It was ten days later and the girls relay team had been practising. “I just want to run over to the changing rooms and see Majozi quickly,” Mary said.
“OK,” Candice agreed. “But don’t be long.”
Suddenly, Majozi was sprinting towards her. “Candice! Please go to the changing rooms and stay with Mary. I’ve got to get help.”
“Has there been an accident?” Candice asked. But Majozi was already running off.
“Help me, Candice! What must I do? I don’t know what to do!” Mary was hysterical.
William lay stretched out on the floor, his eyes closed.
“He’s fainted. And he feels so feverish! There’s a towel, Mary. Wet it for me. I’ll wipe his face. He’s burning up!” She found herself strangely calm. “It’s OK,” she said to William, over and over again.
* * * * *
Later that evening, her mom put her head around Candice’s bedroom door.
“There’s somebody to see you,” she said, and left. William was standing in the doorway.
“I thought you’d still be at the hospital!” Candice said, surprised.
“I just fainted,” he said, shyly.
“Well I’m happy to hear you’re all right. Thanks for calling around,” she replied politely, then turned her back on him coldly, and started to close the door. William stopped her.
“Please… please hear me out, Candice.”
She heard the genuine plea in his voice and paused. “OK…come in.”
“Don’t you know?” William looked at her, enquiringly.
Candice was furious. “I know you and Mercy made a fool of me.”
“It’s my fault. Mercy begged me to tell you about my sickness.” William lowered his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Your sickness?” Candice echoed, hurt and puzzled.
Even though the sickness revealed why Mercy had been seeing him in the hospital, she felt terribly betrayed that William had confided in Mercy, and not her.
“No, it’s not like that,” William said, as if reading her thoughts. He told her about Mercy finding him unconscious. And about Mercy telling him that she, Candice, was terrified of sickness.
He hesitated and then said, “I’m HIV-positive.”
Candice could not hold back her shocked tears. With a nurse for a mother, she was very aware that a lot of young people tested HIV-positive. But it was different being faced with it in such a personal way. Candice wiped away her tears. She tried to be strong, so that William could see that it was OK.
But it was not OK. William was HIV-positive. She shivered. She knew she couldn’t catch HIV by kissing, but she knew many girls her age who had slept with boyfriends very soon after meeting them. What if she had had sex with William? She blushed to herself, knowing that the thought had already crossed her mind, she was so crazy about him.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I had no idea, William. And I won’t run away from your sickness. Dealing with my little brother’s fall that night snapped me out of my fear. But it is a difficult situation now…”
William took her hand. “I better phone Mercy and apologise,” she continued.
“Please, just sit with me a while,” William said.
There was a silence.
“I wouldn’t have discussed sleeping with you without telling you about being HIV-positive,” William said gently. “And anyway, we’re just getting to know each other.”
“Yes,” she said, softly.
If there was one thing Candice was sure of now, it was that she wasn’t going to lose her virginity any time soon. She knew now that she still had a great deal of growing up and learning about relationships to do.
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