To: Doctor Pulane email@example.com
From: Nosipho Mamusa firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Menstrual irregularities
Dear Dr Pulane,
I am sixteen years old. My cycle has always been a bit irregular, but this month it is really late in starting. I’m not exactly sure when last I had a period, but it feels like it was maybe five weeks ago. Maybe even more than that. Should I be worried?
Concerned Grade Ten learner
To: Nosipho Mamusa email@example.com
From: Doctor Pulane firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Menstrual irregularities
Dear Concerned Grade Ten learner,
An irregular menstrual cycle at your age is fairly common and is normally no need for concern. You don’t mention whether you are sexually active or not. If you are and your period is late in starting, then you should definitely take a home pregnancy test and organise an appointment at your nearest family planning clinic to explore your options.
All the best,
Dr Pulane Twala-Naidoo (MBCHB)
To: Trinity Luhabe email@example.com
From: Dean of Students – Sisulu House firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Permission to join Evening Prep
Yes, of course you are welcome to join our evening prep sessions. A lot of day girls find that their marks improve when they do homework with the boarders. We provide a quiet and disciplined environment which many learners find more conducive to concentration than their home situations.
There is an extra termly fee that is charged for this. It will be debited to your school account. And yes, it does include the 7pm tea-break. You ask whether “the doughnuts and Chelsea buns will still be on the tea-break menu this term, especially the yummy ones with the white sprinkles” and I am happy to confirm that they will.
Looking forward to seeing you at evening prep, and even more to seeing an upswing in your term marks (especially Physical Science).
Dean of Students
I don’t know if all matrons of boarding houses have naturally suspicious natures, but I think they do. It is probably one of the requirements of becoming a matron that you have to lack all faith in human nature.
Take our matron, for example. On the basis of no evidence whatsoever, she has decided that Lael and I are up to something. I know this because she cornered me before prep last night and said, “What are you and Lael Lieberman up to? I know you are up to something.”
Except she said it in Xhosa because she thinks I need to practice speaking the language more. Apparently, my grasp of the idiom is ‘inadequate’ for someone who has a Xhosa-speaking father. So she keeps sneaking up on me and using ancient rural sayings that only about five people in the world understand. Life is very hard.
“We’re not up to anything, Matron,” I say, looking innocent. “What makes you say that?”
“I don’t like the way you two are sneaking around Sisulu House at all hours. If I catch you up on the fourth floor again, I’ll give you both a smack on the bottom.”
“How can you not trust us? It is very hurtful to be suspected all the time.”
Matron snorts. “I’d trust a starving dog with a lamb chop sooner than I’d trust the two of you. I’ve got my eye on you both. Just remember that.”
See what I mean? No faith in human nature.
I report this conversation to Lael during the tea-break. She looks thoughtful.
“We’ll have to be more careful. I thought nobody knew we were hanging out on the fourth floor. Trust Matron to have noticed.”
She thinks for a while, chewing slowly on her doughnut. (It’s called Mindful Eating and it’s our latest diet. You can eat whatever you like as long as you are mentally present for every bite and chew really slowly and stop when you are full.)
“I’ve got it! Ask your driver to pick you up twenty minutes after prep. We can sneak around then. Matron always does a final inventory and sterilising of her instruments at about 8pm. She’ll be too busy to wonder what we’re up to.”
I send a WhatsApp to our driver, Lungile, and he agrees to pick me up a bit later than usual.
The last hour of prep seems to crawl by, but finally Lael and I make our escape. As we scoot up to the fourth floor, taking the stairs two at a time, we pass Matron’s office. The light is on and the door is closed. She’s doing inventory, just as Lael predicted. When we get to the top, there’s no time to waste. We open the cupboard where we stashed the ghost-hunting equipment once it finally arrived.
“The camcorder and the EMF-meter both have long-life batteries,” I whisper. “But the laser scope needs to be plugged into the wall.”
Lael points silently to a plug that is half-hidden behind an old bookcase. I plug the laser scope into it and turn it to face the room.
“We need to cover the whole room.” I check that all the devices are pointing inwards and giving us the best possible coverage.
“I’m more worried about hiding them properly. We don’t want to come back tomorrow and find them all gone.”
“And we don’t want him to spot them either.”
“Exactly. The devices need to spot him, not the other way around.”
I turn to face her. “Do you really think this will work?”
She grins. “Who knows? But we can have fun trying.”
We stand at the door and look into the room, making sure none of the devices can be seen. They don’t have to be completely invisible – just well hidden enough to pass a casual inspection. There is nothing in here except some out-of-date encyclopaedias and a few old desks. The only people who come up here are cleaning staff, and not all that often either.
When we are satisfied with our handiwork, we close the door and prepare to go back downstairs. I stand at the top of the stairs listening for a moment. Then I gesture for Lael to follow me. A couple of floors down, we pause at the Sisulu House display case.
“Remember last term?” Lael smiles at the trophies behind glass.
I tap the cabinet with my fingernail. “Hello, Gumede Shield! Nice to see you.”
“Only a couple more months and it has to go back to Gumede House.”
“I know. But at least we know it will be coming back in January. And now it will always be just as much ours as the boys’.”
In the first term, some of us Grade Tens stole the Gumede Shield from the boys’ boarding house. We were protesting the fact that it had always been considered their trophy, even though it celebrated women heroes as well as men. Somehow, we managed to convince the headmaster and governing body to see it our way, so now it spends half the year in Sisulu House and the other half in Gumede House.
“That’s new,” Lael comments, looking at something in the display case.
“What is?” I glance at what she’s pointing at. “That old book? It’s always been there.”
“No, it’s new,” she insists. “Look. There’s the book that’s always been there. It’s just a collection of old dining-hall menus from the 1930s. This one is different. It looks like a diary or something.”
I try to peer at the writing through the glass, but there is too much reflection.
“Move your gigantic head,” I say. “You’re blocking out the light.”
“Your head is more gigantic than mine. Hang on. Let me switch on my phone torch.” Lael shines it onto the book.
“Wow, that’s not easy to read. I can hardly make it out. I wonder when it’s from?”
“There’s a date in the corner,” says Lael. “Looks like 1960-something.”
We freeze when we hear a noise on the stairs.
“Come on!” I pluck at her sleeve.
“Wait! Hang on! Does that say Jim?”
“What?” I squint at the page, but the light is wobbling all over the place. “No, it says Tim, doesn’t it?”
There’s another noise, and this time I physically grab her by the arm and try to pull her away.
She tugs against me. “Just a second…”
The next second, the corridor is filled with a blinding flash. It’s Lael taking a photograph.
Dear Diary March 1968
I feel so confused. My mind is in a whirl. It is Jim’s birthday today. He is sixteen years old. Apparently, his family is planning a big celebration for him when he gets back to the farm for the Easter holidays. It was his father’s idea, which makes him so happy because he worships his dad. But today it was just the two of us. It is so unfair that his sixteenth birthday fell on a Thursday. We couldn’t even get permission to go to town and see a film or anything. It was just a day like any other. He was miserable about this, the poor darling.
At least we managed to meet in our secret place after evening prep. I gave him my gift – a Zippo lighter engraved with his name. I could see he was pleased, but he just said he would have to hide it because his family doesn’t know that he smokes yet. And of course, the housemaster at Jan Smuts House would skin him alive if he suspected.
Diary, it was awful to see him so downhearted on his birthday. I had to cheer him up. I snuggled into his chest and told him I loved him and drew him a picture in words of what our lives would be like when we were finished with school and could meet openly as often as we liked.
We started kissing. We always do. His kisses are so dreamy. They make me go limp in his arms. Soon he had his hand under my blouse. I felt a bit uncomfortable, but because I let him the last time, I felt I could hardly say no this time. Then his hand was wandering below the waist and that is where I drew the line.
Oh, Diary! You should have seen him! He was so upset and disappointed. I have never seen him so angry and distressed. He said this was the most disappointing birthday of his life and everything had gone wrong the whole day. He said if I really loved him, I would let him G.A.T.W. He said it would transform his birthday from the worst day of his life to the very best. But if I didn’t feel like I could, then maybe we should break up because I obviously didn’t love him the same way that he loved me.
Can you imagine my horror, Diary? I don’t know what was worse – us breaking up or him thinking that I didn’t really love him. I do love him! I do! With all my heart!
So, I said yes. And we did it. I let him G.A.T.W.
How can I describe it to you? It wasn’t exactly what I expected. I knew it would hurt, and it did. But, somehow, I thought it would be more wonderful and romantic, and also that it would last longer. Afterwards, Jim said that his father told him there are some girls who are just cold and aren’t capable of feeling anything during the Act. I suppose I must be one of those girls.
Anyway, it’s a good thing that you can’t get PG on your first time because I don’t think Jim took any precautions.
Now it is the weekend and I won’t see Jim for a whole two days. How will I survive, dear Diary? Every second I am parted from him feels like a month.
Lael looks up from the page two seconds before I do. She has always been the faster reader. It’s the next morning at break-time, and we have finally been able to look at the photo she took together. She promised me she didn’t take a look at it last night without me, and I believe her.
“What on earth does G.A.T.W. stand for?” I ask.
We look at each other for a moment and then say at the same time, “Go all the way.”
“Yes, that must be it.” I say. “And PG must stand for pregnant. How clueless was this girl, though, thinking you can’t get pregnant on your first time? They must have had rubbish Life Orientation teachers in those days.”
“I don’t think LO was even a subject back then. Pity she never had Ms Bhamjee. That would have sorted her out.”
We laugh. Our LO teacher is famous for leaving you with no misconceptions about the facts of life. She lays it all out for you. “No one who goes through my class can say they didn’t know,” she always says.
Among the many things Lael and I know is that you can get pregnant on your first time, and also that you can get pregnant at any time of the month.
“Shame, I wonder what happened to her,” says Lael. “Looks like she was someone who went to school here in the 1960s.”
“I’m still not sure if the boy’s name is Jim or Tim.”
“No, it’s definitely Jim.” She points at the last paragraph. “See that loop there at the top of the J? She writes her T completely differently. Look, there’s a T. It’s not the same at all.”
I see that she’s right, and feel a thrill ripple down my spine. “Do you think it’s him? Jim Grey? Could he be the boyfriend she’s talking about?” I wait for Lael to say no, that’s too far-fetched, but she doesn’t.
“It’s possible. He was the only James in his grade – or in Standard Nine, as they used to call it.”
“And look at that bit about the farm!” I stab at the letter with my finger. “He told me his family were mealie farmers near Brits, remember? It must be him.”
Lael is about to shove her phone back in her pocket, but relaxes when she sees it’s just Nosipho.
“What are you doing?”
“Check it out,” Lael shows her the screen. “We found this diary from the 1960s and—”
Nosipho glances at the screen and slides down onto a nearby bench. Lael and I plant our butts on the bench on either side of her. There’s a greyish tinge to her cheeks that I don’t like the look of.
“Are you sick?” asks Lael.
“No, I’m fine.”
“Dude, you’re not fine.” I touch her forehead with the back of my fingers like my mom always does. Her skin feels cold and clammy. “You look like a ghost.”
“You know what I mean. Are you feeling sick? Like you’re getting a cold or a tummy bug or something?”
“Or something.” She sucks in air on a sob, and tears start to roll down her cheeks.
Lael scrambles up. “Nos! No. Don’t do that. Don’t cry.” She fiddles in her lunchbox and brings out a doughnut. “Here, have this. It’ll make you feel better.”
Nosipho takes one look at the doughnut, glistening with white icing, leans over, and vomits onto the grass. She does it so neatly and quietly that no one notices except us.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Lael whisks the doughnut out of sight. “I thought it would help.”
“I’m taking you to Matron.” I stand up and tug her arm. “You’ve obviously got a tummy bug. Come on.”
But Nosipho just pulls her arm out of my grasp and stays put, tears flowing even faster.
“Don’t you understand?” she sobs. “I’m not sick, I’m pregnant!”
That shuts us both up. There’s a long silence while we stand there gaping at her.
“Pregnant?” Lael says at last. “Are you sure?”
I hold my breath while Nosipho seems to consider the question. Then she shakes her head.
“No, I’m not sure. I just think I might be. I haven’t done a test yet, but my period is two weeks late. Not to mention I’m feeling sick the whole time.”
“Themba? I say. “That time you guys…?”
“Yes. Exactly. We used a condom, but it kind of broke.”
“You need to be sure,” Lael says. “You need to take a test and be a hundred per cent sure. You’re probably worrying over nothing.”
“I know, but where do I get a pregnancy test? I can’t exactly go up to Matron and ask her for one. Our next outing isn’t for another three weeks. I can’t wait that long.”
Lael has a lightbulb moment. “Trinity can buy one for you. Yes! Perfect.”
I give her my best “you have got to be joking” face.
“Right. Absolutely,” I say. “So, I’ll just be like, ‘Oh, Lungi! I need to stock up on pregnancy tests, do you mind pulling over at Clicks?’”
“No, dumbass! Tell him you need pads or tampons or something. He won’t question it. And you’ll come out holding a pharmacy bag. It’s not like he’s going to ask to search it.”
“Okay, but what about this? Our pharmacist has known me since I was born. If I go in and buy a pregnancy test, he’s going to be on the phone to my parents faster than you can say pee stick.”
Lael and Nosipho look at each other. “She could say it’s for someone else…”
“No, that won’t work…”
“Or that it’s for a class project.”
“She’ll just have to go to a different pharmacy,” Nosipho decides. “Somewhere far away from where she lives.”
“Yes, good idea!”
“If you guys have finished talking about me like I’m not even here, let me explain why this is the worst idea ever.”
They turn on me with huge smiles.
“Now, Trinity, don’t be like that.”
“An awesome person like you? You’d never let a friend down!”
“Trust Trinity. That’s what I always say.”
“Me too. Trust Trinity.”
I sigh a deep, deep sigh.
And that’s how I end up wandering around the Suresafe Pharmacy in Centurion two days later, trying my best not to look suspicious.
Centurion isn’t my usual turf, but we had a basketball match against a school there and I asked Lungile to come and fetch me. Just before we got to the highway, I told him I needed to stop at a pharmacy. Lael was right. He was swinging the car around before I finished saying the word “tampon”.
As we turned, I thought I saw a girl from my grade, Sophie Agincourt, following us in an Uber. She was also at the basketball match. But when I turned to look, she had disappeared.
Suresafe is one of those old-fashioned pharmacies where the aisles are really narrow, and the stock is all jumbled together. If you’re picturing Clicks or Dis-Chem, you have the wrong idea. I keep seeing things I haven’t laid eyes on since I last opened the medicine cabinet in my granny’s house in Orlando East. Freshen laxatives. Tiger Balm. XXX-mints, Blue Magic hair conditioner.
But where are the pregnancy tests? Do they keep them in a section all on their own like the sanitary towels, or do they put them at the till? Oh, please tell me you don’t need a prescription.
Okay, I’ve been up and down the aisles twice and I still haven’t found them. Any minute now Lungi is going to come inside to check that I’m okay. As I pass the tills, I see a display of condoms. Normally I look away from those really quickly, although I wish I was brave enough to take a good look. I mean, they’re intriguing, right?
Today, I might actually have to. It has occurred to me that they might keep the pregnancy tests next to the condoms. It makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s like Plan A and Plan B. If the condom doesn’t work, you’ll be buying a pregnancy test, right? Makes perfect sense.
I stand as close to the condoms as I dare and flick my eyes over the display. Ribbed. Nibbed. Lubed. Premium. Sheer. Rough Rider.
If the manufacturers were here, I’d be giving them major side-eye right now. Anyway. No sign of a pregnancy test anywhere. I reach out my hand to move a random box of Panado out of the way.
“May I help you, Madam?”
I leap about a mile into the air and snatch my hand back from the display as though it’s hot. A middle-aged white lady is standing behind me. She obviously works here – there’s a badge that says Suresafe sewn onto the breast pocket of her shirt. Am I imagining it, or is she giving me a very suspicious look? As a black teenager, you get used to security guards following you around in shops and asking to search your bag on the way out. (And by “get used to” I mean, of course, “resent bitterly.”) It doesn’t matter how well-dressed and middle-class-looking you are. In fact, I think the fancier your clothes, the more they suspect you.
Anyway. Not the point.
This lady wants to know if she can help me, and I’m not at all sure what to say. I’m just about ready to admit that I can’t find these things on my own. But the embarrassment factor in asking for a pregnancy test is huge.
I clear my throat a couple of times before my voice starts working.
“Um … hi. Good afternoon. I’d like to look at some pregnancy tests, please. Could you show me where they are?”
There is a flicker of something behind her eyes. Disapproval? Pity? Satisfaction that I’ve lived up to her expectations? Who knows?
“Of course. Please follow me. They’re right this way.”
She takes me to the display and then – thank goodness – leaves me alone with them. And I see immediately why I had such a hard time spotting them. None of them actually say pregnancy test on the box. They’re all like Clear Blue and Answer and First Response and stuff like that. I mean, am I supposed to use my psychic powers to figure out what they are?
I must have walked past this display three times already. I thought they were tests for diabetes or something.
I read the instructions on a few different brands. They’re all pretty similar. Pee on the stick … wait three minutes … read what it says. One line means not pregnant. Two lines mean pregnant. Simple enough.
I grab three boxes of three different brands and take them to the till. The pharmacy is starting to fill up with people. I need to get out of here. I’m just reaching for my credit card to pay when it occurs to me that my dad might have something to say next month when a charge for three pregnancy tests appears on his Visa bill.
Back goes my card into my wallet, and out comes the cash. Thank goodness I have enough. Five minutes later, Lungile and I are back on the road to Joburg.
Aargh! I put my hands over my ears to block out the sound of my little brother Caleb yelling for me. His voice is just starting to break so he sounds like a squeaky toy. A burst of insane laughter rolls through the house, followed by another “TRINITEEEE!”
Why can he not just come and look for me if he wants me? Why? He knows where my room is. Instead he yells from two floors away.
I stomp to my door, fling it open, and yell back, “Get lost, loser!”
More bursts of hysterical laughter. Then my other brother, Aaron, gets in on the act. “TRINITY! Come here! You have to see this.” At fifteen, he is two years older than Caleb and his voice has basically finished breaking, except for this weird frog-like croak he still has.
I stomp back to the door and yell down the stairs again, “I’m not interested in watching Wrestling Bloopers or Epic Goals or whatever lame clip you weirdos are looking at. I’m busy!”
Five seconds later they burst through my door. (No, of course they don’t knock first. Why would they do that? I’ve only asked them about a million times.)
“Trinity, you have to come and see this. It’s totally rad.” It’s the squeaky toy, pulling on my arm and trying to get me to follow him.
“Seriously, dude,” says the frog. “We’re not even joking. You have to see this. It’s about you.”
Why didn’t they say so before? I’m always down to watch video clips of myself. Maybe someone has picked up my Instagram video from the last Colour Fest we went to. I don’t like to boast, but my dancing was on fleek that night.
“Show me on your phone,” I say to Aaron.
“No way. Come down to Mom’s study. This deserves the big screen.”
I settle into my mother’s ergonomic office chair with a grin on my face. Which slowly fades as the first seconds of the YouTube clip come to life.
It’s the pharmacy. Suresafe Pharmacy. Where I was just a few hours ago. Was somebody filming me? Was it Sophie Agincourt? I knew she was following me! Oh, please let her just have caught me checking out the condoms. That’s embarrassing enough, but at least it won’t be a total disaster.
Sure enough, there I am standing in front of the display of condoms, squinting at them and shaking my head like I’m eighty years old or something. My brothers are sniggering their heads off. Thank goodness there’s no sound on this track, and the quality is a bit grainy.
We watch as I almost leap out of my skin when the assistant sneaks up behind me. Then we follow me – oh, please no! – to the display of pregnancy tests, where I seem to take about ten years reading the instructions on the boxes. Then I go off to pay.
“Okay, this could be a lot worse,” I babble. “I mean, you can barely see my face and at least there’s no sound. And the clarity is awf—”
I haven’t even finished when the clip suddenly comes into focus and blaring music blasts out of the speakers.
Coolest chick you’ll ever see…
Oh, I don’t actually believe this. Someone (Sophie!) has written a rap song about me and backed it onto this video. There I am again looking at the condoms, but this time in perfect focus and colour.
Went on down to the phar-ma-cee…
This time the video has audio. “May I see your pregnancy tests, please?” I hear myself asking in my cringey private-school accent. “Puh-puh-puh-please. Pregnancy tests, puh-puh-puh-please.” She has remixed my voice to the music, making me sound like Nicki Minaj or someone. But not in a good way.
Thinks she might be puh-preg-gee…
This is like watching a car crash unfold in real time. I’m sitting there with my mouth hanging open, while my brothers are getting down to the beat.
“Tri-ni-tee!” sings Aaron, popping and locking.
“Puh-preggy!” Caleb joins in.
“What, may I ask, is going on in here?”
It’s Mom. Caleb and Aaron snap to attention, while I hit pause on the clip.
“M-mom!” Caleb bleats. “We thought you were out until six o’clock.”
“It is six o’clock.”
We look at our phones, and sure enough – it’s six.
“What, exactly, were you guys watching?”
“Uh … it’s just this joke thing Caleb and I made on PowerPoint. We were … showing it to Trinity.”
Mom sighs. “Try again, Aaron. I know a YouTube video when I see one.”
“It’s nothing, really!”
Mom turns her attention to Caleb. “Nothing, huh?”
Aaron and I look at each other. We know exactly what comes next. Caleb has not yet developed a shield to Mom’s powers of persuasion. He is putty in her hands. It’s basically Guantanomo Bay without the torture.
“Mom … I ….” Caleb’s face is a mask of agony.
He cracks like an egg. Because, of course he does.
“Somebody made a YouTube video about Trinity buying a pregnancy test and Aaron and I were teasing her about it.” It all comes out in a rush.
“Teasing her? Why would you tease your sister about something like that?”
Trust Mom to jump on that first. Pregnant daughter? No worries. But no one had better be bullying her about it.
“Mom, it’s not real,” says Aaron. “I mean, obviously Trinity’s not pregnant. You’re not pregnant are you, dude?”
“Um … no! But now everyone’s going to think I am, thanks to this stupid video.”
Mom is looking a little grim. Her lips have formed a hard line and her eyes have that crazed look that means it’s a good idea to get out of her way.
“Why don’t I take a look at this video for myself?”
Gah! A family conference. Another one.
At least when I was still boarding, I couldn’t be forced to attend these stupid family conferences all the time. The only upside is that my brothers have been banished from the room, so it’s a family conference of three. Now if only Mom would banish my dad too, I feel like we could get somewhere.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to explain to your dad why you were buying pregnancy tests in the middle of the afternoon, but if you haven’t, trust me – it’s a little awkward. Especially when he’s sitting there looking like someone hit him over the head with a knobkierie. I can practically feel the disappointment coming off him in waves.
“Dad … it’s not what you think!” Even I can hear the desperation in my voice.
“Rrrrrrrr.” He makes a kind of growling sound, and his jaw tightens. I can see why all his board members are terrified of him.
“Abel…” My mom puts a hand on his shoulder and turns to me. “We don’t think anything yet, Trinity. Why don’t you tell us about it from the beginning?”
“I wasn’t buying them for me!” I blurt. “Honestly, I wasn’t.”
“Then who were you buying them for?”
“I … I … I can’t say. I made a promise.”
I gulp. There’s that noise again.
My dad lifts my mom’s hand off his shoulder (first dropping a kiss on her wrist because they’re gross like that). Then he stands up.
“Intombi yam,” he says to me. “We respect your desire to keep your friend’s secret, but if we are to believe you fully, you need to tell us the whole story. You can trust us. We won’t betray any confidences.”
I look over at my mom. Surely, she will understand that I can’t go around blabbing someone else’s secret? But she is nodding in agreement.
“Your father’s right, Trinity. We need you to tell us what’s going on, otherwise we’ll make our own enquiries. And believe me, we’ll find out the truth. But we’d much rather you just tell us the truth from the start.”
I swallow against the tightness in my throat. My dad has ways of finding things out. They’re not leaving me with much choice here. Part of me wants to cry, but the other part knows I need to hold it together for Nosipho’s sake.
“Okay,” I say at last. “It’s Nosipho who was in the dorm with me last term. There’s a chance she might be pregnant. She obviously can’t go around buying pregnancy tests for herself so she asked me to get one for her. I got three to be safe.”
My mother clutches her hands to her chest. “O, my liewe aarde, Trinity! I know her mother. She’s a friend of mine. I need to tell her.”
“Mom, if you say one single word about this to anyone – especially her mother – I swear I’ll never speak to you again for as long as I live!”
She turns to my dad. “Abel…?”
He shakes his head. “You can’t, Sunet. We promised. This child has the right to make her own decisions. We can’t interfere.”
“But what is she going to do, Trinity?”
“We don’t even know if there’s anything to worry about yet, Mom. She hasn’t done the test. This might all be one big false alarm.”
“And if it’s not?”
I swallow again. “If it’s not, she has to decide what she wants to do. Lael and I will support her, but she needs to decide for herself.”
My parents have backed off. They have promised to say nothing to Nosipho’s mom, or anyone else. At first my mom was reluctant, but then my dad pulled out the A-word.
My mom is all about autonomy – especially for girls and women. She believes we should all have the final say over our own bodies and what happens to them. So that took care of that.
But then my dad started freaking out about that stupid YouTube video and how everyone would think his daughter was pregnant. He was all fired up to call his lawyers and get them to take the video down and start suing whoever was responsible for it. Until Mom reminded him that this would only ensure that the story stayed on the front pages for longer.
So, we decided to do what we always do when the media carries stories about our family –starve them of oxygen. We give no comment and no interviews. We issue no statements. We don’t tweet, Insta, Facebook, Snapchat, blog or vlog. And eventually the story dies down because something juicier comes along. It works every time.
Right now, that YouTube video is the last thing on my mind. Today is the day Nosipho is going to take the test. It’s Saturday afternoon and Lael and I are here to support her. Normally Nosipho goes home on weekends, but her mom is overseas on business this week, so she’s boarding. Luckily, Sisulu House is virtually deserted. The rugby first team is playing a pre-season warm-up match at St Giles and practically everyone has gone along to support them. Even Matron is having an afternoon nap. We have the place to ourselves.
“So, you’ve decided then,” Lael says. “You’re going to do all three tests at the same time?”
Nosipho looks determined. “Might as well. That way we’ll know for sure.”
“How are you going to pee on three sticks at the same time? What if you miss, or your pee runs out?” This issue kept me awake last night.
“I thought of that. What I’m going to do is pee into a cup and then dip all three sticks into it. That way I can’t go wrong.”
“I swear if you use my tooth-mug for this,” Lael warns her, “our friendship is officially over.”
“As if! I’ll use mine, of course.”
“And you definitely need to go by now, right?” I ask.
“For sure. I’ve been needing the loo for, like, the last hour.”
Lael and I give each other anxious looks as she disappears into the bathroom. The seconds tick past. I stare out the window at Sandton City in the distance. Normally that’s where I’d be on a Saturday afternoon. Either with friends or alone. It’s the only day of the week I have to devote to fashion.
I’m just losing myself in a fantasy about the perfect fake-fur gilet I’ve been looking for when the bathroom door opens.
“What does it say?”
“What does it say?”
Lael and I rush over to Nosipho.
“Chill, you guys. I’ve only just done the test. I’ve set the timer on my phone. I can look after three minutes.”
“But you were in there for ages!” says Lael.
“Listen, it took me a while to unwrap all the tests. My hands were shaking so much I could hardly manage it. Plus they are all slightly different to each other. Then I couldn’t relax enough to actually pee, so that took a while too. Then I had to dip them all in the pee and put them on a flat, dry surface to wait.”
“Okay, so now we wait.” I start pacing up and down.
Another three years seem to pass before Nosipho’s phone finally buzzes. We look at each other with huge eyes.
“Okay, this is it,” says Lael. “What do you want to do? Do you want to go in and look at them by yourself? Do you want us to come with you?”
Nosipho’s face is pale. As she puts her phone back on the bed, her hand is trembling. “I want one of you to go and look for me and come out and tell me the verdict. I can’t do it. I thought I could, but I can’t. Trinity, you go.”
Now it’s my legs that are shaking as I walk to the bathroom. The three pregnancy tests are lined up side by side next to one of the basins. I take my time looking at them. Then I gather them all up and go back to the dorm, where Nosipho and Lael are waiting for me.
“You’re pregnant,” I say, handing them to her.
I WILL BE POSTING THE FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS OF TRINITY ON TRACK FOR YOU TO READ FOR FREE OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS. IF YOU ENJOY IT, BE SURE TO BUY THE BOOK ONLINE OR AT ANY EXCLUSIVE BOOKS OUTLET OR INDEPEDENT BOOKSTORE.