It was late morning and Edie was at the wash-lines. She had hung all the sheets on the front lines, making a wall between herself and the house. She proceeded to fill the back lines with the towels, making her privacy more complete.
She had filled all the lines from the centre in and was busy with the central line which she always kept for the delicate undies. It was more sheltered from the wind and the old lady tore strips if the underwear was visible from the house. She was about to peg one of Beth’s petticoats when she sensed she was being watched. She looked up and saw Salem standing between the lines. His eyes were fixed on the garment in her hands. She held it up against herself and grinned at him. He smiled with delight and beckoned to her. She shook her head and turned from him, walking further down the row. She looked back at him and he started to follow her.
His progress was slow as he was intrigued by all the small, frilly, silky things hanging on the line. He had reached her basket and she was still a few metres away. He was just about to start exploring the contents of the basket. She “X!”ed at him. Looking up he saw she had undressed and donned the damp petticoat.
She took two steps towards him and he was enchanted. To see his Edie in the bright sun dressed only in the flimsiest, silkiest bit of stuff. She was like an illusion. Naked yet obscured. Before he reached her he had gotten rid of most of his clothes. Yet his hands hardly touched her. They brushed against the fabric and he lowered his cheek to her breast luxuriating in the feel of it. He buried his face in her hair and gave himself up to the softness that she was.
Edie was amazed at his reaction. She could feel through the thin fabric that he had a hard-on, yet there was no urgency in him. He was just so engrossed in the silken petticoat. Eventually he did rip his shorts down. He pulled her into a bear hug and buried his penis into the silk between her thighs. Edie started worrying about how she was going to make the petticoat disappear without Beth missing it.
When she finally managed to finish hanging up all the underwear, with Salem as her enthusiastic assistant, it was time for he lunch break. Salem urged her to follow him. “Come and see,” was all he would say.
Behind the wash-lines was a shed that backed up against the hillside. He led her into the gap between the shed and the mountain. Half-way down the alley their path was blocked by a piece of old roof-sheeting. Edie noticed that beyond this ‘door’, the alley had been roofed over with whatever scraps Salem had found lying around the yard. He led Edie inside and lit a candle.
“But, but . . . it’s so big inside!?”
He grinned. “I took all the rocks out. There’s more.” He took her to the back of the room and lit another candle. Moving aside a cow-hide hanging against the rock wall, he exposed rough steps cut into the mountain. Edie could make out a dim light coming from above.
“Go and see.”
She ran up the steps. They turned a corner and she slipped out between two boulders onto a patch of grass halfway up the hill. She looked over the edge. The roof of the shed was a couple of metres below her but almost out of sight around the hillside. Salem, unbelievably, wriggled out through the same gap.
“It’s quiet here,” he said.
“You could sleep out here.”
“Only when it’s very warm and not raining.” He lay down and she stretched out next to him. The sun was so delicious she just wanted to sleep but Salem was already undressing her. She knew that most of the people at the house, staff included, looked down on Salem as if he was barely human, just because he was not talkative. Yet she found him to be delicate and gentle. And passionate. And when he got passionate, somehow the environment got re-arranged. So maybe it was safer to be out on the side of a mountain with him.
Edie discovered that the heat of the sun combined with being in the open air and the passion generated by Salem, created a heaven like never before. She knew that no-one could see them there but thrilled at the thought of their sounds echoing through the valley. But Salem’s passion carried her way beyond those thoughts and it was only much later that she found out that it was not just a fantasy.
* * * * * * *
It was Palesa that brought it up.
“Was there some poor creature lost in the mountains this afternoon?” she looked at Edie and Danny. “Did you hear it?” Edie was puzzled. Danny looked out the window. “At lunch time. Didn’t you hear it? Sounded like it was on the mountain behind the house. Was making some noise.” Danny stood up poker-faced, picking up his dinner plate.
“I was sleepin lunch time. Did’n hear anything. You Edie? Where were you lunch time?” He ducked into the kitchen to wash his plate.
Although Palesa’s eyesight was poor, Edie could see that it was taking Danny much effort to keep a straight face.
“I didn’t hear it. I was with Anna lunch time. You know how loud she plays her radio. Here Ma, let me take your plate.” Edie dashed into the kitchen but Danny was already letting himself out the back door.
“Come here you!” She leapt at him. Danny collapsed in the doorway, laughing till he wept. “Shut up. Just . . . just tell me okay.”
“Okay, okay. Wait.” He stood up getting his breath back. “Here come outside.” He shut the door behind her. “Lucky for you everyone thought it was some animal. At first anyway. I knew it was you, but I wasn’ sayin nuthin. But god Edie, by the time you came they couldn’ deny anymore what was that noise. But by then they wasn’ talkin bout it anymore.” He collapsed in further hysterics.
Edie looked at him levelly. “Hmmm . . . maybe we should only use that spot at night. We can scare them that can’t sleep and entertain those that want to creep around spying.”
Dan struggled to his feet. “Eish, sista – you too much, man. I’m gonna bed. Alone. G’night.” He kissed her on the lips.
It was Sunday morning, Edie’s day off. She decided to go to church; something she had hardly ever done in her life. She had not seen Farleigh since Thursday night but she knew he would be in church. Beth insisted. Her Ma was not like that. She always said if you did not go by choice then there was no point. Even Palesa never went to church unless it was a funeral or a wedding.
She only wanted to go so that Farleigh would see her there. She did not know why she was making so much effort to encourage him. He was so totally hooked already but apart from his social standing, she found nothing really attractive about him. And yet the feel of the power she had over him excited her. At the same time she had a genuine soft spot for his total need of her.
She put on her best dress with her crocheted shawl and her only good pair of stockings. She borrowed a head scarf from Palesa and tied it over her hair. It was already a bit late so she took the short cut through the graveyard. It usually spooked her a bit, but it was not so bad on a sunny day like today.
She was half way across the graveyard and could see the people thronging the steps, when something caught her dress. She turned carefully not wanting it to tear and found Salem crouching in the bushes holding the hem of her dress. It never ceased to amaze her how quietly he moved and how gently he handled small fine things.
“Eish! You are so beautiful today.”
“Are you coming to church?”
“No thanks. You know how those people think of me. Come with me rather.”
She took his hand and he led her off to the side of the graveyard where there was a gap in the hedge. There was a footpath there leading to the kitchen garden at the back of the house. He turned off before then and climbed the hill. They came round a bend and, climbing a small rock face, she found herself on the patch of grass where they had fornicated the Friday afternoon.
She sat down while he wriggled through the gap in the rocks. After a couple of minutes he called to her. She peered down the rocky stairway and he passed her two mugs of beer and brought the bottle with him. They sat in a patch of shade against the rocks drinking beer. She enjoyed his silences. Occasionally he would look at her in her Sunday clothes and remark again how pretty she looked.
“You don’t have to be a christian to go to church y’know. Nobody asks you like.”
“I don’t wanna go. It’s just, I like waitching. I don’t know. Even I like listening. It’s like a movie where you know all the people. It’s just so unreal.”
“I know what you mean. That’s why I was gonna go today. So I can be a star for a while. But you wouldn’ wanna become a christian?”
“No! Or a moslem either. They’re both fucked up. ‘Snot even that I don’ believe in god. It’s just that their ideas about god are so loony.”
“So do you believe in god?”
“Yeah, well it’s not like anyone can really say for true but I’m quite sure god never said any of the daft things that religions claim. They just using god to control people. If there is a god it’s like it’s Earth. Every living thing on Earth is god, plants as well as animals. I don’t believe this crap that people are better than any other species especially trees. And even mountains I reckon are closer to god than churches.”
“Yeah, especially this mountain,” she giggled.
“Wena! There’s another bottle downstairs in the fridge. Will you get it for us?”
“You’ve got a fridge?!”
“At the bottom of the steps there’s a flat stone. Look under it.”
She ran downstairs intrigued. Under the stone she found a thick plastick crate buried in a hole in the ground. The bottle of beer was ice cold next to a large chunk of slowly melting ice. Looking around the room she noticed that all his furniture was made from poles and cow-hides. Last time she had noticed two cow-hides stretched out against the mountain drying. He obviously still had connections at the abattoir.
They watched the people drifting home from church. Farleigh and his mother were walking sedately towards the front gate while Anna was slipping through the back door. She always helped with lunch on Sundays.
Edie felt totally detached from the scene below her. It really was like a movie. Salem had overcome his awe of her beautiful dress and had opened the two buttons at the back of her neck. With amazement he eventually found the zipper under her arm. However this was not the kind of dress that just slipped off once all the fastenings were opened, so she knew she was safe for a while. She was not going to allow him to remove her stockings either but she started unbuttoning his shirt.
By the time he was down to his shorts she ushered him downstairs. She did not want to hear about it again in the evening. Once her eyes had adjusted to the gloom she could see Salem sitting on the side of his bed. In the shadows beyond him she could make out a large hide hung up like a hammock. She climbed onto Salem’s lap and pushed him down onto the bed. Standing over him, she crossed the bed and climbed into the hammock.
Salem grinned. He loved the way this girl’s mind worked. He got up and pushed the bed up against the wall under the hammock, just in case. Removing his shorts, he joined her. At this point Edie decided to remove her dress before it got ripped. The ensuing tussle between Edie and her dress had Salem in ecstatic hysterics and set the hammock swinging wildly. By the time she finally got the dress over her head, she found Salem all over her and almost in the dress. She pulled it from him and tossed it down onto the bed.
He lay down next to her and turned her face towards him.
“Eish, I love you.” He said it so simply, for a moment Edie was in shock. She put her hand over his mouth.
“Hey, don’ look so worried. I love you’s all.Don’ make you oblige to me or nothin’. You can still visit by Farleigh. I don’ have a problem like that.”
“How you know . . ?”
“Hey, I know bout you and Farleigh. I seen you together but he’s just playing. He can’t be serious. What would his ol’ lady say?”
“What you mean, you saw us?” She was laughing.
“That Farleigh. He never closes the curtains and he keeps the lights so bright. You can see everything from outside.”
She covered her face with her hands. “Thank god you the only one roaming around at night to see us.”
“And that Daniel, your brother. He never see me the one time. I was watching him watching you and Farleigh. He loves you too.”
“Salem! How many times you walking round spying on me?” He reached out and stroked her hair.
“Ah Edie. You so beautiful. I love you. Nobody needs to know about us.”
“I don’ care who knows. Well maybe’s better Farleigh don’ know. Maybe he is playing but he never want to let me go. And I do love you too. I love it that you jus’ so big but you such a softy.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the hammock and it was after five when Edie left, dressed once more in her Sunday clothes. She thought again of Farleigh who no doubt had not stopped thinking about her since Thursday. She came out from behind the shed and headed for Farleigh’s rooms. She would convince him that she had been in church but had to run off as soon as the service was over. She was a bit tipsy too so she would have to invent some girlfriends she had been drinking with.
However, when she found him, he was so agog at the sight of her, he never heard a word she said so she never bothered. She just let him undress her and make love to her, remaining passive and submissive throughout. She felt it necessary to somehow cool his passion a bit. He was in over his head.
She could tell that he felt the difference but was at a loss to express it so, being Farleigh, he said nothing. He wanted to arouse her. See her turn into that passionate being she had been the last time. Her very passiveness aroused him further but before he could take her a second time, the dinner bell rang. He was in two minds about going but then he heard Beth calling him from downstairs.
“Wait for me here,” he begged.
“I can’t. I must get back to my Ma. I’ve got an important message for her.” He was too easy. She pitied him. He would never survive the wiles of marriage. She made her exit through the veranda while Farleigh went downstairs to his mother.
* * * * * * *
For the next few weeks Edie spent most of her lunch breaks with Salem in his room. Week-ends she would stay from Saturday evening until Monday morning. They stretched their imaginations to the limit on the hammock and on almost every other piece of furniture too. Sunday and Monday mornings, though, they usually woke up in the bed.
Farleigh had gotten into the habit of waylaying her Saturday afternoons as she was leaving. He had given up trying to make her spend the night but these days he was taking Saturday’s evening meal in his rooms, so it was often after nine when she got to Salem. Farleigh still fatuously believed her to be young, innocent and his alone.
Salem was ever the loving one. He too pitied Farleigh in a way. He even remarked one lunch time that she never visits her brother anymore. He grinned at her sheepishly. She knew somehow that he would always follow her around. Yet he was not at all possessive. Sometimes she thought he loved her the way one loves a small child and she loved him the more for it.
She still visited Farleigh after dinner sometimes. At least once or twice a week. She did it more out of a sense of having started something. More and more she wanted to break it off. She knew she did not feel about Farleigh the way he felt about her. But every time she mentioned it to Salem he would insist, “But he needs you. He has no-one else.”
It was Sunday morning again. Three weeks since the time Edie had tried to go to church. She and Salem were lying on his hillside ‘patio’ drinking beer and listening to the organ music and singing from the church. Salem stood up.
“Let’s go down and listen.” He motioned towards the graveyard. For some reason he really enjoyed the church music, in spite of being a dedicated reggae fan.
“Okay. Lemme jus’ get another bottle to take with.”
They clambered down the hill and followed the path towards the graveyard. There was a dense hedge opposite the church entrance and they sat in its shade on a thick pile of leaves from last winter. The singing had stopped but they were close enough to hear the cadence of the mass.
Edie snuggled up to Salem in spite of the heat. She downed what was left of her drink and slipped her cool fingers inside his shirt. He shivered and tossed his drink too. He rubbed her nipple gently under his thumb and lowered his mouth to hers. Just then the singing started again and he lifted his head to listen. His eyes glowed with pleasure.
Through the fabric of his jeans she could feel his erection throbbing against her thigh. She opened his fly and freed his cock from his shorts. She rubbed in time to the music and felt his whole body thrill. His eyes were half closed and his mouth started to fall gently open. She put her tongue between his teeth and suddenly he was kissing her passionately, his cock thrusting urgently in her small fist.
Edie ripped her panties off and straddled him, crossing her ankles behind his back. She rode him, still keeping the rhythm of the hymn. As it climbed to a rousing crescendo, so did their passion and the orgasm that ripped through them as the hymn ended was annihilating. Edie felt her body become, as organ music, just wind. When she could feel Salem’s arms around her again, he seemed to be weeping into her hair.
She wiped his face and looked into his eyes.
“I love you, girl!” His pupils were luminously huge. It was as if she could see straight into his soul. She felt, in amazement, her own pupils growing. Everything around her was getting brighter.
“I love you too,” she whispered and felt his lips on her cheeks. She could not understand why she found it so hard to say. She had never felt too young to have sex but she always felt too young to say ‘I love you’. Yet she knew that she loved this man and could not deny it.
They opened the other beer and finished it while listening to the rest of the mass. The last hymn started. Salem knew it was the last one because it was always the same. He had no idea what it was about but it was his favourite. It was as if his soul took flight when he listened.
Edie could feel his excitement as the hymn started. The way he caught his breath and lifted his chin to listen better. She kissed his throat and started to take his pants right down. They were both still almost fully dressed. He lifted his buttocks to allow her to remove his trousers and as he sat again she lowered her mouth to his hardening penis. He lay gently alongside her, head to toe, and spread her legs with his fingers. He touched her gently, softly, slowly, both of them keeping time with the music. Then she felt his breath between her thighs and his tongue started teasing her clitoris. Still keeping time with the hymn their ecstasy rose, but the hymn ended quietly leaving them still high.
She could feel his fingers teasing her insides and his tongues was licking her anus, probing urgently. She released his cock, gasping and turning her body. He mounted her from behind, his breath rasping. She felt his throbbing penis push between her cheeks and moaned as her sphincter opened to take him. She was up on her knees as he thrust into her and she found herself facing the church as the doors opened.
She could see everyone clearly though she knew they could not see her. She felt her excitement increase with the sudden proximity of all these people. Salem had his fingers on her vagina and felt her sudden excitement. He thrust into her deeper and then looked up, suddenly hearing voices.
When he saw all these people standing right there in their fine clothes his breath suddenly roared in her ears. He bent forwards again, pumping uncontrollably. She felt the pleasure start deep inside her and spread suddenly, immediately, throughout her body.
Salem was kissing the back of her neck and her throat was parched. She could feel his semen running down the back of her leg and he was whispering something urgently in her ear. Edie opened her eyes cautiously, hearing voices close by. There were already people in the street. Salem was quietly pulling his pants up. Edie started carefully pulling her dress straight and looking for her panties when she heard Farleigh’s voice.
“Let’s go Mother! I’m hungry.” He was standing just inside the church yard gate.
“Farleigh. I’m just talking to Father Russell.” She was always talking to Father Russell.
The sound of Farleigh’s voice so close, while she was with Salem, suddenly aroused her all over again.
“It’s him! It’s Farleigh!” She jumped into Salem’s lap, catching his ear between her teeth. She was dressed but her skirt was still half unbuttoned. Salem felt her trembling and put his hand between her legs, stroking her panties. The gusset was warm and damp and throbbed against his touch.
He pressed his fingers harder, feeling her open up through the fine fabric. He slipped one finger inside and watched her eyes roll back. She gasped and moaned and he closed his mouth over hers to prevent any more sounds escaping. He played his fingers inside her feeling her arousal growing rapidly. Suddenly Farleigh’s voice floated surreally around them. Edie’s whole body arched at the sound and Salem felt her wetness running down his fingers. He was stroking her hair and buttoning her skirt when he became aware of a pair of shoes on the other side of the hedge.
Oblivious, Edie was murmuring his name and kissing his cheek. Suddenly a stream of hot water poured through the hedge and drenched her blouse. Edie shrieked, backing away. Salem realised there was a man standing there taking a piss. The bushes suddenly parted.
“Edie!” It was Farleigh.
* * * * * * *
Edie and Salem scarpered up the hill to his place while Farleigh was being severely reprimanded by his mother for ruining the sanctity of the moment. Farleigh was so devastated by what he had just seen that he never even heard Beth’s rantings.
Farleigh had no idea who Salem was although he had seen him around. He was determined to find out. He would have him sent away whatever the cost. He longed to personally assault the man but knew that he was no match. He walked home at Beth’s side glowering. She assumed he was angry with her for admonishing him in public and studiously ignored him the rest of the way.
When they got home Farleigh dropped onto the sofa, uncharacteristically perching on the edge of the seat, cracking his knuckles and hissing between his teeth. Beth had seen her son angry before but never like this. Suddenly he looked into her eyes with such fury, she was afraid.
“I need a gun!”
“Who . . ? What . . ? Farleigh, what is going on?”
“Nothing Mother. I just need a gun that’s all.”
“What were you doing there, sticking your head in the bushes? I’m sure I had just seen you wee there.”
“I wish you wouldn’t say that. ‘Wee’.” He mimicked her.
“Farleigh! Who was behind those bushes?”
“Never you mind; it’s none of your business. Just let me go shopping for a gun. It wouldn’t be a bad thing, you know, having a gun around the house.”
“Looking at your face, I think it would be a very bad thing.” Farleigh’s face now became chillingly composed and Beth was not sure which was worse. “I’m sure I heard a shriek coming from those bushes. Like that little girl Edie. She always shrieks like that.”
“Little girl! She’s hardly a little girl.”
“She’s fourteen. That is pretty little from where I stand. From where you stand too for that matter.”
“She can’t possibly be only fourteen. But how could she tolerate that beast. Oh I can’t bear it.”
“What are you talking about? Who was she with and why are you so worked up about it? You did not do it Farleigh? Whatever you were contemplating the other day.” Beth was looking at her son with disgust now.
“Mother, I plan to make Edie my wife.” He expected his mother to be outraged but she just looked at him in total amazement. The next moment, to his astonishment, she started giggling and was soon almost hysterical.
“Mother, you have finally flipped. I’m going to lie down.”
“No!” His mother’s imperious tone came out more as a gasp as she caught her breath. “You’ve forgotten something. You just caught her in the bushes with another man. And she is only fourteen. What do you suppose she will be like when she is thirty? Living off your money and supporting all her working class lovers. That is what she will be like.”
Farleigh threw her a tortured glare and stormed out of the room. Not looking where he was going he immediately collided with a solid black object that should not have been there. Farleigh stepped back and saw to his surprise, a tall, well built, black man standing in the hall.
“Yo, dude. Folly? ‘Sme Justice, only these days they call me just Ice, heh-heh.” He put out his hand.
“Excuse me?” It came out half as an apology for not looking where he was going, but more like an ‘excuse me, who?’
“Justice, oh, Justice!” Farleigh heard his mother’s wail burst from the living and, ignoring the man’s hand, he turned towards the sound as she ran into him.
“Farleigh! It’s Justice.”
Farleigh was amazed to see his mother embrace this strange black man who seemed to know him.
“Farleigh, you do remember Justice?”
“Er . . . no.”
“He is Palesa’s first born. I think you were nearly five years old, Justice, when Farleigh was born. You always used to play together.”
“How sweet. And I was a little baby and you expect me to remember.”
“Hey, I remember you well, dude. I was twelve by the time I went off to high school. You were already in school then.”
Farleigh looked at Justice. Somewhere there was a bell ringing but it was too far away. He could not hear it.
“Justice, you will stay with us, wont you. We can fix up the annex for you.”
“Moth – er.”
“I’m staying in the annex, remember.”
“Oh yes. I do not understand why you moved out there.”
“So that I can fornicate with the servants.”
“Farleigh!” By this time Justice is beaming at the exchange. Farleigh sneaked off to plan his revenge.
“Relax Beth, I got me just one bag n I’m sure Palesa can squeeze me in somewhere. Hey I needa see me Momma. She be in da kitchen? I could use me a cuppa.”
“Ha Justice. You have been gone too long. Your mum retired about two years back, although she still takes my mending home. Let us go down to the cottage and surprise her.”
Beth had been very much a second mum to Justice, having had no children of her own until Justice was five years old; and then Farleigh was her only child. She had grown up in Harrismith, the youngest of five children. Her father had had an excellent executive position, but he was an alcoholic, as a result they were always struggling. After Beth was born her mother took a part-time job and employed a live-in helper. That helper was Palesa’s mother. Palesa was born when Beth was nearly four and she became Beth’s only real childhood friend. The only one who knew the truth about the abuses that went on inside their fancy house. What neither of them ever knew was that they had the same father.
When Beth had married a much older, wealthier, man who could give her the security she craved, Palesa had moved to Grahamstown with her to be her helper. They had last seen Justice nearly ten years ago when he was leaving South Africa to continue his studies in England. He had completed two years of his engineering degree at Wits University and then won a bursary to study in England.
Beth had been the main guiding and financial force behind Justice’s education before he got the bursary. He had been a genius student and Beth had been bitterly disappointed when he dropped out of university eighteen months after arriving in England. However, that was so long ago she was just thrilled to see him looking all grown up and obviously fit.
Palesa was in tears. She was so overcome it was Beth who made tea for them in Palesa’s small kitchen. She also rang the house to tell Anna that both Palesa and Justice would be coming for lunch but that it would only be much later.
Justice was giving his mother news of the family as he had visited the village on his way to Grahamstown.
“Ngunu is very well and sends her love. You know she’s still growing her own veggies and poone. She even collects and chops the patsi herself, except of course while I was there. You know Ma I said I would spend at least a week there before coming to you.”
“I know, but that was month’s ago.”
“Hey it’s so hard to leave that place man. Qwaqwa is just so beautiful. And there’s actually plenty of work for somebody with engineering skills. I managed to do some really useful stuff while I was there. I think maybe one day I’ll go and live there. Ngunu is always so happy to have me around, aw, the whole village is, actually.”
“Well first you must spend some time with us Justice. Palesa and I have missed you terribly and we have spent the last five months expecting you to turn up any minute. I am sure you can find work in Grahamstown. You could even attend Rhodes and finish your degree.”
“Just call me Beth, Justice, I think you are old enough now,” she teased.
“Me? I’m still a youth according to the ANC. And I’m already thirty. How old must I be to be an adult in my own country?”
“My goodness, yes you must be. Farleigh turned twenty-five this year. But you are avoiding the issue.”
“Sorry Beth, but it was you that interrupted me. Anyway the answer is no. I don’t think they can really teach me anything more. I’ve studied plenty on my own. I’ve spent nearly ten years getting experience in a variety of environments, languages and degree of sophistication. And any time I stayed near to a large university I would always hook up with the engineering department.
“Basically, the only thing I don’t have is my degree. But my CV is good and all my references check out. Mostly I’ve been working with people who I’ve kept contact with. I’m building a large network of skills across Africa and we’re all interested in bringing together a real African renaissance.”
“So you never spent much time in Europe?”
“I spent three years in Europe. And the last five years I was in at least a dozen African countries. I just had to go to Somalia. I never did find my father’s people, but I didn’t really expect to.” He looked at Palesa.
“I’m sorry, my love. It just wasn’t that kind of relationship. I mean we weren’t exactly planning a family.”
“You told me. He was long gone before you even knew you were pregnant.”
“No problem. It helped me to blend in, I wasn’t so obviously makwerekwere. It’s only here in my own country I have that problem; except now I can speak fluent Sesotho again thanks to the time I spent in the village. Anyway I got to meet a lot of interesting people in Somalia and other countries. Most especially in Mali and Kenya.
“But isn’t that whole area very dangerous right now?”
“It is Beth. But you know, whatever the living conditions, life still goes on. And sometimes it’s that very climate that makes it possible to meet the kind of people I needed to meet. All over Africa, wherever I went, I met people who are trying to make a change. A lot of them are educated people, some with tertiary and even a couple of PH.D’s. But I gather there are many many more. Even the villagers in North Africa have stopped just accepting their fate and started questioning.
“Western colonialism is decades gone but the oppression is still present. Slavery’s supposedly long abolished but the DRC, Rwanda area is in a state. The whole area is the bottomless pit and even South African soldiers are aiding their oppression. We Africans need to unite as the owners of our continent and just throw out all the oppressors, one time.”
“Askies, Palesa, I get kinda carried away. But we’re working on it. I believe it is possible but we need to network the whole continent. North Africa is the hardest. The arabs have a stranglehold on it. Every country is colonised by the arabs but they behave like it’s their native territory.”
“Is it not?”
“No Beth. I don’t believe so. There are still the original African tribes living very much oppressed lives. Even they have been forced to become moslem, just as western colonialism forced christianity on to us and just like here they are treated as a lower order of moslems. They’re definitely colonies, you can feel it.”
“But my boy, what are you getting mixed up in now?”
“Don’t worry about it Momma. It’s a lot to do with why I left varsity in the first place. It’s not so much what I got mixed up in. More like what i started and have spent the better part of the past decade getting as many people as possible mixed up in it too.”
Beth and Palesa both looked at him. ‘Like they just caught me with my hands in the cookie jar,’ he thought, and loved them the more, his two mothers.
“But enough of that. I need a break from it. What’s with Farleigh? Nobody told him I was coming? He don’ even remember me. In fact he seems kinda depressed. Not at all the ball of energy as I remember him.”
“You know? I had forgotten he had ever been like that. You are right. He was so full of life then. He has become such a bore. I think his problem is that he is bored. He spent the last eighteen months in Europe. Only came back a couple of weeks ago. Now it seems he is running after your little sister.”
“Jeez! How old’s Edie now Mum?”
“Fifteen this year. Is he really? Most people think she is over sixteen when they meet her but.”
“He must be bored. Hey, I don’t even know my own sister. I shouldn’t underestimate her. But I think we need to divert Farleigh’s passions. One of my reasons for coming home was to find out what he was up to. I think I need to drag him away for a bit.”
“Justice, it is so good to have you back again. I believe that if anyone can inspire Farleigh, you can do it. I just do not know if the timing is good. He is in such a rage.”
“Ah, but that is the best thing about passion, Beth. Strike while the iron is hot and all that.”
“Probably you are right. Come, let us go up to the house for lunch, you too Palesa. Maybe Farleigh will join us, though I do have my doubts.”
* * * * * * *
After lunch Justice excused himself on the pretext of needing a rest. He was going to share with Danny until another outside room could be fixed up for him. Although Beth had tried to insist, he was adamant that he did not want Farleigh’s old room inside the house.
After doing a bit of unpacking, he lay down for ten minutes, musing over the lunch time conversations. Then he got up and went out to explore the grounds.
He decided to climb the hill behind the sheds for the view and maybe to look out for Edie. He very much wanted to meet his little sister. As he came up between the sheds, there she was, almost as if she had been waiting for him.
“Hi. You’re Justice.” She did not seem very thrilled to see him.
“I’m going to the top of the hill. Come with me? I really wanna get to know the li’l sister I never met.”
“Okay, let’s go. I’m not working today.”
“How’d you know it was me?”
“I saw the photo’s you sent Ma. What I don’t get is how you’re my brother when you seem to be like Farleigh’s brother or something.”
“Yeah, Farleigh and I was exactly like brothers until I finished primary school. ‘Slike he don’t remember me tho’ n it seems he n Beth don’t talk anymore. But this morning, man, he was truly wild. It seems to have something to do with you.” They were nearly at the top of the hill.
“Me? I just do the laundry and stuff. What happened? Has his boxer’s shrunk or what?” She laughed loudly. Justice watched her intently.
“What?” He made her feel self-conscious.
“Seems like you a bit edgy too. I thought there was something more between you n Farleigh. Something beyond your daily duties, like. Maybe you even feelin’ a bit guilty?”
“Guilty? No way. If I’m gonna do something it’s cos I reckon it’s fine to do that thing. I’m never gonna go round feeling guilty bout a thing like that.”
“A thing like what?”
“Oh. you know. Giving a man what he wants. I mean why not?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“But most people make out like it’s wrong. Except Ma. She’s always saying it’s pointless making laws or customs that contradict human nature cos human nature comes from god.”
“Yeah, Mom’s a wise ol’ lady. I wish more people had mom’s like Palesa. I often meet peole who are confused about wrong and right cos of some daft prejudices they grew up with. But little kids are never confused.”
“Hey, you know Ausi Nana’s baby, Thabo?”
“Ah, he’s a big boy now. He’s nearly five.”
“No. He was only three at christmas.”
“Yeah but he turned four while I was there so that means he’s going for five.”
“Ag, man. Well I was there christmas n he was telling me bout god n he was makin more sense than anybody I listened to before.”
“Hey. He’s my special friend, that one. But it’s like any child, as long as you never teach him religion he will have a far better sense of god. You just know you are a part of it. And once you know that, you will never need religion in your life.”
“That’s what he was saying, bout being a part of it. And then when I was gonna squash a spider he tells me like, No, but it’s also a part of it.
“And Salem he also says stuff like that. He reckons the Earth is god and every living thing on it is the Earth’s will to live, in other word’s god’s will, and we’re all a part of it. Then he said, this was the best part, he said the universe around us, the whole huge thing that stretches forever over our heads, is the power of god, that’s why it’s so big. Or something like that. I dunno if he really believes it or if he was jus bein romantic.” She sighed quietly but deeply.
“Wow! Who is Salem?”
“You see down there, round the corner from the sheds? He’s lying on his patio drinking beer or maybe he’s just sleeping.”
“On his patio? Where’s his house?”
Edie giggled. “We’re sitting on the roof.”
“Yeah right.” Justice stood up. “Show me.”
“Okay!” Edie leapt up.
“Wait” Justice sat down again. Edie too. “You never told me bout Farleigh.”
“Do I have to?”
“Just your side of the story. Before I hear it from him, you know.”
“Well it’s like this. I started working at the house while he was away n when he comes back he decides he fancy me. So what I can do? He’s the boss.”
“Oh rubbish. Did he pressurise you or what? Are you trying to get out of it now? What’s made him so crazy?”
“Well no, he didn’t actually pressure me or nothing. It jus seem like a good idea to go along with da boss y’know. But it’s like I’ve got this boyfriend see an maybe like Farleigh was thinking we an item or something and now this morning he found out bout Salem.”
“Ah ha! So this Salem we’re going to see is your boyfriend. And what does he say bout you n Farleigh?”
“Salem is different hey. He knew all bout Farleigh all along an when I tell him I want to stop seeing Farleigh, he argues with me. I don think he likes Farleigh too much but I think he kinda feels for him.”
“Okay . . okay.”
“No, nothing. I jus never heard of a guy who don mind his girl havin another boyfriend.”
“Salem really is different from other guys. He had a moslem dad but his mom brought him up and they never did no religion. Like Ma. He’s got some real interesting ideas bout life n stuff.”
“So let’s go see him. Looks like he is sleeping. I don’t think he’s moved once all this time.”
“Hmmm,” she grinned. “He’s dreamin bout me.”
“Wena! Let’s go.”
She led Justice back down the way they had come and in behind the shed so that he could first see Salem’s home. He was impressed.
“So how do we get to the patio?”
“Check.” She moved the cow-hide a fraction.
“What? Lessee.” Justice came over and peered behind it. “Wow.”
“Go, go.” She pushed him up the stairs and squeezed him out onto the patio.
“Dat is da illest. Dawg!”
Edie bent over Salem’s sleeping face.
“Angel,” she cooed, tickling him under his nose with her hair.
“Mmmph.” He rubbed his nose and then pulled her into his arms almost swallowing her face. She pushed away from him.
“Wait. I want you to meet my brother.” He sat up.
“Another brother Edie?” He winked at her.
“Oh get up. Justice this is Salem.”
Salem got up and stretched out his hand but Justice stepped forward and embraced him. Stepping back he said, ” It’s so amazing to meet someone bigger than me.”
Salem laughed. “An me. It’s good to meet someone more my size for a change. We livin in a world of midgets.”
“So you’re Justice.”
“Atually just Ice, heh-heh.”
“Sho, Ice. Can I offer you a beer? Edie will you go?”
“You don have a lickle spliff, maybe?”
“Sho, just hang on.” Salem trotted off up the hill and was soon bag with a little bag of weed. “I got a tree that grows these.”
“Yay. I don’t mind doing it.” After a while. “Damn, this some fine stuff you growing. Are you selling?”
“Not really. I just grow for myself but I can let you have some.”
“No, you light it.” Salem threw him the matches. He inhaled deeply and blew out one vast cloud of smoke. He sighed. “Yeah dat feel so good in da head, man.”
“So what you been doing Ice? I didn’ even know my girl here had another brother.”
“What! She’s got four big brothers.” Salem looked at Edie who just shrugged. “Yeah the other two’s in Jozi but me, hey I’ve been all over like. I was studying in England when I stumbled on da true story behind western oppression. So I dropped out and since I been travelling through Africa kinda spreadin this gospel.
“You know what the big weapon of western oppression is?”
“Nope – it’s da church man.”
“So you don’t do religion?”
“So if you like fillin out a form an they want to know what your religion is, what d’you write?”
“Depends on my mood hey. I might just leave it blank or sometimes I write N/A for not applicable. Heh-heh, once I put rastafari but then I got friendly wit dese rastas who didn’ see da joke, oops.”
“So dig this. In South Africa’s 1996 census religions figured like this: The biggest group of christians were ZCC topping 4 million – about 8% of da population. After that is NGK just short of 4 million, the catholics were behind them and then the methodists. The moslem and hindi’s were bout 500 – 600 thousand each. But those of us who said no to religion was over 5 million – more than 10% of the population.”
“That’s good news. There’s still hope for us.”
“Yeah, but apparently altogether the christians total nearly 75% of the population.”
“So they still have a stranglehold on us. What do you think of religion. I gather you not a moslem.”
“Nah. My dad was but he never stuck around. ‘Twas my ma brought us up and she never had no respect for religion. I guess I inherited her view but it opened my mind to reality. The way I see it, the religious institutions’ only aim is to narrow people’s minds in order to control them – Pheela!”
“Hey you and I need to get together some time. Today I still want to try and find Farleigh. Let’s just have another wee spliff then I’ll be chuckin.”
“I’ll make it, but then I’m stayin here by Salem. Give Farleigh my regards, no, actually, better not.”
“Heh, sista! I’m gonna hear all bout you now.”
“Wena. You better come tell me about it.”
“Okay. Lemme light that an I’ll just have a few puffs before I go. Salem, you keep a few cold ones for me I’ll be back one of these days.”
“Sho. Here take the rest of this bag with you.”
“Ke a leboha Kgotsi waka.”
‘It’s because of lust that dust doesn’t remain just dust.’