When the noisy group of German tourists who had come for lunch had finally left, Khosi emptied the jar of tips. The coins spilled out along with ten, twenty, and even a fifty rand note. They had been generous. It wasn’t always like this.
“How did you do?” Bongani had come up behind her. She could smell his aftershave, fresh and intoxicating. He wiped his hands on his apron and then gently massaged her shoulders.
“Relax,” he laughed. “It’s over now. Looks like they tipped OK?”
“I guess,” said Khosi, as she began to sort through the money. “It’s the season. If I don’t make some decent money now, I never will.”
Bongani looked across the road to where a path led down towards the beach. A breeze was blowing the salty smell of the sea up through the town.
“Well,” he said, “I’m hoping to be sent to chef’s school in the city soon. But, for now, this is not such a bad place to be.”
“Try being here your whole life,” said Khosi, too quickly.
Khosi had always had dreams. Ever since she won that competition ten years ago she’d dreamed of being a model. But she’d noticed that her eight-year-old face was getting really faded on the truck, and beginning to peel under the harsh sun.
Suddenly the expression on Bongani’s face changed. “Who’s that guy over there by the trees? I don’t like the way he’s staring at you…”
“It’s OK,” said Khosi quickly. “I know him.” It was Sbu. He was loitering outside, leaning against a nearby oak tree in the shade. Even from where they stood she could see that he was wearing brand new clothes from the hottest labels. He had always been the best dresser in town.
“That guy looks like trouble to me Khosi,” said Bongani. “Why doesn’t he just come over and greet you properly, not stand there staring?”
Khosi struggled to untie her apron. She just wanted to get across the road and get Sbu out of here, away from the restaurant.
“Let me help you,” Bongani said.
Khosi stopped fumbling with the knot. Bongani came closer. She could feel his hands gently tugging at the apron strings against her waist. Khosi turned her head to look back at him.
Bongani was hot. Khosi closed her eyes and breathed deeply, then put her hand up to her breast as her heart gave a little flutter.
“There you are Khosi,” said Bongani, as he loosened the ties and gently pulled off her apron. He folded it neatly, then held it out to her.
“Thanks,” said Khosi.
Outside Sbu had crossed the street and was walking towards the restaurant. Khosi quickly walked out to meet him before he reached them.
“You shouldn’t come to the restaurant,” Khosi told Sbu. He followed her as she walked towards the taxi rank. “You could have come to see me at home.”
Sbu ignored her.
“Who was the guy in the outfit?” Sbu asked her, as they settled into their seats in the taxi. “He was standing pretty close to you in there. He better watch himself.”
“That’s Bongani,” said Khosi, looking back at the restaurant as the taxi pulled away. “He’s learning to be a chef. He was just helping me with my apron. And anyway, Sbu, I’m not going out with you anymore. Get that into your head.”
“We’ll see about that.”
For a moment Khosi felt uneasy; she didn’t like his tone of voice. But then he lightened up and grinned at her. The old, charming Sbu was back. “Wait till you hear the idea that I’m busy cooking up,” he said.
“I know all about the ideas you cook up, Sbu,” Khosi said with a faint smile. “They’re always crazy.”
“Oh come on Khosi,” said Sbu, leaning over and whispering softly into her ear. “You loved this crazy guy once, remember?”
Khosi pushed Sbu gently away. “That was then,” she said. “Things have changed.”
“But it’ll be different this time, babe,” said Sbu. “I promise.”
When she looked into his eyes she could almost believe him. Almost!
When they were in Grade 9 all the girls had loved Sbu, including Khosi. She’d certainly enjoyed the gifts that he had showered her with. That is until she’d discovered that he was also showering a couple of other girls with gifts too, at the same time.
“I’m a one-man woman, Sbu,” she had said when she broke it off with him, ignoring his promises.
“And I’m that man, Khosi.” But she knew she would never be his only girl, and she wouldn’t accept anything less. Why should she?
She didn’t want to go out with Sbu again. She had become older and wiser, and she knew Sbu was up to no good. It was no secret that he was a small time dagga dealer. Khosi had always decided to ignore that fact, but she wasn’t stupid enough to get involved with him again.
Sbu moved closer to Khosi and grinned again, putting his finger to his lips. “I’ll tell you all about it in the park when we get off. For now I’ll only tell you this, Khosi. This is the best idea I’ve ever cooked up for you and me. You’ll see.”