Moments after agreeing, I had an intense debate with my inner self. I could not bring myself up to sell my body for a living. I could not imagine myself, opening my legs all day everyday, for men to feast on me as much as they liked.

“Are you okay?” Phila asked. I looked at her. “I don’t know man, this whole thing doesn’t sit well with me” I explained. She kept staring at me, evidently waiting for me to explain a little further. “This.. uhm, this whole thing.. I mean, prostitution” I mumbled. “Little Miss Sunshine, are you having cold feet on me now?” she asked. “No, not really. Its just that, this thing doesn’t sit well with me. I have morals and values. My standards won’t allow me to do this” I said. She laughed sarcastically.

“Really? Morals?” she asked, walking closer to me. “Yes, I was raised well. I just don’t see myself doing this” I said.  She folded her arms. “Mhhm. You were raised well? So, are you implying that I wasn’t raised well?” she asked. I knew my response was either going to make or break our “friendship”. The last thing I wanted was coming across as judgemental. “No, that’s not what I meant”.. Before I could go any further, Phila stopped me. “Whatever man. Look, I wasn’t sharing this only to be judged by you. Okay?” She pointed out. I nodded quickly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound judgemental” I apologized. “Whatever” she said as she walked away. Really, it came out all wrong.

I went back to my bed, deeply disappointed at myself. I was offered a way out of a sticky situation, the last thing I needed was to blow it over and sound like an ungrateful little brat. I wanted to go to her and apologize, but I was scared. I was mostly scared of  rejection, so I decided to let her be.

The nurse came to my bed. I was really in no mood to talk to nurses, but then again, I didn’t want to sound like an ungrateful brat. “How are you feeling now?” she asked, browsing through my file. Phila’s words echoed in my ears- when she was telling me that uncle Thabo was probably out there, looking for me. She was right, being in hospital was a lot more dangerous than I thought. I needed to get the hell out of that place, before uncle Thabo came looking for me.

“I’m fine, actually” I replied. She looked at me. I smiled. “I feel great. I can’t feel the headache anymore” I added. “Just earlier on, you said-“.. As she was trying to make sense of the sudden change of feelings, I stopped her. “I know what I said, nurse. It was just the pains talking. I’m perfectly fine now” I said. She scribbled something down. “But you haven’t  been given any medication yet,” she said. “Nurse, I am fine” I said. “I thought you’d be happy to hear that a patient has fully recovered” I added. “Okay, you have been booked for an appointment with Doctor Kawa” she announced. “Doctor Kawa? Who is that?” I asked. It turned out that Doctor Kawa was the therapist that Doctor Ntonga suggested. I sighed. When she was done, she went on to the next patient. I decided to go to Phila and apologize for the things I said that ticked her off. She was on her  bed, staring at the wall.

“Hey” I said, pulling a chair and sitting  down. She looked at me. “Oh, hey” she looked back at the wall. “Listen, I just want to apologize for the things I said earlier. I didn’t mean to offend you like that” I sincerely apologized. She looked at me again. “Morals won’t pay your bills” she said. “I know that, that’s why I’m…” she signaled that I should shut up, and I did. “I will not be listening to any more of your remarks” she said as she reached for her locker and took out a piece of paper. “Here” she said, handing me the piece of paper. “That’s sis’ Meissie’s  address. Use it. Don’t use it. I don’t care.” she said. I took the paper and looked at the address. “Thank you, I will use it” I said. She silently stared at the wall again. “I don’t want any bad  blood between us, Phila. That’s why I’m making peace with you” I said. She ignored me. I silently sat there, waiting for her to open up and be the cool Phila that I first met, but she didn’t. “I’ll see you around then” I said, as I got up and walked away.

The following morning, a nurse came to my bed, right after I’ve finished bathing. “Good morning, are you ready to go to Doctor Kawa?” she asked. I nodded. “Yeah, sure” I said. She offered to walk me to her consulting room. I wore my sandals and followed her. On our way, I noticed that she was dressed a little differently from other nurses, with a bright White dress, while the others either wore Navy and White or Pink and Grey.

“Hey, why are you wearing a White dress?” I asked. She smiled. “Because I’m a student” she explained. “Wow, a student nurse?” I excitedly asked. She nodded, still smiling. “Man, I remember how my mother always told me I’d make a good nurse, or even doctor” I said. “That’s so cute. Maybe you will make a good nurse one day” she said. I looked down. “If only you knew” I said. She looked at me and asked “what do you mean?”. Quickly, I snapped out of it and smiled. “Its nothing, really” I said.

We heard foot steps, of someone running after us. I involuntarily turned to check who it was. It was Phila, running after us. I was happy to see that she wasn’t mad at me anymore. I waited for her to get to us, so did the nurse. “Hey..” She said, trying to catch her breath. “Hey, what’s wrong?” The nurse asked. Phila tried so hard to balance her breathing pattern for a few seconds. “Can I have a word with this patient?” she asked, pointing at me. “Not now. She is going to see Doctor Kawa” the nurse said. Phila nodded. “I won’t be long. I just want to  pass a message” Phila said. “No. Her session is scheduled for now. She can’t be late” the nurse opposed. “Please man, I won’t take long” Phila impatiently said. “Its okay, nurse. I won’t be late for my session” I assured her. “Okay, you can talk to her for a minute” the nurse said. “No, you don’t get it. I want to have a private conversation with her” Phila said. The nurse urged me not to be late for my session, also giving me directions to Doctor Kawa’s consulting room, then she walked away.

“And then? What’s so urgent that you can’t even wait till after my session?” I  asked. She grabbed my hand and dragged me to the side of corridor. “I’m leaving” she whispered. “Leaving??”

“Ssssh! Keep it down” she whispered again. “Where are you going?” I asked. “Home. I can’t stay here any longer. Ludwe is here to fetch me” she explained. “Have you been discharged?” I asked. She shook her head. “No, but I have discharged myself” she said, laughing silently. I was so shocked. “Look, you have to come with. You are no longer sick, so you don’t need to be here anymore” she said. I removed my hand from hers. “So you want us to escape?” I asked. She nodded. “Life is waiting for us out there. These people are only going  waste your time” she said. After arguing about it for a while, I eventually gave in. There was a car ready to fetch us, so I was going to have a free ride to sis Meissie’s.

“Okay fine, I’m coming with” I said. She smiled. “Good. Wear this”. She took out a dress from underneath her hospital wear. I took the dress and quickly wore it on top of the hospital night dress. She took off her night dress and was left with a dress as well. “Wait, where did you get the second dress?” I asked. “Shhh, let’s go. Ludwe brought the dress” she said as she walked away. I followed her. “Take that thing off your wrist” she shouted. I had a name tag on my left wrist, so I took it off.

We got to the car, and there was a guy sitting on the driver’s seat. We greeted, and he drove off. “Who is this?” The guy asked, looking at me through the rear view mirror as I was sitting at the back. “Oh, this is… uhm, Little Miss Sunshine, what’s your name again?” Phila asked. “I’m Mandiphumle” I said. “Yes, she’s Mandiphumle. I’ll tell you all about her later” she said. At the gate, the security guards checked our boot, and let us go. I sighed, and they laughed. “Were you scared?” the guy asked. I laughed too. “Its not everyday that I escape from a hospital, so shoot me for being scared” I jokingly said.

The journey to sis Meissie’s house was about a 30 minute drive. She owned a mansion, in the middle of a vibey township. The guy parked his car. “This is it” Phila said, stepping out of the car. I stepped out of the car too. “Come, let’s go inside. I’m sure sis Meissie is expecting us. She grabbed my hand and led me into the house. In the lounge, there was a thick light skinned lady, wearing a very short dress and all sorts of accessories. She had an expensive looking weave and heavy makeup on. She was having her nails polished by a lady, not older than us (Phila and I). “Sis Meissie, this is Mandiphumle” Phila said, throwing herself on the couch. Sis Meissie looked at me. “She is homeless, sis Meissie. Her mother passed away and she ran away from an abusive step father” Phila explained. “Ludwe, give us some space” sis Meissie ordered and the guy walked out. “Come and stand here” sis Meissie said, pointing at the spot right in front of her. I went to stand infront of her. She ran her hands on my chest, gently squeezing my breasts. “Turn around” she said, and I turned around.  She squeezed my bums, and lifted the dress I was wearing up, to see my thighs. “Turn around” she ordered again and I did as instructed. “How old are you?” she asked. “I’m 18, sis Meissie” I replied. “Welcome home, Mandilakhe” she said. “Mandiphumle, its Mandiphumle” I corrected her. “Whatever. Phila, give this girl a makeover. Right now, she looks like she is a farmer’s daughter” she said. Phila laughed. “Mandiphumle, follow me” she said. She walked away and I followed suit. We got to a bedroom which I assumed was Phila’s bedroom.  “Sit down. When I’m done with you, you will not recognize yourself” she excitedly said..

If only she knew, I hardly recognized myself already.