Ntombi, Kganya’s mother, couldn’t believe what she just heard from Gogo Lesedi. She just sat there, near her best friend Gladys, with her mouth wide open.

“Three months? What about school?” Mkhulu asked Gogo Lesedi in that deep, old voice of his.

“They are on December holidays now, right? So, she can make it before the second term starts next year,” Gogo Lesedi told Mkhulu

Ntombi had never been apart from her daughter for that long; how would she survive without her by her side? Kganya was all she had.

But she had learned to trust Gogo Lesedi, and if she was positive that she had to do this, then she wouldn’t stand in the way. Gogo Lesedi wouldn’t harm her daughter. After all, she was the one who helped her last year when she was haunted by the Dark Souls. Ntombi had at first refused Gogo Lesedi’s help when she warned her of an imminent threat to her daughter’s life. But her friend Gladys and Mkhulu had intervened behind her back, and they managed to call Gogo Lesedi to help Kganya. Ntombi had vowed that day never to put her daughter through danger again as a result of her stubbornness.

“OK, what can I do to help?” she asked Gogo Lesedi.

“Right now, you can help by bringing her enough clothes, and blankets. Then a thousand rand for things we will need for her initiation process.”

“Please take care of my daughter, Gogo Lesedi.” Ntombi’s voice was shaking, it was as if she was about to cry.

“She will take care of her, friend, don’t worry.” Gladys took Ntombi’s hands in hers.

“I will do my utmost, Mama Kganya,” Gogo Lesedi assured her.

“Can I say goodbye to her?” Ntombi asked, weeping now.

“Of course.”

***

Kganya felt weak. She had just finished induced vomiting, and she felt totally empty inside. The time was five in the morning; she had never woken up this early before, but she knew that this would be her life from now on. All the other initiates were also awake and about with their business, but they were ahead of her, so they were not with her.

“The rocks are ready, you can go inside now while I prepare your water,” Andile told Kganya. She was one of the initiates, but she was older than all of them. She must have been in her mid-thirties.

“Does it hurt? Will I burn?” Kganya asked nervously.

“Ha-ha! You will feel like you are burning for sure.”

Kganya disliked her instantly. She wasn’t like Nthabiseng. She was mocking her. Couldn’t she tell that she was new here?

“But here’s a free tip. Just put your head in between your knees and cover your ears with your hands so the steam doesn’t burn them and you should be all right.”

Better. She appreciated this. She had never steamed before, and she saw the open fire that was busy burning even now. It was incredibly big. The rocks used for steaming were under the fire. Andile must have woken up at four, if not earlier, to start that fire. Imagine how hot the rocks must be now. Kganya started sweating, even when she was far from the fire.

Gogo Lesedi arrived when Kganya was bare naked and was about to enter the small rondavel.

“Wait, let me add these herbs before you get in,” she said.

Kganya stepped back while Gogo Lesedi added the herbs in the water.

“OK, you can enter now. After this, you will be absolutely cleansed of all the past things. You will be new and ready to go through this journey.” Gogo Lesedi told her with a smile. “Now get in.”

“Pshh!” the steam filled the small rondavel as soon as Andile dipped the red, hot rocks inside the water.

Kganya had done as Andile had advised, but it all seemed futile because the steam was burning her. Andile didn’t make things any easier for her. She was quick to add rocks, as if she hadn’t just added others, like, five seconds ago.

“Iyho!” Kganya screamed.

“Talk to your Elders, Kganya. Ask for their protection and guidance,” Gogo Lesedi told her from outside. If she wasn’t standing there, Kganya would have sneaked out of here.

It was all too much, but she was determined to do this.

“Oh, my Elders, it is me, Kganya,” she said, in a low voice, her head still in between her knees. “Please be with me on this journey. Protect me and guide me.”

All of a sudden, it got dark and silent. Kganya didn’t even feel the burning steam anymore. What was happening? She opened her eyes. She wasn’t in the rondavel. She was outside – alone!

Tell us: Do you think Andile is making things worse for Kganya? What would be the point of that?