Karabo glowered at her school shoes. Isla had been tying her laces for her since she’d come back to school, but this morning she’d gone to early morning hockey practice and left Karabo asleep in bed. Karabo hadn’t really been asleep. She had also woken up to the alarms ringing shrilly through their room, and heard everyone moan, stumble to the bathroom and get dressed. They even complained! As she ground her teeth, she felt the tears trying to push through her thick dark eyelashes. She didn’t move and continued to face the window to the dawn sky, and was still lying on her right-hand side, with her back to her friends. When she finally opened her eyes, she saw that the sky was dark blue with the faintest hint of light penetrating the night sky, turning it into morning. She’d felt Isla’s pitying eyes on her, but there was no way she was going to let her know she was awake. She stared at her left arm, which lay in a cast with pins sticking out of it. The contraption was difficult to sleep with, so she placed her arm on a pillow in front of her chest every night, to ensure the pins didn’t twist in the sheets. It was ugly and hard to manage. She hated the cast and the pins, and not being her whole self.

When all the girls in the dorm room had eventually left, Karabo gasped for breath as her body arched, and the sob within burst out. The tears poured from her eyes and wet her cheeks, and she cried until her pillow was sopping wet and her eyeballs felt like

sandpaper against her eyelids. With no more tears left to cry, she slowly turned onto her back to free her right arm, then used it to lift her broken arm up and over the sheets. Once the broken arm was deposited on the other side of her, the unbroken hand could smear the wet tears from her cheeks. Karabo felt completely exhausted by the sheer effort of getting up, and her self-pity was reaching an all-time high. As the morning bell rang across the school, she convinced herself to try and get dressed on her own. If she didn’t, she would get absolutely no breakfast, which was now the only decent part of an otherwise miserable day ahead.

She was able to get dressed – sort of. Her sports bra-come-tank top would have to suffice as a bra for today. Her shirt managed to untuck itself every time she twisted around to tuck it in on the other side of her waist, but other than that she was clothed. The real problem was her shoes. That was why she was now staring at her socked feet, wondering how she was going to tie her laces with only one hand.

Isla and the others would have showered at the sports changing rooms and gone straight to breakfast. Maybe Isla would come and fetch her, when she noticed Karabo wasn’t in the dining room. Karabo couldn’t help feeling that Isla probably felt like   a slave these days. It had been three weeks and, although the pain had eased a bit, her arm still hurt like mad if she tried to move it too much. As a result, Isla had been doing all the heavy lifting – carrying Karabo’s bag, helping her dress, and helping her eat. They had burst out laughing in relief that Karabo was at least able to wipe her own bum. It was funny but sad too, and Karabo’s temper seemed to be on a short fuse at the best of times. She was annoyed when she lost her patience over small things, which left her feeling guilty, and even worse. She couldn’t even remember the last time she felt happy. Happy seemed to have been taken away from her, along with her ability to use

her arm. Without hockey to save her, she moped around school in the afternoons. The idea of even falling and hurting her arm again made her anxious, and she dared not walk too fast. All the moping and shuffling along had to be done carefully, and it was all rather depressing.

The school assured Karabo that she didn’t have to play any other sport while her injury healed, which made her feel angry at them too. She’d never felt this useless before — being a burden, with no freedom to use her body in the way she liked. Her self-pity quickly turned into anger and then back to remorse. In truth, she was freaking herself out.

Her mother had started calling her every day to find out how she was doing. At first, Karabo loved the attention from her usually busy mother. But after a while, she struggled to think of what to update her mother on. There was only so much going on at school, and even less if you didn’t have any sport to participate in. On her last call to her mother, Karabo found herself describing in fine detail what she’d had for lunch that day. After that, her mom started to call every second day.

***

Question: What do you think of Karabo’s response to her injury? Is she coping?