Despite being understanding about Karabo needing to flit off to the sangoma with pain-in-the-ass-William, Isla still felt dejected.

Once Karabo had left, she opted instead to mope around the school — intent on making someone else (perhaps a junior) miserable too.

Unfortunately for Isla, there was a water polo tour that weekend; a large number of the school’s pupils were attending the matches. Isla couldn’t think of anything worse than having to tread water and trying to catch a ball — that was more likely to smack you in the face at some point. As she blinked the thought away, she continued to drag her feet outdoors and along the paths of the school grounds. Making her way back to her dorm, she spotted Mzi before he saw her. She was less than a metre from him before he realised it was her.

‘Isla!’ he said, visibly surprised as she continued to walk towards him. Her body straightened up and she stared at him, her eyes small and angry. The two jocks he was speaking to quickly shuffled away and out of range. Isla walked right up to Mzi, her toes touching his and looked up at him.

‘Enough!’ she stated, poking Mzi in the chest with her index finger. ‘I have had enough! You are going to tell me what went wrong with us right NOW!’ she demanded. Mzi blinked down at her, his face shock stricken.

‘Um…ummm,’ he responded.

Isla took a step back, hands on her hips with head cocked to one side. ‘I want you to tell me what went wrong with us so we can close this up, because clearly you want nothing to do with me…’ said Isla. ‘And that’s fine, but I need to know why?’ she asked, in a voice that started to crack slightly.

Mzi’s surprise turned to resignation and his shoulders slumped forward. With a dramatic huff, he stared at the ground.

‘Can we go for a walk?’ he asked the floor.

‘Yes!’ replied Isla, swallowing down the feeling of bursting into tears.

Slowly they began to walk towards the outer perimeter of the school grounds. The topiaried trees lined the walkways, and the gravel crunched under their feet. Initially they walked in silence as Isla gave him space to open up. But he was taking too long!

‘So?’ she asked Mzi.

‘Sooo, it’s really hard to explain,’ he responded, still looking at the ground. Isla frowned at his response and stopped walking. ‘Why?’ she asked, folding her arms and facing him.

‘Because!’ said Mzi, his voice raised. ‘Because you are beautiful, and confident and anything a guy would want. And you want me and I’m a mess,’ said Mzi, standing straight and looking back at her. Isla frowned at Mzi in confusion.

‘Come on Isla. Can’t you see? I’m… I’m so mad at my mom for being Edward English’s accomplice. I’m devastated that we found our family treasure and then lost it immediately. I couldn’t even protect my father, myself or you!’ shouted Mzi.

Isla froze as she realised what he was saying. Mzi had wanted to protect her and his family, when they had been Edward’s hostages in the cave. That sort of made sense, in a delusional boyish way. Was this why he’d been so weird and distant with her all this time? Mzi — proud and brilliant Mzi — had been unable to stop Edward English’s pirates from stealing his family’s treasure. As Isla recalled, Mzi had been knocked out for most of the tragedy and was in no shape to take on English’s henchmen. He’d also lost his mother — albeit a somewhat frigid and unloving one – who had disappeared after selling the cave’s location to Edward English. No one had heard from Penelope since.

‘So, you don’t want to go out with me because you think what?’ asked Isla, still staring at him, and refusing to believe that his hero and mom issues had anything to do with her.

‘Tell me Mzi!’ demanded Isla, frustrated with Mzi and his inability to verbalise his emotions.

Mzi hung his head and shuffled his feet. Eventually he looked up at her, ‘I’m scared Isla. You happy now? It turns out that the ex-head boy of Dayeton College is afraid! I can’t protect you, my family or even myself. I’m scared you’ll leave me Isla, like my mother who just turned on my father and left us,’ explained Mzi.

Isla’s frown deepened, her chest ached, and her heart felt heavy. As she shook her head slowly, the tears trickled down her face. She stared at Mzi, pulling a cross face and trying hard to stop the tears as she wiped at her cheeks.

‘I’m not like your mother,’ Isla said, her voice soft.

He watched her carefully. ‘I…I know that. But I need to figure stuff out before I’m in a relationship. Especially one with you. I’m sorry Isla,’ he said.

Isla took hold of Mzi’s hands and looked up at him. ‘But I love you Mzi,’ she said simply. Although part of her felt exposed and ridiculous, she knew it was true. She did still love Mzi, no matter how many good-looking private school boys she kissed.

***

Question: Does Mzi’s decision not to date Isla seem like a good idea to you?