It was easy, Busi told herself. When you wanted to do something, it was easy. And she wanted to be with Parks. That afternoon, after they had been to Steers in Wynberg, he drove her up the leafy roads in Constantia. One of her granny’s friends worked there for a rich lady. But it was the first time Busi had seen such huge houses, except on The Bold and The Beautiful. “For one family! Can you believe it?” Parks said. “Stick with me, baby, and one day it will be my BMW parked in that driveway. And it will be you getting out of it.”
“Really, Parks?” she said.
“Is that what you’d like?”
“Yes. But I wouldn’t paint our house that colour. And I’d prefer a Mini Cooper.” He roared with laughter. It made her happy to think that he found her funny.
He took her over to Hout Bay, then on to Camps Bay. Some of her friends had been there. They had told her about the models they’d seen being photographed under the palm trees. “Not as curvaceous, or as bootilicious, as you,” Parks flattered her.
“Don’t you have to be anywhere?” Busi asked him. He didn’t seem to have a care in the world.
“I told you, I’m my own boss,” he laughed. “The only person who can tell me where to be and when, is me.” And when his cell phone rang, he switched it off.
Next stop was the Waterfront, where they went window shopping. Parks bought her a necklace with a locket on it. “Now all you need is a photo of me inside,” he joked. “Would you keep it safe?”
“Very safe,” she said, looking into his eyes. He gave her a lingering kiss, then took her hand as they strolled down the mall together, her locket shimmering silver around her neck. A woman stopped to stare. Busi knew why. Here was a young girl in school uniform kissing an older man. So what, she didn’t care what anyone thought. They didn’t understand.
On the way home Parks pulled over into a lay-by and they kissed. He told Busi that he was looking forward to more, but only when she was ready. He would never force her. He wasn’t like that. “I can’t wait to see you out of your school clothes,” he said as he dropped her off. “Will you dream of me tonight?”
“Yes … sweet dreams,” she promised.
As she lay in bed she smiled. The locket was around her neck, hidden under her nightie, close to her heart. He said he couldn’t wait to see her out of her school clothes. Well, he would. She had an idea. It was so simple, but so clever it made her laugh. And it would work – she was sure of it. She wanted to please him, and school was so boring. She didn’t need Lettie and Asanda asking her where she was all the time, or Unathi following her around like a bodyguard.
When she woke up the next morning she packed her casual clothes in her school bag. After breakfast she kissed her granny goodbye and headed for the taxi rank. But as soon as she got around the corner she ducked into the toilets at Jake’s Tavern and changed. She re-emerged in jeans and a cute top. Then she rang Parks. So easy! “Any time,” he had told her. And he had given her airtime so she could call him whenever she felt like it – day or night. He was there in five minutes.
Over the next few days Parks wined and dined Busi. She ate food she had never tasted before in fancy restaurants. He would leave the taxi with that idiot gaadjie as they wandered hand in hand through town. Parks told her about his big dreams and ideals. Most of the time he was in a good mood … except for when he took calls on his cell phone. Then he would walk away so that she couldn’t hear him. But she could tell from his body language, the way he stood all hunched over with his fists clenched, that he was angry. And once he’d turned his taxi around just as they had set off, and dropped her back near her house. “Business,” he’d said.
When she didn’t see him, she missed him all day. But then he would always be back the next morning.
The third time she bunked school he took her up to the forest. The gaadjie wasn’t there and they lay on the back seat and kissed and cuddled. When she got home she told her granny that she was studying after school for exams. And her grandmother was pleased. It was their joke – Parks’s and hers.
Lettie and Asanda SMSed her.
r u ok? wer u bn?
oh! gt wel sn.
They didn’t know how much fun she was having. She had another life and it was better than anything they had. She was just sad it had to be a secret. She wanted to tell them about the crayfish she ate and the perfume he bought her. She wanted to boast about the man she was dating and how good life could be. He was going to take her to a hotel for the night. “Don’t be frightened,” he said. “I’ll be gentle. You’ll see. You’ll love it.”
By the end of the week she was bursting to tell her friends about the life she had been leading. Yes, maybe it was time to go back to school.
On Friday morning she couldn’t wait. As she was putting on her school shoes she heard a knock at the door, and her grandmother talking to someone outside. Parks wouldn’t dare come here, she thought. But when she went out she saw Unathi standing there. “I hope you’re feeling better,” he said. She didn’t know what to say. Her granny was staring at her, as if she finally understood what Busi had been up to. Unathi pulled an exercise book out of his bag and opened it. Inside was a whole bunch of papers. “I brought you the notes you’ve missed,” he said. “With exams coming up, you can’t skip anything if you want to pass.”
“Missed?” Busi’s granny asked, frowning at her. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s extra work, Gogo. I want to do well in the exams. I want to make you proud. You know the classes I’m doing after school? Well, I missed a couple.”
Unathi didn’t say anything. He just handed over the papers. He had copied his notes – pages of them. Busi was amazed. He had done this for her? But why? To make her feel bad? To sow a seed of doubt in her granny’s mind? Or because he cared?