Busi woke up late in the morning, with a headache. She felt nauseous. Her granny said it was because she hadn’t eaten properly and cooked her some porridge. But Busi didn’t feel hungry. She had to force the porridge down. Parks still hadn’t called and there was nothing she could do. She told herself to try to forget him, but she couldn’t. And when there was a knock on the door she rushed through to see who it was. She hoped that it wasn’t him and that it was him – all at the same time. She would be so relieved to see him, but she didn’t want her granny to meet him. It wasn’t Parks – it was Unathi, looking tired but still handsome.
“I came to see if you got home okay?” he smiled.
“What do you care? I saw you dancing with Felicia last night.” Busi couldn’t look at him.
“What was I supposed to do? Sit on the wall? I asked you to dance, remember, and you said no – too busy waiting for Mr No-Show.”
“Actually he phoned,” she lied. “He was in an accident.” Unathi raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
“So, why aren’t you at the hospital at his bedside then? Why aren’t you with him in his hour of need?”
“I can’t leave my grandmother.” It was a stupid excuse, she knew. But he didn’t question her further and his expression softened.
“I was worried about you, Busi.” His voice was quiet now, and full of concern. “It’s dangerous, Busi. What you are doing is dangerous.”
She didn’t have the energy to fight back. What could she say? And when there was another knock at the door and the sound of girls giggling, she was so relieved, she laughed. Her friends burst in looking a bit worse for wear from the night before. Asanda still had some make-up on. “Hey, Unathi sprinted to get here ahead of us, Busi. He must really like you,” she teased. Unathi rolled his eyes.
“I just came to tell her that what she’s doing is dangerous,” he told the girls.
“Well, we’ve come to take her clothes shopping at Wynberg station. Xoli got such a nice top there for only R5,” said Lettie. “And it’s girls only, boyfriend.”
“I get the message,” said Unathi. “Loud and clear.”
“I don’t care about clothes any more,” Busi complained as they got into a taxi to Wynberg. She didn’t care about anything – except what had happened to Parks. They sat in a row at the back – Asanda, Lettie, Busi, Ntombi, and Zinzi squashed in between them.
“So he didn’t show?” said Lettie, “It’s not the end of the world, chommie. Forget about him. Move on.”
“Yes, forget him,” agreed Asanda. “I’m a one-chance girl. If a boy says he’s going to call and he doesn’t, I give him one more chance. If he does it again, he’s out. If boys get to know that you won’t take shit, they won’t give you shit! Or if they do, they’re not for you.” But whatever they said, Busi couldn’t forget about Parks. How could she?
They got out at the taxi rank in Wynberg and walked over to the street stalls, where they started looking through the piles of pretty tops on sale. It was then that she saw Parks’s taxi stopping on the other side of the road. She watched as the gaadjie helped an old lady off, nearly falling in the gutter himself as he handed over her plastic shopping bags. She strained to get a glimpse of Parks. She wanted to run across the road, but a Golden Arrow bus pulled up in front of the taxi. And when she finally got there, the taxi sped off. But not before she had caught sight of the gaadjie grinning stupidly and waving at her – the idiot. Busi’s mouth was dry with shock.
“It’s not him,” Zinzi said, taking Busi’s hand.
“Parks isn’t driving,” Zinzi said.
“How do you know? How do you know it wasn’t him?”
“Because it was a woman driving,” said Zinzi firmly. “I went over there to get some chips. I saw everything.”
Busi thought of that black car and the woman staring at her. She checked her phone again. Nothing. No SMS, no missed call – nothing. She sat in silence all the way back in the taxi, feeling like she wanted to throw up. And when the taxi lurched to a halt near Asanda’s house, she got out just in time to run to the side of the road and retch. It was like her whole body was turning itself inside out. She was a mess. And she started to cry. “Come inside,” said Asanda, putting her arm around her friend. “You can wash, and we’ll make you some tea. Then we’ll have a fashion show. It will make you feel much better.” But Busi just wanted to get to her bed where she could curl up in the dark and work out how she could find Parks.
“Busi,” her grandmother called her when she came in, “I’ve made you something special for lunch – hot scones. Oh, and there’s fresh sweetmilk cheese. I got my pension today.”
“Thank you, Gogo, but I’m not hungry.”
“You must eat, child,” her granny said, wiping her hands on her apron.
“I said I’m not hungry!” Busi snapped, and flung herself on her bed. Her grandmother stood in the doorway.
“What’s the matter, child?”
“Nothing’s the matter! Now can you leave me alone, please?”
She had shouted and she felt terrible when she saw the look of shock on her granny’s face. And then the tears came, deep sobs wracking her body. Where was he?
When she woke up she could hear her grandmother listening to Isidingo. Did she have to have the TV on so loud? The light was fading outside and there was a cold cup of tea on her bedside table. She pulled off her clothes and climbed into her pyjamas. “Is that you, Busi?” her grandmother wanted to know when she crept past her into the tiny kitchen. Who else could it be?
“It’s me,” she answered meekly. Her grandmother switched off the TV, and turned right around.
“What is the matter, child? Is something worrying you? You can tell me.”
“It’s nothing, Gogo – really, it’s nothing.”
“I want you to understand something, Busi, mtwanam. I don’t have money to give you, but whatever it is that is worrying you – whatever it is that you did or didn’t do – I will always be on your side. That is what love is all about, and I do love you so, even if at times it’s hard to believe.” Busi bit back the tears.
“I’m not feeling so good, Gogo, that’s all – it’s nothing to do with money.” Her granny came over to her and lay her cool hand on her forehead.
“You’re a little warm – a bit of a fever. I’ll give you some pills. You’ll soon feel better.”
Busi ate a cooled scone with thinly spread apricot jam and sipped at a scalding cup of fresh tea. Then she took the two Panados her granny had given her and went back to lie on her bed, where she watched the evening shadows darken and turn to night. Where was he?
“I was young once,” she heard her grandmother say as she shuffled about preparing for bed.
“Goodnight, my child. Are you feeling a little better?”
“Aha, a little.”
“Good. Have a nice rest. Lala kakuhle …”
Her grandmother shuffled along to her bed on the other side of the room. As usual she bumped her leg on the edge of the bed and instead of cursing, sang praises to Sweet Jesus. Busi couldn’t help smiling. She listened to the creaking bedsprings as her granny climbed under the blankets and turned this way and that until she got comfortable. Soon the old lady was snoring away peacefully.
If only Busi could fall asleep so easily.
Where was he? Why didn’t he phone at least – tell her something, anything? She needed to know that he was alive – explanations could follow. She thought of that disgusting, grinning gaadjie. Would he tell Parks that he’d seen her?
“What goes on in his head?” she had asked Parks once.
“Fog, baby,” he had answered, “just fog. But he’s good with a gun. You see, he doesn’t think.”
“Not enough of a brain to have a thought,” Busi had added. Parks had thought that was so funny, he had laughed out loud.
How she longed for him. It had been days. And still no word.