A sharp pain shot through her body, and she sat up breathing heavily, her vision blurring.

‘Karabz?’ called William’s voice, pulling her mind back into the library. Disorientated, Karabo blinked and swung her head back and forth, trying to clear the smoke from her head.

‘Hey,’ she said, as William stepped out from behind her chair and looked down at her. His dark hair hung across his eyes and he had to tilt his head to see her better. Karabo felt her heart melt into her stomach when he looked at her like that — like   he actually cared about another person. She could see the real William — that gorgeous boy who’d been messed up by a monster of a father. Karabo felt her cheeks warm.

‘I saw you faking and pretending to work, but the drool was a dead give-away,’ jeered William, his eyes lighting up at his joke. Instinctively Karabo wiped her hand across her mouth. The butterflies that had filled her belly turned to stone, as embarrassment quickly replaced any warm fuzzy feelings. William continued unaware, ‘I was going to spook you, but when I touched you, you screamed like I’d stabbed you’.

‘What is this screaming in the library?’ the school librarian hissed, her grey bob flapping around her ears, as she appeared from behind the bookshelf, huffing and puffing towards them.

‘I’m so sorry ma’am, I knocked my arm by mistake, and I couldn’t help myself. Please excuse me,’ apologised Karabo, carefully lifting her broken arm above the table for inspection.

‘Oh, you poor dear. Would you like a glass of water? I once had a broken arm. It was terrible,’ sympathised the librarian, her voice softening. She noticed William standing next to Karabo’s desk and eyed him suspiciously, her lips tightening as she looked him up and down.

‘No. I’m fine, thanks, ma’am. I have water in my bag. I’m nearly done anyway and should probably get some sun and fresh air,’ smiled Karabo nervously. She hastily tried to pack her books away with her one hand, bending the pages of her notebook and clumsily shoving her stationery into the bag.

‘Can I help you?’ asked William as he and the librarian watched Karabo’s packing antics.

‘I’m fine!’ said Karabo in a huff. ‘Really great. Sorted in fact!’ she said as with one final shove she managed to get all of her books back into her bag. The librarian merely blinked at her, mumbled goodbye and went back to her duties.

Karabo pushed past William and left the library. William followed, his long legs striding behind her. ‘Where are you going?’ he called.

‘Outside, like I said, I need some air,’ she responded over her shoulder. She didn’t know why she needed to be outside. But she still felt dizzy from her dream, or vision, or whatever it was called. She knew visiting the sangoma was real. It just wasn’t physically real. She could feel it and she could still smell the herbs in her nostrils. She prodded her cheek with her tongue. The skin was ragged and raw. She had bitten her cheek. It wasn’t anything like a dream. It was everything like another kind of reality. How could she explain it to William, or anyone at school?

She pushed through the glass doors of the cool, darkened school passage into the outside garden, and gulped the fresh air that smelt of sun-warmed grass. Carefully, she sat down and cradled her sore arm. Her breathing eventually returned to normal as the sun warmed her back, and the heat pushed through her school jersey onto her skin. Then it was gone, and William’s shadow lay over her like a cloak.

‘What’s going on?’ he asked. Karabo turned and looked into his face. She could tell he had sensed that she had seen something in her dream. She knew she had to tell him what she’d seen, and that they needed to speak to his mother.

William sat down next to Karabo, his legs stretched out in front of him, as he leant his body back into his straight arms. His hair hung across his one eye, and occasionally he flicked it out of his face. Since graduating and then coming back to Dayeton College to do a post matric, he’d let his hair grow to an annoying length that couldn’t be shoved behind his ear. William probably wouldn’t have bothered with that in any case — it suited him to hide half his face.

‘I had a dream,’ said Karabo, looking down at the grass as she pulled tufts of it out with her good hand.

‘And it had something to do with me… again?’ asked William

Karabo nodded, still picking at the grass, unable to look at William. The last time she shared her vision with William, he used it against her to help his father steal the Matabele treasure from its ancient hiding place — in a cave in Zimbabwe. William had regretted his decision, but he had used her and her abilities as a sangoma-in-training. He’d bent to his father’s will, because his father had threatened to kill them all. Karabo had forgiven William, but a part of her was reluctant to tell him what she’d seen. She went over the vision in her mind again. No treasure, no Matabele, and no pirates. It was probably safe.

‘I was in the sangoma’s hut again—’ began Karabo ‘The crazy one who hates me?’ interrupted William.

Karabo smiled and looked up at William. ‘Yes, that one,’ confirmed Karabo, before carefully describing what had happened in the vision, and what she had seen.

‘I don’t understand,’ said William, ‘Who’s the woman in the smoke, and why is that horrible sangoma blaming my mother’s family?’ asked William. He leant back and dropped onto his elbows, curling up his nose at the incredulity of the dream, and wondering how it could possibly relate to his mother.

‘That sangoma’s got it in for me. Maybe you shouldn’t take it so seriously,’ said William, as if everything she’d told him could be explained away by the sangoma’s dislike of him.

Karabo felt the heat rise up her neck. ‘Screw you William! I know what I saw, and it ALWAYS means something. Always!’ spat Karabo.

William drew back, his eyes widening as Karabo continued. ‘It’s OK for you to use me, and what I am, when you want something, but when it’s not so nice and convenient, you pretend it’s all rubbish and not serious!’ Karabo was sitting straighter, getting louder and angrier with every word. ‘I’ve had enough of being used by people — as a crash test dummy, as a counsellor, and as some sort of psychic for your family. You’re absolutely right William English, I don’t need to do anything with what I know I saw. I’ve told you. You go tell your mummy, or don’t. I don’t care. It’s not my problem!’ shouted Karabo, pushing herself up awkwardly, yanking her bag with her good arm and stomping off to the girls’ residence. At that moment, two juniors walked past, shaking their heads at William. He pulled his tongue out at them in response, swearing under his breath. Girls! Sensitive and perplexing at the best of times!

***

Question: What do you think of this conversation between William and Karabo?