“I messed up, didn’t I?” I realise, when I’ve calmed down a bit and can try and analyse what happened.

“Let’s just say you could have handled it better,” Auntie Hlomisa says.

“She was upset.” Gogo is mostly softer on me than Auntie. “Now you really can’t go back to athletics, child. You don’t want anything to do with those people.”

I’ve also been thinking I’ll never go back, but hearing her say it out loud gives me this hollow feeling.

“Some of the people are … okay.”

I’m thinking of Fumani, of course, and Pahlazi and Judith. But won’t their attitude towards me change, now that they know the truth about me? I mean, look at how Mahlatse changed when I told him.

“Ma, it’s too soon for Ritlatla to be making any definite decisions about that,” Auntie says, giving me a sharp look.

“No, Gogo is probably right.” Suddenly I feel tired and hopeless.

“That’s defeatist talk.”

Auntie has never spared me when she thinks I’m being feeble or self-pitying, like the times I’ve been miserable when the clinic has changed my meds, because it takes a while for my system to settle down after a change.

Running away was defeatist too. I should have stood my ground, should have hit back. Now it’s too late.

I can’t even let Dzanga know what I think of what she did. I don’t have her phone number.

I do have Mahlatse’s, though.

It’s an impulse to call him when I go to my room, but I don’t expect him to answer, because he’ll see it’s me.


So maybe he’s feeling bad about what he did. He should be.

“How could you?”

Damn, I sound like someone in a drama on television. This is a mistake. I should have planned what to say.

“I swear, I didn’t know Dzanga was going to come out with it like that.” Now he’s trying to defend himself.

“Why did you tell her in the first place?” I demand, somehow strengthened by the anger that rises, hearing him making excuses. “A personal thing I told you, because it was something you needed to know if we were going to move forward with our relationship. It’s no-one else’s business.”

“I … you put a burden on me, telling me.” Mahlatse is almost spluttering. “It was too much for me to … to carry alone. I needed to share it with someone.”

“Please, that is so much bullshit. If the truth frightened you so much, all you had to do was keep away from me.”

It seems like he has no answer to that, and I’m about to end the call when he says, “So how did you get it anyway, Ritlatla? You didn’t answer them back there when everyone was asking.”

There’s something spiteful in the way he says it.

“You are unbelievable.”

“And that need to know thing? Have you told Fumani then?”

“No need. Dzanga has done it for me, hasn’t she?”

As I ring off, the rage and resentment drain out of me, and all I feel is despair. Is this going to be everyone’s reaction, all my life? Wanting to know how I got HIV, and believing I’m a threat?

There’s a knock on my door, and Auntie opens it and looks in.

“You have a visitor, girl. Name of Fumani.”


Tell us: Will Fumani’s visit make things better or worse for Ritlatla?