I could not believe I was working on Lufuno’s TV ad. I was shocked to see her in our small boardroom. Her presence in that little room made me suffocate just a little and I still had to be professional as hell. Mr Mkhize only told me his biggest client, Glamourous Luv Events, needed a TV ad. I agreed to meet up with the client after my 08:00 meeting with Candy Cups Limited. Had I known it was Lufuno, I was going to make excuses after another. I was fine without seeing her and I was slowly getting over her. Now, I had to spend hours with her until her Ad was on the TV screens.
The rest of my Friday was less hectic and the vibe in the office was awesome. Everyone was excited about the party at the Altitude Champagne Garden. I haven’t been there. Where would I get time to gallivant when Michelle spent most weekends with me? If it wasn’t Michelle visiting, then I would be working on my new projects.
I got home just after five to freshen up and change out of the suit. It was going to be the longest night so I settled for a pair of sneakers, brown chinos and a white diesel semi-formal shirt.
I drove to the Times Square and got to the rooftop just minutes before 20:00. James and the other guys were standing by the bar outside, drinking from their bottles.
“Man of the moment,” James announced happily. It didn’t matter if it was genuine or not, I was the man of the moment indeed. Everyone around us cheered with me.
“Shoo James,” I said while fist bumping the guys there.
“How does it feel to close big deals man?” James asked. Seemed like he had been drinking since noon.
“Come on…it isn’t a big deal.”
“Heeyyy, Mr Nengwenda!” Mr Mkhize shouted while working towards me. Everyone was in their best moods.
“Sir,” I said.
“You have made me a proud man…a very proud man,” he said loudly. He was naturally a loud man when he was excited.
“I am glad I did.”
“Guys, the tables are ready for supper. It is already late and some people can’t drink before food,” Mr Mkhize’s PA, Mpho, announced. She was still working just like in the office.
“Yea, we will be right there.” Mr Mkhize said and she walked away. The place was beautiful and not overcrowded. Mr Mkhize booked the place out for our supper and celebration until eleven o’clock.
“Yooohh, yoooh, yoooohh…this woman?” James said after a longest whistle with his eyes at the entrance. We all turned there. The security personnel was opening the small gate for our colleagues and her.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
She sashayed towards me, with my eyes on her damned bodycon dress that hugged her perfect body. She didn’t mind showing off her skin that night. I swallowed hard while counting her steps towards me. She was taller than all the other days so I drew my eyes towards her killer stilettos. I prayed to stay calm and to not embarrass myself in anyway.
“I made it,” she sang as she stood in front of me.
She looked perfect, just as I thought she would.
“You look so amazing,” I said while giving her a hug. She smelled divine.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said happily. “Hello Mr Mkhize…hello guys.”
“It is good to see you again Ms Maake,” Mr Mkhize said while shaking her hand.
The guys are drooling over her so I took her hand and walked a little far away from them. She was there for me.
“What happened to you? Do you know how amazing you look?” I asked while running my eyes from the neatly tied hair to her flaming nude heels.
“I had to do a little shopping, you know?” she said with a chuckle. “I haven’t been out clubbing in decades so I thought I should look a little extra, you know?”
“Now I feel underdressed.” I said and she laughed.
“Don’t stress, you look just perfect.”
“Can I get you a glass of champagne before we go inside for supper?” I asked and she nodded. I walked to the bar just close to us and got her one flute of champagne. I give it to her and she took her first sip. “So, when did you get back from Lesotho?”
“Just this morning.” She said. She left for Lesotho a week ago for her grandmother’s funeral. Her phone reception was horrible so we didn’t get to talk at all. I was also sure she was not coming since we spoke about the party weeks ago. She had assured me that she was going to dress-up if she makes it.
A colleague of mine raised his hand from the entrance of the restaurant. I didn’t notice everyone was inside except for the faces I didn’t know. We headed inside and picked the empty seat just next to Mr Mkhize’s wife.
“Can you please leave this chair open?” Mrs Mkhize requested politely before Tshepo could settle on the chair. She picked her clutch bag which was already on the table and sat on my other side.
The waiters took our orders while my boss gloated about how he started his business from nothing. How he almost gave up and how things started working out for him years later. He told us stories about his poor childhood and how he used to dream big. We were all laughing at his tales until people started to turn their heads towards the entrance. I did too.
“Hooo…Ms Mudau, you made it.” Mr Mkhize said happily while standing from his seat. Lufuno was shyly standing at the end of the longest table.
“I am sorry, I am late…I would have stayed outside if…” She said nervously. I stared at her while holding my breath. I never thought she was going to make it.
“Don’t be silly. Guys…I am sure most of you have seen her face a thousand times at our premises. She is one of our biggest three clients and she is a greatest part of Mkhize Consultant…please sit here next to my wife.”
Lufuno glanced at me before walking towards the chair next to me. She smiled at Mrs Mkhize and buried herself on the chair.
Flip!! I was battered by my biggest crush and my ‘somebody’. Tshepo and I had been going on simple dates just to get to know each other. She had a good heart and I could see her love in her eyes. I was taking is at a slowest rate until I finish my project with MBC in the next three months. I didn’t want to compromise my career and I never told her I knew how she felt about me. I didn’t want to entertain it. In the three months that I have known Tshepo, she was the best woman for me. She had not met Michelle yet but loved her from a distance. I didn’t want to confuse my child by introducing her to my other female friend. Also, Michelle was not over Lufuno yet. She asked me a lot about her and told me every weekend how she loved her braided her. I blamed myself for that because my baby can’t get over a woman I will never be with. I never wanted to make the same mistake so I kept Michelle away from Tshepo.
I whispered a greeting to Lufuno and she responded with her poisonous smile. Thank God Mr Mkhize was still busy with his speeches so I didn’t have to create a conversation.
“We are also here to celebrate Khathu…we have been struggling with The Bank Investors’ account for months but the big man here nailed it. I should really appreciate his efforts and dedication. This guy here sleeps in the office sometimes. I am saying this because there have been days where I emailed him work and I would receive a call from him, at midnight, from an office landline. I can never thank him enough,” Mr Mkhize said.
“Maybe you should make him partner,” Tshepo said from her seat and everyone laughed. I smiled at her.
“And Ms Maake has spoken…make Khathu partner,” Mr Mkhize said with his finger wiping off an imaginary sweat from his forehead. Everyone laughed at his gesture. That wasn’t a bad idea. I made so much money for him. He could manage the people and I will handle bringing more money. I hated managing human resource with a passion and that is why I couldn’t even start my own company.
“Congrats!” Lufuno whispered to me and I smiled back at her. Her eyes were dazzling and I couldn’t tell why. If I didn’t know how she felt about me, I would have mistaken it for a lust on me.
The food arrived while people where sharing about their experience at the company. The waiters placed our plates in front of us and people started digging in. Lufuno had ordered a salmon dish and Tshepo had a salad.
“Khathuuu I want this,” Tshepo said to me while cutting some of my lamb rack.
“And you were ordering a salad because?” I asked while helping her to cut the meat on my plate. I realised Lufuno didn’t notice Tshepo all that time because she had to lean over me to notice my date. I bet she concluded she was my colleague.
“You know sometimes you get to a restaurant and order food while not hungry but when the food arrives, your stomach needs more,” Tshepo said and I smiled at her while stealing a glance at Lufuno. She seemed to have changed her mood. Maybe she was bothered by a text she read minutes ago. After the dinner, the manager came to tell us to move to The Lobby room which Mr Mkhize had booked for drinks.
“Tshepo lets go to the other side for drinks,” I said while standing up. Lufuno was sometimes chit chatting with Mrs Mkhize so we were not leaving her alone. I wondered why she didn’t bring her boyfriend. He fitted perfectly at a place like that.
I led Tshepo to the lobby room and picked a table for two. I was having a Heineken and she was drinking champagne after another. She kept dancing to every song and I tried joining her. I couldn’t keep up so she settled on her chair beside me.
“Khathu I haven’t done this in agggeeessss…it’s so fun.”
“You overwork yourself…you should go out often,” I said.
“While staying at my father’s house? I should be home at 20:00 every night because he doesn’t want me to own keys to his house.”
“You stay at home? You were not kidding?” I asked. She once told me she stayed with her parents and I concluded she was joking. Her father could afford to buy her houses if she didn’t afford.
“Why not? There is free food, I don’t have to buy grocery and cook…” she said and I laughed. “I’m kidding, remember I came back from UCT last year. I have stayed alone for so long I need my family around me…Imagine I stayed in boarding school all my high school life, I stayed alone at varsity for more than seven years. Remember I told you I finished a degree in accounting first before I started my three year course in Architecture and Planning. Sooo now, I need people around me.”
Come to think of it, she had never stayed late with me. We would watch afternoon movies and dined only for lunch and breakfast.
“What about tonight? It is after ten now.”
“I booked at Fire & Ice. My dad doesn’t mind me going out sometimes…but he doesn’t want to give me the house keys. If I go out, he opens for me but tonight, I want to get drunk a little and Fire & Ice is the closest,” she said and stood up to dance with my colleagues who were closer to our table. She was fun and she was having fun.
I gulp my bottle of Heineken and watched her dance. She was better than most people I knew. I kept watching her until I decided to sway my eyes to the bar. I noticed Lufuno watching me. She was chatting with Mrs Mkhize but her eyes were fixed at me. She quickly swayed them away when she noticed my eyes on her. She was acting weird and I didn’t understand what her problem was. She looked gorgeous and her dress was too sexy for my liking. I didn’t shift my eyes from her so I noticed her stealing small glances of me every 5 minutes.
“Who is she to you?” Tshepo snapped me out of my thought.
“That girl you who was sitting next to you…who is she to you?”
“Oh, I am friends to her family…yeah…a family friend,” I said. I didn’t have guts to tell her she was the woman I had always wished to spend the whole of my life with.
“You like her that much, don’t you?” she gulp the whole glass of champagne. “You have been staring at her for ages.”
“No…come on, Tshepo.”
“What? You mustn’t be ashamed. I am just your business associate, remember?” she sadly said.
“I am not blind Khathu. You are undressing her with your eyes,” She said. “You are undressing her.”
“Please…let’s forget about her and have some fun.”
“I try too hard,” she chuckles and then her chuckles turned into a laugh. She was laughing hard at herself with tears twinking her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I am laughing at myself for trying so hard Khathu. This stupid shoes are killing me. This damn dress is itchy on my skin because it is too tight…why? All because I wanted to impress you…but here you are undressing and making love to another woman with your eyes while I am beside.” She picked her clutch bag and paraded away from the table.
I hurried behind her without bringing attention to us. She kept smiling at everyone to avoid drama and I did the same until we were walking towards the escalators.
“Tshepo, please man…let’s talk.”
“Khathu, I will call you tomorrow. I feel a bit tired,” she said while jumping onto the elevator without turning to me. I followed behind. It was my fault that she was upset.
She hurried to the parking lot with me beside her. She unlocked her car, got in and I jumped into the passenger seat.
“Khathu, please…I feel a little tipsy and if I start shouting at you, you will hate me forever…please leave, I will call you tomorrow,” she said while throwing her clutch bag to the back seat. It was better to be shouted at than being ignored.
“I just want us to talk,” I pleaded.
“Look, I am sorry for being this upset…I shouldn’t be…it’s just that it hurts that I try so hard, you know?” she said with tears clouding her eyes once more. “I have been trying to supress my feelings but I failed and it is unprofessional…I’m sorry. I am so sorry. My father will be so disappointed in me right now.”
“Tshepo, please…,” I said and she turned the key to start the car.
“Please Khathu, get out so I could go. I will call you tomorrow,” she said while observing from her rear-view mirror. I sat there quietly. I was never going to leave her upset like this. “I need to go right now.”
“I’ll go with you. We can chat over coffee and I will call a colleague to pick me up later.”
With that said, she sped off to Fire and Ice. She parked her car and I followed her to her room. Before switching on the lights, she was taking off her heels while swearing under her breath. I got in and threw myself on a couch at the corner of the room. I watched as she fiddled through her overnight bag. She pulled clothing and walked to the bathroom. All that time she was quiet and I knew she was really upset. She was always a bubbly person.
She came back wearing long track pants and a white tank vest; and wiping her face with a wet wipe. She still looked gorgeous in that mess in her face.
“I am sorry I made you feel the way you did,” I started and she carried on wiping her make-up off.
“It’s fine, really. I am fine. I just want you to forgive me for acting unprofessionally. It will never happen again,” she said and then moved to the bar fridge. She threw away the wipes, turned the kettle on and pulled a bottle of water from the fridge.
I had no words to tell her. I didn’t want to hurt with the truth about how I liked Lufuno. I don’t want to be with her anymore but I couldn’t help but stare at her.
“You should ask her out you know?” she advised while pouring the sachet of coffee into a cup.
“I used to like her…not anymore.” I finally touched the topic. “I was just curious at why she was minding my business.”
“How many sachets of sugar?” she asked as if we were not discussing a burning matter.
“Just one, please.” I didn’t even need that coffee. I just needed to make sure she was fine before I go drink the night away. I watched as she brew me the hotel coffee. She passed it to me.
“Let’s forget about tonight…let’s just toast to your achievements,” she raised her bottle of water towards me to gesture the toast. Instead of raising my cup of coffee, I placed it on a table beside me. I stood up close to her. I reached for her other hand and caressed it.
“Tshepo, I like you too. A lot,” I started, “I just needed to finalise the MBC project before I poured back my heart to you. Your brother told me how you feel about me the day I was at you aunt’s house and I have seen it. We have spent enough time together and I am convinced you are THE ONE for me and Michelle. You are definitely the right one for me and my daughter. I know you like her so much and I can assure you, she is going to love back too.”
She stared at my eyes while I poured out my heart to her. She was special and she needed to know.
“We can take it slow until I finish the project so that I don’t conflict with my work…but I know I want to be with you.”
She didn’t say anything. Lufuno’s incident had affected her and I understood very well. If it was days ago, she would have laughed or jumped, but instead, she froze in front of me with her eyes on me.
“Please give me a chance to make you happy?” I muttered and she glanced at me some more without saying anything. I waited for long for her to say something. “Tshepo, please say something, please?”