The thirteenth. A Friday night. A night of misfortune and malice. I tip-toed to the door in the dark, my long black weave obscuring my face and view. I stood for a brief moment in sheer terror. My green handbag touched the chair, causing it to move with slight turbulence. The light from a lamp filled the room and an old woman wearing a brown doek walked at a slow pace. She looked around to figure out what had caused the sudden noise, and her eyes were fixed on the chair that was slightly misplaced. She shook her head and the light went off, followed by the bang of a door.

I rose from behind the coal stove, sighing heavily in relief. I almost got caught, I thought. I slowly opened the door and immediately stepped out of the house to lock the door. The cold breeze was uninviting but I was determined to go on.

“Ayanda! Ayanda!” it was my friend. “Come this side!” she whispered. I rapidly put my sandals on and ran to hug my friend, Lucia. “I’m glad you could make it,” she smiled.

We moved to the car, a red BMW that was well parked outside the yard of my home. Inside the car it was much warmer, and I found myself slowly getting comfortable. The driver was Zack, and he was a wearing a white shirt, a black jacket and denim jeans. He was a bit tipsy and beside him was a bottle of wine he was still sipping from. On the other hand, Lucia was nodding her head to the music that was playing loudly in the background.

Zack was driving at high speed along a dusty, rocky road. I stared out of the window, my mind still at home and I was worried. What if my grandma noticed I was not home? What if something bad happened to me or my friend? Many questions flocked to my mind but I could not let these questions interfere with my fun and freedom. I was overwhelmed by the trip; I knew very well it would be fun knowing that I had never set foot in a tavern, let alone to drink a beer. I knew this was going to be a great experience. I needed to make the most of it.

The car turned onto a smooth tar road and the streets were brightly lit. I found myself smiling; it was a different world, unlike my boring village world where there were no street lights, tarred roads or as many houses. People here roamed the streets at night as if it was daylight. I still remember how our village fought to get electricity, how the strike turned from bad to worse. I quickly crushed the thoughts. I was about to have fun, so why spoil it with bad memories and municipality issues?

The tavern was fully packed and the music was epic. All I saw was happy, beautiful people. “CHILLAS TAVERN” the bold words caught my attention. This is IT! We have finally arrived! It was the place my best friend Lucia always bragged about: “Man, it was amazing!” or “You are really missing out, girl! You only live once!” she would say and I would nod my head, smiling. Now the dream had come true. I would definitely tell my cousin on Monday how great CHILLAS TAVERN was. We usually met at the river to fetch water and that is where we discussed every detail and told each other about everything that had happened over the weekend. She lived on the other side of the village.

“We have arrived!” Lucia’s voice pierced my ears, her tense body was suddenly transformed into an energetic creature.

Lucia had not been drinking, but her mood and spirit were totally free. She moved out of the car, easily moving her slender body. Zack followed her, dancing and holding her waist with one hand while the other hand was occupied with a bottle of wine. I had no choice but to get out of the car as well, but my body was cold and shaking, my short skirt revealed my skinny legs. My eyes scanned everybody that was in the tavern, and at the gate where I was standing, there was a plump girl crying, but to my surprise, no one was interested in why she was upset. At some point, I felt the need to help the poor lady but I hesitated; it was none of my business.

At the far right corner were young girls and boys probably around 15 or 16 years old. I was surprised because I thought that the only people who were allowed in such places were those who had reached 18, but clearly here that was not the case. Now my mind was racing. How does security here work? Do they even know their job? There were standing at the entrance, three muscular, black, scary-looking gentlemen with shades, necklaces, rings and, of course, guns. Tough as they are, how could they allow such young souls into the tavern? What happened to the law? The only thing they did was to check for dangerous weapons then that was it, you were in.

“Come on, let’s go in,” Lucia shouted. It was impossible for her to talk quietly; she had to shout because it was way too noisy. She grabbed my hand, pushing aside some guys to make our way through the entrance. The security guys roughly checked us and we were pushed inside. The music was much louder there. Lucia disappeared into the drunk, dancing crowd and I was left alone standing like a lost puppet.

My stomach was turning. I was now scared, scared for my precious life. It felt unsafe now that my friend was nowhere to be found. I wanted to go home, I impatiently waited for her to come back, my eyes looking at the place where she had disappeared, hoping she would show up soon and take me home to my village.

“Here is a drink.” I jumped out of my skin. I felt shivers down my spine and I slowly turned my head. A shirtless stranger smiled at me with a gold tooth. His body was well built with a few tattoos here and there. I felt relieved that the guy was inviting. His smile got me to smile right back at him.

“You gave me a fright!” I shouted, taking an open bottle of beer from his hand. “I’m Ayanda. And you are?” I asked sipping the beer.

“Come on, let’s dance. My name is Thomas.” He held my hand moving into the crowd and we danced to the loud house music. My face was filled with joy. I was surprised at how energetic I suddenly was. Maybe the beer had kicked in and was making me lose my mind. As we danced, I thought of that big-boned girl I saw earlier. I had promised myself that I would not behave like her; one glass was enough for me. I knew very well that if I consumed more alcohol I could end up like Lucia or that fat girl. I needed to look after myself and to be in control.

<p style=”text-align: center;”><strong>***</strong></p>

<strong>Tell us what you think: Should she have accepted an open beer from a complete stranger?</strong>