Year of the Butterfly

Life goes on.. even when you lose someone you love, even when you don't know what to think, how to feel, how to act and what to say. Everything will be okay, is what people like to say, but it won't and you know it. All you can do is bury your grief and hide, and hope on the surface at least life will appear to be normal. Is there any hope?
This is a story of a young girl battling with the loss of her father. Accompany her on a journey of self-discovery and misadventure as she negotiates her way through bereavement and processes the unanswered questions. Along the way, there are dreams, visions and schemes, at least one golden urn and a kidnapping. Her story is about a metamorphosis from pain into renewal and growth. Her destination is a place of hope with a promise of healing.

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3. Strange winds tug at the cocoon

The young girl went to sleep after tossing and turning for a full hour, but if she dreamt about her nun, she didn't remember. Every night she repeated the same prayer to Jesus in the hope that she might get some answers and silence the voices in her head. Meanwhile, life went on and she went to school, studied hard, chatted with her friend Jada about things that young girls talk about, and more frequently, she smiled. Kenny stayed out of her way but every so often she would catch him glaring at her in a menacing, taunting way that suggested he had not forgiven nor forgotten what she had done. But he didn't scare her, so she paid him no attention and carried on with her life, the best way she knew how. That was in the daytime. At night, alone in her bed, she fought with herself and the question that whirled around and around inside her mind. She observed the people she loved carefully, painfully aware that they too suffered. Sometimes she blamed herself and got angry with herself; sometimes she blamed her father for leaving them and got angry with him; and sometimes she blamed God for taking him away and got angry with Him too. After so much blame and anger, no wonder she felt tired all the time, with her moods swinging up and down on an emotional see-saw. In-between all that, she missed her father terribly but she told no one and she never cried. It was impossible for her to talk about him or listen to others talking about him. Her mother thought she was okay, that she was finally settling down after her crazy phase and the atmosphere at home improved. Her mother finally ended her punishment and she could once again go to the parties she got invited to and go out to buy gum at the corner shop. It was on the walk home from the corner shop one day that she first saw the beaten-up old yellow car parked outside her house. Inside 2 men were sitting, smoking. They were both wearing dark glasses and had mullet hairstyles. At first she thought they were visiting the opposite neighbours, but then she noticed the same car with 2 men, sitting inside and smoking, almost everyday when she returned home from school. Each time they seemed to be watching her as she entered through the security gate and each time she felt the same chill going up and down her back. But they did nothing - they just sat in the car and smoked and watched.

 

***

"Are we there yet?" I know my sister is excited about our trip to Mossel Bay, but if she asks that question one more time, I swear I’m going to choke her with her own pony-tail! "Yes, honey, almost there," says Mommy with a sigh. I can see she's tired from driving such a long distance. Daddy usually drove us before. So this is our first holiday away from home, without Daddy. Weird doesn't even begin to describe it, especially since we've brought Daddy's ashes in the golden urn with us. Mommy said that Daddy had always said that he wanted some of his ashes to be scattered over the sea near his hometown, and that just so happens to be Mossel Bay. Mm, I don't know how I feel about this. I would really have preferred it if we didn't have to do this on our holiday. But then again, adults think differently. So here we are, on the open road, with Daddy in this ridiculous flowerpot between Lisa and me and I refuse to hold it. This is the closest I’ve come to it since the time I heard that mysterious voice and saw that strange light. That was so long ago that I’m starting to think I imagined all of it. Mommy just gave me a look when she saw that I was sitting far away from it with my face up against the window, but she left me alone. I guess she didn't want to fight again. Well, she's the one who told me to keep away from it! Her friend, Aunty Daisy, was sitting beside her in the front passenger seat babbling away about the neighbourhood going to seed. What does that mean? Are all the neighbours suddenly taking up gardening? Mommy and Daddy always had someone to do the gardening for them. Daddy would joke that he also had green fingers but his kind of trees were grown at work and they had money growing on them. Then he would laugh like a frog at his own stupid joke. I still don't get it. Mommy said it's true, that many good families were moving away because of the growing number of burglaries in the area, and that something should be done about it. If only the police weren't so useless, she said. And when good families move out, a different ‘sort’ of people move in to take their places. I guess this is why she doesn't allow us to play with just anybody's children and we're not allowed to play much in the street either, only in our backyard. Lucky for us, the yard is pretty big and we have everything we need there: a basketball hoop, a pool table, a trampoline and in the garage we also have a table tennis board. And there's lots of space to play tag and hide-and-seek. Mommy keeps telling us we should be grateful for everything we have because Daddy worked hard to give us all that we have. "Yes, I’m thinking of moving us to a different area too," I hear her saying. Lisa and I are pretending not to eavesdrop but this we've got to hear! "A new house, a new school for the girls, a whole new beginning. I think that's exactly what we all need, especially the girls." Aunty Daisy is fanning herself with an empty crisp packet, so it makes a lot of noise as we're trying to listen. "But do you think it's such a good idea to uproot the girls at this stage? Don’t you think they would be better off finishing elementary school first? All their friends live nearby and-- " Mommy turns on the air-conditioning and interrupts Aunty Daisy. "Now's as good a time as any. They’ve been getting counselling and things are moving along nicely. I think they might be okay." Aunty Daisy looks like she still wants to finish her sentence but looks out the window instead and stays quiet for a while. "Is that what the counsellor says?" "No, I haven't discussed this with her. I know my children and I think they're ready. Look at them: they're coping! They’re doing well at school, they're involved in extracurricular activities, they go to parties - they're fine!" Aunty Daisy looks at Mommy with her eyebrows raised and starts nodding slowly. "I see. Well, I guess these are good signs. And the fact is they'll always miss their Daddy, so I guess it doesn't make that much of a difference if you move them now or later. I mean, if you think they're ready..." "Mommy, I need to pee!" And there she starts again with her whining. Mommy this, Mommy that! "Can you hold it till we get to Mossel Bay? It’s only another 15 minutes or so, honey." She pulls a face and Mommy knows: it's now or never. "Okay, okay, there's a petrol station coming up ahead. We’ll stop there but you'll have to be quick." "Can I have a cool drink too, Mommy? I’m thirsty." "How can you be thirsty and need to go to the toilet, child? No, no, no. Just pee and then we're back on the road." "Mommyyyyyyy!" Was I this annoying when I was her age? It works for her though - she's going to get her way of course! "Right girls, let's make this snappy." "It’s okay, Mommy. I don't need to go. I’ll stay in the car with Aunty Daisy." Aunty Daisy's also getting out. "Sorry poppet, I need to go too. Why don't you go on over to the shop and get yourself a drink while you wait for us." "Oh, it's okay. I don't need anything. I’ll just sit here and wait." And off they go. It’s a bit hot. I’m just going to open the door for a bit to let in the cool breeze outside. Oh, what a cute doggy! "Come here, doggy! Hello cute puppy! What's your name? No, you can't come into the car. You might be full of fleas and then we'll all be itchy and scratchy all the way to Mossel Bay. Yes, we will! Okay, I’ll come out and play with you, here on the nice grass in the nice shade..."

 

It all happened so fast, I still can't believe it really happened! I was playing with the cute puppy on the grass and they were taking so long inside the shop, um, I guess I wasn't watching the car... Mommy was beside herself. She couldn't stop crying and when she looked at me, I wanted to melt into the ground because I know she blames me. Again, it's my fault. Some holiday this is turning out to be. I knew it was a mistake bringing that urn with us. Now it's gone. Stolen. The police said it could have been any one of hundreds of people passing through that petrol station and shop, all of them long gone by now. It will be almost impossible to trace until the thief tries to sell the urn, and maybe then the police will catch them. Or it could just disappear underground. That part I don't understand. Is the thief going to bury the urn like pirate's treasure and go and dig it up after enough time has passed and nobody’s looking? And then get it sold on the black market, is what the police officer said. Every time he spoke, Mommy howled more and tears streamed down her face. I feel so bad but part of me is burning to say, "I told you so". That time I told her to check the house alarm system, she didn't listen; nobody took me seriously. Now the urn is gone and we don't know what the thieves will do with Daddy’s ashes. If we had kept Daddy in a coffin and put him inside one of those little houses in the cemetery (I asked Peggy to look it up on the Internet: it's called a mausoleum), then this wouldn't have-- "I know what you're thinking!" Mommy has stopped chopping onions and is giving me the same look she gave me that day I fainted beside Daddy's urn in her bedroom. "You're glad this happened, aren't you?" Now she's waving the chopping knife at me. "I bet you even left the car door open on purpose!" Okay, now she's just being silly. "Why would I do that, Mommy? Why would I want someone to steal the thing?" She's putting down the knife and her eyes are growing narrower. "That 'thing' you're talking about is your father's urn and it is very, very valuable, and you know it... Come to think of it, you never did explain to me what you were doing in my bedroom that day, playing with the urn. You were planning to do something with Daddy's urn and I know it wasn't anything good. Well?" I can feel my cheeks blowing up. "You put Daddy in a fire and then put his ashes in that golden pot and then-- " "Your father wanted to be cremated! Now we've already talked about this and you're changing the subject. I want to know what you were planning to do with the urn that day because it seems to me if you had taken better care of it today, we would still have it with us now!" "But you didn't even ask us, Mommy! Lisa and I would've told you we rather wanted Daddy to stay as he was in a mouselim, but now he's no different from the ash left over after a barbeque that gets thrown into the rubbish bin!" Mommy's shaking her head and looking at me like I’m an alien. "What are you talking about? What’s a 'mouselim'?" "It’s a small house in the cemetery where-- " She interrupts me again. "A mausoleum! Where do you get these ideas, child? Look, I’m sorry about that, but it wasn't your decision. Now I know this is difficult for you to understand but one day when you're older-- " My turn to interrupt. "Okay, fine. It's too late now but I still hate thinking of Daddy as a heap of ash or dust in some fancy flowerpot and I don't know why it had to be a golden one. Maybe if it had been made of wood or plastic then no one would want to steal it, and we would still have it with us now." Now I’m folding my arms across my chest and looking crossly at Mommy. The tears had better stay away. "I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again: your Daddy worked very hard and-- " I know I’m dangerously close to a smack now but I can't hold back. "Was that golden urn for us or for Daddy?" Now Mommy's turn to fold her arms. "Excuse me?" I’m sticking to my guns but I know that smack is just a tick-tock away. "Are Daddy's ashes in a golden urn for his sake or is it to make us feel good?" Now Aunty Daisy has joined the fight. "Hey, don't talk to your mother like that!" Mommy and I are standing opposite each other like two cowboys before a gunfight. "Of course it's for your father. It’s from us to him to say thanks for the way he took care of us all these years." Aunty Daisy chirps in, "You know gold is the most precious of metals and very valuable, so it's very appropriate that your Daddy's ashes should be kept in something like that and not some plastic piece of junk." Mommy's nodding and I’m shaking my head. "Mommy, why do you keep going on and on about how wonderful that urn is? Daddy wouldn't have cared! He wasn't like that. Daddy used to wear the same old tracksuit pants and trainers for ages, even when he had new ones in his wardrobe. Why would he care if his ashes were in a golden whatever or in a plastic bag? So we didn't actually do it for him, Mommy. You know what I’m saying is true." Now Mommy's just staring at me, like she's seeing me for the first time. Aunty Daisy starts to say something but then stops herself. Nobody’s talking now and I can tell I’m in no danger of being smacked any longer. Something has changed. Mommy goes to sit down on the sofa... We’re in our holiday chalet in Mossel Bay now. It’s so beautiful, but then we're used to nice things. As Mommy keeps saying, Daddy always took good care of us. The front room is quite big. The kitchen and the living room are only divided by a breakfast counter, which is where Mommy likes to stand as she prepares our food because from there she gets to enjoy the view of the sea. All the doors and windows are open, so we can not only see the ocean but also smell the salty air and hear the waves crashing against the rocks and the birds chirping outside. It is the perfect place and right now it's so quiet because nobody's talking and we can hear all the sounds from outside. Funny how calm I feel right now, almost as if everything's going to be all right, just like the nun in my dream told me. Mommy’s looking at her hands on her lap and even Lisa is sitting quietly as if she can understand what's going on. Finally Mommy speaks. "You know, your Grandpa, your father's father, once said to him and your uncle when they complained about having to drive Grandpa's rusty old white VW station wagon, that a car doesn't lend status to a man; it's the man that lends status to the car. I guess your Daddy believed the same about the clothes he wore." She smiles softly like she might cry again. I can see she misses him, so I go and sit next to her on the sofa. Then Aunty Daisy says something weird, "As the song goes, sometimes the clothes do not make the man!" and smiles at us like she wants to give us all a big bear hug. I don't understand any of that, about the car business and Aunty Daisy's comment, but something tells me that Mommy understands me and that's all I care about. She’s putting her arm around me and calls Lisa over to sit with us, and we're just sitting here on this white sofa, staring at the wooden floorboards, holding on to each other. For the first time in so long, I feel like I have my Mommy back. I won’t mind if a few teardrops fall now.

 

Last night turned out all right. Mommy, Aunty Daisy, Lisa and I sat until very late after we'd finished dinner out on the patio looking out over the sea. We talked and talked, I mean really talked for the first time since Daddy died. It was a bit strange at first, putting into words and saying out loud what we were all feeling, but at least now it's out in the open. Well, not all of it, but enough for now. That's what Mommy said. We talked mostly about how Daddy got sick and that it wasn't because he was a bad man and God was punishing him. I already knew that, but it was while she was explaining all the good things that Daddy did in his life that I finally found out how Mommy had talked to our school principal about the ugly things Kenny said and that she'd asked the principal to arrange a meeting with Kenny's parents. I was a bit shocked when I heard that and asked her what she'd said to them. She said Kenny's parents aren't bad people. They just have to work very hard and they spend little time at home, so sometimes Kenny does naughty things to get their attention. She told them that Daddy was an honourable man, who came from a good family. He studied hard and was very intelligent, so he did very well at his job. He worked at the same company for all of his professional life and was highly valued by his employers. I’m telling you exactly what she said because I don't know some of the words she used. What I understood from the way she spoke, was that she was proud of him and wanted us to be too. He never boasted about how well he was doing at work because he didn't need to, and that, she said, was an important lesson for us to learn. She called it humility, but I don't know that word either. I didn't want to interrupt her while she was talking. At times she looked sad, at times she smiled that soft smile, and other times she almost looked cross, and then it was like she was talking to herself and not really to us. Well, Kenny’s parents apologised and said that they were going to talk to him about his behaviour. They already knew that he's been bullying other kids at school because our teacher had called to their house and sent letters to tell them so. They were going to see to it that Kenny learns it's wrong to speak ill of the dead. That’s what Mommy told us… After that, she started telling us stories about Daddy - her favourite or funniest stories about things he did and said. Mommy told us about how she and Daddy met for the first time and when they fell in love. Daddy had taken her to the movies and was very nervous the whole time. He didn't have much money then and couldn't afford to buy her nice candy or popcorn. He managed to buy some round sweets that were so hard, she couldn't chew them. She kept them until she got home and left them on her windowsill overnight, planning to give them to the neighbour's kids who often visited her house. The next morning she found the windowsill was crawling with ants. Maybe they followed the smell of something sweet there. The funny thing was that the ants didn't touch the candy. Ha, ha! Even the ants wouldn't eat them! Well, Daddy walked Mommy home after the movie and when they arrived at the front door of her house, he quickly pushed his face forward, jabbed a kiss at her and just as quickly, he ran away without saying a word! I was trying to picture this in my mind and I couldn't stop laughing. What made it even funnier was that Daddy always joked he was a ladies' man. He even explained to me what that meant, because he wanted me to understand that women found him very charming and that he was popular among them. But the whole time the opposite was true! I never believed him anyway. So Daddy was poor when he met Mommy. Wow, I didn't know that. Aunty Daisy said that's what hard work, dedication and good education did for you. That’s when I told Mommy that I want to do the same job as Daddy one day when I grow up. She smiled at me and asked me what had happened to my plans to become an architect or a journalist and then a singer... She said that I have to be my own person and that she and Daddy would be proud of me no matter what I did, as long as I worked hard and honestly. She said even a street sweeper who works hard and honestly, can be proud of what they do. We were just lucky that Daddy was good at something that earned him a good salary and that's why we could live as well as we do and that's why she could buy him a golden urn. But maybe I was right, she said, maybe it had been foolish to get something so expensive because now we have nothing left of Daddy. She looked at me strangely then and for a while, said nothing. Then she patted me on the head and said, "You really are your Daddy's girl, aren't you? You know him so well. No wonder he called you his little angel. He loved you very much, you know? You were his first baby." I was so happy to hear that, my face hurt from smiling too hard. So I went to bed like that, smiling and happy, thinking of Daddy until I fell asleep.

 

I made a friend at the pool today. Her name is Josie and she's from Gauteng. At first we just swam races against each other. She was really fast, but I beat her every time because I’ve been taking swimming lessons since I was a baby. Lisa can also swim very well and so we stopped competing with Josie so that she wouldn't feel bad about losing all the time. I liked her immediately because she made jokes all the time and had a funny laugh like a chipmunk's! She was on holiday with her dad - just the two of them. I asked her if she had any brothers or sisters and she said that she was an only child. I said, "Great! No baby sister to slow you down," and pulled tongue at Lisa. She splashed water in my face. "You’re only a little bit faster than me and that's only because you happen to be 5 years older than me. Big deal," she said, rolling her eyes at me. Lisa is a lot more fun to tease when Mommy isn't nearby because then she gives back as good as she gets, instead of always whining to Mommy to come to her rescue. But Josie was looking at us sadly and said, "I wish I had a sister or a brother. It gets kind of lonely always playing by yourself. You’re lucky!" Lisa and I burst out laughing at the same time. "Lucky? Ha ha! Listen, lucky is when you can choose a new sweater when you go shopping and know your silly baby sister isn't going to get the exact same thing for herself, so you end up looking like lopsided twins!" Lisa was not to be outdone. "Oh yeah? Josie, you listen to me. Lucky is when you're trying something for the first time, like I don't know, maybe playing the piano, and you don't have to hear how good your big sister is at it because she's got such beautiful long fingers, bla bla bla!" "I can't help it if I inherited Daddy's nice hands and fingers and you've got short stubby sausage fingers." Still Josie wasn't convinced. All she knew is that if one of us got into trouble, the other one would back her sister up. If Josie herself got into trouble, there'd be nobody to back her up. The way she was looking at us, like she wanted to be one of us, was funny to me because I could see we were never going to agree about this. I said sisters are there to have fights with and parents are there to break up the fights. Then we decided to talk about other stuff and headed off to the play park where Josie showed us how good she is at gymnastics. She was walking across a beam on the jungle gym that was so high up, I wouldn't even dare try! She tried to teach us how to do somersaults and the splits. She told us that when she lived with her mother, she took gymnastics lessons. Her parents are divorced and she spends one week with her mother and one week with her father. She went on talking about it as if it's the most normal thing in the world, but I couldn't help thinking it is a strange way to live. I asked her what happened at Christmas and on her birthday. She sighed and said, "They flip a coin." I was about to laugh but I realised she was serious. Then Lisa said out loud, "At least you've got a daddy," and pouted. Josie looked at me with a question mark on her face. I just said, "He's dead," really quickly and changed the subject. For the rest of our playtime together, Josie didn't once ask me about my Daddy although I bet she was gagging to know what it feels like for us. I’m glad she didn't because I really just want to be happy for a little while, and not be reminded all the time how much I miss him or how different I am from other kids who still have their daddies. It’s been hard enough as it is being here without Daddy. I can remember Daddy in this pool with us just last year over Christmas time, pretending to be drowning. Actually, he couldn't swim. Can you believe that? He was born a few meters from the beach and so were Uncle Ron and Aunty Mary, but not one of them ever learnt how to swim! Daddy said he was just careful of the sharks in the area after an old woman went swimming in the sea wearing a red swimsuit and red rubber swim cap. She disappeared and after a day's searching, all they found of the old woman was her red rubber swim cap with shark tooth marks on it. Apparently the shark couldn't stomach the swim cap. Then Daddy laughed that frog laugh of his even though no one else thought it was funny. I also remember how Daddy always took us out for meals to the same restaurant in town and he always had the same dish: marinated spare ribs. He went mad for that! And he always tried to get the same table every time we went. The waiters know us by now. Mommy used to tease that they were going to give Daddy shares in that restaurant. We’re going there for dinner later and already I can feel my stomach twisting into a knot, thinking about going there without him. They’re going to wonder where Daddy is. Maybe they'll even think Mommy and Daddy got divorced. I’m glad Mommy and Daddy stayed together because I can't imagine living like Josie. It makes me think of what Grandma told me once: Never take anyone in your family for granted - if you don't have your family, you've got nothing. I didn't know what she was talking about at the time, but I remember it and now I know. So I feel sorry for Josie. Listen to me! I’m the one without a father and I feel sorry for her! Whatever. Maybe she, Lisa and I can spend the rest of our holiday time playing together, having some fun and for a while we can all forget about the things that make us sad. Just for a while. And tonight I’ll try the spare ribs if Mommy will let me have some. I’ll just skip the beer though.

 

Mommy says this is the Overberg that we're driving through now, on the road from Mossel Bay back to Cape Town. The holiday's just about over and although I feel a bit sad about that, this is one of my favourite parts of going away on holiday: being on the open road! I love sitting in the car, listening to music and singing along, and looking out of the window. In this place we're travelling through now, it feels like we are all alone in the world - there's so much space and more space, as far as your eye can see. Aunty Mary told me that when she was a little girl, she and Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Ron and Daddy had travelled this way many times on holidays because they used to live in Mossel Bay and often visited family in Cape Town. Once, they were travelling like that at night, also listening to Abba music (we love singing along to 'Dancing Queen' and 'Mamma Mia') although I don't know how they could have had the same music back then that we have now, when she saw something high up in the sky. It was a light that shone very brightly in the dark night sky (and she said that in this part of the world the sky was always very dark and the stars very bright because there was no pollution in the air). Well, she was watching the light, thinking it was a star, when it started moving. Then she thought it was an airplane's light, but the light moved so strangely she said: straight up and straight down, really fast, and then suddenly, just as fast, it shot further up into the sky and disappeared! When she told Grandpa and Grandma what she'd seen, they said, "Oh, it's probably a star," and "Oh, it was just an airplane," and Uncle Ron teased her, "Oh, you're just imagining things as usual." But she knew what she'd seen was no star and no airplane. I asked her what she thought it was and she said, making her eyes big and her voice deep, "It was a UFO of course, what else?" We talked about it and decided that it could really have been one because if the aliens didn't want anyone to know they existed, the best way to visit our planet was to come to the Overberg after darkness fell. Nobody would see them except the sheep and the cattle living in the area, and they don't speak any human languages. The aliens' secret would be safe. So I like this part of our trip, not because I think I might see some UFO's, but just to stare into the space of never-ending fields and to watch animals grazing like they have all the time in the world just to eat, and behind them, going on for miles and miles, mountains reaching high up into the sky like stone giants on tiptoes trying to touch the ceiling of the world. Sometimes I want to take photos of everything I see and sometimes I just want to stare to try and remember the moving view from my car window like a video in my mind. I see very few houses along the way, so I wonder where the farmers live and where the animals sleep at night. The animals must have a stable or something like that to sleep in, but I wonder how they know to find their way back home. I haven't seen any shepherds or cowboys chasing round on horses. The sheep and the cattle are just there as if someone has forgotten them there. While I enjoy looking out at all this, Lisa finds it boring and so she's doing something my Daddy used to do when he was a child on a road trip. I think this is hilarious and I tell her so, and it's not long before, "Mommyyyy! Tell her to stop bothering me! I want to do what I want to do." What she's doing is writing down in a notebook the number plate of each and every single car that we pass by! Daddy used to chew his tongue when he was concentrating really hard and she does the same. "Hey, Sis, the way you're chewing your tongue, you actually look like one of the cows out there in the field, you know?" Ha, ha, ha! I love teasing my sister! She pulls her face up into a frown that makes crinkle-cut lines along her forehead and little v-shaped lines along her nose. "Now you look like someone who's smelling a fart! Don’t pull your face like that, it will stay that way." "Mommyyyyyy..." And so on it goes until Mommy turns down the music and tells us both off. So I go back to my window and stare and hum, smiling. I’m feeling almost happy now. Of course we still have that big problem of Daddy's missing ashes in the urn, but unfortunately there was nothing we could do about it in Mossel Bay. We went by the police station on our way out of town to check if there had been any news about the urn, but they told us they had no new leads and to leave matters in their capable hands. When we got back to the car, Mommy snorted, "Capable hands, my foot! We’ll never see it again." As tears rolled down her cheeks once more, Aunty Daisy took one look at her, turned round to us and told us all to close our eyes. She started praying to God to guide us safely back home and to keep us out of harm's way as we travelled on the road. She finished off with these words: "God, we place our trust and faith in your merciful hands that you will bring back the ashes to us, with or without the urn. We just want him back, Lord." That made everyone feel better. Well, the Mossel Bay police will be in contact with the branch in Cape Town nearest to where we live, if there is any news to report. Just one funny thing happened before we left though. We were getting some juice and snacks for the road when I saw a man walking towards us in the shop, looking up and down at Mommy with a strange, scary smile on his face peeking out from under his cap. I touched Mommy's elbow and she looked up, stared for a moment and then greeted him! She looked surprised, like she knew him, but they didn't stop to chat. As he passed us by, I turned and kept looking at him. He was looking back at us. There was something familiar about him but I couldn't put my finger on it. When we were back in the car, I asked her about this man. She said I probably recognised him because it was Kenny’s older cousin who lives with them! She had that look on her face when she disapproves of something. "What an unpleasant looking young man! He really should get rid of that ridiculous hairstyle of his, and the tattoos! Don’t get me started..." But I don't know any of Kenny’s family. I’ve never seen Kenny get picked up at school by anybody - he always takes the bus home. So how...? From what I could see, that guy didn't even look like Kenny. No, that was really strange. "Fancy running into him here! I got the impression he doesn't have a job; so where would he get the money from to take a trip all the way here?" Aunty Daisy shook her head and asked Mommy how she knew this person. "Oh, you know," and she pointed her head in my direction, "the time when this little genius decided to put worms into that boy's sandwich at school?" Aunty Daisy nodded so fast I thought her head might come off. "Yes, yes, didn’t you say you went to see the boy's parents after the mean things he said?" "Well, I had to go right back there the following day to apologise for my daughter's bad behaviour, and that's when I met this undelightful young man in their house. He opened the door for me with this dirty look on his face like he would've spat on me if he could've. He was obviously angry with me after my visit from the night before. But there was no need for that - he wasn't even there. He doesn't know what we discussed. Kenny’s parents were very decent, as I’ve told you already, and they certainly didn't resent me for coming to see them." Aunty Daisy's head was now tilted to one side and she was scratching it thoughtfully. "What was his story? Anyway, he’s just a child and if he's loafing around, looking like that-- " Mommy had to interrupt her, "No, look, I don't want to be mean. The fact is that he's just a boy yes, and maybe he's trying to find a job but he isn't having much luck. We mustn't judge a book by its cover, right? After all, it looks like he's from a good family." Aunty Daisy looked down guiltily and nodded more slowly this time. "No excuse for rudeness, I always say, " she mumbled. "You are right, my friend, but children don't always listen to their parents or their elders, do they? Well, the thing is, he's the one who saw her put the worms in Kenny’s sandwich. That’s how we all found out. Apparently Kenny didn't even know it himself until his cousin told him." So that's how they found me out! "But what was the young man doing there during the course of the school day? Break time is only at 10 o'clock, isn't it?" Now it was Mommy's turn to tilt her head and look unseeingly out the car window. "That's a damned good question, Daisy. I never thought of that!" Then she asked me if I have ever seen this cousin pick Kenny up from school, and when I told her Kenny only travelled home by bus, she looked even more puzzled. But it was time to go. "Well, I’m sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of that. For now, let's put it down as one of the mysteries of the universe. Shall we? Right girls, let's hit the road!" And on roll the Overberg mountains, as I count the sheep and the cows until another of my favourite things to do on a road trip takes over: I’m falling asleep…

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