09 Jan Daniel Speaks.
Somebody asked me the other day, ‘What was Daniel thinking when he first met Leila? Wouldn’t it be awesome to get his perspective on things?” I thought about it and yes, I agree – it would be kind of interesting…so I asked him.
Daniel, what did you think of Leila when you first saw her? What did you notice about her?
And here’s what he had to say…
Did I think she was breathtakingly beautiful the first moment I laid eyes on her? No. Did I fall madly in love with her on that first day we met? No.
So what did I think then when I first saw Leila Folger? What made me notice her? Her anger. She reeked of it. It came off her in waves. From the expression on her face – the thick dark eye brows, the furrowed brow, the determined set of her jaw – to her rigid posture and tightly clenched fists. The way she walked across the campus with her entire body tensed as if she expected someone or something to attack her at any moment and she was ready. Boy, was she ready. She was angry, ready to fight and she wanted everyone to know it. That’s what I first noticed about Leila. I saw her before she saw me you know. It’s true. It was on her very first day at SamCo. We were having rugby training on the center field before school started when Maleko nudged me.
“Hey, new girl.”
I looked. Heck, everybody looked. That’s how tight SamCo is. I mean there’s only 400 students in the school so anybody new doesn’t stay unknown for very long. So yeah, I looked over at this girl in the obviously new bright orange and yellow uniform, walking up the driveway with her schoolbag over one shoulder. She was scowling. That’s the only word I can think of to describe her face. Most new kids look a little wary, sometimes afraid, nervous. But Leila? No, she just looked angry. Angry to be here. Angry at everyone around her. She looked over to the rugby field in our direction and she even looked angry to see us!
Maleko whistled, “Sheesh, what’s her problem?”
I shrugged. Suggested, “I don’t know. Maybe she finds your naked chest offensive? I know I do.”
Maleko swung a casual left hook at me which I ducked easily. The others laughed and we all moved back to scrum formation. The angry new girl was forgotten.
Until the next day. When I walked into Ms Sivani’s English class and there she was. Sitting next to Simone. And staring. At me. This time, it was her eyes that caught me. Deep set, ember dark eyes that were scrutinizing me as if she wanted to burn holes in me with her laser beam vision or something. Great, the angry new girl wants to kill me. And we haven’t even met yet. For one crazy minute, out of nowhere, I had this crazy urge to poke my tongue out at her. To try and tease a smile out of her. I didn’t know why, but I wanted to make this girl laugh. Or at least let go of some of that fury that she seemed to be struggling to hold in check. I wanted to make a face at her and coax an unwilling smile from her, just like how I always do with Mama, my grandmother. Instead, I smiled. Willing her, asking her with everything I had – to smile back.
It didn’t work. She just looked angrier. And looked away. Oh well. It was worth a try.
Ms Sivani was in fine form that day. She liked to challenge us, have us ‘push the envelope’, telling us that we were lazy, complacent students who needed to walk on the wild side of the intellectual stimulation wire. She put the debate topic up on the board and got us all started on a free-for all debate. One of her favorite activities. That’s when I first found out her name.
That’s when ‘Angry New Girl’ became ‘Leila’. That’s when my life started to change. Irrevocably.