The girls’ bathroom isn’t much of a bathroom as it is just a single-stall pit toilet. Two people can’t fit inside comfortably but we do squeeze in twos occasionally. Zethu is waiting for me outside right now. I wonder how Miss Gumbi will get in since she said she would meet us here. There is no running water or a sink to clean up in, so the trip to the toilet is just to relieve myself and maybe change the dirty panties. But change into what?

“Are you OK?” Zethu calls out from the outside.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here,” I call out sheepishly.

Just then I hear voices approaching. I curl up at first, dreading a group of senior girls taunting me. But as they get closer, I realise that it is Miss Gumbi and the head girl, Hlengiwe.

“Vikile, open the door,” comes Miss Gumbi’s authoritative voice from the other side of the blue door.

I am so nervous, I can’t even smell the piled-up toilet. I crack the door open and a hand comes in. It is probably Hlengiwe because it is doesn’t have royal blue nails — Miss Gumbi’s signature manicure colour — or Zethu’s uneven nails. These are neatly cut and glossed with clear nail polish. It is my first time seeing her nails and they match her immaculate personality perfectly. Don’t even think about my nails. I bite them ferociously when I’m overcome with emotion. You can imagine how they look right now…

I accept the parcel and open it. It is a sanitary pad. Thanks to Life Orientation, I know how to carefully insert it into my panties so I get it over with and straighten my uniform. My jersey goes back to my waist, covering the dirty uniform, before I step out of the toilet.

“Are you OK?” Miss Gumbi asks, before I am even fully outside.

I nod, not sure how to respond to the question. The period is coming down heavier and the cramps are getting worse.

“You can go home, Zethu will fetch both your school bags and escort you.”

On a normal day, I would celebrate leaving school during the first period. But it was cold and I was cranky and in pain, so I wait anxiously by the gate as my friend runs to the class and back and we start our long way back home.

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