Plain white walls and lonely hallways. Time for me had stood still as I recalled when I was first bought here. Apparently my home was in a fire and I was rescued by a firefighter. Unfortunately my parents and elder sister did not survive. I was seven years of age. I remember the time Lethabo my sister, would chase me around the house as I ran as fast my little feet would. She would grab me from behind and tickle me until I said the words ‘I surrender!’

She was so much fun. I sighed. I remember she always had a sweet, lovely smile plastered on her face. Making her incredibly beautiful than she was. Never once had I seen Lethabo without a smile. Mother would tease her by calling her ‘Smiley’. I laughed remembering how annoyed she would be, but quickly gave us a smile. All of us would tease her with this name and she would never get angry at us. I loved her so much and I miss her a lot. Looking outside the window, the sun was settling down. It was supper time. That reminded me of the time when mother surprised us by cooking.

We were all surprised and nervous at her cooking. She had gone out to make us something wonderful. The dining table had been stylishly set up. We all sat and she looked at all of us as she encouraged us to eat. Lethabo and I looked at dad as he too nervously shook the spoon. He was so pale, I stifled a laugh as Lethabo and I in sync looked at each other. She too was holding back a giggle. Dad said as he nervously looked at mother; “Darling, ladies first.” We all looked at her as she rolled her eyes and dined in. We watched as she chewed and saw when her mouth rejected the food. She immediately took a handkerchief and drank some water. My laugh couldn’t be stifled anymore. Her next words put the whole table into an incredible laughter, “I am a horrible right? And I should never dare to cook?” We all nodded our heads simultaneously. That night dad ordered us pizza. What a night!

“Do we need to call a doctor or should I slap you?” as dazed as I was, I didn’t hear him until he landed a slap on my face. If he didn’t happen to be my best friend in the whole-wide-world. He would have gotten a punch from me. But instead I gave him a hug. I had missed him.

I stepped away to look at him, still the same but a bit of meat. Black hair and light brown eyes. Tall and lean, but handsome. He was of the race of coloureds. Just like me. We belonged in both worlds. My mother was black – Mosotho and father white. He was from Europe.

“You are back, you didn’t leave!” I screamed and hugged him tight. Part of my depression was because he had found a temporary home. Looked like they didn’t like him that much. He was supposed to be gone for a month but he came back a week early or did he, “You made trouble right? For me? Thanks, stinky.”

He pulled my nose as he pulled me into a hug and we headed toward the hallway. TeeKay like me was brought to the orphanage when he was ten years of age. I had come two weeks after his arrival. I had found him fascinating, he had been so sad that my sadness was forgotten. In my home when one was sad, we did everything to make them happy. So my will to make him happy had made me to momentarily forget. So when I settled in, I continuously befriended him. But he paid no attention to me. Everyone told me he didn’t want to be friends with anyone but my stubborn nature didn’t listen. 

I became his shadow for three weeks until he gave up one day. I remember it clearly, it was autumn and I had put on a coat. He had come out of class and was walking in the hallway toward the dining hall. He suddenly stopped and I hid in a corner. Seconds later I looked and I had lost him. I gave up and decided to head early to the dining hall. Maybe I would make friends with people who actually wanted to be friends with me. As I was walking, a hand pulled me into a room. The storage room. When I was to scream, they laid their hand on my mouth. I became fearful as I wondered who it was. To my surprise, TeeKay turned me and I stared at his smiling face. Déjà vu. I forced a smile to hide a guilty look. 

“Look what the cat brought home!” I swallowed hard at my suddenly dry skin. The storage room, the most unexpected room to have a conversation was the first ever for TeeKay and me to be friends. I comforted him as did he. We had each other’s backs and both started to be normal children again. We laughed and played throughout the years.

He squeezed my shoulder and I looked at his eyes. So glad he had come back, I would never have lived again if I lost him. The hallway was packed and people were already eating. Ms Jamina gave us a scowling look as we quickly darted to the table with our friends. Bruno, Nosipho and Mulalo were all engaged in a deep conversation. Turns out Bruno, the cutest one in our group was going to be adopted tomorrow. A single tear escaped my eyes as I stared down.

“Kgomotso, please don’t cry. You will find a family too,” Bruno said the encouraging words. I stared deep down, it wasn’t because I wasn’t happy for him. No, it was because it seemed everyone was leaving lately. Leaving me to just stand still staring as the world around me moved. Hands squeezed me as they reassured me everything was all right. I looked up and TeeKay gave me a warming smile. I looked up and squeezed Bruno’s hand as I looked at him. “I am okay. I am just glad for you, I hope you will be happy.”

After dinner, our little group called ‘Trouble’ decided to do a big stunt for Bruno’s departure. So we all left to our rooms and took baths. I was staying in the same room with Nosipho and two more girls. When it was bedtime and everyone had fallen asleep. Nosipho and me slipped through the door and met the boys. We headed to the kitchen. The kitchen was huge. Mulalo went and took out the cake, with the help of TeeKay. The cake was huge and it was for meant for the departure of the five kids tomorrow.

“Guys, are you sure you still want to go through with this? Bruno?” They all looked unsure. Nosipho went and brought a big knife, “Slice it.” All of them refused, she gave it to Bruno. We manipulated him by saying it was his cake. So he had to do the honour. He cut the end and we each had a piece. It was chocolate cake, my favourite. 

“This is not fair, Bruno got the bigger one,” Mulalo whined and we all laughed at him. TeeKay and Nosipho wiped cream on the end to hide the sliced side. And we added a little touch. 

We all stared ahead eagerly. Ms Jamina ever so beautiful and confident gave a lovely speech. She was simply enticing. Hearing her speak was like hearing her speak for the first time. She had the whole audience glued on her, such charisma. No one even noticed how long her speech was as everyone hang onto her every word. When she was finished, she left everyone yearning for more. She was the type of person I idolised. After they served us the cake, we all put it into wrappers and into my schoolbag. We watched as everyone ate, I felt bad for Ms Jamina.

But this was so worth it. This was the best stunt we ever pulled. I remembered the first stunt we ever pulled and how we got the name ‘Trouble’. I laughed as I remembered the time. I was still seven, a month and half after arrival. Back then, our group was made of seven. There was Robert, our leader and Zoya, the talkative one. I was the mother, TeeKay the strong one and Nosipho was the creative one. She was the mastermind of all the stunts, including that first one.

It was the last day of school and I was walking through the hallway to the storage room. Someone had left a note on my bed to meet them there at dinner time. Mysterious, my kind. When I got there, I first knocked. No response. And then I opened the door but the darkness hit me. I was scared and when I turned to leave, someone closed the door. I couldn’t see in the darkness. “Who is there?” I said nervously. An evil laugh arose and a ghost appeared. I screamed my lungs out as I pulled the door open. The door didn’t bulge and a hand gripped my mouth. I bite into them and they abruptly let go as they hissed. I screamed again and couple of hands grabbed me. The light suddenly came on. They all screamed I calm down. 

“Guess we owe TeeKay money, she is feisty,” Robert said. Well turns out I was chosen to be in the group. It was a secret group that was called ‘C.I.A.’ only those with unique abilities were chosen. My initiation was for me to steal Ms Jamina’s cell phone. It was a tough task indeed but not impossible. At first, I was nervous about the whole thing. But like father used to say, “Daughter, you need to learn to be adaptable. It’s a great skill to acquire and would help you in your life.” So if this orphanage was to be my temporary home, I need to belong. And I needed to earn it, so I grabbed all of my strength and slid through the crowd. I went straight to Ms Jamina.

“Mam greetings, a messenger at the door is looking for you,” I said to her and turned quickly before she saw through me. I sat down at the table and watched as she left the hall. Her phone had been left on the table. FIRST STEP: COMPLETO. I ate while I watched Zoya and Nosipho talk to the teachers that sat near Ms Jamina. Nosipho nearly grabbed the phone but Mr Moloi took it as it rang. In that same moment another trouble arose.

But like everything in life – there are obstacles. Ms Jamina walked in and the boys looked at me. I rushed to my feet and went straight to her. I ‘accidently’ bumped into her. “Sorry, ma’am.” 

“It’s okay Kgomo. By the way, are you sure there was a messenger at the door?” I nodded and when she was about to speak, Mr Moloi called her. I watched with huge eyes as she took her phone and the girls looked at me, with the universal sign of what to do. I went to them as Ms Jamina sat and put it on the table. Mr Moloi asked us what the problem was and all of us simultaneously stared at him dumbfounded. Zoya rumbled about nonsense. The phone was near the end of the table, so I went close to it and tried to grab it carefully. Ms Jamina’s voice startled me when I was halfway through it but that gave me the strength to stuff it in my pocket. “Well Kgomo?” She waved her beautiful hands in front of my face. 

“Uhm,” I hadn’t exactly heard her question. “I….wanted to…..uhm, say…..I’m sorry. I must have imagined the messenger.” She sweetly smiled at me and stood. She gave me a gentle hug, making me guiltier. When we were excused, we left the dining and went into the storage room. Minutes later the boys entered and I smiled cunningly as I waved the cell phone.

“Mission, accomplished.” We all cheered as I was officially made a member of the club. Even though I had lost my family and they could never be replaced. They would always be in my heart and memories. We played with the phone trying to study it out. But suddenly music turned on and it vibrated. We all looked at each other puzzled. The silence that went through was palpable as we watched anxiously what was next. The door opened and angry Ms Jamina stood there with an army behind her. That night she named us trouble makers of the school and we changed our group name to trouble. It was only right if our name explained us. We were sure given the most horrific punishment. Cleaning the dining hall for two weeks. But kids never learn, we always got into trouble.

I looked at each of them as I had a mischievous look and stared ahead as everyone ran to the toilet. BEST STUNT EVER. We all went into a chorus of laughter.

“And that’s why they call us trouble.”

I was so going to miss Bruno. But I would always reminisce on the memories. They were my life, a part of me. Making me who I am, always reminding me of Lethabo. The smiles. Ms Jamina paled as ever gave us annoyed look but at the tip of her mouth, a grin appeared. We were in trouble, MAJOR trouble. But totally worth it, worth it for a fallen hero.