

“Where is your mind?” Mira asked.

“What do you mean by that?” Rachel asked.
“We’ve been speaking to you and you’ve been somewhere else.”
Winnie said.

“I’m sorry…I errr…was thinking of what to eat for lunch
this afternoon.” Rachel lied.

“What to eat? Do you mean you’re not full after eating all
those muffins at the picnic?” Mira asked.

“I just want real food…I don’t want snacks.” Rachel said
sourly.

Her friends shrugged as they all walked into their classrooms
and picked up their bags. Winnie’s phone rang and she answered, it was Steve.

“Hey Steve…” She greeted.

“Hey Winnie…” He didn’t sound too bright.

“You don’t sound too well are you okay?” Winnie asked.

“Yea…sure…I’m outside your school. I see you guys are
coming from somewhere.” He said.

“Yes we had a picnic…”

“You didn’t tell me…” Steve said.

Winnie didn’t understand why she’d have to tell him
everything that went on in her life.

“We were just told this morning…” She said.

“It’s okay…” He said. “Please can you come outside the
school? I want to see you.”

“Sure…” Winnie said.

When she hung up, Mira looked at her.
“What does Steve want?” She asked.

“He says he’s outside the school.”

“Hmmm…interesting.” Mira said. “Don’t forget to ask him
more on what he knows about Daniel.”

Rachel picked up her bag and turned to regard her friends.
“I have to go…”

Mira and Winnie regarded her warily and shrugged.

“Yea…sure…fine…” Mira said.

As they watched her go, Winnie said to Mira.

“I don’t believe what Rachel said about having to visit her
friends. I think she’s hiding things from us.”

“I thought we promised ourselves that we would never hide
things from one another again.” Mira said.

“Yes…that’s what we said but I think that this secret is
too deep and she can’t share it with us.” Winnie said.

“I have problems…we all have problems and the best way to
solve our problems is to share with those who love us.” Mira said.

“That’s true, well…Steve is waiting for me outside the gate…I’d better get
going.” Winnie said.

“We’re still hanging out at your place right? I’m so scared
to go home and meet Monica.” Mira said in a shaky voice.

“If you’d ask me, I’d say you brought this upon yourself
because you didn’t take my advice.” Winnie said.

“Yea…yea…gloat all you want.” Mira said sadly.

“I’m not gloating…”

“Let’s change the topic…what’s going to be your response
to Steve? He’s going to get impatient with you.”

“I just don’t know…I don’t know if I’m being responsive to
him because he’s a university guy or because I really like him. It doesn’t feel
like a crush with Steve…”

“Hmmm…have you spoke to your sister about it?” Mira asked.

“Not yet…I haven’t been able to call her but I
will…soon.”

The two girls walked up to the gate and as soon as they
stepped out, they saw Steve. Winnie noticed that Steve didn’t look too happy.

“Hey…” She greeted.

“Hi…” Steve said and smiled slightly at Mira.

“Have you met Mirabel? I don’t think I’ve introduced her.”
Winnie said to Steve.

“I’ve met Rachel…” Steve said.

“Yea…” Winnie said with a smile.

“Winnie, I’ll wait for you in the car.” Mira said and walked
away.

Steve turned to face Winnie and she stared at him.

“You don’t look too happy…is anything wrong?” She asked.

“Have you been speaking to anyone about stuff that I’ve been
telling you?” He asked.

“What do you mean? Speaking to who about what?” Winnie
asked.

“I noticed that you’ve been asking so many questions about
my friends and  I’ve been hearing stuff…” He said.

Winnie’s eyes widened.
“Are you calling me a gossip?”

“No…I’m not doing that but I just want you to keep things
I tell you a secret because the walls have ears.”

“I only asked you about that friend of yours who’s dad is in
jail and…”

“Hey…that’s a false story.” Steve said quickly.

“Huh? What do you mean by a false story?”

“That story wasn’t real…there’s none of my friends with
dads in jail.”

Winnie looked at Steve in confusion, she was thinking of
what to say when she heard a familiar voice yell out her name.

“Winnie!!”

She turned and was surprised to see her mother. Her mother marched
up to meet Winnie and Steve and yelled at them.

“Who are you and what are you doing with my daughter?” She demanded.

“We…she’s…my friend.” Steve started. “Good afternoon
madam.”

“Keep your dirty greetings to yourself!” Winnie’s mother
screamed, then turning to regard Winnie, she said. “Get into the car now! So this is what you do at summer lesson huh? This is the height of it, I’m pulling you out of this lesson today!”

“I’m going with Mira…she’s waiting for me in her
car.” Winnie started

A loud slap resounded against her cheek and some students
who were standing at the gate of the school turned to stare. Winnie held her
cheek as tears welled in her eyes.

“What have I done?” She asked.

“Don’t ask me any stupid questions. Get into the car now because we’re going home!”

Winnie turned around and ran, her mother stared at her in shock as she couldn’t believe that
Winnie was actually running from her.

“Winnie! Get back here! Winnie!” She screamed as she hurried
after her.

Steve stood there like a statue, he didn’t know what to do.

******************
Winnie watched her phone ring over and over again, she was
seated on a small pavement in a street she’d run into. She wasn’t ready to answer
anyone’s calls. Mira, her mother and Steve had been calling for the past three
hours but she wasn’t taking anyone’s calls. She quickly dialled a number and
heard it ring.

“Hello sis…”

Theodora sounded pleasantly surprised.

“Winnie! How are you my darling?”

Winnie couldn’t help herself, she burst into tears.

“What is it? Winnie! Are you okay?”

“I…I…ran away sis…I ran away…I can’t bear her humiliations anymore…I can’t…” She cried.

“Where are you?” Theodora asked frantically.

“I don’t know…I’m in a street…I don’t know the name of
the street.”

“Can you walk out to the entrance to the street and check
the name of the street so that I can come pick you up?”

“Do you promise not to tell my mom where I am?” Winnie
asked.

“I promise…”

“Okay…because I never want to see her ever again.” Winnie
said.

*****************
It was already getting dark and after searching for Winnie to
no avail, Kate was already at home waiting with a cane. The clock struck eight
pm and Winnie wasn’t home yet. Kate panicked.

“I know that boy is her boyfriend. The stupid girl is already a
girlfriend to a street punk!” She hissed.

Her husband walked into the house with a bag of goodies, she
stood up from the sofa and walked over to hug him.

“I got treats for everyone!” He said in delight. “I just
landed a big deal!”

“That’s good….” She said with a smile.

“You don’t look ecstatic, what’s the matter?”

“Winnie is not home yet.” 

“What do you mean by she’s not back yet?” He asked.

“I mean that she’s not back from her summer school yet.”

“Have you gone to look for her?” He asked in worry.

“I actually went to pick her up but she misbehaved so…I
slapped her and she ran away.”

“What are you saying?”

“You heard me…” She said.

“Kate, is something wrong with you? How could you have
slapped her in front of her school mates?”

“Why shouldn’t I? That girl’s teen drama is too much for me
to handle. I never gave my mother this much stress when I was her age. Can you
believe that she was at the front of her school, flaunting herself with her
boyfriend?”

“Boyfriend? Did she tell you that he’s her boyfriend?”

“No…but I guessed.”

Winnie’s step-father shut his eyes in anger and when he
opened them, he was furious.

“If Winnie doesn’t come back home tonight, I think you’d
better look for where to spend the night.” He said.

“What?”

“You heard me…”

Winnie’s mother watched her husband leave the sitting room
in anger. She wore her slippers and stepped out into the night.

To be continued tomorrow…..

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