“So MmaBeula needs help on Saturday. Are you free?” Khaya said after taking a bite of her sandwich. She and her friend Mponi sat on the grass in front of the humanities building, warming themselves in the mid-winter sun and eating their lunch.
“Sure. What with?” Mponi asked. MmaBuela owned Dijo Catering. Khaya was employed there part-time but sometimes when they needed extra help Mponi could also pick up a few rands by filling in.
“A party. We’ll be waitressing. Some company. Stupid name: ‘Koolio’.”
Mponi made a noise somewhere between a snort and a shout. “‘Koolio’? Like the real Koolio?”
Khaya looked at her, confused. “I don’t know. I just know it’s Koolio, somewhere in the CBD. Did MmaBeula say it was something to do with music? Maybe, I can’t really remember.”
“It is amazing how little you know about the real world, Kay. You’re always stuck at the library reading about ancient buildings, or drawing your own – or worse – building those silly models of yours out of toothpicks. Koolio is only the record label for DJ Rolo and Lesego!”
Khaya looked at her, her face still blank.
“Are you telling me you’ve never heard of DJ Rolo or of Lesego?” Mponi asked.
“Yes, that is exactly what I’m telling you. I imagine from the way that you’re acting that they’re big?”
“Big? They are huge! I bet they’ll be at the party.” Mponi was up on her feet, too excited to stay put on the grass. “Can you believe it? I might meet DJ Rolo. Have you seen him? He is seriously hot.”
“Who’s seriously hot?” said a young man, sitting down next to Khaya and digging around in his backpack. He was medium height, and handsome behind his big black glasses. He pulled out a banana and started to peel it, then turned to Khaya. “What’s she all excited about?”
“Some party we need to work on Saturday.”
“On Saturday? I thought we had a date.”
“Oh … sorry. I forgot Thuto. I have to work. MmaBeula said she’ll pay me time and a half. I can’t pass that up. I need the money,” Khaya said.
“Rain check?” Thuto asked.
Khaya leaned forward and kissed Thuto on the cheek. “Yes, definitely a rain check.”
Mponi leaned back on the grass next to Thuto. “I don’t think I like this. My two best friends dating each other. It feels wrong, incestuous in some way.”
“Get over it,” Khaya said. “I like this guy.” Thuto smiled at her, looking even more handsome when he did so.
“You won’t believe what party we’re working at on Saturday – Koolio’s!” Thuto looked at Mponi with a blank face. “You too? You don’t know who Koolio are?”
Thuto shook his head. “Sorry,” he said as he looked at the time on his cellphone. “Oops, got to go, ladies. That Metro Insurance building won’t clean itself.”
He zipped up his backpack, kissed Khaya on the cheek, and turned to Mponi. “Later Poni.”
The two young women watched him rush down the walkway. Thuto studied law part-time at the university while working full time as a janitor at the Metro Building downtown to pay for it.
“You know, you two deserve each other,” Mponi said. “I think you must be the only two people in the whole of South Africa who don’t know about Koolio. I’m so glad you found each other, otherwise you would both be doomed to being alone.”
Khaya smiled. She was happy she’d found Thuto too. They were both serious about their futures, not interested in all of the funny games people liked to play. They didn’t like drinking. They didn’t like going to clubs. They both loved reading and often shared novels. They liked movies and museums.
Khaya wanted to be an architect who designed buildings that were beautiful but highly functional; buildings for people to live in; buildings that made them feel it was their home, not some institutional place. Buildings that worked for the people, not the other way around.
Thuto was planning to be a prosecutor for the state. He wanted to improve the rate of successful prosecutions of criminals in the country. He knew a lot about crime, having grown up in the poorer part of Soweto where criminals sometimes ran things. He didn’t want to live in a South Africa like that and intended to do his best to help bring such lawlessness to a halt.
Thuto and Mponi had grown up together and been friends since primary school. Khaya had only met them both last year when she helped with the stage lighting for one of the plays Mponi was in. Mponi the star. She was a singer and an actor, already gaining a name around Joburg, at least among the Wits students. Despite her fame, she was down to earth and she and Khaya became close friends straight away.
Mponi stood up. “Gotta run, babe. Rehearsals. Later.”
Khaya watched her run off towards the taxi stop. She took out a book on US architect Frank Lloyd Wright and began to read.
“OK girls, listen up! I want professionalism tonight. I’ve heard all of your giggling in the corners about meeting the high class people we’ll be serving tonight. Leave your silly girlishness in the kitchen. When you are serving I want only seriousness.” MmaBeula stood in front of the four servers, her face set hard, trying her best to be stern, even though stern was not really her way, and they all knew it.
Mponi flashed her new fake eyelashes at Khaya and whispered, “Do you think DJ Rolo will notice me?”
Khaya thought Mponi was gorgeous without those eyelashes. Her small, compact, curvy body and quick smile always got attention. “How could he not?”
Mponi picked up a tray of filled champagne glasses and headed out of the kitchen. Khaya followed with another tray of grilled prawns on skewers.
Despite it being a party for a music producer, the vibe was very quiet. People were in tuxes and gowns. A band played soft jazz on the stage. It was nothing like what Khaya expected after Mponi had told her what the company was all about.
She walked among the guests offering her prawns and serviettes to whoever looked interested. She wasn’t paying much attention to who took what. She was thinking of Thuto.
She had realised the night before that he had been looking forward to their date tonight more than he had let on when she told him she had to work. They’d only been dating for two months, but he seemed to be getting serious. She wasn’t sure she was ready for that yet. She liked him a lot, and respected him even more. She’d never met someone like Thuto. He was so smart and had so many ideas about how to make the country better. His optimism was so refreshing. But he was her first boyfriend, and she was afraid of getting too serious too quickly.
“Sorry, did you hear me?”
Khaya looked up, pulled away from her thoughts. A man was in front of her holding a prawn on a toothpick. “Sorry … yes … I mean no. What did you say?”
“I said, do you know what sort of prawns these are? Where they came from?”
Khaya suddenly gave all her attention to who was speaking to her. He must be one of the famous people, she thought, because he was so beautiful – like a person in a magazine. Thinking that made her suddenly nervous. “I … well, from the sea, I’d guess…”
He laughed and she realised how silly her answer was and she laughed too. He held out his hand. “I’m Robert.”
She juggled the tray and serviettes to get a hand free. “I’m Khaya.”
Tell us: Would you like to meet famous people? Would you get all excited, like Khaya?