Parks was at Jake’s Tavern at six sharp. Busi was waiting anxiously outside in her new skinny jeans and her silver top. She knew she looked good. “I couldn’t wait,” he said, leaning over and kissing her as she got in next to him. Then he picked up a red rose on the dashboard and handed it to her. “For my sugar baby. You look gorgeous. I am the luckiest guy in the country … in the world.” He hugged her.
“Which hotel are we going to?” she asked, excited and nervous at the same time. What if she didn’t know what to do in bed to make him happy? What if she made him angry, or he got tired of her?
“That’s a secret,” he said. “Trust Parks! Has he ever let you down?”
Busi had never been to a hotel before and so when Parks swung off the freeway into the parking lot of the Formula One she thought it was the real deal. She hung back when he checked them into their room, fearing the receptionist might ask how old she was. She didn’t want anyone stopping them. “Come on, my baby,” Parks was saying. He took her by the arm and led her to the lift.
Their room was on the third floor. As they got into the lift another couple squashed in. They had a suitcase and two smaller travel bags. Busi suddenly felt awkward. She and Parks didn’t have any luggage. It must be so obvious to the couple why they were coming to the hotel. She was relieved when the man and woman got off on the second floor.
Now they were alone, Parks started kissing her passionately. They almost fell out of the lift when the door opened. “Let’s see our room, and then I’ll take you out for supper,” said Parks. He was so confident. He knew exactly what to do, like he’d been to many hotels in his life.
The room was small, but the bed looked new with clean white sheets and a nice duvet. They had their own shower, with hot and cold water! Parks laughed as Busi turned the hot tap on and off, excitedly. At home if they wanted hot water they had to heat it on the stove. Here it was flowing from the taps – as much as you wanted.
After supper they sat in the hotel lounge and Parks ordered them drinks. He asked her how school had been and she told him about Unathi. He laughed. “The boy’s crazy about you. You shouldn’t be so mean to him. You’ll break his heart. And anyway,” he said, blowing a cloud of smoke from the cigar he was smoking, “Unathi’s right, baby. You’ve got to think of your future. You’ve got to be someone. Look at me. Where would I be without an education? A successful entrepreneur? No! I’d be like that useless gaadjie.”
Maybe Parks was right. But Busi didn’t want to think about Unathi now. This was her night. It was just her and Parks.
As soon as they got back to the hotel room Parks held Busi close and started kissing her neck. He was gentle at first, but as he began to fumble with her clothes she could sense his urgency. “Wait,” she said, suddenly shy of him seeing her naked. It was all going too fast and the light was on. “I need the toilet.”
“Hey, don’t be long…. The bed will get cold without you.”
Alone in the bathroom Busi took off her clothes and wrapped a towel around herself. She felt nervous, but she had come this far – she couldn’t go back now. She wouldn’t. When she opened the bathroom door she was relieved to find that Parks had turned the light off. Now only the moonlight shone through the window. It was better in the dark. “Come here, my sugar baby,” he said softly. She unwrapped the towel quickly and slipped under the sheets. Was she doing the right thing, she wondered? What was he expecting? And then their bodies touched and he started kissing her again and she was lost in the moment.
When it was over Parks held her naked body against his. She lay with her back to him and looked out into the night. “Why so quiet?” he asked her. “It’s all right, baby. The first time always hurts a bit, then it just gets better and better.” But it wasn’t that. She was in his warm arms, and yet she felt sick with fear. She had brought a condom in her bag – she had wanted to be responsible. But she hadn’t had the courage to insist that they use one. And now it was too late.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered. “Didn’t you enjoy it?”
“We didn’t use a condom,” she said softly, expecting him to be angry. But he just chuckled.
“Is that all?” he said, kissing her forehead.
“Don’t worry, baby – I don’t have Aids,” he reassured her. “Relax. I promise you nothing bad is going to happen.”
“What if I fall pregnant?” She shouldn’t have said that. Now she was ruining the whole night in the hotel. But he wasn’t cross. He just pulled her closer to him. She turned around in his arms. In that moment the moonlight streaked through the flimsy curtains and picked up the hazel colour of his eyes. He looked honest, sincere.
“You worry too much. I know what I’m doing.”
“But …” she stammered. Then he laughed, rolled her over, covered her body with soft kisses, tickled her.
“You’re a woman now,” he said, lighting up a cigarette and settling back into the pillows.
She curled up and hugged herself. He felt so far away, smoking his cigarette like that. She found she was crying. She didn’t know why she was feeling like this. She should have been over the moon. This is what she had wanted – to be a woman for Parks, not a silly child. So why then did she feel so sad? “I don’t know if I’m ready for this,” Busi whispered into the dark. But Parks didn’t hear her. He was lying back, his eyes closed, a smile on his face.
Busi listened to the sounds of the night: the creaking beds in the room next door, the hum of traffic in the distance, someone’s shrill, drunken laughter. And suddenly it all felt so cheap.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” she said. But she was talking to herself.
Sitting on the toilet she wept, longing for the child who had slipped away. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, looked to see what had changed. Where was the young girl? Who was this woman? Then she saw Parks’s reflection come into view. He was standing behind her.
“We must go,” he said, “I must take you home now.”
Parks flirted with the receptionist when he paid the bill and Busi felt hurt and jealous. It was so soon after they had sex. He should have had eyes only for her. And why did the receptionist know his name?
Then another man, about Parks’s age, walked into the hotel. He came over and greeted Parks. Busi could smell utywala. On his arm was a woman wearing a wig, very high stilettos, and a dress that showed off more than it covered. It was obvious that she wasn’t his wife, or his girlfriend. The woman looked at Busi and smiled knowingly. And Busi felt cheap again, umthatha lula.
When they got back to the taxi Parks took her hand and kissed it. “Thank you, baby. I love you so much.” That was better. It was about love, not just sex, she thought.
“Forever?” she asked. Then he laughed.
“Nothing is forever, not even love. Soon you’ll get tired of me. You’ll want a younger man.”
“Never!” Busi said with certainty.
He laughed again. “Even when I’m old and grey?”
Why couldn’t he understand that he was all that mattered to her? He owned her, body and soul. He opened the taxi door and was about to get in when he remembered he’d left his wallet at the desk. He ran back to fetch it.
Busi turned around to look for him. That’s when she saw the woman. She was sitting in the driver’s seat of a big, shiny black car that was parked in front of the hotel. The car window was rolled down and she was staring at Busi.