“Hey, this is Lethu. Leave your name and number and if you’re hot, I’ll call you back,” Lelethu’s voicemail sang, followed by the beep sound.
“Hey, chommie. Been trying to call you all morning. Please call me – I need your style advice,” Pholisa said into the phone.
The first half of classes flew by. Pholisa was excited. She was chatting to everyone and laughing at everything. It also felt good that Lazola had kissed her. Her fingers went to her cheek where his lips had touched her skin.
She didn’t want to think about Masi. She was happy that there was food at home, money to spare. And beyond that she didn’t want to think.
She kept trying to call Lelethu. But as the day went by, she started to worry. It was not like Lelethu to miss school.
“Have you seen Lelethu today?” Pholisa asked when she found Lazola at the soccer field at break time.
“Not today,” he said. “What’s up? Something wrong?”
“No, I just need to speak to her about something,”
Where was Lelethu and why was her phone off?
“You’ll see her at the party,” Lazola said.
Everyone had been talking about the party all day. Pholisa wanted to look good tonight; she wanted to impress Lazola. She needed Lelethu to help her choose an outfit. She still wasn’t sure of what was in, and what was a no-no.
But after school, there was still no message from Lelethu, so Pholisa went shopping on her own. There was so much to choose from. She saw a blue dress in one of the shops, one with blue and black horizontal stripes at the boob section. She loved it. She chose black pumps for her feet. She even got a pair of jeans, two tops and a small cardigan. Shopping in the Chinese shops sure stretched Masi’s money a lot further.
She went home excited and ready to show Lelethu that she had done it all by herself. Surely her friend would never miss the party.
The evening was warm as Pholisa left the house in her new outfit. Masi hadn’t been home so Pholisa had left him a note. She didn’t want to text him, in case he sent her a text back saying she couldn’t go. No, a note would buy her time, she thought to herself. She said she wouldn’t be home late, just in case he got home early. She even said thank you for the money and drew a smiley face next to it.
She could hear the music blaring from the end of the street. DJ What-What was on the dials, spinning ‘Khona’ by Mafikizolo, everybody’s favourite summer track. She approached Thabo’s house, a little nervous without Lelethu by her side.
She walked into the yard and looked around but she could see neither Lelethu nor Lazola.
Princess and her friends were there, all in the same outfit: umbrella skirts and denim shirts with signature necklaces. They were standing at the corner in a circle, typing frantically on their phones and taking photos. The soccer boys were standing by the wall in another corner, pointing out the girls they were going to make their moves on.
One of them pointed at Pholisa, who stood shyly by the gate, not far from them.
“Ngumaxhoseni, Joe, it’s village girl,” one of them said.
Pholisa quickly slipped into the house, hoping to find Lazola. But he wasn’t there either.
Then, from the window, Pholisa saw Lazola arrive in a red Toyota Tazz. He said goodbye to the driver and walked through the gates into the house. The DJ waved to him, and Lazola started going towards him. But then he saw Pholisa.
“You look beautiful,” he said giving her a hug. Then he gently kissed her on the cheek. Pholisa felt a shiver. “Let’s go and get some drinks. What do you want?”
Lazola led her into the kitchen where a couple of their classmates were getting cold beers out of the fridge. There were lots of different bottles and Pholisa couldn’t tell what was what.
“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” she told Lazola.
Lazola opened a bottle of Savanna and handed it to her. Then he took one for himself.
Pholisa took a sip and her whole body tingled.
“You’ve never had alcohol before?”
“I have,” she lied, “just not this.”
As they walked outside to find somewhere to talk that was quieter, Pholisa looked around for Lelethu. Surely she must be here somewhere. She was never late for these things.
“She’s just redoing her make-up, so that it matches her outfit,” Lazola joked when Pholisa told him that she was worried about her friend.
Pholisa laughed at the thought of her friend changing eye shadow to match her tops.
“You’re very pretty when you laugh,” Lazola smiled.
“And when I don’t?” Pholisa teased back.
“Equally pretty.” He was a real charmer. He drew her close to him and kissed her softly on the lips. And suddenly he was kissing her more deeply. And all around them she heard whistles and clapping.
Lelethu was late. But as she pushed through the dancers it sounded like the party was in full swing. She didn’t feel her usual party-self though. She wasn’t in the mood. What happened at the club in town had really shaken her. And then Masi hadn’t even helped her. She couldn’t talk to Pholisa about any of it. Pholisa had warned her. She should have known.
Right now, if she was going to cope with this party, she needed a drink.
She headed for the fridge, greeting people along the way. As she took out a cold Spin she heard the whistles coming from just outside the door. Something hot was going down. But what she saw when she stepped outside shocked her.
Lazola had his back to her. He was kissing a girl. A girl she couldn’t see. The crowd was going wild. She steadied herself against the wall behind her. She felt sick. She hadn’t realised how she felt about Lazola. And then they stopped kissing and Lelethu’s heart felt like it stopped beating as they pulled apart and she saw the girl.
If it had been any other guy kissing Pholisa, Lelethu would’ve been so happy for her friend. But this wasn’t any other guy; this was Lazola, the guy who was always there to flirt with Lelethu and all the other girls. The guy who Lelethu thought would always be around if she needed someone.
She stepped back into the house but she couldn’t stop watching them. It wasn’t a kiss for a dare – Lazola was still holding Pholisa’s hand, their fingers entwined. She watched as they walked across the dance floor to the DJ. Her best friend had just had her first kiss and yet Lelethu couldn’t be happy for her; all she felt was a twist of jealousy in her stomach, and it made her sick.
Lazola was requesting Pholisa’s favourite song when Lelethu became aware of her phone vibrating in her pocket.
Withheld was flashing on the screen.
Who would be calling her from a private number?
“Hello,” she answered.
“Hi, is this Lelethu?” a man’s raspy voice asked. Lelethu didn’t recognise it.
“Who is this?” she asked.
“Steven, the manager of The Playground. How are you?” his voice was sickly sweet now. How could he care? He hadn’t even met her at the club.
“You still there, darling?” he asked. As if they were old friends, or lovers even.
“What can I do for you?” she asked stiffly.
“The name’s Steven. You came to the auditions yesterday. I was so sorry to miss you. You left so quickly.”
Lelethu remembered how she had rushed out, how she had sworn never to return. But Steven continued talking.
“I saw you walking out. You’re really hot, and I could see by the way you moved even then that you have something special. I’m afraid you got the wrong impression about what we do here. Yes, I know there are pole-dancers, and that’s what you saw. I’m sorry for that. It must have been very misleading. But that’s just a small part of the performances we offer. You are much too good to waste on that nonsense.”
Lelethu couldn’t help it, something stirred inside her at his words of flattery. So he had recognised that she had something special. And she was never meant to do the pole-dancing. She wondered what other performances he meant.
“We’re holding a private party tonight.”
“Private party … Really?” she asked, trying to hide her excitement.
“Yes. I want you to come and dance for me tonight. We can start over. What do you say? None of that other nonsense. That’s just for the cheap girls. No, this party is just for some close friends, who appreciate what you can offer. Something different and sophisticated. Real dancing talent.”
Lelethu looked at Lazola and Pholisa across the floor, cuddling up, like they were already a couple. Excluding her. Lelethu had been right and Pholisa was wrong – this club was the way to her dancing future. But it was late, and how would she get there?
As if he sensed her anxiety Steven said softly. “Don’t worry, I’ll send my driver to pick you up.”
He had a driver? And he was sending him just for her? That made her feel special, like a celebrity even. Surely he wouldn’t send a driver for those cheap pole-dancers. He really did think she was talented enough to be treated like a VIP.
“Lelethu? Sweet thing, are you there?” Steven asked.
“The driver will be there in an hour. Don’t worry, we have your address from the form you filled in. You there now?”
“Yes, sir,” she lied, thinking that it wouldn’t take her long to get home. An hour would be plenty of time to get back and check her make-up and change her clothes again.
“Call me Steven. See you later, darling,” he said and hung up.
Lelethu felt a rush of excitement. She felt like she was walking on air. She would tell Pholisa; for a moment she didn’t even care about Lazola. But the lovebirds were kissing again.
But who wants a schoolboy, anyway, thought Lelethu. She would soon be mixing with real gentlemen, who appreciated her talent, and who had money. They would treat her like a celebrity. The manager, Steven, was even sending a car! No, she didn’t need Lazola. She just needed to get home and get ready for her chauffeur-driven ride to stardom.
Tell us: Would you have gone to the club if you were Lelethu? Why/why not?