“I’m sorry, Khaya, I can’t make lunch. Business things have come up,” Robert said on the phone. Khaya was already waiting outside for him. She’d skipped a class so that she could go to lunch with him. She’d never skipped a class before.
“That’s fine, I understand. Another time,” she said.
“How about this weekend? Let’s fly to Cape Town for the weekend. I know a beautiful B&B on the way to Betty’s Bay. Up in the mountains, looking out over the sea. You’ll love it.”
Fly to Cape Town? That seemed crazy. Khaya had never even been on an aeroplane before. How does someone waste so much money for an air ticket only to go for the weekend? It seemed too reckless – but exciting too. She had a big project due on Monday but she had three days. If she pushed she could manage something.
“OK, yeah, that sounds great,” she said.
She walked toward the studio. She needed to get to work seriously, pull a couple of all-nighters if she was going to finish her project. Her mind was already in Cape Town though, and she didn’t hear Mponi calling her until the third try. She turned and there was Mponi, with Thuto, sitting in their usual place eating their lunch. She walked over to them.
“Hi guys.” She tried not to look at Thuto; she didn’t know how she was meant to act.
“Your head was in the clouds,” Mponi said.
“I was on my way to the studio, thinking about my project.”
Mponi handed her half of her sandwich. “You’ve got to eat.”
Khaya took the sandwich and looked at Thuto as if to ask if it was OK that she joined them. “It’s OK,” he said. “I might be heartbroken but I won’t bite you.”
Khaya laughed. That was Thuto, always honest, never hiding his feelings. She’d never met someone like him before. Most people hid the truth.
“What’s your project about?” he asked after she sat down. Khaya explained how they had each been a given a tiny plot of land in the CBD, the decaying part of the CBD, and how they were meant to create accommodation for multiple families. She tried to explain the philosophy she had behind the building she wanted to make. It would be a high-rise but in the centre would be a garden, and each family had balconies looking down on the garden. Balconies to grow their own food in pots. Green spaces that they could feel proud of, useful homes that were inviting even though in the city and in tight spaces.
Thuto nodded, really listening. He asked questions to understand things better; he offered ideas that showed he understood where she was going with the project.
“It’s going to be good,” Thuto said.
“I hope so. I only have three days to finish it and I’ve barely started. I present on Monday.”
“No problem, you have the whole weekend too,” Mponi said.
“That’s the thing. I’m going to Cape Town,” Khaya said before she could stop herself.
“To Cape Town?” Mponi asked. “Really?”
“Yes … you know what, I need to get going. Thanks for the sandwich.” Khaya gathered up her things and rushed toward the studio. She looked back and saw Thuto’s face and she knew he understood what was happening. He knew she was going to Cape Town with Robert, and what that meant.
The guesthouse was exactly like Robert had described it. Perched on the edge of the mountain, dangling out toward the beach. They had a gorgeous room on the top floor with a large balcony that had a table and chairs and a swinging sofa.
Khaya dropped her suitcase and stepped out onto the balcony. Robert came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Nice?” he asked.
He kissed her and she turned in his arms and kissed him back. He took her hand and led her to the bed. She stopped.
“Can we … I mean, maybe later we can do that. I thought maybe we could take a walk on the beach.”
Robert let go of her hand. “OK … fine. Let’s go for a walk.”
Khaya knew he wasn’t happy about that but she needed more time to get her head sorted. The excitement of coming to Cape Town had hidden the details of everything. Of course they would share a bed – that was the entire point.
But all she kept thinking about now was Thuto and how when she saw him the last time he was so giving with his ideas about her project, so interested in it and her thoughts behind it. All of that even though she’d been so mean to him, unnecessarily mean.
“Did you hear me?” Robert said.
“No, sorry, I was thinking about other things.”
“I said I saw your friend at the DJ Rolo concert. What was her name again?”
“Yes, Mponi.” He talked about the concert and the tour he was organising for DJ Rolo in the United States. She had told him in the plane that she had a big presentation on Monday, a presentation that would decide her grade for the semester, but he never asked more about that.
They walked to the end of the beach and back to the steps that led up to the guesthouse. He grabbed her up in his strong arms that had excited her in those first few days but now felt like a trap.
“So, we’ve done what you want, now do we get to do what I want?” Robert asked.
“Yes, OK.” Khaya felt she had no choice but to agree.
Up in their room, Robert grabbed at her clothes. He picked her up and placed her on the bed. He gently made love to her. She tried to be part of it, tried to forget all of her doubts about the decisions she’d made. She tried her best to convince herself that everything was wonderful, that she was enjoying herself, that Robert was the man she wanted to be with. She tried hard but she wasn’t successful.
The next day they drove to Betty’s Bay to see the penguin colony. It was a gorgeous sunny day. She and Robert were getting along; his mood from the day before had disappeared. They got back to the guesthouse in the late afternoon. In the parking lot Robert switched off the car engine and turned to Khaya.
“I really like you. This trip has made me see that. I hope we’ll see each other again in Joburg.”
Khaya said nothing and got out of the car, but then Robert exclaimed, “Oh shit! Quick. Get back in the car!”
Tell us what you think: What would you have done in Khaya’s place? Would you have felt pressured to have sex with Robert?