Danila Botha


When I was a kid, like ten or eleven or something, I won a contest in a pizzeria for a drawing I did of The Simpsons. It was this cheesy Italian restaurant in a mall, that had melting red wax candles at every table, and baskets of bread sticks on red and white checked table clothes. They were trying to pull in families with kids, so every month they had a new contest. I had to draw my favorite TV show. I won a life-sized version of Maggie Simpson, and my family kept telling me how lucky I was.

When I was in grade six I cheated on a surprise test my social studies teacher gave us. I got an A, but the boy sitting next to me, who was skinny with delicate hands and thick glasses took the blame when the teacher asked us why our answers were exactly the same. It was my first time cheating, so I didn’t know you were supposed to paraphrase. I knew I was lucky. When he asked me out I told him my parents wouldn’t let me date yet, and I tried to be extra nice to him in class. You never know when you’ll need someone again.

Last year, when I was sixteen, I bought a couple of scratch and win cards, and one time I won $5,000. I spent it so fast it’s not even funny. The women at the clothing store couldn’t believe how much I was buying. They were falling all over themselves to help me, and it was a great feeling. I felt powerful, like a rich Hollywood star, like I should’ve been on the cover of Teen People, or Teen Vogue, showing off my closets while they took glamorous pictures of me. I felt really lucky.

I was fifteen when I met him. Actually, technically, I was sixteen when we met, but fifteen when we first started talking. We met online. I said on my page that I was single, and I guess he liked the photo of me. My hair was in a ponytail, and I was wearing my brother’s baseball hat backwards. I thought it looked cool, but I was being kind of ironic. I was making a face, sticking my tongue out, and my eyes looked kind of small because I was laughing, even though I was trying to look cool. He told me he liked it right away.

There was another one of me blowing a huge bubble of Grape Bubblicious, and it exploding all over my face. The second time we talked he told me it was his favourite. I looked like I was having a good time, he said, going wild and looking scared and kind of vulnerable at the same time. That’s when I decided I kind of liked him too. He seemed smart, like a good observer. Plus, he was hot, and the guys at my school were really boring. I didn’t want to date any of them. I turned two down, and then the rest stopped asking, which was okay, because I wasn’t interested anyway. Whatever. Internet dating was the thing, everyone knew, and my town had three other high schools anyway.

He told me his real name right away. I mean, everyone called him Spence, or Spenny, but that made him cringe and I could understand why. He wanted me to call him Spencer. He called me a week later, and we talked for, like, four hours, non-stop. It was awesome. We figured out that we both love South Park and The Simpsons, and the same music and everything. He went to the high school really near to where I lived. I wanted to go there too, but my parents said it was a shitty school. The thing is, it was in our neighborhood, which is really safe, so it didn’t make sense. He came over, and we played Game Cube and hung out in the backyard and he pushed me on the swing, which was super romantic and cute.

That night my family had a barbeque, and they invited him to stay. He’d only kissed me once, before anyone else had gotten home, but later he groped me on the staircase when no one else was watching. It was awesome, he put one hand on the railing, and his other like he was going to reach over me, but then he put his hand down my shirt instead.

Spencer was the first person to ever agree with me that my parents were fucking nuts. My parents were Christians. They made me go to church ever single Sunday of my life, wear stupid white dresses, sit with my legs crossed, all that crap. I went to Bible camp, learned all the hymns by heart, always had to say grace before meals, the whole motherfucking nine yards.

I wasn’t allowed to date or fool around with guys, and I promised my parents more than once that I would wait till I was married to fuck someone. It would be all about the wedding night, blah blah blah. Procreation, god’s gift, etc. My older brother wasn’t even allowed to jack off. Apparently, wasting sperm is a sin. What a goddamn stupid idea, if you ask me. It’s all so freaking unnatural. But I also suck at self-control. I’m really glad I’m naturally thin, cause I could never diet. And I could never bring myself to go to the gym. I’m lucky I can get away without it.

For a while my parents liked Spencer. He even came with us to church once, and lied about how the minister’s sermon had moved him, while I tried to sleep through it with my eyes wide open. He was polite, and he knew how to work adults. He was two years older than me, so he had more experience with that. He was eighteen, and almost done high school. He knew how to BS them about what he planned to do with his life, how he planned to become rich and successful and wonderful and charitable, and all that.

I still had to lie to my parents though, telling them I was sleeping at a friend’s, ’cause they couldn’t know I was going to his house at night, or sleeping over. His mom was a single mom and didn’t give a shit. I think she liked me, actually. She seemed like she did. We smoked cigarettes together and she made me my first Irish coffee one morning. She was awesome, now that I think about it.

Everything turned to shit the first time my parents caught me lying. They called my friend Yvette, wanting to know where I was, and she was too scared to lie for me and nearly shat her pants or something and told them. Just like that, she sold me out. Some friend—I’ve known her since, like, kindergarten.

Apparently, she told my parents that Spencer was a bad influence on me, and didn’t they know that he went to Grove Heights, which was full of gangs and juvenile delinquents? It turns out they didn’t.

From then on my parents forbade me to see him, which was fine, I just lied to them. Then they overheard me in the bathroom one night talking to him on my cellphone.

My mom slapped me across the face. My dad left highlighted articles about teenage crime waves and gangs on the desk where I did my homework. They started questioning me before I did anything. I had to tell them before I went anywhere, including to the bathroom during dinner. My life started feeling like a prison. I didn’t feel so lucky anymore.

It was around that time that Spencer first told me he loved me. I used to ditch third and fourth period, and see him until after lunch. Sometimes I ditched the whole day, but I was so good at forging notes that no one ever caught me.

“Why are your parents so stupid?” he asked me one day, after they’d spent two hours yelling at me about my grades on a history final. “When the fuck would you ever need this shit?” he said about the dumb American history I’d failed to memorize. He was so supportive and so nice. “Let’s run away together,” he said, and at first I laughed, but then he told me he was serious. That summer we were going to Canada. We were going to cross the border in British Columbia and live out in the forest, in nature. We had it all planned. It was going to be perfect. I wouldn’t need to finish high school. We’d have each other. We’d make love and be in love.

That night when my parents asked me where I was going, and I told them I was going to Spencer’s, all hell broke loose. You’d think I just told them I joined a cult. They went fucking nuts. My dad threw the book he was reading at me, and it hit me in the head. I got a bump almost instantly. That’s the thing: people thought my dad was this great soft, gentle respectable guy, but he was an asshole. No one had any idea.

When I got to Spencer’s I was so angry and upset. He gave me some beer, and we did a little acid, but that was all. When I told him the story, he got so mad. We drove over to my parents so he could confront them.

He yelled at my dad, and then he shot him in the head. He got him right in the bullseye, in the temple, I think. He dropped right away. My mom stood there, shaking and frozen, and then she screamed. Her eyes rolled back in her head like ping pong balls. It was scary, like she was looking at nothing. Spencer shot her in the chest.

Gunshots sound like fireworks, a little. You get this little surge of adrenaline, like the shot before a race starts. You feel like you can run and run, you want to jump up and down, but just as you do, something stops you from looking like an ass. I just stood there and stared for a long time. I couldn’t believe they were dead.

I guess I was free. I felt some kind of relief, euphoria, and then fear. Hard, cold, fucking fear. Getting caught. What the hell would our story be?

I felt vomit at the back of my throat. I think Spencer caught me right before I fainted. His fingerprints were all over the place. He confessed to the police, while I cried and held onto him, and begged them to take me with him.

Because I was under eighteen, I was protected by the Young Offender’s Act. The general public doesn’t know my name, and I won’t have a criminal record. I still sometimes think that I love Spencer, sometimes I think I love him more than ever. The thing is, he’s in jail now, awaiting trial. He stirred up all these feelings in me, all this confusion, and sometimes I really don’t know what I feel. That’s all I wanted, I guess, to feel special and unique. Apparently that’s normal. Apparently lots of girls do. In a way, I blame my parents. They never understood how really lucky I am.


Danila Botha was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She volunteered with Na-me-res, an organization benefiting the homeless, which inspired many of the stories in Got No Secrets. Her writing has appeared in 24 Hours, Yoink! Magazine, and NOW. She lives in Halifax.