Takunda had earned an easy 600 dollars for an hour’s work.
The door was opened by a tough-looking black woman in a bomber jacket and cap.
“You’re late,” she said, while chewing gum.
“Chill, Cleo, it was the trains,” said Dimitri.
“I know you two come like cab. Getting too big for your boots nowadays, pretty boy?”
“Give me a break.”
“And who’s this?” Cleo passed a roving eye up and down Takunda’s appearance.
Both he and Dimitri were dressed in tight shorts that clung to their bodies. With this, a tight sport vest. Long socks. Trainers. They looked like athletes.
“His name’s Takunda.”
“Looking tight, Takunda,” said the woman, licking her lips.
“Get real, Cleo, and just let us in.”
Takunda could tell that these two were always bickering with each other.
Cleo opened the door and stood aside to let them pass.
Takunda and Dimitri entered.
They were in a chic and elegant loft once more, but not the same one as last time.
This one was a lot bigger, and had a deck, on which sun umbrellas were arranged.
This one, incidentally, was at the top of the building – they’d rode up 12 floors in the elevator.
“Nice,” said Dimitri admiringly, as he and Takunda ventured into the space.
“Put down your stuff. They won’t want to see your tatty backpacks,” instructed Cleo.
She led them toward a small cupboard near the front door.
They put their bags inside it.
“Need to do your hair and stuff?” asked Cleo, as if checking things off a checklist.
“Nah,” said Dimitri, smoothing his gelled hair back with one hand. “We’re good to go.”
Cleo led them across the airy space toward the glass doors.
It was 6 pm, and still light.
The air was warm.
On the deck were gathered a party of approximately 15 women.
Takunda scanned their faces quickly – it made him feel more in control.
Nobody he knew.
A rather plump woman with frizzy brown-red hair came forward to Dimitri.
“Oh, darling,” she said, extending two manicured hands, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Daniella,” said Dimitri suavely, and kissed her hands.
He then leaned in and whispered something into her ear.
The woman giggled dizzily.
“Oh, stop!” she squealed. “And who is your handsome new friend?”
“This is …John,” he said, and Takunda smiled.
“Pleasure ma’am,” he managed in an American accent.
Dimitri had convinced him to speak in this accent before hand.
He said the clients would find his natural accent confusing.
An hour later, and Takunda was getting agitated.
The sun had gone down, and everyone was tipsy with cocktails.
They were sitting around an outdoor wooden table.
Takunda ended up next to a middle-aged blonde woman, in her forties – rather pretty.
Dimitri had a thin, dark haired woman of about sixty on his lap.
Word was it she’d been a ballerina.
He leaned in, and she kissed him.
On the mouth.
Takunda started to panic.
This was getting out of control.
Dimitri pulled out of the kiss, then winked at Takunda.
He motioned with his chin to the blonde woman next to Takunda, who was looking at him with puppy eyes, hungrily.
Ethan felt nauseous. In the end, he’d felt too ashamed to cheat on the test.
What had stopped him was this – the thought of his daughter.
How could he ever teach his daughter that cheating was wrong, if he himself indulged?
He imagined a scenario, of Mrs. Vorster, introducing him to a group of people –
“This is Ethan. The cheat.”
He’d never let that happen, he’d decided then and there. He knew he had many faults, he didn’t need to go adding to them.
He’d sat the test bravely, without crib notes.
The test had been extremely tough.
As soon as he’d received it on his desk he’d sped-read the whole thing, seeing what kind of questions they were. They were all hard. He’d exhaled and set to work.
And today, they’d receive their grade.
He’d actually prayed last night.
There was a lot riding on this.
The respect of his mother in law, partner and daughter.
He’d fought for this education, wanted it so much – to fail would be crushing.
Annelie had been very supportive, but still the pressure was enormous.
“I’ll love you no matter how well you score,” she’d told him the morning of the test, and he’d felt so grateful to her in that moment.
Ever since being assured that they would marry, Annelie had softened. She lost her temper less often, nowadays hardly at all.
The instructor was going by desk by desk, handing back the papers.
Hurry, thought Ethan. Stop keeping me in suspense.
He’d failed. He was sure of it.
Of course, as luck would have it, the instructor held Ethan’s paper till last.
Ethan was holding his breath.
The instructor looked at him down his spectacles.
Ethan looked up, expectantly.
Was he going to say something?
The paper dropped onto his desk.
His eyes flew to the grade, which was circled in red pen.
His eyebrows met in surprise.
He felt a warm, cosy feeling expanding in his tummy.
“Thank you, sir,” he said.
“No need to thank me. You’ve done well, considering where you were two weeks ago. Still room for improvement though, mind.”
“I will improve sir. I know I can do it.”
Ethan was elated. He felt light, like a balloon, as if a gust of wind could send him flying amidst the clouds.
How far will Takunda go to keep this new clientele happy?