I uncomfortably cleared my throat. The idea of an eye contact sounded cute and romantic, before finding out that he was married. I cleared my throat again, looking away. “Hey, is everything okay?” he asked, with a voice that carried so much concern. “Everything is fine” I replied. “You seem a little distant. Look, this doesn’t have to change anything” he said. “This changes everything” I replied. “Your pregnancy was supposed to change everything, because it requires a lot of emotional commitment, but because I’m prepared to make it work, I chose not to make an issue out of it” he explained. “But still, you are married. There is no way that I could let you use me to escape your real life” I said. “Is that what you think of me?” he sat straight up.. “After trying to show you what love is, and making you happy, you accuse me of using you?” he added. I could hear it in his voice that he was hurt. “I’m not saying you’re using me, but think about it. You’re married, what could I possibly be doing with you?” I responded. I liked him, but I liked myself more to respect myself and walk away from cases that promised to destroy me. I was left all alone, and so I had to be responsible for my actions.. He sighed. “Mandy, I was telling you all this because I wanted us to build our honesty and trust” he said.. “Thando, please understand. I cannot be with a married man. Yes you’re old, and I was willing to overlook that and try something out with you. But this? This changes everything” I explained. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was dumped for something that I couldn’t change, and that night, I was doing the exact same thing. He tried convincing me, with no luck at all. I wanted nothing to do with him, in terms of romantic relationships. Friendship, yes, I could offer that, but nothing more.

After about two hours, of us discussing that, we ended up agreeing that we’d be friends. We ended up agreeing that we wouldn’t try anything naughty and out of line.. After dinner, he settled the bill and we walked out.. “Aren’t you feeling cold?” he asked. “I am, a bit” I replied. He took off his jacket and hung it over my shoulders.. “Here, this should keep you warm” his voice sounded like a soft sound of thunder over my head.. “Thanks” I replied .. “So, tomorrow you’re going to the clinic, right?” he asked. I nodded. “Okay cool, can I drive you there?” he asked. . “Won’t you be at work? I’ll go there in the morning” I replied. “Don’t worry, I’ll manage to drive you there” he said. “Okay, sure. You can drive me there” I replied. “Thank you” he said. He was thanking me, for agreeing to let him drive me to the clinic. He was basically thanking me for letting him help me. That was sweet, so sweet. We got to the car and drove off.. “So, I hear pregnant women have different weird cravings during pregnancy. My wife used to crave soil, and would go mad over it” he said, slightly giggling. I laughed. “Oh, soil? Is that even normal?” I laughed harder. He laughed too.. “Imagine. She’d even cry if she doesn’t get even a pinch of it” he said. “Wow, seriously? You know, my mother used to tell me that with me, she craved ice cubes all the time” I said. “Aaah, didn’t that make you sick though?” he asked, looking at me and looking at the road ahead.. “I don’t know. I never asked” I replied. My mother vanished before I could get to know her better. She and I never had any special connections. It was almost like I didn’t even know her. She was my mother, but I had no connection with her . Days like those brought me that harsh reminder.. “Its okay, it happens to the best of us. I also never asked my father is if I ever got sick from the diabetes medication that they say I took at the age of three” he tried lifting my spirits up.. I smiled. ” You obviously got sick” I said. “Exactly, as much as you obviously got sick from those ice cubes. We know these things, but we feel it would have been better if they had told us” he said. Which was so true. I knew some things by just using my own logic, but I still felt like they would have brought a special meaning if I had heard them from her. “So, what are your cravings?” he asked. “Nothing specific. I just love oily fries and boiled eggs” I replied. “Really? Eggs?” he asked, pulling a sour face. I laughed. “What? Eggs are delicious” I said. “Eggs? Don’t they make you nauseous?” he asked. “No, they are delicious. I could eat eggs everyday” I replied. “Wow, now that’s a first. And what do you hate?” he asked.. “I hate everything else, and I mean, everything” I said. He chuckled. “I know what you mean. You need to enjoy this time of your life. Its a very special period in a woman’s life” he said. “Its a pity it came a little too early for me” I replied. “It was all part of God’s plan. Just accept it and make the best of it” he said… We got home and he parked outside. “Okay then, I will see you tomorrow” he said. “Yeah, see you tomorrow” I opened the door.. “Thank you for being the highlight if my day” he almost whispered. I smiled. “I’ll call you later” he said. I nodded, taking off the jacket and stepped out of the car.

Ntombi and Alex were in the kitchen when I got into the house. They were eating. Maintaining my calm was the only option I had. I greeted. “Hey” Alex coldly said. “Hey Mandy, how was your day?” asked Ntombi. Really? Right there, in front of Alex, she just proposed a chit-chat? “My day was okay, how was yours?” I responded, facing the way to my room. “Mine was exciting. Mama and I had the best time of our lives” she replied. So that’s what she wanted to brag about, that she had a great day with Alex’s mother. She was being childish, or so I thought.. “That’s great. Goodnight hey” I said. “Goodnight sweety, don’t let the bed bugs bite” she shouted behind me as I walked away. Ntombi was so annoying. The innocent, friendly act that she was putting up was really irritating.

I got to my room and changed into my pyjamas, and jumped into bed. I was really exhausted and I needed to rest because I had a hectic day ahead. The following morning, a pressing urine woke me up. I got out of bed and rushed to the bathroom. When I was done, I went to my room and made my bed. Time was 6:00 and I needed to be as early as I could .. I then went to take a bath, and got dressed in a very bright Orange, knee high maternity dress. I wrapped a cardigan over my shoulders and wore my matching flats. Upon seeing how beautiful I was, I called Thando, and he told me he was on his way.. I waited in my room, because I didn’t want to bump into anyone.. He arrived and called me to tell me he was outside. I grabbed my bag and rushed out.. He opened the door for me from inside, and I stepped into the car.. “Hey” I greeted.. “Hi, Sunshine” he planted a light feather kiss on my cheek, then he drove off.. “How was your night, I tried calling you last night, but you didn’t pick up” he asked. “I had an early night, I was exhausted” I complained. “I figured. So you slept well?” he asked. “Yes, I slept well, thank you. And you?” I responded. “I slept well” he replied. “So, didn’t your wife ask you where you were?” I asked. “My wife and I don’t have that kind of relationship. Its like, we are stuck with each other, but our hearts are out there” he replied. “So you don’t have any kind of connection?” I asked .. “Well, we do. We have a child together, and we have been together for so long. We do have a connection, but it doesn’t expand to further boundaries” he said. “What kind of boundaries?” I asked. With the rate in which I was going, I’m sure he was a little irritated. “We don’t question each other’s actions. We also have our own lives, within the marriage. I handle my finances and she handles hers.” he replied. “Do you still sleep together?” I asked.. “Every once in a very long time. We even sleep in different bedrooms” he said. “Wow” I said, in disbelief.. “We’re just very good parents to our child, and we both want to see him happy. I think one of the reasons why we’re still together is because we don’t want to turn his world upside down” he said.. I almost felt sorry for him, but with men, it wasn’t easy to just trust a soapy story.

We got to the clinic.. He parked outside, reached for his laptop bag and took a little booklet out.. “Here” he said. “What’s this?” I asked, taking the booklet.. “You’re going to need it in there” he replied. “Oh, thank you” I said.. “I’ll come and pick you up, okay? All the best” he said, leaning closer for a hug. We shared a brief hug and I stepped out of the car.. I was the third woman in the queue, as it was still very early. The nurses arrived, and the day-to-day running of the clinic commenced. We were all given little pans to urinate on. At that moment, I didn’t know what the pan was for, and followed the others to the toilets. I assumed we had to pee on them, or what else could we do on them? I walked into the toilet room and pee’d on it.When I was done, I wiped and properly got dressed, and when back in. The other ladies were back too.. I handed my urine over and it was tested, by a very young nurse. She then asked for my booklet. I handed it to her.. She looked at it, and looked back at me.. “What’s going on here? Where is your old clinic booklet?” she asked. “I don’t have any” I replied. “Is this your first clinic visit?” she asked. “Yes” I nodded, like a naughty five year old. “With a tummy that big?” she asked. “I was not ready” I replied. The other nurses helped the other ladies, while that nurse was grilling me with questions.. “Not ready? Since when is pregnancy about you?” she asked. I remained silent.. “Young lady, this is not about you. This is about that little soul that you’re carrying. You have to protect that soul from diseases and infections” she said.. “I didn’t think of it that way” I said. “I’d shut up if I were you. You are so irresponsible and selfish” she said. I looked down.. “Do you know your HIV status?” she asked. Things were getting real.. “No, I don’t know” I replied. “See what I mean? What if you’re HIV positive? What about the child’s health?” she asked. I remained silent. “Come, follow me. I hate it when people are this irresponsible. You’re too young for this. What kind of a mother are you going to be?” she walked away with my urine, and I followed her. We got to the consulting room.. “Take off your shoes and get into that bed” she ordered, and I did as I was instructed. She took the pregnancy test kit and dabbed it into my urine.. After a few minutes, she took it out and wrote something on a new booklet.. She then came to stand next to me. “Lift your dress up. Or must I tell you everything? You are not young anymore, the fact that you opened your legs for a man means that you are not a child. Don’t come here and act like a child” she said. I silently lifted my dress up.. “Good. This is going to be cold a bit, but its not painful” she said. I nodded, with my eyes closed. She applied a cold gel on my tummy and gently rubbed. “Hey, open your eyes. How are you to see this with closed eyes? You’re the one who needs to see this, not me. My children are all at school” she said. I didn’t get why she was so rude to me.

When she was done, she asked me to wipe myself and go and sit on the chair. I quickly did as instructed. She pulled a chair and sat down too.. “I’ll give you a proper clinic card, where I’ll record all your findings. Make sure that you bring it every time you come here. Okay?” I nodded. “Good. Now we’ll run all the necessary tests. And we will fill in all the required info on your clinic booklet” she explained. She tested everything else and recorded all her findings.. “Now, I’m going to test you for the HIV. This the phase that either makes or breaks a pregnant woman. I want you to know and understand that being diagnosed with the virus will not mean its the end of the world for you. Life still goes on, you can still go back to school, and still get that dream job” she explained. “Your child will also be protected from the virus” she added.. Reality hit me in the face and I was suddenly terrified of finding out my status. Sibusiso seemed like a player. What if that moment of weakness dragged me into falling into the statistics of teenage girls who deal with unwanted pregnancies and dying of HIV/AIDS..??