“Good morning, Mama,” said Candice as she walked into the kitchen the next morning.

“Morning, sweetheart,” Mrs Maluleke smiled at her daughter. “What are up going to do today?”

“I’m going to Mercy’s house. We’re working on a project.” Candice yawned and helped herself to a glass of orange juice and some porridge. She was still sleepy. The end-of-year-exams were looming and she had stayed up late, revising. Candice carried the food to the table, where her mom was sitting. Mrs Maluleke was drinking strong, black coffee. “How can you drink that stuff?” Candice pulled a face.

“It jump starts my day,” laughed her mom.

“There must be other ways,” said Candice. “Where are Dad and Kabo?”

“Your father has taken Kabo to his soccer match.” Candice sipped her juice. “Sweetheart, I know this time of year is pretty hectic for you, but I would like you to do something for me.”

“Sure Mom.”

“We’re having an AIDS Awareness day at the hospital next month. I’d like you to help me.”

“Mom, I can’t… You know why!”

Candice shuddered and closed her eyes. She was ten years old again, and at the hospital reception, waiting for her mom to finish work. Suddenly the young man next to her crashed to the floor. He rolled about, knocking his head into chairs and against the wall. Then, as quickly as the epileptic fit had started, it stopped. He stopped moving. Blood gushed out of his mouth where he had bitten on his tongue. Candice had sat, rooted to her chair, looking on horrified and helpless. Then her mom and another nurse rushed in. The whole episode had only taken a few minutes but, to Candice, it had seemed like hours.

Since then, she had been terrified of hospitals and sick people. Candice shook herself to get rid of the memory. Her mom put out a hand to comfort her.

“I understand it’s difficult, sweetheart. But you can’t keep running away from your fears.”

“I know,” said Candice softly. “But I’ll deal with this in my own time, Mom. Please don’t push me yet.” Candice couldn’t believe that anything would help her overcome her fear of the hospital and sick people, but she didn’t want to upset her mom.

“I’ll try, Mom. I really do want to help you.”

* * * * *

Later, after Candice and Mercy had stopped studying, they sat outside under the mango tree in Mercy’s garden. “Look, Candice. There’s William!” exclaimed Mercy

And there he was – alone – striding along the road with a book under his arm.

“I wonder what he likes to read?” Candice said.

“Ask him later,” Mercy teased.
“Maybe I will,” Candice grinned. She was getting used to the idea of a date.

Mr Maluleke was watering the flowerbeds when Candice arrived home. Kabo was running in and out of the spray. “Hello Dad! Hello Kabo!” she called out. Kabo hurled himself into her arms.

“Did you buy me a sweet?” he demanded.

“Don’t I always?” Candice laughed as she gave Kabo his sweet.

“Hello Pumpkin,” Dad said, turning off the spray. He kissed his daughter. “Mom said you were going out to watch athletics and a then a party. I’ll drop you off.”

“Thanks Dad. I’ll go get ready.”


What do you think? Is Candice’s fear of sick people reasonable? Have you ever had a shocking experience that made you fearful of something?