Authors: Lauri Kubbuitsile
Thabang's aftershave hovered in the air between them and Mpho took a deep breath of it. She reached up to his handsome face and laid her hands on each of his cheeks. Then she pulled his face to hers and kissed him. That morning she had given up on them but as she felt her feelings for him pulse through her body, Mpho knew she never believed it completely. Deep in her heart she had hoped the day would end exactly like this.
Everybody was squeezed into the small sitting room at No 78. It was late morning and the dusty Joburg sun showing through the window cast a golden glow over the gathering. Crowded in the tiny room were Marika and Ishmael, Annabella and Johnny, Jakes and his fiancÃ©e Kagiso, MmaJakes and Aunty Koki, who was looking better after having been to the Morningside Clinic. They were having tea and preparing to eat cake. It was a celebration for Mpho.
“Ngwanak'a, I'm so proud of you,” MmaJakes said, smiling, her eyes watery with joy.
Johnny jumped down from his mother's lap where she sat on the kitchen chair brought into the sitting room to provide more seats. He ran to Mpho and whispered in her ear, “Do we eat cake now?”
Mpho grabbed him up in her arms and smiled, something she felt she hadn't stopped doing since the night before. “Not quite yet, sweetie, but soon.”
There was a soft knock at the door and Johnny wiggled out of Mpho's arms. “I'll get it!” he announced as he ran to the door.
Annabella laughed and said, “I think that boy is going to grow up to be a doorman at one of those fancy hotels the way he loves answering our door!”
She stood up to cut the cake and began handing pieces out to everyone. The room became quiet when Johnny returned with Thabang.
“I have someone . . .” Johnny said, but then he saw the cake being served and rushed to his mother.
Thabang stood awkwardly at the edge of the sitting room. Jakes jumped to his feet and Mpho's heart quivered. She hoped her brother would not ruin this perfect day. She hoped he would leave the whole issue alone, at least for today.
“I heard about last night. Mpho told me everything,” she heard Jakes say. Suddenly he held out his hand to Thabang. “I'm sorry I doubted you, bra.”
Thabang shook his hand. “Actually, that's why I'm here. I wanted to sort out my debt to you.” He reached inside his jacket, took out an envelope and handed it to his old friend.
Jakes opened it and took out a cheque. He said nothing for a few seconds, then turned and showed the cheque to everyone. It was to the amount of forty-five thousand rand. He turned back to Thabang. “Thanks, man. Gosh . . . thanks a lot.”
“No, I need to thank you. Like you told me, Mmino would be nothing without your song.”
Jakes looked at Kagiso. “No problem with that lobola now.” Everyone laughed as he joined his fiancÃ©e on the sofa and showed her the cheque.
Relieved that everything was finally sorted out, Mpho jumped up and took Thabang's hand and led him to two chairs in the corner. As they sat down, her phone rang. “Hello?” she said, not recognising the number.
While Mpho talked on her cellphone, Annabella finished dishing out cake. Before handing the last piece to her son, she poked at his nose with a bit of cream. Johnny took the plate with both hands and turned back to the others, proud of his cream-covered nose. He turned back and forth as if he were one of the models in the show the night before. Everybody suppressed their laughter while Mpho finished her phone call.
Mpho had turned away from the gathering as she spoke on the cellphone. “Yes . . . Cape Town? . . . No . . . no . . . It's no problem . . . Yes, I'll see you then. Thanks!”
When she hung up, she hesitated a few seconds before turning around to her family. She looked out the window at the familiar Hillbrow streets below. She knew this was a life-changing day. This was a life-changing call. The Hillbrow streets below would no longer be the same for her after today. She would no longer be the same either. She turned back to her family and friends with a broad smile.
“So who was that, my baby?” MmaJakes asked.
Mpho looked at Thabang and hesitated before speaking. Was she going to lose this man she loved when she only just got him? But she had to be selfish now; she had to think about her career. “It was Stoned Cherrie. They're offering me a job.” She looked at Thabang to gauge his reaction to the next words. “In . . . Cape Town.”
“Oh, how wonderful!” Marika jumped to her feet and rushed to Mpho, wrapping her in her arms. “Just what you dreamt of!”
Everyone gathered around Mpho talking at once and in the crowd and noise she couldn't see Thabang. He was lost to her and for a moment she panicked. But then suddenly he was there, his eyes tender and loving.
“So? What do you think?” she asked, fearing his answer.
He smiled and a naughty glint filled his eyes. “If you think I'm letting you run away from me again you must be crazy.”
Mpho's anger spiked. How could he stop her from leaving? This was her dream job. “But I thought you said you respected my career and you were going to be a twenty-first century man! You can't keep me from taking this job! I have a career too! I can't just . . .”
“Hold on . . . Did I say that?” he interrupted her. “Did you folks hear me say that?” Thabang looked around at everyone. People shook their heads. “No, I didn't. I said I wasn't going to lose you. Mmino has been thinking of starting an office in Cape Town, so I'll have no problem following you. Following you â did you hear that? You really should work on those listening skills, Ms Kgosiemang.”
Mpho couldn't believe her ears. She jumped up and threw her arms around Thabang's neck. “Thank you . . . thank you! I love you, Thabang Modise.”
He looked at her and said nothing; his eyes gave her all the answers she would ever need.
With an over-protective brother, a part-time job and a project deadline fast approaching, Mpho certainly has no space for romance. She dreams of ditching her oil-stained aprons for designer fabrics and will not let anything jeopardise her chances of success â until Thabang, a record-label owner and her brother's nemesis, makes an appearance.
LAURI KUBUITSILE is a full-time writer living in Botswana.
She writes for both children and adults and has 14 published books, among them two other novels for Sapphire Press,
Can He Be The One?
Mr Not Quite Good Enough
. She was the 2007 winner of the BTA/Anglo Platinum Short Story Contest and the recipient of the Botswana Ministry of Youth and Culture's Orange Botswerere Award for Creative Writing in the same year. In 2009 and 2010 she won first position in the Pan-African children's writing competition, The Golden Baobab.
Kubuitsile is married and has two teenage children.
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Sapphire Press is the romance imprint of Kwela Books,
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Copyright Â© LA Kubuitsile 2010
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Available in print:
First edition, first impression 2010
First edition 2011