Going down the drain 3/3

By Drum Digital
13 November 2013

Thank goodness the lift was nearing the fourteenth floor

. Lindiwe had a strong urge to get away from this strange ugly woman with her frumpy clothes and revolting scar. She was probably a cleaner, Lindiwe decided. Yes, some new cleaner who’d lost her way in the huge studio building. The lift stopped, the doors opened and Lindiwe stepped out into the thickly carpeted passage. At the far end she could see the heavy oak door with its gold letters: Noah Ngcobo. But the woman got out of the lift too. And she was still talking.

“You should remember me, Ms Cele-Hamilton. Back at Sacred Heart I was the best actress. Far better than you. I was the one who always had the lead role in school plays, while you were just my understudy. Until my accident, of course.”  Lindiwe suddenly found it difficult to breathe. She had to lean against the passage wall to stay upright. Memories were flooding back. Yes, she remembered Gugu Sibisi! She recalled the terrible jealousy  she had felt that Gugu Sibisi was always the main character in every Sacred Heart drama production.

Back then Gugu had been a beautiful young girl, loved by everyone, including the drama teacher. The whole school was convinced Gugu Sibisi would end up in Hollywood one day. Until the accident. Lindiwe went back to that Tuesday morning when Gugu went flying down the school stairs just outside the Grade 11 classroom at the start of break, just a day before the first performance of Romeo and  Juliet. That had also been the day Lindiwe understood something about herself: she would do anything to further her acting career. Anything! Down at the bottom of those stairs, Gugu had lain in a heap with blood gushing from the terrible wound that ran across her left cheek. Her leg was broken  too, it seemed. Around Lindiwe, at the top of the stairs, girls whispered in shock. “Poor, poor Gugu! What a terrible thing. Just before the play too. Lindiwe, do you think you’ll be able to take her place?”

Of course Lindiwe was ready to take her place! She’d memorised all the lines. She’d attended every rehearsal, watching Gugu with envy raging in her heart. Yes, she was  more than ready. And at the premier that next evening, Lindiwe gave a stunning performance. She was brilliant as Juliet. Even the drama teacher had to admit she was almost as good as Gugu. That night was the beginning of her career as an actress. But for months afterwards, everyone spoke about poor Gugu and her terrible accident and the nasty scar on her cheek that had spoilt her beauty forever. But they all used the word “accident”. No one suspected it wasn’t really an accident at all. No one knew that on that Tuesday morning as the break bell rang, Lindiwe had stuck out her hand through the crowd of girls rushing from the Grade 11 classroom and pushed Gugu down those steep stairs – on purpose. Still leaning against the passage wall, Lindiwe tried to calm herself. This ugly scarred woman in front of her had called it an accident too. So she didn’t know the truth either.

Now the woman said, “But I’m not bitter, Ms Cele-Hamilton. I have my children.  They make up for the loss of my acting career. Children are such a comfort and a joy to a mother’s heart. But you wouldn’t  understand that. You don’t have any children, do you?”  Lindiwe didn’t bother to answer. No, she didn’t have children. Children would have  wrecked her figure and her career. There were times now when she regretted her choice, when she longed to have a son or daughter who would follow in her footsteps.

But that was no one else’s business. She never spoke about that in magazine interviews either.  And now she had to get away from this woman. She had things to do: an idiotic wet-behind-the-ears producer to confront. Lindiwe straightened her shoulders and reminded herself that she was Queen of the Soapies. She was the most important star in Fame and Fortune. She was a long way away from the jealous young girl in the Sacred Heart uniform who’d shoved  a fellow pupil down the stairs. Confidently, she strode towards the heavy oak door with its gold lettering. But the door was already opening. And there stood Noah Ngcobo in his designer  suit with his glass-and-chrome office  furniture gleaming behind him. He smiled and opened his arms. “Oh wonderful,” he said. “I was hoping you’d come.”

Lindiwe didn’t smile back. She wasn’t falling for his young-man charms. She was going to sort him out, once and for all. But then she realised he wasn’t smiling at her.  No, his eyes were on the frumpy scarred woman behind her – Gugu! Why on earth would he be smiling at some badly dressed cleaner? And now he was wrapping his arms around her in a loving hug. “Come, Mama,” Noah said to Gugu. “Let me show you my office. Let me order you a cup of tea.”

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