I feel like curling up in bed and pulling the blanket over my head, but my aunt insists I go and buy her booze from the shebeen.

Normally I would just go, buy it and come back to the shack
– end of story. But this evening I put makeup on, tracing my dark eyes with
liner and shadowing them with a gleam of powder. I slick lip gloss on my lips.
War paint applied.

I change into a clean shirt and put on a pair of glittery
dangly earrings. Armor.Then I set off into the twilight, walking past kids playing
soccer in the gloomy street. Thin coils of smoke rise into a haze above the
township as dinner is prepared down below. A hooter shrieks and a taxi driver
shouts out the taxi window as he cruises his empty taxi slowly along the
potholed road, looking for passengers.

“Buhle! Over here!” Gugu calls me over as I walk in to the
shebeen with its bright lights, cold fridges and scattering of tables.

I hesitate before walking over to join them. I’m feeling
more than a little wary after my run in with Thandoza this afternoon, but Gugu
and Lindiwe both look friendly. And fortunately there’s no sign of Thandoza.

“How’s the hangover?” Lindiwe asks, then tips her head back
and takes a few slugs of her Hunters.

“Not worth repeating,” I reply seriously. 

They both laugh as if I’ve cracked a really funny joke.

“Have another drink, it’ll help,” urges Gugu, gesturing to
the collection of empties on their table. “I feel great again!”

My stomach lurches at the thought. Luckily Gugu’s already
thinking about something else.

“Hey, is there something going on with Thandoza and Themba?”
Gugu asks.

My heart squeezes sharply.

“I don’t know. Why do you ask?” I say as casually as I can.

“Well, Thandoza’s acting a little weird. She looked pretty
upset after you left today. And then after her Minister of Finance left the spaza
this morning she burst into tears, threw herself into Themba’s arms and they
disappeared behind the spaza together. Strange. I can’t figure it out.”

Nor can I. And I don’t want to think about the sick feeling
I get when I hear their names together. It’s the second time today. I tell
myself I’ve already decided I can’t kiss a schoolboy, and that Themba’s
history, and that that’s a good thing.

But when I remember Thandoza saying, “Just face it. Themba’s
so not into you” this afternoon, and then following on with even worse
things  – like I don’t have what it takes
to be someone – I feel that horrible hurt bubbling up inside me again, before
it boils over and turns into anger.

I’ll show that Thandoza that I’m someone in this township. I’ll
prove her wrong.

The girls’ eyes go wide as a heavy hand falls on my shoulder.
I can smell aftershave and I know who it is before I even turn to see the
Minister of Finance smiling his crocodile grin at me.

“Buhle, I was hoping I would see you,” he croons in a syrupy
voice. “Let me buy you a drink.”

“Sure,” I reply, without missing a beat.

Gugu and Lindiwe look really impressed.

He steers me towards a table nearby and orders me a Savannah
without asking me what I want. He orders himself a triple J&B on the rocks.

I feel Lindiwe and Gugu’s eyes on me.

The Minister of Finance is already quite drunk. I can tell
by the heavy way he keeps putting his hand on my arm, and the way he slurs his
words when he tells me he finds me really beautiful.

I know the girls are watching and it suits me perfectly that
they see the Minister of Finance coming on to me. They’ll pass the news
on to Thandoza, which is fine by me. I’m all for her eating her words sooner
rather than later.

“So,” I purr to the Minister, “tell me about yourself.”

Ten minutes later he’s still warbling on about his money,
his car, his business and how many women are chasing after him because they
think he’s so hot. He asks me why a beautiful girl like me doesn’t have a rich
boyfriend looking out for her. But before I have a chance to answer he orders
himself another triple, and another Savannah for me – even though I haven’t
even touched the first one.

I keep listening because I know the girls are watching. I
want them to see that I don’t even have to try hard to be someone. I’ve just
got what it takes.

“Cheers.” He stares hungrily into my eyes for a moment as we
clink glasses.

I can’t help thinking it’s strange that the Minister is
making all this effort with me, and yet he keeps glancing over at a group of
pretty girls drinking at a corner table.

I find myself thinking about Themba again, despite myself.
Was he into me? Or did he really tell Thandoza that I didn’t give him a chance
to say no before I launched myself at him. And what’s going on with Themba and
Thandoza anyway?

Pretty soon the Minister of Finance moves around the table
and sits far too close to me on the bench.

He puts his hand on my leg, and then, right there beneath
the glare of the shebeen lights, he leans in and tries to kiss me.

Yuck! I manage to move my mouth out of reach just in time,
but he slobbers on my cheek.

I wipe my cheek and look around to check if the girls have
got my back, and catch a glimpse of them walking out the door with two guys.

I’m on my own.

“Hey!” hisses the businessman, “can’t you tell we’re meant
for each other?”

“Look…” I begin, “I’m just not…”

His eyes are thin and mean as he talks over me, “I’ve been
buying you drinks. Don’t play all hard to get now.”

I don’t want to be here anymore. My stomach is in a knot, my
heart is hammering and I can’t ignore the voice in my head that says run!

And I probably would run if the Minister didn’t have my
wrist in a vice-like grip.

“I’m not playing hard to get,” I say sweetly, calling his
bluff, “I just need to go to the little girls room. I’ll be back in a minute.”

I smile that million-dollar smile, and he smiles back, more
crocodile than human being, and relaxes his grip.

Thandoza sashays in as I’m slipping out the door, making her
entrance with a seductive pout on her face. She falters as she sees me.

The words that erupt from my lips are fiery and unstoppable.

“Maybe you’re the
one who doesn’t have what it takes Thandoza. Maybe you should be doing yourself a favour and giving it all up.”

For a moment I relish the look of absolute shock on her
face. Then I duck out, slipping into the shadow outside the shebeen. My legs
start to shake, and I lean against the wall, needing its cool smoothness to
hold me up.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Sugar Daddies: what’s sweet about them? Say your bit…