Parks’s call woke her up in the morning. “Don’t you sleep?” she wanted to know.
“Meet me at the bus stop after nine. We need to talk.” He spoke above the impatient noises in the taxi.
When Busi got up, her grandmother was already busy in the kitchen. “I’m going to see Mr Khumalo,” the old lady said. “Maybe it would be better if I saw him on my own first. So you stay here until I return. Do you hear me, Busi?”
“Gogo, please don’t tell him about Parks. Mr Khumalo will be angry with him. He might report him to the police.”
“He should report this Parks. He is a danger to schoolgirls. But for now I will only tell him that you are pregnant. He needs to know why you have been missing so much school.”
Busi didn’t like the idea of her grandmother talking to Mr Khumalo. But she also felt relieved: now that her granny was going out she had the gap she was looking for. Great! She helped her granny clear the kitchen. “Go on, Gogo, I’ll finish up here,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”
Parks wasn’t at the bus stop at nine – it was more like half past. “We’re late!” he said as she climbed into the taxi, its engine still roaring. The gaadjie grinned at her as they swerved in and out of the traffic. He laughed out loud as she fell against Parks when he mounted a pavement, annoying the other frustrated road-users. “We’ve got to be in Mitchells Plain by ten,” Parks said when he saw the look on her face. “We’ve got to move it!”
She thought that he wanted to see her again to talk about the baby. To work out how they would tell her granny that he was the father. But here he was saying they were going to Mitchells Plain – and with the gaadjie in the back. Busi couldn’t hold her tongue any more. She wanted to be sick and her head pounded.
“Slow down, Parks. You’re going too fast. I’m feeling ill. Where are we going?”
“I told you – Mitchells Plain. I’m taking you to a doctor who will take care of you.”
“But I’ve already seen a sister at the clinic … You know that. I don’t understand.”
“Shh! You talk too much,” Parks snapped.
They stopped in a parking lot outside a brick building. Medical Centre, it said on the sign. There were a lot of people going in and out. “Take this,” said Parks, pressing a wad of notes into her hands. “I’ll fetch you later. Just SMS me when you’re done. Then we can go and eat somewhere nice.”
“Done with what? Parks, I don’t understand.”
“Dr Bester is on the third floor. He’s expecting you. Go now, you can’t be late.”
Busi got out and closed the passenger door.
“Aren’t you coming with me?” she asked. “Who is this Dr Bester?” But Parks was already speeding away.
Busi stood in the parking lot outside the Medical Centre and watched Parks drive off in his taxi without a backward glance. She was all alone. She felt like dying, there and then. It seemed the only way she could escape the terrible things that were happening to her.
“Are you lost?” a man asked her.
“I’m looking for Dr Bester,” she said. She didn’t like the way the man was looking at her.
“In there,” he said, pointing to the building. “Come with me – I’ll show you.”
She could have turned and run, but she followed him inside and into the doctor’s waiting room.
No one smiled. Not the receptionist, not one of the other patients sitting sullenly in the posh armchairs lining the wall. They shuffled up to make room for her and then went back to the glossy magazines they were reading. Others just stared at the wall. The receptionist had been expecting her. She ticked Busi’s name on the list and gave her a form to fill in.
“Have you had counselling?”
“For the termination,” the receptionist went on. She looked at Busi like she was stupid and slow.
“I’m going for counselling later,” Busi said. “At the clinic.” But the woman didn’t hear her clearly. She just pointed to where Busi needed to fill in her details on the form.
“Okay,” she said. “Just write that down.” She pointed with her pen.
“What is this?” asked Busi, looking at the form.
“You have to fill it in for the termination,” the receptionist said coolly, as if she was talking about the weather. “Abortion,” she said. “Do you understand why you’re here?”
“Abor–?” Is this what Parks wanted?
Busi sat down amongst the other patients and stared at the form on the clipboard in front of her. “I’ll take care of it,” he said. And now she realised what he meant. He made the decision without her. She wanted to get up and run, but she couldn’t.
Then the door of the doctor’s room opened and his assistant came out and called Busi by her full name. “Are you alone?” she asked, as Busi walked down the corridor towards her.
“My boyfriend dropped me here,” said Busi.
“You’re very young,” the woman said. “It must be a difficult time for you.” Busi nodded. “Please take your clothes off in the bathroom and put this gown on,” she continued, handing her a blue cotton gown. “Then come back to Dr Bester’s room. He’ll be with you in a few minutes.”
Busi did as she was told, then sat on an uncomfortable plastic chair and waited for the doctor. She couldn’t help but notice the hospital bed in the corner, with its paper sheet and stainless-steel instruments in a dish next to it. When Dr Bester came in he didn’t greet her, or ask how she was, or even ask her name. And when he saw that she was still wearing her panties under the gown he reminded her that she needed to take everything off.
When she returned from the bathroom, naked except for the cotton gown, she couldn’t bring herself to look at the strange steel instruments. They seemed so cold and frightening. The doctor turned his back for a moment to wash his hands and put his latex gloves on. Suddenly Busi knew that she had to escape. Without a word she rushed out of the door and back to the bathroom, where she pulled on her clothes. Then she ran – down the corridor and past Dr Bester’s room, through Reception, into the lift and out onto the street. It was only then that she realised she was still clutching the blue cotton gown. She stuffed it into a bin at the hospital entrance.
She dialled Parks’s number, but then switched the phone off before he could answer. She had nothing to say to him. She had nothing but a terrible pain in her heart. But she knew one thing for certain. She would decide whether she had this baby or not – not Parks, not her granny, not her parents or her friends. It was her decision. It was her body.