The next day was the second most important day in my life – the first was when I got initiated. It was the 20th of January 2012, six weeks after my initiation.

At about one o’clock on that Friday, on the way back from school Zombini said to me. “I like you very much, Mbu, but I am not sure yet whether I will love you forever.”

This was enough for me to feel like I was in a dream. I thought, I just have to be nice to her, make her laugh, make her happy and then, there was no doubt for me, she would love me one day. One day and forever.

From then on we walked home every day from school together, and I stood at the entrance to her yard waiting for her whenever I could. There was an old lady in the same yard who did not like what was happening between me and Zombini. We called her Makhulu – Granny. She was actually a nice person, but she sensed that there was something going on and she was not happy about it. She was so right about something going on.

Our love for each other was growing, until there came a moment were we could hardly hide it anymore. At the children’s home, everybody knew already that I had a girlfriend and that it was Zombini – a girl in our neighbourhood. One of the childcare workers even talked to me about condoms and not to take any risks and so on.

Maybe I was a bit arrogant then because I just nodded and responded. “I know, Tata, I know.” I enjoyed it so much when the other kids called me bhuti Mbu now. I wasn’t a child anymore, I was a bhuti.

Yamkela shared my joy. “Congratulations, Mbu, you have a real girlfriend now. A good one.” And we both laughed. To have sex with a girl was one thing, to have a real girlfriend was something else. It meant to be faithful, not to cheat, to trust each other. I wanted to learn to trust somebody in this world so much, especially her.

Still, our affection and desire for each other grew to a point where I could not stop thinking to myself, wow, it would be so nice to make love together. And when I mentioned it to her, she smiled at me like she had on that the first day and I knew it would happen one day.

Kissing Zombini was so beautiful. I did not have enough words to explain it. I also promised her not to talk about it with others, how we kissed and what was – and is – so beautiful about it. To honour her I will not give details, but I must be honest that there came a moment when kissing was not enough anymore.

Our passion for each other had grown so much, it was almost painful, a beautiful pain. Finally, I decided to break one of the clear rules of the children’s home. I allowed Zombini to stay in my garden shed and to spend part of the night with me. Not the whole night until the morning because she had to be out before anybody would notice her – or us together.

I was so excited, so happy, so strong. I was sure nothing could ever go wrong again. When I had asked her whether I should use a condom she responded. “I am protected, Mbu, it is fine.” I thought that she was either taking the pill or an injection against pregnancy. I never thought that she wanted a baby from me. Who I was I to think that when we were both just nineteen years old and still in Grade 12?

Today I think, although she took a risk and we were both foolish to do that in times of HIV and AIDS, that she did it as a way of showing her love for me. At least I knew that I was HIV negative as I had tested twice – once before my initiation and once afterwards again.

We could not make love often, mostly because there were people around – but the few times we did I felt like I was in heaven. Not only was it great to have sex with Zombini but I also felt her love for me. We had, and have, real love for each other, although she is a shy person and never talks openly about it.

I feel ashamed that I was not honest with the adults at HOKISA who trusted me so much. They even invited Zombini on outings or for lunch on weekends. Life was finally good. I just had to work harder for Maths at school.

It wasn’t that long before I realized that something had changed. Zombini did not complain or say much, but I just felt that something was different for her, and that she was in some kind of trouble. That much was clear.

“Are you okay, my love?” I asked her more than once.

“Ewe, Mbu!” was all she responded. Until the day she could not hide it anymore.