Growing up in a home where she was made to feel invisible, Vanessa became used to a life of solitude. She didn’t make friends because her idea of friendship was what she saw on television; sleepovers and girl talk. Vanessa didn’t want to risk her stepfather seeing any other girl and making them a target but also, she didn’t want to be the talk of the town because someone saw her stepfather grab her ass on his way to the kitchen while getting a glass of orange juice. Solitude meant loneliness but also some sense of control on what or who people perceived her to be.
She would never go out unless she needed to or at least that was how things were until she met Tiago. She made up excuses to go to the shops on weekends and fake extracurricular activities to spend more time indoors during the week. When they moved from Mozambique to South Africa, she spent more time out; going on dates, picnics and walks around the park. She got accustomed to being out and about but when they broke up, she went back into her shell.
Having no friends also made it easy for her to transition into money laundering. The only people she had a connection with were the people she worked with and it made her feel less like she was living a lie because she didn’t have to lie to everyone in her life about what she really did. Vanessa was the one who convinced Kami that an events and marketing company would be the perfect front. She told Kami it was a good way for large sums of money to exchange hands with little suspicion or questioning.
The business gave her the freedom to travel clients in other countries under the guise of presenting a marketing campaign. Sometimes when she wanted to send one of the girls to go and entertain a client, they would use the pretence of having a proposal from Vanessa or they would go there for a ‘business’ meeting, give the client what they want and then return to headquarters.
Vanessa believed that the best lies contained a bit of truth, so she encouraged Kami to have real clients; to make the business more believable. Kami didn’t really care how the company was run, as long as she got paid. She agreed to implement Vanessa’s suggestions only if Vanessa were to be the face of the business and run it, while Kami had the task of bringing in clients.
Vanessa’s life quickly became focused on work, chores and television. She learnt to enjoy her own company. It was the life she thought she would always live until she met Tamia.
Tamia wormed her way into Vanessa’s heart, before she knew it, she was opening up and going out. On some days she would even reschedule seeing clients to spend time with Tamia. The two met at one of Vanessa’s events two years prior. A client hired Vanessa as an event planner for a bachelorette party for a bride-to-be. The client had a long list of demands, one of them being that a beautician must be available throughout the day for make-up and touch ups.
Even though she outsourced the services from a beauty parlour, Vanessa made it a point to interact with all staff under her employ during an event. It was her way of making sure she was on top of things and could be prepared and address any unexpected mishaps.
Tamia was one of the beauticians hired for the event and the one who impressed the client the most. Wishing to relay the client’s praises, Vanessa sparked a conversation with Tamia. At first, she thought Tamia was strange and had ADD but as the conversation progressed, she came to accept that she was just eccentric. She opened up to Vanessa from the beginning, something that she wasn’t used to – instant vulnerability from a total stranger. Vanessa always struggled to remember how they got to talking about their living situations, she often wonders if she offered to take Tamia home or if she had mentioned she had just moved to a new apartment but one thing she would never forget is the rage she felt when Tamia shared her story.
Her ex-boyfriend had just dumped her after she caught him cheating and was struggling to find a new place of her own. He had given her a week to move out. At first Vanessa tried to ignore it. She didn’t want to get involved, so they exchanged numbers and she’d ask Tamia for regular updates. Once she saw the deadline coming closer, she asked Tamia to move in with her, in spite of Kami’s objection. Kami told her she couldn’t run the risk of involving Tamia in her life, but Vanessa had already made the offer, it was too late to back out.
Tamia’s friends had a girls’ night once a month. They called it Chix & Drinks and often invited Vanessa to join them. Her friends and their clique were basically a sisterhood. Each one from a different walk of life but the way they interacted showed love, even though misguided at times.
The venue for girls’ night changed every month and that month they agreed to have it at Zinhle’s house. Her husband had gone away on a business trip and she felt her house was the perfect place to host the girls’ night this month. All the girls knew the only reason Zinhle offered her house was because she wanted to brag. She was a kept wife, worthy of being cast on the Real Housewives of Cape Town if ever the show were to be made.
Tamia and Vanessa were the first to arrive, Tamia helped Zinhle move furniture and prepare snacks while Vanessa mixed cocktails and prepared shots for the girls. Nonhle was the next one to arrive. She was the wild card in the group, loud and ratchet, never afraid to speak her mind even when her opinion wasn’t required. She often stirred the pot simply to create commotion. Nonhle entered the house, greeted Tamia and Vanessa, walked to Zinhle and said, “You know this is how it starts, business trips is just code for he is fucking another woman”.
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