“Something’s happened to you,” Asanda said at school the next morning.
“Not that I know of,” Busi lied. They were trying to finish their homework before the siren went off, and it was Busi’s turn to press her book against Asanda’s back.
“You could’ve fooled me,” Asanda went on.
If there was anyone who could read people, it was Asanda. She always knew when something was going on with Busi – she would have to be careful. Asanda knew her too well. She could tell that Busi had a secret she wasn’t sharing. And Busi wasn’t ready for Asanda to know – not Asanda, or Lettie, or anybody for that matter. They might spoil it for her. They might try to stop her from seeing Parks.
“Is something wrong? Are you upset because we were in the talent show? I know it must be difficult for you. You know you can tell me anything.” Asanda sounded concerned.
“I do know that,” said Busi.
“Good! Now, can you hurry up? My back’s going to break. I feel like a donkey.”
“Finished!” Busi announced, shutting her Maths book.
“Phew! At last!” Asanda replied, stretching. “Did you do number 5? It was so hard. I felt like my brain was exploding.”
“I left it out,” said Busi.
“Why don’t you ask Unathi to help you? He told me he finished all of them. You know how clever he is,” said Asanda, as Lettie came up and joined them.
“Yes, Busi. You’re the only one he’d give answers to. If you asked nicely, of course,” Lettie chipped in.
“I swear he just doesn’t know how to tell Busi that he likes her,” Asanda laughed.
“What happened to his girlfriend in Jozi?” said Busi. Last term she had caught Unathi staring at a photo of a very pretty girl and she had been filled with jealousy. It seemed like such a long time ago. Things had changed so fast. Everything was different now.
“You know how people talk,” Lettie said, “Don’t believe everything they say about Unathi.”
“I won’t,” replied Busi. “And I won’t believe anything that Unathi says. Anyway, I’m not into boys.”
“Oh?” Asanda and Lettie said together. “It’s like that, hey?” Busi hadn’t meant to say anything. She shouldn’t have opened her big mouth.
“No, I’m not into boys … I’m into men.” She tried to sound casual.
“Men? So Harmony High boys aren’t good enough for you any more?”
Luckily the siren went off before their interrogation could begin. “Don’t forget. I’ll meet you at the gate after school for soccer practice,” Lettie reminded her as they went upstairs to class.
“If you’re not too busy chasing M-E-N!” Asanda teased.
When the final siren went Busi was the first out of the school gates. She waited for Lettie and Asanda. She decided to go to soccer and even changed into her soccer gear. If she was going to see Parks, she would have to be careful. She would have to make sure that her friends didn’t find out. And if she missed soccer today they would become suspicious.
But Mr Ntlanti made Asanda and Lettie help him carry books back to the storeroom after class. She was alone at the gate waiting for them when she heard loud music from a car radio. She recognised Busi Mhlongo’s Zithini iziswe. Her heart skipped a beat as Parks’s taxi turned the corner and cruised to a stop next to her. She looked down at her soccer gear. Oh no, she thought, he can’t see me like this. I look like a guy in this gear, not the pretty girl he said I was yesterday. If only I was wearing my netball clothes. But it was too late to run back and change into the short skirt that showed off her legs.
Parks opened the door and she got in – like she knew she would. She looked back quickly. “Let’s go,” she said, not wanting her friends to see her leaving in his taxi.
“In a hurry today?” Parks teased. “Not the shy girl of yesterday!” And then, seeing her worried expression, he added, “I’m not complaining! I like assertive girls. Assertive and sporty!”
There was a wheezy cackle from the back of the taxi. It was the gaadjie. Today he was awake, if you could call it that. He reminded her of those boys she had seen under the bridge, with that spaced-out look from sniffing glue. It was like their bodies were present but their minds were somewhere far away. The gaadjie was lost in the music that pumped from the speakers. He swayed back and forth to the beat. But when Busi looked at him he stuck his tongue out at her. She quickly turned to the front. He gave her the creeps.
“Thula wena!” Parks shouted. The gaadjie stopped. “He knows who’s boss, but he’s crazy,” laughed Parks. “Remind me to get rid of him.” Busi didn’t want him there, leering at her. It would be so much better if it were just the two of them.
“Doesn’t he put the customers off?” she asked Parks, whose taxi was empty again today. It was strange – usually the taxis around Harmony High were packed. Parks laughed.
“I’m off today,” he said. “I came here just for you.” Then he gave her that easy, sexy smile and Busi felt her heart beat faster.
As they turned the corner Busi looked back to see Lettie and Asanda at the gate searching up and down the road for her. She could have jumped out then. But she didn’t. “Why are you so nervous?” asked Parks. “Relax. I’m sure they’ll find a sub for you. On the other hand it will be tough replacing someone as cute and sporty as you are …” He changed the music to something slow and soft. “I’m flattered. Do you know that? I’m flattered that you’ve chosen me. I’d have thought all the boys would be after such a sexy girl.” Busi blushed as she thought of Unathi. He wouldn’t even know what to say to Parks. Unathi knew nothing of the world outside his street. Parks was a man. He had seen the world, and Busi wanted to see it too. Her life had suddenly got a lot bigger than Harmony High.
They were heading out of the township now and onto the freeway that led down to the coast. “Aren’t you hot?” he asked her. “In that gear, I mean.”
Busi looked down at her school soccer shirt. She was feeling hot in it. She shouldn’t be shy about taking it off. As she pulled it over her head, revealing the skimpy T-shirt she had on underneath, she felt him watching her. It made her tummy flutter with excitement.
She wound down the taxi window. That was better, cooler. The wind rushed in around her and she put her head back and laughed. Parks laughed too, pleased that she was so happy. “Good,” he said. “You shouldn’t hide what you should be sharing. Now, where would you like to go?”