“Those funeral people have specially asked for you to do the flowers again, Khaliso,” my supervisor on the flower counter says, when I get to work on Monday morning.
“Sure, Auntie Papama.”
I pull a face. It’s depressing, because it’s a funeral, but at the same time it’s a compliment.
“Use the white lilies for your main flower.”
I’ll be sneezing all day, not to mention having cold, wet hands most of the time. But hey, it’s a job, and I’m getting good at it. I’ve got this, if Mongezi is right and I should quit performing.
The long open shed, the buckets full of fresh flowers, the buzzing bees that have somehow found their way here – it’s a different world to my weekend places in Matsulu.
“Maybe you’ll be the world’s first florist rap artist,” Auntie Papama jokes when she asks how my Eyes song did in the contest and I tell her about rapping instead.
I don’t tell her what happened with my song. I’d feel disloyal to Mongezi.
But – how much do I owe him?
A lot, according to him.
“What they said about contestants having new songs for the final round at The Pit?” he says when we’re together that night, at his house again. “I need you to write me a new song, Khaliso.”
“No Mongezi, please don’t ask me,” I beg. “I can’t … after what you did.”
“In your heart, you wanted me to take My Lyin’ Eyes.” He’s so persuasive. “You know you did. Little things you said and did – it was so clear.”
But I don’t know what I said or did to make him believe that. Is he just messing with my mind, or have I forgotten?”
“Anyway, I can’t write another song for you,” I tell him quickly, to get away from doubting myself. “I need to be calm to write, and I’m too psyched about Friday.”
“You’re not doing anything on Friday except supporting me, baby. You know that.”
Usually, his hot lips and stroking hands would have me melting, unable to think clearly.
But something is happening to me. “You’re wrong, Mongezi. That guy, Banzi? Die-Mond’s assistant? He says they can give me a track to rap to; the rules allow.”
“That four-eyed little dick?” Mongezi’s contempt is ugly, and bitter as aloes. “I sussed him pretty damn fast. He just wants to exploit you, Khaliso. You need to keep away from him.”
“I like him,” I tell him.
Mongezi’s hands tighten on me. “Say that again.” A threat in his voice.
“Forget it,” I mutter, backing down – as usual – because he’s frightening me.
God, what am I going to do? Mongezi stole my song, but now it hits me like a bullet – he’s stealing so much more from me. My spirit, my energy, my confidence and courage, my sense of myself, the things that make me me.
He is stealing the song inside me – my inner song.
Tell us: Is Khaliso right, and what should she do?