Mila walked into the living room and spun around in front of Viola.

“Wow, where are you off to?” said Viola

“Monza, the guy I told you about, Sis, the one on the bus,” said Mila. “I’m meeting him at nine at the petrol station. He is going to get me a job.”

“You don’t know him, Mila. Do you even know what his surname is? Do you know what the job is?”

“Umm … I never asked his last name because Bhuti was already there to pick me up,” she said. “Don’t worry Viola, I’ll be fine. Don’t I look good?”

“Mm! Baby girl you look stunning, mntas’ekhaya!”

“Lalalalal! Lalalala!” Mila started singing and snapping her fingers.

“I think you should go now Miriam Makeba. Don’t keep this guy waiting,” teased Viola.

Mila had been born with a beautiful singing voice. She sang at family birthdays and in church and in the school choir. Her mother had said she would be the next Miriam Makeba. She was her mother’s favourite singer; Mila had a bold singing style.

“I will see you later. Let’s hope and pray for the best,” said Mila as she waved goodbye.

“Just be yourself and don’t panic,” said Viola, giving her little sister a hug. She looked at her lovingly as she walked down the main road to the local filling station where she was to meet Monza … but she couldn’t help feeling nervous for her.

And when Mila had gone Viola wondered if she shouldn’t have tried harder to stop her from going off with this perfect stranger.

Monza looked more handsome today than at the bus station: clean-shaven and smelling good. What if he really wanted to date her? What if he got her a good job? What if in the near future the face of this man would be the first she would open her eyes to? Mila’s head spun with all the possibilities.

* * * * *

“We need to go right now!” Monza snapped as he hit the gas. “My bosses are really busy today and have no time to waste. You were late.”

Mila stared at Monza. She had only been five minutes late. There was no need for his tone. This is not the Monza I met at the bus station, she thought, as he sped down the freeway. This was not the chatty charming guy. He was silent as they drove, his fingers drumming on the steering wheel.

“So … what sort of job is this? Do you have any idea of what your agency is looking for?” asked Mila, after a long silence in the car. Monza was driving very fast, weaving dangerously between cars. He answered without even glancing at her.

“You will find out soon.”

Something was not right; Mila felt it. But maybe he was just stressed. She shouldn’t have been late, she told herself. But why was he being so cold and distant?

Be with me Lord. That was her silent prayer.

“Yep, we are here!” he said finally, as he parked in front of a big building on a busy street. Mila had no idea where they were. She didn’t know if this was Claremont – it could be anywhere.

The building outside looked old, with paint falling off the walls and windows full of cracks. There were people milling around outside, some selling stuff while others were just chatting. As she got out of the car Mila was hit by the pungent smell of old urine. There was litter all over the place.

“Is this the building? Is this the modelling agency?” asked Mila, as a street seller came past trying to sell her food.

“Amanqina! Amanqin’enkukhu ashushu bethuna!” she shouted.

“The offices are at the back,” said Monza, pushing past the woman and grabbing Mila’s hand. “Come babe, let’s go.”

He led her through a narrow alley along the side of the building. He was smiling for the first time now. His hands were soft and tender and Mila thought it was going to be okay after all. He had just been nervous that they would not get there on time; would miss the interview.

As if Monza could sense her thoughts his hand suddenly wrapped around her waist as they walked towards the back of the building. They went down a narrow alley and then a flight of steps to a steel gate. Monza took out his phone and dialled a number.

“Sis Joyce!” shouted Monza into his phone.

A big lady appeared at the gate carrying a bunch of keys. She chuckled as she inserted the key into the lock.

“Mm! that was quick, babe,” she said, lifting her head up to look at Monza, who was on the phone again.

“Why is he not picking up, dammit!” he said angrily.

“You mean Sting? Try him again. He had to drop the other two, remember?” muttered Joyce.

She led them inside the building, along a long corridor. She opened a door on the left and Mila found herself in a sparsely furnished room. The dirty carpet gave off a foul smell, even though a small, rusty fan was turning, making an annoying screeching sound with each turn.

Mila took a good look at Joyce. Under the harsh light she saw how tight her velvet dress was. It had a low cleavage revealing her pushed up, sagging breasts. Her face was smeared with thick foundation and she wore bright red lipstick. Two of her long, red, fake nails were broken.

Both Monza and Joyce disappeared through a back door, leaving Mila alone. Minutes ticked by. Mila took out her file and read through some of her notes, trying to be calm. The room was cold and eerily quiet. Then she overheard Monza speaking on the phone, just outside the door.

“Hurry up man, you should be back by now. Time is money, mfondini!”

“What is taking them so long?” she wondered.

 ***

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