The two girls settled themselves on the back seat.
“Where to?” asked the taxi driver.
Busi looked at the back of the taxi driver’s head in the darkness of the cab. He sounded tired.
“Hot Spot Night Club,” said Nomsa clearly as the taxi pulled away.
Busi remained silent. She was suddenly nervous again. She could see the eyes of the taxi driver reflected in the rear view mirror as the car passed beneath the street lights. He was staring at her. She tried to smile.
“It’s rather late for you two to be going out, isn’t it?” said the taxi driver suddenly.
Busi and Nomsa remained silent. Busi found Nomsa’s hand in the dark and squeezed it.
“My daughter’s about your age,” said the taxi driver.
Busi looked away. She could still feel the taxi driver’s eyes on her, and he was making her feel very uncomfortable.
“Do your parents know that you are out?” he asked.
Busi noticed that there was a flask of coffee propped up between the seats. A long chain with a heavy cross swung from the rear view mirror. In the dim light she could just make out a photograph in a flowery plastic frame stuck onto the dashboard. A young girl smiled out at them from it. Busi strained forward in her seat. She wanted to read the words written there, on a scroll surrounded by flowers.
“In Memory of our Darling Girl” she eventually made out.
Busi frowned in the darkness, disturbed, and was about to point it out to Nomsa, when she was silenced by Nomsa’s voice.
“It’s none of your business,” said Nomsa loudly and firmly to the driver. “And I don’t know how old your daughter is, but I’m pretty sure she’s a lot younger than us.”
The taxi driver drove on, and Nomsa continued: “If you aren’t interested in giving us a ride, then just say so. There’s always another taxi.”
Busi wished that Nomsa would shut up. She was astounded. Where had Nomsa learnt to talk to adults that way? But then again, Busi thought to herself, she could just hear Nomsa’s answer if she asked her:
“You shouldn’t let any man tell you what to do Busi my girl. Never, not ever.” That’s what Nomsa always said. And then Busi just knew Nomsa would click her tongue, and shake her head, waving her index finger with its long painted nail from left to right.
“Just take care,” said the taxi driver softly. “These clubs can be dangerous places for young girls like yourselves.”
They drove the rest of the way in silence. Busi didn’t bother to try to show Nomsa the details on the photo frame. She had a feeling that Nomsa would not care, anyway.
The taxi driver said no more until they drew up to a halt outside the Hot Spot Night Club, and he called out the fare. Busi drew in a sharp breath – it was a lot of money. She looked over at Nomsa in alarm. But Nomsa was waving her long-nailed fingers at Busi’s purse, and already opening the door.
“Just pay the man Busi,” said Nomsa.
And so Busi rolled off some notes, and, frowning to herself, handed them over to the taxi driver. As he took the money the taxi driver took hold of Busi’s wrist for a moment.
“Call me if you need a ride,” he said urgently. “Any time. It’s never too late. Just call.”
Busi pulled her arm away, and stepped back from the taxi. She looked away, and quickly shut the door. Something told her that this was going to be a night that would cost her far more than any night in her life, up till now, ever had.
Tell us what you think: Should the taxi driver have done more to protect the girls? What do you think happened to the taxi driver’s daughter?