Mila wrote her learner’s test and passed. Every Saturday evening, she and Jack would go for a practice drive in his car. It was still early days, but things were looking up. She was also attending extra classes on Saturday mornings as well.
One Saturday afternoon they were driving to her second market day at the sport’s field. Mila had baked a big batch of muffins.
The sports field was next to a busy road with a tavern, and a tshisanyama next to it. Mila was practising her driving and had to concentrate while she parked the car.
“I have a feeling you are going to do well today,” said Jack. “Are you enjoying it?”
“Yes bhuti, and I am making good profit. With two small packets of flour I make 32 muffins. And when I sell all of them, I have enough money to buy four packets of flour, and a bottle of oil and half a dozen eggs. And then I can bake even more.”
“Wow! You are good at this.”
“I am good in anything that I put my heart into.”
Mila looked at the crowd of people outside the tavern and tshisanyama, wondering if perhaps some of them would come over to the field and buy her muffins to take home. She was scanning the cars parked up on the kerb when she caught her breath.
“Bhuti! Bhuti! Look! Look – that grey Golf 7 with tinted windows! There under that tree, next to the yellow Quantum!” Mila shouted pointing to the car that was a few metres down the road, opposite the tavern.
As they watched a man crossed the road from the tavern with two girls giggling beside him. He was showing them something on his phone. They stopped next to the Golf and he unlocked it.
“It’s him bhuti! It’s Monza!” said Mila, her blood running cold. He was wearing the same suit he was wearing on the day of the ‘interview’. And one of those girls could have been her.
“But that guy has a beard. You said in your description he was clean-shaven.”
“It’s him bhuti! Look at him closely. Maybe he is trying to disguise himself with that beard. I’m calling the police right now,” said Mila as she took out her phone.
“It might be too late,” said Jack as they watched Monza open the back door of the car. One of the girls got in laughing, still drinking from the cider Monza had bought her. Mila wondered what he had promised them.
“I have to keep him here,” said Jack as he jogged towards the Golf.
“Be careful!” shouted Mila after him.
Mila called the police officer who took her case at Claremont station, and told him what she was witnessing. He said he would message the local cops and they would come as soon as they could. She told him the make and licence plate of the car, and where it was parked.
“Hurry!” she shouted.
But would it be soon enough? The other girl was getting into the car. What could Jack say to stop them? Mila thought.
“Hola mfe’thu!” said Jack when he reached Monza, who was opening the boot of his car. He took something out and slid it into his back pocket.
“Hola bhutiza, what’s up? U-grand mfethu?” Jack said, slapping Monza on the shoulder. Monza looked up, surprised. “No, cool my broer. It’s Monza neh?” said Jack. “Or am I mistaken?”
Mila could see them talking but couldn’t hear what they were saying. If only Jack could keep him talking a little longer.
She scanned the road for the cops. Please come now, she prayed.
She watched as Monza moved away from Jack and opened the driver’s door. It was too late.
Then Mila saw two cop vans driving towards the tavern – but would they see the Golf?
Mila was running towards them now as Monza closed the car door and wound down the window. He started the car and revved it just as Mila rushed up to the window.
Monza switched off the engine and got out. He grabbed her arm as he opened the back door to shove her in, with the other girls. But Jack slammed the door and Monza let go of Mila.
“Dammit! You are with her, right bhutiza?” Monza barked at Jack. Then he pulled a gun out of his back pocket and waved it at Mila, then at Jack. There was anger in his eyes and Mila knew he wouldn’t hesitate to shoot them.
“Drop the gun!” The police surrounded the car; the girls inside screamed.
Monza looked around wildly. For a second Mila thought he would shoot. But then he dropped the gun and she could breathe again. It happened so fast. The police had him in cuffs, and the girls out of the car. They pushed Monza into the back of one van and locked the door. The girls got into the back of the other. They had been rescued just in time … from a life of hell.
* * * * *
Three weeks later, Mila felt butterflies in her stomach as she stood under the lights, on a small stage in a restaurant. She watched the expectant faces of the diners. Viola and Jack sat at one of the tables with Mam’Sandlana, who waved and blew kisses.
The manager came up and adjusted her microphone. He had been at the event for Mam’Sandlana and had heard Mila sing. Mam’Sandlana had persuaded him to let Mila sing at his restaurant on Friday evenings over the summer season, when the restaurant was full.
Mila smiled down at Mam’Sandlana. She knew it would take time, but she knew she would make it in her new life. She would find a job and she would forge a new path.
“This one is for you, Mam’Sandlana and for my sister Viola and her husband Jack, for helping me find my way.”
And then she began to sing:
(My mother always rejoices)
Qho xa ndifik’ekhaya
(Everytime I arrive home)
Qho xa ndifik’ekhaya
Umama wam uyajabula.
(My mother is always rejoicing)
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