chapter eleven

It took Justice less than fifteen minutes to convince Farleigh there were plenty of reasons to continue living.

"Your whole body turns red Farleigh, look at you."

"Ooh I know." He looked at his reflection in the mirror tiles stuck on the wall. "Mmm. Look at me, I'm dripping. It's so delicious."

"Sala-dicious huh? Me too. Let's dress and go raid Beth's kitchen garden."

"You really do like salads. I mean it's not just garnish to you."

"Hey listen, salad's important, especially if you can get it straight from the garden. You gotta look after your body, more than your soul. Your body is mortal whereas your soul survives all. In fact it's your soul as looks after you."

"I somehow don't think Pastor Way will agree with you."

"Oh but I'm sure we would disagree about everything. I know I'm right cos in my soul I can feel it's true. That's the difference when you've never been brainwashed by religion as a child. You can actually connect with the truth through your soul."

"Oh blah, blah, blah. I'm hungry. Are we going to make dinner here?"

"I don't know. I don't want to be unfriendly to Beth but I would like to eat with my family sometimes. It's so difficult with all the class distinctions operating under her roof."

"You don't see it as plain old racism?"

"I guess it is but she's always treated me as one of the family and I'm the blackest one amongst us. But Danny and Edie are her servants. It's complicated."

"So let's do dinner with Beth tonight and you can talk to her about having a family dinner at Palesa's tomorrow night. You could even invite her. I wonder if she would come."

"I'm sure she would. Your mother's not a bad person. I think you just have normal family dysfunctional relationships."

Farleigh looked at him.

"I mean you know each other too well and at the same time you don't know each other at all."

"And you? You really don't know your family."

"Yeah, and look. We're all friends."

By this time they had gathered salad and found Palesa back at the cottage.

"Brought you some salad, Ma."

"Justice. Thank you. You didn' need to. Edie makes me dinner every day."

"I know Ma, but she never makes you salad."

"Justice, I'll see you later. I'm going to dress for dinner." He gave an exaggerated aristocratic lift of the chin as he left.

Justice laughed. "Right. Later."

"Come sit n bua le nna."

"That's why I'm here Ma. I promised Farleigh I'll eat with Beth tonight but you know they only eat later. So now I'm going to make a salad which I'll help you eat before you have your dinner."

"So what happened? I mean the first few years you were in England and then in Spain, I used to get regular letters. After that I never knew where you were. Occassionally I would get letters or messages from strange places and even stranger people."

"Askies Ma."

"An Justice, some of your letters, you were cursing the Europeans for their history as if it's their fault, but also you would say that. I mean that it's not, you know. Then you just disappear."

"Askies Ma. You never got my last letter? I sent you my plan, itinerary they call it. Where I was going and stuff."

"Ja. I got it. There was a number where I could call you when you got to Mombasa. I thought it's the phone number of one of your friends. Even Beth, she thinks it's your friends number. When over six months goes by n we hear nothing, she says let's call your friend in Mombasa. Ha, it was a hotel in Mombasa and they never heard of you. The manager there was very nice. You owe me a trip to Mombasa; he says he's going to take me out."

"Woohoo Ma! I'm definitely going to take you there myself. Soon Ma. I'm sorry hey. That was my plan but it was years before I got that far south. Here you go. One fine salad by yours truly and a fork for each of us."

"This is nice. Thank you just Ice heh-heh." Palesa cackled. "Anyway this nice manager man asks me the date of your letter then he goes back through all his records to that date. Then he calls me back. They never ever hear from you unless it was just a phone call but no booking."

"I'm sorry, Ma."

"You know it would have been worse but having someone to talk to about it helped.And you know that he actually called me back again after a few days. But you had called us by then. From where?"

"Accra, Ma, it's in Ghana. It was the first real chance I had."

"That's what I mean. Tell me what happened. The whole story, starting with the wicked history of the europeans."

Justice sat back, the salad finished. "Mmm-mmm. Sorry Ma. I think I ate most of it."

"I had enough. My dinner's still coming."

"So's mine. But Ma the story is so long, even before I started the trek through Africa. Tomorrow I want to have dinner at home."

Palesa beamed. "Ag. I love the way you say that. Sure you can have dinner with me. Maybe Edith and Daniel will join us. They mostly do their own thing you know."

"Yeah. Tomorrow I'll help Edith cook and Farleigh's coming and I want to ask Beth."

"Goody, we can have a party."

"Yeah. We'll get some wine. Even we'll invite Salem and I'll tell the whole story tomorrow night."

"Tomorrow afternoon I promised to visit Maaitjie. She's my friend down there ekasi, but I'll be back before dark."

"Yay Ma. We'll make the place nice and have dinner ready."

* * * * * * *

The news did not go down so well with Edie.

"No, no, no. You're mad Justice. How could you even think of doing that."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean inviting 'the madam' here. You mean Beth is coming to eat dinner here. Off what? Our tin plates? And there are only four of them. We going to have to take turns. And I must sit here between Salem and Farleigh. I'll run away."

Justice resisted the urge to laugh at his sister. "Chill sister. I think I've distracted Farleigh from your case. I think he may even tolerate Salem. As for the plates, tomorrow you going to get the afternoon off and you n me's going shopping for dinner. If we have to buy dinner plates, well I'm not yet broke." He grinned. He had not told anybody about the letter Beth had given him. "I'm sure you can show me the best places to shop. I'll even buy you a new dress to wear."

"A dress." Edie made a face. She was just starting to get excited about the party.

"Oh it doesn't have to be a dress. I just mean new clothes."

"You'll buy me new jeans? Ke a kopa."

"Whatever you want."

"Yes! But we have to do something about this place. Please can we change the curtains Ma? Ma bought new curtains but she's saving up for new furniture."

"You can change them as long as you wash these ones."

"Come Edie let's change them before we go to bed n tomorrow I'll springclean a bit here."

* * * * * * *

"Wow Justice. Da place look so beauthful."

"So do you my darling sister, so do you. I think we did good today. Don worry bout the new sneakers, we'll go back for them soon."

"Oh I'm sorry we spent all your money today."

"Hey, 'twasn't you, 'twas me and I haven't had so much fun in ages. There'll be more money again when we need it. There always is."

"I like you boet, you don' stress."

"That's the small stuff man. What stress me is da state of everything. Mostly the continent of Africa, my first love. But actually the whole world, my first god, and even da universe."

"You too deep for me. I reckon live for now and let everyone do their own thing."

"You're right Edie.But it's like too much has gone wrong for too long now. We actually need to stand up and fight for the sake of earth. It really is fucked up."

Edie was busy unpacking their shopping. "Listen, you doing the fish, right. I dunno what to do with a whole fish like that. I'll make a green salad and a potato salad. There's still a coupla bottles of Ma's yummy beetroot. What else? Should I make rice?"

"Yeah. Rice'll be good. Once I've got the fish in the oven I'm going to chop all these and make the biggest, bestest fruit salad you ever tasted."

"Mmm an we going to eat it with that luscious ice-cream you bought."

"Don't forget you promised to make chocolate sauce. Did you put the wine in the fridge?"

"Ja boet, relax. I even put one in the freezer with the ice-cream so we can open it jus now. What? We got six bottles, surely we can open one now."

"You're too young. You not allowed any."

"Jus try n stop me. Anyway I hear the kids in Europe drink wine like it's cooldrink."

"Hardly like it's cooldrink but yeah they do give their kids wine from a young age."

Justice was busy preparing the fish and Edith had put the potatoes on the stove. She sneaked the bottle from the freezer and held it against her cheek. "It's perfect boet. Please can we open it?"

"Edith you will be drunk by the time the guests arrive. What will Beth think? Is Salem coming?"

Edie got the giggles and then pointed out the window. Salem had found the spade where they had left it and was busy finishing the beds they had started making yesterday.

"What a star. Let's invite him in to join us in a toast."

"Toast? Oh you mean like 'Cheers'."

"Yeah, Edie" Justice shook his head. "Go get him."

Justice watched from the window while Edie sneaked up on Salem. He could see that the man was fully aware of her yet he succeeded in being surprised when she leapt on his back. He was huge. Not just taller than Justice, even his shoulders were broader.

A couple of minutes later they came through the door, Salem ducking very low with Edie on his shoulders almost falling off. This time Salem hugged Justice first nearly dislodging Edie again. But she was tenacious. Reaching past Justice she grabbed the bottle and the opener and pointed him at the row of new wine glasses lined up under the window.

Justice took them from her and did the honours but he insisted that she come down for the toast. He put his glass in the air and said his usual, "To life!"

"To life!" they both said enthusiastically.

Suddenly Edie shrieked and dived at the stove. "The potatoes." She tested them with a fork but they were fine. "The oven's ready boet, is the fish?"

"Er . . . coming up." He added the finishing touches and put it in the oven. Meanwhile Edie put the rice on and drained the potatoes, leaving them to cool. She turned to her brother. "How are we all going to sit? I mean you can only put six chairs at this table and we've only got five anyway."

"How many are we?" He counted on his fingers. "Seven if Dan turns up, eight if he's not alone. Well you can sit on Salem's lap and Farleigh can sit on mine and if Dan's got company she'll just have to sit on his."

Salem looked from Justice to Edie and back to Justice. "Do you think Beth will handle that?"

"Silly!" Justice swatted him. "Tell you what. I wanted to make some changes but I didn't know how Ma would feel."

"Like what?"

"Come here. Let's move all the lounge chairs closer together. Yeah Salem take that bench out."

"That's the coffee table."

"I know, but tonight we going to sit on it. Look now there's space by this wall. Now push the dresser right up against the fridge. There now the bench fits in. Now we bring the table over here. Shit girl! We never made the pudding."

"Or the salads."

"Mmm, smell that fish. Okay, oven off. Make the chocolate sauce. Salem you can be barman."

They all got busy and very soon there was a pot of chocolate sauce and a huge platter of fruit salad taking a whole shelf in the fridge. Edie got busy with the potato salad while Justice made the green salad.

When all was done they cleaned up the table and positioned it in front of the bench. Then they arranged the five chairs around it. Edie started laying the table. What with the new dinner service, wine glasses and even cutlery it was like playing house again.

The cottage door opened.

"Ma! I'm so glad you early."

"Well I must still go up to the house for Beth but I just wanted to have a peek first. Look at home. It's so beautiful. Where did you get the tablecloth. It's mooi."

"Er, tablecloth Ma? Look."

"It's the chintz curtain! You can't put that on the table."

"Shh Ma. We'll sit this end. Beth will never realise."

"I'm sure you right. I never. Let me go for Beth." She opened the door. "Here comes Farleigh. I wonder if Daniel will come. Does he have a girlfriend Edie?"

"A gilfriend? Danny? More like the girls' school swimming team. Take your pick, eeny meeny miny mo." She went into hysterics.

"Justice how many glasses has she had?" She picked up the nearly empty bottle. "Fill it with grape juice n keep it for her, she'll never notice." Edie was too busy having hysterics to see what they were up to. Then she snuck out. Meanwhile Farleigh was standing just inside the front door looking a bit spare. Salem stood up and bowed extravagently.

"Salaam Aleikum Masta Fari. Come in, come in."

Justice watched his mother rush out into the twilight. It felt so good to be home. It felt as if the cottage was filled up with love. A cosy comfy feeling. And not just the cottage. As his mother rushed up the hill it was like the feeling spread with her, but faster, overtaking her. And suddenly he was overwhelmingly positive that he was doing the right thing. This feeling could spread through the continent of Africa. His dream was not impossible.

Then again, maybe it was just the wine.

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