To read the previous chapters or for more background
Back in South Africa
“At what time will we land?” The flight attendant was busy with another passenger on the opposite side of the aisle and when she turns Simone addresses her.
“At six, Miss. We will be on time.” Mindy smiles and walks away, not as briskly as normal. Tired lines covering her youthful face, wisps of hair trailing down her face. It was a busy flight, and the attendants had had little down time.
Looking out the window, the sky’s sombre tone reflects her mood. Being back home left her in turmoil. Though she had sent her flight details to John, she doubt he will pick her up. He mentioned nothing the last time they spoke over the phone.
Simone glances at her watch: five fifteen. The end is in sight, and she shifts again. Impatient to get back to her house. If John is there, it will go quicker. If not, she will use a taxi. After the long twenty-hour flight, she felt sweaty and in no mood to see him, but it cannot be avoided.
Removing her compact mirror, she opens it and stares at the eyes, the healthy tan and her perfect makeup. But in John’s eyes, he will only see neglect. The clothing is still wrinkle free and the colours complements her skin. The glow as an aftermath is still lingering on her skin. And she smiles.
“You look good after the long flight.” Jan remarks and she smiles.
“How about one last drink together?” he asks.
“That will be nice. Thank you.” He stops the attendant, then orders bottled water for them both. This gives her a time to put her compact back in her bag and shoots a quick prayer to the Lord.
Thank you, Lord, for the visit. Lord, please help me be a good wife to John. Give me understanding for every situation I will face when at home.
“Here you go. On happy returns.” Jan says and she nods. Not in the mood to comment. Her train of thought is still sombre.
South Africa’s winter season didn’t help her mood either.
“I understand it is an exceptional cold weather. Do you have a jacket?” he continues, clears his throat, then takes a long gulp from the bottle.
“Yes, I checked the weather before I got on. It helps to be prepared.”
“Will you take a connecting flight to Bloemfontein?”
“Yes. Luckily, I don’t have to wait long.” He grins and takes another gulp. At least his prospectus isn’t dim. Hers not so much.
Help me change my perception about my life, Lord. Help me see and give me understanding. You know I am tired of feeling like a showpiece. The few months away made that clear, but help me remain patient. Give me the patience’s accepting what I can’t change and make the best of what I have.
The picture of her house came to mind, and she smiles. The house had a breath-taking view over Camps Bay, with its white sandy beach stretching along the coastline. It is a sought-after holiday destination for the rich and famous. As a backdrop, the mountain range hemmed it from behind.
The sundeck’s location had panoramic views of the entire bay. Guests love it and most of the work parties are held there.
The architect designed the entire house to be harmonious with nature. A perfect blend of cement and glass in the heart of nature. An expression of peace.
It is a far cry from what happens inside. The house was cold and emotionless and left her in a vacuum. An accurate reflection of John. Cold and aloof, with no warmth to make it a home.
She can be herself in her room. Decorated to her taste, it characterises her persona in every detail. Because John never came to her room, he was unaware of the whitewashed wooden furniture with splotches of colour in plum, brown, and gold. Warm, friendly colours that soothes her. It’s the only place that sports momentous and photos which decorate the shelves, walls and cupboards. Especially from her and James. John wasn’t in any of the frames, never interested in joining them on vacations or during sport events.
As a socialite, her husband expects her to be presentable. A maid does all the daily chores, and the cook prepares all the meals. Which leaves her with too much time in her hands.
She has a few friends but trusts no one. Not like… no. She stops herself and takes a sip from the bottled water. Her cloak of aloofness harnessing her. She can’t cope without it.
Taking a deep breath, she shifts and bumps against her co-passenger. He gives her a lopsided grin and shifts as well.
“Sorry about that.” Her voice strained after the long silence.
“I just which this flight is over.” He replies, then turns again. His larger frame cramped into the seat. Again, they bump, and she moves too.
“That’s for sure.” She replies and stretches her legs. Her tired body fighting with her to do something more than just sit.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Thank you for flying with South African Airways.” Simone sighs with relief.
Everything from there went on smoothly and when the doors open, she gathers her belongings and follows the passengers. Outside the glass windows, the night sky was dark and ominous, and she shivers. She stops, puts her jacket on and finger comb her hair.
When she finally walks out of the gates with her packed trolley, she bumps into a man and flinches. Sure, she has hit him against his shin.
“Please excuse me.” She offers, and he smiles brightly at her, “No worries. Are you coming or going?”
“Coming.” She replies and moves her trolley, but the wheel is stuck, and she struggles to get it loose.
“Let me help you.” He says and without waiting for her to move away, takes the trolley and manoeuvres it through the crowd.
“Thanks. But I can do that.” She says, but he continues to walk to the glass doors at the end. Where John is watching her. A sense of uncertainty wells up. His eyes penetrating the glass and he moves.
“Sir.” The man is almost at the doors before he turns around, then stops.
“What are you doing?” she asks and looks at him with more interest. There is something familiar about him, as if she has met him before, but she cannot put her finger on it.
As tall as John, he towers over her, but unlike John; he is casually dressed in a denim a size too big for him. The shirt has seen better days, too. His body to thin for his height. And the jacket hung baggy around the broad shoulders. Some buttons are gone. The full beard unkept, and his hair curls above the collar untidily.
“Helping you, of course, doll.”
“Thanks, but I will manage.” She replies.
“I just want to help, doll. All I want is change.”
“At the moment, I have no money with me.”
“What, a woman like you? I doubt it.” He sneers. With that, the door slides open. He grabs the trolley, but John appears next to her and pushes the man away.
He chuckles, looks at them both, then spits into the paving. “The Stevenson’s, what a nice couple you are. All prim and proper, if only the world will know what I know.”
The strangest emotion crosses John’s face and she frowns. Ready to confront this man but John pushes the trolley between them and demands, “Let’s go.” The man’s chuckles, following them.
“Do you know him?”
“Of course not. What kind of question is that?” he sneers. His eyes boring into hers with dissatisfaction. A look that’s all too familiar to her. Even now, with the man close by John is judging her. She is lacking in his high standards. The disgust in his eyes is intense, and she pushes a strand of hair behind her ear.
Even though his face is covered with fresh bruises, he looks immaculate in a three-piece suit. Simone straightens her shoulders and grips her bag till her knuckles turn white. Already preparing herself for the onslaught.
“What happened with your face?” she asks as she follows, the other man forgotten, but John continues to walk to the Mercedes. Her frown deepens. Though similar, it isn’t his car.
He removes her bags, opens the trunk, then throws them inside. When she reaches him, he scowls: “Just look at you!” he grates. “Get in the car, now.” His grim look warning her this isn’t over and pushes the trolley to the side. The security man takes it, and he walks around the car and gets in.
Simone wipes her sweaty hands against her hip, opens the door and gets in. The shoulder bag a barrier between her and what must come.
Once in the car, his disgust turns deadly. “Book into a spa tomorrow. You need some serious treatment. I can’t believe that you didn’t look after yourself. Where were you? In the backwaters of America?” she grimaces but keeps silent.
“You cannot show yourself to our friends in that condition. I’ve invited friends over for tomorrow but will cancel. I’m so ashamed.” he says bitterly and returns his attention back to the front. The leather seat creaks under his weight, and she wipes her face.
John switches on the engine, glares at her once more, then pulls into the traffic. His jawline bulging. No friendliness, no question about their son. Not even a hello and still she does not know what happened to his face.
The sting of his words penetrating her heart and slowly the icicles that had thawed during the visit grew back into place. The mask of a disinterested woman appears. One no one will recognise back at the ranch.
Again, she wipes her face and watches silently the grey surroundings. The mountain’s presence rising into the darkens sky. The curtain of mist covering most of its rocky face, but she knows it is there. Silently waiting and watching. A replica of her.
She doesn’t bother to scan the car for any other signs. She doesn’t notice the rugby shoes or school jacket on the floor. Nor the teenage magazine on the back seat.
At the house, he stops, and the silence continues.
“I will see you tomorrow. Make sure you see the hairdresser and book in the spa.” He barks and she opens the door. To ask where he is going is futile. He never explains his comings and goings to her.
The trunk opens, and she lifts the bags from the trunk while he remains inside the car. Once she and her bags stand next to the car, he gives her a last glare, then drives off, not looking back. A chill marks her body, and she shivers.
The mountain is totally blocked by the clouds and the wind urges her to go inside. A light went on. Causing a pool of warmth. But instead of moving, she watches the receding car. Waves crashing down on the rocks below displays her emotions. Tears threaten to spill over, but she swallows it back.
Another gust of cold wind forces her into action and picks up the bags. Following the paved path up the few stairs and the massive door opens. Sanna’s welcoming smile was a wonderful sight after the gloomy response from her husband.
“Welcome back madam, did you have a pleasant trip?” she asks and reaches for one bag from Simone before she closes the door.
“Yes, thank you, Sanna. It is good to be back. James sends his love. Can I have some coffee, please?” she asks, her body trembling.
“Yes, madam. I will bring along with the mail and then unpack your bags.” Simone nods.
“How is my Kleinbasie?” she asks and Simone smiles.
“He is very well, Sanna. You won’t recognise him. He is now a grownup. Nothing small about him anymore.”
Sanna chuckles delightfully. “You must tell old Sanna everything.”
“I will and show you all the pictures.” Simone replies and put her shoulder bag on the chair.
“I will love to see my kleinbasie.” She says and disappears into the house.
In the study, Simone makes a call to James and left a message when he didn’t answer. Glancing through the immaculate room and smiles wanly. Everything is fine with Sanna around. Her only light in the proverbial darkness.
On the small table, a small vase with roses greets her. The fragrance tickling her nose and she relax a little.
On the opposite side of the wall, a mirror showcase her reflection and grimace. She has to get back into shape as soon as possible. That grabs her attention is the glow. Not even the unwelcome greeting could dismiss it. For a few seconds, she allows herself the freedom to look at herself.
The phone’s ringing brings her back and she answers, “Hello, Mrs Stevenson speaking.”
“Simone! It is great to hear your voice.” A soft feminine voice says. The rolling r’s a giveaway on the caller’s identity. “Nettie, how are you?” Simone asks Marunette, her younger sister.
“I’m well, thank you. How was your trip?”
“Wonderful!” Simone answers. “James is doing well. I’m very proud of the man he has become. The ranch was everything he said, and I loved every minute. The vast open spaces remind you of home. I wish you can see it, Nettie. James is now a genuine cowboy. I am really impressed with him.
It sounds like you had fun.”
“Yes, I did. How are you doing, Nettie?” her concern is palpable.
“Not well Sim. I’m so tired of this continuous lack of our lives. I hoped things will be better once we moved to Gauteng, but it’s difficult. Hank struggles to get work and has become very demanding. At least I got a job. Not something to talk about, but it’ll reduce some tension at home.”
“Is there anything I can help with, Nettie?”
“No, just keep on praying for us, that’s all.”
“I’m going to send you something, Nettie. Please accept it as a gift.” Simone says softly. Silence reaches her and Simone shifts the receiver. Marunette’s breathing is laboured. “Thanks Sim, this is not why I called.” her voice almost disappearing.
“I know Net, but that is ’re here. We are family, my sis. Remember that.”
“I know Simone. Thanks anyway. I love you.”
“I love you, Nettie.”
Once the call ends, she prays:
“Lord, thank you for the breakthrough in Nettie and Hank’s lives. They need it desperately. I pray that your peace will become part of their lives and, Lord, hold them close. In Jesus’ Name.” A tear rolling down her face, “and peace for myself. Amen.”
Sanna stops at the door, and she waves her in. “Thanks, Sanna.” Simone says and takes the mug from her, ready to go to her room.
“I made some soup. Can I bring you a mug?”
“That’s nice of you, but no, Sanna. Good night.”
“It’s good to have you back, madam.”
On her way to her room, Simone thinks about Marunette. Her husband, Hank, and two daughters ages sixteen and fourteen really have a tough time financially. Everything they do backfires. Ever since Hank’s retrenchment a few years ago, they struggled to get back on their feet.
A year ago, they moved to Johannesburg for work with a minimal salary, but it didn’t work out and he is without work ever since. Despite his qualifications and skills, he cannot find something worthwhile. It’s hard on the entire family, and with two teenage daughters, life isn’t a picnic. Their faith has carried them until now, but Simone heard the strain in her voice tonight. It is taking its toll.
Before she goes to bed, she must make a deposit into their account. Then pray for them.
With everything she is going through, she is at least well off. Another blessing in disguise.