When Pholisa got home Masi wasn’t there. She quickly changed and got on with her chores. She thought about doing her homework but she couldn’t concentrate. Masixole filled her mind.
How far in was he with this gang, she asked herself. What if last night he was with them, and they made him do things to initiate him? She pushed the thought out of her mind as quickly as it had entered. “Masixole is a good boy. He just needs someone to watch over him.” Gogo’s frail voice echoed in her head.
“I can’t, Gogo, I can’t deal with him,” she said out loud.
There was a knock at the door. Could it be Masi? If it was, she decided, she would confront him about this whole business with gangsters. She stood up and took a deep breath of the cold air that filled the small shack. It was drizzling outside and the rain mixed with the soil was refreshing in her lungs.
The knock came again, louder this time. She quickly walked to the door, almost tripping on the broken floor in the dark room.
“Guess who’s going to Hollywood!” Lelethu burst in screaming.
“What …?” Pholisa stammered. “Uthetha ngantoni, chommie – what are you on about?”
“Dancers wanted! Must be talented, sexy and available to work on weekends.” Lelethu read from a piece of paper she was holding. It was an advertisement torn from a newspaper. Auditions for dancers at some club called The Playground. “I’m going to apply. I have what they’re looking for, and with this,” she said putting her hands under her breasts, giving her cleavage a lift, “I will definitely get in.”
“Chom yam, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Pholisa advised.
“What? This is an opportunity of a lifetime!” answered Lelethu, twirling in the small space between them. “My ticket to the big time.”
“It will interfere with your studies, Lelethu. You need good grades to get into university and this … this will just get in the way,” Pholisa tried.
“I can do both things, study and dance,” Lelethu said. “What’s new?”
“But who put the advert in the paper?” said Pholisa. “Are you sure you can trust them?”
“You know what? I’m gonna do this by myself,” Lelethu said heading for the door. “I was stupid to think my best friend would support me in achieving my dreams,” she said and walked out in a huff.
Pholisa stood there, speechless. So much for being an honest friend.“Urgh! What on earth is wrong with this place? It changes people,” she said in frustration, slamming the door.
She threw herself on the bed. She felt exhausted, and alone. Masi was behaving strangely, and now her best friend was angry with her. Why was everything so hard?
Then the door swung open and Pholisa jumped from the bed, hoping it was Lelethu again. She wanted to apologise and reassure her that she would support her. After all, she had advised Lelethu to enter everything. But it wasn’t Lelethu who entered.
“Pholisa!” Masixole called from the kitchen. “Come put these away.”
If it wasn’t for his voice she wouldn’t have recognised him. He wore new clothes and a new haircut. His shoes had the label ‘Converse’, his shirt was Polo and his blue jeans were Levi’s. Pholisa stood shocked, her eyes fixed on Masixole.
He placed the bags on the counter.
“Awusemhle mnta’kamama – you look lovely, brother,” she stammered.
“Yeah, you should treat yourself too,” he said, flashing her a grin. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He counted a few notes and gave them to her. “Buy yourself some dresses and fix your hair,” he said, handing her the notes. “But first unpack these bags.” He went outside to the toilet.
Just then a phone rang. Pholisa didn’t recognise the ringtone. She followed the sound and found it on the counter, under one of the plastic bags.
Her eyes almost popped when she saw what kind of phone it was; it was the latest Samsung with a white cover. She had seen it at school; all the fashionable girls had one in different colour casings. She stared at it for a while before picking it up from the counter. It was playing ‘Ghetto’, by Zakes Bantwini, as the ringtone. The caller ID read ‘Sticks’.
She took the phone and held it in her hand. It felt soft and sleek in her right hand, almost perfect.
“Hello,” she answered. She hadn’t meant to, but she found herself holding it against her right cheek.
“Uxolo ubani, I’m sorry who?” she asked pressing the phone harder to her ear. Maybe she hadn’t heard right.
“Jonga s’febe – don’t waste my time. Where’s Max?” the man on the other end shouted, clearly annoyed.
“Xolo bhuti, wrong number,” Pholisa quickly said and hung up.
Masixole walked in just as she put the phone down on the small table in the centre of the room.
“Ibingubani, who was it?” Masixole asked.
“Andazi, someone looking for Max,” she said taking out some groceries. “I told them yi-wrong number,” she said.
Pholisa felt the heat of Masi’s hand across her face, her right cheek stinging with pins and needles. She was stunned; she couldn’t believe what had just happened. Masixole had just slapped her, and for what? Tears stung her eyes and she turned away from him, holding her cheek, feeling the heat transfer to her hand.
“Umuncu maan – just a villager who knows nothing,” he yelled as he took his phone. “Ndim uMax, I am Max. Remember that next time.”
As he stood by the table with his back to her, Pholisa saw the design at the back of his head. M-A-X had been skilfully shaved just above the nape of his neck. How could she have missed it?
“Askies, Bra Sticks,” Max spoke on his phone. “Sesi’denge salapha esi – it’s this idiot. She knows nothing … Yes, Bra Sticks, I’m ready …” he said, walking out without even looking at Pholisa.
As she unpacked the bags, tears trickled down her face. Why had Masixole hit her, and so hard? He had never hit her before, no matter how angry he had been. With her, he had always controlled his temper and just walked away. But tonight Masixole was different; he was someone she didn’t recognise. Her bhuti was an animal.
He wasn’t coming back tonight, Pholisa knew. So she decided not to cook. She would just make a peanut-butter sandwich and have it with tea. She lay on the bed in the dark and listened to the rain as it fell on the zinc roof. Her phone vibrated in her jeans pocket, and when she took it out the money Masixole had given her fell out onto the floor.
She picked it up and counted it again. R200 cash. Where had it come from? Was it blood money that Masi … Max had stolen? How far had he gone to get it? Pholisa’s mind was filled with questions that had no answers.
Her phone beeped.
Ur BFF is here & she’s sowi … cum round, we jst chillin’
She read the text, it was from Lazola. She could do with some fun. She needed to be around friends, people who cared for her.
When she got to Lazola’s place the door was open and the rain had stopped. Lelethu jumped up and they hugged and held on for some minutes.
“Nice … two hot girls together,” joked Lazola.
The girls laughed and chased him around the big living room.
The evening turned out to be fun, and Pholisa forgot all her worries. They talked of the party coming up Friday night at Thabo’s house. And DJ What-What was going to play. But then, before Pholisa knew it, the sky was completely dark and she had to get home. Lazola offered to walk with her.
They stood a house away from Pholisa’s shack. Pholisa feared that Masi would be back and that he would see them. Lazola gave her a hug and held on just a little longer. Pholisa could feel her blood levels rise as she held on tighter in the embrace.
“I’ll see you Friday night,” Lazola whispered. His warm breath ran down her neck and she shivered in delight. Then he gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek; the same cheek Masi had hit.
Later Pholisa lay in bed and wondered what she would do with the money. She needed to get a dress, jeans and some tops for the party. A girl could never have enough choices for an outfit, as Lelethu always said.
She quickly texted Lelethu.
Lets go shopping 2moro
Her phone beeped almost immediately.
Sorry. Got plans. Lx
What plans were so important that Lelethu couldn’t go shopping with her? Pholisa wondered if it had something to do with a boy or with dancing. Or whether Lelethu was jealous of Lazola showing interest in her. She would have to find out at school tomorrow.
Tell us: What do you think about the advert for dancers – is Pholisa being overly suspicious? Would you encourage Lelethu? Why/why not?