The sight of uncle Rowland walking through the corridor along with the School Deputy Head towards our classroom said it all. Ever since I had enrolled at Mzili High as a boarding student he had never paid me a single visit. My heart skipped beating and right away I knew something was amiss. I tried hard to concentrate as our Science teacher, Mr Tobius elucidated a concept about respiration. Three succeeding loud knocks on the door brought him to a halt and the Head walked in. After formal greetings, I was summoned from my seat just at the back. I nearly jumped out of skin in fear, nevertheless, I tiptoed towards the door where Uncle Rowland stood in wait. He was there for a reason, and I was eager to find out why.

In a wink I reached the doorstep and managed to hold my boiling feelings.

“How are you Uncle?” I greeted him as I stood still trying hard to hide my fears. “ls everything, okay?

Uncle Rowland hesitated to devulge the purpose of his visit. He looked weary like a strunded soldier caught in no man’s land. Withstanding my age it was hard for him to open up.

” Is everything okay? ” I repeated, sounding serious, my little red face turning red with fury. The deputy head appeared at once. Uncle Rowland gazed from him to me and shook his head before utterring heart rending news.

” Granny has been admitted at Tilton General Hospital. She demands to see you right away “. Uncle, blubbered sounding puzzled. His memory seemed to be far away from the immediate surroundings.

“I have summoned the Dormitory master, you can fetch what you need and accompany him” the Head said, “I hope everything will be fine, Polan”.

I didn’t wait to ask more questions. Granny was a heroine in our lives. She had taken full custodianship of us ever since we had lost our parents to a fatal car accident near Rusape. It was an unforgettable, life extinguishing debacle that left my younger sister Rufaro paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. It also claimed the lives of our then maid, Julia along with Dad’s personal driver, Jay. Due to Granny’s unsung heroics I had managed to bag a scholarship that was to sponsor my tuition up to Masters level, provided I passed the subsequent stages enroute to Masters level.

I found Mr Rera the dormitory master in wait. He tried to engage me in a conversation, an evident gesture of a concerned parent, but it wasn’t the ideal time. I grabbed my blazer and dashed back to the car where I found several of my teachers conversing with Uncle. Being the vice head-boy and a sports superstar, I was a popular figure at School and the Manicaland Province at large. I passed my goodbye pleasantries to my teachers before we set off. On the way to the infamary we barely spoke. The news had physchologically kidnapped me. After close to an hour we reached the Tilton General Hospital. Leaving uncle Rowland besides I dashed towards the emergency section where Granny was confined. Along the way several nurses tried to stop me, asking about my identity but it was too late.

The emergency section is perhaps the worst place l have ever been to. There were several critically ill patients confined inthe numerous beds arranged in parallel lines typical of how our beds were arranged at School. The atmosphere itself pronounced the absorbing situation where the angels of death seemed to be circling above, awaiting those who were in line to depart the land of the living towards the land of dead. In the second bed opposite the door, lay Granny almost half dead. In another corner the nurses were busy wrapping a patient who had been certified dead. There was nothing much to talk about with Granny. All she could manage after a struggle to speak was, “I am leaving you with the responsibility to take care of your sister and to finish your studies”.

There was a long moment of silence after her untimely utterance. I tried hard to say something and I seem to be searching for the right words. Before I could utter a single word, Granny produced a strange hissing sound whilst shaking vehemently. That strange sound was followed by a complete dead silence. An experienced Sister, who was overseeing the nurses wrapping the patient who had been pronounced dead, signaled that I had to leave. Tears flowed from my chicks as l knew that was the confirmation :Granny was no more. Within a matter of minutes, I had to transform from a teenage boy into an adult. How was that possible? It was the case though. She had left at a critical juncture taking along with her, unrivaled talismanic figurehead ship which was unmatchable. The 100m walk away from the infamary back to the car is possibly the longest l have ever taken. I was in inconsolable mood, flood of tears flowed, albeit a new chapter was already loading. It was one that I had not envisaged. Stepping into Granny’s deserted shoes wasn’t something I had imagined fulfilling. Against the odds, with a crippled younger sister to take care of and my studies on the other side, it was of course time to step up.

The news of Granny’s passing spread across the City like a political gossip. Friends from all walks of life came in numbers to sympathise with us during that stressing period. Uncle Rowland and Aunty Rhoda who had stayed with Granny until her untimely demise were my biggest pillars of strength. The subsequent funeral service was held at our Glenlone home six days later, whilst she was laid to rest at the Nobel Cemetery, the following morning . Mr Chiza, the School Head, along with several of my teachers, my classmates, the Prefect board and prominent figures from Rusape Town were all in attendance. There was a masive donation from my classmates and Mzili High School students in particular. After the funeral, it was time to go back to School and realise her dying wish.

I arrived back at School having been missing for close to two weeks. It was a time that demanded me to project myself in the best possible version mentality and physically. As the vice head – boy and a sports supremo, I had taken advantage of my reputation to lure some of the prominent girls at School. I was able to call one of, if not the hottest girl at School, Mellisa, my girlfriend. Even though she was mine that didn’t assuage me from pursuing multiple relationships. It was just possible as so many girls threw themselves at my feet owing to the pulling power of my fame, as defined by my big name and a plethora of achievements. Curiously though, Granny’s last words were like a seed sown in a dry patch but blossomed into a wonderful flower overnight because my response to them was sudden and dramatic. Firstly, l skipped lunch for the remainder of the year to the surprise of many as l dedicated time to my studies. Secondly l called off all relationships. It was not easy to turn away loving and caring young souls, the majority of whom took my loss as theirs, but at the end it had to be done. Controversial as it was, it did me a massive favor as I had enough time to study. I was excused from full scale training as the Coach well understood my situation.

The decision to leave Melissa was the one I will cherish forever. She was a standout at School, because of her beauty, and more often I gave her my undivided attention for the sake of showing her off. As such, dating highly regarded women as her, was a confidence booster and good for my ego. On the flip, side it limited my potential academically. Later during the course of the term, l captained the team that won the Provincial under17 inter-Schools football competition where I scored the extra-time winner in the final. We proceeded to the Provincial finals where we finished third after a penalty shootout defeat in the semifinals against the eventual Champions, Midland Province. We went on to pip Matebeleland South Province by a goal to nil in the subsequent 3rd place playoff. Those heroics won hearts and garnered attention but l ignored it as it was at odds with my vision. I had the chance to represent the country at the upcoming Regional Youth games, set for Zambia , as I was selected as a reward for my outstanding performances. Before that would transpire there was end of the term exams to content with, in which I went on to scoop ten distinctions :the highest in my grade.

The holiday came fast, but I wasn’t going to be home as usual as l had to travel to the Capital inorder to train with the nation u17 side. Uncle Rowland sent me some inspirational messages before we departed for Zambia for the Regional Youth games. A two week stay there yielded a respectable second place finish. At individual level I returned home with the much coveted golden boot and the player of the tournament award. The former being a shared accolade having finished tied five goals apiece with a Mozambican player. I had offers to join the Youth set up of several top Primiership sides, as well as, to join some of the famed big name Schools in the Country but I didn’t reconcile to that possibility. I returned to Mzili high to a hero worship.Some of my ex girlfriends were willing to rekindle our former affairs, Mellisa in particular, but l had already ruled out such possibilities. The newly found fame was however, just glitters, the gold was to pass my exams and realise my dream of becoming a medical Doctor.

I stayed and completed my matric at Mzili High despite the approach of several prominent high Schools. In my final year it started with Athletics were I broke the provincial and national records in 100m and 200m genres. I couldn’t repeat a similar feat in Botswana during the Regional Youth competition, after I suffered a blow of a false start inthe 100m genre, but was somehow lucky to win the 200m race. In the subsequent Africa Youth games in Cairo, Egypt, I came 3rd in the 200m genre and l was part of the team that claimed bronze into the 4x100m relay. I was also the Captain of the Prefects, and I skippered the football team the made it all the way towards winning the Provincial finals. The School was awarded a brand new School Bus and a sum of one hundred thousand dollars due to our heroics which went down in its history as the best ever. The biggest of my success story was passing my matric. I was the top performer in the Province. Some haters dismissed my success linking it to corruption as they believed my big name was rewarded as opposed to my hardwork. I had a scholarship to pursue a degree at one of the best Universities in the Country, but I was offered a National scholarship that allowed me to go to Beijing, China where I would pursue a Medical degree.

There were a number of formalities that needed to be completed before I set off for China. I had to apply for a passport, as well as compile all the documents that accompanied my Visa application. The whole process was smooth because of the nature of the Scholarship. After close to two moths of waiting, it was finally time to depart. Uncle Rowland, my sister Rufaro and Aunty Rhoda accompanied me to the Airport as I made way. My former Head was also present. I was a hero in all genres at School, and was, historically the first student to be inducted into the current Mzili High Hall of Fame. The school had also honored me by drawing a poster depicting me in my famous number 10 shirt, the captain’s armband on the left hand, and the ball in the right hand. That poster was right at the entrance below the Mzili High school welcoming board. It was something that went beyond my wildest dreams.

The departing time soon arrived. I hugged my family for the last time and climbed on the steps of the Aeroplane. As I stood waving goodbye to my family and friends , Granny’s last words flashed across my mind to my satisfaction, like a forgotten answer remembered at the right moment in the course of an exam. I had made her proud and she would even be more proud upon my return from China fully qualified as a medical Doctor in the fullness of time.

The End.