It wasn’t a house, it was a mansion!

Jabu led me outside onto a huge balcony. Below us waves crashed onto the rocks. The sun was setting over the sea, turning the clouds red and gold.

Jabu – that was his name. Jabulani Jili. He said his name like I should recognise it. So I pretended.

“Oh wow! Jabulani Jili! Mmm!”

He was a businessman. He’d inherited the business from his late father. He spent a lot of time flying to New York and to London. Imagine!

“What kind of business?”

“Oh, this and that. I have a large portfolio. Sometimes I lose track. Luckily I have an excellent accountant. But I want to know all about you, Zonke.”

Of course, I didn’t tell him I was a cleaner at a hair salon. I didn’t tell him my sister worked as a children’s nanny. Instead I made up a story.

“Me? I live in Constantia up near the mountain. I’m a student at UCT. Drama. I’m hoping to be an actress one day. My mother is at UCT too, one of the science lecturers. And my dad, he’s a brain surgeon at Groote Schuur Hospital. Poor Daddy, he works such long hours.”

The words just flowed out of my mouth. And the way Jabu was looking at me, it felt like my story was true. Like I really was the daughter of wealthy parents. He had such beautiful eyes, Jabu. Gentle, caring eyes. Eyes you could fall in love with, no problem!

I thought, Hey – how would it be to marry for love and money? That would be the ultimate! Auntie Sizi can’t argue with that!

Jabu moved his chair closer to me. He stroked my cheek. “I knew today was going to be a good day for me!”

And then my cellphone went off in my bag. Just an SMS. I didn’t want to take it out in front of Jabu. What would he think? It’s an old, battered Nokia with a cracked glass and a rubber band holding it together. Nothing like his fancy, expensive iPhone that lay on the table beside him.

“I need to go to the powder room,” I said. That’s what our clients call the toilet: the powder room.

“Hurry back, Zonke. I’ll be missing you every second you’re gone.”

The SMS was from my sister Lindi.

Hw dare u steal my clothes? This is da last tym Zonks. I’m warning u.

I left the powder room. But of course, I couldn’t resist. I went exploring. What a house! Yes, I could live here happily ever after! Carpets so thick and soft it was like walking on a bed. Beautiful furniture, all in white. Huge windows so you saw the sea from every room.

And then there were the photographs. So many of them: on the walls, beside the beds. They didn’t make me feel too happy.

They were photos of a young, incredibly beautiful woman. She was standing at the Statue of Liberty in New York; posing in front of Buckingham Palace in London; lying on some island beach in a tiny bikini and smiling up into the camera.


What do you think? Who is the woman in the photos?