I awoke at six in the morning. I lay in bed for a few more minutes watching the light grow slightly more intense outside in the hallway. My father walked passed in a hurry, knocking loudly on my door as he did.
'Adriel, it's time to wake up. School starts at seven thirty sharp,' he shouted as he went downstairs. I pulled the duvet off and trudged down to the kitchen. My dad looked at me in shock.
'What? It takes me like five minutes to get dressed, I'll be there on time.'
'Yes, five minutes to get dressed but half an hour to take a shower,' he said putting his dirty coffee mug in the sink.
'Aha, I come prepared: I showered last night.'
My dad smiled at me.
'Well, at least put some water on your head and tame your hair. Kramer doesn't excuse sloppiness for artistic licence, despite it being an art school. Your shirt is iron and don't forget to wear the tie. I really don't want you to be sent to my office on the first day,' reprimanded my dad with a tinge of humour in his voice. He picked up his briefcase on the kitchen stool and kissed me on the head before walking out of the kitchen down the hallway and out of the front door.
I poured a glass of orange juice and prepared a bowl of cornflakes and went to sit in one of the lounges. We had two lounges. One of them was a large fancy one with cool art on the walls and grand furniture that was used to entertain faculty members or fundraising dinners needed to be held or any sort of special event where my dad had to play host to a lot of important and sometimes very rich people. The other lounge was for watching TV or relaxing and reading books or playing board games or whatever normal people did in their spare time. The house isn't actually ours, but is lent to us because my father is principle. The house belongs to Kramer and we'll live in it for as long as my dad is principal there. We do have another house which is currently being rented out to a few students attending the University of Cape Town. The house we live in now, actually called the 'Kramer Mansion' is situated on the Kramer school campus a little way behind the auditorium and is adjacent to the girls and boys boarding houses. It's a two story British colonial style mansion with large doors and bay windows and old wooden floors. The house has as I've mentioned to large lounges one ridiculously grand ballroom/dining room lined with tall windows almost from the floor to the ceiling on one side and a heavily embellished dark wooden panelling on the other side. When we're not hosting dinners I use this ballroom as a studio where I can look over at the rolling lawn and beautiful garden as I dance to obnoxiously loud classical music. It's an awesome space. Upstairs there are four very large en-suite bedrooms and two adjacent office spaces with a sliding panel separating them. My dad uses the big office while I use the smaller one. It's fun sharing an office with him. I always get to hear the funniest staff room stories when we're busy working in there. Living in this house has many advantages but I think the greatest is that I don't have to share a dorm with 11 other guys.
The walk from the house is pleasant. It is hardly a winding road but merely a brick path flanked by willow trees that lead to the staff parking lot behind the auditorium. There're many students walking in the same direction as they are coming from the boarding house. The path I'm treading is just one of many.
Kramer has four building all of which converge in a gargantuan courtyard 50 metres long and 50 metres wide. To describe the school one would start at the north end where a road just outside of the Cape Town city centre enters a wrought iron gate and culminates in our schools drive way with the usual visitor parking etc. The real excitement starts at the entrance of our school in the admin and formal education building. The large and long five story building houses all of the admin offices, classrooms, a large computer lab and a gymnasium, and like most of our school buildings is coated in ivy and exudes an air of 100 year old history and heritage. Walking out of the admin block and into the courtyard you'll find two smaller buildings, on opposite sides of the courtyard. The east building houses the faculty for the performing arts with all of its lecture theatres, dancing and drama studios, music halls and cloak rooms. The west building houses the faculty of fine arts and film and media studies. I haven't been in there yet. The auditorium represents the south building and is a state of the art theatre and gallery to exhibit the work of the fine arts students.
I and the 299 other teenagers that made up the student body congregated in the courtyard and began milling into the auditorium at the request of the Student Representative Council. The older students stayed together and sat in groups of friends as they were merely returning students, while us 8th graders took the open spaces nearest to the stage. The faculty staff sat on the stage while my dad or Principal Atwood as everyone called him stood at the edge of the stage at a podium. Once the hall was completely silent everyone stood up and the school's anthem was played. Thereafter my father welcomed everyone back and made a few announcements. It was also announced that as soon as the assembly was over, everyone but the 8th graders were allowed to leave for classes. As everyone else left the hall continued to buzz with anticipation. We were going to be divided up into classes.
'Good morning students, I am Ms Geldoff and I am your grade head for the year,' said a middle aged lady with blonde hair and a friendly face, 'this year you will be doing nine subjects: English, Afrikaans, Life Orientation, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Economic Management Sciences, Technology and Arts and Culture. All of these subjects are compulsory for the next two years and you will only be able to choose your own subjects in 10th grade. All learning will take place in the admin building where the classrooms are, as you all should know after yesterday's orientation. I will assign each of you to a register class in which you will stay for the remainder of the year. You will attend all classes as this group so I urge you to get to know each other and make friends fast. You will have 3 periods before recess at 10 o'clock and 4 more periods before lunch at 13:00 hours. Make use of the courtyard during recess as there are benches to sit on and tree to sit under. Nobody may linger in the classrooms, computer labs, gymnasium or auditorium during recess or lunch without special permission from a staff member. You will take your lunch back at the boarding house and be back for your respective afternoon activities at 14:00 hours sharp. Performing arts students meet at the east building and fine arts students at the west building. You will receive further instruction by your arts educators. If nobody has any questions I can split you into your classes and you can be off to your first period which will begin promptly at 8 o' clock.'
Ms Geldoff was handed a piece of paper by one of the teachers and began to read out names, 'your register teachers are Mr Schiff, Ms Raddison and Ms Williams. I will divide you into three groups and you will get up and go to your appointed teacher. Okay let's start. Adriel Atwood, you are with Mr Schiff,' I could tell people recognised my surname and there seemed to be some discussion and whispering going on as I got up and went to stand behind Mr Schiff. I looked around nervously. I glanced at boy that had just been called up and who was standing with Ms Raddison. He smiled and I turned my head and looked down awkwardly at my shiny black shoes. In no time I was part of a group of about 30 students. Mr Shiff told us to meet him in his classroom which was classroom 25 every morning when the bell rang at 07:30 so that we could get all the announcements before class commenced at 08:00. He then handed us our timetables. I looked down at mine. Monday, 1st period: Maths. Wonderful!
It turned out that most of the subjects were much less competitive than I thought they would be. In all honesty though, most of the pupils are only here for the Art and many of them couldn't be bothered with Maths, Geography or even languages. This was good for me as I could continue my reign at top of the class, at least I hoped so, I didn't know what the potential in the other classes was like.
Arts and culture was a lot different though. We were all artists in our own right and everybody obviously wanted to be the best. It was the 3rd period of the day and upon entering the art class I sat down in the front row of desks, as usual. The walls were covered in poetry and odd paintings, some original work while others were posters of the great works in art history. A brown haired girl sat down next to me and put her bag on the table.
'This seat isn't taken is it?' she asked out of breath.
'Uhm, no,' I replied.
'Sorry, hi. I'm Kerry, Kerry de Lange,' she continued, trying to form a conversation.
'I'm Adriel, Adriel Atwood,' I replied, 'Are you okay?' I asked concerned that she might be having an asthma attack.
'Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I just ran to get here on time. I don't know if you noticed but I wasn't here for the first two periods. I moved in to my dorm only this morning. Which dorm are you in?'
'Oh, I'm not in a dorm, I stay with my dad,' I replied. She seemed shocked.
'I thought this school didn't have day students,' she said thoughtfully.
'They don't, but it has something to do with my dad being the principal here. We live in a house on the school grounds.'
'Atwood! Of course, why didn't I put two and two together? I swear, sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm not blonde,' she whispered secretively. I smiled at her joke, she was sweet and funny. I think I could be friends with her.
'So what are you here for at this fine establishment?' she asked.
'I'm here for Dance, ballet in specific,' I answered.
Kerry gasped and threw her arms around me in a tight embrace.
'OMG! Me too! I'm a ballerina too,' she screamed.
'You make us sound like an endangered species,' I said smiling.
Someone in the desk behind me spoke.
'Far from it actually, there are more dancers in the performing arts that drama or music students. I'm Rhys by the way. I'm a dancer too. I'm from Durban,' he interjected.
'Hi,' I said, 'I'm Adriel. I'm from Cape Town,'
'And I'm Kerry, from Johannnesburg,'
'I know, I kinda eavesdropped, sorry,'
I smiled at his honesty. He had short hair and looked very jock-ish. But he seemed kind, which was nice from a jock, unlike at my old school where all of them were meatheads.
'So you're the class genius huh?' he asked me. Kerry looked at me.
'Why would you say that?' I asked interested.
'Your name was called out first and the list was definitely not in alphabetical order. I mean the second guy called up, his surname was like Sutherland or something and anyway, my parents asked Ms Geldoff how classes were going to be allocated and, apparently, by going down the list they could get an equal distributon of academic standard in each class.'
I relaxed a little; some of the pressure was off. I had the best results from last year's final exams.
'OMG! I totally forgot Tyler was here! Tyler Sutherland, he's the guy you're talking about. He's super smart too. We were in the same school back in Joburg and he was top of our class. I guess we're going to have an intellectual showdown hey,' said Kerry nudging my shoulder playfully. I smiled meekly. I hoped Tyler Sutherland was going to pose too much of a problem.
'Is he a dancer too,' asked Rhys.
'Tyler? No, he's a rugby player, he can't dance! He's here for the Fine Arts programme,' she enlightened us, 'I'm so glad I missed the 'sorting hat' drama, I'd hate to know that I was bottom of the class. Where did you fit in more or less?'
'Uhm, halfway-ish I guess,' said Rhys.
'Well, at least we have Adriel here to tutor us hey,' said Kerry nudging me again. She was so bubbly and endearing.
'I might actually take you up on that, Math isn't my strong suit and neither is Science,' said Rhys.
'You guys can come over anytime, my dad won't mind. Not just for tutoring though, if you want. We can do movies and stuff,' I said, keen to have other like minded people in the house beside my dad.
'We'd love to,' gushed Kerry.
'Yeah, that would be awesome!' said Rhys excitedly.
I wasn't sure, but it seemed like they were just as excited to have made a friend as I was. This school wasn't just new to me, but to them too, and they were much further from home than I was. They couldn't go home every weekend. I was glad to offer my friendship and even gladder to accept theirs.
The rest of the day went by quite pleasantly. Kerry, Rhys and I sat next to each other in the rest of the periods. During recess we found a shady spot under a willow tree in the courtyard near the koi pond. We snacked on the sandwiches that they had gotten from the boarding house and a fruit salad that I had brought from home. The courtyard, being cradled by buildings on all sides protected us from any wind that might have been blowing, and the air was still warm since it was summer. After our final period, which was English, I walked home while everybody else marched to their dorms to have lunch and get ready for afternoon classes. When I reached home I immediately went to the kitchen to make a sandwich for lunch and took it up to my room. I ate while taking out my ballet apparel from the closet. I packed an extra black unitard, my black leather ballet shoes, towel and a light sweater. I stripped my grey shorts, white shirt and navy blazer and red tie and hung them over my chair. I pulled down my undies and kicked them into a corner of my room. I looked at myself. Average I thought. I wasn't big, I don't think I'll ever be as big as the other ballet dancers, or as strong as them. I brushed my black hair out of my eyes. I took the dance belt, which is essentially a thong with extra padding in the front and a reinforced supportive waste band so that I could move more easily and also didn't hurt my privates in the process, and slipped it on. I remember getting it for the first time, as one can imagine it was terribly traumatic for a young pre-pubertal boy to wear a thong. I've gotten quite used to it though, even the thong part. It was weird, but simply standing in nothing but the dance belt made me feel somewhat sexy. I couldn't really explain it. I sat on my bed and began putting my legs into a black leotard. This sometimes took a while because it was quite tight. I stood up and pulled the stretchy material over my hips and slipped my arms through the shoulder straps one at a time. I pulled a t-shirt over my head and put on a pair of flimsy gym shorts. I didn't want to wear my ballet shoes outside so I put a pair of sand shoes on instead. Once I was dressed, I grabbed my bag and left for the east building. Now the real work began.
I caught up with Kerry and Rhys outside of the east building. There were many students now walking into the building while many younger kids like me congregated outside. I looked at my cell phone to check the time when someone knocked into my shoulder at such a speed that it was knocked out of my hand. The person was obviously in a rush but managed to look back for a split second. He looked at me over his shoulder as I bent down to pick up my phone. His blonde hair floated across his eyes, almost in slow motion. He turned around in his hurry. He stared for another split second and grinned slyly. He turned on his heel and hurried inside. I think I might have blushed slightly because Kerry was looking at me and smiling. I had seen him before, his face was oddly familiar.
'Who was that?' asked Kerry inquisitively.
'I have no idea,' I replied, my mind racing to find the memory in which he once featured somewhere.
'Are you sure, he smiled at you. I think he knows you. He's hot? Are you gay, because if you are you should definitely go for him?' she continued.
'Kerry, please, he's in the eleventh grade! I'm just a silly kid in his eyes,' I said.
'Maybe he's looking for tender young lamb like you. I mean, you'd definitely fit the bill,'
'What is that supposed to mean?'
'Well, you're much younger than him, you're new at the school and you have the whole adorable innocent boy thing going on. Look, all I'm saying is that he gave you a look, and I know that look very well. He wants you.'
A woman who I knew came out and called the dancers to come inside. We were led into a studio and were made to sit on the floor. As soon as we were all sitting a group of older students entered the studio. Music started from some invisible speaker. It wasn't something I had heard before. The older students began a routine, the choreography of which I hadn't seen before. He was one of the dancers. He moved beautifully, with strength and fluidity. The dance ended and we clapped. He looked at me again. His eyes smouldered as we held eye contact. And no sooner than they'd arrived, they left.
We had two instructors, both of which I had met before. Madame le Plouffe and Mr Jarvis were friends of my mother and had often visited our house. They sat behind me and my dad at her funeral. She began speaking first.
'We don't care what you wear to classes as long as it is appropriate and you feel comfortable while dancing. I'm sure you all know by now what you feel comfortable in. That being said, all dance exams will be done in black attire for the boys and white for the girls. Boys, head to toe in black. Girls, you may wear the pink Pointe shoes or ballet slippers,' she continued to address the rules and regulations of the faculty.
I slipped on my ballet shoes and after warming up we started out at the barre. They were going to assess our competency so that they could individualize the way they taught us and place more emphasis on what each student was struggling with. There twenty of us in the class equally divided into ten girls and to boys. Mr Jarvis called me up to the front of the class with the other boys. He asked us to do certain movements as a group. It started with simple pliees and got harder with more emphasis on technique and detail. Many of the students fell out of the group as they hadn't yet learnt some of the choreography and by the end of the assessment I was pirouetting and leaping all over the place by myself while the others looked on. At the end of the assessment the rest of my class were in shock and actually burst into applause. I was slightly embarrassed but I bowed for them and they clapped even louder.
Once the actual lesson had begun and Mr Jarvis was putting the class through its paces Ms le Plouffe pulled me aside.
'You are too advanced for this class,' she said, 'from tomorrow onward you will be joining the eleventh grade class, you will definitely be on par with them. You are truly exquisite Adriel, your mother would be proud.'
'Thank you, I would hope so,' I said. It was always awkward talking about my mother.
I left the class early since I was apparently too advanced. I guess it had paid off having a ballerina for a mother.
That night, while lying in bed, I thought of two things. The first was Tyler Sutherland. I remember him being a friendly face when they were calling out names but I had turned away so quickly I didn't get a good look at his face. It scared me but also excited me to start competing again on an academic level with people I didn't know.
The other thing that couldn't seem to evaporate from my brain was the dancing guy. The way he smiled caused made my stomach turn and my heart flutter. Did he really want me? Should I embrace the possibility of it? I was going to be in his class starting tomorrow. It should be interesting.