Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chapter Six - The Feeding and The Dream

Don't forget to use the Book Chapter Directory on the right to read the Chapters in sequence. 
The following events are all true. Names and location have been changed.

Part One: Love in a Harsh Landscape
Chapter Six
1910 South Africa – The Feeding and The Dream

Jean-Michel was so angry.
There was a gushing sound in his ears and his vision was rushed and red tinted. His mother had her hand firmly clamped around his wrist, walking at a pace. Getting him away from there.
“Stop pulling me!” he snarled, ripping his arm from her grasp. He stopped short. Absolutely horrified that he had behaved that way and spoken in that way to his mother.
Marcelle observed him coolly. In reality, she was barely keeping her cool. It wasn’t time for him to know anything yet. He had a few months of innocence left and she sure as hell wasn’t going to take that from him.
“What is happening to me? Why did I behave in that way?” his eyes searched hers for an answer, and found none.
I will tell you all in good time Jean-Michel. I need you to trust me and be patient. You are not to see that girl. Not in the meantime. When you know the truth, you will know then that I am right in what I am requiring of you.” She had already distanced herself from him emotionally. He could see it in her eyes and in the way that she was speaking to him.
He sighed.
He would find no answers here.
Perhaps with his Father he might.

He saw his father’s car waiting just ahead of them, and they approached the vehicle together, to all the world appearing as if nothing were wrong. His mother linked arms with him, placing hers gently through the crook of his elbow. He felt the strength there, she tightened her fingers on his arm and he winced.
You will not speak of this to your Father, nor to any person here, do you understand?” She nodded at a couple walking passed, “You cannot understand the significance of what is happening to you, and until you do, you will be safer saying nothing. Talk to me if you must, but say nothing to anyone.

The sun was setting and Jean-Michel had retired to his room. The full moon was set to be a beauty that night. In the lounge room, Marcelle felt that old familiar stirring. She was restless, knew she would not rest at all. Henri made sure that the house was closed up for the night. Made sure that Jean-Michel was safe in his room, and made his way downstairs. Marcelle was standing near the window, her hands claw like, her body tense and rigid.
“I will be alright my love” he said, walking towards the passageway that led to her art room.
“How do you know it will? You always say it will. But it sometimes isn’t. What about last month?” Marcelle swallowed hard, her eyes closing as the scent of her husbands’ cologne reached her nose. Her heightened sense of smell made it harder to be near him at this time.
“Come. Let us go my love.” Henri walked down the passage way and unlocked the door.
Marcelle followed.

Jean-Michel was having a dream. In it, he walked down a rocky outcrop under the moonlit sky. He saw the ghostly shapes of the rocks, and hay bales. The eerie pale blue shapes that were sheep, dotted around the veld. His shoes slipped and he stumbled forward as small stones rolled and skittered across the ground below him. In the distance, he saw the shape of Winkelmaan Farm. A lighted window let him know that someone was awake. The window belonged to Elmarie Venter.
He stumbled towards the house, a dry longing in his throat and mind. He made it to the window and reached up to tap the glass panel. Elmarie’s sweet face appeared in the window, a look of concern followed by a look of joy. She pointed away, she would meet him at the back of the property, he knew where.
The dream changed, it took on a slanted, nightmare quality. The sounds of the bush were magnified, his breathing was louder than he had ever heard. His heartbeat was faltering, stopping altogether. Fighting panic he looked up as Elmarie approached. Instead of pulling her into his arms, he grabbed at her and pulled her roughly to him. Feeling a thirst and hunger so great that he could do nothing different: he broke her.


Henri locked the door behind them, and made his way deeper into the art room. He stood by the window and looked up at the moon. It was almost time.
Behind him in the shadows, Marcelle had taken on an almost predatory gait. She circled him slowly, watching his breath rise and fall, listening to the rush of blood in his veins. Feeling the heat of his skin from across the room. She felt the familiar pain in her jaw, the movement of her teeth, her vision became sharper, like an owl, or an eagle. Seeing everything. Hearing everything.
The room went silent. Henri shut his eyes and fought the small snakes of fear that threatened to slither from his belly to his mind. If he became afraid, things would end badly. He needed to remain in control, calm, assured of her. Of them. The silence was the worst part. Being hunted by the one that you loved.
The attack always shook him to the core. The speed of it, the strength of her. The ferocity of it all. So basic. So primal. The sadness afterwards, the regret and remorse. The healing.
There was a sudden rush. Searing pain in his arm, her mouth over his wrist. Feeling her fighting the urge to kill. He knew not to look into her eyes. If he did so, she would move to his throat and that would not be good at all. He did his best to remain aloof. To look ahead as if the pain was not so great, as if his heart was not breaking. The light headedness was hard to bear. But bear it he must. Any sign of weakness and her humanity would be lost in the moment. He swallowed as he forced himself to remain calm. He would not die this night.

Jean-Michel woke with a start. His body wet with perspiration, his chest heaving with sobs and gulps of air. What was happening? He could not get the image of Elmarie broken in his arms out of his mind… What was going on. He rose to have some water at his night stand and stood a while looking up at the moon. The light was off in his mother’s art room, the comforting yellow glow from her windows wasn’t washing the garden in it’s warm light. He frowned but climbed back into bed. Tomorrow would be another day.

The gentle tickle of her softly licking his wrists brought Henri back around. The sun was rising and he was tired and weak. Marcelle worked over his torn skin, each lick bringing about new skin regeneration, healing. Her tears and words of remorse broke his heart every time.

Jean-Michel rose and went to his wash stand, splashing cold water over his face, he looked into the mirror. His eyes were bleak, serious. He had so many questions unanswered.

He ran his fingers through his hair and tried to smile. The smile vanished as soon as it appeared. Leaving only a shocked and horrified face staring back. His teeth were different. But how? He opened his mouth to look but as he did so, the teeth moved and returned to normal. Try as he may, that morning while he had his breakfast and planned his day: he couldn’t shake the image of Elmarie’s lifeless body, and the hint of the sharpened eyetooth that he had seen in the mirror. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Chapter Five - Endris Krogull becomes Didier Gabin

Don't forget to use the Book Chapter Directory on the right to read the Chapters in sequence. 
The following events are all true. Names and location have been changed.

Part One: Love in a Harsh Landscape
Chapter Five - Endris Krogull becomes Didier Gabin
1850 France

“Your name?”
“Endris Krogull member of the Prussian Garde Mobile”
“Very well, ticket please.”
“It is in my bag, one moment please. Here it is…”
“Ah, good.”

Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke had ordered the troops to a location that Endris had no intention of visiting. He had faced his enemy, and lost. As a result of the French-Prussian War, concentrated Prussian forces were gathered in the provinces of Lorraine and Alsace. A mass exodus had occurred out of Paris as about 200,000 middle-class people went to live in the countryside. Endris did not know the destination, but he knew that he needed to remain in Paris to begin his assimilation with the culture and people. Krogull had done his time in with the Prussian people, it was time to move on.

Walking down the sun filled pathway to the nunnery, Rosine de Fleur smiled to herself as she collected small flowers and placed them in the woven basket that she carried. She tucked them under the red fabric that lined the basket, hiding them from view. She wasn’t allowed to pick flowers, Mother Superior said that all life whether small or seemingly insignificant, had value and should be allowed to grow unfettered. Rosine agreed to a degree, but she also loved to press them in her secret book, she had at least forty pressed flowers now and knew each one by heart. Rosine lived in the Love of the Mother convent just outside of Paris, the last old-fashioned stop before meeting the modern Paris that everyone loved to hate. She watched with interest as a train passed her by, windows rolled down as young army men hung from the windows smoking and talking. Wolf whistles filled the air. Prussians. She spat on the ground and crossed her heart with the sign of the Christ. Men were dirty. Prussians were the worst of the lot.

Endris shut his eyes and pretended to sleep. He did not sleep very often, but for subtlety sake he pretended when he could. He focused on relaxing first his shoulders, then his hands. Portraying the soft, sagging posture of a sleeping army man. His ears were alert though, he could hear the captain talking in the next carriage, the sound every so often of papers being shuffled. He listened further, he could hear the men whispering about 5 cars down the train. Mutiny. How surprising for members of the Garde Mobile. They were a notorious lot. Mutiny was the order of the day it seemed. For any reason. He was keen to be gone from the nonsense and politicized thought processes of these men. He had other things to do now.
The train picked up speed and, as the sunlight faded, the sound of chatting and laughing, the smells of cigarettes and cigars burning ceased. The gentle rocking of the train lulling any and all to sleep. It had been a tumultuous and hard few years, so many lost, many were missing home. Wanting to return to the way it had been before 1870.

As the few remaining noises stilled, Endris stealthily rose to his feet. His shoes removed and stored in his rucksack, he made no noise at all. He slid the door aside, slowly and purposefully so that the wooden runner wouldn’t squeal as it moved. He shifted like a shadow out into the passageway. Suddenly he slammed himself backwards into a small alcove as a man shuffled past, yawning and placing his hat on his head. Endris waited until the man had passed and then slipped out again into the passageway.
Hey! You!”
Time to act. No time to think.
Endris moved as fast as light, grabbing the man by the back of his head and slamming his face into the copper window arch. His other hand moved like a scythe to cover, clamp and block the man’s mouth and nose. The lure was inescapable. The pulsating beating heart so close to his own… Unconscious, the man did not fight, did not feel himself being smothered. After a few minutes, Endris quickly moved the lifeless body to an empty carriage and arranged him as if he was sleeping. It was time to go. Now. Someone would have heard something.

Rosine entered the Convent through the vegetable garden door, a heavy dark wooden door – worn smooth from years of hands opening and closing it. The smell of cooking food welcomed her inside.
“Did you get the letter?” Cook lurched over to her, her one shorter leg making her walk like a hurdy gurdy sounds.
“Yes, I did. Here we go. And this for you…” a small green apple. Cook chuckled and took the apple. Placing it in her apron with a smile on her face. “Funny girl”
In her room, beautiful sweet Rosine prepared for bed, plaiting her thick luscious hair, washing her face, hands and feet. A knock sounded at the door. Father Aubin. Her stomach sank. The thrill of fear crept up her neck, like the cool breeze in the morning under her skirt.
“Are you busy? May I enter?”
He asked as if she had any say. Tears formed in her eyes. The day had been a lovely one. Ruined now.
He entered, making the sign of the Christ in front of a portrait of the Virgin Mary. He looked around for a shawl, and then draped it over the portrait. What Maria didn’t see, she wouldn’t know about.
Aubin moved furtively towards Rosine, catching her up in his hands.
“Have you been a good girl today?” he whimpered. A pale sheen of sweat had already formed on his top lip. Anticipation.
“Yes, Father Aubin. I have.” Eyes squeezed shut, Rosine fought the urge to vomit as she felt his cool clammy hand slide beneath the hem of her robe and slide up the soft skin of her inner thigh. Without thinking, she grabbed his hand to stop its progress, a mistake. The sting of the slap across her face shocked and appalled her. Reeling, she gasped and held her cheek, eyes wide.
“Now, that was a naughty thing to do Rosine.” His hand started moving again, this time he was not gentle. This time, he hurt her.

Feeling the cold wind on his face, Endris slid open the door and swung outside the train. Shutting the door behind him he clung close to the wooden siding, watching the eerie moonlit shapes of trees and fields flying by. He saw dark shapes, houses ahead, and made his jump. He landed with a rough roll. Winding himself and feeling the impact on his side and his hip. He lay still for a while in case any of the guards on the train had watched him jump. A still, hidden target is harder to hit than a revealed and running one. Once the sound of the train faded away, Endris slowly crawled a little further into the field before crouching and then standing. He would have to be very careful, people were scared and armed. He would need to pass as a Frenchman in order to survive this transition period.

The doors of the small Inn opened and a young man walked inside. Dressed comfortably and obviously a middle class worker, he stood at the door until the Innkeeper happened by.
“Oh my goodness you have frightened me Sir!”
“I apologise, Sir, that was not my intent! I have found myself here at this time and am in need of a place to rest and eat until tomorrow. Are you able to accommodate me?”
“Yes, yes, of course. We have rooms upstairs, they have not been cleaned but I’m sure we can make you quite comfortable. Celeste!”
A middle-aged woman scurried in, her red hair pushed under the frills of a white cap. She then continued her scurry upstairs, off to clean and prepare a room for the young Sir.
“Pardon my bad manners, Sir. But what is your name?”
Endris took a breath and smiled, masking his Prussian accent completely, “Didier, Didier Gabin, from Paris.”

Sunrise turned Rosine’s room into a pink tinted wonderland. The red curtains filtering the golden light, making the air rich and colourful. Her eyes moved as they followed the swirling dust motes careening through the air. The shawl was still over the portrait of the Virgin Mary. In his horror and haste to leave last night, he had forgotten that part of his ritual. She stirred in the bed, mouth down turned as she felt the tenderness there, and the pain that he had inflicted with his old hands. Why he needed to touch her like that, in that way, made no sense. There was no joy in the act, just anger - and longing - she supposed. It would be a week at least before he visited again. Until then she knew he would be filled with self-loathing and internal flagellation's. It made no sense.

She rose and dressed, washing herself carefully, wincing at the sharp pains. She tied her hair, walked downstairs and out of the door. She had her usual errands to run, post to collect, but first… she wanted to collect some flowers.

She walked along the tracks into town, and when she reached the Inn she popped inside to ask after the Innkeepers wife. In the main foyer seated by the fire place, was a man unlike any other she had ever seen. Her breath became shallow, her eyes hooded… he was beautiful. His hair fell in waves, cut short at the back and sides, his nose was straight and proud, his lips carved perfectly as if from marble. His hands were broad and strong. He wore comfortable clothing – not a farmer or a business man it seemed. He turned his head to look at her – and the air sizzled between them. She couldn’t lower her eyes if she tried. He rose and walked slowly towards her, like a hunter to his prey. There was something about his eyes that she just couldn’t explain. They drew her in, the smell of him, like honey and saffron – teased her senses and made her want to immerse herself in him.
“Good morning”
His lips twitched into a half smile, her pulse leapt in her chest and he could see a small vein pulsing near her collar bone. He could feel her arousal – and he was interested. Very interested.
“My name is Didier Gabin, and you are?...”
“Rosine de Fleur”

Further down the track, as the sun rose over the moving train, cries of fear and outrage split the morning. The discovery of the dead man. His jugular torn, his body completely leeched of blood. 

Chapter Four - A Change is Coming...

Don't forget to use the Book Chapter Directory on the right to read the Chapters in sequence. 
The following events are all true. Names and location have been changed.

Part 1: Love in a Harsh Landscape 
Chapter Four - A Change is Coming...

1910 South Africa

Marcelle reached for her fine paint brush, with one long motion she painted a simple line across the page. Instantly the nondescript scene became recognizable… the river Seine from the right bank. She smiled as she pictured the movement of the trees in a gentle Parisian breeze; she shut her eyes and imagined the people walking there. She saw the sun shining on the Pont Bridge, she heard the water lapping up against the yellow stones… When she focused on the page again she started to paint fluidly, forming grass, water, trees and a few people here and there…

The sun rose slowly over the home studio, Marcelle turned her head towards the light as if in a daze, her face was smeared with traces of pale blue and yellow. She placed her paintbrush into a tall beveled glass of water, and removed her spattered white apron. She walked gracefully to the large grey sink and washed her hands in the bucket of water there. Drying her hands, she started to carefully clean her fingernails. Traces of the night’s painting were in every crevice and fold of her skin. She smiled at the poetic nature of this. Frowned at the mess of it.
Un tel gâchis…Such a mess!” her smooth forehead crinkling with the finest of lines. Her delicate features were the envy of all of the women in town. Her dark hair rolled back neatly and pinned to her head in elaborate plaits, often caught the sun and shone with deep natural ebony – and no hint of grey. There was talk about her using a natural dye called Henna, from the local spice traders and passing migrant laborers, but this was not so. She walked towards the window, leaning on the sill; she smiled out at the new day,
Bienvenue soleil du matin… Welcome morning sun.”

Henri de la Terre drove his shining Ford Model N up their short tree lined drive, he had bought it from a Mr Georges Chapard (also conveniently a Frenchman) as he travelled throughout Natal selling the popular car. As Henri jumped from the cabby, two teenaged boys ran giggling out from the shade under the house, and started to lead two shabby horses that were tied to the railing, to the back of the house.
“Make sure they get water and some food.”
“Yes Baas.” The Swazi twins Mahlosane and Sambulo chimed in unison at their boss, and led the horses away chatting loudly to each other. Henri was also a good man, he was fair. Their mother, Nosi, a Swazi migrant had worked at the house until she died from influenza a few years before, Mahlo and Sam both worked as all-rounders, running errands, fixing odds and ends, maintaining the gardens and watching over the Madam when Henri was not home. They would leave the two horses tied to the gate so that people passing by would know that someone was home visiting the lady of the house.
He opened the front door of his home and made his way inside,
“Marcelle? Good morning! Where are you love?” He stopped at each doorway peeking inside to see if she was perhaps buried in a good book or maybe out taking a short walk.
“I am here my love, in the library.”
Henri sped up his steps, seeing his wife was quite possibly the best part of his day, every day. A man could not have asked for a better woman. Industrious, talented and kind hearted. He stopped at the Library and knocked politely, Marcelle played along,
“Who is it?”
“May I come in Madam?”
“But of course!” Marcelle laughed and stood quickly to receive her husband with a loving hug. In public they were the picture of a ‘proper marriage’ but in their own home they were very affectionate and enjoyed each others company very much.

After sharing tea, Henri drove them the short distance into Hermanskraal and he dropped her at the Gallery or “Galleria” as she had named it. Before she stepped down he kissed her lightly on the cheek and she gave him a warm smile. He watched her fuss with her shawl while trying to find the keys in her purse, she was a fine woman, slender and petit, always fashionably dressed… and always complaining about the paint on her hands and nails. It was ‘part of the job’ he always said, ‘just accept it’ She wished she could paint with gloves on, and she had tried too. But alas, it was not comfortable and her painting had looked stiff and uninviting…

Marcelle walked to her desk and sat down, preparing to read through her paperwork from the day before. International purchases of the Galleria’s paintings to finalise, new artists to preview, and there was a chance that she could visit Paris in a month’s time to sell some more of her artwork, and purchase some new pieces for the Galleria showroom. With the new roads winding up from the coast and through Hermanskraal, there was a more steady stream of travelers making their way through the sleepy dorp town, husbands or men who wanted to surprise their wives or lovers with a beautiful piece of art… By midday the stifling African heat was too much, the hiss and shrill cry of the Cicadas lending an ominous feel to the days oppressive heat. She stepped out to find a cool place to have lunch. She decided on the small tea shop “Little London” that served delicious British cakes, scones and lots of different types of tea. She walked into the tearoom and sat down, ordering two scones with fresh cream and jam, and a pot of Earl Grey tea. Once it arrived she started to eat, she looked up and saw through a back window – two young lovers holding one another and laughing – the young man looked familiar… suddenly the man threw his head back in laugher, and Marcelle’s hand flew to her throat, her mouth making a little O shape. It was her son, Jean-Michel with the local loudmouth farmer Pa Venter’s only daughter, Elmarie. She felt her stomach repulse and pushed her plate of food from her, her eyes darted around as she tried to think of how long this may have been going on, she thought of the consequences.
“I will take this with me please, I must go. Now.” she said brusquely to the tea lady. She rose quickly and paid at the front desk,
“You aren’t staying my dear?” the tea lady frowned, concerned.
“No, No, I have much to do now, much to do. Sorry and thank you for the… uh… the… lunch… it was… how you say?... Marvelous?” Her English always failed her when she was upset.
“Thank you for the compliment, and I must say, your latest paintin’ is jus’ lovely. All those dancin’ girls an’ frills… very nice.” But Marcelle had already left the tea room.

She raced up the steps of the Galleria, locked the gate and walked down and around the building, looking for the two youngsters. As she approached she saw something happen that made her breath quicken, the look in her son’s eyes and the way he was looking at Elmarie… hungry was the only description.

The two youngsters jumped back from one another and looked as though they had seen a ghost.
“Mother! Uh… allow me… uh… this is Elmar…”
I know who she is. Come with me this instant I am not playing games Jean-Michel come with me NOW” she was being rude, she knew she was being rude. She had not greeted or acknowledged her son’s friend and she didn’t care. She needed to get him away from here and away from this girl. It was a bad idea. Not now. Not at this time in his life. Elmarie had tears on her cheeks, shame making her cheeks flushed. Jean-Michel was enraged, fist clenched as he regarded his mother’s rudeness. God. How to do this.
Now. Jean-Michel, come with me now.”
“Yes… Yes, Jean. You must listen to your mother. Go with her please. I have to meet Pa soon so please. I don’t want trouble for you just go.”
Jean-Michel looked from his pale and flustered mother, to his embarrassed and dismayed girl, why was this so hard? Suddenly he saw a vision before him, he saw Elmarie lifeless in his arms, blood smeared across her neck and shoulder. The vision was so clear and in front of his eyes, he gasped and stepped back. Turning to look at his mother, she was staring at him in a strange way and nodding. Did she just?... How had she done that? He ran his fingers through his hair, feeling shocked by what he had just seen. And more so because he had felt a feral animalistic response to it.
“I will go with my mother, but I will see you soon Elmarie…” he reached out and took Elmarie’s hand in his. He felt her pulse beneath her skin with his thumb, circling it gently, the desire to raise her wrist to his lips was so overpowering that he dropped her hand immediately. What was going on?
“Now. Follow me now Jean-Michel!”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Chapter Three - Paris, the Birth

Don't forget to use the Book Chapter Directory on the right to read the Chapters in sequence. 
The following events are all true. Names and location have been changed.

Part 1: Love in a Harsh Landscape 
Chapter Three - Paris, the Birth

1873 Paris 

The floorboards creaked under the weight of Madame Fontaine as she fumbled anxiously with the white linen towels.
“She is ready! Hurry up Fontaine! It is time!”

She hurried up the narrow stairway and pushed the old wooden door open, the creaking of the hinge caused the lady on the bed to rise up and look at her, he large abdomen distorted under the quilted blanket. A fire roared in the grate and the room smelled putrid. Infected. Cursed. Abomination.
“Will the child come now?” Fontaine asked, worry lining her face.
“Yes, any minute now, and when she does we must get the infant away from that monster before she hurts it…Jesus. Mary. Joseph. Archangel Gabriel…” There was a stirring from the bed and the labouring mother stirred, a low guttural groan escaping her scarred throat, the groan turned into the chilling snarl of a wild animal - her body thrashed against the rough ropes holding her down.
“I won’t hurt my child! J’aime mon bébé! I love my baby!” another snarl and shriek, the red dark ringed eyes burned with malice and hatred for her captors.
“The priest will be here shortly. You will never touch this misfortunate child. You are evil, an abomination and you will never leave this room!” 

Again, the woman in the bed roared and wrestled with the ropes. Her movement moved the entire four poster bed. Causing the women surrounding it to pray even more fervently. One of the thick ropes started to fray and unravel, with every rough pull.
“Quickly mon dieu! She escapes! Elle échappe! Quickly! More rope!” The frantic activity of women in white dresses. Scared women scurrying wildly around, praying, tying ropes and avoiding the snapping snarling woman in the bed.
“Dieu nous délivre de ce mal! God deliver us from this evil!”

A cry of pain and the gush of birth.

The quiet sound of death... of breath leaving lungs. Eyes dulling. The mother passing on, as her lifeblood flooded from her…

No sound. A small seemingly lifeless form. 

Then, a child’s newborn cry. 

Chapter Two - Pearl Niemand, Kirk Venter, Sirius

Don't forget to use the Book Chapter Directory on the right to read the Chapters in sequence. 
The following events are all true. Names and location have been changed.

Part 1: Love in a Harsh Landscape
Chapter Two - Pearl Niemand, Kirk Venter, Sirius

1910 Africa

The cool water tumbled from the rusted tap, as Pearl pushed and pulled the pump handle to get the fresh bore water flowing. She tucked a strand of curly hair behind her ear and reached into her bodice to take a hold of the white handkerchief tucked away inside. She stood and arched her back, her hands behind her hips stretching her lower back. She grimaced and wiped her forehead and upper lip with the white cloth, heaving a big sigh.
She allowed her dark brown eyes to wander along the farm track to the far distant gate. It had been the driest year and all of the grass was brown and withered – desperate. Somewhere beyond sight, a small fire blazed in one of the fallow fields lending a blue grey haze to the horizon. Pearl smiled. She loved the smell of this place, a mixture of dirt, fynbos, animal hide and bush smoke. It was the smell of Africa.

A sound from deep inside the cool dark portico’d house caused her to quickly return to pumping, pushing until the pail was almost full. She stood again and wiped her brow once more, the January heat was unbearable these days… Clicking her tongue, she called out, “Xa! Kiewie! Kom!” a large goat wandered closer, strapped into a small cart just big enough for the large water pail. Pearl smiled again, her Kirk was so clever. He had noticed that another older goat named Konstable, loved being near her ‘at all times’ and had fashioned this small cart for her, to help her carry the heavy milk and water pails every day. Kiewie was the third-generation goat to do this duty, and Kiewie loved it. Pearl was grateful. She stopped a while as her thoughts wandered to hazy distant memories of her friend Kirk.

Another sound from the house.
Pearl sped up, leading the goat forward she crossed to the house and heaved the pail up the four steps and onto the deep porch. Lifting it carefully she stepped over the threshold and into the house, walking gingerly along the wooden floor boards she called out “I am here!” she bumped open the front door with her ample bottom and walked in backwards, struggling with the weight of the pail, “I have the water… Ma!”

Far away, Kirk Venter sat on the train. His eyes flicked back and forth as he focused on one moving object after another. The motion of the train had lulled him into a deep restful state. The sun warmed his skin through his brown collared shirt. He looked down at his hands folded in his lap. Rough and hardened from years of good clean work and from some fighting in the war as well. He smiled at himself. Pa Venter was going to be so happy. Six years away with not many letters in that time, it was going to be good being home again, this time as a man and not as a boy.

A knock on the carriage door, and a stranger poked their bespectacled head inside the small cabin,
“Oh sorry ol’chap, didn’t know anyone was in here.” They wrinkled their nose, and left.
The one good thing about being a ‘Venter’ was that he was not a ‘friend of choice’ wherever an Englishman was concerned. It made him smile once more; then again he had never been conventional. He lifted his cap and placed it on his head and pulled it down over his tired eyes. He pushed it back into the seat, tilted his head and drifted off to sleep, to dream of Hermandskraal and all who lived there.

Pearl knocked on the kitchen door and heard a shuffle from within; her mother opened the door in a flurry of stress and intense heat.
“Pearly! Jong! Why did you take so long? The soup is going to be ruined now my girl, you took too long!…” She grabbed the pail from the struggling Pearl, and walked with ease over to the stove, scooping out a cupful of water and adding one cup after another until the soup was just right.
“Your father will be home soon and you know how he gets if his soup isn’t ready for him!” Hester was hot, she was tired, and she was anxious for her husband Aardt to be home from the stock sale.
“There’s a fire somewhere in the fields, Ma” Pearl said, wiping her hands on a cloth that lay on the sill, “I hope it doesn’t come here, it must stay where it is…” She sighed and walked a few steps, looking out of the window at the long drive again, “When is Pa meant to be home?”
“Soon, he said he would be home after mid day.” Hester looked out of the window as well, furiously wiping a soup bowl with a slightly damp cloth.  She fussed with her white cap, tucking her curled hair under the lip of the frilly lace border. Her brown skin shone from exertion and her dark eyes were watchful, worried, wanting to know that Aardt was alright. Times were changing, and if anything happened to Aardt…

“He’s here!” Pearl stepped away from the window and started to lay the table, a heavy wooden kitchen table with four rounded stools placed around it. She wiped the surface, and then laid down four pretty placemats. She placed four mugs onto the right hand corner of each mat, fetched a jug of drinking water, and finally placed a bowl of chutney, salt, pepper, some grated dry cheese and some soft churned butter in the middle of the table.  She stood back to admire her work as the porch creaked with the weight of her father’s boot steps. Her precious father, home safely.
“Ooh no! We forgot the bread Ma!”

The door opened and let the heat of the summer sun into the cool house,
“How are my gorgeous lilies?” Aardt Niemand was a tall man, with blue eyes and pure white hair, he was a handsome man. Caring and kind to his family, and intensely disliked by his community.
“We are fine my darling man…” Hester bustled forward out of the kitchen and hugged her husband tightly, “I was worried about you…”
“As usual. You will never learn Herstertjie. I am always just fine. Just fine. No one bothers me.” He drew her away from him and turned to look at his beautiful daughter.
“And you miss Pearltjie. You are lovelier than I remember my girl…” with a big smile he folded her into his arms for a fatherly hug. They made their way into the kitchen for lunch.

Kirk woke with a start as the train stopped. He stood unsteadily on his feet and collected his small luggage from the overhead storage. Making his way down the hot narrow passageway he stepped out onto the landing and started the long journey to Hermandskraal. He found a mail cart that was headed there and hitched a ride, sharing his lunch with the driver, an African gentleman named Sirius. 

They camped overnight in a donga, a shallow grassy area below a bank or ridge, they found a good water source there and the horses drank while Kirk and Sirius set up a sleeping place. Sirius started to make a fire, the crackling of the wood as it set fire was mesmerizing. Kirk sat quietly watching the white blue light that surrounded the edges of the dark wood as the flames grew stronger. He marveled to himself, a fire was a fire, but even the flames were not all the same. Some flames were white; some light yellow some a fierce light blue. The fire and the wood worked together, ubuntu. They worked as a unit to provide heat and warmth and light. He sighed, but at the end of the day the wood was spent and the fire died as well. Leaving what? Ashes and death. He looked away from the fire trying to clear these morbid thoughts from his mind.

Sirius returned from the darkness with something in his hands, a small duiker.
“You are good at this Sirius!” Kirk was genuinely impressed. Sirius smiled a big white shining smile.
“I’ve done this for a long time sir.”
“Yes I am sure Sirius, and please… call me Kirk. There is no one here to look at us.” Sirius started to skin the tiny buck, and prepare the meat. He had pockets full of salt, dried coriander, garlic, pepper and spices that he rubbed into the meat to flavour it.
“Sir, if I call you by ‘Kirk’. What will happen to me huh?” Sirius stopped and looked directly into Kirk’s eyes, “What will happen to a black man who calls a white man by his christian name?” He didn’t stop working, Kirk stared at him long and hard. He could see the intelligence in Sirius, the wisdom and understanding. He also saw the hurt, and yes, he saw the anger as well.
“Why do people have to act like that, towards one another Sirius?” Kirk held a piece of grass between his fingers, rolling it while he spoke.
“My life has been long and hard, sir. I have lost many people that I have loved, I have lost many, many jobs as well. Because I talk ‘straight’ and because I am honest as well. White men don’t like an honest Black man.” Sirius laid the prepared meat cuts out, and started to spear them onto a long narrow metal rod. Kirk watched him, fascinated.
“Let’s enjoy our evening Sirius, out here we are equals and we don’t have to limit ourselves to the same mindset as everyone else… please, call me Kirk. Out here. Call me Kirk.”
Sirius stopped and looked at him with a serious expression on his face, he saw before him a young man disillusioned and unsure. Suddenly he broke out into the brightest smile, lit up by the fire he looked almost comical, “Kirk it is then. But only when we are alone. I’m not going to get sjambok for you sir!” he pointed a bloodied finger at Kirk, laughing, “No, no sjambok, no! Ha ha!” They laughed, but inside their laughter was shades of blue. Times were surely changing. People were changing.

At the Niemand farm the sun was setting, the distant calls of birds preparing for night, the soft ‘hoe-hoe’ of an owl. Pearl sat near to the fire and worked on her needlepoint, she was stitching a row of fine flowers onto a new pillow case for her Mother’s bed. Hester sat knitting a cream coloured jersey, and Aardt sat staring into the fireplace while he smoked a long wooden pipe. Theirs was a contented family. Hardly ever any arguments or fights, necessity made them a tight unit. Being the only ‘mixed’ race family in Hermandskraal was not an easy thing to bear. Aardt was Dutch, he had come to South Africa during one of the many wars between the Afrikaners and the English. He had met Hester, a coloured woman, in town one day and had fallen in love instantly. They had fled their home town near the cape, and had settled in Hermandskraal. A year after they married, Pearl was born, and they had no other children. Aardt was a subsistence farmer, he farmed exactly what they needed to survive and they had no need of anything else. Once a quarter he would go into the town to buy supplies and seed, stock and fabrics – but other than that, they kept to themselves. The farm they had built and maintained was too far from the town for any visitors, so it was a quiet life. 

Aardt sometimes worried about Pearl, she was a beautiful young woman. She was just nineteen years old and starting to feel restless, he could see that. He took a deep drag from his pipe as he thought in earnest about what was going to happen to her. She couldn’t marry. The local tribesmen were too wild for his tastes, and the local white men Afrikaner and English alike would never ‘stoop’ to marry a coloured girl.  This thought made his skin flush and he grunted and shook his head, like a dog shaking off water. Shaking off anger at the injustices they’d faced. She had made a friend once, a young boy, when she was only thirteen. A ‘crush’ he’d called it. He had pinned his hopes on this young man but, like so many of the young men, he had ventured off and been gone almost five…no, six years now, with no sign of returning. Sometimes he would catch Pearl staring out of the window, looking at the long dusty driveway. He knew she was watching for her friend.

The sun rose early in summer, and the heat of the day started well before the light of day touched the dry parched ground. Having left before sunrise, Sirius and Kirk made their way into Hermandskraal as the sun rose slowly. They spoke of a great deal, they shared common ground, common ideals. When they arrived outside the town Post Office Kirk thanked Sirius warmly, saying,
“Sirius if you ever need work, call me, you know where my farm is now. I could use a real friend and someone that I can trust out here.” Sirius nodded curtly in the serious manner of his people, winked at Kirk secretly when he ducked his head, and without a salute or farewell he rode off to make his deliveries.

In the shadows of the Post Office, a young African child stood alone. Melting into the darkness, she was watching the Gallery across the road. When the sunlight touched her face her eyes were a metallic silver, almost opalescent. As she saw the Gallery door opening and a middle-aged woman exiting the building, with a brown paper wrapped painting in her hands, a low growl rippled her throat. Revealing a sharp, white, fang.

Chapter One - Winkelmaan and Hermandskraal

Don't forget to use the Book Chapter Directory on the right to read the Chapters in sequence. 
The following events are all true. Names and location have been changed.

Part One: Love in a Harsh Landscape 
Chapter One - Winkelmaan and Hermandskraal

1910 Africa

Once upon a time in Africa, there was a simple farm.
It was a place of shifting shadows, of lightly falling terracotta coloured dust and breathtaking sunsets over the dry veld. Nothing much happened there. Every morning the sun would rise. Every night the fierce frost would reduce a grown man to shivers.
“Winklemaan” farm house stood stark and white against the backdrop of the pitch black African night. The whitewashed walls glowing eerily in the moonlight, which also highlighted the thin and scraggly thorn bushes dotted about.
The old Cockerel was asleep on top of the raised water well, the lean-to splintered roost was quiet beside the house, with only the occasional cackle coming from within. Petrus, the farm dog - a strange mix of breeds, long legged and scruffy brown with the long well known Africanus lines to his face - lay whimpering on the porch. An unfinished bowl of cold pap n vleis lay next to him, a midnight snack, waiting.

Inside the house in the master bedroom, the high pitched hum of a mosquito, and the low rumbling snore of Pa Venter (pronounced Paah Fentir) filled the room and rumbled reassuringly down the short passageway into Elmarie’s bedroom.
As long as Pa was asleep, all was well with the world.
Despite the fact that there was a great war going on ‘over the seas’ or ‘oor die see’ as he put it. Elmarie lay awake and smiled into the darkness. Beneath her pillow lay a scrap of paper, worn and smooth along the edges from lots of openings and closings… a sketch, in fine pencil. She reached behind her head, beneath the frill of her pillow, and ran her slender finger along the edge of the paper, sighing, she fell asleep. To dream of wonderful possibilities, of smiling babies, whitewashed farm houses, wooden carts… and love.

“Elmarie! Come here!” Pa Venter grunted. He sniffed and stood up in the kitchen, with his big meaty hand on his narrow hips, his bulging stomach almost resting on the table. When Pa ventured into Church he remembered how to speak as eloquently as the well-educated Pastoor, but at home he spoke in his own quirky way.
“Elmarie! Jin-ne! Where’s breakfast girl? Come now man…” He sat again and shifted, straightened his short pants and tucked in shirt. His belt was making him uncomfortable. Not a good start to the day indeed.

“Sorry Pa. I was washing up.” Elmarie scurried into the kitchen and slammed the heavy iron skillet onto the fire. Sparks flew from the grate and almost touched Pa.
“Hey watch it Elmarie! This is my nice stuff man. I’m off to see Farmer Koos about the chicken feed …and about those cows you wanted.”  He lifted his bushy brow to see her reaction. Her oh so very slight pause made him smile to himself – he knew she had really wanted to add to her herd of dairy cows. He shifted around in his chair to better see the rough newspaper that he had before him.
“Sorry Pa. Thank you Pa.” Elmarie moved around, fetching eggs and bacon from the cool storage. The smell of grilling bread filled the room, Elmarie removed the chunks of crispy bread just at the right moment and smeared white creamy butter over them. Pa Venter reached out and took one to eat, not waiting for the eggs and meat first, Elmarie shot him an irritated look. One that he missed altogether.

“Are you going to come with me Elmarie? If you are then you better be ready by half past, I can’t wait. Also, we’ll be out till late so make sure you have food and something to drink for both of us.” He took another bite of the bread “Nice bread Skattie, next time more salt but ja, very nice.” He picked up the plate with steaming egg and bacon on it and walked from the room. By the front door he had eaten every scrap. Elmarie knew that he loved her cooking, and he was as proud as any Father would be. Elmarie could cook, sew, clean and she never gave him a day’s trouble. Her mother had passed on many years earlier and Elmarie had stepped in naturally to look after the household. She was a good girl.

Once they arrived in Hermondskraal, they walked to the nearest shop so that Elmarie could place her food and stock order for collection that afternoon. A tinkling bell alerted the owner to their presence.
“Good morning Venter family!” The store owner was pleased to see them; they were good and loyal customers of his. They bantered back and forth, trading stories and a little gossip as per usual. Elmarie placed her orders and they moved on.
They went into the local hotel to say hello to Elmarie’s uncle on her Mothers side. He treated them to a milkshake each, vanilla, just the way they liked it. They visited Koos and made arrangements for the purchase of feed, and for the acquisition of three cows for Elmarie to farm for milk and butter. One of the cows was already pregnant and it looked like the second was as well. Altogether a very good deal. After they sat and ate their lunch, cold meat and cheese on home made bread, Pa Venter said that he had to make some personal calls and would meet Elmarie back at the store in the afternoon. This suited Elmarie perfectly and they parted ways.

Elmarie made her way to the art gallery, it was a small one, but the artworks inside made her smile... She stared for ages at a wistful pastel coloured rendition of “Paris” and stood for a while admiring “Country Lane with Daffodils” before she felt a gentle hand at her elbow. With a smile and a flourish, she twirled around and stared up into the warm inviting face of Jean-Michel de la Terre. Jean-Michel had an ‘exotic’ mother from Europe, she had been in the place where the “Paris” painting was painted… in fact, it was his mother who had painted the picture herself. The gallery held quite a few of her artworks. Her husband Henri was a very ‘progressive’ man and many in the town were amazed that he allowed his wife so much freedom, freedom to travel, to dress up in new fashions, to paint!

The two of them giggled at one another, and ran from the gallery, arms entwined as they made their way haphazardly towards the outskirts of the small town. Once they reached the back-road, Jean-Michel grabbed Elmarie and folded her into his arms. Laughing, he kissed her breathlessly with such a passion that she pushed him away, and with a burst of sweet laughter she ran away from him until he caught hold of her again. He held her at arms length and stared at her, her cheeks, her long brown hair, her nose, her full rose-coloured mouth. His eyes travelled up to her big brown eyes framed with thick dark lashes, and he smiled.

His breath faltered for a second. A slow burning sensation rippled up the back of his throat. His eyes moved to the fine slim neck before him as his fingers dug into the soft folds of her sleeves. He saw the soft blue veins just below the surface of Elmarie’s skin, and felt his lips part as he saw the beating of her pulse just below her jaw line…