Reluctantly Isla climbed back into William’s car. The smell of coffee filled the interior as they drove fast along the highway. Isla cupped the coffee in her hands, the steam spiralling up and out of the tiny hole in the cup lid, in front of her nose. Unable to keep her thoughts to herself any longer, Isla didn’t hesitate before speaking,

‘Why are you so mean to me Will?’

‘What?’ responded William, his face contorted in confusion.

‘Why are you so rude to me, almost all the time? Why are you only nice to me in front of Karabo? I know I wasn’t very nice to you last year, but I’m trying, now that I know you’re not a complete psycho!’ snapped Isla.

William was silently sipping his coffee while driving with one hand. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down his neck as he swallowed. Isla glared at him, waiting for a response. She wanted to shout at him and maybe even slap his arrogant face, but she held her breath and ground her teeth instead. He took another sip and then hit the brakes, pulling the car over to the side of the road without any warning. It skidded to a halt on the gravel. Isla’s heart sank. Was this it, was he going to turn out to be like his pirate father after all? Was he going to hurt her, or throw her out of the car and leave her here in the middle of nowhere? She froze. Her hands burned as she held the coffee cup tightly. As

the car’s engine continued to purr, William turned in his seat to face Isla.

‘I’m not mean to you Isla. I just ignore you. Especially because I know you don’t like me and as you say, you think I’m a psycho. I feel like we probably won’t ever agree on much. So, what’s the point. Right?’ he asked, continuing without waiting for an answer. ‘Look, I don’t really get why Karabz adores you. But she does. And whether you like it or not, she is also MY friend, so I tolerate you. YOU need to learn to tolerate me,’ said William. His green eyes shone back at her, making Isla feel like she was shrinking by the minute beneath his penetrating glare.

Isla swallowed and sat up in defiance. As she took another sip of her coffee, her tongue burned in response. Slowly she looked at him again to see him watching her, expressionless except for his eyes.

‘Fine. We will tolerate each other William English. But don’t think you can come between Karabo and me,’ said Isla, puffing herself up even more.

‘I have no intention of playing silly girl games Isla,’ said William, thinning his eyes and pursing his lips.

‘Fine!’ spat Isla in response.

‘Are we done here?’ William asked, turning his attention back to the steering wheel, and checking the road for oncoming cars.

‘No.’

‘Seriously?’ said William looking back at Isla. ‘What now?’ he asked, exasperated.

‘I… I… just don’t know what to do.’ whispered Isla. ‘About what?’ asked William, his forehead creased.

‘Mzi. He’s supposed to be my boyfriend, but I never see him. Barely. He isn’t in matric anymore. Seriously, we all know post matric is easier than matric, and he has more free time. So why is he ignoring me?’ asked Isla. William mumbled under his breath and rubbed his forehead with his hand.

‘You need to speak to him Isla. Please don’t drag me into it. It’s none of my business, OK?’ insisted William. Isla knew he wasn’t going to share anything that he did or didn’t know with her.

Isla nodded. ‘You even spend more time with Karabo than he does with me, and you and Karabz aren’t even going out!’ blurted Isla, like a six-year-old not getting her way.

‘Karabz and I are friends, and we both like basketball. That’s it, Isla. Stop fishing for something that isn’t there,’ said William, his one eyebrow raised in warning. ‘Now can we go back to school?’ he asked.

Isla nodded and a feeling of shame overcame her. She had shown William she was vulnerable, especially when it came to Mzi. Not that she really thought William cared about her at all. He had said it. He tolerated her for Karabo’s sake. And even though he’d been kind over the past twenty-four hours, she felt her dislike for him grow a little more, eating away at any warmth she’d felt.

***

Question: Why doesn’t William want to help Isla