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My Gebed vir ‘n Boer

My Gebed vir ‘n Boer

Dit is ‘n PROJEK wat na aan elke Afrikaner is en om deel van dit te wees is ‘n groot vooreg.  Baie dankie Nico Schamrel vir jou onbaatsugtige diens aan ons skrywers en vir ons boere. Die Here seën jou. 

TEMA (nie verpligtend nie): BROOD – ons daaglikse voedsel, maar ook simbolies aan godsdiens en lewe.

Kortverhale, gedigte, prosa of jou gebed is welkom!

‘n Oproep vir almal om saam te bid en skryf vir die veiligheid van plaasboere, hulle gesinne en hul werkers. Ons bid vir troos vir slagoffers van plaasmoorde. Kom ons bid vir verandering, bystand, vergifnis, wysheid, goeie leierskap en vir God se genade, asook seën oor die boere en al die mense van ons land.

Die boere en mense van Suid Afrika neem die woorde ter harte neem en elke bydrae maak ‘n groot verskil.

Besoek gerus Ns.Skrywershuis vir jou sagteband of bestel direk by my lynelle@kreativcollectiv.com.

Afrikaanse Nie-Fiksie Uittreksels

Afrikaanse Nie-Fiksie Uittreksels

Nie-Fiksie

My verhaal lê opgesluit in my geskiedenis. Dit is verweef in elke sandkorrel, gevormde klip en die fynste veldblom van hierdie land. Van die Ooste tot die Weste, van die Suide tot die Noorde is my storie verspreid. Daar is geen area in hierdie mooie land waar jy ons nie sal vind nie. Oor majestieuse berge gekleed met wolke komberse en donker, soms verskuilde klowe is ons skaduwees gegooi. Voetspore verweef in elke era van die geskiedkundige boeke. Ons paaie nou saam gevoeg, soos ‘n vlegsel in een gesmelt hier aan die suide van Afrika.

Voor my bestaan het my voorvaders se sweet die grond benat. Verlore hand-velle die bemesting van hul gewasse terwyl hulle die land bewerk het. Son gebakte velle beskermd deur ‘n veldhoed so eie aan elke boer in ons land. Spierwit voete die enigste bewys van hul werklike velkleur. Gebrei deur wind en weer het hulle hier ‘n lewe uitgekap om die beste te doen vir hul nageslagte.

Terwyl die mans die aarde omgespit het, was die vrouens gebukkend voor die klei-oonde. Smullende warm brode en ander gebak ‘n daaglikse bedrywigheid terwyl kinders om hul enkels gespeel het; dolosse en lappoppe hul enigste speelgoed. Uitgelewer aan die natuur en barre landskap terwyl die geweer nie te vêr buite bereik gestaan het nie. Sorgsaam en getrou het hulle die vuur gestook terwyl hul mans in die veld was.

Braaivleis vure, dans op die breë stoepe en lang kuiers onder die koelte bome was die kenmerke van hierdie byeenkomste, en natuurlik eet. Die tafels het gekreun onder die gebak wat gewoonlik so ‘n paar dae voor die tyd begin het. Van opgestopte skaapboude, varkboude, gebakte hoenders, tuisgemaakte wors of pofadder en suurkos (Daar was natuurlik afval ook maar ek het seker gemaak om dit te mis – drywende oë is rerig nie vir my aptytwekkend nie. Elke denkbare groente was gekook, ingelê of geslaai, en dan die lekkernye, elke soet tand se droom, poedings, koeke en terte - klein of groot, dit het nie saak gemaak nie, daar was oorvloed. Tussenin was daar druiwe, geel perskes, waatlemoen en spanspek wat verorber was, genoeg om van naar te word. Net die blote gedagte aan daardie vragte kos laat my mond water en die heupe groei…LOL.

Vir my ouers was dit ‘n prioriteit en ons het mooi herinneringe van daardie tye. Maar daar is een of twee herinneringe gedurende hierdie tyd wat die meeste uitstaan; een daarvan was toe Kanoneiland krag gekry het vir die eerste keer.

Nou, ek weet nie van julle nie maar as kleinkind het jy nie rerig ‘n verhouding met jou ouma of oupa nie. Gesprekke tussen die twee geslagte was gehou tot die minimum: Die kinders-word-gesien-en-nie-gehoor-nie benadering. Albei my oupas is oorlede toe ek baie jonk was, so die geheue is maar yl rakende my grootvaders maar ons was geseënd om die oumas langer by ons te hê. Die rede dat hierdie een gebeurtenis uitgestaan het is die feit dat ek Ouma Baby as vrou leer ken het gedurende hierdie belangrike mylpaal in Kanoneiland se geskiedenis. Ek weet nie hoekom sy Baby genoem was nie want haar doop naam was Johanna, ek dink dit het te doen met die feit dat sy die jongste in haar gesin was - maar ek mag verkeerd wees.

Venterskroon is geleë tussen Parys en Potchefstroom binnein die Vredefort Koepel. Die Vredefort Koepel is bekend vir sy pragtige natuurskoon wat oor 300 km strek en is die grootste erfenisgebied in privaat besit in die wêreld. Die Koepel is bekend onder fietsryers, vissermanne en stappers en verleen hom as ‘n heerlike vakansieplek vir stadsjapies nie te vêr van die groot stad af nie. Om elke draai is daar ‘n interessante storie verbonde aan die murasies, verskans tussen bome en ruigtes, en het jy ‘n terugblik op die gisters vasgevang in die pleisterwerk wat plek-plek opgebreek word deur die natuur. Kronkelende grondpaaie lei na afgeleë plase, en netjiese vakansieoorde met plaasdiere en wild wat die veld geniet.

Dit is ‘n wêreld ryk aan geskiedenis – van die meteoriet wat daar geval het miljoene jare gelede tot die uitgewerkte goudmyn wat nou net ‘n vae herinnering is van die lewe in die laat 1800; die bewyse is oral te bespeur as jy jou oë oop hou.

Vir opgewekte geselskap en ‘n goeie kontrei-staaltjie kan jy ‘n draai gaan maak by die imposante kroeg in Imperial Inn vir ‘n vinnige lafenis of inboek vir ‘n lui Sondag en middagete onder die groot ou koelte boom geniet wat heerlik voorberei word deur die staatmaker spannetjie.

Hoe ookal, kosmaak is ‘n avontuur op sigself.  Ek sit soms net en lag oor die manewales. Die berge skottelgoed in my geestesoog groei met elke toeklap van ‘n kasdeur en ek sug innerlik. Hulle ken nie van briek aandraai nie.

Tussen my pa en my verloofde is daar ‘n twaalf jaar ouderdomsverskil, die twee verstaan mekaar en kuier lekker. Toe ons lewe ‘n draai maak bied my pa my ou kamer aan as blyplek. Ek moet erken dat ek gewonder het hoe dit gaan uitwerk; met ‘n beklemming om my hart. My pa is ‘set in his ways’ en Isak beslis ook. Elkeen redelik hardkoppig. Maar bo verwagting gaan dit goed.

O ja, ek moet nie van my broer vergeet nie, diè is die jongste in die huishouding, dus is die ouderdomsgaping groot tussen hom en Isak. Drie generasies in een huis en elkeen het sy eie manier van dink, maar dit daar gelaat.

Jannie is amptelik die enigste “permanently employed” in die huis en is elke dag, net na ses saans tuis. Die dag se gebeure word dan herhaal sodat hy darem ook kan weet wat aangaan. Alhoewel die twee soms lekker kan kuier is die twee afgetredenes meer dikwels in mekaar se geselskap en onthou-jy-nog-staaltjies so deel van elke dag.

Jip, julle het reg gehoor. Ek bly saam met twee afgetredenes. 77 en 65, en my broer is 43. Ek hoop iemand kry my jammer.  Nee, ek grap net, dit is darem nie so erg nie, want dit het sy voordele. Ek maak selde of ooit kos. Net die kombuis se skoonmaak word vir my gelaat, darem net soms - maar dit is ‘n gesprek vir ‘n ander keer. Berge en berge skottelgoed. Wel, julle kry die prentjie.

“Kan pa nog onthou jare gelede het ‘n mens…” dit is hoe dit gewoonlik begin of, “Onthou pa vir Jannie Engelbrecht…”  dan word daar in detail vertel van die drie of skop of wat ookal die geheue geprikkel het.

“Wag laat ek nou eers vir jou vertel…” is gewoonlik my pa se inleidende woorde. “Wragtig waar, dit is so…” bevestig hy sy eie storie so asof ons hom nie gaan glo nie. In een middag kan ek plekke soos Port Elizabeth of die Baai, Kanoneiland, Augrabies, Tsitsikamma, Johannesburg of Kimberley besoek sonder om die huis te verlaat. Moenie Upington, Kuruman en Keimoes uitlaat nie.

Ons bestaan word versinnebeeld in die paaie wat ons daagliks wandel; sommige paaie strek voor ons uit soos ‘n groot vet slang wie se kop weg raak op die horison - eindeloos en lui. Dan is daar paaie wat al kronkellend deur hoë bome vleg en jou uitnooi om deel te word van sy koeltes en skadus, maar indien jy nie versigtig is nie jouself misgis met die kronkels - wat soms so vinnig kom: sonder waarskuwing - dit is dan wat jy die pad maklik byster raak: verlei deur die mooi, maar daar is geen hoop aan die einde nie.

Ons kan liries raak oor ons kuslyne; ons het seker van die mooistes in die wêreld. Langs die einste kuslyne kan ons die uitgestrekte blou water massa bewonder: glimmend en golwend in Sy almag. Omsoom met wit strande wat land en see skei en reusagtige rotse wat uit die branders rys, die wind ‘n konstante metgesel wat sy eie taal praat, en die toneel dwing bewondering af. Die majestieuse berge aan die ander kant van die pad troon bo ons uit en jy kan nie genoeg kry van die verskillende rotsformasies en plantegroei nie. Soms word ons so meegesleur deur die strome van die lewe dat ons nie die verskanste gevare raak sien nie: die gety wat jou dieper meesleur tot waar jy maklik kan vergaan sonder dat jy dit besef.

Dan is daar die grondpaaie wat ons land deurkruis, wat voor ons uitstrek met die horison wat in ‘n “see” geleë is en net altyd aanskuif asof bodemloos en jy wonder wanneer gaan dit klaar kry. Geen skaduwee om jou warmte in te baai nie en geen borde wat jou rigting of bakens aandui nie. Jy het geen benul of jy wel nog op die regte pad is nie en iewers sluimer die twyfel van omdraai, van stop. Dan, skielik sien jy ‘n windpomp uitrys soos ‘n baken van hoop en jy besef jy is nie alleen nie en ‘n glimlag sprei oor jou hele gelaat en jy beur voort totdat jy beskawing bereik.

Die bestemming wink in die verte en opgewondenheid bruis deur jou are.  Soms is hierdie paaie in skadu gehul, geheimsinnig asof dit nie sy geheim met jou wil deel nie. Ander kere glinster dit helder voor jou uit maar gee geen aanduiding van die bestemming nie - geheimsinnig, winkend, al kronkelend verdwyn dit oor die volgende koppie of rante. Op een stadium was ons bo op die Baviaansberge en moes ek weer uitspring om ‘n hek of twee oop te maak en die verlatenheid was sprekend, tasbaar maar tog gevul met ‘n eiesoortige heimweë. Miskien na ‘n wêreld van weleer of miskien sommer net na die stiltes van die natuur. Is ek die enigste een wat dit so ervaar?

‘n Mens kan dit selfs ‘n stap verder vat. Behalwe vir die fisiese is daar ‘n figuurlike betekenis tot die oopmaak. Die oopmaak van jouself veroorsaak dat jy beter sien. Dit bring nuwe lewe asook ‘n verwagting vir die onbekende. Wanneer ons daardie hek oopmaak gebeur daar iets in ons en nuwe lewe bruis deur ons. Dit is dan wanneer ons weer gefokus raak en opnuut ons talente raaksien, onsself leer ken en sommer net weer mens word. ‘n Mens met ‘n doel.

Ons elkeen ontvang die lewe as ‘n geskenk. Reg in die begin van bevrugting het jy die drang om te leef. Dit is diep in ons gene gewortel en kan net deur dood geblus word.

Die oop graf, veral die van ‘n ouer, lig dit des te meer uit. Dit is dan wanneer jou eie kwesbaarheid onder die vergrootglas kom en jy weerloos gelaat word. Alleenheid kom nie eers naby die gevoel wat jy dan ervaar nie. Dit meng met elke sel in jou wese en jy voel verwyderd van die alledaagse bestaan.

Die belangrikheid van ‘n moeder kom skerp na vore in haar heengaan. Jy waardeer haar dan eers, lank nadat sy haar laaste asem uitgeblaas het. Daar is niemand wat soveel omgee vir jou soos jou ma nie. Haar liefde en onbaatsugtigheid plaas haar op ‘n hoër platform as enige ander mens. Soos ‘n pilaar staan sy, sterk en onwrikbaar in jou lewe. Sy koester en beskerm jou. Sy leer jou van die lewe en gee jou liefde wanneer die lewe jou ‘n wang draai. Sy is as te ware jou buffer teen die koue aanslae daarbuite.

Wanneer sy weg is, voel jy alleen, kwesbaar en verwyder van alles om jou. Maak nie saak hoe besig jy is nie jou hart bly verlang en sit vas soos klitsgras. Daar, in jou binneste, waar jy introspeksie doen in stilte. Als om jou verloor hul glans en betekenis. Jou ervaring van die lewe verander.

My verhouding met my kinders het die jaar sodanig verbeter dat ek met opregtheid kan sê dit is wel met my siel. Sonder hulle liefde, aanvaarding en bystand sou dit nie moontlik gewees het om weer my voete te vind nie. Kinders maak ons heel - selfs die kleinseuns se kleine handjies is genesing vir die moeë siel. Nathan se woorde het my nou die dag, tydens ‘n kuier, diep getref: “Ek is so bly ouma het nie Kaap toe gegaan nie.” Meer daaroor in ‘n volgende aflewering maar ek het net weereens besef hoe my besluite selfs hom geraak het. Dit is daardie woorde wat dan soos ‘n lieflike geur om my hals hang en ek weet ek is geliefd ongeag die modder waarin ek my bevind het. Miskien klink dit narsisties vir sommige maar my gemoedtoestand was so stukkend en rou dat sulke klein gebare vir my die wêreld beteken.

Alhoewel die huwelik in die slag gebly het sal die goue klontjies van wysheid en die mooi herinneringe daarvan iets wees wat ek sal vertroetel in my hartkamers en die swaar tye, die tye wat my met insig gevul het, my verder lei soos ek die lewe verder aanpak. Elke nuwe tree wat ek gee vul my met groter dankbaarheid vir dit wat tans gebeur.

Ek voel voorwaar soos die spreekwoordelike verlore seun wat in die varkhok tot die besef gekom het dat sonder Hom dit ‘n koue plek is. Weer het ek terug gekom na ‘n Vader wat met ope arms my ingewag het: Sy liefde onverandered en Sy rus balsem vir ‘n moeë gees.

Sy genade is vir my genoeg!

Die ander vrou is skielik iemand, met ‘n naam. Alhoewel jy haar nog nooit ontmoet het nie, is sy ‘n permanente deel van jou lewe. As nuweling word jy vergelyk, beoordeel en bespreek deur vriende en familie. Ongeag hoe hard jy probeer, jy kan haar nie ignoreer nie. Deels omdat sy gedurigdeur opkom in gesprekke veral as julle in dieselfde kringe beweeg of indien daar kinders en kleinkinders betrokke is.

Met sosiale media is dit selfs makliker om van die ander vrou te wete te kom en op haar te volg aka spioeneer. Wie het dit nie al gedoen nie? Ons gebruik verskeie redes om onsself te regverdig maar feit bly staan, ons wil meer weet oor die vrou wat die man in jou lewe gedeel het of deel. Dit hang af aan watter kant jy staan.

Ek onthou in my gewese huwelik het ons verhouding ook maar pas begin en het ons saam na ‘n kerkkamp gegaan. Die Sondagoggend moes hy gou ‘n draai loop en sê ek moet solank gaan sit. By ons sitplek het sy Bybel op die vloer gelê waar ek dit op getel het. Daar, voor my voete val toe ‘n foto uit van sy vorige meisie. ‘n Duisend vrae het deur my gegaan in ‘n bestek van sekondes. Agterna het hy my verseker dat die verhouding verby is. Ek het hom geglo. Ons is getroud. Met verloop van tyd het sy elke keer, op die mees onverwagse oomblikke, na vore gekom. Jy sien, sy familie kon haar nie vergeet nie, en het by tye ook kontak met haar gehad. Elke keer het hy my verseker dat sy iets van die verlede is. Maar sy het bly opduik wat wel sy stremming geplaas het. Toe ons huwelik op die rotse loop was sy skielik weer terug. Sommer netso, na 30 jaar van geen kommunikasie. (Ek wil ook nou nie enige wyshede hoor nie… Los dit daar.)

Laat lente is net voor somer. Die rypwordingstyd van plante wat hul kleur uitstoot. Tot daardie wonder wanneer hul in volle blom hul kleur en geur ten toon sal stel. 'n Heugelike gebeurtenis wat so onder ons neuse gebeur. Dit kruip al nader, omhul jou gemoed en word deel van ons – sonder moeite.

Laat lente het sy eie unieke klanke; gevul met die gezoem van bye. Die fladder van opgewonde vinke om die voëlbak. Van die mossies wat hulself met borrelende gespartel bad. Al spelende tot hulle blink. Die wind wat baljaar deur jong blare. Die geur van bloeisels uitgestal in kleure van wit, pienk en rooi; in elke skakering. Gun wonder Salomo het genoem dat ons na die natuur moet kyk nie. Niks kom by die skouspel daarvan nie. Ons lug gevul met geure van skoon grond na dit omgeploeg is; afwagtend op saad. Die sprankelende lus vir die lewe soos ‘n elektriese stroom wat gedurig suis; sonder ophou.

Ja, die natuur is in afwagting. 'n Swanger afwagting vir nuwe lewe. Soos ‘n vrou wat reg maak vir die geboorte van haar kind so maak die aarde hom reg vir nuwe vrug. Al jubelend en juigende – ‘n kakofonie van klanke gevul met kosbare sap.

Radio program

Vandag se program handel oor jou verhouding met jou kinders, hoe benader jy hulle as enkelouer? Daar is nie meer ‘n ons in jou woordeskat nie, so jou benadering gaan moet aangepas word. Aksies en optredes wat jy as vanselfsprekend in jou huwelik ervaar het is nou verwarrend en in sommige gevalle amper taboe. Waar jy voorheen sou gesê het “gaan vra jou pa,” is die pa nie daar om jou uit te help nie en moet jy nou die besluite neem. Jy kan ook nie elke keer op die foon klim om hom opdrag te gee om met die kind te praat nie. Dit mag wees dat hy alreeds in ‘n ander verhouding is en die vrou duld nie jou ontydige opdragte aan haar maat nie wat meer spanning kan veroorsaak. Of dat hy net nie beskikbaar is nie en wanneer jy eis om te weet waar hy is veroorsaak dit in ‘n geveg en die eintlike rede is dan verlore. Onthou, hy skuld jou geen verduideliking nie. Dit is in hierdie tye dat jy jou kinders se respek verloor en jy ook beheer verloor in die algemeen.

Die hele kommunikasie dinamieka verander. Waar julle ‘n familie van vier of vyf was is julle nou net drie of vier. Voorheen was dit maklik om verantwoordelikhede rond te skuif soos wat dit die situasie gepas het nou is dit net jy en jy alleen. Dit kan nogal senutergend wees. In ‘n groot mate kan jy verslae en verlore voel, selfs oorweldig. Maar jou wegkruip dae is verby. Jy is nou die een wat die pas moet aangee, die leisels moet opneem en vooruit moet loop. Jy staan alleen, met niemand om jou te rugsteun oor hierdie veranderinge of besluite wat jy moet neem nie. 

In baie gevalle sal kinders dan rebelleer bloot net omdat hulle nie verstaan nie, en, of die ander ouer mis. Of omdat hulle al die aandag soek om hul eie onsekerhede hok te slaan. Dit veroorsaak sy eie unieke probleme waarop ‘n enkelma moet bedag wees. Indien dit nie reg hanteer word nie kan jou lewe oornag in ‘n nagmerrie verander.

Die afgelope paar maande het ek gesels oor enkellopendskap en hoe om dit te hanteer. Hoekom en waarom jy in jouself moet belê en te glo dat jy waardevol is. Jy moet besef dat hierdie nie die einde van die pad is nie maar juis die begin. Ek hoop dat julle daarby baat kon vind en dat ek op my beskeie manier iets kon oordra aan jou wat op hierdie enkelpad is. Als wat ek hier deel is wat ek ervaar het, my skruikelblokke en foute in die hoop dat jy hierdie tydperk beter keuses sal maak en rerig weer glo in jouself.

Maar nou wil ek ‘n bietjie stoute skoene aantrek en tyd spandeer aan die meer praktiese dinge. Die praktiese dinge mag dalk vir sommige nie aanvaarbaar wees nie maar dit is belangrik dat dit wel aangeraak word. Daar is te veel verhoudings en huwelike wat tot niet gaan omdat ons hierdie onderwerp vermy of systap. Mense glo om soos ‘n volstruis, jou kop in ‘n gat te druk, dat die probleem sal weggaan, wat ‘n mite is. Dit is juis ons stilstwye wat veroorsaak dat die probleem groter word. Ons as mens is geskape om te voel en te ervaar met hart en siel – nie net ons liggaam nie. Alles loop saam om ons volkome mens te maak. Nie een van ons het net sekere dele gekry nie. En ander verskillende dele nie. Ons het almal dieselfde mate gekry, man en vrou. Dit is ons benadering wat dit wel misvorm en lelik maak, wat die probleme veroorsaak.

Ek wil my die reg toeëien deur te sê: Deur alles om ons te vergeestelik verloor ons in baie gevalle ons senualiteit. Ons dink as ons christelik optree of dit ignoreer, sal die drange waarmee ons gebore is, verdwyn. Maar dit is juis ons stilswye wat dit vererger. Hierdie aspek is onlosmaaklik deel van ons menswees.

‘n Man se stryd word soms oorgeslaan in die egskeiding of opbreek tyd. Ons vergeet dat hulle ook ly en dat hulle manier van doen grotendeels beinvloed word deur die gebeurtenis se impak op hul gestel. Daarom het ek dit goed gedink om op hulle te fokus vandag.

 

Op elke gebied word ‘n mens gelouter in hierdie pad. Vrouens hanteer dit anders omdat hulle meer in voeling is met hul emosies en vinniger uitreik. Mans hanteer dit stilweg, broeiend. Vrouens se uitkyk verander oor verhoudings. Wanneer ‘n vrou weer asem kry wil sy erkenning hê. As sy ‘n man gehad het wat haar voorheen versmoor het wil sy ruimte hê om haar eie ding te doen. As ‘n vorige maat ‘n huishen was wil sy nou iemand hê wat uitgaan en die lewe geniet. Sy is dalk nou ‘n werkende vrou en haar tyd is beperk of haar belangstellings is wyer verspreid.

Hoe ook al sy, ‘n man verander ook, sy verwagtings verskuil agter traak-my-nie-agtige houding en gaan hy met ‘n ander gesindheid in ‘n volgende verhouding in. Hy kom dalk koud en afsydig voort vir sommige vroue – maar dit is als deel van die beskermings meganisme. Sy verwagtings verander ook en hy kan in baie gevalle langer enkel bly vir finansieël redes wat veroorsaak dat hy stagneer.

Brandstof vir die siel.

Wat bou jou op, laat jou voortbeweeg. Wat maak jou opgewonde?

Ek spring sommer weg met ‘n paar moeilike vrae. Vir sommiges mag dit dalk maklik wees maar vir die meeste luisteraars is dit vrae wat hulle mee sukkel, selfs tot diep in hul veertigs of vyftigs.

Veral nou dat jy op ‘n nuwe pad is kom hierdie vrae weer skerp onder die soeklig en wonder jy wat is jou doel. Waarom is jy hier?

Vroeër of later word ons almal met dit gekronfronteer. Sommiges kan kies om werklik antwoorde te gaan soek soos die jongman, Tal Gur van Israel. Ek het al ‘n paar keer uit sy boek, The art of living voorgelees. Hy het letterlik vir homself doelwitte gestel wat hy dan na ‘n sekere tyd bereik het. Vandag is die man ‘n motiveringspreker wat duisende mense inspireer deur dit wat hy geleer het. Ek het al van Sunitkia gepraat wat vanuit haar ellende opgestaan het en daadwerklik ‘n verskil gemaak in haar gemeenskap. Die lys is eindeloos.

Ek is seker julle het ook al sulke stories gehoor wat julle heel moontlik geinspireer het, maar julle weet nie waar om te begin nie. Ek self was deur Janine Shapiro se man in ‘n hoek gesit toe hy die vraag, wanneer laas het jy gedroom, aan my gestel het. Dit is waar ek geleer het van droomborde.

Ek was bewus daarvan dat ‘n mens verskillende visuliaserings borde kry, veral kuns studente moet dit gereeld maak. Maar ‘n droombord, nee, ek was totaal onkundig daaroor. Toe volg ek hul raad en kort voor lank het die bord op my rekenaarskerm vorm aangeneem.

Is die nommer ‘n probleem?

As enkellopende vrou is die keuse boksie nie so baie soos voorheen nie. Jy self is nou ook nie meer ‘n jong bokkie nie – wel dit hang natuurlik af wie na jou kyk, nê.

As tiener kon jy kus en keur tussen skool- en studentmanne wat daaglikse jou pad gekruis het. Nou ontmoet jy selde iemand van jou ouderdom, en die wat jy ontmoet is of onbereikbaar of net nie volgens jou standaarde nie. Of het soveel ‘baggage’ dat jy nie wil betrokke raak nie. Jy wonder dan waar is al die hubare manne. Jy begin rond kyk; en bevind jouself skielik in ‘n terrein van ouderdomverskille. Of jy is veel ouer as die interessante manne of die man is veel ouer as jy.

‘n Paar punte vir oorweging:

Wanneer die man ouer is as jy, kyk na sy voorkoms, is hy darem netjies op hom self? Die hare is dalk yl maar hy is nog aantreklik, of wat van daardie boepie? Is dit dinge wat jou sal afskrik of aantrek?

Is hy ‘n roker of / en drinker? Hou hy matigheid voor oë of raak hy heeltemal katools dronk en vergeet sy maniere by die agterdeur?

Hoe behandel hy jou wanneer julle in die openbaar is? Dit is gewoonlik ‘n baie goeie maatstaf of dinge sal uitwerk, of nie.

Die volgende ding wat jou oog ook trek is stokperdjies. Wat geniet hy om te doen? Of is die mees interresante ding in sy lewe dit wat is op die volgende kanaal op TV is? Is hy lief om uit te gaan, en ek bedoel nie shopping nie, hoor. Indien jy lief is vir lees, hoe voel hy daaroor? Gee hy jou ruimte om dit te doen, of nog beter lees hy saam met jou? Vir my is dit nogal ‘n belangrike punt want ek is alewig met my neus in ‘n boek.

Ek hou van die Marvel karakters, spesifiek die verskillende lede van Avengers. Ek het natuurlik my voorkeure soos Thor, Iron Man, Pepper Pots - alhoewel sy nie ‘n fisiese Avenger karakter is nie is sy tog deel van die storie en staan sterk in haar ondersteuningsrol. Captain America is ook ‘n gunsteling maar Wonder Woman is beslis die karakter wat my die meeste aantrek. Haar lewe staan vir iets meer as net ‘n vrou met bonatuurlike kragte. Die vrou, Gal Gadot, wat die rol speel is self ook merkwaardig afgesien van haar uiterlike skoonheid.

Wonder Woman straal ‘n selfvertroue uit wat sy net kon kry deur opleiding en die wete wie sy is. Tog kom sy ook nederig voor selfs by tye naïef. ‘n Ander belangrike faktor uit haar lewe is dat sy besef het om die wêreld te verander moet sy ook verander. Jy mag een feit glo maar realiteit vervang dit met ‘n groter waarheid. Dit is daardie waarheid wat jou dan vorm en in jou doel in vat.

Ons het oor die naweek weer na die fliek gekyk en ek het ‘n hele paar dinge raak gesien wat ek voorheen gemis het. Haar opleiding as klein dogtertjie, tiener en jong vrou het vir my die meeste uitgestaan die keer. Haar innerlike gemoedskwellinge was ook ‘n groot faktor. In die eerste plek het sy geglo dat dit wat sy geleer het tydens haar opleiding reg was. Maar hier op aarde, gekonfronteer met die daaglikse probleme moes sy haar innerlike oortuigings vervang en toepas om werklik ‘n verskil te maak. Niks is ooit in klip geskryf nie daarom kan dit verander word.

Vir 30 jaar het ek sekere goed geglo, en dit toegepas. Dit het my hard en ongenaakbaar laat voorkom. Maar toe, agv veranderinge in my persoonlike lewe, verander my uitkyk. Ek kyk met meer meegevoel na ‘n situasie, juis agv die pad wat ek gewandel het. Net so met Wonder Woman. Dit is ‘n paridigma skuif in jou kop as te ware. Dit kos gewoonlik intense sielsveranderinge om dit te weeg te bring.

Afrikaanse Nie-Fiksie Uittreksels

Afrikaanse Uittreksels

Kliek – en nog ‘n terugflits so duidelik soos die vorige.

Kliek – wens jy was hier.

Kliek – vergeet van hom. Hy het.

Kliek - Soos kortstondige flitse spoed ons verhouding voor my verby.

Elke keer dat dat ek my ooglede knip, is daar nog ʼn herinnering; nog ʼn grepie van ons saamwees kristal helder in my gedagtes. Hoekom het ons nooit foto’s van ons geneem nie? Dit is ‘n vraag wat ek myself baie afvra.

Daar is niks tasbaar van ons kortstondige verhouding nie, maar tog speel die tonele gedurigdeur in my geestesoog af dat ek nie anders kan as om in afwagting my oë oop te maak met die hoop om hom daar te kry nie.

Sy peinsende oë priemend op my ingestel; sy glimlag wat my knieë lam gemaak het en my hart gesmelt het. Gevolg deur die ondeunde laggie wanneer hy in ʼn stoute bui was.

Die manier wat hy sou vra: “Is dit nog nie tyd vir ʼn bier nie?”

Twee weke vantevore was sy en ouma aangenaam verras met die nuwe buurman wat ingetrek het. Die huis was al ‘n geruime tyd leeg. Die eienaars het min omgegee vir die plek en verwaarlosing het ingetree. Leeglêers was gereeld rondom die plek gewaar, wat vir hulle ‘n bekommernis was. Ouma was knaend by die polisie oor die situasie maar hulle het net hul skouers opgetrek. Nou dat hy daar is kon hulle ontspan. Twee dae het verby gegaan voor hulle die man gesien het.

Gekleed in ‘n netjies swartbroek en glad gestrykte wit hemp was hulle baie nuuskierig oor die man. Sy kop het gespog met ‘n dik bos grys hare.  Die enigste keer wat Santie hom sonder ‘n hoed gesien het. Lanklaas het sy ‘n ouer man met so ‘n goeie houding gesien. Dit was iets om te waardeer.

Een middag het Santie haar ouma betrap waar sy by die voorkamer venster gestaan het. Die gordyn was versigtig weg getrek en ‘n droomverlore kyk was duidelik sigbaar op haar gelaat. Oupa is al vyf jaar gelede oorlede en ouma was alleen. Omdat Santie permanent by haar ouma woon het sy geweet hoe vereensaam sy was, so sy het die nuwe verwikkeling verwelkom.

Jy wonder seker waarheen gaan ek met dit alles en of diè gedagtegang ‘n punt het. Miskien het dit, miskien nie, ons sal maar saam hierdeur moet worstel om by die antwoord te kom. Al wat ek weet is dat ek lief is vir die man. Ek waag ‘n kans, hoe klein ookal, ‘n draadjie van hoop tot aan die bitter einde.

Dit is my normale gedagtegang die afgelope tyd: ek praat myself moed in wanneer die geduld min raak en die verlange alles oorheersend word. ‘n Tyd van afsondering waar ek niemand inlaat in die kamers van my hart nie. My gedagtes altyd by hom, gevul met hom.

Afwagtend. Hopend.

“Trieng, trieng!” word my gedagteloop onderbreek deur die klanke van my Android. ‘n Irriterende deuntjie wat ek dreig om te verander maar net nooit doen nie. Vies kyk ek na die caller ID maar dit dui ‘n ‘Unknown’ nommer en sonder om twee keer te dink trek ek ‘n streep daardeur asof ek dit wil uitwis.

Waar was ek…o ja.

Ek het vergeet hoe seer onbeantwoorde liefde kan maak. Ek het vergeet van al die fases waardeur ‘n mens gaan wanneer jy met ‘n stukkende hart sukkel. As ‘n volwasse persoon is dit nie so maklik soos toe ons jonk was nie. Tweede geleenthede is nie iets waarop jy hoop nie. Nie met hartsake nie. Ek wil glo dat ek nie net ‘n stastistieke syfer is nie maar ‘n vrou van vlees wie se hart tog die antwoorde sal kry waarna dit smag voor my uurglas leeg loop.

“Trieng, trieng…!” Ai, wie kan dit wees? Ek staar na die foon: die bron van my frustasie. Die aanhoudende gelui van die emosielose klanke doen niks vir my beswaarde gemoed nie. Inteendeel dit vul my negatiewe gedagtes nog verder sodat ek vies oor die ding vee en met ‘n sug antwoord: “Louise wat praat.”

Later, na ‘n warm bad en skoon klere vanuit Leonie se kas het Netta by haar huis ingestap. Neels, Leonie se man, was so gaaf om die karwiel om te ruil terwyl hulle binne was.

Leonie het haar dadelik in ‘n warm bad met die heerlikste borrels gesit waar sy vir ‘n paar minute net weer vrou kon word. Leonie is ‘n gelukkige vrou. Hoekom kon Frank nie ook so goed vir haar gesorg het nie?

“Mamma?” roep Nate haar terug uit haar morbiede gedagtes.

“Ja Nate?”

“Mamma, Jack het my genooi na sy verjaarsdag partytjie môre, kan ek gaan, asseblief, ma?” Haar skouers sak. Nog ‘n uitgawe. Sy is al so moeg om nee te sê. Nege jarige groen ogies staar haar opgewonde aan en sy sluk verbouereerd. “Ek weet nie Nate. Mamma kan nie nou ‘n geskenk koop nie.”

“Mamma hoef nie te worry nie, ek sal een van my onoopgemaakte karretjies vir hom gee. Ek het nie so baie karretjies nodig nie.”

“Ai my kind,” en trane stroom opnuut weer oor haar wange.

“Here, dankie vir ‘n kind wat verstaan,” prewel sy saggies as sy deur die donkerkop vryf. Haar hart stukkend. Hulle het so lank vir hom gewag. Tien jaar van hul getroude lewe was op hul knieë deurgebring. Haar beker van geluk het oorgeloop toe sy uiteindelik swanger geword het. Toe, agt jaar later vertel Frank hy het iemand anders gevind. Diè kind, het sy uitgevind is al 12. Hy het haar twaalf jaar lank verkul terwyl sy alles in haar vermoë gedoen het om vir hom ‘n kind te gee. Selfs toe sy dit gegee het was dit nie goed genoeg nie. Bitter draai sy weg.

Kos maak tyd lê soos ‘n berg voor haar.

“Jy is dinamies, Marieta Mulder.” Verspot gee sy ‘n kniebuiging aan haarself en lag vrolik. Sy kyk dan na die horlosie teen die muur en besef dat dit tyd is om te gaan. Sy tel haar swart leer-aktetas op – ‘n geskenk van haar ouers toe sy die toelatingseksamen tot die Balie geslaag het.  Maak seker sy het alles en stap by die voordeur uit. Met ‘n defnitiewe klik sluit die deur agter haar. Vir Marieta is dit die mooiste klank. Die deur simboliseer haar onafhanklikheid asook haar nuwe lewe. Sy het al die negatiewe gebeuretenisse agter gelaat en bewys sy kan dit doen. Sy moes baie brûe oorbrug om tot hier te kom. Die feit dat sy op pad is na die grootste Prokureurs firma in die stad, vir haar laaste onderhoud is ‘n groot oorwinning. Sy het gedroom van hierdie dag vandat sy 18 jaar oud was. Dit het haar 30 jaar gevat, maar sy het dit gemaak. Sy is op die regte plek.

Marieta stap na haar geparkeerde motor onder die afdak in die kompleks, een van die gegoede buurte in Pretoria. Met ‘n vinnige druk van die knoppie ontsluit sy die kattebak en plaas haar aktetas binne en druk die bak toe. Elke stap vat haar nader na haar toekoms en opgewondenheid bruis deur haar. Sy voel lig en vry en sy glimlag vir haar weerkaatsing in die motorvenster.

‘n Vinnige kyk na agter ry sy agteruit. Vir oulaas kyk sy na haar beeld in die truspieëltjie. Die vrou wat terug kyk is professioneel. Elke haar op sy plek. Met ‘n rustige verandering van ratte volg sy die geplaveide pad na die hoofhek toe. Sy word vriendelik gegroet deur die dag sekuriteit en trek haar kaart deur die kontrole paneel. Die hek swaai geruisloos oop en sy ry stadig vorentoe.

Gister se byvoeging was ‘n groen padda wat op die toilet sit en boek lees. Mamma het gedink dit sal perfek op die boekrak lyk en oupa het net onderlangs gebrom. “’n Mens sou dink die vrou het nou al genoeg van die slymerige goed, maar nee, hier is weer een, net so verspot soos die res.” Sy kon nie help om te lag nie en haar ma het hom net geïgnoreer. “Gun haar, haar plesiertjie,” sê oupa Jan gereeld. Wanneer hy kom kuier. Maar oupa Hans het geen geduld met die goed nie. Skuif dit gereeld rond, vernaamlik wanneer ma naby is… dit jaag haar die harnas in. Ma se waardevolste besitting is die padda-teestel, kompleet met ‘n teepot, die tuit lyk kompleet soos die bek van ‘n padda en sy ril – sy hou nie daarvan nie. Oupa maak gereeld vir hom koffie in die koppie, sonder ma se medewete.  Dit is haar en Oupa se geheim.

Anna fokus weer op haar doel. Paddas gaan haar nie nou help nie. Die taak moet Maandag in wees en sy het inligting nodig om die taak te voltooi. Hopelik is daar ‘n boek wat dit aan haar kan verduidelik. Een wat nie hoogdrawende woorde bevat nie. Haar Oupa glo nie aan die wêreldwye web nie. Hy sê dit is net ‘n onnodige euwel en verkwisting van sy geld. Hulle het al hoeveel keer daaroor gestry, maar hy hou voet by stuk.

“Pa het die gewoonte gehad om Sondae middae te dut. Klokslag. Ons kon ons horlosies maar stel… nie dat ons gehad het nie… maar jy verstaan wat ek bedoel.” En Anna knik haar kop. Oupa is ook so. Klokslag. En sy lag saam. “My pa was baie lief vir sy pyp ook, en die ding was nooit te ver van sy soekende hande af nie. So gebeur dit dat pa op die bepaalde Sondagmiddag weer gaan slaap met die pyp in sy broeksak vergete. Die Sondagmiddag stilte het net begin neerdaal toe ons ‘n skreeu hoor. Onaards en vreesaanjaend. Ek was soos blits by pa se bed, nie seker wat om te verwag nie… maar wat ek gesien het, het ek beslis nie verwag nie.” Oupa skater dit nou behoorlik uit, so asof hy dit weer beleef en Antjie lag saam, nie vir die storie nie maar vir oupa.

“Ai my kind, dit was nou ‘n sien wat nie ontsien kan worre nie…,” en hy proes toe Anna hom verstom aankyk, geen benul wat hy nou eintlik probeer sê nie. Almal lag gewoonlik saam hier maar Anna kon die deel nog nooit verstaan nie en bly maar stil. “Jy sien, toe ek in die kamer kom het my pa, jou grootjie, se broek op die vloer gelê. Die pyp het hom gebrand en agterna het ons uitgevind hy het gedroom van ‘n slang. Toe hy die slang probeer klap toe…” oupa bly skielik stil en bloos bloedrooi.

“Hulle was so vinnig op ons dat ons net in geskokte stilte kon toekyk hoe Pa op die mat neergeplof het, sy kop was in twee gesplit; sy growwe hande pers geskuur teen die bindings. Pa het hard probeer om sy familie te red maar dit het ons niks gebaat nie. Hulle het geen genade betoon aan hom in die meëdoenlose afbreek van sy liggaam nie: die oopkloof van sy skedel was eintlik ‘n genade hou wat ek verwelkom het op daardie oomblik. Ma het nog probeer smeek, maar ons kon net hulpeloos toekyk hoe hulle pa Dries verander het van ‘n forse boer tot ‘n voosgeslane pulp van menswees. Daar was niks heel aan hom nie. Sy bloed het vryelik gevloei oral in die vertrek. Ek het later verstaan dat die hele huis in ons bloed geverf was.” Herman sluk aan die knop in sy keel, en laat sak sy bruin kykers vir ‘n wyle. Nou, na al die jare, is die gebeure van daardie dag nog steeds vars in sy geheue.  Hy kug en gaan dan voort met die vertelling wat internasionaal opslae maak.

“Daardie beeld sal my altyd by bly. Die finale slagting het ons aldrie uit ons verslae toestand geruk en Lisa het hard probeer om by Pa uit te kom maar die booswigte het haar vasgeklem en terug gehou. Ons angsgille het onbeheersd en aaklig deur die lug geklief. Vrees het ons sinne beroof. Ma het nog probeer, vir oulaas, haar hande opgelig in ‘n stop teken maar dit was alreeds te laat. Pa was dood.

Historiese Roman

Die Oosgrens se skilderagtige natuurskoon het skuiling gebied aan verskeie roofdiere waarvan die tweevoetige soort die wreedste is. Hulle kon net nie hul waaksaamheid verslap nie en was slaap ʼn luukse. Haar lyf was nie meer die lang togte gewoond nie en sy het dit deeglik gevoel.

 Bo-op die kop het sy die plaashuis beskou met hernude krag. Die plaas het soos ʼn oase hulle nadergewink en die laaste paar myl is haastig afgelê. Selfs die osse was haastig om die groenigheid en koelte te bereik.

Toe hulle die werf inkom, lei die drywer die osse behendig onder die koelte van die bome in. Dit al klaar is ʼn hemelse gevoel. Die osse se vrolike gebulk en gemaal vul die lug en hulle skop behoorlik stof op wat neerdaal in ʼn swierige warrelwind voor dit tot ruste kom op mens en dier.

Bly om uiteindelik ʼn bekende gesig te sien, bondel Celeste haar romp om haar enkels en spring af, haar gehawende velskoene duidelik sigbaar.

"Welkom op Môregloed, liewe nig." Met stram bene kom Celeste op die grond te lande en probeer haar moeë spiere strek. Kans vir strek is egter min soos wat sy in ʼn liefderike druk vasgepen word. Die reuk van varsgebakte brood wat aan Fleur hang laat haar onmiddellik ontspan. Met ʼn klapsoen word sy nader getrek en Celeste lag verleë.

"Dankie Fleur, hoe gaan dit met julle?"

"Goed, goed. Kom in, jy moet uitgeput wees. Die koffie is hoeka al gereed." En saam swaai hulle in die rigting van die huis.

Daar is min vrouens wat daarop kan roem dat hulle nog ʼn maagd is na twee jaar se huwelik, iets waaroor sy baie dankbaar is. Sy aanraking was nie liefdevol en sag nie. Die vuis en tong se hale het haar onskuld vertrap. Dit het haar van haar onskuld ontneem, haar lyf ʼn ope kaart van sy geweld. Haar vel weerspieël die lang, uitmergelende tye op die landerye.

Ten spyte van die hitte is sy dankbaar vir die klere wat elke duim van haar bedek; haar skuiling teen die nuuskierigheid en ʼn skans teen haar opmerksame niggie se vraende oë. Van die oomblik wat sy daar aangekom het, het Fleur se deurdringende kykers haar met medelye betrag. Dit was simpatie wat sy nie wou hê nie, dit sal haar sag maak. Sy moet opstaan en simpatie gaan dit nie doen nie. Sy het lank genoeg weggekruip agter haar vernedering.

Daardie vernedering was vererger deur sy openlike keuses. Sy was die slaaf in die huis. Alhoewel sy wettig sy vrou was, was sy gelyk aan die werkers op die plaas. Haar taak was vermoeilik deur die langdurige blootstelling van mishandeling deur sy houvrou.

Om te ontvlug het sy meer tyd op die lande deurgebring waar die volk haar alles geleer het omtrent die boerdery. Hulle was haar familie en sy het vir hulle gesorg soos ʼn moeder vir haar kinders. Op die dag van sy dood het sy die brief aan Fleur gestuur en binne ʼn week het sy die antwoord gekry om te kom. Daardie selfde dag was haar paar besittings gepak en die osse gespan.

As ʼn laaste afskeidsgroet het sy die plaashuis aan die brand gesteek. Alles wat aan Darius behoort het, is verbrand. Vuur was haar vertroosting en genesing. Abe en Isaac het aangedring om saam met haar te kom en onwillekeurig het sy ingestem, iets waaroor sy eintlik baie bly was. Hulle bystand het gehelp op die lang roete.

"Hallo, Robert, ek is net so bly om jou te ontmoet," antwoord sy glimlaggend. Sy kniel langs die twee en gee Robert ʼn stywe drukkie. Nico staan terug en staar haar oopmond aan. Celeste besluit om hom eerste te groet. "Hallo, Nico, aangename kennis, Monsieur." Skamerig druk hy homself agter sy broer in sonder enige woord of glimlag. Celeste kan nie help om dadelik van die twee te hou nie. Intense blou oë staar na haar vanuit hul sproetgesiggies.

"Hoe oud is jy, Robert?"

"Ek esth vyfth en my broer esth drieth," lispel hy kordaat en onmiddellik steek klein Nico drie vingers in die lug.

"Hy praath ni met vreemdelinge ni," verduidelik Robert skamerig.

"Robert, jou maniere," onderbreek Fleur hulle, maar Celeste skerm gou.

"Wel, môreoggend sal ek nie meer ʼn vreemdeling wees nie. Sal julle my wil help om gemmerkoekmannetjies te bak as dit reg is met Mamma?"

"Kan onse mummie, kan onse ssebliefth?" vra albei gelyktydig en kyk na hul ma met verlangende ogies.

"Natuurlik kan julle, Chéri, maar nou is dit tyd vir julle bad. Kom seuns." Fleur vryf haar rug terwyl sy uitstap, stop by die deur en draai dan weer om. "Ek is nou weer terug, maak jouself tuis. Die koffie is reg, jy kan net ingooi. Dit is heerlik koel buite, sien jou nou weer."

"Daar is nie sulke luukshede hier op die grens nie. Ons het ʼn swart vrou wat nie te vêr van hier af bly nie. Liza was by tydens albei die seuns se bevallings. Ek het baie vertroue in haar. As ʼn sametrekking begin, sal Anna haar gaan haal."

"Ek kan ook help, my pa het my goed opgelei. Ek het al twee babas alleen die wêreld ingebring."

"Chéri, dit is fantastiese nuus!" Fleur omhels haar spontaan. "Sodra vroue hiervan uitvind, gaan hulle jou besig hou." Fleur lag ʼn sorgvrye en speelse lag. Celeste se gemoed styg met nog ʼn aks. Uiteindelik kan sy van nut wees.

"Ek kan saam met jou gaan en sorg dat jy gemaklik is voordat ek ook gaan inkruip."

"Tot dusver kom ek reg, maar as ek jou nodig kry sal ek jou roep."

"Dit is goed."

"Goeie nag, Celeste, Chéri."

"Goeie nag, liewe Fleur."

Met ʼn steun staan Fleur op en verdwyn die huis in, skoene in die hand.

Toe Celeste uiteindelik alleen is, ontspan sy heeltemal. Die soel aandlug se ligte briesie dans oor haar vel. Instinktief maak sy haar bolla los en laat die bries deur haar hare speel. Met haar kop agteroor weet sy niemand sal die ongewenste trane sien nie. Die hele aand was ʼn oorweldigende ervaring vir ʼn seer siel. Dit versterk net opnuut hoe alleen sy werklik is en dit verhoog die drang om te kan behoort. In een kort dag is sy opgeneem in ʼn liefdevolle huis, maar dit is nog steeds nie haar eie nie.

"Montre-moi ton chemin, cher Seigneur."

(Wys my U pad, liewe Heer.)

Celeste se trane sit vlak en dadelik draai sy weg. Hierdie liefdevolle oomblik tussen ma en seun is net te veel vir haar om te aanskou. 

Toe Anna later die gemmerbroodmannetjies inbring, volg twee pare oë opgewonde … eers vir Anna en toe vir Celeste, wat die plaat by haar vat. Anna se sagte lag vul die kombuis en albei vrouens giggel saam.

"Pasop, die plaat is warm, julle twee!" keer Celeste toe hulle te naby daaraan kom.

"Ik ga ok een kry?" vra Nico weer.

"Tante Celeste het mosth gesê onse ga elkeen twee kry, né tante Celeste?" Vraende blou ogies staar op na haar en sy knik.

"Dit is reg, Robert. Julle kan elkeen twee mannetjies kry. Wag net ʼn bietjie dat hulle eers afkoel." ʼn Klein vingertjie word uitgestoot reg om aan ʼn koekie te raak toe Celeste net betyds keer. Toe sy uiteindelik twee koekies in elkeen se hande plaas, byt hulle met genot groot happe daaruit.

"Wees versigtig, Seuns, dit is nog steeds warm," waarsku Celeste, maar hulle gretigheid het eenvoudig die hitte geblus. Beide kinders se wange bol van die lekkerny. Skamerig uiter Nico: "Dankith, Tante Celes." Haar naam is duidelik te moeilik om uit te spreek en sy glimlag teer. "Dit is ʼn plesier … nog een?"

"Mag ikth, Mummy?" Nico draai na sy ma, die een handjie klaar gereed.

"Ja, jy mag, maar dan is dit tyd om na die diere te gaan kyk. Jacob het julle twee hoeka al kom soek."

"Celeste Reyneke," sê sy terwyl sy haar kop kantel om hom beter te kan sien. Sy goue ongetemde baard is bewys van hul tyd in die veld wat die grootste gedeelte van sy gesig bedek. Haar oë beweeg hoër op en sy merk die woeste boskasie wat smeek vir ʼn skêr. Dit laat hom wild en ongenaakbaar voorkom, maar sy sagte oë spreek die teendeel. Blousel-blou kykers staar na haar met genoegdoening. ʼn Fyn glimlag huiwer om sy lippe in teenstelling met die imposantheid van die man.

"Laat my toe om jou te help, Celeste," bied hy aan en steek sy groot hande uit om die skotteltjie by haar te neem.

"Dankie, Monsieur."

"Jy moet Fleur se niggie wees?" sê-vra hy en gaan voort om die skottel uit haar hande te neem en op die tafel neer te sit.

"Ja, ek is. Ek het gister gekom." Celeste stap na die wasskottel, neem die boerseep en was haar hande deeglik.  

"Ook net betyds, lyk dit vir my."

"Definitief, anders sou Anna haar beslis moes help." Sy lag verleë. Haar hart mis ʼn slag en slaan dan bollemakiesie toe sy die deurdringende oë ontmoet. 

"Kan ek vir jou koffie skink?" vra sy ietwat ongemaklik.

"Dit sal heerlik wees, dankie. Dit is ʼn dogtertjie?" vra hy belangstellend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afrikaanse Nie-Fiksie Uittreksels

Non-FictionSnippets

It has been a while since my last writing. With so much that has happened the last year, I never really felt to say something specific. As if words failed me. Or maybe it was just how the Lord has worked with me. But it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that we do as God leads us. On this road of recovery/returning, I am more aware of what I do, and how I do it.

Those who know my path till today, know how much of a financial struggle it is to survive. I wondered if I was listening right on some days. There are days I don’t stay connected with God as much as I should. There are even days that I miss reading or listening to the Word of God.

Ever since the lockdown has begun in 2020, I knew that many things have changed. Looking for work has ground to a stop, but God has supplied in my needs even then. Small favors of grace, actually.

When the government announced the special grant for unemployed people, I submitted my forms as well. When that R300 dropped into my account, it was like manna, sweet as honey. International writers would request a review and pay me for a blog post and so with every payment, when added with the R300 gave me enough of an income, and faithfully I tithe where God directed.

Maybe your writing lacks punch. Or you’ve hit a brick wall.

Don’t give up! With help, your message still has the potential to reach the masses.

I can’t turn you into a bestselling author overnight, and I urge you to suspect anyone who says they can.

But I do believe I can help improve your writing immediately.

  1. Don’t aim to write a bestseller.

That’s the last thing I think about when I start a new book. To have any chance at success, my manuscript must come from my passions, the overflow of what I really care about.

I have no control over the market, sales, reviews, and all the rest. All I can control is how much of myself I give to a writing project.

What’s your passion? What drives you?

Write about that.

Your passion will keep you at the keyboard and motivate you when the writing gets tough—and if you’re doing it right, it always does.

  1. Always think reader-first.

Write Think Reader First on a sticky note and place it where you can see it while you’re writing.

Your sole job is to tell a story so compelling that your reader gets lost in it from the get-go.

Treat your readers the way you want to be treated and write what you would want to read.

That’s the Golden Rule of Writing.

Never let up, never bore. Always put your reader first.

The last couple of months were the most exciting but also hurtful time I had in a very long time, although silent in the sense that I didn’t write anything my life had undergone twists and turns; each opportunity a learning curve where I discovered so much of myself, as a person.

As a woman walking this path alone, I realized my vulnerability and how people would use you, sometimes even with your permission. For a long time I lived in a very safe cocoon allowing others to think for me but since I made the bold step to stand on my own, taking responsibility for myself, I realized that my understanding of life was very much shaped by my circumstances, and the people or culture I lived in at the time. In short, I wasn’t street smart and I had to learn quickly how to fit in or be devoured.

Because of the safe haven I perceived people in black and white with little or no grace towards them. Now those unyielding glasses had fallen away and my awareness of life became more colourful; making room not only for my own mistakes but those I’ve met. Life isn’t rigid or set in stone but a kaleidoscope of laughter and passion, where I discover new opportunities at every corner—venturing out in the unknown to find incredible prospects and beautiful things along the way. At times I’m amazed at my own boldness walking into places I would not have dreamed to do previously and in the process made friends: my pioneer spirit revelling in the new person emerging from the cocoon.

In my vulnerability I’ve learned to trust my gut; I made mistakes when I disobeyed that little voice who diligently watch over me. While doing this I learned to have fun laughing more than I did in a long time. I learned that it’s okay to mess up—no longer do I chastise myself in doing so—and at times ate some humble pie but it taught me valuable skills that serve me in my daily life and work environment. I work with people every day and at times I experience the good, the bad and the ugly all in a span of one week. As human beings we have different perceptions but when finely tuned in—making the effort—the ugly turns out beautiful, the bad good and the good sometimes bad. Life is a fine balance between them all.

As a visionary, it is imperative that you remain blessable. Translation, you must adhere to a set of beliefs and behaviours that reflect this connection. Your creativity may want to develop in a certain direction that will set you apart from "competitors", however, you must embrace the standards set forth by your connection. If you follow Christ, the Scripture will be your guide. If you follow a more spiritual or traditional belief, you follow that guidance.

Since I am a believer, I can advise from the scripture. Take it with an open mind and see the results at the end.

2 Chronicles says that the Lord strongly supports those whose hearts are completely his. Question: How important is it to you that the Lord strongly supports what you are doing? If it is important, then your heart must be completely his. When you embrace what is important to him, you bring your heart into alignment with his. When your heart is completely his, you are blessable.

We can divide your core beliefs and behaviours into two categories: general and specific.

General beliefs and behaviours are what every person/believer should adhere to. Things like honesty, purity, and integrity should be embraced regardless of our vision.

Failure to follow the general standards has caused countless visions to come apart at the seams. We have all seen visions damaged by mishandled finances and unresolved relational conflicts. Or miscarriage and abortion had taken place before fulfilment because of jealousy, pre-mature speaking, etc. It accounts for just about every failed vision I know of.

Specific beliefs and behaviours are specific to your particular vision. I can't tell you what these would be for you. You must figure them out on your own, with God's help.

 

 

 

 

 

Afrikaanse Nie-Fiksie Uittreksels

English Snippets

Genre Snippets 

Historical Romance

December 25, 1623

It has been two years since our journey of survival began in Africa. Two years since I have written anything down in my diary, the only book I was able to save on that hopeless night of September 29, 1621.

But before I capture those terrible events, I want to pen down my love’s reaction to the estate we will be living in for the rest of our lives.

In the end it became possible for us to be together. The price was high, but we have survived and I know with Cisco at my side I can face anything else.

As a Christmas gift I gave him full ownership of my estate. It has been handed down from generation to generation of Artiagas. I knew he would be the perfect landowner to continue the legacy my family started, and that my inheritance was safe.

When Rosa-Lee climbed on his lap to give him a big wet kiss he smiled down at her and gave her a bear hug. The last few days he had been extremely emotional. We both felt a deep compassion for him. I feel proud to know this man, my husband, Cisco Almaida. When I handed him the papers he was shocked. Disbelief shone clear in the blue depths of his eyes. He had the same expression when we first arrived two days ago.

He could not believe the large estate or the castle, built by my great-great grandfather all those years ago.

When we arrived Cisco only stared at the estate, the manicured gardens and lawns only yellow due to the cold weather, and I had to encourage him to step into the castle as man of the house. This was more than he ever dreamed of. His mind was stunned and dumbfounded at the magnitude of the riches he faced.

Gathering the cream fabric of her skirt in her hands she ran down the road to the harbour to meet the captain of the ship she recognized. She was hoping that it would be good news about her brother but the sense of dread did not leave her small body as her chestnut hair streamed behind her, her small oval face wary and troubled.

The months of waiting in anticipation of Pedro had been too long. They stayed a close-knit family, especially Mother, Father and herself, but the two boys who had not yet had adventures did not understand the dangerous side of sailing ships. It sounded foreign and distant to them, just stories they had heard all their lives. But Rosa-Lee and her parents knew how quickly things could change on the sea. They had lived on it and had survived its worst.

Pedro was still very young, inexperienced about life.

Rosa-Lee’s dress whipped against her legs as she ran down the shoreline into the town, her lungs burning with the unusual exercise. Today she did not see the splendour of the sea or land, the birds flying just over the top of her head. She did not notice the familiar faces, townspeople who waved at her and flashed toothy smiles. She just wanted to find out any news. With only the Contra O Vento coming in she was worried.

“Cisco, you have called for me. Where’s the patient?”

Cisco Almaida visibly shook for the first time in his life. His whole family was endangered by one man’s insanity. Wrapping his arms around his wife, he caressed her back and in return, tiny hands held his broad back, caressing him.

Watching his daughter over on the settee, he could see raw emotions running over the youthful face. Then at last he followed the familiar voice to his friend and family doctor. He swallowed at the bile in his throat, got his voice back, and said,

“Doctor Vasco, please come in. It is Jean. He was wounded.” Cisco turned to Captain Jean, still holding his wife around the shoulders. The captain was still sitting on the chair, as white as a sheet, miserably in pain.

“Is there somewhere we could lie him down so that he can be more comfortable?”

“Yes, Doctor, please follow me,” said Rosa-Lee, who had come to her senses, lifting her eyes and wiping the tears away. Her mother was still distracted. She did not hear anything else around her. Tears streamed down her face but she made no sound.

Straightening herself, Rosa-Lee walked to the injured Captain Jean, helping him to his feet. With the aid of the doctor, supporting him between them, she got him to the nearest bedroom, where they laid him down. Rosa-Lee helped to remove his jacket. They saw the gaping sword-wound clearly, his shirt and trousers on the right side drenched with blood.

Ochre eyes roamed over the enticing body wrapped in green taffeta. The dark braided hair lay over a creamy shoulder. Her bodice clung to the small frame in the latest fashion. Her perky breasts looked ripe for the plucking. He grinned at the picture he knew he will enjoy.

She stepped away from her parents with anger still visible on her face. She gathered her dress in her hands and walked up the plank with a steady gait and a rigid back, small shoulders straight, showing no fear, to where the pirate waited. She looked at him, eyes locking his with defiance. His guffaw rumbled up his throat, mocking her. She pulled her chin up. Without a word, she turned to wave to her parents.

Rosa-Lee Almaida definitely has some backbone, Roberto smiled. Backbone I would like to break and bend to my will. Yes, I am definitely going to enjoy this voyage.

He turned his attention back to the ship and barked orders still aware of Rosa-Lee at the railing.

She stood there until the white sails were set high above her, the breeze filling them with snapping sounds. Wood creaking, the ship started to sail away from the harbour. They moved far high, and farther over the blue depths, small waves tossing against the hull, until she could not see her parents anymore.

Walking to the bow, a man busy with ropes looked at her with interest. She ignored him, touching the taffrail to keep her balance. She could look far around her, the west coast of Africa noticeable on the horizon. The ship clove the clear waters. A light sea spray met her that was welcoming in the heat. It was her first time taking a voyage again.

Her mind wandered very far from her immediate surroundings, thinking about a similar voyage twenty years ago when she was only four years old. Memories flooded back; of how they had met the giant they now knew as Cisco Almaida. She remembered how she ran up to him, telling him that she would be his daughter because he didn’t have one and looked sad. From that day forward there was a bond between that sailor, now her father, and herself.

She remembered hugging his thick leg, feeling safe. His hug in return was hesitant because the captain did not allow any contact between the passengers and the crew. In her young mind she did not know of the trouble she had caused him, only that she had a longing for a father figure. Her father was never interested in her, never around, or when he was he was always drunk. She had always been afraid of her biological father and had never had the liberty to run up to him and hug him as she could with the giant.

When Rosa-Lee finally stood up to leave the cabin Roberto also stood up and asked, “Would you care to go up and walk with me on the deck?”

Hazelnut eyes met ochre ones and for a few seconds they just locked before she answered, her eyes revealing her shock at the invitation.

“Yes, I would like that.” It was still early and she was not in the mood to confine herself in her cabin. After three days of self-imposed lock-up, she wanted to feel the wind in her hair and the sea spray on her face. The fact that he asked her to walk with him shocked her the most.

Be alert Rosa-Lee. He cannot be trusted!

Darkness filled the starry night sky. The quarter moon made it even darker. Lit lanterns on the upper deck added a romantic feeling, she thought, not a scene she was comfortable sharing with the pirate.

You could barely see anything out on the sea as they walked along the taffrail on the deck. Only the sound of the ship breaking through the waters interrupted the silence. The few men that were on duty were quiet, nodding when they passed. If she did not know better, she would have thought that they were alone.

“Your brother has told me a lot of stories about what you endured during your adventures into Africa. Don’t you want to tell me a story?”

 

Contemporary Romance

  Suddenly her cell phone rang, disturbing the stillness, but she smiled. The Caller ID showed it was her best friend, Monica. Of all her friends, she was closest to her, and was the heart of the group with her sparkling personality; always busy arranging parties or schemes, especially where boys were concerned.

Anabella trusted her as she was the only one who knew what was really going on at her house. Not that she ever allowed her to come over. For that, she was too ashamed, but she knew enough and was always close. When things got bad, she could always turn to her. Although Monica was a cheerful person and looked like a ‘dumb blond’, she had shown maturity in a lot of things over the years, something that was not well known in their group.

“Hi, Moni.”

“Hi, Bell! You in the mood for a party at my house tonight?”

She could hear Monica was excited - almost out of breath because of it - and she could see her, as if she was standing right in front of her. However, Anabella did need to rest. Her muscles were still stiff after the practice.

“Not tonight, Moni, I really need to rest. Tomorrow is a big day and I must be in top form,” she said with a sigh, smiling because of her friend’s anxiousness.

“Please, Bell, do come, please, even if it is only for an hour or so.” Monica sounded very eager, almost desperate.

What was she up to again? “Moni, I can’t come, please understand.”

Once outside, he led her to an unoccupied chair where she sat down, bending shapely legs under her. He sat directly in front of her, his eyes never wavering, even though it seemed she was not aware of him.

Anabella was aware; the butterflies in her tummy told her he was watching her every move. Even when Mr. Richter and Tim spoke to him, she could still feel his gaze on her, sipping away at his drink. His posture was relaxed and at ease. He knew the family well she realized as she watched him listen to Mr. Richter with keen interest.

Sometimes, she turned to Monica and her other friends to talk to them, only to look back at him. Each time she found his eyes on her and a smile playing on his lips. She wasn’t uncomfortable under his stare; she rather enjoyed his blunt way of looking at her.

Anabella wished she was a bit more outgoing in order to speak to him, but she didn’t know what to say. She knew he was a lawyer at a successful firm, but other than that she knew nothing about him. This was something she wanted to change, but her shyness prevented her from speaking freely, and then there was the age difference.

He was out of her league; no way would he find her fascinating. She couldn’t understand why she felt so uneasy about it. There were many couples whose age difference wasn’t a problem. Her parents were an example. Her mother and father differed in age by fifteen years and they had a ‘happy’ marriage. If you could call what they had a marriage―it worked for them.

He smiled as he brushed his fingers against her arm, the feeling sending shivers down her spine. They chatted and she told him more about the practices and a competition she would participate in at the end of the week; just a friendly race at the club.

The air hummed with electric currents and her heart raced. He leaned in closer and semi-whispered, “I have missed you.” This was followed by a kiss, which made all the others feel like child’s play. They couldn’t get enough of each other, her body responding under his touch, his warm hand caressing it gently.

“I’ve missed you, too,” she finally said as his eyes moved over her black bikini appraisingly, smiling at her blush. She felt his warm hand on her ribs, a thumb stroking her skin. She was aware of every touch, so much so her skin was covered in goose bumps. Breathless, she said, “Badly, I can’t stop thinking about you.”

“You have done something to me, something I’ve never felt before. You occupy my thoughts every day. I am acting like a lovesick teenager.”

“I know how you feel, and I am a love sick teenager.”

He chuckled at her innocence.

After the championships the previous year, and the three gold medals she brought home, she received a letter from the Olympic Committee informing her she’d been invited to compete in the next Olympics, which would take place in four years. She also swam for the university team. Mr. Clark―her new coach―was very strict, which she didn’t mind at all. She had a lot of support from the university, her classmates, friends, and Aldrich. His constant encouragement with either a phone call or text message uplifted her, and gave her the assurance to excel. She received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from his firm after her last championship in March, and in return thanked the partners with a handwritten note.

The last year of student life would be a very busy one, filled with studies and the Olympics simultaneously, the same year she would turn twenty-one. Time was of the essence, and the last thing she needed was her personal life interfering with her future.

How she and Aldrich would come together, she didn’t know, but she knew that she missed the teddy bear, his warm arms and those gorgeous lips; dreamy. The void when she’d left his arms the night of the dance was still incredibly real to her.

Once outside her room, she noticed that the hallway was thankfully empty, although she could hear the two couples in her parents’ room. The door was closed. At least some of them have modesty.

When she walked downstairs, a big, hairy man who was only wearing a shirt, stood at the bottom of the staircase in full view, rubbing himself. His eyes focused on someone in the living room.

She had to get past him, as well as make her away around him, but knew it would be futile since he left no room for her to do just that. She clutched her bag tightly against her body, her clothes draped over her arm, holding it all between them in order to obscure her view. She really didn’t want to see.

The moment he noticed her, he grabbed her arm with his free hand and pulled her to him with a grin. His breath reeked of smoke and brandy, and his voice was husky with lust. “Come here, doll,” he drawled.

Anabella wanted to shrink in total horror. With her bag, she pushed him away to set herself free, but he managed to grab her breast, ripping two buttons from her shirt. Desperately, she fought hard, not letting go of the bag in her hands. But her clothes fell around her feet, almost tripping her in her haste to get away. By now, she knew she was in trouble. She dug her car keys into his hand, and he released immediately. She managed to pull herself free, running to the front door; her only hope of escape and safety, the bag still clutched in her hand.

Futuristic Thriller

Tanya knew that in her mom’s mind she still hoped that the man would come back, even after all those years. Looking at her half-brother she could recognize the fear of want in him – maybe he had been the reason she took the time to talk some sense into her mother. He seemed like a bright youngster, but schooling wasn’t in his future now and she doubted it ever would be if things continued the way they were going. When she rode away from the informal settlement that day she knew she would never see her mother again. That was four years ago.

At the age of sixteen Tanya took over the position of mother to the youngest children and had taken the responsibility of running the farm. Her father would disappear for days, just to be found somewhere he had fallen asleep again after another drunken binge. Sometime later, he too left the farm and became a bum. Her father died a broken man who couldn’t accept the changes or face the neglect. The sheer powerlessness of the problems that he had to face continued to mount, and it eventually drained his will to fight.

Now, on days like this, she could understand his despair that she felt most days. Powerless.

Unlike her father, she had the will to confront things, but nowadays even her will was starting to slip. She knew it. She didn’t see what he had seen in his time, so she was in no position to judge him.

The death of his own father broke him. The death of his land and dwindling account left him bankrupt in both body and soul. She could only tap into the strength of the love for her son and the country she still had after all this time. She owed it to her son to give him something better.

What? She had no idea.

How? She had no plan.

However, the fact remained that she had to keep going, even if it took all her willpower to get ahead.

The acid water seeping through the pores of the earth poisoned everything it touched. Because they had nowhere to go, they stayed.

There was no money to rectify the previous government’s mistakes. All the resources were stolen and moved out of the country. Many of the former leaders lived exotic somewhere else in the world with money that was never theirs in the first place. The last Tanya had heard was that two prominent groups worked together sending a petition to the International Criminal Tribunal: They felt that these former leaders should be prosecuted for their crimes against the citizens of South Africa. If they would stand trial or not was still a hotly-discussed subject debated around many kitchen tables. That would not help the country or its people. The damage was worse than anybody could imagine.

Nevertheless, anarchy ruled in the country that had once been peaceful and undisturbed by human intervention. Now it wasn’t strange to see young children walking around with AK47’s, handguns or machetes in their hands which they hardly knew how to use.

Arrogant, cocky and self-assured these small bandits roamed the country, intimidating the people and small towns as far as they went. Nobody was safe where they walked. On ground level skin colour wasn’t a problem, people simply worked together to survive. In the previous regime Black Economic Empowerment or BEE ─ the abbreviation more commonly used, broke the people’s spirit and was diligently enforced so that they had no income.

Yes,” Edna replied, we have a good doctor that helps us now and then when we need it and honey, you needed it.”

“But, how…”

“No need to worry, dear, we are here to help each other, and you came just in time, if Etienne hadn’t discovered you the next day, you wouldn’t have survived.”

“They killed Brutus, Ma.” Steve choked out. “Why did they kill my dog?”

Tanya could hear the bitter anguish in his voice. She leant forward to touch him and for a brief moment they touched hands before he pulled away again.

“I am so sorry honey, Brutus was a good friend. We will miss him.”

“Yes,” he whispered and quickly left the room, leaving her alone with the strangers.

“How is he doing?” Tanya asked as her eyes followed him out the room.

“He is doing better,” Edna remarked. “He is a strong young man, same as his mother. You raised a fine boy.”

“Thanks,” she replied, choking back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her.

“Now, now, you can be proud of what you have done so far. We have watched you for several years now. The fact that you have survived all this time while raising that young man is impressive and we would like you to join us.”

“What do you mean, join you. Who are you?” her eyes darted from the man - who, until now had not said a word - to the older woman who just stared at her.

“More about that later, dear; for now you need to get better.”

“I need to go home.” Tanya insisted, suddenly very much in a hurry. Whoever these people were she had a bad feeling about them. She tried to throw off the sheet but flinched as pain shot through her body.

“Tanya you are not strong enough to be alone, besides, you have no food at home.” Patrick spoke for the first time directly to her. He had a deep authoritative voice that she was sure not many undermined.

“No, I need to get home. I will find food.”

“Tanya, sweetie, we cannot let you go in this condition. You are not fit to care for yourself or your son. These people will return, and I am afraid they won’t leave you until you’re dead and your place burnt to the ground. Is that what you want?” Edna persisted.

“No, but I cannot stay here.” Tanya said, her body shaking from the quick movements. Sweat pearled on her face and one slipped right passed her left eye.

“Good afternoon sweetie, did you sleep well?” Edna opened the curtains all the way and the late midday sun streamed into the room.

Tanya untangled herself from the sheets that felt as it suffocated her. No wonder she thought as she finally woke sufficiently to realize she had slept in sweat.

“Wait, let me help you, how do you feel today?” After Tanya blinked her eyes a few times she could see Edna clearly, she touched her one eye and felt the swelling had gone down a bit which pleased her.

“I am good, thanks,” flinching she tried to pull herself up. The sudden effort made her head spin and she knew she had to get up and move again. She couldn’t recall a time that she was in bed for so long, but yet, her body slumped back against the pillow.

“Do you want me to help you to the bathroom?” Edna handed her a glass of cold water and greedily she swallowed the contents; allowing the coldness to cool her down. This was pointless. She held out her glass, “Could I have more, please?”

“Of course, sweetie,” and Edna poured more water into the glass from a chilled jug. This time she took it slower, savouring each sip as it rolled down her throat.

“I must look a mess?”

“You look like someone who had survived an ordeal; don’t worry about anything else. You look good for where you have been.”

“Thanks Edna, you always know how to make me feel better.” And she smiled appreciatively at her.

“Come let me help you up and then you can take a refreshing shower. Patrick would like to speak with you when you are done.”

“About?” she looked at the woman sceptically. The night’s events flooded her mind and again she was confronted with the same questions.

“You know I said I am going home tomorrow.”

“That you did, dear. Come let me help you.” With that she lifted the sheets all the way from her legs and they managed to get her body to turn and then to rise, slowly. The previous night’s events had caused her body to stiffen up, and she knew she would have to walk today or it would become worse.

Well, in that case let’s finish and I will show you our vegetable garden. After that we need to look at the computer and the secrets it holds. So far no one could decipher any of it.” She smirked incredulously at him, and he slapped her on the bum with a smirk of his own.

“That sounds like a challenge. You are so on, mister,” she replied, walking to the cupboard where Edna had placed more items of clothing for her.

When they finally emerged from the bedroom, Edna waited for them with breakfast in the kitchen.

“Good morning you two,” she greeted them with a wink, “I guess you both had a good night’s sleep.”

Tanya blushed and sat down. Dirk just wiggled his eyebrows at her but remained silent. Steve looked at them both wearily, but a smile did hover over his lips. Patrick’s glare could be felt right across the table, but she greeted the few that were around the table while effectively ignoring Patrick. Dirk took a seat right next to her, holding her hand throughout breakfast.

“What was that scream all about?” Patrick finally asked. Dirk looked at her first, they had talked about it while getting ready. He knew how she felt about this - it wasn’t something she wanted everyone to know, and frankly it was none of their business - then he replied, “Spider.” Everyone laughed and nodded; Thabazimbi was known for its large spider and lizard species.

“I have heard there are these huge spiders running around in Pyrite City.” Roland spoke for the first time; his voice gruff from years of smoking. “Some say there are more lurking in the water than just death.”

Christian Military Romance

CURT WALKED TO THE FURTHEST end of the camp. How could she? Sand drifted into the warm air. And with that person? More sand floated upwards. Out of breath he glanced around, his throat parched.

A jeep pulled up and he waved the soldier closer. The private saluted, but he demanded the keys with a careless gesture. He jumped in and stepped on the accelerator. The engine roared into action as it left the camp in a dust trail.

"That bitch!" he groaned, banging the steering wheel, with tears evaporating in the drive.

Fifteen minutes later Curt stopped at the local tearoom, the owner a well-known patron of the town. Usually Curt refused his subtle offerings, but today he wanted to forget.

Once inside he removed his shades. It took a few seconds to adjust to the dimness.

Elaborated carpets, curtains and cushions divided the room into sections. The cosy place was a favourite amongst the military staff. Satisfied that he had the place to himself, he relaxed. The owner manned the battered counter to the right of him.

As they sped away, a boy waved at them in his run. Up ahead his donkey's gait a two-step as the cans jiggled from side to side.

Each trip to the refugee camps met her with humbleness, the children's toothy grins a personal highlight. What she valued most was their carefree attitude. They cherished life in every moment. With only the bare minimum, they seemed unworried about the future.

For the medical staff it was crucial to venture out to lift the tremendous burden. The influx of exiles gave them no rest while they suffered. She could leave, but the South Sudanese people had no choice. To help them, remained the closest she could come to excellence.

At the hospital they filed out - a tired but satisfied group. Sonia unpacked the van like a robot.

"We will help you."

"Thanks, Alice."

"They shot a doctor today," David informed them when he returned.

"Where?" The weight of their predicament oppressive.

"Khartoum - trapped with protesters inside a house in Buri. They shot him without reason," David said.

"I don't understand this wave of murders. We are here to help them," Sonia said.

"These people have no consciousness," Alice replied.

"We have to be watchful," David agreed.

Reluctant and uneasy Sonia removed the bags with filthy linen. "Take this and I will take those bags inside."

"Thanks, Alice." Sonia placed the clean linen inside the marked crate and closed the lid.

"Good night, Sonia."

"Goodnight, Alice. See you tomorrow."

In the compact kitchen Sonia drank a supplement she always had at hand, showered and went straight to bed. Lathered with enough Tabard, she added a flimsy sheet as a shield against unwanted night crawlers.

It was well after eleven when she flicked off the light. A thick blanket of darkness wrapped around her. A miserable sense which devoured you if you were not careful. Restless she stared out the small window, her thoughts far away. The moment she fell asleep, the woman's face intertwined with her own. It haunted her till she woke. Drenched in sweat she reached for the water. Once her thirst was quenched, she laid back.

"AS-SALAM ALAYKUM, SONIA. What a fine day to do what we love."

"As-Salam Alaykum, Alice."

Alice Abiodun was a local nurse and a dear friend. Her animated nature boosted her energy.

"Here comes David." She waved as he parked. David was the driver, interpreter, their only bodyguard, and liaison.

"As-Salam Alaykum, Dr Wek." He greeted them all. He joined them two months ago and proved to be an asset to the area. His volunteer work gave him the opportunity to serve his country and he did his work with no complaints.

The stoic face of the porter appeared; a set of yellow teeth exposed. "Nurse Main, the matron wants to see you right away."

"Thanks, Max."

"What's up?" Alice said.

"Not sure."

"Hurry, we have a distance to drive today," David said.

At a quick pace she entered the hospital entrance, shivers ran along her spine. With a brief prayer she followed the white corridor. Time and age stained the painted walls. The morning shift rushed around. Lively sounds stemmed from the hospital's walls. The smells and sights were familiar.

At the connected building, a replica of the other, Sonia knocked on Matron Nyanath Haleema's office door at the end of a long corridor.

"Get away from me."

With a dismissive look she picked up her pace to the entrance. Her team waited outside the double glass doors. Alice's gaze turned to the entrance before she looked at her watch. Time was important, by six they must be on the road.

In search of the water, she sighed. She had left her water behind.

"Do you have an extra bottle of water?"

"Yes." Alice handed her a spare. Her gaze focused on Brady. Half-heartedly she made the introductions.

"Major Brady Scott will join us for the next few days. We should cooperate with him."

David moved first and greeted Brady with a cheerful handshake. The rest followed while she got in the packed van. Once seated, she took a long swig.

"Are you okay?" Alice asked, then peered at Brady.

She brushed through the curly hair. "Yes, thanks Alice," and arranged her hair in a scrunchy she had nearby. From her worn bag, the only possession she had left from her parents, she removed sun block.

"You sure? You don't look well?"

"Don't worry, I am fine," she clipped. Her aggravation was palpable.

"Do you know the man?"

THE TOWN BUZZED with people. Their wares balanced on their heads, ready to barter in Bentiu.

Scattered trees lined the gravel road. The rest of the countryside was dry, black and barren. A slight breeze caused toll bushes to cross the veld in a flurry. The rising sun held no promise of rain.

Once they left the busyness behind, the road snaked to the north; dust trailed behind them. The potholes caused uncomfortable moments inside the cabin.

Yet the conversations were amicable. Brady's voice broke the monotone trip. He peppered Dr Wek with questions which the doctor answered in a cool tone.

A heavily pregnant woman hustled towards town, four children behind her. Each balanced a can on their heads, waving at them.

She had to admit Brady looked good. The white shirt which spread over a broad chest, the muscular hands in a flurry as it talked with him. It brought back many memories. The shades concealed the bluest eyes she could drown in.

But time left its mark. His laugh lines were deeper, his skin battered from exposure. The crew cut which framed his face gave him a sharp square appearance that was coated with grey. He was still good looking. Back then, his hair had a natural blond wave.

I hope he jotted security as of the utmost importance. Today we were lucky. It could have been worse, Sonia thought.

She relished the updated version, then stopped with the comparisons. He was part of her former life. No reason to go there.

Terrified and tired people arrived at the camp later in the day. "What happened, David?"

"New arrivals. It seemed they had fled from a village a few kilometres from here. They are in a bewildered state."

"Should I come?"

"No, Ibrahim will call if they need help."

Alice bumped against her. "Look!" On the outskirts of the camp more UN military vehicles arrived.

"Sonia, Alice, they need help with the supplies," Brady called and rolled his sleeves on his way. A lengthy line extended between the trucks and tables. Lines of refugees formed behind the table.

The flurry of movement added more people to the existing masses. Experience caused them to evaluate and give what was needed. They promptly sent those with medical needs to the medic tent. The teams worked in harmony till late.

There were no deaths that day.

"Get this behind you. Whatever troubles you, you must get through it."

It was true. She had to deal with Brady and rethink her life. The baby's death would not be in vain.

"Thank you, Matron. I can make my own arrangements."

"No dear, let me. You have worked hard these last couple of months. Every person on the team enjoyed a restful time away. And yes, I have checked. Since you came to us, you never took a holiday or a weekend." Sonia smiled. She could not argue with that.

Voices reached them and Haleema cut the conversation short: "When last did you eat?" Sonia could not remember.

"Get food in you. You are no good to me sick." She touched her arm in encouragement.

"Sure," she replied.

"I have to run."

"Make it quick!" David said.

While washing hands she realised what a mess she looked. Her normal tan was pale, even with the makeup. From her pocket she removed a lipstick, applied it and left.

Once she turned the corner, she walked into an unmovable wall. She yelped in surprise as firm hands grabbed her and pinned her against the wall in one quick movement. She gasped at the sudden intrusion. Brady Scott's warm breath tickled her cheek.

"SERGEANT CLARK, WHERE is the vehicle report? Ralph put it on my table. I'm sure of it."

After a quick search, Doug handed it to the colonel. "Here it is, Sir."

Curt snapped it away. "Get me, Saunders!" he ordered.

Curt peered out the window. The phone conversation he had with his daughter disturbed him.

Jillian never cried. The truth disclosed through tears shocked him to the core. It was not fabricated from a young, deranged woman looking for attention. No, rather from a much abused one. Why didn't they tell him any of this earlier?

How could Vivian do this?

Her lover seduced Jillian, and she did not stop it. Even his son, Mark, two years younger than Jillian, suffered abuse under the man.

He was still motionless when Clark and Saunders returned.

"Sir?" the sergeant said.

Startled Curt looked at both and barked: "At ease!"

"Take a seat."

With the temperature at 47°C, their clothes were saturated with sweat. A slight breeze filtered through the flaps, but it made no difference. The fan did not disturb the air either.

Curt offered them water and returned to the report, the shortages of parts for the vehicles, serious.

CURT HAD CHECKED THE WEBSITE. If it resembled the pictures, he should enjoy the stay.

At 20h00 he rushed to his quarters and changed into civvies. From the shelf he grabbed an overnight bag, throwing in the necessities. At the last moment, he packed a dress shirt and pants. Maybe…

The mirror showed a person of confidence—a faint grin enhanced the attractive face. He still had it and stretched. The broad shoulders looked great under the shirt and the denim gloved his narrow hips sporting well-toned legs underneath.

The moment he sat in the chopper he relaxed.

All the worries would be Monday's problem.

The younger man was kind enough to offer it to him, and he will not disappoint him.

He laid back and listened as the pilot went through the checklist, and then lifted. The swooping blades overpowered every other sound. God, he loved it, shutting his eyes with appreciation.

Once in the air his thoughts drifted to the children. Guilt: a strong emotion he had to deal with. Vivian's lover left emotional scars on his boy. Mark did not know where he belonged. He always believed his children should find their own path, but he will let go of that resolution if he had too. The military a good straightener.

Curt placed his bag at the back. Inside the cab the guide introduced himself: "My name is Armanno," and proffered a chubby hand.

"Please to meet you, Armanno. Call me Curt." As he pulled into the traffic Armanno pointed out distinctive landmarks, his enthusiasm tangible.

"Where did it all start?" Curt's curiosity peaked.

"It goes back to the 16th Century. During the crusade period."

"That long back?"

"Malta has a proud history. We are the smallest capital city in the European Union. In 1813 we became a British colony and served as a way station for ships. We were an important Allied base for the North Africa and Mediterranean operations. We received our independence in 1964 and became a Republic in 1974. Our history includes the Ottoman invasion. You will find noteworthy museums here. They showcase the relics of each period."

"I never knew it's importance and the vital role it played in history. The museums are on my itinerary for the weekend," Curt promised.

"You will not be disappointed. There is always something new to discover."

They followed Route 6. The landscape changed from city to country. At a circle Armanno turned left. They continued with Triq Vincenzo Dimech road. Minutes later they entered another dense region. The imposing wall of the fortified city in view declared a World Heritage centre. It attracted visitors across the globe.

She whimpered, a quiet sound which echoed his own loss.

He struggled with Vivian's betrayal. Still did. To be this possessive was unlike him. Since his undivided attention he discarded his bitter emotions. What mattered was the present.

Once again, he connected with her and took the smaller hand in his own, the tan covered righthand sported a faint beauty spot on the side. She was not a child anymore—a working woman that enjoys the outdoors. Long delicate fingers enfolded his own, nails short and neat. All of this he took in as he watched her.

"Is this your first visit to the island?" he inquired when their wine arrived.

"Yes, but not my last. It’s a magnificent place."

"Yours?" She inquired…,

"Also my first. How do you know this place?"

"A friend planned the trip," she explained. "The pressure of work kept me busy. I am grateful she did."

He planted a kiss on the knuckle. "I'm so glad I met you, Sonia. The meeting is unusual for me, but I feel at peace with you."

"Me too. As if it was always this way."

Both sipped their wine quietly. Their thoughts an open book for each other. When he squeezed her hand, she blushed.

"Saturday morning, we stopped at St. Andrews Bastion. They use the fortress as a wedding venue, built with limestone back in the day. It has this vintage look, submerged in a spell of historical beauty. While we were there, a marriage was in progress. They decorated the hall with an elegant style fitting to the place. I wish you could see it. The photos don't do justice to the place. The city's rich history complimented each structure, the museums informative and well preserved." He enjoyed the trip.

"At the Sliema Ferry a water polo game created a buzz. The skill they displayed was a marvel to watch. Our next stop was the Grandmaster Palace. Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, it seems you are stepping back into time." Curt loved the construction of the building, and the weapons crammed on the walls gathered over centuries. But mostly, I liked it when he kissed me. She blushed at the thought and cleared her throat.

"A trip to the Upper Barrakka Gardens granted us a spectacular view over the Grand Harbour. Pictures won't do justice, Haleema, come and experience it yourself."

I wish I could introduce you to Curt. We experienced something unexpected.

"I like you, Sonia," he had admitted during the tour. His hands ignited my skin and we virtually made love in an alcove if not for the guide who stopped us.

Self-conscious she scanned the terminal. Certain she was alone at the bar, she continued with her telling.

"At Grand Harbour we boarded a boat which took us to the Valletta waterfront. The shoreline was exactly as the photos showed. A glimmering city ensconced in history. Palm trees dotted the waterline, added splashes of green against the age-old sandstone." He surprised me with the sail. Every moment was precious.

When she heard her name, she glanced sideways. A man bumped into her followed by a prick on her arm. It went dark as she wilted on the concrete.

Muscular arms lifted her in the back of a decrepit van with no effort. He placed her gear next to her sedated body. A door closed and they drove in a northern direction without her knowing any of it.

Another unmarked car followed; the men glared at him. They knew his intent and they were furious.

If Tau Gbadamosi had a choice he would end his life here, but the leader's explicit orders stopped him.

He would not allow him to hurt her. She was precious cargo and valuable to his people. He would stay on them like a tick on a dog.

Determined he called.

IRAQI DESERT

AT 05H00 MONDAY MORNING CURT strode into his office, tired and not in a great mood.

The drive was one lengthy argument with himself. The last day on a loop. The memories pounding waves into his core which crashed against a rock wall.

He was stupid. He had caved. All he wanted now was her. His consciousness berated him with each passing kilometre. He was an old bastard. Why did he promise her?

This weekend he discovered a jewel in Sonia Main. He learned her surname when he booked the same rooms … in six months' time.

He believed in second chances.

He stretched as a roughened hand traced her leg. She squealed under the touch and kicked. A chilling laugh emanated from him; fixated on her breasts. He leaned forward and pinched a nipple through her clothing. She shrieked and tried to kick, but it was no use. He grinned with triumph as he pinched again.

Sonia forced herself to become still, her fear was his fuel. Though difficult, she relaxed. When he spoke in his language, Sonia detected the meaning behind his intentions. His gaze unwavering on her, and she forced herself to be quiet. The smirk disappeared as he pinched her again. Lifeless she met his gaze.

She did not care about his disappointment.

"I will enjoy you. No one will hear your screams. It is just you and me," his threadbare English's message clear enough.

His hands ever-present on her as he continued to touch her. He fiddled with the zipper, but it stuck in his haste.

The small reprieve a welcomed moment, but for how long?

Sonia tried to withdraw herself not to be an easy reach, but he snickered. He held her limbs still, his eyes glazed over as it travelled over her private parts, her insides in turmoil; helpless to protect herself. Lust palpable on his face.

She was in trouble and alone. Her mind in a jumble.

"PLEASE LORD," she whispered, never leaving his face.

He allowed his thoughts to wander. He never showed genuine interest in any girl. Women came to his bed when they needed help. He caved and enjoyed the platter provided. His wife lived with her family. He did not visit her often, as he had no feelings for her. So far she could not give him sons; everyone thought she was cursed and he avoided her.

This woman stirred feelings in him he would not admit to Kwame. He wanted to protect her and claim her. Her eyes pleased him; even her smell turned him on. She was perfect for him. He never considered taking a second wife, but she did things to him. Good things.

Kwame was smart. Maybe he was right. He should ask Roger for her hand; she would make him happy. But, if Roger found her appealing, he would take her into his hut. It would put a stop to his dreams.

He folded his arms and made himself comfortable. With eyes closed he indulged in the fantasy he had concocted of them together. A fantasy so wild that it could not be true.

 

FOR TWO DAYS THEY drove in an eastern direction. The White Nile ever-present as the landscape changed from region to region. Fangak's lifestyle differs from the rest of the country. It was harsher, slower and infested with unknown critters. People were fearful of the place and stayed away, her destination a prison she could not escape from.

They never stopped unless it was for food or to relieve themselves. They drove in silence. Tau never touched her again but took care of her. The driver, Kwame Okiro, took deep puffs from the thin cigar he cradled between yellow teeth.

Each time Sonia woke she watched her abductors, and though they seldom looked at her she knew they were attentive. Their shoulders taught; eyes awake—always scanning the area for any trouble.

"Lift your legs." The action caused discomfort and Sonia helped her. She shrieked in pain.

Tau arrived with more light and the supplies she had asked. From his shoulder a medical bag dangled.

"Where did that come from?" Astounded, she studied him. He just shrugged his shoulders and dozed the fire.

Sonia worked nonstop through the night. The birth was difficult. The woman's tiredness did not help. Fatigued after her own ordeal, Sonia pinched her eyes but kept her vigilance. At dawn she stepped out of the hut with a healthy baby boy. The man's grin faltered as he marched up to her, taking his slumbering son with pride.

"Is Baaka all right?" he asked.

"Yes, she is sleeping," Sonia replied and brushed sweaty hair away. Taking deep breaths, she enjoyed the crispness of the new day. It helped her burning eyes and aching back. People clustered about all watching her from listless eyes.

Her view of the unknown place offered her peacefulness, and she inhaled it. The early morning sunbathed the reeds in golden hues and early birds fluttered in the tops.

The camp's layout was like most camps she had seen, except for the swamp… less dust and bareness. The water stretched all around them, so far back that she lost view. She was in a floating prison, detached from the outside world. Discouraged Sonia realized escape was impossible.

Sonia observed Roger Gisemba, her jailer, inches taller than her for the first time. His gaze fixed on the child he cradled. Pock marks covered his face which gave him a foreboding presence. Like Tau Gbadamosi, he was bald and clean-shaven. The old faded brown chino pants and white shirt, a sharp contrast against his dark skin. A pistol at the belt brought her predicament to the fore front.

There were luxuries she craved, a long soaking bubble bath, for one. Her hair required a wash, shaving would be wonderful and decent food and coffee.

Her overnighter held the essentials which she used sparingly. Baaka gifted her two dresses after her recovery and a headscarf; the gesture moved her. So far from civilization supplies were scarce.

The only other clothing she had was the yellow dress, inappropriate to wear. Happy memories clung to it. Smells, sounds and acceptance hidden within the folds. A weekend cloaked with mysterious freedom. Time gifted her hours of a connection she would love to experience once more. For now, it remained a dream.

Does he remember me? She curt-tailed her thoughts once more.

It will not help you think about it, Sonia. Stay in the present. The past's dreams can do nothing to change your reality.

She scanned the area with a mixture of trepidation and uncertainty, her peace thinly sliced.

"Lord, I have accepted your path though it came at a cost. You gave me hope in the folds of a yellow dress. It holds my future, a future I would love to have. That is my hope. You are my hope. Thank you for the small favours and provision."

This morning the swamp's quietness touched her. Within a week she had found her way and worked in silence. Conditions were not perfect, but she managed.

CURT WOKE WITH ANTISEPTICS which stung his nostrils and gasped. The oxygen tube was uncomfortable, he tried to remove it. His attempt thwarted by a gentle hand.

"Daddy," Jillian's voice broke through the cobwebs.

"Jillian, Pumpkin," he whispered. The youthful face filled with concern. She looked tired.

"Don't talk, Dad, just be still. The nurse will come to help you."

"Thirsty." A glass with a straw appeared before him. Gladly he took the soothing icy water. Tiresome he laid back on the cushions. The worried expression on his daughter's face reminded him where he was.

"What happened?"

"Don't you remember?" Her voice broke. Now he noticed her red swollen eyes, her pale face.

"Pumpkin?"

"Mum is dead."

He gasped in shock. "Mark?"

"He is still alive, but they are not sure if he will make it."

"No," and he tried to get up, but his right leg was heavy, his body tight. Only then did he notice the cast on his leg. Bandages covered his chest and right arm.

"I am so happy you are awake. For a moment I thought I have lost you, Dad."

"I am not planning to go anywhere soon, Pumpkin," he consoled. He reached for her, their hands meeting in a tight hold. Vivian was dead, Mark fighting for his life.

The accident hurried back, brakes screeched, then an overpowering BOOM, the smell of gasoline and then nothing. He closed his eyes and swallowed.

"The court has taken all the evidence in consideration. Each testimony showed Staff Sergeant Castledale brutal obsession towards women." Colonel McGee stated—Major Burger and Sergeant First Class Ralph represented the panel.

"From a psychiatry perspective Dr Rogers had shared his knowledge with this court. Staff Sergeant Castledale had a traumatic childhood."

"We included Nurse Anna Stalin's medical report and statement. It showed the mindset of the staff sergeant at the time." He took a sip from the glass.

"The defendant could not prove maliciousness at the night in question. Sam Gerber protected Captain Main from his brutality. We find the accused, Sam Gerber, innocent of manslaughter." Applause shattered the silence, Turmel's disgust clear as he watched Sam.

"Thanks, Colonel. I knew I could count on you," Sam said. Curt nodded. Lee Ann kissed him, a public announcement that they were together.

"Please have a seat."

Everyone became quiet. Curt cleared his throat and took another sip before he continued.

"I have a few words to say about violence against women." He found Sonia across from him. She smiled. This case gave him the opportunity to address the matter.

"Violence against women are an abomination. In camp their tenacity and strong will cannot be faltered. They are true soldiers. They protect others with their lives therefore need our respect and protection. This is not the opportunity to violate her and think you will get away with it.

THE FLIGHT WAS LONG and difficult on Sonia. Morning sickness was an all-day experience for the last two days. Dr Jourdain assured her it would be over soon. At eighteen weeks she really hoped so.

It was already late the afternoon, the winter sun basked the earth in pale pinks against the backdrop of grey hangers.

Feeling sleepy he almost carried her from the plane. "Mrs McGee, your new home awaits," and she smiled up at him.

Suddenly two bodies shuffled her away with excited shouts, and she stepped away.

He showed her photos of the children and she recognised them. Watching the trio the similarities were noticeable. The daughter was a petite version of Curt with a belly ready to deliver any day now. His son was bulkier than him, but with the same piercing eyes she loved.

When he finally broke their hold, she broke the awkwardness.

"Hello Jillian and Mark."

"Ma'am," both said.

"Please call me Sonia." They had spoken over Skype the day after their marriage, but reality was different, the situation difficult. As she told him once, they were part of him and she would love them as such.

"This is my wife, Sonia McGee." He said looking at her as she smiled, "and these two are my joy, Jillian and Mark McGee." Their greeting was polite, but reserved. Curt drew her in and reluctantly they placed an arm around her waist.

Billionaire Contemporary Romance

My laptop was sitting on my coffee table, staring at me, as if daring me to pick it up. I refused to do so. I knew, the moment I did, I would check my email, and I didn’t want to stalk my own messages because it was bad enough that I was constantly thinking about what might be there. It would be worse if I was obsessively checking my inbox like I was dying to.

“Laurel, can you forward me that coupon you have for those boots?” my roommate Jane Banner asked as she came into the living room of our shared apartment. “I want to order them before they run out of my size.”

“Sure,” I said, trying not to show my disdain. My roommate, Jane, is so sweet, it’s hard not to do what she asks despite how I felt about my laptop at the moment.  It was the last day that applicants for the prestigious MBA program at Cambridge University could expect to be notified of whether or not they had been accepted into the program, so I hadn’t even picked up an electronic device in the last three hours. Normally on a Saturday, my phone would be glued to my hand. Not today. While I really wanted to know if I got in, part of me also knew if I never checked, I couldn’t be disappointed.

“What’s that face?” Jane asked, standing in front of me with one hand on her slender hip. “I thought you weren’t going to use it.”

“No, I’m not. The coupon is yours. I just don’t want to check my email.”

“Oh! Laurel, please!” Jane said, bouncing over to me as she rolled her eyes. “You’ve got this. There is no doubt in my mind that you got in.”

I made a face at her and opened my email, deciding to search for the email she wanted from the swanky boutique I just happened to have a coupon for first. I found it and forwarded it to her and then quickly scanned my inbox.

The door opened, and he got out, offering me his hand. We weren’t at the front of the hotel, though. We’d pulled into a private garage I didn’t know existed. AJ tugged me along behind him, and we entered the building, going straight to an elevator that was near the entrance. He pushed a button, and the door closed.

Immediately, he backed me into the corner, and I was lost in his blue eyes. His lips were warm and soft when they came crashing down on my neck. His hands settled on my waist, my arms wrapping around his neck. I hoped no one else entered this elevator and imagined we were giving the security guards watching the cameras a show.

His hands travelled up from my waist, higher and higher until they were so close to cupping my breasts, I gasped with anticipation. His kisses became deeper as he sucked and nipped at the flesh between my neck and shoulder. I lowered my head and found his ear, dragging his lobe between my teeth and closing my teeth gently until he moaned.

The elevator chimed, and without letting go of me, he pulled me along through a short hallway and into what had to have been the penthouse suite. His lips found mine as we entered a bedroom with a massive bed and a spectacular view that I only got a few glimpses of. When he began to unbutton his shirt, there was nothing else in the world that could’ve kept my attention more than the lean physique I was staring at. His chiselled abs were rock solid and disappeared into his pants in an intoxicating V that drew my fingers to trace along the edge.

I quickly took the cash and my phone out of my secret hiding spot and kicked off my shoes as he discarded his shoes and socks and took off his watch. Whatever it was he’d been messing with earlier, he set on the nightstand along with his wallet and the room key. I wondered if he had a condom, but I wasn’t about to ask. At this point, I wasn’t going to ruin the moment to ask about protection when I wanted him so badly, foolish as it was.

His eyes were dark and smoky as we met each other near the bed. He tugged my dress down and out of the way, leaving me in only my thong and demi bra. My hands rested on his belt, and his mouth came down on my neck again. This time, his hands found my breasts easily enough, and through the thin lacy fabric, my n*pples hardened instantly at his touch, leaning into him as he pinched and kneaded my sensitive flesh. I unhooked his belt, but I struggled with his zipper when his mouth kissed a trail down my neck to my breasts, and he began to suck me through my bra.

I thought I saw a shadow cross over his eyes then, something akin to recognition, as if that hazy notion that perhaps we’d met before was playing in the back of his mind as well.

But then it faded. He blinked. “Good, good. New Yorkers are tough and hard-working.”

“Sir, I have the notes from the reports you were asking for on my desk,” Mr. Sanders inserted as if he felt the need to let the business owner know he was still there.

“Yes, just a moment, Sanders,” Mr. Grant said with a nod. “Since Ms. Rockwell will be heading such an important project for us, I’d like to ask her a few more questions to make sure she’s fully prepared to handle the matter at hand.” He stared at me, but I didn’t waver. “Something tells me she is.”

For the next several minutes, Mr. Grant asked me many questions about the company. Some of them were pertinent to the project I’d be working on, and some of them were general, posed simply to see if I’d done my research. Of course, I had. By the time the inquisition was done, Mr. Sanders was irritated, but it was clear that Mr. Grant and I had a good rapport and we could converse well with one another.

“Well, Ms. Rockwell, it’s been nice speaking with you,” Mr. Grant said as he took a few steps toward Mr. Sanders’s office. “Welcome to the company. I’ll be expecting a lot from you.”

“Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure meeting you. I am certain I will deliver.” I gave him a confident smile and started to step back into my office—but before I did, I thought I saw that strange look cross his face again as if he was trying to place me.

I went back to my desk and took a few deep breaths, glad to have that over with. The other women in the office were right; the boss was hot. But I wasn’t going to let that serve as a distraction. That wasn’t what I was there for.

Out of nowhere, Valerie, his secretary, whooshed in, closing his office door in my face. “He’s on an important call at the moment, Ms. Rockwell,” Valerie said, folding her arms beneath her bosom and jutting out her jaw.

I knew it wouldn’t do her any good to make Valerie angry since she was the gatekeeper, and it seemed that the secretary didn’t like me already, though I wasn’t sure why. “Thank you, Valerie. Would you mind letting me know when he’s free?” I asked, smiling sweetly and channeling my inner Jane.

She rolled her eyes and blew out a sigh. “Fine. I’ll let you know.”

Something told me I would be waiting a long time.

Frustrated, I looked over the list again, wondering if I would be better off just trying to fix the problems Myself. Mr. Sanders was my boss, so I felt that I should have his input when it came to solving the issues, but the project was mine to run.

I was on her way back over to talk to the key players involved in the project to check on their progress when I noticed Jeanine, one of the women I had gotten to know from working on the project. I had and realized fairly quickly that she was a straight shooter. She was beckoning me to come toward my office.

Something about the way Jeanine was acting made me think she was being secretive, so I fought the urge to tiptoe in that direction, like I was in a cartoon, but headed in that direction. “What’s going on, Jeanine?” I asked her in a low voice.

She pointed inside of my office, and I followed her inside and closed the door.

“Mr. Sanders won’t talk to you, will he?” she whispered.

“No, not really. Why? Do you have any idea what’s happening?”

She nodded. “Look, I didn’t want to say anything, but I really like you, Laurel. The thing is, he keeps doing this. He’ll hire a new project manager. The work doesn’t get done. It falls further behind, and he doesn’t care. It’s understaffed and doesn’t have the budget for such an extensive project. Rather than fixing those two problems, Mr. Sanders keeps blaming project managers and running through those. So… I am guessing his plan is to give you a month or two, wait until you fail, and then blame you, fire you, and hire someone else.”

I think they were wrong then, and it seemed like I was wrong now.

At least the project was still moving along. The team might’ve lost their faith in me as a person, but they were still doing their jobs. Jeanine knew that my sons were triplets, and while she didn’t know the truth about their father—that they were the product of a one-night stand that I had never seen again—she did know that there was a complicated story behind it.

The truth of the matter was, I hadn’t even been on a date since the boys were born, let alone slept around. I had told Jeanine I didn’t date much, and she believed me.

We spent a lot of our time together. Almost every day, we went out for lunch together, which kept me from having to go into the break room.

One day, Jeanine had a dentist’s appointment during lunch, so I went into the break room to purchase a sandwich out of the vending machine to take back to my desk.

“There she is, the office sl*t.”

That was Valerie’s voice. I’d know it anywhere because she’d hated me from the moment I stepped foot in the office, even before the rumors began.

I kept my eyes straight ahead and looked at the choices in the machine.

“I bet she chooses tuna,” someone else said. I wasn’t quite sure I understood the reference, but I knew it wasn’t nice.

“Well, she practically begged Calvin to take her home with him, and when he wouldn’t, she ran out of the bar crying,” Brad told them.

“Guess she just wants more kids to add to her collection.”

I didn’t know who that was, but it stung. A lot. I loved my children, but they were certainly not a collection.

“You know what I heard?” That was Wanda. “I heard that she slept with Mr. Sanders just to get that job to begin with.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Valerie said. “I don’t think that Mr. Sanders would sleep with someone like her. He has higher standards than that.”

Everyone at the table laughed.

I must’ve been tired and imagining things; there was no way that Mr. Grant was interested in me outside of work. Who would want to take on a mother and her three wild men?

Not that the boys weren’t behaving. They definitely were.

“I can definitely read through the articles before Monday. Thank you,” I said.

“Be sure to bring your laptop, too,” he said. “I’d also recommend getting there a little early. The room tends to fill up quickly, and if you want a good seat, you should get there early. Oh, and I’m told it tends to get a little chilly in the building, so maybe bring a jacket.”

I tried to mentally take note of all he was saying, but without something to write it down, and the fact that my children were winding in and out of pedestrian traffic, I wasn’t sure if I would remember all of that on Monday. Not to mention they often dictate what time I can leave the apartment.

“Thanks again for coming to meet me here,” I told him. “I know it’s sort of unorthodox having a business meeting in a zoo amidst the animals and with my children tugging you all over the place.”

“No, it was fine. It was interesting to see you outside of the office. I had a feeling you were good at multitasking. Now I know for sure.”

“Thank you,” I told him. I prided myself in my ability to handle multiple tasks at the same time. I was glad I had the chance to show him that.

“It’s important for me to get to know the people I work with inside and out, Laurel. I like to know what makes them tick, what motivates them, that sort of thing. You understand?”

His eyes seemed to be looking into my soul, and even though I knew he meant in a clearly professional manner, the intimate choice of words he used made my cheeks flush.

It was Saturday morning, and the boys were in rare form.

During the three weeks of the conference, I had spent so many late nights and early mornings at the office, I don’t know if I ever qualified as having slept. It was more like a late night power nap before leaving early to do it all again.

Nancy had been my silent partner in crime, and was about one toothbrush short of living with us. I owed her fortune in overtime, but the leaps and bounds it had for my career were worth it—at least, I hoped so, anyway. Now, Nancy wasn't coming in on the weekend, and the boys were feeling the power shift and testing their boundaries.

While my circadian rhythms might have been all over the map, theirs were perfectly on target, kept in sync by the trusty nanny and a regular school schedule.

They woke up at around 7 am., and saw that I was still sleeping and, well, let’s be honest, suffering from the teensiest case of the wine flu. Being the little angels that I bore in my womb, painfully delivered, and tediously raised for the last five years, they decided to let mommy sleep and make their own breakfasts.

From the investigation that followed, I concluded that they snuck into the kitchen, and from what I could feel on the floor, got spoons and ate raw sugar straight out of the glass canister, which, miraculously, did not break. Then, they dragged a chair to the freezer and helped themselves to not a bowl, but an entire gallon of ice cream, much of which now covered the floor and had been turned into a Haagen Dazs-brand slip and slide.

It was then that Luke, who had missed the majority of the action on account of still being asleep, arrived at the scene. He realized that all hell was going to break loose once I awoke. He, oh-so-rationally, explained to his brothers that I needed to be informed of said activities before the shenanigans, and by extension, subsequent punishments, got any worse. This was not met with enthusiasm, and so Linus masterminded a plan with Liam to lock Luke in the bathroom.

The math added up. The boys looked enough like me. Why would she want to keep them from me? Why would she deliberately choose to raise them alone? To make a point? Out of pride? Out of spite?

The longer I thought about it, the more questions I had. I could provide for her, for my sons. For a family. She was living in an apartment in Queens, spending almost no time with her children in favor of climbing the corporate ladder.

That wasn’t fair, though. She was doing a phenomenal job raising those boys without me, even if she was barely scraping by. They obviously adored her. She seemed to be balancing her work life with her home life. The boys didn’t have any complaints; they were clothed and fed and cared for, they went to school, they had toys and games. Their needs were being met, at least physically.

But what about emotionally? Was Laurel home enough to truly be involved in their lives?

It was so d*mn complicated. More so than it needed to be. I could barely wrap my head around it.

I needed a new plan. Something that might convince Laurel that this was for the best, that I deserved a place in both her life and those of our children.

Our children. Ours. It felt surreal to even think the word.

It was clear, though, that Laurel needed space first. Time to cool off, to distance herself from tonight, and everything we’d said to each other.

It was only fair, then, that I take some time to distance myself. Maybe even to talk to someone else, to get their advice on this.

Mike was a great friend, and dead useful as a personal assistant, but in the end, he was wasted on anything romantic. I was fairly certain all of his romantic experience added up to a high school sweetheart and a secret passion for romantic manga—not that I’d ever tell him I knew about the latter.

My parents were right out. I couldn’t imagine their faces if I told them I had not one illegitimate child, but three. My mother would faint. My father might very well shout his way into having a stroke. That definitely wasn’t how I wanted to end up inheriting the company and all of its assets.

I sighed and started the long trek down the rest of the path. The walking helped me think, just like running did in the mornings.

I stopped suddenly.

Was it really them? Two of them, anyway? Were Linus and Liam over on the other side of the fountain?

No, it couldn’t be.

My hand instinctively reached for Liam—it was definitely Liam, after all—as he teetered on the edge of the fountain. He almost fell into the water.

The man they were with grabbed him by the shirt and set him back on the ground. He seemed okay; they were all laughing.

I jumped behind a tree so they wouldn’t see me as they passed.

Who was this man with my kids? Why was he with them? Did Laurel have a boyfriend she hadn’t told me about?

I watched them wander aimlessly, joking casually with each other. He swiped Linus’ nose with an ice cream cone. I wanted to punch that guy in the nose.

Jealousy didn’t suit me, and yet, here I was. The idiot, skulking behind a tree.

"Hey, Boss." Mike stepped up behind me. "What are you doing? Is this part of the paleo diet? There are some clubs that re-enact the caveman movement, to really get into the paleo lifestyle. In fact, I think they meet in the park."

Getting back onto the path, I purposefully walked a steady gait. "What do you have for me, Mike?"

"Still looking into the particulars, but it appears your father has never really retired. He merely took himself out of the spotlight."

"So he still has a hand in the business?"

"That would be correct, sir." Mike flipped through pages in his notebook, keeping a steady gait, matching me stride for stride. "He has several people on the payroll reporting back to him on how you’re doing."

I should have known. "Okay, that’s expected. Do we know who they are?"

"Not yet, but we’ll find them."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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