Busi was deeply into her eighth month of her pregnancy. She often woke up exhausted after restless nights, but at least she didn’t have to go to school. While her classmates were writing their exams, she was spending her days at home – long days when both she and her granny slept most of the time.

Usually she woke at night because the baby pressed on her bladder and made her want to go to the toilet. But one night something else woke her. Busi lay quite still in bed and blinked at the darkness. The south-easter was howling around the shack, rattling the sheets of corrugated iron that made up the walls. Busi sighed. It had just been the wind shaking the house and whipping the sand up against the window panes. She lay for a moment and then turned over, shifting her weight to make herself comfortable.

There it came again. A sound. What was that? And it was coming from inside the shack, not outside.

Busi sat up.

“Gogo?” Busi called softly into the darkness.

The sound was coming from her grandmother’s bed. Busi sprang up, and frantically pushed the curtain aside. She rushed towards her grandmother’s bed, switching on the light as she did so.

Busi’s grandmother lay limply, the top half of her body falling off her bed. Her head was hanging down, and her breath was gurgling in her throat.

“Gogo!” screamed Busi, feeling panic rising up inside her. She tugged at her grandmother, pulling her back up onto her pillows. “Gogo!” she cried again, bending over her, and looking anxiously into her face. Her grandmothers’ eyes were closed and her breath was shallow. “Gogo! No!” shouted Busi in panic. “Don’t leave me!”

Busi rushed around the shack, wildly searching for her cell phone. Suddenly she could not remember where she had put it. At last she found it on the floor by her bed and began to fumble with the keys, her hands shaking. It was hard to see the numbers and she realised that tears were blurring her vision.

With a sigh of relief Busi suddenly remembered, very clearly, what had happened the last time she had visited the clinic. The clinic sister had taken her firmly by the arm and looked into her face and said, “Put this number into your cell phone. It’s the emergency number for an ambulance in your area.”

Busi had nodded vaguely, but the sister had waited while Busi punched the number into her phone.

The clinic sister had patted her arm, and smiled. “For a girl in your situation, it’s important,” she had said. “You never know when you might need it.”

Busi held her breath as she searched her directory for the number, found it and dialled it.

“Come quickly,” she almost shouted into her phone as she heard a voice answer. “Please! Come quickly.”


The paramedic turned from where he stood, tending to her grandmother on her bed. “Your grandmother has had a heart attack. I’m very sorry.”

Busi lifted her damp face from where she had hidden it behind her hands.

A neighbour, awakened by the arrival of the ambulance, stood with her arm around Busi’s shoulder, sipping a cup of tea. She had made for Busi, but Busi hadn’t taken a drop.

“Is she going to be all right?” asked Busi softly, watching the other paramedic wheeling a stretcher in through the rickety front door.

“She is old,” said the paramedic, with a slight shrug of his shoulders, “but she is stable now. She must come with us. The hospital is the best place for her now.”

Busi nodded her head slowly. “Yes,” she said, her voice thick with emotion. She noticed that another neighbour had begun gathering up her grandmother’s possessions. Without a word they were putting together items of clothing – a hairbrush, a jar of cream, her slippers.

Busi watched her grandmother being moved from her bed to the stretcher.

“I will go with her,” said the neighbour softly into Busi’s ear. “It’s best if you stay here for now. There is nothing more that you can do now. Try to get some sleep.”

Busi nodded vaguely. And then they were gone. The night sky was tinged red by the light of the departing ambulance, and the cold wind bit into her flesh through her winter nightgown.

Another neighbour led Busi back inside. “Sleep now, Busi. There is nothing more to be done except to pray.” As she left through the shack door, she looked over her shoulder. “Lock the door well, my girl,” she said. “Now you are on your own.”