I’m getting Gabs and me ready to catch a taxi when somebody knocks. I wince. The neighbours know Ma works shifts. But sometimes a stranger comes by looking for money or food. Compared to their lives, we’re rich. But when I open the door it is Max.
“Hey,” he says. “Coach thought it would be good if I picked you up, ya know, because of Gabs.”
“Oh,” I say, and I peer over his shoulder and see a smart Mercedes A class parked out front with a surf board strapped to the roof. I blink, stunned to see such a ride on this street. Even Anwar’s family leave their expensive car at home and visit in their Golf.
Max follows my gaze. “My mom’s. She said if you were bringing the baby need another seatbelt and a car seat.”
“We don’t have a car seat,” I say.
He nods. “Yeah, mom said you might not, so she dug out the one she uses when my older sister visits with her kids.”
I feel Gabs poking his head around my legs. I look down and see his face transform when he spies Max. “Gaaaba!” he gurgles and reaches out.
“Come here, little man,” Max says, scooping him up. “You’re in for a great day at the beach.”
“Goooba,” Gabs says, as if he is taking in every word.
Max straps Gabs in like he’s been doing it for years. Which, with his cousins and sister’s kids, maybe he has. But when I come around to the passenger side, Max is opening the door, as if we’re on a date.
“Hey,” he says.
He looks at me, but this time it’s different. He reaches up and brushes my cheek. “I’m glad you talked to coach.”
“Didn’t really have a choice, he showed up unannounced and Gabs kind of introduced himself.”
He nods. Then he’s leaning in, face getting closer. I shut my eyes at the last moment, right before his lips touch mine. It’s a soft kiss. Nothing much. But it’s my first. Heat rushes to my face and I’m sure there is more than a few curtains being pushed aside, watching us. But Max keeps it short and brief. But as he pulls back, I can tell he’d like to do that again and for longer. To be honest, so would I.
“Uh-booo,” Gabs gurgles.
We both glance at him in the backseat.
“That’s right little man,” Max chuckles, “we don’t want to be late.”
“Aaah,” Gabs says back.
As I slide into the passenger seat, tension in my stomach dissolves. It’s a stone I’ve been carrying for so long I thought it was permanent. Sweet relief, now that it’s gone. I don’t know if I’m going to be bound for greatness, or even make it to Cape Town for the big competition this year, but things are going to be okay. Better.
Max starts the car and gives me a shy glance. “Been wanting to kiss you for a while now. Hope you didn’t mind.”
“No, I didn’t mind.”
As we drive towards The Point, he says, “Would like to take you out on a date some time. Surfing and hanging out with you is good, but be nice to just, ya know.”
“That could be nice,” I say, “but with Gabs and all…”
“I already asked my mom, she’s happy to babysit. Says it would be a pleasure.”
“I’ll talk to Ma about it.”
“Great,” he says, face breaking into a big grin.
Seeing him so happy has me grinning too.
“Baaa, baaa, baaa,” Gabs says.
“That’s right kid,” I say, “we’re going to the beach.”
Tell us: What did you think about Tazmin starting a relationship with Max?