It was Wednesday morning. William lay on his hospital bed, waiting to see the doctor. He was HIV-positive. He had found out back in Port Elizabeth, because he hadn’t been feeling very well. The doctor had taken some blood and done tests.

At first, he had refused to accept the truth. But he got more and more depressed, and he felt less and less well. And he was afraid. He had hoped he could fight off the disease. He knew that he had to look after himself, with a good diet and plenty of rest. William also knew he had to get any illnesses treated immediately.

And, for a while, that seemed to have worked.

But now he had to face the truth. He was sick once again.

Life is cruel, he thought. I wish I hadn’t slept with my girlfriend just those few times without using a condom. William groaned at the memory. He had often considered ending it all – the burden was sometimes too heavy.

This morning, the sister had spoken to him kindly. “You know that having HIV doesn’t mean that you will die tomorrow. We are here to take care of you. The doctor thinks it is time you started taking pills called ‘anti-retrovirals.’ We give them to people who are showing signs that they are changing from being HIV-positive to getting AIDS. That’s what has been happening to you, William.”

The nurse stopped speaking for a moment and then went on, “The pills won’t get rid of the HIV, but if you take them properly, the way the doctor tells you, you should soon be feeling fit again, and you can live a normal life. But you will always be carrying the disease, and, however well you feel, you can still pass it on. I wish we could tell you that we could cure it completely – but I’m afraid we can’t.”

And the social worker, who had been to see him the night before had said, “William, you must never lose hope. What has happened can’t be undone. The problem is that now you will have to be very careful around sex, of course.”

William nodded. A picture of Candice came into his mind and tears began to run down his face.

* * * * *

Candice had not heard a word from William. He hadn’t been at school for two days now. When she asked Majozi where he was he just mumbled something and said William would phone her.

“Where is he? Why doesn’t he call?” she asked Mercy, for the umpteenth time.

“Why are you asking me?” Mercy walked away. Candice felt like slapping her. As Mercy strode off, a loose piece of paper fell out of one of her books. Candice picked it up. It was a note – from William!

Dear Mercy

I really liked having you around over the last two days. In fact I dread to think what I might have done without you. Candice is very lucky to have you as her friend. You are very special. I have thought long and hard about what you said and I’ve come to the conclusion that Candice needs to be told everything. I’m taking her out on Saturday afternoon and I’ll explain everything to her. I trust she’ll understand.

Your friend


Candice couldn’t quite believe what she was reading. The words stared up at her. They mocked her. Candice started crying and it seemed as if she would never stop.


What do you think Candice thinks is happening? Why do you think William wrote to Mercy?