“Vikile Ngcobo!”

My English teacher’s irritated voice shouting my name brings me back from my trance.

“Do you have somewhere better to be?” she asks, while piercing me with her sharp eyes.

The stomach discomfort I felt this morning has intensified. A little hunger pang is something I am used to since I always skip breakfast but it usually hits me just before the first break and I never worry because food is provided at our school. When I first got the pain this morning, I thought it was hunger attacking me too soon. But then Zethu’s exciting story quietened it down, only for it to come back harder during the first period. It is so bad that I have lost focus in class.

“I’m not feeling well, ma’am,” I whisper.

Concern immediately fills her face. I am not a problematic child and hardly vocalise any difficulty I might face, so she has to worry if I outright tell her my feelings.

“What’s wrong? Did you children go to Judas’s place too?” The questions are directed more to the class than to me.

Zethu jumps from her seat at the back of the class and rushes to where I sit, right in front (an arrangement Mrs Gumbi forced on us because we would not shut up during lessons).

“Are you OK?” she whispers, bent down next to me.

I have never felt such pain before.

“My stomach,” I manage to whisper.

Mrs Gumbi has also rushed to my side, the attention making me sweat under my grey skirt. I can feel my stockings sticking to my bum. The feeling makes me hope I did not sweat too much because I do not want to wash my blue shirt after school and sweat would force me to.

“Come, let’s get you to the bathroom,” Mrs Gumbi says, holding me up.

I allow myself to be taken out of the desk and I hear gasps as soon as I stand. Confused, I look around the class and see weird looks being exchanged, some people even stifling laughter and giggling. I want to ask what is going on but they are looking at me so I am afraid of what it is that is making them act in this manner.

“Oh dear,” Mrs Gumbi whispers in my ear, before turning to the rest of the class and shouting, “Stop that childish nonsense at once! You will not shame a fellow student for nature that is above their control. Take out your books and focus on your reading until I’m back.”

The class goes quiet immediately as they look into their backpacks, some already opening the books on their desks.

Mrs Gumbi then turns to Zethu and whispers, “Wrap her jersey around her waist and go to the girls’ bathroom. I’ll meet you there.”

Tell us: What do you think has happened to the narrator?