As Parks drove back up the street towards Harmony High he pulled his cap lower over his eyes and turned down the music. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself. The security guard was walking up and down outside the school. It wasn’t safe to drive past Harmony High any more. Word would have got out about what happened to Busi, even if she hadn’t told the principal herself. Rumours spread faster than a sex clip on YouTube.
He needed to see Busi. He needed to know. Was she pregnant? If she was she would be, what, four months by now? When had they had sex for the first time in that Formula One hotel? The thought of her being pregnant made him feel sick. Why hadn’t she had the abortion when he had arranged everything? And how had Thandi found out that Busi was pregnant? His wife had a way of finding out about everything – it was like she was following him everywhere, breathing down his neck. Now she wanted to know if Busi had got rid of the child. She had warned him: “Another girl, Parks, and you’re out on the street.”
“Never, again,” he had said, and begged for her forgiveness. “You are the only woman in my life now.” On uttering those words, he’d almost believed them.
At the stop street he turned left, away from the school. And suddenly there she was, ahead of him on the road. He couldn’t call her; there were too many people about. Damn! He slowed down and pulled over.
She was wearing a thick yellow winter jacket over her school uniform. If it were summer it would be easier to see if she was pregnant. But there was no way he could tell now.
He watched as a tall, thin boy ran up to her. Busi greeted him and they walked together around the corner into the next street.
“If you ever see that girl again, or any other ‘young bitch’ for that matter, you will regret the day you were born.” That’s what his wife had said after she’d found out about Busi. If only Thandi wasn’t the one with all the money. And she owned the house. He had nothing without her – that was the truth.
His cell beeped. Here she was now, checking up on him. Every minute.
Buy champagne for anniversary tomorrow – remember?
How could he forget …? It had been 12 years of her tears and rages. Twelve years of spending her money, but also saving her from the trouble she had got herself into. Twelve years of her commands, making him feel like he was nothing. How could a man live like that?
That’s what had driven him to cruise outside high schools in his taxi. That’s what had driven him to drive past Harmony High and to stop when he saw a pretty girl. Busi wasn’t the only one – although of course that’s what she thought. It was what all the girls thought. He sighed as he remembered the first. Pity her father had caught them together, and threatened to break his legs.
Busi hadn’t had a father, well, not one who was around. Just an ancient grandmother who couldn’t protect herself, let alone her grandchild. It had been easy.
Taxis drove past full of school kids screaming and laughing. He watched as the last groups of kids walked past on their way home. He was about to start the taxi and go to the bottle store for the champagne, when he looked in his side mirror and saw a girl walking alone on the pavement towards his taxi. She was pretty and petite and there was something in the way she swung her hips that made him excited.
He wound down the window. “Hey, pretty girl.” He flashed his most charming smile.
She stopped and smiled back.
“How would you like some airtime?”
She hesitated. He knew what she was thinking. For what in return?
“I need some information. Just something small …” He held up the airtime voucher. He had a whole pile of them in his cubby hole.
“So what do you want to know?”
“Do you know a girl called Busi?”
She laughed. “Which Busi? There are many at school.”
“She’s in Matric. She lives off Banda Street with her granny.”
“Oh, that Busi! Yes, everyone knows that Busi – the one who got herself pregnant by a Sugar Daddy.” She laughed, like she knew Parks could be that Sugar Daddy.
“Is she still at school?”
“Yes, but I’m not sure for how much longer. It’s beginning to show, you know. You can’t use a safety pin forever …”
“Thanks.” He winked at her. “You’re really pretty, you know. What’s your name?”
“Maybe we’ll meet again, Asisipho? Maybe you’d like some more airtime?”
He watched as she walked away, swinging her hips … So it was true. Busi was still pregnant.
Busi had just said goodbye to Unathi. She was nearly at her gate when Lettie ran up, skipped over a puddle and took her by the arm.
“Unathi walked you home?”
“Yes … what about it?”
“I always thought that you two would make a good couple …”
Why would he want a pregnant girlfriend, Busi thought. Really, Lettie said the stupidest things. It wasn’t like Busi had never thought about it. But then she had quickly thought about all the reasons why it would never work. There wasn’t that chemistry she had had with Parks. Unathi didn’t make her heart beat faster.
“But he’s kind and he’s funny,” Ntombi had told her in the past.
“And he’s hardworking; he’s going places, chommie,” Asanda had added.
That was true – Unathi was so kind, and entertaining as well. He could make people laugh. But she needed him as a friend. If you went out with guys they could dump you, and then there was never any going back to being friends. She didn’t want to risk that.
“Well …” Lettie looked at her. “We’re all going to Asanda’s this afternoon to talk about what we’re gonna do after exams, and also about the Matric dance. Hlengiwe is going to help Ntombi put in extensions. You know how good she is at it.” She smiled. “Oh, it’s so great the exams are just about over.”
Busi said nothing. She had hardly worked for these exams – they had meant nothing to her, and she knew she had probably failed them. And, anyway, what was the point of talking about the Matric dance if she wasn’t going to go? By the time of the party there was no way she would be seen dancing.
Lettie chattered on happily. “And do you know Themba’s been accepted for tech next year? And Ntombi and Olwethu had a fight, can you believe it? Those two love birds …”
“That’s a first!” said Busi. She was surprised. Olwethu was the perfect boyfriend. But that’s what couples did – they fought, they made up.
“And remember that guy Mandla, the one who’s so good at singing? He’s coming around too – he’s in a band, and they might play for the dance. Asanda liked him even when we were in primary school. You remember, don’t you?” Lettie paused for a moment, hardly waiting for a reply before continuing, “Anyway, she sent him a message, and he replied! He said that he would see her.”
Lettie’s voice faded into the distance. Busi had stopped listening. She was lost in thought. Primary school. That seemed like a million years ago. She no longer cared. She didn’t care about Asanda and Mandla or about parties or school. What Lettie was talking about was children’s stuff. Just children’s stuff! Busi’s breath caught in her throat. For a moment she felt like she couldn’t breathe. It was like a weight was pressing down on her chest.
“Busi?” said Lettie, pausing in her chatter to look at Busi, “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” said Busi, opening her gate. “Just tired.”
“So, will we see you later?” asked Lettie, smiling broadly, like the sun after the rain.
“What?” Busi couldn’t concentrate. She had just heard her cell phone beep with a message.
“Asanda’s place,” Lettie reminded her. “Extensions. Remember?”
“Oh,” said Busi, turning away and walking towards her front door. “No, I don’t think so. Not today.”
Busi fumbled to get her key into the lock of her front door, hardly looking back to say goodbye. When she was inside she looked down at her phone and her heart gave a jolt.
She put her phone down on the table. She couldn’t bear to read the message. Not yet. What was he doing SMSing her after all this time? She was too nervous to read it. She would make tea. She would force herself to wait. But as she poured the water into the kettle her mind was racing.
What if he wanted her back? What if he had decided that he really loved her after all? And that he was going to divorce his wife and be with her, Busi, happily ever after? What if? She stirred sugar into her tea. There wasn’t much sugar left and it had been the last teabag. They had run out of the latest shopping so quickly. What if Parks still wanted her to have an abortion? What if he was angry with her? What if? Busi sat down with her hot cup of tea and picked up the cell phone. Hesitantly she clicked on the message and waited as the text filled the screen.
I hear u still pregnant – is it true?
Why does Parks stay with his wife?