“So, what do you think you should do, Justine?” The counsellor peers at me through red-rimmed glasses, and leans forward, causing her corkscrew curls to bounce.

I glance at the newspaper clipping I’ve set on her desk. It’s about the upcoming Junior SA surf championships. And I don’t want to talk about it, not even sure why I brought it. I mean, the reason I’ve been seeing her is because of the attack, not my life. And we’ve talked about the attack – so many times, I’m done.

But Mrs Makholwa keeps saying, ‘See you next week,’ and I say, ‘We’ll see,’ only for Anna or Guy to pick me up the following week and say, ‘Ready to go?’ and they’re not really asking. When I ask if this is really free, or if somebody is paying, people dodge the question. Even Mrs Makholwa, who says, “That’s not something you need to worry about right now, Justine. What we should be focusing on is…”

Which right now is the damn clipping I’ve stupidly brought in.

“Justine, what do you think you should do?” she says again.

I twist in the chair, as Shakespeare echoes in my head: Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

“I’ll probably go, I guess. Just in case she’s there,” I tell her.

“Have you considered calling your family?”

I shake my head. “I told you, Ma told me to never call, never come back. She made it really clear she wants Tazmin and the baby to turn out right, and she doesn’t see that happening if they’re around me.”

Mrs Makholwa gives me an unreadable look. I never know what this lady is thinking. I look away and end up staring at a green wooden turtle whose head bobs up and down at the slightest vibration. Up and down, up and down, up and down. Kind of relaxing, despite being a silly looking thing.

“Justine,” she says, in her calm, steady voice, “it’s been over a year since you left. A lot can change in a year.”


“Parents sometimes say things that they regret. Your mother might be willing to talk. And don’t forget, you have rights. You didn’t sign any forms. She can’t ban you from seeing your son. Perhaps it is time to get in touch, at least find out his name.”

“No, she was right,” I tell her. “How am I supposed to take care of him? I’m nineteen and can barely take care of myself. Look at me, I’m Shana’s charity case.”

“Is that really how you see yourself, Justine? Do you honestly believe Shana views you as ‘charity’?”

I look at her, mystified. “What else could it possibly be?”

Mrs Makholwa beams. “That’s an excellent question. I’d like you to work on finding the answer to that. Considerer it your homework.” And her smile grows even bigger. How that’s possible, I do not know. Then she says, “See you next week.”

And I’d like to tell her, No, you won’t.’ But I’m pretty sure all she’d do with that is consider it some kind of ‘set back to your progress’. Which is something she hasn’t said in weeks, and I don’t need to hear today. So, all I say is, “We’ll see,” and slide out of my chair and head towards the waiting room, where a police officer or a lawyer is waiting to give me a lift home.

How is this my life?


Tell us: What do you think Justine should do? Should she call her family, go to the surfing championship, or do something else to get in touch?