What had my brother done now? What was worse than a pregnant girlfriend here in Boseja? I had to listen a long time to find out.

“There will be no wedding!” said my father. “This girl Mmegi, she is not fit to be part of our family. She is a shame and a disgrace. Do you understand, Larona?”

Once again my brother sat at the table with his head high, quiet and calm in the midst of the storm.

My mother wiped her face with her shawl. “Think, son. How will it be for you to bring up this child? How will you bear it? It will be a daily pain in your heart each time you hold this child in your arms.”

Quietly, respectfully, my brother answered: “Mma, Rra, my mind is made up. I will marry Mmegi. I will take care of her and her baby.”

That set my mother wailing again. It made my father tremble with fresh anger.

“Then you are a fool. This young girl is using you to save her own reputation. What selfishness is that? You have always been the intelligent one in our home with your high marks from school. How can you be such a fool now? You are sacrificing yourself. You are sacrificing the good name of your family. How can this be right? To take a woman whose child is not your child?”

Not his child? I couldn’t believe it! My brother’s girlfriend was growing big with some other man’s child! From my corner, I shook my head in disgust. But none of them looked my way.

So I went to bed without supper. In the dark room I shared with my brother, I could not sleep. Even though my body ached from tiredness: from clinging to the back of the truck, from walking all those kilometres. I turned this way and that. My pillow felt lumpy and too low.

In the bed beside mine, Larona slept. His breathing was calm. Peaceful. As if he had no problem in the world.

And how could that be? He was going to bring a child into our family, yet he was not its real father. Just as I was not its real uncle. The child would not be flesh of our flesh, nor blood of our blood.

I wanted to shake my brother awake. I wanted to demand: “How can you do such a thing to us? To me?”

And who was the real father? That was even more disturbing. Was he someone from down on the Highway? Some passing truckdriver? Exactly what kind of genes was Larona bringing into our midst?

I shook my head at Mmegi’s disgraceful behaviour, at my brother’s folly. I thought of many things I wanted to say to him. Perhaps I could change his mind, when my parents could not.

Weary, I forced myself to think rather about Refilwe. Lovely Refilwe in the soft blue dress she had been wearing today. How the hem of her skirt gently lifted in the wind.

I must speak to her soon, I decided. But what could I say that wouldn’t sound stupid or childish? If I came close to her, would my tongue be able to work at all? Or would I stand there, dumb like a fool?

Somehow I had to find the courage. Because one day when I left Boseja, I wanted to leave with Refilwe beside me. So we could explore the world together.

Thoughts of her filled my mind. They pushed out everything else. And I fell asleep at last.

Tell us what you think: Do you find it difficult to speak to someone you really like? What advice do you have for Itseng?