Fic­tion

Lebo knows that for­tune favours the bold – but ev­ery time she puts her­self out there she’s met with dis­ap­point­ment

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY KELLY McBAIN IL­LUS­TRA­TION: MICHAEL DE LUCCHI

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.

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