“What happened to you yesterday?”Lettie asked Busi the next morning.
“Yes, girlfriend. Aren’t we good enough for you anymore?” Asanda joined in. “Are you just interested in men now?”
“I had cramps again,” lied Busi.
“Shame, are you feeling better now?”
“I’m fine,” said Busi. “I’m sorry I didn’t wait. I had to get some Panados. Then I went home to bed. You were taking so long with Mr Ntlanti …” Then she remembered Unathi. He had seen her get out of Parks’s taxi and he might have told them. Was that why they were looking at her like that? Was this a test? She would be shown up for the liar she was. And there was Unathi now, coming across the school yard towards them.
“Busi wasn’t feeling well yesterday afternoon,” Lettie announced. “She went home to sleep.”
“You see, you needn’t have worried,” Asanda said to Unathi. Then she turned to Busi. “Unathi was so worried.” She winked at her friend. “Utatamkhulu. You should have seen him,” she added, imitating his voice. “What if she’s been kidnapped? What if she’s in hospital?”
“Every ten minutes,” laughed Lettie.
Busi looked at Unathi, hoping and praying that he would keep his mouth shut. When he spoke she looked away. But all he said was, “I hope you’re feeling better now.”
“Yes, thank you,” she mumbled.
“Unathi thought you might have been kidnapped. He kept telling us some rubbish about a taxi he saw cruising around the school yesterday,” said Asanda, punching Unathi on the arm affectionately.
“Hey, I thought you had other things to worry about, Unathi,” Busi said, trying to change the subject. “Like that girlfriend of yours in Jozi. How is she, by the way?” But Unathi didn’t answer. And she didn’t push it. She didn’t want to make him angry or he might tell her friends about Parks.
“What you doing later?” Lettie asked as they went back into class. “Do you want to come shopping with us?”
“I think I’m going to take it easy,” said Busi.
“Well, call us if you get lonely after school.”
It was no use pretending that she was working in class. She hadn’t written a line since she got to school. When the Maths teacher, Ma’am Ratsibe, walked around the class checking their homework, Busi hid the page she had been writing on under her arm. “I left my Maths book at home,” she lied. She didn’t want the teacher to see what she had drawn on the page of her workbook – a heart with their names inside it.
It was foolish, she told herself. She would never see Parks again. It had been one wonderful afternoon. That was all. But she couldn’t help hoping that he would be there again, waiting at the gate after school. All she could think of was the feeling of his lips on hers. She was bubbling over like the champagne they drank. Every few minutes she looked out of the classroom window to see if he was there, waiting. But the road was empty. It was too early, she told herself. He would come later.
When the final siren went all the students pushed to get out of the gates and into the taxis. The drivers were the bullies of the road, hooting and shoving to get in front of each other. She searched for Parks’s taxi. But he wasn’t there and her heart sank. She couldn’t wait again – not with Unathi around watching her every move. So she decided to walk home. It wasn’t that far, and she would save the taxi fare. She could buy herself something nice with the money – some lip gloss for when she next saw Parks. She would show him that she wasn’t a silly little schoolgirl.
She watched as the taxis left one by one, bursting with schoolkids crushed together. School ties came off and shirts were pulled out and hung loosely over the guys’ pants as they got comfortable on the way home. She waited until the last of them had gone and then she started to walk, really slowly, down the road. But she got only a few paces when she heard a familiar voice.
“Do you want me to carry your bag?” Unathi was there again, following her like a lame dog. She was angry now. Why couldn’t he leave her alone? “Why didn’t you take the taxi?” he asked.
“Why didn’t you?” she answered.
“To save the fare,” he said. But she knew that wasn’t the reason. He was looking out for her. And she wished he wouldn’t.
“To go to Jozi to see your girlfriend?”
“I’m telling you, I haven’t got a girlfriend. Thumi and I broke up. Why won’t you girls get it? The way you go on, anyone would think mna ndingudlalani.”
“Aren’t you?” As she spoke she kept looking up and down the street for Parks.
“You waiting for someone?” Unathi asked. When she didn’t answer he reached out and took her bag, heavy with books. “I’ll walk you home. It’s not safe to walk alone.”
What if Parks saw her walking with Unathi? What if he thought Unathi was her boyfriend? Would he drive on? “Oh,” she said, pretending to have just remembered something. “Yhini Bawo, I forgot, I was supposed to stay behind to get help with my Maths. You go on ahead.”
“I can help you.”
“Thanks, but Ma’am Ratsibe is waiting,” she said. “She’s expecting me and I’ve already been in detention twice for not handing in my homework.” Unathi looked at her strangely, then handed back her bag and turned and walked away.
Busi ran back through the school gates. She waited until he had gone around the corner before she went back out onto the street. Her watch said two forty-five. He wasn’t coming. Why would he? But then she heard that familiar, thump, thump, thump of the bass beat pounding out onto the road through the open windows of Parks’s taxi and her heart leapt. And when Parks pulled up next to her she went straight up, put her head through the window and kissed him. It was so bold, so brave. It made her feel like a grown-up. And he kissed her back.
“I’m in luck,” he said, a big grin on his face. “I thought it was too late. I thought I’d missed you. To think, if I had come five minutes later you might have gone. Now get in, I’m hungry.”
“Khentakhi?” she laughed. She was so happy.
“Let’s try some place new,” he said, as she looked back expecting to see the gaadjie. But today they were alone. “He was annoying me,” laughed Parks. “I dropped him at the last traffic light. I booted him out. He’s probably lying on the pavement right now.”
“Serious? You kicked him out of the taxi?”
“No, I’m just teasing you. I like teasing you.” He winked at her. “I like kissing you too.” As they drove he reached over, opened the cubbyhole and took out a CD, “Hey, I got you some new music.” He slid the CD into the player. It was Ringo – the musician she had told him about when they were at the beach. “Sithandwa sam …,” she sang along.
“You like it?”
“I like it!” The fear had gone. She had been stupid to be nervous of him. Now it felt like they had known each other forever.
“Now, where are we going for lunch? You can pick anywhere. Remember I’m not just a taxi driver. I’m also an entrepreneur,” he laughed. “Money is no object.” But Busi didn’t know any of the fancy places. She knew KFC and Steers. That was all. And they had been to KFC.
“Steers,” she said.
“Steers it is,” he answered. “But next time it will be somewhere fancy … after sunset.” He looked at her. “There will be a next time?”
She wanted to tell him she loved him there and then. She had to hold the words in before they came bursting out. No, she would wait until they were somewhere romantic … at night.