Liyabona was pinned against the wall, Dumile forcing her hand into his pants. She felt adrenalin pumping through her veins, but it still didn’t give her enough strength to push him away. Then she heard a noise in the next toilet, and so she started to scream. Dumile tried to cover her mouth, but it was too late. The door behind him was pushed open so hard into his back that Dumile lost his balance, and Liyabona was free.

And there was Yongama. He quickly saw what was going on, and half wrestled, half punched Dumile out of the door. Dumile didn’t look back as he ran out the toilet.

“Are you OK?” Yongama asked, concern in his voice.

Liyabona felt huge relief: she was safe. But next her body started shaking and she wanted to cry. Then she looked at Yongama’s concerned face, and felt a sudden shame to be found in the boys’ bathroom.

“There was no space in the girls’ toilets, and I–”

“You don’t have to explain anything,” said Yongama, his face very serious. “It’s Dumile who’s going to have a lot of explaining to do. Come. We need to sort this out.”

“No, no, I’ve got a maths test.” Liyabona gulped back her sobs. She just wanted to get away, forget that this happened.

“Will you be able to write?” he asked.

She nodded, and gabbled, “Yes, yes, I’ll be fine,” as she rushed past him.

“I’ll find you later,” he called as she ran out of the door.

Mr Khumalo shouted at Liyabona when she rushed in late, but she managed to write her test, her hand still trembling. After class Akhona came up to her.

“What’s wrong, chommie?” she said.

“Just feeling a bit sick,” Liyabona replied. Somehow, she felt that if she didn’t talk about it, it would all go away. But what didn’t go away was a sick feeling in her stomach, and how it lurched when she saw Dumile looking at her later, when they changed classes. He raised his eyebrows, pointed his finger at her. There was no doubt that he was threatening her in some way.

Finally the end of the day arrived. But as she tried to sneak out of the gate to get back home, she saw Yongama waiting for her, standing tall. Any other day her heart would have leapt as she saw him scanning the faces, knowing that he was looking for her. But today her heart sank.

He touched her hand. “Have you recovered?” he asked. She nodded, looked down.

“Then it’s time we did something,” he said, his voice strengthening. “That bully has gone on for far too long and no-one will say anything against him. Let’s go now to the Principal’s office. With your story, and me backing you up, there’s no way they can ignore this.”

“I have to meet my brother, I can’t come now,” she started gabbling. He looked a bit irritated, but then nodded.

“Alright. We’ll meet tomorrow”.

Liyabona’s heart was thudding against her chest, like it wanted to jump out. At the primary school gate she found her little brother, who, for once, had had a good day at school. She clutched on to his shoulder as they walked, and he looked up at her in surprise. “You’re squeezing me, sisi.”

“Sorry,” she said. She just wanted them to get home, be safe, away from all the terrors.

And then suddenly the terror rose up right in front of her: Dumile! She and Kwezi stopped dead in their tracks.

“Hello girlfriend. Missing me?” he mocked.

“Please, leave me alone,” she said in a low voice.

“I will do that,” he said. “I will do that. But only if you leave me alone too. That Yongama. He wants to make trouble for me. I did nothing to you.”

He pulled her roughly away from Kwezi, and hissed in her ear: “If you go near the Principal, or anyone else, about what happened, that smile on your brother won’t look so cute. In fact he probably won’t want to smile at all. Because he won’t have one single tooth left in his mouth.”

“What’s going on, Liya?” Kwezi’s voice sounded frightened.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” said Liya. Dumile pushed her back to her brother, and she nearly bumped him over.

“I mean every word I said,” Dumile called back to her as he walked off.

When they got home Liyabona locked their house and wouldn’t let Kwezi out to play in the yard. But nothing could keep her fears locked out of her heart. Perhaps she could talk to her mother later.

But when her mother returned, tired and irritable, Liyabona couldn’t bear burdening her with this new problem. No, she would have to sort it out on her own.

In her room she looked through her book where she wrote poetry. On one page the night before she had written a big ‘Y’, and decorated it with hearts, and swirls. It felt like she had done it in a different lifetime.

What might happen now? How would Yongama feel about her if she let him down, after he had saved her? But how could she go and tell on Dumile, when her brother would get hurt?

That night Liyabona hardly slept. What could she do? Who could she talk to?

In the morning she pulled herself out of bed as her mother called a soft goodbye and left the house. Liyabona stirred the porridge, her eyes tired. But she had made her decision.


Tell us: What would you do if you were in this situation? What will Liya do?