“Just act normal,” Ntombi told herself.  When Mzi dropped her off she leant over and kissed him goodbye. As she went inside she still felt confused. Even though she had seen the message from ‘Z’, and part of her was convinced that Mzi was connected to Zakes and the car theft – a small part of her still wanted to believe there was some mistake. Perhaps the Z was someone else? I mean Zakes isn’t the only person whose name begins with Z, she thought. Then suddenly she had another thought and went through all the girls she knew: Zanele, Zinzi and Zukiswa were just three of them. What if Mzi was meeting one of them at Mama’s Tavern instead?

“Mama, you’re here?” Ntombi was surprised to see her mother at home, back from church, snuggled down on the couch watching TV. Was something wrong? Usually if she wasn’t with Zakes, she was calling Zakes. But here she was sitting with Zinzi drinking a cup of coffee and telling Zinzi to close her eyes because the man and woman were kissing in the movie.

Hayi, wena, you’re peeping,” she laughed.

“Mama, are you going out later?”

“Not tonight, sweet girl,” her mother said.

“Where’s Zakes then?” asked Ntombi, joining them on the couch.

“He’s leaving town for a few days,” her mother said. “On business. There’s some big sales rep conference.”

“Remind me,” said Ntombi. “What exactly is it that Zakes does?”

“How many times do I have to tell you! He’s a rep for a car dealership. He says they are going to make him part of management soon. It’s a big promotion. But don’t you worry about it, Ntombi. The important thing is he’s got a regular job.”

Regular job! thought Ntombi. If you could call stealing cars a regular job. She thought of the message on Mzi’s phone. Zakes being “out of town” could only mean one thing – he was about to pull another hijacking stunt. “Has he done this before?” she asked her mother. “I mean, go out of town on business?”

“About a month ago. Why all the questions?” But Ntombi didn’t reply; she was thinking of Zakes and Mzi. If she was going to find out the truth she would have to go to Mama’s Tavern at six. But she couldn’t risk them recognising her.

She SMSed Asanda.

Cn I cm ova?

Asanda replied.

Yes stranger..gt sick of da bf?

Ha, ha LOL

Ntombi texted back…

gt a favr 2 ask

When Ntombi got to Asanda’s house, and asked to borrow the wig Asanda had worn once to a party, the look on Asanda’s face made her think that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. “You want my what?” said Asanda looking at Ntombi like she’d gone mad.

“I want your wig.”

“What? Now your beautiful braids are not good enough for Mzi? Or what?”

“No, it’s not that. In fact Mzi doesn’t know about this. I just…” she searched around the room hoping a reason would appear on the walls in front of her. “It’s just that I have to go somewhere, but I don’t want to be recognised.”

“I knew he was bad news,” frowned Asanda. “He’s got you involved in some of his dirty business, hasn’t he?”

“No, that’s not it. It’s for a guy I met. He’s a music producer. He wants some photos of me. He needs a portfolio for his books. You know, different looks, different make-up and hairstyles… and I thought…”

“You met a music producer and you didn’t tell us? And you’re keeping him all to yourself?”

Ntombi couldn’t believe how she was lying to her friend. The scary thing was that it was getting easier to lie each time she did it. “If he’s interested, then I can introduce you guys,” said Ntombi, hoping this would make things better between Asanda and herself. “But I have to get him to take the bait first, don’t you see? I can’t rush it.”

“You don’t sound like the Ntombi I know. What’s happening to you?” Asanda looked at Ntombi, who was trying on the wig. She smoothed down the long hair. It made her look much older and sophisticated. Yes, this would do. “You sure you’re not in trouble?” Asanda asked as Ntombi waved goodbye, the wig in a plastic bag in her hand.

“Promise,” said Ntombi. “Don’t worry, and thanks for this.”

It felt like some of the longest hours of Ntombi’s life, from the time she left Asanda’s to when she put on her mother’s dress, high-heeled shoes, and Asanda’s wig. She even borrowed some of her mother’s make-up. Then, it was how to get out of the house when her mother and Zinzi were not looking. Seeing them both at the stove, she dashed out of the door shouting out that she was going to do some homework with a friend. But out in the street she found it hard to walk in the high heels, and tripped at least twice before she waved down a taxi. Her new look was met with whistles from the guys on the street.

“Hey baby? What you doing later? Do you want my number?” She tried not to look around. She tried to focus on her mission: get to Mama’s Tavern and find out what Mzi was up to. As she sat down in the taxi her short skirt rode up her legs and she felt the eyes of the guy next to her staring at her legs. Suddenly she felt completely out of her depth. But now she was on the taxi there was no going back.

She got off just outside Mama’s Tavern. It was ten to six.


Ntombi teetered to the bar and asked for a cooldrink. The bartender looked at her questioningly. A woman alone? Already some guys who were chatting to each other at a nearby table looked up at her and whistled.

“Hey, buy the lovely lady a drink,” they shouted to the bartender.

“It’s okay,” said Ntombi, not wanting to draw attention to herself. “I’m meeting someone.”

“Sorry guys. You’re not fast enough. The lady is already taken,” said the bartender, laughing.

“That’s a pity,” they said, made some jokes, and went back to their conversation about the latest football game.

Taken, thought Ntombi to herself. As if I was something they could own.

Ntombi was half way through her drink, and she didn’t have money for another, and still there was no sign of Zakes or Mzi. She couldn’t make the drink last forever.

Just when she was about to give up, she heard a familiar voice and looked around.


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