Busi’s friends ran to meet her when she walked through the gates of Harmony High. “We’ve missed you! How are you feeling?” asked Asanda.
“Yes, we were really worried when you didn’t even make the soccer game. We know how much it means to you to be in the team.” Lettie gave her a hug. “You must have been really sick?”
“You could say that …,” Busi smiled. She couldn’t wait to tell them about Parks.
“Why are you grinning like that?” Asanda asked.
“Have you been keeping a secret, Busi? And we thought you were ill.”
“I was ill,” Busi laughed. “I caught the love bug.”
“You’re in love?” asked Lettie. “With who?”
And then she told them about Parks. How handsome he was. How he treated her like a movie star. She watched their astonished faces as she told them that he had bought her skinny jeans and that he was getting her a smart phone with a contract!
“You must be joking?” Asanda couldn’t believe it. “A cell phone with a contract and jeans. Serious?”
“And he took you to the movies during school?” said Lettie, who looked like she wasn’t sure she believed Busi.
“And to lunch afterwards,” Busi went on. She couldn’t stop now. “Three courses: starters, mains, dessert. A steak this big.” She held her hands apart. “And chocolate pudding.”
“Oh, I can taste it … stop … stop!” cried Asanda.
“He’s too damn sexy for my own good,” she told them, thinking of the dimple in Parks’s chin and that slow smile.
“Too damn sexy, that’s for sure!” They giggled together.
Busi had never felt so popular before. Asanda hooked an arm through hers as they walked back into class. “So tell me, Busi,” she whispered, “just between the two of us … have you done it yet?”
“What?” Busi faked surprise. It was the one thing she still needed to keep a secret – the night Parks was planning at the hotel. She didn’t want anyone to ruin that. “No, not yet,” she said. “He’s not that kind of guy. He respects me. He says we’ll have sex only when I’m ready. But I’m his girl, Asanda. He calls me his sugar baby.”
“You are his baby,” Unathi sounded disgusted. He had been listening from a few metres away as she bragged about Parks. Now he came up to her. “How old are you?”
“Sixteen soon,” Busi said crossly.
“Fifteen now,” Unathi said.
“So, do you know that sugar daddy of yours could be arrested?” Seeing the look of horror on Busi’s face, he went on. “I could report him to the police if he sleeps with you. A man who has sex with a girl of fifteen is committing rape in the eyes of the law. That’s what it is, Busi – rape. You are under the age of consent. Your sugar daddy umele uyokumvalela etrongweni. And they should throw away the key. I bet you’re not the only girl he’s seeing.”
“I am!” shouted Busi. “And anyway, I’m sixteen next month. And you wouldn’t dare report Parks.” But Unathi had made her scared. His uncle was a policeman. What if he checked up on Parks? What if he followed them? But she couldn’t let him see her fear. “Have you finished with your lecture?” She took a step towards him so that she was really close to his face, “Because I’m sick of listening.”
“You’re just jealous, Unathi,” said one of the girls who had come up to join in, “because Parks can give Busi what you can’t.”
“And you really believe he loves her?” asked Unathi. “That he doesn’t cruise the streets in his taxi looking for more sugar babies like Busi to tempt with treats and promises. And then to use and dump – like spoiled goods.”
“What do you know?” cried Busi. But in that moment she realised that he knew far too much. Not only had he crushed her moment of triumph, but he’d made her afraid too. She wished he’d just go. And she was relieved when a group of his friends dragged him away. She tried to forget what Unathi had said.
“When are you seeing your man again?” asked Asanda as they went into class.
“Tonight. I’m wearing the skinny jeans he gave me. I can’t wait.”
“And you haven’t had sex yet?” Asanda asked again.
“No,” Busi shook her head. “I’m not cheap like some girls. And he knows that.”
“Be careful,” warned Lettie. But she knew that once you had the love bug there was no cure except for the pain of breaking up. Hadn’t it been like that with Ntombi and Mzi? It was lucky she had escaped.
“Yes, I know, Lettie. Wear a condom, safe sex …”
“That too,” said Lettie. “But I meant, be careful of your heart.”
“What’s wrong with all of you?” Busi said, “Can’t you just be happy for me?”
It was English with Mr Ntlanti. The closer they got to exams the stricter he became. No minute should be wasted, he told them. But it was all wasted on Busi. She couldn’t concentrate on anything. And anyway, it was just too hot for Shakespeare today. Her mind drifted to Parks. Unathi was talking rubbish, she thought. And she let herself wonder which hotel Parks would choose for their first night together.
Then Mr Ntlanti started asking questions. He pointed to one of the boys and when he didn’t know the answer he put him straight into detention. Busi couldn’t be in detention that afternoon. Parks was coming for her after school. All she had to do was SMS him. She had to tell him now that she wanted to go to the hotel tonight. Before it was too late and before Unathi messed it up. And she had to get out of class before Mr Ntlanti asked her a question she couldn’t answer. She excused herself, saying that she needed the toilet.
In the corridor she took her cell phone out of her pocket and quickly started tapping the keys.
Pck me up @ Jakes – ur sugar bby.
“Texting your sugar daddy?”
Busi flew around. “Are you stalking me?” she yelled at Unathi. She had had enough.
“Maybe you’re fooling Lettie and Asanda, but you don’t fool me, Busi. You think you’re too cool for school? That you’re better than the rest of us because of Mr Moneybags? The only person you’ll be fooling in the end is yourself.”
“You’re just envious.”
“Think what you like. I’m just disappointed in you.”
“Disappointed!” spat Busi. “Who are you? My father?”
“Have you even looked at the notes I gave you?” Busi could hear that Unathi was upset now. He couldn’t hide that with his anger. She had hurt him. He had spent hours writing those notes and she hadn’t even looked at them.
“It was kind of you to give me the notes,” she said. She couldn’t look him in the eye.
“The exams are two weeks away. Do you really want to repeat Grade 10? Do you really want to see your friends moving on and leaving you behind?” Busi stared at him. What could she say to him that would make him understand? How could she tell him what Parks gave her? How it was so much better than all of this. That school didn’t matter now. Couldn’t he see how happy she was?
“I’m happy – so, so happy. Can’t you see it?”
“All I can see is an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
“I don’t want to go to school any more, Unathi.”
“You’re throwing your life away,” he argued. “And I won’t just stand by and watch.”
“You don’t understand …”
“Do your parents know?”
“They’re in Jozi, chasing their own dreams. Why should they care?”
Then the siren went and students rushed out into the corridor and Busi could escape.
Life was so strange. Unathi’s attention would have meant the world to Busi only a couple of weeks ago. He was her hero back then, with his big, broad shoulders and his talent on the soccer field. She used to think he was such a man. How things had changed. Now he was following her everywhere and she wasn’t interested.
She looked down at her SMS for Parks.
Pck me up @ Jakes – ur sugar bby.
Then she pressed the SEND button. There was no going back now.