Fairy Rider By Leonie Roderick
The tree isn’t that cheap and with the needed compost, fertilizer and soil he spends quite a bit of money.
His parents are impressed and his mother is even a little tearful when he presents them with the gift.
The man at the nursery and another man, a client, promised him the Acacia was a perfect choice for this area. For him it looked like an ordinary thorn tree, but he was assured that it would grow into a perfect shady tree.
The other man there seemed to know who a Dillon was; He didn’t introduce himself but talked away calling Dillon by his name.
When the owner was called away, to attend to new customers he was left alone with this man. At first he was a little embarrassed. He wondered what his parents had told others about him but then realized that the man didn’t know any intimate details but only general things.
He then wondered if that was what happened in small towns. He had read that people there seemed to know each other’s business – not like in the big cities. He scarcely remembered his neighbours across the street in Sandton. It was an elderly couple. They went their way and he his and they never met socially.
The man actually talked a lot about school. After a neat manoeuvre he set off to pay for his purchases.
Once in the four-wheel drive, they take the road out of town and now Dillon knows why his parents drive around in a sturdier vehicle. The moment they leave the tar covered road the dust is unbelievable and the service is uneven and filled with potholes. The dust billowing around the wheels is like a thick red cloud. They don’t go far before turning into a secondary road. A short way and they get to the gates standing open where his father turns off on a small two-wheel drive.
“We plan to get a better gate and some name sign,” his mother tells him. “We have been so busy moving in and getting settled…”
“We’ll get to it, Meav,” his father says, taking his hand from the steering wheel and pressing his mother’s in a warm clasp.
This small intimate gesture doesn’t go unnoticed by Dillon.
“We actually live next to the town. It’s still too far to walk with ease but quite convenient,” his mother explains.
The house looms up and it looks pretty, big and white in the afternoon sun with a red tiled roof. It’s a one storey house with a big veranda in the front. It looks old- fashioned and lived in. Surrounding it are lawns, now a bit yellowed in the hot weather.
It’s nothing like the house in the city with its ultra-modern architecture. That was something of a mansion and an army of servants was needed to keep it clean.
Still, this house looks nice. Better than he thought it would be. Why did he imagine the house would be small and dark, surrounded by big trees and dense bush?
There are trees on the outskirts of the lawn. Beneath one of the trees is an iron garden table and chairs. It looks cosy and cool and he knows his parents must spend time here, sitting and relaxing after a day’s work.
As they drive up to the house two dogs rush up to the car. They bark excitedly and with lolling tongues they dance around, waiting for the car doors to open.
Dillon is astonished. Dogs! Mongrel dogs!
When did his parents get dogs? His mother never allowed dogs at home in the city. She always told him they were too busy and it would be unfair to keep animals. Now they have two dogs!
For the first time he is really sorry he ignored his parents’ phone calls. They would have told him about the dogs.
The dogs charge at him and jump up against him, stirring up a racket.
Dillon laughs and pats them cheerfully before pushing them from him.
“They are still young and enthusiastic. We plan to teach them to sit when ordered. I can imagine what will happen if your grandmother visits and they are still this enthusiastic.”
Dillon can’t help himself. He laughs really happily.
“Maybe you could help us to train them?”
“It will be my pleasure. Where did you find them?’
“Oh, your father insisted we go to the pound. There are so many dogs there; we nearly brought more of them home.”
After the wet greeting Dillon takes his bags from the car.
“Darling, don’t leave anything out or on the ground. The dogs will get to it and that will be the end of it. Always put your shoes and books high on a table. When you take the tree out of the car put it on the table on the veranda, otherwise the dogs will think it’s a new toy. Once the tree is planted we’ll secure it until it can withstand them.”
Dillon laughs again when the two young dogs get between his legs and he nearly falls over before they start their own game chasing each other and rolling around on the lawn.
“What are their names?”
Meav frowns. “We just call them dogs… But now you are here you could name them.”
“I need to think about it. A name is very important – even for a dog.”
The holiday is already looking better!
His mother is there to show him his room.
He watches with wonder at the simplicity with which the house is furnished. What has happened to all his mother’s Persian carpets, the antiques and that expensive art work?
“We stored most of it,” she says softly. “But the time has come to sort it out and decide what we want to keep and what we should get rid of. This house was built for antiques, don’t you think? I can’t wait to pack out my things and really get settled.”
“Are you really happy here, Mom?”
“Oh, my darling, – how I wish I could give you a peep into my heart. I have such pleasure and peace living here. This town has done wonders for your dad and me. We feel like new people with a new lease on life.”
She leads him down wide passages to a room where she throws open the door. His old room’s curtains are billowing in the breeze and there are all the things he thought necessary when he was living at home. Even his school pictures are against the wall, telling the story of his short scholastic life in all its glory. On a table is a brand new state of the art computer with gadgets still packed away in their boxes, waiting to be opened and to be installed.
“Dillon, I don’t want you to spend all your time on the computer. You have enough of it in the city doing homework and assignments. I want you to enjoy yourself and get to know this town and its people. I think you will be surprised. The people are friendly and we got to know quite a few youngsters around your age. When we go to church, you will meet some of them – those who are not away for the holidays.”
“You go to church?”
“Everybody goes to church. It’s what people do here. The social structure is surrounded by the church and congregation. When we moved in here we were told to join in and meet the people. At first we did it to get to know our neighbours and to make contact with the work establishment. Then I …I have found a new calling. I love to join the prayer groups. It started when I was so worried about leaving you behind in the city. I didn’t like it and missed you terribly. I wish you could stay here with us forever, but I realise I’m selfish. You have your own life to lead. You need to go back to school and finish your matric and then go on to university. I can only pray that once you have finished with your education you will come back to us.”
“Mom, will you and Dad ever return to Sandton?”
“I don’t think so. We are so happy here. You are our only concern. We want you to be happy and we can only hope that you will find happiness here with us, living in this town.”
Emotion wells up and his mother hastily turns away, making him feel guiltier than ever.
He doesn’t like to see tears in her eyes.
Sitting down on his bed he wonders how and when the change occurred. The anger is gone!
He doesn’t like this small town but he can now see his parents are happy here. Even attending church! Church was never high on their agenda when they lived together as a family in the city.
Dillon is planting the tree he bought his parents. First he has to dig a hole in the soil. The man at the nursery was specific about the hole. It must be wide and deep.
For a short time he thinks about the one man who spoke to him about school.
The man obviously knew who he was, calling him the newest tenant of the town. He also obviously knew about gardens and trees. In a short time he gave Dillon a lesson in gardening and planting trees, showing him what he should buy for his new venture.
In the old days Dillon used to take the upkeep of the garden for granted. In the city they had all the help they wanted. His parents gave orders to the hired gardeners. From time to time they inspected it and spent a small amount of time in it. He can’t remember a time they simply enjoyed it. He remembers when he was young, running around in their garden, kicking his ball. That was the total of his knowledge.
And here he is planting his first tree.
He slowly straightens his back and stretches it.
Gardening is hard work.
The dogs lift their heads and come sniffing around his feet.
”I don’t want you to undo my hard work, you hear,” he tells them and they seem to be listening to him, their heads turned and their brown eyes soft and friendly.
“You think I’m gullible?” he asks them amused.
This is what they’ve been waiting for, thinking he is inviting them to come and play. They jump up against him, barking out loud and it sounds like a ruckus.
“No playing until the job is done!” he tells them and they slink off, looking over their shoulders to go and lie once more in the shadow of the old Marula.
“You still aren’t named, yet. I’m working on it. Be patient and give me time!” he tells them.
Inside the house Meav is standing in front of the window, looking out at her son. His hair is looking darker from the sweat and the muscles are bulging under the T-shirt.
She smiles at the antics of the dogs and her son. She is too far away and can’t hear the conversation, but the dogs’ devotion to Dillon is something she hadn’t anticipated.
This morning when she got up she heard them in his room and later Dillon tip-toeing down the passage – the dogs following him, their nails clicking on the floor boards. She was just in time to see him sneak them out through the front door.
Richard was waiting for her in the kitchen, amusement dancing in his dark eyes.
“A boy and his dogs,” he murmured softly. “Is that why you never wanted him to have a dog in the city?”
“No, I truly thought it would be impractical with us working all the time and Dillon away most of the day at school. I suddenly feel bad about my decision. It was wrong. I can see I really blew it. He should have had a lot of dogs growing up…”
“It’s never too late. I hope you are going to let them sleep with him.”
“You knew they slept with him?”
“I was still awake when he sneaked them into his room.”
“I suppose they slept on his bed?”
Richard laughs softly, hugging her to him. “Where else would a boy let his best friends spent the night?”
“I shall allow anything if only he will be happy here with us.”
“Are you going to try and convince him to stay with us and finish his last school year here?”
“I wish I could. It was very hard for me here without him – but it will be as he wishes. This time I shall not interfere but abide.”
Her husband laughs. He knows her better than that. She is like a bulldog when something is bothering her. She never let go once she takes a stand. That is the quality that made her one of the best attorneys in the city.
It’s on this note Dillon enters the kitchen and Meav gives him his first cup of coffee for the morning with real sugar.
“I’m not finished yet. I thought of names for the dogs. I want to call the smaller one: Grieves and the larger one Tristan. He looks like a Tristan to me. Despite his birth he has a regal look. He just has this way of looking down his nose at me sometimes. It’s as though he is saying: You humans are so stupid, look at our dogs, we are the happiest of creatures.”
He quickly gulps down the coffee and rushes outside to finish the back-breaking job.
Meav tries to study him, objectively. But he is her son and she can never be anything else but his mother. With the territory come love and certain blindness to his faults. He looks so gown-up. She tries to look at him and compare him to his friends. He looks smarter and more beautiful than any of the youths she knows. Is it only because he is hers? She would never reveal her feelings and musings. No man wants to hear he is actually beautiful, not even from his own mother.
Arms suddenly fold around her, pulling her towards a firm body. Richard has moved over to join her in front of the window.
“Are you happy?” he asks.
“I’m very happy. It looks as if we have our old son back. The happy child, and not the angry individual he has been these last months.”
Her husband’s arms tighten around her.
“I sincerely hope you are wrong.”
For a moment she is shocked into silence and then the words burst out of her mouth.
“Why would you say that? You must have been as worried as I was when he was so angry and we couldn’t reach him?”
“No, I was relieved and quite proud of him.”
They watch as the boy straightens again and turns around looking out at the dense bush.
What does he see, what does he hear, Meav wonders?
She turns her thoughts back to her husband. “What did you mean, you were glad?”
“I was worried about Dillon. He was turning into a real mama’s boy. He did everything you wanted him to do. I know he was an obedient and biddable child and we thought he was more mature than his friends. But it was unnatural. Children are hell raisers and not the meek little souls their parents would like them to be. They should go out and try out new things, experience life, decide for themselves what is best for them. Dillon fell in with all our decisions without once getting rebellious. That worried me endlessly. I wanted him to make his own mistakes and learn from them. I wanted him to be difficult like all teenagers are. I wanted him to be disobedient and show the stuff he was made off. I wanted him to be a man, his own man, even if he was still a teenager.”
She is shocked. When she was so proud of her son and his maturity, Richard was actually unhappy with it? It sounds bizarre to say the least. She was thankful for what Dillon was and Richard was unhappy!
“Don’t turn him into a “yes” boy again. Let him grow up to be a man of the world, whether it’s with us here in this small town, or in the big city. It doesn’t matter. But let him develop into the man he wants to be – strong and happy. Let it be his decision, his choice, not yours or mine.”
“You can’t mean that. That is why we are here. That’s what parents do: They help their children and educate them to the best of their abilities. Richard, I saw so many children going the wrong way because their parents didn’t care or couldn’t work together. They ruined their children’s lives.”
“I know Meav dear, only- our son is made of sterner stuff. We did our job, gave him what he needed. Now is the time to stand back, let him show us what he has learned from us, through the years. We tried our best, set a good example for him to follow. Let him be and we’ll see which way he turns. If things go drastically wrong we can interfere again and show him the right way and what we expect of him. But until such a time, we should let him be the best person he can be.”
He hugs her to him in a fierce embrace and feels the hot wet tears soak into his shirt.
“Why didn’t you say anything before?”
“It wasn’t the right time for him to be independent. But from now on we’ll have to cope with a son who has learned to be his own master, who knows what he wants and maybe even how to get it.”
They both watch the boy in the garden in silence.
“All will be good,” Richard tells himself and prays silently that he is right. Parent’s hopes and wishes are sometimes far removed from the reality!
In the garden Dillon turns away from the bush and reaches for the fertilizer. He drops a handful into the hole and then he lowers the tree slowly before filling the hole in with dirt mixed with the compost.
Now he only needs to water the tree, then stand back to watch it grow.
He still needs to secure it from the dogs. A hammer and a few wooden slats will do the work.
With the hose in his hands he turns once more to the bush.
There is a strange silence hanging over it as if it’s waiting for something. He doesn’t hear the small insects or the bird calls – only the silence… In the distance twin hills look out over the landscape.
Something touches his heart. A long ago awakening comes up and nestles in his brain.
It looks familiar! He has seen those twin peaks before. He is sure he isn’t imagining it – but where and when? If only he can remember!
Shaking his head he grabs a familiar cliché: This is déjà vu.
Thank you for joining us in reading Chapters 5 and 6. Both Leonie Roderick and I love sharing her book with you. Tune in tomorrow again for more…