Dagger To The Heart - Any Thoughts? Its long sorry
Sitting in a small coffee shop along a canal, Greg Jordan took in the beauty of this small French village. Watching idly as people oblivious to there surroundings cycled along town paths and as a small canal boat expertly navigated the locks without ruining what appeared to be a very glossy and expensive paint job. He always enjoyed this part of the mission.
He had joined the SADF – South African Defense Force - following promises that he would “see the world” and the army had lived up to its side of the bargain. He had travelled extensively over the past few years and had visited every continent. In Europe it was Germany and the Ukraine. In the Americas it was Venezuela and Peru, Cuba and Columbia. In Asia in was Tokyo and Beijing. He’d explored his home country of South Africa extensively and been fortunate enough to visit places like the Congo and Namibia. Yes, he had been all over the world but one thing the SADF did not tell him was that he would be doing most of his site seeing through the scope of his trusty Remington 700. He didn’t mind much though. He believed in the cause of his actions and the result of his work.
As he sat watching, a flash of colour caught his eye. He wasn’t easily distracted and it surprised him as to how quickly he turned to look. Her dark brown hair cascading over her shoulders and moving gracefully with every step she took. Her sequined red dress clinging to her beautifully sculpted body and most surprising of all was the dark leather of her well polished Doc Martins. He smiled unconsciously and she walked passed and sat a few tables away from him. He watched her for a while as she paged through a book and delicately sipped her cappuccino which is why he almost lost his seating when she suddenly looked up at him and smiled. His target was long gone but he didn’t mind as they flirted with each other across the room using only their eyes. After what seemed like forever he decided to invite her over to join him and as she stood beside the table he rose to greet her. “Greg!” he almost shouted as he offered her his hand. The obvious nervousness of the man made her giggle and she took his hand firmly…”Adele”.
The afternoon past quickly as Greg told Adele of his home in South Africa and that not all people had lions in their back yards. He told her of the endless fields called velds and of all the wild adventures he had as a kid. They spent hours just talking and laughing.
When night fell Greg realized that he had completely missed the point of his visit and if he left now he might still be able to track his target down again. He motioned to the waiter for the bill and politely excused himself. “I’m really sorry to leave you so suddenly but I have urgent business that needs attending which is why I came to the café in the first place.” Adele looked at her watch and back at him and smiled. “What business would you be able to get done at this hour of the night? Unless your going to tell me something that would make me regret this utterly wonderful meeting of ours I would suggest we simply move venue.” Not being able to disclose his true reason for being in France he accepted defeat and took her hand as she lend him down a path that hugged the canal closely.
As the early morning sun painted the hotel room with shades of orange and red, Greg woke to find Adele sleeping peacefully next to him. As he took in the beauty of her naked body he wondered how the night had come to this passionate ending. He knew he should regret his actions but for some reason everything felt perfectly right with the world. He knew he would have to pay for his sins one day. That’s how the world works! As he cleared the thoughts from his head he put an arm around Adele, kissed her cheek, smiled and got out of bed.
Greg knew today would be the day. He’d been watching his mark for two weeks now and it was time. He was meticulous when the time came and he sat in his hotel room cleaning his 700 with the skill of a surgeon. He slid the bolt back into place and fired a dry shot to feel out the trigger. He had spent many years perfecting his weapon till the point of it being more of an extension of him than a machine. He broke the gun down to its components and put them back in his carry case, locked it and set out the door. No more happy thoughts of Adele, no more random smiles. He was in killing mode now.
The rental car was a small Renault and blended in well with the masses of people trying to reach work in time. He made his way to a non-descript office block in town and, dressed in his finest suit, entered the building across the street. He introduced himself to the receptionist. “Hi, I was wondering if you could help me” he said politely. “I’m looking to relocate my business and am looking for some available office space. Would you mind if I take a look at a few of the empty offices?” he showed her the pamphlet advertizing office space, she blushed, smiled and pointed to the elevator. This would make life much easier. It was very rare to find such a good perch across from a targets place of work. Today would be a good day. He never enjoyed killing per say but knew that the loss of one life would save countless others. That’s what gave him the strength and will to do his job.
As he rode the elevator to the 14th floor he found himself distracted again by the image of Adele. “Ill give her a call her tonight!” he thought. It would be the perfect ending to a successful “business trip”. The doors opened out into a gray abandoned floor that might once have been called an office. Old printers and fax machines were strewn around carelessly and boxes and boxes of old financial reports lay scattered on the floor. Broken windows letting a cool breeze flow through the space and picking up dust and rubbish as it went. He felt kinda sorry for the person who needed this office that badly. Slinging the carry case off his shoulder he unlocked it and began putting his rifle together. Like a puzzle done a hundred times he could do this without thinking.
Going through the motions of assembly Greg heard a loud pinging sound coming from down the hall. He hurriedly threw an old paint rag over his equipment just in time to see a man of average high walk towards him and offer a hand. “Dominic L’Anglois! Nice to meet you my friend! I hear you’re looking to relocate. Could I show you around? We have a great selection here and you wouldn’t find a better price! Tell me what you’re looking for. Where you from? What type of business are you involved in?” Dominic L’Anglois was a classic salesman dressed in a dark blue suit with jet black hair gelled back in a tight slick wave. He spoke so quickly it was hard to keep up and Greg could just see potential leasers being so overwhelmed that they would be asking for a pen just to keep him quiet. Greg smiled at the thought. “Maybe it was his technique?” “Tim Price.” Greg told the salesman and took his hand firmly, seeing the slight discomfort in Dominic’s face. “I’m actually just shopping around for now thanks”. He knew his find of the building was too good to be true. Dominic posed a number of problems to Greg. He could ask for some time alone with the place to feel it out but he knew the salesman would just be waiting for him down stairs as he tried to make his getaway. He could always invite him to watch the show but that probably wouldn’t go down well. He wasn’t a cold blooded killer either so shooting him, however appealing that sounded, was also out of the question. He knew he had a few minutes to spare so he made his decision and asked Dominic to show him around. “I’m quite keen on safety Dominic. What does this building offer me against say… a fire?” Dominic smiled broadly and jumped into what was obviously a rehearsed answer. “This building boasts quite a high security standard. From mag-swipe cards readers for access control with a client link provided to you for enrolments to a state of the art Ziton fire detection system.” Dominic gave Greg a winning smile that must have been practiced many times. “And what about the fire escapes?”
“Fire escapes are situated on every corner of the building” Dominic almost shouted with pride. “No link to the access control system and can only be opened from the inside”. Greg sighed with relief and put his hand on his heart dramatically. He could tell that Dominic loved the reaction!
“Sounds GREAT Dominic! Thank you! I think you’ve just conquered my greatest fear!! We need to be out of our building by next month and haven’t quite found a place that speaks to me like this one does. Do you mind if I have a moment alone? I like to get a feel of the space and visualize how the office will look. I can see it now! Reception, over there by the elevator. A small espresso machine to great guests with the warm smell of freshly brewed coffee! Ah amazing!”
“Of course Mr. Price. Anything you need. Would you like me to arrange the paper work so long?”
“Please do! And don’t let anyone steal it from me on the way down I beg you!”
As Dominic almost ran to the entrance Greg ripped the paint rag off his equipment and finished setting up. All that talk about coffee reminded him of Adele and brought visions of the night ahead. “Would roses be too much?” he thought as he crouched beside the window and did the sightseeing he was good at.
The target was a man known only as ‘Le Poignard’ or ‘The Dagger’. The business of illegal aliens and prostitution had made him a very successful man. The Dagger had gotten him name from the 12th century stiletto he used to carve his brand of a cross into the women he kept for himself. Greg knew that taking this bastard out would be almost a pleasure. Countless young girls would be saved from his blade and the thought of all the pain he’d caused steadied Greg’s hand. He always liked to get to know his victims a little before hand. To focus on the pain and suffering they’d caused. It was almost therapeutic for him when the time came to end a life.
“Ok Greggy Boy. Now’s your time to shine. 5th floor, third window from the left.”
As he took aim he continued to allow pictures he’d seen of The Daggers work to flood his mind. With his cross hair panning across the window he spotted his prey. His heart always raced during this part and it took Greg a great deal of strength not to allow the surge and feeling of power to overwhelm him. He breathed in and let half a breath out.
“This is for the girls!” he said as he felt his finger contract.
Greg disassembled his rifle and started packing up as he heard the screams coming from the office block across the street. Chaos was taking over and it was time to go. He swung the carry case over his shoulder and headed for a fire exit.
“One at every corner, right?”
He reached the escape door and pushed the handle down hard and ran out into the stairwell in a blaring racket of sirens. “Damn! He said it wasn’t linked to the access control system! No time to stress now Greg. Keep your head on!”
Taking the stairs four at a time he reached ground floor in just under 2 minutes. Pausing a few seconds to compose himself he pushed the door open and leisurely strolled out into the warm afternoon sun. He walked down the street to where he’d left his car, unlocked the door and climbed in.
As the warm water cascades down his tired and stressed body, Greg feels himself relax. A successful mission and now a night filled with passion. That would be a great way to end his trip.
With his rifle packed away safely and out of site, Greg rings room service for Champagne to be delivered later that night. After placing the order he picks up the phone and calls Adele.
“Hello?” a sad and distressed voice says
Greg can hear the sorrow in Adele’s voice.
“You ok?” he asks
“It’s my Husband, He was murdered this morning. I’m truly sorry Greg but I’m going to have to say goodbye”
With that the line went dead leaving Greg staring at the telephone with emptiness he had never felt before.
Landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base was a relief and signaled the end of a long and somewhat troubling trip. The mission was a success but the ending wasn’t what Greg hoped it would be. Now he was forced to forget all that happened and return to a normal life. Return the everyday chores of farm life and return to his wife. Greg was a man of morals and knew he should be feeling guilty now. He didn’t.
Greg drove home and kissed his wife hello. Joanne was a lovely woman and had taken great care of him over the years. They’d been married now for 7 years now and he still enjoyed spending time with her. As a school teacher, Joanne had a softness to her that was most comforting. With short black hair, eyes the colour of polished oak and a figure that other women envied, she really was the perfect package.
Greg and Joanne had met at a charity function for under privileged schools and struck up conversation due to mutual boredom. It wasn’t love at first site but there were certainly spark. The night had seemed to fade away into the background as they spent hours discovering who the other was. That night had lead to courtship and eventually marriage. They now owned a small farm just out side Pretoria and had built a nice home, with large lush trees, a small river that ran beneath there house, with great expanses of rolling lawns and a lapa that they used to entertain guests. It really was a little slice of paradise for the Jordan’s and life could not get much better.
“Babe, we need to talk.” Joanne said as she greeted Greg with a kiss.
Greg searched her eyes for the reason behind the comment but couldn’t quite place her facial expression. He had been careful with Adele and knew, well…thought, that there was no way Joanne could have found out about it already.
“What’s wrong love?” Greg Replied with more worry in his voice than he intended. “Is everything ok?”
He hated it when she did this kind of thing. No matter what the news, good or bad, she would always start of with that phrase and it always worried him. Joanne led him to the living room and sat him down on the old worn out leather couch. The leather was cold against Greg’s body and his mood fell even further. “This is serious” he thought.
“Ok, now I know you’ve been gone a while but I discovered something while you were away”
Greg’s body temperature dropped by a degree.
“Remember that night before you left? You cooked me dinner which you always do when your about to leave. I think you feel guilty about leaving me here!” Joanne mocked and it wasn’t making Greg feel any warmer.
“I remember” he replied and secretly wished she would just confront him already.
“Remember what happened later that night?
Greg spotted the hint of a smile that flashed across her face and could not help but return the gesture as he recalled the night they spent making love until he sun came up.
“Yes of course! I told you I could sleep on the plane.”
Joanne blushed and there was a light in her eyes that Greg had never seen before.
“So what are you hoping for my angel” she said in a soft gentle tone,
“Huh?” Greg replied in confusion.
“You men are hopeless you know that! Are you hoping for a son or a daughter?” she said softly.
A stunned silence fell over the room as a million thoughts flooded Greg’s mind. He sat there with a blank look across his face as he processed the information just given to him
“Yes Greg, I’m pregnant.”
Greg hurled himself forward and almost tackled her off the couch in his attempt to hug her. Tears were now streaming down both there faces and all thoughts Greg still clung to of his visit to France were now gone. He was going to be a dad.
Luke Thomas Jordan was born 4 July 1983 and was a perfectly healthy baby boy. As Greg held his tightly wrapped future he couldn’t help imagine all the great things they would do together. He would teach him to shoot, to hunt, to ride a horse, all those things that father and son did together.
“He’s still too young to ride a horse.”
Greg turned to see Joanne smiling at him from her hospital bed. He moved over to her bed and crouched beside her and held her hand tightly.
“I love you!” he said and knew then that the world would not get any better than this moment right here.
As Luke Grew up, all Greg’s visions of the future came to be. Father and son would spend hours on the small hill behind their house hunting rabbits and shooting old cans. Setting traps and tracking springbok spoor. They would challenge baboons together and both run screaming when one charged back. When the sun was at its highest they would find a cool place under a paper wood tree and Greg would tell his son about the ways of the wild. Greg had done the same thing with his father and had learnt many valuable lessons. He taught Luke to always respect nature and that if he did this, nature would always provide. Greg explained that the indigenous people of the land prayed every time they killed an animal and that it was a way of saying thank you. They would thank the beast for giving its life to support theirs and that they would try live honorable lives and never forget the sacrifices made. After noon they would cut small saplings from the natural fountain and enjoy an adventurous game of clay-lat. Luke would watch closely as his father showed him how to scoop the clay from the fountain, form a small ball on the edge of the sapling. “Not to much or you’ll break your stick” Greg would say as he watched Luke attempt it. “Ok, now pull your arm back. That’s right. Now bring your arm over your head and watch the clay fly!” Luke’s eyes widened in awe as he watched his father launch the piece of clay farther than he could see.
“We better get home before dinner!” Greg said looking up at the sun. “before your mother uses these saplings on us both!”
They both laughed half heartedly at the comment, staring at each other with eyes wide, because the truth of the statement made them both a little frightened.
Greg helped Luke up into the saddle of his horse and then mounted his own.
“Race you home!” Luke shouted and didn’t even bother looking back to see if his father had heard. The sheer beauty of a horse and the strength and grace of its movements always made Luke feel alive. Some days after school he would creep out of doing homework, sneak into the stables and bolt out into the open. He would spend hours just wondering the land. Trying to remember everything his father had taught him, he would try stalking the wildlife by tracking their spoor and when he finally found them he would kick his heels hard into his horse’s sides and charge after them shouting. Laughing loudly, he would chase after the bucks and would revel in their panicked dance of flight.
Dinner time at the Jordan’s was always a joyful experience. The dining room was a constant source of laughter. That was until Greg got serious. “How’s school going Luke?” Education was a priority in the Jordan residence. Greg believed that a well trained mind led to a well trained soul and that excelling in school would build character and strength.
“It’s ok Dad. Math is killing me but I’m managing.” He lied
Luke was an above average student and was well liked by teachers and peers alike. With straight A’s in almost every subject, including Math, Luke was destined for great things. The only thing that stood in Luke’s way was deciding which direction to take. He knew he wanted to travel and all the stories his father had told him fueled the desire even more. He would never make a home anywhere else but South Africa but wanted the adventure of seeing how other people lived. His respect for nature and wildlife had provoked thought of becoming a game ranger but then again the science and math that he enjoyed so much had opened other doors.
“What was it like being in the army dad?” Luke asked suddenly.
An uncomfortable silence fell over the table. “Difficult Luke. Very difficult. Why? Are you thinking about it?”
“I Dunno. I’m a little confused about what to do after school. Any thoughts?”
“That’s your choice to make my boy. Whatever you choose, your mom and I will support you. As long as it makes you lots of money so you can look after us when we’re old!” mocked Greg with a smile on his face. He was a proud father.
As Greg watched his son turn from boy to man his heart broke at the thought of Luke one day leaving them. He knew Luke would always be at home here and never truly leave but also realize that holding him back would be a devastating mistake. He’d noticed the way young girls looked at him when they went to town and how long days out in the velds had toughened and strengthened Luke’s body to very attractive young man. The conflicting thoughts of loosing his son and becoming and grandfather worried him many a night.
Had he taught him the right lessons? Will he be a good husband and father? And with these thoughts came the guilty reminder of Greg’s own failings as a husband. It shamed him to think of the past but even after all these years he still remembered his time in France fondly. “Luke won’t be like me.” He thought and watched his son tend the horses. He’ll be a great man someday.
On a bright and warm summer afternoon, as the sun fell away leaving the horizon with its red and purple reminder, Greg sat on his stoop and looked out across his land. Today was one of those days where he sat and thought about the life he used to lead. All the missions and assignment he’d been given came rushing back and darkened the beauty of the sunset. He still stood by what he’d done but as time went on and he watched his family around him, he couldn’t help but wonder about the families he’d upset and destroyed. Lost in his trace he failed to hear Luke walk up behind him and jumped when he placed a hand of his fathers shoulder.
“You’ll give me a heart attack my boy!”
“Sorry old man. I didn’t realize you were so frail!” Luke shot back with a laugh.
Greg took a swing to Luke’s arm and punched him just above the elbow.
“I’ll show you who’s old!” he shouted. He stood up and charged Luke down.
As they wrestled Greg felt the strength in Luke’s limbs and the swiftness of his movement. He was getting old. “Not such a bad thing though” he thought as he gave in and surrendered to a very smug looking young man. They laughed together and shook hands.
“What’s on your mind son?” He inquired.
“So I was at school today” Started Luke
“Where you should be!” Greg cut in.
“Yes, Always. Anyways, we had a sort of a career day and I was wondering what you think of me taking a gap year? I want to travel dad. I know you think I need to go to university but I can always do that when I get back.”
Greg looked at the longing in his sons face and remembered the promise the army had made him all those years ago. That’s the reason he joined in the first place. To travel.
“Ok. What did you have in mind? And will you promise to return to your studies after your adventure is complete?” Greg asked
Luke sighed and looked at his father through pleading eyes. “You know I’ll come back and study. I’ve made my mind up about being a game ranger. You know that. Cant to that in Paris now. Can I?”
“PARIS?” Greg had to control his voice from sounding too shocked.
“Yes, what’s wrong with Paris?” questioned Luke with a look of disappointment
“Nothing. That sounds great son. And what do you plan on doing there?”
“You always taught me to observe and learn. I want to do the same there. We’ve been taking this art class at school and you should see the buildings and churches they have there! They look magnificent!” Luke’s whole face lit up with excitement as he thought about the places he would see and the relief of his father’s approval made it all the sweeter.
“I’m going to go tell mom!” he shouted as he turned and ran into the house.
As the days passed Luke got more and more excited. Reciting French phrases to his mother and making sweeping gestures with his hands. Then he would put on some old French LP he bought at a record store and pull his mother into what he thought was a traditional French dance. Tripping over each other’s feet they fell to the floor in a bundle of laughing fabric.
“I’m going to miss you” Joanne said as she smiled and wiped the tears form her eyes.
“All grown up now hey? Just a few more hours and you’ll be leaving us all alone” she said through silent sobs.
“Ah mom! Don’t do that! You’ll make me book an earlier flight!” laughed Luke and dodged and playful whip of his mothers dish cloth. He wandered outside and saw his father entering the stables. He raced down the lawn and was just in time to see his father saddle up his favorite mare.
“You keen for a last ride?” His father asked.
“Why do you and mom make it sound like I’m about to die? I’ll be back in a year!”
He grabbed his saddle from the pole and flung it over Horizon.
“I’ll miss you to old boy” he said as he gently stroked the stallion’s nose. Horizon pushed his head against Luke’s shoulder and Luke thought he could feel the animal’s sadness.
“Ag! Not you to!” he mocked as he swung onto the horses back. As they rode out into the hills Greg looked at his son with a father’s pride. The boy was so happy and full of life. He remembered those days fondly. Luke was right. He wasn’t dying and he would return before the next harvest.
“Take lots of pictures and write every day! Promise me!” demanded Joanne as she embraced her sun at the airport terminal.
“I’ll try mom. I promise” was the reply.
He hugged her tightly and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“Love you lots mom.” He turned to face his dad and smiled broadly “Well, here we go hey?”
“Here we go indeed my boy.” Greg replied as he put one hand on his sons shoulder and the other is his son’s jacket pocket.
“Have a great time and see as much as you can! on me.”
Luke put a hand is his pocket and felt the bills all neatly folded.
“Thank…” he started but stopped when he saw his father shake his head quickly.
“Your mother doesn’t need to know that. Ill put it back in the savings some day. Just promise me you’ll have fun and be safe”
“I promise dad. Thanx for everything. Love you”
“Love you to son.” Greg said softly “Now get going or you’ll have to use what’s in your pocket for another ticket”
Joanne crept under Greg’s arm and held him tightly as they watched Luke disappear through the terminal gates. He coughed to clear his throat of the lump and she used his sleeve to dry the tears from her eyes.
“Come now woman! We have the whole place to ourselves now!” he joked and lightly tapped her behind. She looked up at him through teary eyes and slapped him slightly on the chest. Leaning in close to his ear she whispered
“What was it that you and Luke always say? Ill race you!” and with that she set off towards the car screeching with joy as Greg chased after her.
“Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome aboard flight 372 on Air France nonstop to Charles De Gaulle, France. Please pay attention to your flight attendants who are evenly spaced throughout our cabin as we explain to you the emergency features of our Boeing 747 aircraft….”
As Luke fastened his seatbelt the churning of excitement took hold of his stomach. He’d never had the opportunity to travel as a young boy and was eagerly awaiting this thrilling experience. Seated next to a window was a great joy and from his vantage point at the rear of the plane he had a clear view of the coach cabin. The plane itself was half filled and Luke was lucky enough to have an entire row to his self. As he heard the engines start and felt the plane taxi toward the runway, a hundred questions bit at his excitement.
“What would the food be like?”
“What would the in-flight movie be?”
“How hot would the airhostesses be?”
He smiled to himself as he imagined the answers one by one. Luke fastened his seatbelt and watched the lights of the runway flicker as if welcoming him to a new adventure. The cabin lights went out, the engines started roaring and Luke felt his stomach drop as the massive 747 accelerated. The cabin vibrated as the wheels of the metal bird ran along the tarmac. Then, as soon as it had begun, it ended and all became still. Just the soft moan of the engines as the friction of the runway was left behind and the lights that could be seen from Luke’s window became smaller until the twinkled and sparkled. The cabin lights flushed away the darkness and the airhostesses began their rounds.
The 12 hour flight had been a smooth one and every experience had been etched into Luke’s memory.
“If the flight had been this much fun how much better would the next year of my life be?” wondered Luke and he felt the wheels touch down and the plane bounce onto the runway.
“It looks the same so far.” He thought as he watched the blinking lights go by. The plane taxied in to a gate and the rolling stairs pulled up next to the plane. As everyone got up and proceeded to the exits Luke could help but smile.
“Here we go!”
Through wide wondering eyes Luke made his way through the arrivals terminal and he walked with his head on a swivel as he admired the magnitude of this magnificent building. The combination of curved wooden panels and gigantic glass panes left Luke with a feeling of bewilderment. He had never seen anything so beautiful. With large flat screen displays and wonderfully colourful kiosks he struggled to take it all in. He spent a few minutes browsing through the duty free shops and bought a celebratory bottle of vodka for himself.
“Family presents can wait” Luke thought out loud and finally made his way through the airport and out into car park to hail a taxi.
As the taxi driver entered the “Arc de Triomf” Luke felt his nails bite into the leather seating and with clenched eyes they took the plunge. With so much excitement in just a few short hours Luke had high expectations of the year ahead. He had no way of knowing that his time abroad would lead him to an unimaginable kaleidoscope of feelings, from love to sorrow, from anger to resentment. He would feel them all in the next few years.
Arriving at the tiny back packers, he paid the taxi driver, thanked him and made his way to reception. A beautiful blonde woman greeted him and handed him his keys while pointing the direction to his room. Luke made his way up the stairs and as he inserted the key into his new room he held his breath and opened the door. The room itself was nothing amazing but it had all the things he needed, a bed, shower, toilet and closet. This would do just fine for now.
As the sun faded Luke got settled. With people talking, laughing and running around outside he was eager to go and explore this new world. After packing away his belongings he took a quick shower and got dressed for his first night on the town.
“Where do I start?” he thought as he made his way to the door. Luke didn’t have to think for much longer as the noticed the party right outside his front door. People walked past and shook his hand. Flung arms around his shoulders and offered him drinks and before he knew it he was in the center of the festivities. That night he met an array of people. From guys who wore their mother’s old clothing and knitted beanies to Prada wearing models. He was sure that he had a drink with everyone there and as he stumbled back to his room he almost lost his footing on the steps and would have ended up flat on his back in the middle of the party again had it not been for the pair of brothers, Adrian and Louis that caught him. As the brothers carried Luke back to his apartment they introduced themselves again. “We met you downstairs” the said almost in unison and laughed.
“Who is it?!” shouted Luke the next morning as the pounding in his head matched the banging at the door. He slowly got out of bed and without having to change (Still in last night’s clothing) he opened the door to find the smiling faces of Adrian and Louis. “Coffee?” Adrian asked and handed him a hot steaming mug which Luke almost lunged at. “We thought we’d welcome you to our little party paris-dise.” Louis told him and they led him down to the bakery around the corner.
Everyone inside the little shopped looked to be in the same pain as Luke felt and he realized that this was obviously the recovery zone for late night party animals. As they ordered more coffee and a big greasy breakfast Adrian, Louis and Luke started chatting. Luke was extremely grateful for the company and couldn’t believe how friendly these people were.
Over the next few weeks they would all grow to be great friends. Adrian and Louis showed Luke the sites as well as the places tourists don’t ever hear about. The lifestyle only a local would know, from coffee shops to bakeries, from snails to frog legs. They showed Luke everything, and he loved it all!
As Luke walked along the sidewalk he felt the cool wet breeze against his neck and instinctively lifted the collar of his coat. The sky was a dark menacing grey and made the beauty of his surroundings seem dull and boring. Today was not going to be a good day. Luke checked his watch.
“I have a few minutes to spare.” He said to himself and slid into the nearest coffee shop in an attempt to escape the cold. Inside the warm little shop things seemed much brighter and he relaxed his tensed up shoulders. He walked to the counter and ordered himself a cappuccino. “With cream and to go please” he said and hoped the cashier understood him.
As he waited for his order his eyes wondered the café. People everywhere we’re helping each other get warm, couples holding each other tightly as they attempted to draw the warmth out of their partners. There were smiles of delight as people sipped on their warm drinks and Luke could see the warmth travel through their bodies as they relaxed little by little. It was a pleasant atmosphere and he would’ve loved to have stayed in here the whole afternoon but he had promised Adrian that he would meet him at the gallery. He checked his watch again out of habit and thought about what he would do for the next half hour before his rendezvous.
A call from behind him pulled him out of his trace and he turned to see his order ready and steaming. He used the plastic spoon to scoop up the overflowing cream and put the spoon in his mouth. Holding it with his teeth he used his hands to pour sugar for himself and placed the take away lid on top. He thanked the cashier and walked to the door. He waited a moment before going out into the cold and he could almost feel the people stare with sympathy and he reached for the handle. He pushed the door open and bravely made his way out onto the sidewalk once again. The wind had picked up a bit and brought a nasty chill to the air. As he turned into the wind he pushed his way forward dodging bit of rubbish that had been blown about by the weather.
He sipped his coffee and soldiered on.
Luke smelt the rain before he felt it. As the small droplets fell, Luke held his hand over his head in a vain attempt to shield himself. As the rain got worse get entertained the idea of turning back.
“I’m halfway anyway and it’s an open bar” he thought and carried on. Then with the same speed the rain had started, it stopped. He could still see the rain but the sensation of drops hitting his head all but vanished. He looked up and saw the bright red colour of an umbrella. He turned and looked for his savior and found a cold face with a warm smiling at his surprise.
“Thank you!” Luke said through shivering lips.
“Your most welcome” said the stranger in a very attractive French accent as she moved closer to him so that they would both be covered by the umbrella.
“I’m Rene” she said and she extended her free hand.
“Luke. Here, let me take that” he said as he took the umbrella from her ice cold hand.
“Where you off to in such amazing weather?” He asked as he reveled in the mixed scents of rain and lavender. Rene’ smiled at the comment and locked her arm in his. “I’m off to an art gallery opening. I really hope the open bar is worth it! I’m not a huge art fan to tell you the truth”
They walked slowly under the protection of the umbrella as they discovered they were both going to the same gallery opening. Clinging to each other, Luke told her that he was form South Africa and was just in Paris for a year then off to the national parks to become a game ranger. She spoke about her reason for going to the opening and that she studied interior architecture and it was required.
This was the first real female connection Luke had made since he’d landed a month ago and couldn’t help but smile despite the cold.
The gallery opening was like any other. If you’re not into art then it’s never worth it. Rene’ and Luke spent most of their time at the bar warming themselves up for the walk home. They passed the time by guessing what these so called “Art Experts” were saying about the painting and photographs on display.
“You see how the red represents the troubled time in the artists life?” Luke would say with a quizzical look and his face and watch as Rene’ would try her best to keep a serious face until they both couldn’t handle it and burst out in laughter.
The night was coming to a close and Luke introduced Rene’ to Adrian. “He’s one of the featured artists tonight.” Luke pointed out as he introduced them.
“Please don’t think less of me but as much as I love the look of your paintings all I see is colour.” Rene told Adrian
“Ah thank goodness!” Adrian said with a sigh
“An honest answer for the first time tonight! I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and asked what I was trying to portray and what symbolism I draw my inspiration from. They never believe that I just painted what I thought would look nice.”
They all had a good laugh at Adrian’s rendition of an art expert and applauded him as he took a bow.
“Listen, me a few of the other artists and are going out for a night on the town. You’re more than welcome to join us if you like but I warn you I won’t be going home tonight” Adrian informed them.
Luke looked over to Rene’ and the expression on her face told him she had other plans for tonight.
“We’ll be a bit out of place but thanx anyway for the invite” Luke said as he declined Adrian’s offer.
“Would you mind driving my car home then?” Adrian asked as he pulled his keys from his jacket pocket.
Luke smiled “It would be my pleasure” he said.
They said their goodbyes and Luke took Rene by the arm and led her out. As they drove home, with heaters on full, Luke looked over at Rene’ and asked if she would like to come over for a nightcap.
“Only if you make breakfast” she replied with a wicked grin that made Luke push the accelerator to the floor.
He parked the car in the basement and led Rene to the elevator. The doors hadn’t been closed a second before Rene grabbed him in a passionate hug and placed her warm lips against his. With the ping of the elevator they reluctantly broke their embrace and hurried towards Luke’s apartment. He unlocked the door and showed her inside. He closed the door and turned to face Rene. This was the first time he really got to admire her up close. He didn’t intend to but he stood there staring at her like a scanner from a printer. From her fur lined boots, up her delicately shaped legs which were clad tightly in dark blue jeans, his eyes moved upwards across her flat fleece covered stomach. He paused when he came into contact with her beautiful breast. “Just a handful” he thought and smiled.
A soft cough broke his attention and he jerked his eyes up and made eye contact with Rene’. Her long brown hair tied neatly in a ponytail and a white burette place at an angle on her head.
“Like what you see?” She asked through grinning teeth.
“Yes mam!” he replied and stepped closer towards her.
He was taken aback by her hand that halted his advanced and a look of confusion crossed his face. Rene’s serious look drained all his passion in a second.
“Promise!” she said forcefully.
“Promise what?” replied a very confused Luke.
“Promise me you’ll make breakfast.”
Before Luke could reply, let alone recover from the shock, Rene’ grabbed his coat and pulled him closer. In a hurricane of clothing they made their way to Luke’s bedroom.
“I’m glad I remembered my umbrella this afternoon” Rene’ said as they pulled each other closer in lust and passion.
“Eggs, this funny round bread thing and coffee for you this morning mam” Luke smiled as he placed the tray on the bed beside René’
“The round bread thing is a croissant” she said as she slapped his arm playfully.
“So what do you usually to do a Saturday?” He asked as he poured them both a cup of coffee.
“Well in weather like this I usually stay home but seeing as I’m not home now I guess I’ll have to stay here”
“That’s what I was hoping you’d say”
“Oh really? Haven’t had enough of me yet?”
“I don’t think that possible!”
René smiled at the comments and gave him a kiss.
They spent the morning in bed, making love, swapping stories and watching movies. Luke took René to the café across the street for lunch and afterward, offered to drive her home.
The drive to Rene’s apartment was almost a sad occasion as they both faced the realization that neither of them wanted to part company. “Nightcap?” René suggested.
“It’s three in the afternoon! Do I get breakfast?” Luke replied and kissed her on the cheek.
The next few weeks went by with the same routine. With each spending half their time at home and half their time at the others apartment. The blissfulness of the relationship was easy to maintain and the comfort they felt between each other made it hard for strangers to know that they had only met two weeks prior.
As they grew closer, Luke told René about his family. He told her about how his father had taught him to ride horses. He told her about the times they would go out hunting rabbits and he bragged constantly about his mothers cooking. He described the country side with yellow veldt grass and the dirty green bushes. He excited her mind with tales of lions and rhino’s and took her on a journey with his words about farm life.
“Promise me!” she would say “Promise you’ll take me there one day”
They fantasized about travelling and all the sites that Luke would show her. They would stay with his parents on the farm and sit around a braai (Barbeque) every night and swap stories while watching the stars float by.
“I promise” he told her and she would smile and fling her arms around him.
But something bothered Luke. Whenever he would ask about her family she would become cold and distant. He feared that something terrible had happened and decided to let her tell him when she was ready.
On another rainy day, after a passionate round of love making, René crawled closer to Luke and held on to him tightly.
“What’s wrong babe?”
“I know I haven’t told you much about my family but I’d like to now. I haven’t got much family to speak of. My father died when I was just a child. He was murdered while at work. They never caught his killer. My mother was a saint growing up. She spent all her time and energy trying to make me happy. She would lie in bed with me until all hours of the morning reading me book and telling me bedtime stories. As I grew up she would tell me about how her and my father met and that she wished I could have known him better.”
As René told her tale Luke found himself holding her even tighter as his heart broke with hers at the loss of her father. She told Luke about her mother’s illness and that she would be lucky if she saw next winter. She told Luke that she would like to introduce him to her before she was gone. “I’d be honored” he said and placed his cheek on her forehead.
Month after month their bond grew. From breakfast to love, until the day came that René decided she was ready. She called Luke up and told him her plan. Luke dressed in his finest clothing (Which wasn’t much) and went to pick her up. The drove in silence most of the way and an awkward silence filled the space between them as they entered the hospital.
Luke held René’s hand tightly as she led him to her mother’s bedside. Luke could see that the woman lying before him was once a very attractive woman and resembled René a lot. As he looked at the sunken in face of René’s mother he saw her eyes flash with colour and heard her breathing quicken as if she knew him. The woman mumbled something that Luke couldn’t hear and reached out for his face. He bent down to listen closely and felt her cold boney hand touch his cheek. “Mom. This Is Luke” René said as she pointed towards him. “Luke, this is my mother. Adele” “It’s nice to meet you mam” he said and he smiled warmly.
Luke felt guilty that he was glad when they left. Adele hadn’t said a word and kept staring at him. As they walked out the hospital Luke wiped the tears from René’s eyes and held her close. Neither of them knew that that would be the last time they saw René’s mother alive.
The following night, as they lay sleeping on Luke’s bed, René’s cell phone started vibrating. In the confusion of late night René answered her phone. “Hello?” she said in a dull sleepy voice. Luke could feel her tense up next to him as she sat up and swung her legs of the side of the bed. “Thank you doctor” she replied and stood up on shaky legs.
“What wrong?” Luke asked
“It’s my mother. She’s just passed away.” Sobbed René
They got dressed in silence and made their way to the hospital.
As René sat next to her mother bed, holding her lifeless hand and crying, Luke sat quietly in the waiting room drinking coffee. After a few hours René emerged around the corner to the waiting room.
“You ok?” he asked.
“Yes I’m ok thanx. I’ve been preparing myself for a long time but it’s still very sad you know?”
As Luke took her hand in his as they made their way towards the exit.
Rene stood before the front door of her mother’s house and a wave of memories flooded her mind. She wouldn’t have to knock this time. As she sorted through her mother’s keys she selected the front door key and struggled to slide the key into the lock, her hands shaking and her tears blurring her vision. She turned the key and heard the locks disengage. She reached for the door knob and couldn’t quite bring herself to turn it. She knew she was being silly. She had been preparing for her mother’s passing for a year now but still the emotions hampered her movements.
As the door swung open Rene allowed her eyes to adjust to the darkness of the house. She wasn’t ready for the scene as usually the house was flooded with light and warmth radiated from its brightly coloured interior. She took the first step into the house and heard the old wooden floor board’s creek. Walking through the house, René navigated her way past coffee tables and couches with the familiar movements usually filled with the joy of being home. This time however the house felt strange and alien to her. As she stood in the kitchen she saw old memories of her mother making the coffee and her sitting around the old wooden table. She knew that she would never be able to live in this house again.
Rene was brought out of her daydream by the sound of footsteps behind her. She turned and saw Luke standing a few feet away from her. A look of unease on his face told René that he was uncomfortable and didn’t quite know what to do or say. She smiled at him.
“Thank you for coming with me” she said through teary eyes.
She walked to him and put her arms around his neck. Luke held on to her tightly and she felt her resistance break and started sobbing on his shoulder.
The broke their embrace after a long moment with Luke looking into her eyes with a sympathy that touched Rene’s heart.
“Coffee?” she asked and didn’t wait for an answer.
Luke took a seat at the table and watched René go through the motions she had obviously been through many times before. The kitchen was a warm place and Luke could feel the love that had once filled this room. With cute messages stuck to the fridge and old photographs hanging in homemade frames against the brightly painted yellow walls. Luke noticed a small hand print on one of the green wall tiles that bordered the skirting with writing next to it. He bent down to get a closer look. “René, 1990” it read.
“That was a fun day” René said as she saw Luke inspecting the tile.
“My mother chose the yellow, I chose the green. We spent all weekend painting this kitchen! I think there was more paint on the two of us than on the walls when we were finished.”
She smiled at the memory and Luke smiled as he reached out to touch the tiny hand print.
They spent the rest of the afternoon sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee as René told Luke about the memories her mother and her had shared. They laughed together at some of the stories as Luke realized what a happy childhood René had had.
As the old grandfather clock in the living room chimed loudly they were both brought to the realization that they had chatted away the entire day. René took the coffee mugs, washed them and put them back in their place.
“Ok, where do we start?” asked Luke.
“Let’s start with the study.” suggested René as she lead the way down the hall to the last door at the end of the passage.
“I think if we work our way from back to front we’ll get through the whole house.”
As she opened the door to her father’s old study, René stopped dead. Her mother never let her in this room. She had snuck in a few times as a child but the novelty had worn off and she realized that she hadn’t been in this room for at least ten years now. The walls were clad in dark varnished wood and to the left a giant bookshelf covered the wall. The bookshelf was covered in dust and the books looked faded and unread. René read a few of the book spines and found it interesting that there were very few books on banking. “My father was a banker wasn’t he?” she thought as she scanned the titles.
There were books on international shipping routes, transportation and emergency navigation, even a book on stealth technology, but only one titled “international banking laws”.
On the other side of the room she saw a giant world mad with coloured pins stuck in at different locations. It reminded her of the war rooms she’d seen in movies and walked over to the map. As her fingers lightly touched the pins and traced the red string connecting multiple pins she read a few of the locations out loud. “Sydney, Hong Kong” these were the big cities she knew about but there were hundreds of pins placed in small towns she had never heard of before. Her eyes moved south and noticed a few pins place in and around southern Africa.
“Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Jeffery’s Bay, Franskraal, Port Owen, Gans Baai” she read aloud. “You ever been to any of these places?” she asked Luke.
“A few of them, yes. Port Owen and Jeffery’s Bay are beautiful places to visit.”
“What about Fraanskraal?” She asked as she placed her finger on a pin that was larger than the others.
“No, never” he said.
René walked over to the giant desk in the middle of the room. With a huge window behind the desk, it was brightly lit from the late afternoon sun. The desk had been cleaned more recently that the rest of the room and she noticed that the dust was much less. She went through a stack of papers they lay on the desk and saw that they were accounts that her mother had obviously been working on. Her hands traced the curves of the desk and continued to the three drawers on the left side under the work surface. As she looked down she noticed that the key was still in the lock. On the key ring was another smaller key. The kind used for a padlock. She ignored it and turned the old drawer key. Inside the drawer she found more accounts and bank statements. She pushed the drawer closed and as it slid to the stops she heard a strange rattle of metal. She pulled the drawer all the way out and placed it on the desk. She bent over and peered into the empty space. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the void she noticed a slight reflection of metal but it was to dark to make out the shape properly. She bent down and reached inside the void. Her fingers felt the metal lock almost immediately. She remembered the other key on the key ring and reaching onto the desk she pulled the key ring out of the drawer. She held the small aluminum key in her hand and reached inside the opening. Her fingers felt around the locking mechanism and she guided the tiny key into the lock. She held her breath for some reason as she turned the key and was surprisingly relieved when it turned easily. The T-shaped barrel turned which allowed the metal plate to slide out. As René lifted the latch the back board of the desk fell away suddenly and René jumped back with a fright. She reached far into the desk and felt the old leather texture cover of an old journal. She removed the book gently and placed the big old book on the desk. The book was an old brown leather bound journal with a leather string wound around a pin on the front cover. There was no writing on the cover.
As René unwound the string she had a strange sense of dread. “Why had whoever tried to hide this book gone to such lengths to hide it?” she thought. René carefully opened the cover and noticed her mother’s handwriting straight away.
“THE DAGGER” was all it said and had a small hand drawn picture of some type of blade. She paged through the first few pages and soon realized that her mother had secretly been doing an investigation into her father’s murder.
She called Luke over to come have a look and they both stared shocked at the journal as they read the entries into her mother’s old book.
There were references to all the towns that René had just read off the map. And with side notes scribbled in pencil in random places with arrows leading from one phrase to another.
Phrases such as “what was he doing there?” and “is local government involved”
As they read further they started to understand Adele’s thinking patterns and started putting the pieces together.
René and Luke spent the next few days meticulously going over every entry and scribble in the diary. They started making their own notes on a writing pad and soon came to realize that all the pins on the giant wall mounted map had great importance.
The book was also filled with code names followed a person’s name and even had a few contact numbers.
“I guess my dad was never a banker” said René “but the book never tell us what he did!”
As they worked their way through the entire book all the images René held of her father were shattered. They both learnt that her father was in fact the one the book referred to as “The Dagger” and that his business was all done ‘underground’.
With hands shaking and clinched in fists of anger, René turned the last page of the journal.
“FRAANSKRAAL!” was written in big bold letters across the page and a smaller phrase that read “it all leads to Fraanskraal, South Africa!”
“What leads to Fraanskraal?!” asked René to no one in particular as she slammed her fist on the desk.
“Maybe we should take a few steps back” said Luke and put his arm around René and lead her away.
Over the next few days they tried desperately to forget everything they had read and learnt but the intrigue and mysteriousness of it all was over powering. All their conversations would always somehow turn to the fact that despite all they had learnt they still hadn’t figured out anything.
On a cold rainy afternoon Luke met René at the local coffee shop just outside his apartment. René had no fingernails left and as she bit and clawed at them Luke felt an overwhelming urge to help her.
They greeted each other as Luke took a seat.
“I bought us something.” he said as she looked at him through scared eyes.
He reached into his bag and pulled out a red envelope which he handed to René.
She took the paper parcel and torn it open. Inside were two one way tickets to Johannesburg.
“I thought it would set your mind at ease if we go see what Fraanskraal has to offer.” He said softly.
“Thank you!” she said as Luke reveled in her smile. The first one he’d seen from her in a long time.
“We can stay with my parents for the first few days and they we can drive down to Fraanskraal together. I’ve already spoken to my parents and let them know that we are coming. They think we’re coming for a holiday so they don’t know about your dad.”
As the days to take off grew closer they spent a lot of time planning their trip. René was consumed with her mother’s journal and tried to extract every clue about Fraanskraal out of it. She wasn’t quite sure what she was going to find in Franskraal or even what she was searching for but she knew she had to go.
Finally the day arrived and as they felt the plane take off René gripped Luke’s hand tightly.
The plane landed at O.R. Tambo International and René and Luke made their way through customs without much hassle. As they exited through the glass sliding doors Luke saw his mother and father waiting for them. The giant smiles on both their faces and a giant sign that read “FRENCHMAN” made Luke laugh out loudly. He dropped his backpack and ran to meet them. Joanne started crying and Greg gripped Luke around the shoulders and hugged him, squeezing all the air out of him. After the initial meeting Luke took a step back and introduced René to his mother and father. Greg had a strange feeling that he’d met René somewhere before but brushed the feeling aside as he greeted her with a hug just slightly softer that the one he gave Luke which took René by surprise. All the happiness and love made René giggle and she felt comfortable right away.
Driving home, Luke told his family all about Paris. He told them about his little apartment that he rented and the local coffee shop. He told them about his trip up the Eiffel tower and all the museums he had visited. As they pulled onto the small dust road that lead to their little farm house Luke started showing René all the things he had missed so much. He shouted and pointed when he saw his horse running at full speed and told René that he would take her on a ride. He showed her the fountain and explained the claylat to her.
As they drove up to the house, René’s eyes were filled with wonder. The summer rains had brought a dirty green to the landscape and she could see the little streams flowing down the hill into the man a made dam below the house. The brown and yellow veldt grass swayed in the breeze and a flock of tiny yellow finches skirted the tree tops. It was a beautiful scene. One she hadn’t expected to see. As a young child she had read about this Dark Continent in books that had conjured images of a wild and savage land. She knew she had been naïve but it was fun to think places like that still existed. There was a still vast expanse of open land and over the next few days she would come to learn that a natural wildness still grew in each Africans heart. Be it a black man or white. They grew attached to the rough and wild existence that was once Africa.
Greg parked the car and helped René take her bags inside. René’s eyes surveyed the house with wonder. Being an interior designer she marveled at the décor of this modest South African home. From the light wooden floors to the sponged burn orange walls, the giant brick fire place is the corner and a collection of African painting adorning the walls. What struck her most was the contrast between wild and ‘tame’ with a pair of crossed assegai mounted about a huge plasma TV screen, the thatched roof with raw wooden beams being lit up by modern light fixtures. It was nothing but beautiful. To the right was an open plan kitchen with an old wood burning stove and standing next to it was a top of the line refrigerator. She laughed as she noticed all these ‘anomalies’ and couldn’t help but smile at the beauty of it all.
“So what do you think? Not a bad mud hut hey? Asked Luke.
“It’s beautiful.” was all she could say as her eyes continued to wonder the room.
Luke took René’s bags to the guest room and showed her around the rest of the house. She ran her fingers over every wooden sculpture and could feel the time and effort the artist had used to create these masterpieces. As they entered the guest room she grinned from ear to ear as she noticed that this room in particular was decorated in the “African” theme. With a dark brown duvet cover that was embroidered with Bushmen style paintings to the glass vase with a few strands of veldt grass in it. She would sleep well here.
As the sun set on the horizon they all sat outside on the ‘stoep’, or deck, as Greg started a fire in a fire placed they called a ‘braai’. Luke poured René a drink, a glass of Amarula, which he explained was a favorite among South African. A creamy drink made from the marula fruit. René and Luke sat in silence for a while as they watched the sun fade over the edge of the earth. The night came alive with the sounds of nature and a jackal howled close by and birds called Kiewit’s shouted their warning calls. Greg then came walking out the house holding a stainless steel container which held the biggest steak René had ever seen.
“Its call a ‘Blou bul’ or blue bull steak” he explained. “One of these pieces of meat would surely be enough for three large families” thought René but right after Greg placed the container next to the braai, out walked Joanne with a think, long piece of sausage.
“That’s boerewors” Greg said as he broke of a small piece and popped it in him mouth raw and smacked his lips with pleasure.
Greg cooked the meat over the fire with a practiced precision. He took great care in applying spices and turning it every so often as they all sat outside and spoke about everything and nothing. The stars and moon lit the dark expanse of land that lay below the house as the noises of unseen animals pierced their conversation.
All South Africans are proud of what they have. They enjoy the look of wonder that crosses the faces of most tourists who come to the Dark Continent for the first time. They revel in the way they cook their food, the way they drink their drinks and the way that nature touches and lives within each and every true blooded African. This pride touched René as she saw how excited Luke got as he told her stories of his farm life.
Greg placed the cooked meat back in the steel container and everyone followed him inside. The ebony ball and claw dining table had been prepared and was adorned with bowls containing all sorts of different things. There was a green salad, a potato salad, beetroot and a massive pot filled with a kind of white stiff porridge called pap that was made from maize meal, René also noticed that most of the sauces were in old glass bottles and obviously home made. There was a tomato and onion mix, a variety of salad dressings and what she later discovered was a pickled mango concoction called Atcha.
As they joined hands, Greg said grace and gave thanks for the meal they had prepared. He also gave thanks for the fact that his son and René had made it safely and asked for a pleasant holiday for both of them. Luke felt René’s hand tighten as the truth behind their visit returned to her briefly.
The conversation around the table was light and friendly and René ate so much that she thought she might be sick. The food was like nothing she’s ever eaten before. The tenderness of the meat and the slight taste of the fire were delicious. After dinner they sat around the table as Joanne made coffee and before René knew it Greg and Joanne got up and said their goodnights. She was sad to see them go to bed as the conversation had kept her mind away from Franskraal. She looked over at Luke and saw the look of content on his face and knew that he was extremely happy to be home.
The next morning as a distant rooster crowed, René woke to the smell of breakfast.
“More food?!” she thought as she climbed out of bed and followed the intoxication smells that flowed through the house. She walked into the kitchen to find everyone sitting around the kitchen table. A table made from sawn tree trunks and polished to a brown shine. Luke jumped up and walked over to her, gave her a kiss and asked.
“You sleep well?”
“Very!” she replied “good morning Mr. and Mrs. Jordan”
An angry look flushed over Greg’s face.
“None of this mister and missus stuff” he scolded jokingly “Its Greg and Joanne. Please.”
René smiled and nodded as they offered her breakfast. A mixture of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, sausages and fried tomatoes. Her first night in Africa had been a very pleasant one but she knew it wouldn’t be like that for long. Luke read her mind and quickly came to her rescue.
“How about a walk?” he asked as he kissed her again.
They spent all day wondering the hills. Luke showed René the old stone kraals that were still visible on the hillsides, the fountain where he and Greg played claylat. He took her into the stables and introduced her to the horses. He showed her the tracks from the animals that had wondered the land the night before and picked her wild fruit of the trees which squirted out the sides of her mouth as she bit into them.
That night they had another braai as they watched the sun set again. The bright orange, the deep reds and the soft pale purples were magnificent. Luke told René of her plans to build his house a bit further away down the hill and as he explained his vision, René found herself imagining what it would be like to live in this strange beautiful country.
She smiled at the thought.
After a week filled with laughter, adventure and braaiing, Luke suggested that they start planning their ‘holiday’. He decided that it would be a good idea that they travel the ‘garden route’ and make the trip an exciting one in foresight of their decent on Franskraal. He knew that Franskraal would be a traumatic event for René and wanted to ease her pain anyway he could. His father lent them his Toyota Hilux and with a packed vehicle they headed south. As they drove down the farm road Luke could help but remember the saying for the movie”The Lion King.” “It Starts!”