Fairy Rider by Leonie Roderick
Dillon awakens suddenly and jumps out of bed. He stands in silence and listens.
In the moonlight he can see the two dogs. They growl deep in their throats and sit with ears pointed, heads turned.
He can also see the clock on the desk. Three o’clock!
What is happening outside? Why did he wake up, believing someone called him? More, why are the dogs growling?
“Tristan, Grieves,” he calls them softly and walks down the corridor to the kitchen. He softly unlocks the door and opens it, letting them out. They start running around in circles and barking into the wind.
What’s going on? They must have heard something. They are agitated, growling softly but menacingly.
Why are they behaving like dumb animals? He smiles in the darkness.
“Well, they are animals,” he tells himself, tongue in cheek.
He calls them back softly and once they are in the house he locks up again. The boy and his two companions move into the lounge and he stands in front of the window, looking out over the dense bush. In the moonlight the bush looks mysterious and slightly threatening. He shakes his head. The night is making him fanciful. In the distance he can see the twin peaks of the hills illuminated in the moonlight.
In the dark night he imagines they shine like beacons.
He turns away and almost immediately turns back.
He is going mad! Insane! He is paranoid. How on earth could he imagine those hills are calling out to him? Impossible! It’s quite impossible. But he keeps standing there, watching the dark bush and lightened peaks, seeking answers.
Slowly the cold creeps up from his toes to his ankles and up his legs. Still he doesn’t move.
Grieves turns around a few times and then flops down, head resting on Dillon’s foot. Tristan sits quietly, head erect, ears pointed, listening. The dog is alert, as if he can hear the silent call and is afraid and wants to look out for Dillon.
Suddenly the calling stops and the hills grow silent. Nothing sinister, there! Nothing strange is happening. He gives up his vigil; turns once more to go to his room and see if he can sleep undisturbed for the rest of the night, when he notices his mother is standing in the doorway, watching him intently.
“What is going on, Dillon? I thought I heard the back door open and wondered what you were doing?”
“I let the dogs out. I though they wanted to go out. When I turned back I looked at those twin peaks. They are so beautiful in the moonlight. They are shining like beacons, as if trying to give us a message.”
Meav laughs softly. “They are a wonder to look at. Many times a night I have stood here looking at them. I always think they are like those lights on high buildings which warn airplanes to look out. But now they look brighter than ever.”
“Mom, where are those peaks? Are they here on this farm, on New Horizon?”
“No, Dillon. They are on our neighbour’s farm.”
“Who are our neighbours?”
“Our neighbour is a single lady, a woman called; Delia O’Shea. She has only two old workers living on the farm with her: An old man who does the outside work and his wife who helps out in the house.”
“She has no help? If she is farming, surely she needs more help than only two old people?’
“That is the thing. She doesn’t farm! She has enough money to live comfortably and she prefers to let the bush grow back and the wild life takes its natural course.”
“Do you know her? Have you actually been on that farm?’
“She came to see me professionally a few months ago. She wanted me to set up a trust for the farm. She is afraid she’ll die and the farm will land in careless hands. The trust is to make sure the farm will go on as it is. When she came here years ago she was young and alone with only a daughter. The people told me the child was a sickly creature and wasn’t seen much. A few years back the child died and now she is on her own. The rest of her family is still living in Ireland. As I read between the lines she doesn’t like them – in fact, I think she really hates them and doesn’t want them to get their hands on the property. The trust is to assure her the farm will go on as it always has since she bought it.”
“It sounds quite complicated. Who are these trustees who will look after the farm?”
A blush steels up his mother’s cheeks in the dark. “That is one of the complications. Your father and I are one set. The other set is her neighbours on the other side: William Retief and his wife, Maggie.”
“Mom, what happens if you don’t want the job?”
“Then I’m to search for people who will take on the responsibility. Even your name was mentioned…”
“I? But I don’t know this woman or anything about her. Is she in ill health?”
“No, darling, I see no reason why she wouldn’t live for quite some time to come.”
“Mom, what is going on there? It sounds quite bizarre to me. Trusts and things! Why?”
“It does sound strange – even stranger when I met her again. As we were new here and trying to make friends I thought it would be a good idea to take the final document to her for signing.
I thought I would visit and get to know her. She wasn’t impressed with my idea. I got the impression she wanted to get rid of me and never, ever, wants to see me on the farm again.”
“What is going on with this woman? Is she totally out of her mind? You are so cool. All the people I meet want to be friends with you.”
“Others might like me, but not Delia O’Shea. She took those papers and signed them and then I was on my way back home. Afterwards I asked the people at church and it was the same story. They know her and like her but she doesn’t encourage visitors to her farm. Years back it was because of her daughter. The sickly child had to be kept quiet. She didn’t even attend school but was taught at home. The only person who was welcomed was Willie Retief.”
Dillon turns back to the window and looks out to the twin peaks.
“There is something strange about those peaks, Mom. Earlier tonight I was sure they were calling out to me. I think I’ve seen them before – maybe in a dream. They are familiar. I can even imagine seeing the grass growing between them and feel the velvety texture beneath my feet”
“Oh please no Dillon, not your dreams again! I thought we were past those childish dreams of yours.”
“Stop, Mom! I will let you into a little secret. It never stopped. I only got wiser with the years and learnt to bury them deep inside myself. I hated to feel different and odd. The battalion of doctors you took me too, made me feel inferior and stupid. In fact they made me feel crazy and demented. I hated it so much. I even hated you and Dad for a while.”
“Dillon, I didn’t know! I thought we were doing the right thing for you. I thought I was the cause of it. You might not remember but I also went to see my own psychologists.”
“You did? I never knew. Why on earth did you think you were responsible for my imaginary playmate?”
“It was because of Elizabeth. You started having those dreams right after she died.”
“I’m sorry. I was so young. I can scarcely remember her. If you ask about that time, all I can tell you is how I helped you get the nursery ready. I bet I was more of a hindrance than a help. Then Grandmother came and I helped her pack up all the things and she took them away again. Before I could understand the concept of a sister sharing my life, she was gone. My life went on as usual. If Elizabeth had lived, I properly would have been a typical older child throwing tantrums to establish my right and place in the hierarchy as older sibling…”
“Really, your imaginary friend had nothing to do with Elizabeth?”
“I’m sorry we lost Elizabeth and had to go through that. I would have liked to have a little sister.”
“It was a rough time for all of us. I knew by then there was no hope of another child – not that I wanted to have one. After Elizabeth’s death I felt like dying too. Your father and I went through a very difficult time. I almost lost him and our marriage as well. Then one day I was standing in front of the kitchen door and you were playing in the sun with a ball. I looked at you and suddenly I knew how privileged I still was to have you, my beautiful son. I went outside and we played catch for a while and I promised myself I would be thankful for every day I had you.”
“Mom, I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. By the time I realized about Elizabeth she wasn’t mentioned anymore. It was as if she never existed.”
“I should have talked to you. I was such a mess and when you started talking about the girl who came to play with you at night. I thought you were talking about Elizabeth. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me most.”
“I was so young and couldn’t even understand it myself. How on earth could I blame you? I kept dreaming of the girl and later stopped talking about her. There was no harm done…”
“Darling I should have been there to help you.”
“Why, Mom? Would you have dragged me to more doctors to mess with my head? I didn’t need them. And I liked the time I spent with her, my fairy-child.”
“I should have known. I should have known. Don’t you see? That is what mothers do. I should have known and helped you. I was so selfish I nearly lost you and your father because I was wrapped up in grief.
“Mom it was a terrible thing that happened to us as a family and you specially. We could only be thankful that we came out of it as a unit. Do you know how few families go through a loss like that and still survive?”
”Still it wasn’t normal behaviour. We were all in an abnormal situation trying to make do.”
“’Do you know the criteria for normalcy? Why don’t you ask Dad? He is a medical doctor and even if this isn’t his specialty he would still be able to determine the difference between normal and abnormal. We all have a bit of mad in us. ”
“I’m sorry I let my paranoia interfere with your life. I didn’t understand – I still don’t. Were you happy dreaming of her?”
“Mom, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed being with her. But then she stopped coming to me.”
“When did this happen?”
“Right before you moved here. She just suddenly stopped coming. I miss her so much.”
“What did she give you that we couldn’t?”
“She was my friend.”
“I understand you felt you needed a friend. But what could she give you – a child that we couldn’t?”
‘’She wasn’t a child in the end. She grew up, like I did. At first she showed me a whole new world. She lived in a bush. She took me to her world and I learned the different animals and birds and their habits. She even taught me about trees. To tell you the truth, her environment was much like it is here. I remember the thick bush and dry grass. Many times we played in a small river, splashing around, having fun. Then we started growing up and we talked for hours about my plans. Always about my plans! She never once mentioned what she wanted to do when she grew up. I told her about school and athletics and taught her to play chess. She was one smart chess player. A few times she even warned me about questions coming up in tests. You remember that biology teacher we had when I started high school. Dream-Girl told me there were questions in the exam I didn’t know the answers to. We went in search of books and landed up in a study. I don’t have enough words to describe to you that remarkable room. It was a very big room with bookcases from the floor to the ceiling. I thought we had many books at home, with you and Dad being professional people. But it was nothing compared to this. We searched in her books until I had the answers. You remember how that teacher then tried to make out I had seen the exam-papers beforehand. Dad was so angry with him but even he wondered how I knew those answer. Afterwards Dad helped me and we worked out a whole scenario of questions that could be asked. I was prepared from then on. Dream-Girl asked me if she should scare that teacher. I wanted to know what she was planning to do. She wouldn’t tell me, only said, she had actually promised never to use her talents to do something bad to people. I asked what she meant and what these talents were she mentioned. She wouldn’t tell me. Afterwards, with Dad’s help, I never needed her help again and she never warned me again. That teacher didn’t like being made to look foolish but couldn’t do anything. By that time the school knew what had happened and watched to see what his next step was going to be to get back at me. Luckily for me he decided to keep a low profile and ignore me and left at the end of that year for another school – where I imagine he made life difficult for other pupils. Then Dream-Girl told me she had told him to go to another school and not to be so foolish again.”
“This girl told you about the exam and then helped you to find the answers?”
“That isn’t the big issue. How on earth did she make that teacher move away? I asked and she never gave me an answer. That was not the only time she helped me. She had this knack of knowing when I was going to need help. Many a time she warned me of some coming disaster and how to avoid it.”
“Darling, did she know you? She had to know you well. How old is she?”
“Like I told you, Mom, she was my age and she knew things.”
“She could have been stalking you…”
“No, no Mom. She wasn’t a stalker. She lived somewhere near a bush. At least she isn’t living in the concrete jungle or near a city…”
“Darling, now I’m more worried than ever. This girl doesn’t sound at all like the type a mother would want for her son…”
“Calm down, Mom. We’re talking about dreams. Maybe she lived only in my subconscious mind. Maybe I imagined her when I felt lonely and now I’m supposed to be grown-up I don’t need her. That could be a simple explanation why she disappeared.”
The mother sighs thankfully.
The boy turns back to the window, staring out at the illuminated hills.
He can but hope it isn’t true what he told his mother. He still needs her. He still wants to spend time with her, laugh and talk to her.
“I want to explain to you why we came here. You didn’t want to listen all those months back in the city but I would like you to listen to me now.”
He sighs and turns away from the window to look at his mother.
In the moonlight her face is cast in planes of light and shadow. It’s a little eerie.
“It didn’t happen overnight. Your father and I realized we weren’t really happy for a long time. Not unhappy, but not happy either. We both had this longing to cut down on our workload and spend more time together as a family. We knew it would not happen in the city. We were so busy, we grew apart. We needed a break. We needed to make a clean break. It meant moving away from the city. At first we were scared to leave everything we knew and grew up with – for the longest time we talked and planned. We didn’t come to this decision overnight. We realised we needed to move away and start over again. We knew you would have to change schools and that would have a major impact on your life. We thought it was in your best interest to stay and finish your school year as we didn’t want you to change schools in the middle of the year, hence the reason why you stayed behind. We knew you didn’t understand the necessity we felt to leave Sandton and come here. We hoped when you had time to calm down you would see things in a different and better light and learn to love life here. We hoped you would make friends and be happy for us. We wanted you to experience the simpler life and make it your own. We wanted you to have time to come into your own…”
“Mom, I don’t know what I feel. I’m still confused but I can see you and Dad are happy. All I can promise you is to keep an open mind and see where it leads me – leaves us.”
She hugs him before turning away and disappearing into the shadows and from his sight.
“Goodnight, Darling. Sleep well…”
“Goodnight, Mom,” he says softly and turns once more to the window.
With sunlight streaming through the kitchen windows, Dillon watches his mother rushing around trying to get breakfast ready.
Mornings were always a rush in the city but then they had more servants than necessary to do all the work. Now his mother pushes bowls and spoons on the table with a jug of milk and boxes filled with cereal.
The coffee at least smells delicious and he reaches to fill a beaker.
“I’m sorry we have to leave you by yourself this morning but your father and I have full and important schedules for the day. We’ll see you this afternoon. Will you be okay on your own? There is some leftover food in the fridge or you could make yourself some sandwiches. I bought some lovely ham for you to eat.”
Bless his mother. Why are mothers always concerned their children are on the brink of starvation?
“Son, will you find something to occupy yourself with?” Richard asks in his quiet and dignified way.
“I’m good at finding things to do,” Dillon says and tries to hide the bitterness edging his voice. He got good at hiding his feelings in his grandmother’s house. He is sure he is the champion games player. So much for wanting him to come and visit them! He has only just arrived and already they are on their way with their busy schedules.
He sighs and watches broodingly as his parents rush around to get ready for their day.
Well, there is always the computer! Only he thought he was done with playing games on it at he did at his grandmother’s. He likes computer games but a person can do only so much before it gets boring. He guesses he is back to playing solitary games of Sacred 2 and Grand Theft Auto Vice City.
Dillon follows them to the barn where the sturdy four-wheeler is parked. He has discovered where the city cars are stashed away. They are neatly parked in a garage at the back of the house.
As he turns around his eyes linger on the twin hills peaking over the dense forest. They gleam a nice soft yellow in the daylight – and their call is as strong as ever.
His mother, noticing his intense gaze, frowns.
“Darling, please forget that place. Delia O’Shea doesn’t like visitors and trespassers will be prosecuted. Please stay away from those hills. Your father and I talked. We’ll get you a horse. I know you loved that horse you had in the city.”
He remembers how he wanted a horse. It was all because of his nightly visitor. She rode like the wind and enjoyed every last second of it. He learned about horses. His parents thought it was a good sign, that he was forgetting his imaginary friend at last. He was taken to a riding school where he learned to ride and take care of a pony. Later his parents bought him his own horse. How he loved her. His nightly friend loved her as well. That mare was the pinnacle of his existence. How he mourned for her when she died. When his parents wanted to get him another horse he refused. He didn’t want to go through that intense pain again of losing a beloved pet.
“Son, we’ll go and look for a good horse for you. I’ll ask around today. I’m sure we’ll find one you would like.”
“What will happen when I go back after this holiday to attend school? Who will take care of the horse then?”
For a moment Richard’s face loses the happy smile hovering around his mouth and Dillon feels ashamed. Why is he doing it? He is still punishing them for leaving him in Sandton with his grandmother.
Meav quickly steps up and taking his father’s arm, they form a close unit.
“We’ll hire someone to look after the horse until you come back.”
“What will happen if I stay in the city?”
For a second anger flares in his father’s eyes before he masks it:
“Then you will be the one who loses out. You will miss out on a great experience and the love and trust of your parents.”
His mother’s arm tightens its hold on her husband’s arm.
“Let’s not say things we’ll all regret. Let’s live in harmony at least for this holiday and at the end of it we’ll decide what is best.”
His father opens the car door and helps his wife into the seat. Then he closes it deftly and walking around the car to the driver’s side, says softly:
“Don’t you ever do that to your mother, again! You are still angry and spoiling for a fight, but leave her out of it. She doesn’t deserve it. If you want a fight, take me on – man to man.” His father says softly, but his intense dissatisfaction is clearly reflected in his tone. He isn’t pleased with his son.
Dillon’s cheeks burn with shame. Even though his anger all of a sudden flared up again he realizes that it’s childish and unfair. She did explain their reasons for moving here, in the dead of the previous night. His father is right, his mother doesn’t deserve this. Her problem isn’t about not caring, instead it’s too much caring. She is trying to make up for leaving him alone. She doesn’t need to crawl in front of him. She is the authority figure and he is only the child and should fall in with their plans – even if he doesn’t like it.
As for his father – he has never seen his father so angry before. His parents never believed in spanking but that was the nearest he ever came to being given a hiding to make up for it.
He sees the car disappearing down the drive and belatedly gives a wave.
He turns away to the house and calls out to the dogs. Grieves comes tumbling out of the house and nearly falls over in his eagerness. Tristan is much more dignified. They follow him back into the kitchen and the look of appeal in their brown eyes makes him laugh. He takes the last of the bacon from the pan and gives it to them.
Grieves, still being a puppy, tries to snatch it from his palm but Tristan takes it daintily into his mouth.
“Good dogs,” he tells them and rubs their ears.
Gathering the dishes from the table he dumps them in the scullery. He walks past the window and his eyes fall in the peaks once more.
He stops staring out at them, wondering how far away they are.
It looks like a stiff march. Well he is young and he used to run regularly to stay fit. He should make it there and back before his parents get home tonight.
In his room, he slips into denims and sturdy hiking boots. He has heard the bush isn’t something to play with.
At first he wants to leave the dogs behind but they follow him like two true soldiers and he lets them.
Walking along he finds a stick and keeps it with him. One never knows. It could come in handy, should he encounter a snake.
He starts running with an easy gait until the bush gets too dense. He slows down and seeks out his steps to avoid the many small bushes blocking his way. Overhead the birds are in full song. Grieves runs past him and takes the lead. This is easier and Dillon follows him with Tristan as back-up. Grieves barks and snaps at different insects and Tristan ignores all distractions, like a true royal. It doesn’t bother Dillon when it gets darker around him. It was what he expected, considering the density of the bush. The sun dapples between thick tree trunks and overhead leaves.
It’s as if the dogs know where they’re going. They’re definitely going in the right direction, even if he has lost sight of the peaks.
He knows how many people have died because they thought they were following the right path and direction, but he shakes off the thought, concentrating on the message he believes the peaks want to give him.
At last he struggles through the last part of the bush. Now the sun is shining down on him with blinding brilliance.
The dogs are still running around with their tongues hanging out.
Looking at them, Dillon laughs out loud. They look so silly in their enthusiasm.
The peaks are still some distance away. Once they are out of the dense bush Dillon can run again, making up for the time he lost when he was making his way through that thick forest.
He speeds away and runs with the dogs on his heels.
At last he reaches the boundary and stops dead in his tracks.
The peaks are now standing big and grey in the sun.
Slowly he slips through the wire-fence. Grieves doesn’t share his apprehension and rushes ahead, barking wildly but Tristan waits for him, like a true soldier.
Dillon follows slowly, taking care not to slip or hurt himself. That would be just too much. If he should fall and break an ankle his parents would be so angry. At the foot of the first peak he hesitates for a second before starting to haul himself up to the top. At times the climbing is easy, at others the going is rough.
At last he reaches the top and looks down the slope. He laughs out loud. He did all that climbing for nothing. He should have walked around the first peak. Looking down from his high position he sees the opening between the peaks, he also sees the grave!
Slowly he climbs down and walks over to the neat path between the peaks. The dogs are quiet, as if they sense the sanctified atmosphere.
Nestling between the two peaks a beautiful, cultivated lawn was planted and tended. With the sun shining down on the white marble slab, the lawn looks invitingly green in this other dry environment. The lush green invites him to come nearer. He steps on the grass with reverence, feeling as though he is going to look at the Holy Grail!
He searches around, looking for a house or a person who is keeping this place so beautiful.
This must be the daughter’s grave, he thinks and immediately feels guilty for trespassing. The poor mother must come here to sit at the grave of her daughter. He shouldn’t be here!
Then why did he feel as if the peaks were calling out to him?
He leans forward as far as he could to read the inscription on the slab.
Just two words!
Nothing else is written there.
Some more Irish Gaelic!
Well his mother should have told this Delia woman about her own fondness for Irish names. The two of them could have bonded over their lost Irish heritage.
“Why can’t you youngsters keep away from the farm?”
He swings around and stares at the woman leaning against the rock. When and how did she get here, he wonders? He didn’t hear a car driving up or he would have hidden away until the coast was clear.
“I’m sorry for trespassing. My mother told me to keep away but the hills kept calling out to me. I’m really sorry for bothering you. I didn’t know this was where your daughter’s grave was. I understand how you are feeling and how bad this looks. My mom lost a baby – my sister Elizabeth and she still thinks about her, still mourns her. I can only guess what you are going through and I’m really sorry for being here and making it worse for you. I’ll go and never come back.”
She closes her eyes and her lips shut firmly – just for a second and then she relaxes again and he wonders if he really saw that look of pain mirroring in her face.
She is a beautiful woman with dark curly hair and eyes. Her face is sculpted with angles making her appear too thin.
“Are you the boy from next door? The son they were waiting for?”
“I guess I am. I can’t tell you how sorry I am, ma’am, for being here.”
“You mentioned these peaks?”
“I noticed them from the moment I arrived. It felt as if they were calling me. I don’t know what I thought I would find, but I had to come. I’m really sorry, ma’am.”
“Stop apologizing and leave.”
“I can’t stop. I try to obey my parents. It was just these hills; they were doing something to me… It feels as if they are messing with my head…’’
“We shall forget it this once…Dillon.”
“Actually, my name is Diolmhain,” he tells her and gives it the Gaelic pronunciation.
“Well Diolmhain, I won’t tell your parents you were here, but don’t come back.”
“I’ll never come back – only on invitation,” he tells her quietly.
She watches him slowly circling the peak and disappearing from view. Once at the bottom he looks back. She is standing on the rim of the lawn, the hill forming a sinister background, looking at him.
“What did you mean the hills were calling you?”
He shrugs his shoulders in a rolling movement. “I don’t know! It was as if they wanted me to come to them. I woke up in the night and it felt as if they were calling out to me…” A fiery red washes over his cheeks and down his neck.
“I see,” she says and then smiles for the first time.
Her face lights up and all the harsh angles straighten out, leaving a beautiful and warm woman in their stead.
“I’m glad to have met you, Diolmhain, but keep on your side of the boundary,” she tells him.
He whistles and the dogs rush to his side. With a flip of the hand he waves before starting to run back.
“Where were you?” he asks them. “Some watchdogs you are, slinking away when there is danger,” he says and stops to give each a scratch behind the ears.
A strange encounter, he thinks later that afternoon, lying in the shadow of the Marula tree drinking water, the dogs at his side, tongues lolling out.
If she keeps her word she will not tell his parents. He doesn’t like to lie to them, but he is already in so much trouble.
He will apologize to his parents for his behaviour this morning, once they come home, hopefully they will forgive him. He wonders what he can do to help out in the house to show them how sorry he is.
Maybe he should cook them dinner.
He could only make spaghetti or barbeque or open-faced sandwiches. He could use some of the ham his mother mentioned. Getting to his feet he goes into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator to see what is available.
They might forgive him when they see how sorry he is and trying to make amends.
Feeling somewhat guilty about the meagre sandwiches he prepares a few more. Stacking them with filling and putting them in a deep baking dish he hopes it will make an appetizing dinner. With a bit of milk, eggs and grated cheese under the grill it should do nicely. Maybe it won’t be as nutritious as his mom likes to cook- no green stuff – but it should fill the empty spaces in their stomachs.
He hears the car coming and the dogs run to greet them. He goes out slowly and waits for them at the gate. His father is carrying a package which looks quite heavy and he immediately lends a helping hand.
“You can put that in your room. It was delivered for you at the consulting room this afternoon.”
He is quite surprised.
“For me?” he asks, shaking his head. Who would send him a package addressed to his father’s rooms and why? The only person he can think of is his grandmother – but why now? He only left the city and her house a week ago.
“I missed the person who delivered it but my secretary told me it was a John Baltimore. He is a teacher here at the high school. I’m not sure what subject he is teaching.”
“Oh it must be the guy at the nursery. I met him when I went in to get you the tree. He was buying some plants. We started talking and he gave me tips on gardening. He even went with me to get the necessary fertilizer.”
His mother, hearing the conversation, quickly looks at his father. It is one of those looks that parents give each other that say more in one glance than the complete contents of a dictionary.
They follow him into the house.
Meav looks around her in the kitchen and inhales the delicate aroma of grilling cheese. The table is set neatly even with serviettes.
“What did you make us?” she asks, trying to keep the surprise out of her voice as if it’s a daily experience for him to serve them dinner when they come home.
“It’s only ham and bread. No green stuff or other veggies…” he tries to make a joke of it.
“Thank you, darling. I realize we should get some help in the house. Your father and I have been too lazy to ask around for somebody to come and help us. But today has proved to me that we really need help. I am so tired after a day in the office and worried what I could make that will be quick and still appetizing. I really appreciate this.”
“I’ll go and drop these books in my room and then come and help you,” he tells her and is awfully glad he did the bread thing.
When he gets back to the kitchen it’s empty and he takes the dish out of the oven and sets it on the table.
His father is the first to reappear.
“I hope the food will keep. Your mother and I first wanted to change clothes. Thanks Dillon, for doing this. It means a lot to your mother and me.”
He opens the fridge and takes out a bottle of milk and starts pouring it in the glasses set on the table.
At first Dillon is dumbstruck when he sees the rich and creamy milk his parents are using. Gone is that two per cent or fat free excuse they used when they lived in the city.
Dillon can see the questions in his father’s eyes and tries to ignore it. After a while he gives up and tries to explain.
“You may not know John Baltimore but he knows you and all about me. How, I don’t know. It must be because this is such a small town. When we met that day at the nursery he knew immediately who I was and that I still went to school in the city. He told me about the school here and all its facilities. He was very diplomatic and did a grand job advertisement this school. He asked me why I didn’t come when you moved here. I told him we decided that it would be impossible to change schools that late in the year. I want to do well – really well – and we all know university acceptance is all about achievement. I can’t let my grades slip. He wants me to come and attend the school here. He told me he would send me some books and the curriculum to see if I would change my mind.”
“Will you change your mind if it looks promising?”
“I don’t know, Dad. I shall need to talk to some of the teachers and pupils and see what they are really doing. You know as well as I do what looks good on paper may be far from the real thing. I want to do well… I need to do well in my final exams.”
“It will be your choice, Dillon. We will keep the promises we made you before we moved here. If you want to go back to your old school and stay at your Gran we shall accept it. I want to ask you for a promise though: I want you to always come back to us – if only it’s for a visit. We shall never pressure you into more. It will be up to you how much we see of you or how little. I can hope it will be much. Your mother and I missed you when we moved her. We didn’t realise how much it would be. We hoped you will want to stay here with us – but hey, no pressure…” he father sighs and tries to make a joke of it.
His mother appears in the doorway with a laugh masking anxiety.
She must have stood in the passage listening to the conversation.
“I hope you left me some of that delicious smelling dish…”
“We were waiting for you,” his father tells her and grabs the egg lifter to neatly put a slice in each plate.
Dillon looks at his mother through his eyelashes. She looks tired and a little sad and immediately he feels guilty.
“Did you have a hard day at the office?” he asks her.
“It was the usual. The work here differs from that in the city. Here it’s mostly corporate paperwork – and no actual criminal court work. It’s not so heavy on the nerves but I still push a lot of paper. You will not believe how much I needed to study when we arrived. I’ve forgotten so much of the finer details of the work.”
“Do you miss the cases you did in the courts when you were in Sandton?”
“Sometimes I miss the challenge, but this is by far better for my nerves. Most nights I get a full night’s sleep. When I was working for the firm, I sometimes worked through the night and only drank coffee to keep me going. I have a criminal case coming up in a few weeks’ time. I don’t know what I’m feeling. Sometimes I think it’s too easy and I’ll botch it if I don’t look out.”
His father covers her hand and gives it a quick squeeze before letting go. It was a small intimate gesture between two people who know and rely on each other.
It does Dillon good to see it. He was even worried about his parents’ marriage when he heard about the move from the city. He thought it was a last ditch to save their marriage. How wrong he was. They look happier than ever before.
They empty the dish and his mother drops a light kiss on his hair.
“Thank you darling, it was really delicious. You’re excused from kitchen duty for the night. You cooked so you needn’t clean up…”
Dillon only laughs but makes his exit. He really hates to wash dishes. Not that he has done much of it. His parents employed an army of servants in the city and his grandmother had her own way of doing things. She always cooked for the midday when there were servants to clean up. Besides, she used delicate porcelain and was afraid to let him handle it.
It was another surprise for him when he got here and realised there was no-one to clean up after him.
His mother explained the situation to him that first day:
“The house may look big but it is so much smaller than we were used too. Your father and I thought is too small to have other people sharing it with us. I prefer to do things for myself and so does your father. We like the intimacy of being alone and sharing our lives – even when it means to wash our own clothes. I must admit I hate ironing, but the rest isn’t bad.”
Dillon smiles happily when he hears the soft murmur of their voices in the kitchen as they clean up. It gives him a warm feeling and he is glad he is part of this family circle. His parents are actually wonderful – except for the way they left the city in such a hurry. Now, looking at them with different eyes he can appreciate them more. Maybe he needed the time alone in his grandmother’s house to see how great they are.
He sits on his bed and opens the package. John Baltimore did him proud. He has included the handbooks for maths, science and biology. This should cover the main subjects he needs.
The handbooks look like the ones he should be using the next year in Sandton. He wonders if he could ask the teachers there if they would help. He should be able to get their curriculums and see how it differs from this small school’s. He is sure if he asks them to help him they would. He has always been a hard worker and the teachers know him and like him. He is a good student and never uses a bad- ass attitude with them, like so many of the other pupils. How glad he is that his mother drilled good manners into him and demanded for him to be respectful. It will pay off in the long run. He should take his time and study the books. Maybe he should phone his old teachers and ask for their help. If they can give him pointers for the next year he should be able to make a decision. He could also phone some of his friends and ask them to send him copies of their notes during the first semester. If it doesn’t work out he could always go back for the last semester of school. His parents would surely approve of his plans if they see he is getting used to new rules and making new friends! New friends! How he hates that idea!
Well at least he could ask some of his old friends to come and visit. Maybe they would enjoy life in a small town and the different environment. There may not be malls and entertainment on tap but he could show them so much. It will be like a whole new world for them.
He stops in mid- thought. When did he decide to settle for small town life? He wasn’t even aware he wanted to stay the duration of the holidays!
What has happened to him? When did it happen? Did he really decide to stay here? He must be mad! Totally!
He sits back on his bed, bemused, trying to make sense of his confusion. Everything is tumbled together without one clear thought going through his mind and the rush is making him feel off balance – like taking a ride on a rollercoaster.
He won’t tell his parents too soon. He needs time to get used to the idea.
Tomorrow, when his parents leave, he will start phoning around and talk to his old teachers and friends.
Tomorrow is soon enough to start the ball rolling.
He pulls one of the text books towards him and starts reading with concentration.
Surely a year isn’t too much to give his parents? After the year he will be on his way to university and the challenge of a student life.
I just could not bare to divide chapters 7 to 9 since they read so well together so with Leonie’s permission I have decided to give you 3 chapters today… enjoy the treat