Authors: Lauri Kubbuitsile
“But what about a husband and a family?” he asked.
Mpho was embarrassed. What would Thabang think if he knew that most of her teenage years he had played the role of husband opposite her stunning performance as his wife? “Yeah, probably . . . One day. But even if I do get married, I'll still have my career. It's very important to me. I don't think I need to give it up to have a family.”
“Oh, really? Will the maid raise your kids?” At first Mpho thought he was joking, but from his face she saw he wasn't. He was serious.
“No. Why would you say that?” She was getting a bit annoyed. “I'll raise my own kids.”
“But when? I just don't get these modern professional women. Kids need more than a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes before they fall asleep.” He took a sip of his wine and shook his head. His dreadlocks were now loose from their tie at the back and shook around his handsome face.
“Well, what about you?” Mpho could hear her voice rise and tried to control it. Getting into an argument on the first date was not a good idea but it looked like they were heading that way. “When you get married and have kids, will you leave Mmino Productions?”
“You're joking, right? Of course not.”
“Then why should I leave my fashion design business?”
The naughty glint came into Thabang's eyes again. “You mean after
Mpho was too furious to pay attention to minor details; she had climbed onto her soapbox and had some very good points which she intended to get across to him. “This
the twenty-first century, you know. Women are equal to men. Everybody must do their fifty per cent.”
Thabang just sat there, smiling at her.
“What are you grinning about?”
“I'm thinking how beautiful you are when you're angry.” He took her hands in his and then stretched across and kissed her gently on her lips.
Mpho tried to remember what she was about to say. She couldn't quite figure out what the argument had been about. Her train of thought had taken a wrong turn and was heading somewhere altogether different. Her head swirled with rainbows and puppies and packages tied up with strings. My gosh, she thought, I've gone all Julie Andrews with a single kiss! She feared where another kiss might take her and sat back, away from Thabang's deadly lips.
Though she was aware of the danger, Mpho quietly wished Thabang would do that a few more times. Later, after she got herself back together again, she wondered if this was what falling in love felt like.
* * *
Mpho looked around the crowded club and saw Marika and Annabella in a booth right at the back. “We thought you'd never get here. The date obviously took longer than you thought it would,” Marika said. “We want all the details!”
“Date? What date?” Annabella shouted above the loud music.
Mpho gave Marika a look. She could tell that Annabella was already feeling a bit too fine. Probably two sloe gin and orange juices to the wind, Mpho estimated. Her cousin liked to party and she did it to the limit.
“So? Tell us!” Annabella said.
“Yeah, okay. I had a date.” Mpho looked around the club to see who was there.
“With who?” Annabella looked at Mpho but she wasn't giving her the information she wanted, so she turned her sights on Marika. “Who was the date with?”
Marika looked at Mpho, who gave her a look that shouted, “Keep quiet!” But Annabella was quite persuasive and not immune to getting physical if the circumstances required. Since they'd been little girls, Mpho always had to step in and break up fights between her cousin and whoever happened to not do what Annabella required.
Mpho also knew that Marika was first and foremost a coward when it came to anything physical. Marika looked back at Annabella who leaned in closer to her, enough to let her know that she wanted the answer and she wanted it now. Before Mpho could stop her, Marika blurted out, “Some rich and handsome guy. His name is Thabang something.”
Hearing the name, Annabella whipped around to Mpho. “Thabang? Thabang Modise? Your date today was with Thabang Modise?”
Mpho wasn't sure what was getting Annabella so wound up but it didn't seem to be a good type of excitement.
“Yeah . . . So . . .?” Mpho replied in a tiny voice.
“Your mother isn't going to like that, and when Jakes hears about it he'll go through the roof. Through the roof, I'm telling you.” Annabella shook her head at the shame of it.
Mpho was nervous now. From what Thabang had said the band thing didn't seem to be that big an issue. A difference of opinion, really. Mpho even thought that her brother, with all his self-righteousness, might have taken things too far. Jakes should have listened to Thabang and they could have stayed together and found a different recording company. Mpho couldn't really see why it was such an issue. Her brother should have been over it after so many years.
“What's the big problem?” Mpho asked her cousin. “Is Jakes jealous of Thabang's success? Because he owns a production company and has big stars like Lerumo on his books?”
Marika's eyes went all wide and platterlike. “What did you say? That handsome and beautiful man produced
? Maybe I could audition for him. That would be something. My God, does this get any better?”
“It actually is going to get much worse when Jakes finds out, I can promise you that,” Annabella warned. “Much, much worse.”
Somehow the secret of their budding relationship was making the attraction between Mpho and Thabang stronger. After Annabella's reaction, Mpho had decided not to talk about it for the time being. She was sick of Jakes poking his big nose into her affairs. She would do what she wanted.
In a few weeks, she might very well be fully employed and on her road to being a top fashion designer in South Africa. Did she still need permission from her brother to date someone? Of course not, she told herself. But somehow a niggling feeling still sat at the back of her mind, though luckily it was small enough to ignore.
“So where are you off to this early on a Sunday?” Jakes asked from where he sat at the kitchen table reading the newspapers.
“I'm going to school. I'm preparing for the graduate show. I can't waste a perfectly good day like this,” Mpho lied.
Annabella was at the stove, cooking porridge for Johnny. She gave her cousin a knowing look. Mpho quickly turned away and got busy with her school bag.
“Mama said we should all be ready for church at ten,” Jakes announced.
“Tell her I needed to go to school. She'll understand.” Mpho rushed out of the kitchen toward the front door. She rubbed Johnny's head where he sat watching a kiddies programme on television. “Bye, Johnny-boy. See you later, alligator.”
“After a while, crocodile,” Johnny said without moving his eyes from the TV.
Mpho rushed down the street, checking behind her to be sure that no one was looking. She turned the corner and there was Thabang's car. He was standing outside, leaning on it and wearing sunglasses. God, he is sexy, Mpho thought as she rushed up to him.
“Hey, baby girl.” Thabang bent down to kiss her. Mpho wondered when his kisses would stop making all major systems in her body shut down. She doubted it was healthy. “Ready for some fun?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Mpho climbed into the car. They were off to Gold Reef City. Though her family had been Joburg residents all her life, she'd never gone to the theme park. There was never money to waste on such extravagant things. Her excitement made her feel like a small girl all over again.
As they pulled into the parking lot she saw the brightly coloured rollercoaster flying up into the air. “I'm going on that,” Mpho said.
“We'll see,” Thabang said. There was something about his tone that she didn't like. As if he was now in control of things and would decide what they did and what they did not do.
It had been like that at the Greek restaurant too, but he knew about Greek food and wine and she didn't, so she just accepted that. Now she wondered if it was his normal way with women. Maybe that's why he couldn't keep a relationship, she thought, but then banished it from her mind. She wanted to have fun.
Mpho couldn't believe Gold Reef City. It was like she'd entered another world, something that had nothing to do with Joburg, at least the Joburg she knew. They got on a small red train that took them around the park. There were all sorts of games and rides. There were African dancers and clowns, gumboot dancers and people dressed like bears.
As they rode on the train, Thabang put his arm around her. Mpho liked the feeling of belonging to him. He rubbed his hand along her thigh and she tried to concentrate on the passing scenery for fear her outside body would shiver the way her inside was. Thabang kissed her again, this time slipping his tongue between her lips. She felt a sudden surge of desire for him that frightened her.
Mpho was nervous. Things were moving fast. She'd never had a proper boyfriend. A couple of years ago she and Annabella had boys they kissed and held hands with, but when her cousin let things go too far and got pregnant, Mpho stopped everything for fear she would go the same route. She couldn't have that. She had plans for her life, and she didn't want a boyfriend and a baby messing those up.
At twenty-four, Mpho was still a virgin. She knew Thabang wasn't and probably thought she wasn't either. The speed their relationship was moving at might be fine for someone else but not for Mpho. At the same time, she liked the fact that Thabang saw her as a woman and not as the awkward teenager she used to be. She didn't want to ruin that by admitting that she was a virgin.
She was thankful when the train stopped. Thabang said, “Let me win you a teddy bear.”
“You don't need to win me anything. I'll do that for myself,” she said defiantly.
“Is that so?” Thabang gave the man R10. The game involved throwing a basketball into a wicker basket a short distance away. Mpho thought it looked easy. The man handed her three basketballs. She was sure she wouldn't need them all to be able to walk away with one of the huge purple teddies.
She threw the first ball and it fell short of the basket. Now that she had a feel for the distance, she was sure the next one would go in. “Okay, Michael Jordan, let's see your stuff,” Thabang taunted.
Mpho stuck her tongue out at him.
She threw the next ball too hard and though it went in, it bounced out again. But she was positive the last ball would be the one. “Right, Mr Teddy Bear, you're all mine,” she said as she threw the third time. The ball landed in the basket, spun around and then popped out.
“Sorry,” the man running the game said. “Maybe your boyfriend can win one for you.”
“I don't need anyone to win anything for me,” Mpho said, annoyed at his assumption.
Thabang smiled and handed the man another R10. “Okay, Miss Independent Woman. Give it another go.”
Mpho had a mission now. Not only would she show the game man, she would also show Thabang. Unfortunately her anger got the better of her and all three balls missed. She silently turned to go.
Thabang grabbed her arm. “No, wait.” He handed the man a green note again. The man put three balls on the counter. Thabang picked up the first one, spun it on the end of his index finger and then pushed it out over the counter where it landed easily in the wicker basket and came to a stop.
“You won!” the game man shouted.
Mpho forced a smile as Thabang handed her the teddy bear. “There you go. See, I'm always here to help. I want to take care of you, Mpho. You get that?”
He took hold of her shoulders and pulled her to him. She was helpless in his arms. He kissed her with such passion that the spike of anger she'd felt slipped away, at least temporarily. She tried not to kiss him back, but her body was working to its own rhythm. Thabang pulled away and looked deep into her eyes. She breathed in the sexy aftershave she now realised was permanently part of him and her body became even more unruly.
“You are the sexiest woman I've ever met,” Thabang whispered. He took her hand and they walked to the parking lot.
In the car, Thabang put Lerumo's CD in the player and the kwaito beats filled the small space. Mpho was thankful for the distraction. She didn't know exactly where they were going but she could see he was heading out of the city. When she asked, he said cryptically, “I want to show you something.”
As they drove her body settled down and her mind went through bits of the day. Mpho could see that Thabang operated just like Jakes. A woman was meant to go from her father, or in her case her brother, to her boyfriend and husband. Women weren't meant to be on their own, make their own decisions and do things for themselves. As they turned off the N1 she realised that she never went on the rollercoaster after all.
* * *
Mpho wasn't sure of the time but from the sun she knew it was afternoon, perhaps even late afternoon. Thabang drove his car up a steep hill out in the country. Then they parked and looked out over Johannesburg on the one side and the bushveld on the other. It was a beautiful spot but Mpho had trouble concentrating on the view. They were alone and she could see Thabang had chosen this place for a reason.
He lifted her up and set her gently on the bonnet of the car. He pushed himself between her legs and started kissing her passionately. One of his strong arms held her back while the other held her head in its palm. Her body ached with want. She'd never felt like this before. He ran his satin lips over the tender skin of her neck. Kissing, licking, nipping. She moaned into his wide shoulders. She could feel his hands moving to her blouse, expertly unbuttoning the complicated snaps. Part of her knew she needed to stop him, another part wished he'd never stop.
Suddenly she found her hands pushing him away. She backed off from his kisses and the cold air swept away the warm sensuality, giving her the courage to resist him.
“No,” she said.
He looked at her, confused. “What do you mean? I thought everything was cool.”
cool. It's just too fast for me.”
“Too fast? Why? You act like you're a virgin or something.” He grinned for a moment and then looked at Mpho again. “Are you?”
She could see that he was shocked and his reaction annoyed her. “What does it matter? If I want things to go slower, I want things to go slower. That's it.”
“But you're twenty-two years old . . .”
“Twenty-four,” Mpho corrected him.
“Even worse. How can you still be a virgin at twenty-four?”
She was thoroughly annoyed now. “I told you, I have plans. I don't want to get distracted from my dream of becoming a fashion designer. I saw what happens to women who don't stay focused.”
Thabang softened his tone. “Okay . . . yeah . . . I get your point. Sorry . . . I freaked out a bit. I've just never met someone like you.”
Mpho looked away because she was afraid she might start crying. She wasn't sure why her eyes wanted to fill with tears. More than anything, it was frustration. Why couldn't anyone take her seriously? Why didn't people want to respect her dream of becoming a fashion designer? Why couldn't they see that she was an adult woman who was in control of her own life? She knew she was falling in love with Thabang; she thought perhaps she'd never stopped loving him in the first place and that she was just picking up where she'd left off. But she also knew that she couldn't love him like this.
“Hey,” Thabang said, pulling her face back to him. “I mean it. I'm sorry. I don't want to push you into anything. I can wait. I can't believe how quickly you've become so important to me. I'm not going to give that up over something like this. I can wait, I promise. I can wait until you're ready.”
Mpho let him kiss her again but she knew something had shifted. She wanted to believe his words, though something told her she shouldn't.