Thiwe cannot breathe. She opens the luxury wooden door at meeting room 08. Her brown eyes immediately meet those of a familiar handsome male. Every part of her is rendered null and void, especially as soon as she recognises who she is going to interview – Tim Tinkler. Her love interest.
She has followed his career from when he played for the under-nineteen South African team and believe it or not, made her unprepared speech based on him in the eleventh grade when she was asked about which South African young person trailblazing in their field she admired, and she had nailed it.
Now, that very same guy is standing before her. 6ft tall wearing a black suit complementing his broad shoulders coupled with a black tie and emerald shirt. And she is going to interview him.
How did she get here?
A few hours earlier, Thiwe, as a final year architectural student, immediately arrived at her on-campus residence in the lush Pietermaritzburg University located in KwaZulu Natal. The area is saturated with European-style buildings as the buildings often use brick stone and include high steeply pitched roofs.
She flickers through her design papers, all ready to complete her final assignment that is due soon. For the assignment, she is required to redesign one of the buildings that surround her in a modern way that caters to people’s needs and convenience. However, she is too occupied with other thoughts to come up with ideas.
She cannot stop thinking about Tim, the cricket player whom she saw in person at the varsity netball competition four days ago.
Tim grew up in Pietermaritzburg. All the memories he has in this place signify the ups and downs of most of his life. From being bullied for being smart, thereafter deliberately lowering his marks to fit in, to moving from spin to fast bowling so he can look cool and quitting ballet. The city also signifies the loss of his mother.
Now, at twenty-six years old, Tim is a lightning-quick bowler and left-arm seamer for the South African national team. He had played for county cricket in Sussex before he made it into the national side. He also occasionally travels to India for the India Premier League and is considered one of the most decorated players in the League. Tim and his lawyer friend, Bandile, were at the Varsity Netball tournament four days ago as Tumi, Bandile’s girlfriend, was playing.
Funny enough, Thiwe felt as though Tim was looking at her when she reported on the match. Every time she shot him a glance, he looked away. Thiwe looks at herself using the mirror at her bedside. She starts feeling butterflies in her stomach and then lets out an innocent giggle. But then, she quickly decides to forget about Tim, her crush and impossible prospect to shift back to the designs. The fact that today is her birthday seems unbelievable. It’s a weekday and she is occupied with classes and studio. On the upside though, she knows that not one of her friends will motivate her to go clubbing or to head to church.
She had initially promised her roommate, Okuhle, that she would go with her for dinner in a “club” to celebrate. Unfortunately, that will not happen as she plans to spend the rest of her day at the studio completing this one emotionally draining assignment standing between her and her first architectural degree. She does not doubt that she will do amazing in her exams.
“Ah, I found you!”
Thiwe turns around and escapes her thoughts only to realise that her roommate is earlier than usual.
“Hey, Okuhle, you seem to be early today,” she says.
“Yes, I knew you were going to avoid me and go to that studio. Happy birthday by the way.”
“No, I was not avoiding you and I did see your beautiful heart-warming texts,” Thiwe responds as she heads on to embrace Okuhle with a hug.
“You know I am right,” Okuhle says confidently.
Okuhle then informs Thiwe that there has been a slight change of plans since Thiwe is not a fan of dinners in a “club”. “We’re (and I mean you) doing something you like. That’s the right way to welcome you to real adulthood.”
“What?” Thiwe says disapproving immediately.
“Yeah, Thiwe, you are turning twenty-two remember?”
“Yes, but it doesn’t mean I should do something I’ll regret, and besides, I’m already an adult,” Thiwe says mockingly.
“No, you won’t do anything you’ll regret, and last year you were working for your twenty-first,” Okuhle says.
“Yeah, yeah. I have an assignment to finish anyway, so I can’t come for this birthday either.”
Okuhle then rushes to Thiwe’s year planner plugged into their wall. She then confirms that the assignment is due in a day. Knowing Thiwe, she will probably submit it tomorrow morning giving her ample time on the weekend.
“See, you can go somewhere during the weekend,” Okuhle says persuasively.
“Okay, fine. What have you planned?” Thiwe says after having lost the battle against her confident roommate who can command a room.
“Yoh, I had to use your year calendar for you to give in,” Okuhle says with a certain charisma in her voice.
Thiwe always wonders how she and Okuhle ended up being friends. She is down to earth and always filters her words. She prefers to draw and write down her mind. On the other hand, Okuhle is blunt and has absolutely no filter. That makes her Okuhle – smart and thoughtful in addition to the beauty she already possesses.
One time, Thiwe and Okuhle went to a feminist event on campus because Thiwe had to write an opinion piece on it and link it to sports for the varsity newspaper. During the Question-and-Answer segment, Okuhle stood up and stated all the issues she had with the points one of the panellists made and went on to conclude that the panellist was a toxic feminist. By the look on people’s faces, they did not expect it. Thiwe hid her face even though she understood where Okuhle was coming from. She was one to have the difficult conversations. That segment alone helped her in that popular opinion piece.
But to celebrate her birthday, Thiwe realised that Okuhle organised a mini umpiring gig for her for the inter-primary school cricket tournament for Saturday, fitting nicely into Thiwe’s plans.
“Well, they needed someone who is addicted to cricket,” Okuhle says.
“That is cool,” Thiwe admits.
“But how did you get it?” Thiwe pries
“I know people who know people,” Okuhle says slyly. “You won’t get paid though,” Okuhle adds
“Are you not coming?”
“Nope. I am addicted to the moving pictures and disco.” Thiwe is confused. “I am going to the movies then I’m going to hit the club” Okuhle clarifies.
They both laugh.
Okuhle heads to class.
Thiwe, on the other hand, struggles to leave her room. She wanders around trying to pick this and that up but winds up pressing her feet against the wall, with a lollipop in her mouth. To be honest, the assignment is stressing her out. She wants to do something meaningful and feels like her progress so far is not ultimately what the final product should be. A few hours eventually pass.
She then decides to pack her clustered closet while picking out the clothes for umpiring and wash them should she need to. As she starts doing that, her phone rings. This is around 1 pm midday, and it seems that a landline number is calling her. She seems duly confused. “Hello, is this Thiwe Mda?” a voice says on the other end.
“Yes, speaking,” Thiwe says hesitantly.
“We saw a piece you wrote in your university newspaper about varsity netball, quite extraordinary.”
“Thank you so much.” As Thiwe drops a set of clothes she is already holding in her hand
“You also happened to apply for a column section in sports?”
“Yes, yes. But for part-time since I am an architecture student,” Thiwe says, suddenly not remembering which application this was amongst numerous applications, and more importantly, who exactly she was speaking to.
“We have allocated you to Zahra Chopra, she handpicked you herself.”
“The Zahra Chopra,” Thiwe says excitedly knowing who Zahra is
“Yes, all details are sent to your email.”
The call is impetuously dropped and Thiwe is left with no words. The lady sounded so demotivated. Thiwe in awe that it was Zahra Chopra from Accurate. The Accurate – the best regional newspaper with an undisputed online presence.
Thiwe takes a hunch and reckons that they knew that it was her birthday today. The day was only bound to get better from there. But of course, her realistic side reckons that she’s a bit presumptuous.
She opens her email and immediately sees the logo of the company. It is Phakama Holdings. She dances around her room as she realises that this is real. The email also states that she must come in as soon as possible to sort out some logistics.
Thiwe had applied there for the sake of it. She had thought that someone of her calibre might not belong there. For instance, she didn’t meet any of the requirements considering that she’s not even studying journalism, or anything related.
While she’s dancing, a follow-up email pops up and tells her to come in today, at 2 p.m.
Thiwe’s excitement turns to panic. Luckily, Okuhle comes in and being the friend she is, she organises everything by allowing her big sister to drop off Thiwe at Phakama Holdings,
Thiwe is finally dropped off at the building at 1:45 p.m. wearing a long bodycon black skirt with a nude gipsy shirt and white sneakers.
By sketching the building in her head, Thiwe sees that the building is big and the number of gates exceeds the number of her fingers. She spots the main reception. At the same time, she takes note of three other main buildings.
She then thinks of calling one of the security guards to ask for directions but receives a phone call from the same landline number that had initially called her earlier. “Thiwe-Mda speaking,” she says.
“Fikile here, when are you planning to come in?” the receptionist asks rudely
“I am already in the building.”
“Great.” The tone in her voice changes to sound relieved as Zahra has confirmed that she’s no longer coming in.
“Head on to Phakama media,” she says.
Without a chance to respond, Thiwe’s call is dropped.
Thiwe looks to her right, and she sees Phakama Farming. The description says it all. Then looking to her left, she sees Phakama Media and that’s apparently where she’s going as per email and recent call. She arrives at the building section.
Fikile, the receptionist, immediately recognizes that she’s the intern and mentions that she received Thiwe’s timetable and knows that at this point, she is free.
Fikile takes a note and writes 5th floor. Meeting Room 08.
“Zahra left some work. Your interviewee is in the meeting room noted on this piece of paper” Fikile says as she points in the direction Thiwe should go while handing her the piece of paper.
Thiwe is worried now. What is the article about?
Even so, she remains puzzled by the building. She feels like her degree is useless at this point.
She finally finds the room and realises that Fikile gave her the brief on the other side of the note. She reads it before entering the room. “New cricket player signed for the Cape Blazers, is this their turnaround?”
At least she knows it’s a franchise cricket team. She is aware of cricket. She breathes cricket. She is a cricket enthusiast. She builds up the courage, slowly opens the wooden door and that is when sparks fly.