In the cold morning light Busi shivered in bed. She had already had to run across the yard twice to throw up in the toilet, and it was freezing outside. She felt like she was going to die and still Parks hadn’t called. Chill, he had texted. How could she not panic? And when was he going to see her? She was on her own and she was going to the clinic with her granny. Everyone would know by now, if those church ladies had anything to do with it.
There was still a chance she wasn’t pregnant, she told herself. It could be stomach trouble or stress. She had been under enough of that lately. But underneath that voice was the voice that said, of course you’re pregnant, you stupid, stupid girl. It was so unfair! It wasn’t that she hadn’t wanted to use a condom every time. She had always had one in her bag. But Parks had convinced her it would be okay. She had nothing to worry about. And now, a baby!
Busi felt guilty and angry. She knew how bad her grandmother would feel. Her mom had trusted Busi to her care. But it wasn’t her granny’s fault Busi had lied to her. She wanted to curl up and disappear. What would they do when they found out she was pregnant? “It’s nearly time to go,” her granny said, handing her a cup of sweet black tea. “Drink this. If you are pregnant, Busi, your mother will have to look after the baby.”
They walked to the clinic in silence. What was there to say until they knew for sure? In the clinic her granny greeted one of the women in the queue who was there with her daughter. Soon they would all know about Busi. Only fifteen and pregnant – and with a taxi driver!
They had to wait for a long time in the queue. But when the clinic sister finally saw them, she was friendly. Busi was relieved – they weren’t always so sympathetic. She told Busi that there was only one thing to do right now and that was to take a pregnancy test. She sent her into the toilet with a small cup for her urine. Then she dipped the test stick in and they all waited. Those were the longest minutes of Busi’s life. There was one line and then, faintly at first, but getting stronger, a second line appeared in the window of the pregnancy stick. There it was. Two lines: pregnant.
“Have you been tested for HIV?” the sister asked her.
“No,” Busi said, shaking her head. This was a nightmare.
“You will need to go to the counsellor for that. She will tell you what you need to know. Then she will do a test. You will have the result in ten minutes. It’s quick,” said the sister. “It’s not like it used to be, when you had to wait. That was terrible – the waiting.”
“What if I am positive?” Busi asked, her voice trembling. “What then?”
“Then we will take things one day at a time,” the sister said. “Many young women like you are HIV-positive and they give birth to babies who are just fine. If you are positive we will put you onto the right medicine to protect your baby.” She was calm as she said this and it made Busi feel better. Like it might be all right. Like this nightmare might end.
“Do you know if your partner is HIV-positive?”
“No, he isn’t,” said Busi quickly.
“It is better that we test anyway.”
“Yes,” her granny said quickly. “People will tell you all kinds of things.”
“Does he know that you’re pregnant?” The sister looked at her.
“Not yet,” Busi lied.
“When did you have unprotected sex?”
Busi thought back to the first time. It was six weeks ago. Six whole weeks since she had gone to the Formula One with Parks. But surely she couldn’t have fallen pregnant so quickly?
“I want you to come back after the HIV test,” the sister said. “I want to talk to you about the options you have.”
“Options?” asked Busi. What options were there? She was pregnant. To get rid of the baby would be unthinkable for her granny, for her family. They would say that she was killing the baby. That it would bring shame on all of them. And now the sister was talking about options?
“I know what people say about terminating your pregnancy, Busi. I know what you will have heard. People say such things all the time,” said the sister gently. “But it is your choice. You are the one who is going to have to take care of a baby.”
Busi thought of Prudence. She was in Matric at Harmony High. When she had fallen pregnant and had a termination her mother had said she would go to hell. But Prudence was strong. She had decided and she had gone to the hospital on her own. Busi had admired her. And now Prudence was doing fine. She had a boyfriend who loved her and one day she would have children.
“Think about it carefully,” the sister said. But Busi’s granny was shaking her head.
“There is nothing to think about. She will have the baby. And her mother will take care of it. And she will go back to school.”
The sister kept looking at Busi. “Come back tomorrow,” she said. Then, taking her arm, she added, “After twelve weeks it is very difficult to get a termination, Busi. After that you can’t change your mind. Do you understand?”
At home she dissolved into floods of tears. Pregnant, and before her sixteenth birthday! Her life had ended. She lay on the bed unable to move. If Parks didn’t marry her now, nobody would. Who would want a sixteen-year-old girl with a baby? But if Parks wanted her and the baby? That was the answer. That was the only way.
She started to imagine them in a house together and Parks laughing and bouncing the baby on his knee. But what if Parks didn’t want it? What then? She would be trapped. She was too young to have a child. What about her dreams, her education, her bright future? Six weeks, the sister had said. Six weeks to decide whether she wanted this baby. After that it would be too late.
That afternoon her friends came to see her. The news had spread fast. Unathi came too. “Have you come to gloat?” Busi hissed as they came into the house.
“I’ve just come to tell you,” Unathi said gently with a slight, sad smile, “I’m here for you if you need me.”
“So sweet, Unathi,” said Zinzi, who had come with the older girls.
“Where is Parks now? Have you told him?” Lettie asked.
“He’s coming later,” Busi said, hoping this was true. “He’s been very supportive.”
“I don’t see him here,” said Lettie. “Did he come to the clinic with you?”
Busi shook her head.
“What will you do now?” Asanda wanted to know. “Will you have the baby?”
“I don’t know,” Busi answered. “I don’t know yet.”
“What does being pregnant feel like?” Zinzi wanted to know.
Busi told them about her visit to the clinic.
“I had to wee in a little glass jar and give it to them. I was so nervous, I spilled the wee on the sister’s desk.”
“Sies man!” Lettie laughed.
“And I had to have blood taken. Look at my bruised arm.” She showed them the bluish mark where the sister had taken blood.
“Well, that’s good,” said Lettie hopefully.
“But I have to go back in three months, to make sure.”
“I hope it’s a girl,” Zinzi said dreamily.
“Yes, I love baby girls,” added Lettie.
“Shh! Busi doesn’t even know if she’s going to go through with the pregnancy,” said Asanda. “Remember Prudence. And she’s fine now. She’s doing well.”
“Unathi can be the daddy,” piped up Zinzi. She didn’t understand what they were talking about. “I can see him pushing a pram! Better still, Unathi changing nappies. Yuck!” She laughed.
As they talked, Busi found she was holding her belly. There was a baby in there, growing. Ten fingers and ten toes. She was suddenly filled with such strong, tender emotions, it frightened her. It would be a very difficult decision.