That was how they’d all ended up at the airport, together. Karabo walked over to this unlikely mix of travellers and sat down.

‘See anything interesting?’ asked Isla, making conversation. She was sitting away from the adults on her own, her earphones slung around her neck, picking at her fingernails. Mzi and William had gone to get gum at the sweet shop. Karabo shook her head and slumped down next to Isla.

‘What’s wrong?’ asked Isla

‘I don’t know about this trip Isla. I’m excited about the festival, being on a tropical island and all that good stuff, but the vibes we are getting from the guys are such a drag,’ said Karabo, looking at Isla for affirmation.

Isla nodded. ‘I know. They barely talk to us and they’re all like sad faces. I wish you could hex them or something Karabz. You know, with your sangoma skills!’ she said, waving her fingers at Karabo, chuckling at her idea.

‘Isla! I’m not a witch. I’m a sangoma-in-training, a spiritual healer. I’m not Hermione freaking Granger!’

‘Sorreeey’ said Isla, tucking her chin in and raising her eyebrows.

‘Seriously, maybe I should take you to the sangoma one of these weekends, when I go for my lessons. You could learn something, you know!’ continued Karabo, making her point.

‘No way!’ stated Isla emphatically. ‘Me and the old lady are never going to connect. She is like all speaking in tongues and smells weird from all the herbs, and she sleeps on the floor. There is absolutely no way I’m putting my body through that!’

‘But I do it, and it’s fine,’ said Karabo pointing at herself.

‘But you are you, my Karabz, and we are not the same. I love that you are following your calling, but I’m a mere mortal and I have to sleep on a bed!’ teased Isla.

‘Fine, remain ignorant!’ smiled Karabo, slouching further into her airport chair.

Isla’s throw-away idea kept popping into Karabo’s mind.  Since her visit with William, she’d been seeing the sangoma at weekends for the remainder of term. She’d been learning (in a rather unstructured fashion compared to school) how to harness her abilities and access the energy around her. She was learning to protect herself from dark forces, and open herself to the ebb and flow of information from her ancestors. Even though she hadn’t felt a dark force since her time in the Matabele treasure cave, the sangoma had explained that they were ever present, and she was to be on guard against them.

This meant that every Saturday she would be dropped off above the sangoma’s hut. She’d walk down the footpath and enter the smoky and mysterious world of the ancestors. Time and space would disappear, and she would merge into a different reality until Sunday afternoon when she’d exit the hut — tired and smelling of wood smoke, with her dreadlocks loose and limp around her face.

It would take her the whole of Monday to feel like her normal self again, only to repeat the whole process again the next weekend. Anathi explained to Mr Barnard-Smyth, the school principal, about the training Karabo was undertaking, which he then shared with the staff. Some of the teachers were fascinated and kept her back after class to ask her all about it. Others were indifferent, and quite a few were what could only be described as fearful. Mrs Da Osta, who always liked to pick on Karabo, now acted as though she wasn’t in the classroom, and only tentatively checked her homework. This was an unexpected and highly enjoyable side-effect to being a sangoma’s apprentice.

During the last weekend before the end of the term, Karabo learned how to connect with her ancestors and ask for their intervention or protection in certain situations. With the help of the sangoma, she used her teaching to overcome her growing fear of returning to the hockey field. Till now, she’d been able to skip practice by saying it was ‘doctor’s orders’, but she knew she would have to return to hockey. Yet, even though she desperately wanted to play her beloved sport, the fear of injury had gripped her by her guts and held her hostage.

The sangoma taught her to open her mind, call the ancestors to her and ask for their help. She followed the sangoma’s instructions and made her request to her guides, but felt unconvinced that they’d heard her or taken her request seriously. It was only when she next put her hockey kit on, that she realised she no longer felt a sickening dread spread through her gut. In fact, she walked onto the field braced for the panic that would make her faint, and it hadn’t happened.

She simply joined the team and played. She was rusty, and in need of practice, but after she hit the first ball the fear left her, and she became engrossed in it.

Karabo leaned into Isla, her light perfume snaking up into her nostrils.

‘You smell good.’

‘Thanks,’ said Isla, as she sniffed Karabo in return. She wrinkled her nose in response. ‘You…not so much. Your dreads still smell of braai!’

Karabo giggled silently. She then explained to Isla what the sangoma had taught her, and how she used it to get herself back on the hockey field. Karabo reckoned that she could try and ask for ‘better vibes’ with Mzi and William.

‘Yaaaa, okay. So, you want to ask your ancestors to do WHAT about the guys?’ she whispered to Karabo. Their flight was being called and everyone was getting ready to stand in the queue. Karabo shrugged. ‘To chill, to just have fun with us and not overthink our complicated non-relationships?’ whispered Karabo back to Isla. Isla said nothing. She was looking at Mzi and William, standing and talking to Jez. They towered over her, two long and lanky young men next to one small, beautifully dressed woman. Slowly Isla nodded her head. ‘I think that will do,’ she concurred.


Question: Do you think Karabo is accepting her gift more now?