Synopsis Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11
A Whiff From The Past
After dinner, the three men went their separate ways and Tripp went outside. His coffee mug going with him to the bench overlooking his beloved mountains.
He is just stretching his leg when he hears the faint sounds of a car approaching. Then the click-clack as they cross the cattle grid. He stands up and leans against the porch post and takes the last of his coffee as his eyes penetrate the darkness.
The door opens and Travis comes over and stands next to him.
“Who is it, dad?”
“Don’t know.” Tripp walks down the steps as a taxi stops in front of him and the back door opens. Travis appears next to him, and they glance at each other. They freeze and stare at her, dumbfounded as the woman closes the door. She places a small overnighter on the gravel and the taxi speeds away. Leaving them in a dust cloud. But none of that does the son and father notices.
They haven’t seen her in twenty-four years. The black hair is shorter and as she comes closer, they can see it has turned grey. The rest of her looked the same and once she stops inside the pocket of porch light, they take a deep breath.
For Travis, it felt more like a stab in the gut and his face turns silent, his jaw locking shut.
“Travis. Tripp.” She says carefully and moves her shoulder bag to the other shoulder.
“Sonja, what are you doing here?” Tripp asks. Travis disappears into the darkness without another word. Tripp watches his son, then glances back at her. And stands to the side for her to get up on the porch.
“I know this is unexpected, but I wanted to see Travis.” She begins, her Mexican accent rolling easily from her mouth. As if she was back from her day trip.
“I don’t think you have any business seeing him. Or pitch up here.”
“He is my son, Tripp. I have a right.”
“You have no right. You signed that away years ago. Remember?” Tripp says and clutches his mug tighter. His knuckles turn white before he let go of the excessive hold. The mug dangling on a fingertip.
“Yes, but much has changed. I need to see him.” She says and cranes her neck. Her face was now fully exposed in the light. Huge brown eyes imploring him to understand. Life has made a permanent mark on her. Her skin seemed healthy, but underneath the makeup, signs of neglect were visible. Two tooths were missing from the front.
“That I cannot help you with, Sonja. He is a grown man now.” Tripp says, turns and opens the door.
“Tripp, please. Is it possible to stay the night? I promise to be gone by tomorrow.” She says, stopping him before he put his foot over the thresh hold.
“That’s not a good idea.”
“Surely you won't expect me to leave at this time of night?
Tripp turns around slowly, then stares at her for a while before he responds. The sharp replies that tumble in his mind, threatens to spew from him in icy bitterness. But he decided to change not too long ago. God has a way of putting him on the spot. When he turned a page, he never even thought of his ex. She hasn’t featured in his mind in a very long time, and to see her face to face brought all the ugliness back. Even his parents warned him about her. His mother was correct in her observation, and she didn’t prove them wrong. Travis was just a baby, still in need of the nurturing care of a mother. But she left. No one forced her. She made the decision.
He didn’t want her here. He didn’t want her back in Travis’ life. She caused enough damage to their son. He straightens his shoulders then moves into her line of sight with a blatant stare.
“What did you expect, Sonja? A warm welcome and all is forgotten?”
“No, but at least a chance to explain.”
“The time you had to explain also expired a long time ago. We have moved on. You should do the same.” He turns and disappears into the house. The bitter words on the tip of his tongue. Leaving his ex-wife on the porch is a way to protect himself but also her. He made his peace with her.
“Tripp!” she calls but gets no reply. She looks around the neat yard, now so different from when they moved here years ago. She was wide eyed and expectant to live the life of a rich ranch wife. But things didn’t change overnight, and she left without a second glance.
The part that Tripp’s parents played, the springboard that helped her along. She has a few regrets in her life, but leaving her son was the biggest. If she had stayed, she would have got what she wanted. She knows now she was foolish back then. That one act caused so many other problems in her life.
She didn't know where to go and looked around. The dark blanket that covers the yard gives its secrets away. One light shows it to be a barn. She glances at the backdoor then back to the light. Indecisive on her next step.
Inside, Tripp watches her. The darkness covering him. Then he prays.
“Lord, what must I do? I can’t let her stand there. I can’t invite her in.” He is reminded of a room at the top of the barn. Not the perfect place for a woman, but if he takes a bed upstairs, she can use it until tomorrow. He simply couldn’t let her come in. He has to think of Travis, and it was clear he is shaken by her appearance.
With his mind made up, he walks out and finds her in the same spot he has left her.
“There is a room on top of the barn. It hasn't been used in a while. A storage room, but if you don’t mind sleeping there tonight, you can use it?
“That sounds good. Thanks Tripp.” He stops to say something else but let it go then walks into the house, switched on the light and get a torch.
Synopsis Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10
Simone returns from the spa in high spirits. It feels like she is walking on air. Though she won’t admit it, the pampering did her good and her entire body agrees. After her restless night it helped to mind her at ease. Even the haircut did wonders. It is time to enjoy a light lunch at her favourite restaurant and then spoil herself with a good wardrobe-therapy.
John has made up for his behaviour of the previous night by depositing a few thousand rand into her account. Nothing like a good guilt trip to make the man realise the error of his ways. And she made sure her nest egg is topped up as well.
Her mother once told her it was good for a woman to have a separate account. One that the husband knew nothing about, and she has followed that advice religiously throughout her marriage.
Ready to walk into the restaurant, a shadow covers her from the left and she looks up. The tall man’s face is obscured so that she cannot recognise him as he opens the door for her.
“Thank you.” She speaks first.
“You welcome.” The voice sounds familiar and once inside in the warmer interior, she turns around to look at him as a déjà vu moment slips in shivers down her back.
“Do I know you?” she asks and observes the well-dressed man with keen interest.
“I don’t think so. The name is Dieter Combrinck. I’m new in Cape Town.” His voice had a finishing to it she only heard once before.
“From where are you?” she asks, still baffled about the impression that she knows him from somewhere.
“Originally from England. I live in Johannesburg for the last couple of years. And you?” he explains and shrugs out of his blazer. His shades on the top of a shaven head. A leather cap dangles from his one hand.
“From Cape Town.” She replies.
“Hello Mrs Stevenson. Welcome back.” The concierge says, and she smiles.
“Hello Becca. So good to see you.”
“You too, Mrs Stevenson. Same table?” the younger woman asks. Her ponytail swishing behind her as she turns her head to the interior of the room, then back. She follows her gaze and notice the full tables at once.
“If it is available, I will love that.”
“It sure is. Will the gentleman join you?”
Simone glances towards him, then shakes her head. “No, I will eat alone.” And removes her scarf.
“Now you break my heart. Surely, we can enjoy a lunch together?”
“I don’t know you, Mr Combrinck.”
“Then it is an excellent opportunity to do so, don’t you think?” his polished manner grinds her nerves. The superfluous tangible, and she frowns.
“I am a married woman, Mr Combrinck.”
“And don’t married woman get hungry?” he asks and lifts a bushy eyebrow.
“Yes, we do. But this is inappropriate.” She says and shrugs out of her coat. Ready to bolt to her table.
Becca is watching the entire conversation with indifference, a menu in her hand. Then glances behind her as if she is looking for an escape route. Simone steps to the side when he stops her. A hand resting on her arm.
“Believe me when I say I want nothing more than a table, good food, and companionship. That’s all.” He says and holds his free hand in the air.
“I don’t think so, Mr Combrinck. Good day.” She replies and walks away. Becca covering her back.
“Must I ask security to remove him?” she asks when Simone takes a seat.
“It’s sweet, but I don’t think he will be a problem.” Simone says, then opens the menu.
“Call when you are ready.”
“Simone Stevenson. How great to see you?”
Simone looks up from the menu and smiles appropriately. Marjorie is the wife of Benjamin Becker, or Ben, as they all call him. A dull man that can put you to sleep, both in his talk and court cases. Yet brilliant in what he does. He is the partner at Stevenson, Eisenberg, & Becker.
A true socialite from her bottle blond hair to her imported Italian shoes. Marjorie towers over most women without shoes with a body of an athlete and a mind of a bulldog. She is the complete opposite of Ben. Her lively persona has opened many doors for the company, local and abroad. Though she studied law, she never took the bar exams but was a camp fighter for everyone that was wronged. In many cases acting as a paralegal.
Her charity work is another passion of hers and they have worked on several of these charity boards together.
“Hello Marjorie. How are you?”
“I am very well. I understand you were away?” she asks and place a strand of hair behind her ear. A large golden hoop hangs from the lobe, catching the afternoon sun.
“Yes, I visited my son in America.” She informs her and place the menu on the table.
“Oh, lovely.” Just then, a man calls her name, and she waves at him.
“We must visit soon and catch up, Simone dear. It was lovely to see you.”
“You too, Marjorie.” Ready to give her order, she sees Dieter Combrinck leaning over his menu and studies him.
“What will you have?” the waiter asks, and she orders a bowl of mushroom soup.
“Will that be all?”
“I will like a macchiato, please.”
“It will be ready soon.” The waiter says and disappears. Simone nods, then returns her gaze to the man across the room. He looks up and their gazes meet. He nods, smiles and lifts his beer glass to her, and she looks away.
Why is he so familiar? I know him, but from where? Never one to forget a face, Simone struggles to pinpoint him. He is familiar but a stranger. The conflicting reaction baffles her.
The one thing that stands out, however, is that he isn’t from England. He is a local and tanned. The inlanders aren’t that tanned, yet he doesn’t look like a surfer. Though in a denim and blazer he looks rough, as if he has seen the worst of the worst. There was nothing refined about him, no matter how hard he tries to say otherwise.
Puzzled, she glances towards him, then returns her gaze to the view outside the large window.
The ocean’s restlessness covers in a grey mist that hung low across the surface. The sun was hidden behind a blanket of clouds. Yet a ray or two slips through between the crevices and touched the earth in pockets of make-believe warmth.
“Here ma’am.” The waiter says and place a cup of steaming coffee before her. Followed by her bowl of soup and a breadbasket.
“You have the right idea.” Dieter Combrinck says and takes the empty seat across from her. Placing his beer on the table.
“Mr Combrinck.” Simone's annoyance rising, then looks around the restaurant. At the back, Marjorie was engrossed in conversation, not watching her.
“Call me Dieter. I’m not great with formalities. My mother always insisted on the proper manners, but today it is so old-fashioned.” He says without missing a beat. “My brother, on the other hand, is as stiff as our upbringing demanded.” The condescending smirk hidden behind a hand as he wipes his mouth.
“Please leave or I will call the security.”
“That’s unnecessary. I just want to talk, and you have such a wonderful accent.”
“In that case, I will go.”
“No, please stay.” He insists.
“Is everything alright here, Ms Stevenson?” Becca appears just behind the man and Simone glances up to her. Then return to him. The nagging thought of knowing him prominently in her mind. That she doesn’t trust him, another thought that causes her to stay on alert. Once her stomach growls she decides to stay.
“Please. I won’t be a bother. The lady can trust me.” He insists.
“Ms Stevenson?” Becca asks and raise a manicured eyebrow. Simone looks at her bowl, then at him, and nods. “It’s okay Becca.”
“Does Ms Stevenson have a name?” he begins once Becca steps back.
“Let’s keep it formal.” She insists, and he grins.
“Alright then. Formal it is.” Simone brings the spoon to her and keeps her gaze on the soup. The aroma reminding her how hungry she was.
Dieter Combrinck leans back and takes his glass and remains unnaturally quiet. But not refraining from her. Whatever he is thinking shielded behind years of practise. The beer, though, goes down perfectly, and he smacks his lips and smiles when she looks up.
Simone Stevenson, they are right about you; he thinks. As cold and indifferent as the weather outside. No doubt your husband’s doing, and he grins inwardly. Keeping his face straight. Surely, underneath all the feminine control, must be a woman of fire?
He takes another gulp, then waves the waiter closer.
“Hamburger and chips with all the trimmings. Don’t be skimpy with it either.” He orders. “And bring another beer.”
When Simone places her empty bowl to the side, and glances up at him. Her unease is visible in her straight shoulders and pinched mouth.
“So, what does Capetonians do for fun around here?” he asks. Studying her in such a way that leaves her uncomfortable. She looks around and once she sees the waiter, waves at him.
“Can I have the bill, please?” she asks once he has reached the table.
“Sure. Anything else?”
“No, I am done.” She replies and the waiter takes her bowl and empty cup.
“I hope you are not leaving on account of me?” he says.
“I have another appointment.”
“We should do this again.”
“There won’t be another time.”
“I heard so much about Cape Town's hospitableness.”
“I will recommend going to a local pub or information centre. Excuse me.” She says icily, and gets up, takes her bag, and slings it over her shoulder.
“I hope we see each other again.” He says and watches as she walks away. Entwining the scarf around her long neck.
If Simone looked back, his glare would have frightened her, but she didn't. Pays the bill at the front, puts on her coat and leaves.
Dieter Combrinck, your work is cut out for you. One of these days, she will eat out of your hand. Play it easy. He lifts his glass to the couple staring at him at the other table and they look away. He then sits back when his plate arrives.
His thoughts with his plan.