Meet me at the corner at 4 2moro. Parks
And now tomorrow was today. Busi counted the hours until 4 p.m. How was she going to get through those hours? And she couldn’t tell a soul about this. Not Lettie, or Asanda, or Ntombi. They would try to stop her. They would say it was suicide meeting up with him.
Deep in her heart she knew that she shouldn’t do it. But how could she not? There was always a chance that he had changed his mind, that he had divorced his wife and wanted to be a father to their baby. There was always a chance …
Somehow, Busi survived the day at school. Somehow she managed to chat to Unathi about the latest spate of thefts in the school (he had lost his cell phone) without mentioning Parks. She even ignored Asisipho, the pretty, petite girl in Grade 11 who had been staring at her all through break. Was she trying to see how pregnant she was? Was she feeling sorry for her? Or was she deliberately trying to make her feel uncomfortable?
Somehow she made it back home. It was 3.30 p.m. In half an hour she would meet Parks on the corner of Freedom Avenue. She wasn’t ready.
Busi started to pull clothes out of her small cupboard. It wasn’t long before her bed was strewn with nearly all her jeans and tops and skirts. Nothing felt or looked right any more. Nothing fitted properly. She was beginning to panic. She had to look as good as she could for Parks. It was her pride. And that part of her that wanted him to take her in his arms again, to say those things he used to:
“You are the most beautiful girl, Busi.”
“I love that little smile of yours. It makes me want to eat you up!”
Eventually she pulled on a skirt with a stretchy waistband and a low-cut top that she remembered Parks had liked. She covered it all up with her yellow winter jacket and put on her pair of high-heeled winter boots.
Busi stared at herself in the mirror on her cupboard door. Her heart was beating despite herself. Something was missing. Make-up. Busi fumbled in her drawer and pulled out her lip gloss and eyeliner and leant forward towards the mirror to apply it.
“Ooh! Hayi! This weather!”
The front door flew open and Busi’s grandmother stumbled into the shack, shoved from behind by a blast of freezing air. Busi froze, clutching her eyeliner in one hand, her other hand moving to hide her glossy-lipped mouth.
“Oh, Busi,” said her grandmother, shutting the door firmly behind her, “I don’t know if I will survive this winter. It’s too bad. Too bad.” She turned towards her and paused, squinting in the dim light inside the shack. “You look very nice, my granddaughter,” she said, moving closer.
“I’m going to Asanda’s, Gogo,” lied Busi. The words were out before she could stop them. Busi had promised herself that she would never lie to her grandmother again. And here she was, doing it.
“That’s good, Busi. That’s good,” said Busi’s grandmother, sitting down in the armchair. She closed her eyes and sighed.
“Before you go, make me a cup of tea. Please, Busi. I am very tired. And very cold.”
Busi looked at the time on her cell phone. It was 3.50 p.m. There was just enough time, if she was quick, to make her granny some tea. She dragged a blanket from the foot of her bed and gently put it over her grandmother’s knees.
“Thank you, Busi. It’s good that you still do things with your friends. I’m glad for you.”
Busi’s grandmother was slowly sipping on her warm tea and watching the television when Busi hurried out into the cold weather. Thankfully it had stopped raining and Busi walked towards Freedom Avenue with her heart pounding in her chest.
Parks was early.
Busi saw his taxi coming and for a split second she considered running away, escaping him in the maze of streets. But she didn’t. Instead she looked up and smiled in greeting as she reached for the door handle of the taxi. Parks was smiling down at her and Busi felt her heart tighten in her chest and her hands begin to tremble. She slid into the seat next to Parks.
“Hello, my girl,” he said softly and gently. His voice washed over Busi in the way it always had, making her heart pound even faster. She clasped her hands in her lap. His voice was like the old Parks, the Parks who had cared for her, who had bought her nice things.
As the taxi pulled away, she couldn’t help noticing how normal it felt to be sitting next to him like this, his profile familiar and handsome as he sat with one hand casually placed on the steering wheel. But this time he wasn’t reaching across to her with his other hand to stroke her cheek, or to pull her closer. This time his other hand was on his lap. Part of her yearned for him to reach across to her like he used to do. But then she became aware of a movement behind her in the taxi.
Oh no, thought Busi, why is his gaadjie here? She turned around to see him. But it was not the gaadjie. The person in the back of the taxi, slowly moving up towards her between the row of seats, was the woman Busi had seen before, seated in a black car, watching her. Parks’s wife!
“Haibo, kwe nze kani ?” Busi cried out in fright. Then she turned sharply to Parks, her eyes flashing. “What’s she doing here?”
“It’s OK,” said Parks. “Just relax, Busi. She only wants to talk to you.”
“Well, I don’t want to talk to her,” said Busi loudly, her hands beginning to fumble with the door of the taxi.
Parks drove on, still speaking calmly and quietly.
“Don’t be stupid, Busi. She’s not going to harm you. Just listen to what she has to say.”
Busi clutched the door handle tightly in her hand as Parks swung the taxi out onto the freeway and put his foot on the accelerator. The taxi rapidly gathered speed. The tar was a grey blurr through her window as the taxi went faster and faster. Even so, Busi considered opening the door and jumping. “Stop the taxi!” she cried out, “Let me out! Let me out! Stop!”
Parks drove on and Busi began to cry, her voice getting louder and louder.“Stop! Stop! If you don’t let me out I’ll jump! I will! I’ll jump!”
“Don’t be a fool,” said Parks, his voice loud and firm now. His face had changed. He was no longer smiling. Instead he was frowning angrily at her. “You little fool,” he said.
The nice Parks had disappeared. Now she remembered how he always was.
“Now, now, Parks. Don’t scare the girl.” His wife’s voice was soft.
Busi’s hand relaxed on the door handle and her body slumped against the car seat. She turned her face away to watch the fast-moving traffic. She couldn’t look at Parks. She didn’t want to risk seeing that mean expression on his face again.
Behind her she felt his wife leaning towards her. She knew that her face was very close to her right shoulder. Busi could smell her. A strange mix of perfume, alcohol and stale cooking smells. Busi leant her face against the cold glass of the taxi’s window.
“Now,” said Parks’ wife, “you just listen to me …”
Why do you think it is so hard for Busi to ‘let go’ of Parks?