FORKS AND KNIVES – Episode 3
A story by Kennedy C Katongo
THE FRIEND – JEFF
Tandiwe rushed to the changing room hoping that her manager wouldn’t notice her. She had been working the afternoon shift for almost a week now. It being a Saturday, she had decided to pass through town but lost track of time.
“You think he doesn’t know you came in late?” Jeff asked her as she walked slowly passing behind him.
“Iwe keep quiet.” She whispered.
“Well don’t worry. I told him that the baby wasn’t well so you would be late – you can stop hiding behind the clothes now.” Jeff said.
He was busy packing male slippers and other shoes. Him and Tandiwe had been working for PEP together for more than a year.
Since they were usually together on most shifts – the two became very close.
“Since Peter isn’t sick. Where have you been?” He asked her as he passed her the pricing gun.
“I went to get some money at the bank. Need to buy diapers for the boy.” Tandiwe said. With the gun, she skillful punched it on the slippers.
“I doubt that’s why you late. You went shopping didn’t you?” Jeff laughed as he interrogated her.
After all, he knew her very well and could tell she was hiding part of the truth.
Just then the manager came through to call her.
“You late again. I know you have a lot on your plate but you just can’t be coming to work what ever time you feel like. If this habit continues am going to have have to transfer you somewhere else.” He said to her.
“Am sorry sir.”
“No you not. Cause if you were truely sorry then I wouldn’t be standing here repeating myself.” He said with a commanding tone to his voice.
During the day Jeff walked up to her. He had a lollipop in his hand.
“I brought you a pop.” He smiled.
“You need to stop treating me like your baby.” She frowned and snatched the lollipop from his hand.
“Well, someone needs to take care of you. Look at you.” He giggled.
“Let’s see. You think you the one who can look after me – is that right?” She asked him.
“No objection on that.” He responded.
Jeff was like Superman, he was always there for her. Even when she had no money and needed food or diapers for the baby he would always come through for her.
Many are the times he made his intentions known to her. However, she always turned him down noting that she saw him as a brother and that was all.
Jeff’s good friend kept laughing at him, “Look, she wants a husband and not a boyfriend. She wants a man who can be a father to her son. And you don’t look like such a guy.” Goodson would always say.
But that didn’t stop him from trying his luck every chance he got.
“I’ve just remembered something, there is this guy who bumped into me at the bank. The fool almost broke my phone.” She told him.
“Maybe the fool wasn’t watching were he was going.” Jeff commented.
“And as if that wasn’t enough. He began following me – asking for my name. Such a perv!” Tandiwe said.
“Maybe he just wanted to apologise properly. The problem is you to quick to react. That temper of yours will get you into trouble.” Jeff said as he shook his head.
‘Almost punched the big man.’ She whispered into his ear. The big man’ in this regard was her manager.
Jeff could just get lost in the moment as he watched her talk and bounce around. Her saw body frame and big eyes just hypnotized him. Because of her, his previous relationship ended. The girlfriend got tired of listening to him talk about Tandiwe’s son as if he was the father. Not only that, he was always defensive when it came to Tandiwe. Because of that, she just stopped calling nor texting him back, before he knew it the relationship was over.
“Excuse me sir.” A customer beckoned.
“Hello. How can I be of help?” He asked her.
“I was wondering if you have medium size for the vest.” She asked him with a smile.
From afar it was obvious to Tandiwe that he was going to start flirting around. That was one of the things that made her give up on the thought of giving Jeff a chance.
He was way to friendly with females and that was one thing that she didn’t want from a man she was going to be involved with.
Tandiwe got her empty basket and walked up to the cashier’s table to talk with her friend.
“What you doing tonight?” Her friend asked.
“Nothing. From here am going straight home.” She responded, “why do you ask?”
“We going out clubbing. And am officially inviting you.” Her friend said excitedly.
“I think I will pass. I want to spend some time with Peter.” Tandiwe responded.
“But that’s what you said even last time. You need to live a little. Enjoy life.” She said.
“Now you sound like Jeff. The thing is I’ve just lost interest in clubs. I want to focus on raising my child.”
“Don’t worry, am going to keep a bottle for you. You know.” She said as both of them began laughing together.
On the other side, Jeff was on his way of asking the lady for her number.
“I would like to check up on you some time…” He said calmly. His eyes had already scanned and confirmed that Tandiwe wasn’t in site.
“I don’t give strangers my number. Sorry. Thanks for your assistance.” The lady said as she walked away leaving him dry.
‘As if she’s even beautiful.’ He nagged to himself.
“Do you think he got the number?” Tandiwe’s friend asked as they both watched the young lady walk towards them.
“I doubt he did. She has a ring on her finger.” She gagged.
“These rings. You can’t even tell what’s fake from the real thing. Ladies are now engaging themselves just to have that finger occupied.” Her friend commented.
The lady walked up to pay her bill. From afar Jeff’s legs could be seen patrolling the clothing section for children.
“Hey Tandiwe! Let me take you out for a snack…” Jeff said while he closed the main door to the shop.
It was past 18 pm and most of the workers were now closing up the shops. Levy Junction was a busy place, since it was weekend – this meant people would flood the place for movies, late night shopping and also to have some nice food at the Indian restaurant. But that wasn’t what was on Jeff’s mind, instead he wanted to take her to the Misty. It was comedy night and Abel Chungu Musuka was one of the performing acts – he knew just how much she loved him.
When the Extra Time song came out, it was all she could listen to day in and day out. That’s why it seemed like the best time to ask Tandiwe out.
“I wish I could. But I can’t. Maybe next time.” She smiled.
“That’s what you always say. Come on – Abel Chungu is performing his comedy at the Misty.” Jeff said in his calm voice. He had locked the door and was now hoping to get a positive answer from her.
The rest of their co-workers had left. Tandiwe’s friend had gone to the private room to ease herself and also do her makeup.
“I know I always say that. But today just isn’t a good day. I just want to be with my son. Hope you understand.” Tandiwe said with a beam.
Jeff moved closer to her, then he whispered, “One day you will be my lady.”
Tandiwe laughed, “I’ve around told you – we friends and that’s it. Stop wasting your time in me. I come with a 4 year old boy and responsibilities.” She responded jokingly.
“One day.” He said and moved away to keep his distance from her. If only she knew how much his heart ached every time she told him he was just a friend.
“How do I look?” Tandiwe’s friend asked as she came out modeling on the polished floor of the mall.
“Someone looks like they ready to party…” Jeff commented.
“It’s going down. Boo is coming to pick me up. We can give you a lift if you don’t mind.” She said to Tandiwe.
“No! It’s okay. I will just take the bus.” She responded.
“What about you?” She asked Jeff, “Are you also taking the bus?”
Even though Tandiwe knew that Jeff liked her, her friend is the one who knew just how Jeff was into her. That’s why asking him where he was going was all a joke – just to see if he was going to escort her.
“Jeff is going pa Misty to watch Comedy.” Tandiwe answered on his behalf.
As they were talking a young lady that worked in Mr Price called Jeff over. The ladies knew the story that was going on between them.
“Is that the lady he slept with?” Tandiwe asked.
“Stop pointing fingers. Yes that’s the one. I know you and Jeff are BFFs but you need to be careful. You might end up being one of his conquests.” Her friend commented as they began walking heading to Pick n’ Pay.
To be continued.