When I turn around Zakes is standing behind me. I think: Now things are officially weird.
Zakes, Ntokozo’s popular boyfriend. I turn around again to see Ntokozo’s reaction. She must be as surprised as I am because she doesn’t say a word. I don’t know what to say either. Those messages came from him? Now I’m convinced that this has to be some kind of twisted game. I open my mouth to reply but he shakes his head.
“Walk with me,” he says. He doesn’t say it like I have much choice so I shrug and follow him as he starts to walk away. I can hear the girls behind me gossiping atone-forty kilometres an hour…
“Who does she think she is?” I think I hear someone hiss, but I don’t care about that. I’m much more interested in who Zakes thinks I am. How much does he know about the ghosts really? Why did he send those SMSes to me?
He leads me to the concrete gutters behind the tuck shop. When he stops, I just stand there and wait for him to speak. He’s looking down, with his hands in his pockets, shifting his weight nervously from foot to foot. The ‘big man’ from earlier, bossing me around in front of his girlfriend and her friends is gone now.
“Look, I’m sorry Lindi,” he says.
“Sorry for what?” I ask, like I don’t already know. I want to hear him admit it.
“The SMSes I sent you and for back there with Ntokozo. I didn’t know what else to do.”
I pause for a moment. I have to handle this very carefully. Umkhulu was careful to make me understand that I have to hide my abilities from other people. Until I am older and out of school, I can’t make promises to people that I can’t keep. I can’t do readings. It’s not fair. The power is not mine, it belongs to the ancestors and only they decide how I use it.
So instead of telling him to get lost, I ask, “What’s happened to you?”
“I’m being haunted,” he says softly.
I fold my arms and shake my head slightly but something in my face must say I might believe him because Zakes continues, “I’m being haunted by the ghost of my mom’s ex-boyfriend. He wasn’t a good guy. He stole cars and got arrested. They killed him in jail but now he is haunting the house. He says it is his and that my mother is his and that I must leave. He says he will hurt me if I stay but I don’t have anywhere to go.”
The story sounds familiar to me. Sometimes the dead get confused about what happened, about how they died. Sometimes they blame people or places that have nothing to do with their deaths. They return to what they know.
The early morning wind whips between us. I wonder how much longer we have until the first period bell sounds.
I ask Zakes, “Why are you telling me this?”
“I know you can help me.”
He looks uncomfortable again. “I heard.”
“Heard from where? Heard from who?”
Zakes kicks at some dust in the gutter. “Around. People told me.” I think of Ma Thlolo. I wonder if she suspects that it was more than just my prayers that helped her. I was very careful that no-one saw me arrive or leave the spaza that night but Ma Thlolo has known me a long time. She must know that I would do everything I can to help her.
“Ma Thlolo. She says you did something.” So I was right. It was Ma Thlolo.
“What does she think I did?”
Zakes puts his hands in his pockets and looks down. “Look, she doesn’t know exactly. She just says something was scaring away her customers. She told you about it and the next day, it – whatever it was – was gone.”
I don’t have time for this, I think
“Zakes, whatever you heard, you’re wrong. Ma Thlolo was confused. I don’t know anything about this. I’m not involved in these things.”
I turn to walk back towards the main block of classrooms when he says, “If you don’t help me, I’ll…”
When he doesn’t finish his sentence, I stop and turn to face him. “You’ll what, Zakes?”
“I’ll tell everyone…I’ll tell everyone you are a witch!”
It feels like a punch in my chest. He knows it would be a death sentence. And he knows that it isn’t true.
Tell us what you think: How can Lindi convince Zakes not to tell her secret?