Saturday, July 8, 2017

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.

“Jean-Michel!”
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.”
“No.”
“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!”