Busi was up early. Today would be different, she decided, as she pulled her hair into shape. Today she’d start with a new attitude, beginning by being nice to her grandmother. How could she have been so mean? “What do you want, Busi?” her grandmother asked as she placed the hot cup of tea on the table in front of her. “I don’t have money to give you.”
“Want? I don’t want anything, Gogo.”
“Yes, you want something. I know you. Why are you being so nice to me?”
“I made myself a cup, Gogo, so I made you a cup too. That’s all.”
“Thank you, my child. Now, are you feeling better?” the old lady wanted to know, still frowning at her.
“I’m feeling a whole lot better, thank you, Gogo.”
“I’m sure it’s your period that’s on its way.”
Busi kissed her grandmother on her soft, wrinkled cheek and rushed off out of the house. She would be on time for school today, instead of running into Harmony High just as the prefects were about to lock the gates. This new attitude was helping her to cope with not knowing what had happened to Parks. Today she wouldn’t worry about him. She had left her cell phone at home. It wouldn’t bother her that he didn’t phone. She would get through this day – without him and without thinking of him.
But life has its own plans.
“It’s him! Come quickly!” Zinzi came running towards Busi during first break. “Khawuleza!”
“What are you talking about, Zinzi?”
“It’s him – Parks. He’s waiting outside in a big, black car.”
There were wolf whistles as she rushed to the school fence. Everyone knew about her and Parks by now. Everyone was talking. She felt their eyes following her. So what? Soon they’ll find someone else to talk about. That’s what Unathi had told her once. “People talk, Busi. It’s human nature. Soon they’ll get tired of talking about you and find someone else to gossip about.”
Zinzi was right. There he was, sitting behind the wheel of his fancy car: big sunglasses, big smile, blowing big smoke rings into the chilly autumn air.
Busi was so pleased to see Parks again she didn’t notice that the car was identical to the one she had seen at the hotel – the same car that appeared in her nightmares. The prefect stationed at the gate couldn’t stop Busi as she pushed past her. “I thought you were dead, Parks,” she gasped, when she was in the car and in his arms.
“Dead, baby? Why dead?” he laughed, throwing his head back. They both heard the siren. Break was over. “You better go back,” he said.
“No. I’m coming with you.” She couldn’t just let him disappear again. Not now. She couldn’t go through the torture of waiting again. She looked out to see the prefect writing her name in the detention book. “Will you write me a doctor’s letter?” she asked Parks as he pulled away from the kerb. “To get me out of detention.”
“Of course I’ll write you a letter,” he replied, with that impish, irresistible smile of his. At the stop sign he leaned over and hugged her so tight, she cried. “Why the tears, baby?”
“I’ve missed you so much. Where were you?”
“Taking care of business …”
“You could have phoned. Why didn’t you answer my calls?”
“I phoned you this morning. Your cell was on voicemail. That’s why I came to look for you.” A car hooted behind them and he pulled away again.
“Where were you?” she asked again.
“I told you, I had business.” She could hear that he was angry now. She shouldn’t be asking so many questions. But she needed to know.
“I’m sorry, Parks. I was just worried.”
“Well, you shouldn’t worry. I’ve got enough of my own stuff to worry about. I can’t be worrying about you too,” he snapped.
“I thought something had happened to you …”
“You don’t have to worry about me. You’re not my mother, or my wife!” He was shouting.
That was it. She wasn’t his mother. She wasn’t his wife. What was she to him?
“You are a big, juicy secret in his life,” Asanda had told her. “I bet you he’s married with a bunch of kids.” They had all laughed out loud, Busi probably the loudest. It had seemed so absurd at the time, but it wasn’t funny any more.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Anywhere.” She stared out of the window. It didn’t matter.
“Do you want to go back to school? Do you want to go home? What do you want?”
“You’re the driver!” It was going horribly wrong, thought Busi. It wasn’t meant to be like this.
“Come, I’ll take you to eat somewhere. Are you hungry?” His voice was softer. He wasn’t so angry any more.
She really wanted to talk – to tell him how frightened and alone she had felt. But the words were caught in her throat.
He took her to the Spur at Fish Hoek and held her hand across the table. “I’ve missed you, baby,” he said, looking deep into her eyes. But this time it would take more than those words to make it okay. He could just turn on the charm – she knew that now. But Parks knew how to bring someone around. And when he started talking about his childhood, he had her in the palm of his hand all over again.
“When I was a little kid …,” he said, looking out at the rolling waves washing up on Fish Hoek beach down below, on the other side of the railway tracks, “my dad used to go off for long periods of time. I missed him so much. But when he came back I was so happy to see him, and he spoiled me.” Busi listened to Parks and imagined him as that little boy. “We would take a train ride to the beach, just us two, and he’d teach me to catch fish. But then, one day, he left without a word to me. I used to stand by our gate every day waiting for him to come back, but he never did …”
He had hooked her again – drawn her back to him with his sorry story. She imagined him as a little boy waiting for his dad to return. She put her head on his shoulder. His story was so sad.
After their meal Parks lit up a cigarette. He pointed towards the sea.
“Is that a whale?” he asked.
“Maybe it’s a shark,” Busi laughed. He was back and she was happy.
As he dropped her off, he said, “You wanted to meet my friends. I’ll introduce you to them tomorrow. I’ll meet you outside Jake’s.”
“Sure,” she said. Isn’t this what she had wanted? But when Parks had gone she panicked. What would his friends think of her – a schoolgirl?