My final year of high school began three weeks after my near suicide. Although my parents were rightfully hesitant to sent me back to the hostel where they couldn't keep an eye on me I persuaded them to let me return with unusually good behaviour and cooperation. I kept my room door open at all times, spent most of the day with either of my parents or brother and I even helped in the kitchen, making most of the days meals.

In other words I was 'back' to being me. What my parents didn't see though was the wet pillow and red eyes and sore throat that I woke up with. What they did see was the happy mask behind which I masqueraded.

The school year started mid-January, dead centre of scorching summer, and because I didn't want to raise suspicion about the scars on my arms I wore a long-sleeved school cardigan, which in a different yet less damaging way too raised suspicions. I was determined not to let what happened interfere with my school activities especially now that I was head boy. The school needed a leader and although my heart was being lead to destruction I lead the school with great finesse.

It was late March and although autumn had begun it was still pretty warm. On one specifically hot day the last period was Physical Education and seeing that the task at hand was doing laps of the rugby field, I made to take off my cardigan. I shrugged it off my shoulders and just as my arms were half way out of the sleeves I heard somebody shout my name.

'Alex!' I heard Dane say very loudly.

'Yeah?'

'Um, you know Mr Petersen's dog almost scratched my arm yesterday?' he said eyeing the half exposed cuts on my own arms.

'No, I didn't...know,' I said awkwardly quickly pulling the cardigan back over my arms and over my shoulders, 'Thanks for telling me that piece of awfully useful info,' I said smiling shamefully at one of my best friend.

'No problem, I thought you ought to know,' he replied, a painfully concerned expression adorning his face.

I ended up sitting on the sidelines that day, my excuse being nausea brought on by the heat.

The news of my scars seemed to spread through my group of close friends. First Dane and Clare confronted me about it. Thereafter Terri, Nicola and Jason heard me out, and expounded their understanding and security generously. For the rest of the year my friends became my sanctuary, my safe haven, their rooms my panic room. They spontaneously assumed different roles. Clare the therapist, in whose arms I cried and with whom I shared every emotion. Dane the bodyguard, who always 'changed the subject' when discussions with other students got too close for comfort and who continuously checked in on me to make sure I didn't hurt myself more. Terri, a fellow academic, helped to keep me motivated about my work and obligations. And Jason and Nicola, both wickedly funny and fun, helped me maintain my social life even if it only revolved around these close friends.

Work seemed to become my refuge and I kept most of the emotional trouble at bay by indulging in my studies. I spent most of my free time in the Home Economics class not just for extra classes but helping the teacher around and learning the intricacies of being a chef, something that I wanted to pursue after school.

Another pastime I focused on was my field hockey. By the time the winter sport season had begun most people had already seen my scars and wearing long-sleeved tops on the hockey field never became an issue. If anything, the scars scared the opposing players into losing. That winter we won all of our matches and I scored at least twice in each of them. Although I was offered a place in the regional and national junior squad I declined, not wanting to have too much on my plate. It seemed to help since the school was super happy with my head boy doings and I aced the mid-year exams with a 92% average. Work was my world...little did I know that soon I would be a working man

Two weeks before the final November exams Dane, Jason and I were having coffee at a high end men's clothing store (where they serve one coffee or tea mochajavachocamocha latté's). We were shopping for suits for our matric farewell (prom) when a woman interrupted me as I modelled a charcoal suited I liked very much.

'Hi, my name is Katie Crawford, and you're the most beautiful guy I've ever laid my eyes on, no offence though,' she said in her warm English accent turning to Dane and Jason.

'None taken,' they both replied.

'Excuse me, but who are you?' I asked confusedly.

'Katie Crawford, recruiter for Wilhelmina Models, you may not have heard of...'

'No, I've heard of the agency,' I said.

'Well, I was in Cape Town for a photo shoot with one of the models with the agency and I was doing a bit of shopping when I saw you walking out of that dressing room. You caught my attention immediately. I mean, I haven't seen a face like yours in many, many years. You are the essence of what a male model should be,' she said all in one breath.

'I'm not built like a male model,' I replied

'Well maybe you're not as muscled but you're tall, 1,82, I'm guessing and you look great in your clothes, I would love to represent you,' she ended off.

'But I've never modelled, let alone think about it as a career,' I retorted.

'Well now that I've opened your eyes to it, and here's my card,' she handed me a card, 'I dearly hope you will consider it and come over to London to pursue it,' she added.

'London!' I said, half-shocked, half exhilarated.

TO BE CONTINUED...

 

Dane du Toit

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