She was a smart student, and not because all parents say they were. I actually stumbled upon some of her high school transcripts one day, and they were spotless. I was pleasantly surprised (not to say that I expected her to be dumb or anything). She could have become a scientist, an engineer, a doctor or something… if her mother hadn’t asked her to go to nursing school instead. She was the second (and most responsible, dare I say) child in a family of nine. Her single mum needed help – read, an extra income – to take care of the little ones. Therefore, she couldn’t afford an education that lasts “forever”, asking for money, instead of making it… so she “had” to get into the workforce as soon as possible. Besides, if she had been “too educated”, she probably would have “scared” potential husbands away: if people say that today, imagine what it must have been like 30 years ago…
Anyway, a few years after nursing school and a job, she met papa, got married… and a few years later – aged 22 – she had me (and a few years later, my brother).

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Stories about an awkward younger me

4th grade, 9 years old, Valentine’s Day.
It was a Thursday or a Friday afternoon. School was almost over and we were in the school library picking books. In came Sonia, the beautiful popular girl in middle school, my age, but she was in another class. She asked the teacher to see me, and she handed me a custom-made Valentine’s card, in front of all my classmates. I was embarrassed, but this isn’t the embarrassing part. The embarrassing part is that I did’t have anything to give in return. I didn’t know she was my girlfriend, although I had had a crush on her since 1st grade, and everybody kinda knew about it.

8th grade, 13 years old, Lycée SOS HG.
I was new at the school and my deskmate Fernand told me the beautiful girl in 7th grade had a crush on me. I was like, Damn! I would certainly date her! Next thing I know, during break time, Fernand kicked everybody out of the classroom and locked me in it, with her. No prior warning. Before shutting the door, he told me: Mubwire ko umukunda! (Tell her you like her). I stood there in the classroom, staring at this girl to whom I had never really talked to before, smiling nervously… and then for some reason I started drawing on the blackboard. I don’t remember what I drew, but I remember I never told her I liked her. I don’t think I said anything at all. Fail.

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Judith and Yolande

They’re friends – the closest friends you’ll ever meet, although I sometimes wonder if their friendship isn’t just a product of convenience. They’re cousins – their mothers are sisters. They grew up together, in the same neighbourhood, went to school together, and today, they’re neighbours. They’ve been there for each other their whole lives. They’ve laughed together, fought together, with each other, won battles together, for each other… it’s almost impossible to have one without the other. They’re the perfect definition of friendship, though they’re so different from each other.

Yolande is beautiful… so beautiful. She’s a beauty queen. Perfect figure, angelic face, beautiful smile, captivating eyes… She’s always so well put together, her makeup on point. She’s the girl your friends say is out of your league. She breathes confidence, lights up a room when she walks into it… But she has a past. A dark past that makes you wonder how someone who went through what she did could be so radiant. Her story is an inspiration to many.
On the downside, she doesn’t talk much. She has a bit of an attitude. She’ll only tell you what you need to hear – she’s private like that. She’ll have you second-guessing everything, even yourself. You’ll have a hard time trusting her. If she’s kind enough to let you into her secret place though, you’ll realise she’s only human… like the rest of us.

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