To read the previous chapters or for more background
A New Appreciation
After hours of uncomfortable sleep, Simone stirred. Her body fighting for a more comfortable position.
Inside the cabin, the light is lowered, and the shutters closed. Most of the passengers are still sleeping.
“Something warm to drink?” Mindy asks, her reassuring smile calming Simone’s nerves.
“Coffee, please.” Simone replies. Mindy turns a mug around, then pours coffee from the pot on top of the trolley. The smell penetrating every tired cell.
“Anything else?” and hands her the cup with milk and sugar.
“Not now. Thank you for the coffee.”
“Pleasure. Please let me know if you need anything else.
As Simone sat back enjoying the tepid liquid, it reminded her of another time back at the ranch. The view in the soft glow of the descending sun was breath-taking. Rays from an orange tinted sky touched the hill spectacularly. Tranquillity seeping into her every pore.
The next moment, Tripp towered over her with two mugs of steaming coffee. Her husband was tall, but with this man, she had to crane her neck unusually to meet the bright blue eyes.
“I thought you would like some home-brewed coffee.” he said in that deep drawl she enjoyed. He handed her a mug, and she took it. The slight touch sparked a reaction, and she looked at him with more than just keen interest. His eyes holding hers, searching for a connection. Once she broke the connection, he drew a chair closer, and sat next to her.
The rays painted the earth in hues of gold while they enjoyed the coffee. She gave him a quick glance, then returned to the scenic view with a slight blush. There was something about him that drew her closer to him. She didn’t want to dwell on it for long.
“Do you enjoy the ranch?” he asked after a while.
“Yes, I do. It is beautiful here.” She had laughed softly, then met his gaze. “I can understand why my son wants to stay here.” He glanced back at the scene, taking another sip and nodded with a smile that stopped my heart for a second.
She is used to being around powerful men. But this cowboy had a different effect on her sensibilities and the awkward silences didn’t help. Especially when she just arrived at the ranch. After a while, it became more bearable.
A few times, she had to rebuke herself. The emotions it evoked were not suitable for a married woman. But it was never easy.
“I can show you the ranch tomorrow.” He drawled after a lengthy silence and her heart sped up.
“I will love that. James wanted to show me a few places, but he has been busy. He has become a hard worker that I admire.” I explained. Again, he smiled, his cheek lines more prominent as the smile grew, and she had to wait till she was more in control of herself before she looked at him. That the man intrigued her, she couldn’t deny. But it was improper.
After all, she didn’t go to the ranch to fall in love with another man. But his strong silent character messed with her head and heart, and his rugged handsomeness helped it along.
“Did you always stay in the city?”
“No. I was raised on a sheep and wheat farm in the Western Cape, in the Malmesbury district. Its vast open lands and mountains were always the one thing I missed the most once I moved to the city.”
“Why did you move to the city?” A question she asked herself many times.
“I love children and always wanted a house filled with them. At eighteen, I rebelled against the isolation and enrolled in the University in Cape Town. I met John, a city man to the bone, the same year I did my first year.”
Tripp’s intense gaze caused her heartbeat to skip a beat. Then she changed the subject and asked: “Where is Mrs Calloway?”
“I divorced his mother right after Travis was born. She decided ranch life wasn’t her thing. I never remarried.” His gaze shifted to the surroundings and, for the first time, there was no awkwardness between us. Just two lonely souls that looked for companionship. From that moment, she saw him differently and appreciated what she saw.
“I am sorry to hear.” Without thinking, she had reached out and touched his arm. Just to withdraw quickly, meeting the brightest blue eyes in her foolishness.
John’s presences never influenced her in the same way in their entire marriage.
“Nothing to be sorry about,” he replied. “It was a long time ago.” After that, the conversation died down. The ease between them soothed her while they marvelled at the ever-changing view. A few times a comment was raised between them that just died down and by nine, she got up and took the empty cups.
At the door, she had stopped and said, “Mr Calloway, thanks for having me here as a guest. Please let me know what I can help with. Good night.”
His drawl had stopped her. The vibration mesmerising: “My name is Tripp, Simone. Good night.” A man with few words but lots of meaning.
That night, she prayed about the feelings and avoided any close contact with him after that. Not an easy undertaking.
He was hard to ignore, his impressive build a welcoming addition to her normal lonely life. With the young people always working or going out, they were often alone.
It was those evenings that they became comfortable companions, getting to know each other. Whether it was in his study, his office or on the porch, they talked about everything. Many times, silence was the true communicator.
With so many men on the ranch, she made herself useful with the mending while he was busy with his things.
“You awake?” Jan asks and bumps her arms.
“You were far gone now.” He teased.
I was back in the states.” She replies, and he sighs. A deeper than deeper one that says more than words can. Then look almost shy awkwardly.
“Some places have a way to creep into your heart.” He says and looks away. Simone tilts her head, then looks at him. This time with more interest.
“Yes, some places do. Is there a Mrs Brink waiting at home?”
“Yes.” He replies but didn’t elaborate on it. When the trolley passes them again, he stops and buys a few packets of biltong, chips and one slap of chocolate. The silence dragging out between them.
How many people are really happy in their current positions? How many people wish for a different life all together? Simone leans back, then opens her magazine. Leaving through the glamours pages does nothing for her and she closes it and slips it back into the pocket of the chair in front of her.
Once she closes her eyes, she prays the familiar prayer once again:
Lord, help me stay faithful to John. In heart and body. I am committed to this marriage as you intended me to be. Help me stay strong.