Why isn’t he here?
It’s getting hotter, too hot to stay lying here on the sand. I put on my hat and start to walk towards the rock pools. Every now and then I turn and look back to see if he is there waiting for me by my towel. No show.
When I get to the rocks at the far end of the beach I see the sign. So it was there. ‘Danger – Ingozi’. And there is the path full of fallen branches and stones and bricks. I see the remains of a small concrete building, what looks like toilets that have been demolished. This must be the beginning of a new development and now I notice a sign that shows the smart houses that some developer is going to build here.
And then I hear his voice behind me. I didn’t hear him come up. But sand doesn’t make any noise underfoot and I was lost in thought.
I turn around.
“Hey!” I am grinning I can’t help it.
“You came to see the octopus.”
“Yes,” I lie.
“It’s a shame about the development.” He points to the sign.
“They are pulling down all the old houses. All the people have been moved out. I mean, who would turn down a lot of money to be relocated, especially if you are poor?” It’s like he really cares. I wonder if he knew someone who lived here.
“I know what you mean,” I say. “I like old parts of town.”
My grandparents used to have a house in Durban. They were forced to move out under apartheid. I went with my gran back there a few years ago. She thought she could move back and spend her last years there. But the house had been pulled down and a new block of flats built in its place, with security gates and dogs barking. The new owners looked at us like we were making trouble and called the security. I could see it broke my gran’s heart, although she didn’t say anything.
“Did you know someone here?” I ask.
A shadow crosses his face. Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked.
Perhaps he doesn’t want to talk about it.
“I’m sorry,” I say, thinking that I have ruined it all now and that he will disappear.
“I did know someone … hey, why don’t we go for a swim.”
He changes the subject.
“Cool,” I say, thankful to be heading back onto the main beach away from this place. It’s got kind of creepy and sad suddenly. As we head back across the sand I’m still thinking about that double-storey house in the trees in my dream. Does it exist?
We run into the sea and he dives under the water and catches hold of my legs. I shriek. Then he puts his arm around me and pulls me towards him. I close my eyes. I think he’s going to kiss me, a salty, silky kiss. But then he picks me up above the waves.
“Look out, here comes a big one!” Suddenly I am being tumbled in the water towards the beach and dumped on the sand.
“Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” I say, standing up dazed. I have sand in my costume and in my hair.
“Here, let me help you.” He takes my arms and pulls me up.
“Let’s just chill for a while.”
“Good idea.” I lie down on my towel and he goes to get some water, just like the day before. I watch him walk away across the sand. I still don’t trust that he will come back. It’s silly. Why wouldn’t he? And then he reappears with the bottle of water and I feel those icy drops on my skin.
Oh no, my dad’s coming over. This is all I need, I think. He’s got that look on his face. He has a plan and we all need to go along with it. He doesn’t even look at my new friend; it’s like he doesn’t exist. He doesn’t greet him. I am so embarrassed and awkward.
“We are going in thirty minutes. Meet us at the car. Your cousin has arrived but she’s tired. We’ve decided to come back here tonight to eat at that restaurant.” He points to a steak house on the beach. When he’s gone I turn to Bongi.
“Hey, I’m really sorry. He treated you like you weren’t there.”
“It’s OK,” he says. “I get that a lot …”
“You know how fathers can be with their daughters.”
“Oh, yes …”
“I can phone you …” I take a deep breath. Have I gone too far now?
“I don’t have a cellphone.”
What teenager doesn’t have a cellphone? But it makes me like him even more. He’s different from the other boys I know who are all into their gadgets and brands.
“I’ll wait for you at the octopus pool, tomorrow morning,” he says. Then leans over and kisses me on the cheek. His lips are still cold from the sea.
Tell us what you think: Do you think that there’s something strange about Busi’s man?