Lebo knows that fortune favours the bold – but every time she puts herself out there she’s met with disappointment
LEBO searched through student job sites, head resting on her hand, a look of despair on her face.
She was beginning to believe she’d walked under a ladder or crossed a black cat’s path or something superstitious like that. Not that she believed in that mumbo jumbo.
“Somebody’s having a bad day,” remarked Kgosi as he walked into the communal lounge.
Realising who it was, Lebo smiled briefly. “You could say that. I’m looking for a part-time job, but I’m having no luck. Most of these are for final-year students.”
“Why the sudden urge to work? I thought you had a tight schedule as a BSc student.” “Well, yes . . .” She hesitated. The subject made her feel vulnerable. She looked down, as though hoping to find the words to express her innermost feelings on the ground. She knew the answer to Kgosi’s question would expose a side of her he’d never seen – a side that was weak, self-pitying even.
“I’m tired, tired of wearing the same worn pumps day in, day out, tired of wondering where I’ll get money for textbooks from.”
Holding back tears, she added, “Today my friends and I ended up at this little coffee shop in Menlyn. I knew I only had R50 left, so when the menu came I searched for the cheapest drink I could find and ordered a double espresso.”
Kgosi laughed, “Oh no! Please tell me you knew what a double espresso is!”
“I ordered it for the price. I had no idea it was so bitter and concentrated! I sat there pretending to enjoy it.” They both laughed.
Kgosi came over and gave her a big squeeze, said goodnight and headed off to his room.
Kgosi, when translated from Setswana, means “king”. A fitting name, as he was king of Lebo’s heart! Lebo had a massive crush on him. His mind, his quirky gentle nature, his focus and drive, all endeared him to her.
He was doing his third year in industrial psychology. If only he could see her as more than a little sister. She wasn’t just
in the friend zone; she was swimming deep in the family zone! That had to prove the black cat theory, right?
The next day while waiting outside their statistics lecture hall, Lebo and her best friend, Amber, were approached by Lihle. Tall, Naomi-Campbell-lookalike Lihle, in her miniskirt and designer wedges. “Hey, you two!”
They smiled back unenthusiastically, “Hey, Lihle!”
She quickly glanced up and down Lebo’s outfit in a sweeping motion. “Lebo, darling. I love how committed you are to your style. When you choose a look you give it your all. I like how the weathered detail on your handbag does justice to the term ‘rustic’.” She giggled and swayed off.
“I swear, it’s like she walked right out of a scene from Mean Girls. What’s her problem?” Amber asked.
Lebo shrugged it off and pretended not to care, but it increased her resolve to find part-time work. It really angered her how unfair life could be.
Students like Lihle took for granted the privilege of being at university. Lebo was only there thanks to a government-funded financial aid scheme.
AFTER weeks of searching, Lebo finally found a promoter job and was starting it that Saturday. Despite her fatigue from a hectic week at school she trudged the hour walk from Hatfield to Pretoria Central, with knots of nervousness and excitement in her stomach. When she finally reached her destination, she introduced herself to the receptionist.
“Ah yes, Lebogang Khune, is it?” the receptionist asked without looking up from her computer. “You’re here for the part-time promoter job, I understand?” When she finally looked up to smile at Lebo, her expression changed. “Are you sure you’re Lebogang Khune?” “The one and only!” “Wait here.” The receptionist quickly got up. A few minutes later she returned with the manager.
The manager, with a look of alarm, gestured Lebo into his office. Once there, he cleared his throat uncomfortably and began, “Young lady, there seems to have been a mix up. You see, it appears that two people with the name Lebogang Khune applied for this job.
“We meant to hire the other Lebogang. Well, you see her height and general appearance make her a more suitable fit. Not that there’s anything wrong with your appearance, of course.” His face flushed pink. Lebo wondered why he didn’t just say it. Her looks wouldn’t attract customers.
She arrived at the student commune feeling deflated. She didn’t even notice Kgosi reading on the patio.
“Didn’t expect to see you back so soon. How was your first day at work?” he asked.
“Let’s just say it was my first and last day!” “What happened?” “Apparently there was a mix-up and they meant to hire someone else.” She sighed and sank against the nearest wall.
“I’m sorry. Perhaps it’s a sign you should focus on school. Apply for bursaries. It could really boost you financially if you got one.”
“I’ve been applying for bursaries!” she said bitterly. “I have, Kgosi! Life just won’t give me a break.” Her disappointment was bringing up old wounds, feelings and experiences which had left her bruised and battered in her attempts to build a life for herself, to be somebody.
With tears flowing uncontrollably down her cheeks, she said, “Last year I received a call about a bursary funded by the provincial government. They told me my application was successful and that I should come sign the contract.
“There’s no worse feeling than hoping, only to have your hopes crushed by reality. My parents managed to come up with the money I needed for transportation to the offices. “When I got there I was told my application had been rejected by the manager because it had been submitted a day late.
“I explained that we had to submit through our local municipalities and at the time there were strikes and riots against the head councillor in our town.
“As a result, all the applications from our town were received a day late. You know what they did?
“They shrugged their shoulders and told me there was nothing they could do.”
Kgosi walked up and enveloped her in his strong arms. She looked up at him.
“When I left their offices I was certain I was going to drop out. I couldn’t bear the thought of continuing to travel from Soshanguve where I lived with my aunt to school daily, having to wake up at 4am to get to my classes on time. I had no idea where I’d get money for textbooks to study for my upcoming exams.”
“And yet, look at you. You didn’t drop out. You persevered somehow. You’re still here. Lebogang, that’s strength!”
He wiped her cheeks and surprised her with a tender peck on the lips.
“Why don’t we order pizza, watch a few movies and forget the world, if only for a while?”
She smiled, “That sounds perfect!”
THE next morning, she was still in a daze from Kgosi’s kiss. She absent-mindedly looked through her emails.
One immediately caught her attention. Its subject line read, “Tutor application successful”.
She opened it and quickly read through its contents. How was this possible? She hadn’t even known that tutor posts existed in her faculty!
Still puzzled, she walked over to Kgosi’s room and tapped on his door. “Come in!” Kgosi said from within. She walked in and explained about the email. “Do you think it’s a mistake?”
Kgosi beamed. He radiated pure joy as he scooped her up and lifted her into the air. “You did it! You got the job.”
“Slow down. What are you talking about?”
“When you first told me about your job hunt, I enquired about tutor positions in your faculty. I’ve been a tutor for a year now and I thought it would be a good fit for you.
“Your marks are pretty good. I applied on your behalf. I didn’t tell you about it because I didn’t want to raise your hopes. It might not be the best-paying job in the world but it’s flexible enough to accommodate your schedule.” “Kgosi, I could just kiss you right now!” “Why don’t you?” he asked slyly. She needed no invitation and kissed him deeply. This queen now had her king and a job, no ladders or black cats in sight! Perhaps her luck was changing after all.