I involuntarily sat down, more like I threw myself on the bed. Phila was humming a happy song as she was browsing through a clothing cabinet. After what seemed like forever, she came to stand infront of me, carrying a Black dress. “Go and take a bath, then you can try this on” she firmly ordered. “A bath?” I asked. “I had a bath at the hospital”. She looked at me, almost as if I had my private parts displayed on my forehead. “What?” I asked, confusedly shrugging my shoulders. “Here, we bath as often as we possibly can. Our job requires a lot of bathing. I mean, imagine how you’d smell if you’d move from one client to another, without bathing” she said, walking into her en-suit bathroom. I swallowed, deeply disgusted by the case scenerio.

A minute later, she walked back into her room. “Go and take a bath, I’ve placed everything you’ll need in the sink” she instructed. Without a word, I got up and rushed to the bathroom. She placed toiletries, along with towels, in the dry sink. I locked up and  ran a hot bath for myself. The bathroom was so clean, and very spacious. While my bath water was running, I had my eyes wandering around the room, admiring the ceramic decoration. I then stepped into the bath tub and took a hot bath. When I was done, I wrapped a towel around my body and brushed my teeth with the provided new tooth brush and tooth paste. I took my toileties out of the sink, because I was going to use it for brushing my teeth and washing my face. When I was done applying lotion to my body, I went back to the room.

Phila was standing by the window, smoking. She looked at me as I walked into the room. “Good, now try that dress on” she said. I picked the dress up from the bed and tried it on. The beauty about my body was that I had small intact breasts which could survive looking beautiful without a bra on. The dress was too tight, like I was stuck into a pipe or something. I wasn’t comfortable at all. I looked at Phila, “this dress is too tight”. She gently ran her hand down my tummy, to my tightly squeezed-together thighs. “Too tight? Are you kidding me?” Phila asked. “This dress is perfect” she said. I could not believe my ears. “Its not perfect, I can’t even move in this thing” I said. She smiled. “This thing is going to make you a lot of money” she excitedly announced. I looked down. “Sit down, I want to work on your face” she ordered, and I sat down.

She took out her makeup kit and started recreating my beauty. “You’re going to enjoy it here. I know the situation isn’t really ideal, but its better than the streets” she said, trying to comfort me and make me feel better. “Maybe if I had stayed at the hospital, I was going to get professional help” I said. “Professional help?” Phila asked, shocked beyond words. I silently nodded. “Little Miss Sunshine, wake up. Okay? Those people were not going to take care of you. Those people don’t care about you. All they do is to sit in those offices, pretending to be working, while they sleep the whole day and get paid thousands of rands” she said. “Maybe if…” I still had so many “what if’s” in my head, but Phila stopped me. “Hey, don’t do this to yourself. Those people were not going to help you look for your sister. While you’re here, you will save up as much money as you can, so you can go and look for your sister” she said. To a certain extent, she was right. The kind of help they were going to give me didn’t guarantee my reunion with my sister.

When she was done with my face, I looked like a doll. I had rosy cheeks even. I felt I was a step further to myself. Like I was losing my identity by the minute. “See?” Phila asked, excited to the max. “I look like a.. a very.. No man, I don’t like this” I mumbled. “You don’t like this?” Phila asked, with so much disappointment carried by her voice. “Maybe I need to go the natural route” I suggested, looking at her. She rolled her eyes. “Mandiphumle, grow up. Okay?” she said, as she angrily walked out.

As I was about to wear my old sandals, I realized that Phila had placed a pair of stilletos on her bed, for me to wear. I sat on the bed and tried them on. I could hardly walk a few steps with the shoes, that’s how high they were. I stumbled around the room, struggling to keep my balance. I got tired of trying and took them off.

I could not fit into the new life that I was assigned to live. Everything about that life was out of my comfort zone, and I was tired of trying because I knew I wasn’t going to keep up with it. I took the dress off as well, and then went to wash my face all over again. I wore the old dress that Phila offered me at the hospital, and my sandals. When I was done, I went back to the lounge. Sis Meissie was reading a magazine, alone. She looked at me, from head to toe. “What’s this?” she asked.

“Uhm..” I walked closer to her, fiddling with my fingers. “This is me. Uhm, with a little request” I said, not sure whether I was making sense or not. She blankly stared at me. “Sis Meissie, I need to speak to you about my stay here” I said. “Get to the point, I don’t have all day”. I swallowed. “Well, I’ve thought about your offer, long and hard. I feel I’m not the.. uhm, I’m really…” sis Meissie rudely interrupted me. “Get to the damn point” she harshly said. I sniffed like a nervous 5 year old. “I don’t want to be a prostitute” I burst out. She raised her eyebrows, like I had just said the weirdest thing in history. “I mean, please don’t get me wrong. I respect you and your business” I said. “But I don’t think I’ll handle being a sex worker. I’m a very emotionally challenged person, and I need a little time  to heal first” I added. “Look, little girl. I am not running a charity organization here. If you want places to stay for free and take time to heal, get the hell out of my house. In this house, people contribute to this luxury” she said.

Phila walked in. “And now? What is going on here?” she asked, folding her arms and looking at me. “Your dear friend over here thinks she’s too special for this place” sis Meissie said. “No, that’s not what I meant” I corrected her. “What did you mean then?” Phila asked. I started all over again, explaining why I could not be a prostitute. “And Phila, I thought this child was needy” sis Meissie said. “I thought so too, before she proved to be an ungrateful little brat” Phila responded. “I’m not being ungrateful, I swear. I want to stay here. I mean, I need to stay here. I don’t have anywhere else to go” I begged.

“As I’ve said, I am not running a charity organization, so I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. I want you out of my house, and please leave that dress behind when you are leaving. You will leave this house, dressed in hospital clothes” she said. “Sis Meissie please. I will do anything else around the house. I can clean the house or the shebeen. You know, I can also cook and do everything else that you want me to do. All I need is a place to stay some money to save up, so I can one day leave this town to go and look for my sister” I begged again. Phila and sis Meissie looked at each other, and Phila shrugged her shoulders. “Please sis Meissie, don’t kick me out. If I had anywhere else to go, I’d be long gone by now” I added, sincerely pleading for her mercy.

Sis Meissie got up. “I don’t have time for this. Phila, get this bitch out of my house” she took a few steps away. “I promise, I’ll do anything that you ask me to do. Please don’t throw me out. I’ll be helpful around the house” I shouted, to grab her attention. She stopped on her tracks and turned to look at me. “On second thoughts, you could come in handy. You can stay and work as my maid” she said. Excited, I jumped up and down, joyfully thanking her” “Not so fast” she said. I stood still and looked at her, still smiling. “You will have to wake up at 3am, everyday. I want you to wake up and prepare the day’s menu. While you’re at it, I want you to clean both the house and the sheeben. At 9am, I want you to open the shebeen and help Luzuko and Stella in selling at the shebeen and serving customers. At 4, I want you to start preparing dinner. You will not have dinner with us, because you will be cleaning the shebeen kitchen and serving customers, at the same time. The shebeen closes at 10 during weekdays, so you will have time to eat dinner after 10. You will have 1 lunch break during the day, for 15 minutes. On every second day, you will do laundry, including bed linen. On weekends, you will work double shifts, day and night, with 3 lunch breaks of 30 minutes each. Your night shift will be over at 1am, when I’m closing. At 3am, you have to be up and prepare for the next day.You will be off, once a week.” she said. What? Was I some kind of robot?

I nodded, with my smile fading away. “Let’s see how long you will stick around. If you struggle to keep up, the only option you will have is to get the fuck out of my house” sis Meissie said.  That was her way of making life so difficult for me, so much that I quit and leave her house. I was ready to take her up on the challenge. If I was going to fail, I would fail after trying with all my power and might. I agreed to all her terms and conditions, and she declared me her new servant..