“That’s the most fun I’ve had in a class so far this year,” Cebisa remarks, as she, Portia and Khanyiswa head to their favourite spot during breaktime. It’s against the back wall, where they can stretch out in the sun.

“Me too,” chirps Portia. “I wish all our subjects could be like that – especially physics.”

Khanyiswa’s mind has travelled back to the incident with Mr Hill earlier, and she’s stopped walking. Her friends are way ahead of her.

Cebisa spins around when Khanyiswa doesn’t join in the conversation and yells, “Wena, Khanyiswa, ennou? Why are you moving like a skorokoro?”

Khanyiswa doesn’t respond – her mind is replaying the scene in the library over and over.

Cebisa stomps back to her and taps her on the shoulder, “Chommie? Are you okay?”

“Huh? Of course I am. Shouldn’t I be?” Khanyiswa responds, shaking her head.

“Ixoki! You are not telling the truth, Khanyi,” Cebisa says, scanning Khanyiswa’s face. “You can’t look me in the eyes when you’re lying, so tell me!”

Khanyiswa’s looking down, studying her shoes, unsure whether to tell her friends about what happened with Mr Hill.

“Inyanikaloku!” Cebisa demands.

“The walls have ears around here. Let’s go somewhere private please,” Khanyiswa murmurs.

“Portia!” Cebisa shouts. “Yiza!”

Portia jogs to where Khanyiswa and Cebisa stand.

“What’s wrong?” she asks, looking from Cebisa to Khanyiswa.

“Khanyiswa needs to talk to us in private. Since nobody goes near the sewerage system, let’s go there,” Cebisa suggests.

They walk in silence until they reach the furthest corner of the school property, then Khanyiswa speaks.

“I think Mr Hill tried to touch me earlier,” she whispers.

“Yintoni?!” screams Cebisa.

Portia manages to control her shock, and says calmly, “I’ve been trying to tell you he’s creeping me out with his ‘let’s get physical’ line.”

“What happened, Khanyi? Did he hurt you?” Cebisa asks, placing a comforting arm around her friend’s shoulder.

Khanyiswa shakes her head and buries her face against Cebisa’s chest, and whimpers, “He rubbed up against me.” She tells them everything, from the moment she stepped into the lab until she ran out when the siren rang, meanwhile sniffing back tears.

“We have to report him!” Cebisa says, getting to her feet.

“What if it was an accident?” Khanyiswa asks. “He was reaching for the book and it’s so high up – I couldn’t reach it. I can’t be responsible for ruining an innocent person’s life.”

“Did he say anything to you that seemed like he wanted to … you know …?” Cebisa asks. “Anything at all?”

“No. No, he didn’t,” Khanyiswa replies. “But it felt so wrong.”

“Perhaps he was too close to you for comfort,” Portia comments. “I’ve read about ‘personal space’. If someone enters it, or even just comes close to it, it can freak you out.”

“That was probably it,” Khanyiswa says, relieved that Portia’s explanation makes more sense of the situation.

“Ok, I’ll buy that story,” Cebisa says. “For now. But I think we should keep an eye on Mr Hill. And don’t go to the lab alone again, Khanyi.”

***

Tell us: Do you have a sense of ‘personal space’ around you? Do you feel uneasy with some people who get too close to you physically?