I’m sitting staring at this old man at the other end of the table. I’m flabbergasted by his comments. He puts an offer on the table that leaves me speechless. Jaw dropping. As I try to process this offer he has made, I’m shocked by the realisation that I’m actually considering his offer. Desperation is the scariest feeling ever. Not only is my faith tested, but my morals as well.

I’m Grace Mahlangu and I’m 22 years of age. I matriculated in 2012 but I wasn’t able to further my studies. I’ve been looking for a job for four years now to no avail. Work in my small town is scarce. My grandparents were barely managing to feed and clothe myself and my seven siblings. People looked down on us. Life wasn’t easy at all. People thought that as I’m the oldest, I’d be the most likely to end up on the streets selling my body.

My grandparents sacrificed a lot for me and my siblings. They instilled in me morals, principles and rules. They taught me to dream big, not only dream but to be brave enough to pursue those dreams.

However, I soon learnt that morals and dreams don’t put food on the table. In fact, those dreams fade away little by little with each passing day. People would stare and look down on us as if we had a terminal disease. I was dying inside. My dreams of being a teacher, getting my family out of poverty and out of this hell hole faded away right before my eyes.

My granny could see that spark in my eyes slowly being extinguished. She encouraged me not to give up and to keep applying for jobs. Sometimes I wished she would lend me her rose coloured glasses, because she was always optimistic. I took her advice and I was lucky enough to be called for an interview at a retail store.

The interviewer was a man of medium height, overweight and in his 50s. He was friendly and welcoming, or so I thought. I told him about my life and he seemed to sympathise with me and my situation. He then said: “I could make all your problems disappear. I’ll give you this job and I’ll provide you with anything that you need. All you need to do is have sex with me.”

I was shocked. I was trembling. To top it all, I was considering this man’s offer. That’s so not like me. Why didn’t I immediately say no? I was desperate and willing to do anything to get ahead in life and help out my family. Was I really that desperate to go as far as using my body as a business transaction? After a few minutes I came back to my senses, stood up, rejected his offer and thanked him. I felt so small and defeated. I wasn’t aware that tears were rolling downs my cheeks. It was then that a woman in her early 60’s gently touched me and asked: “What’s the matter?” I told her everything and she gave me a hug. I sobbed like a little baby.

This woman was an angel in disguise. She is a retired teacher that now helps school kids with homework and tutors them, and she offered me a job. She helped me enrol in a university and next year I’ll be studying teaching. My family doesn’t lack anything anymore. Those who looked down on me now want to be my friends. My life is only just beginning to blossom.