Fairy Rider by Leonie Roderick
Saturday morning dawns bright and clear with an early morning breeze. Dillon knows later in the day it will be breathlessly hot and the sun will be shining down relentlessly. This is one of the big differences. In Johannesburg the mercury needle never reaches these heights and by comparison, could almost be regarded as cold. Even on the warmest day it never is as hot as this place.
He can hear his parents talking in the kitchen and he smells the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Hastily he slips from his bed and gives the duvet a pull.
How glad he is to have his old duvet on the bed and not the old-fashioned bedcovers his Gran uses. To make your bed the old-fashioned way takes forever, but with the newer duvet covers it takes only one or two experienced and practiced pulls.
“Good morning, Son,” his father greets him. “I’m glad you’re up. I would have come to wake you in another minute. Have some coffee and cereal and get dressed. We have an appointment for early this morning.”
“Where are we going?”
His mother laughs and her happiness pours out, brightening the morning. “It’s a surprise, but one you will love.”
Dillon watches them and their enthusiasm is catching. He can’t think what it is, but they are sure in high spirits this morning.
He grabs a dish and fills it with cereal, pours milk over it and gulps it down.
“You can take your time,” his father tells him, but the smile lingers in the older man’s eyes.
He pushes the empty dish from him and then remembering the absence of servants; he grabs the bowl and slips it into the basin.
His mother nods in approval.
After a quick shower and shave he dresses in denims and a T-shirt with the slogan on it: I love Jo’burg. Rethinking his choice he pulls it over his head and bundles it up and throws it under the bed. He must remember to fish it out when his parents are gone and get rid of it. It may rekindle bad memories. He takes out a simple T-shirt in a sedate blue and pulls it on. One brush through his hair with his hair-brush and he is ready.
His parents are waiting for him in the kitchen where the breakfast dishes are already washed and drying on the drying rack.
His mother has been making noises of getting help but his parents are good, looking after themselves. He can now appreciate their partnership in even as simple a thing as cleaning the house and washing the dishes. They are really amazing.
Were they always this efficient? They look like an organized unit, used to each other and the chores, as if they really enjoy scraping and cleaning after themselves.
They leave and drive on a different road to the one they came when he arrived. This one leads them further away from the centre of the town.
“Where are we going?” he asks after a while.
“Wait and see,” Richard comments. “Don’t worry,” he tells his family. “I have good directions. We won’t get lost.”
Meav laughs. “You will not believe how lost we were when we came to look at the house. After living in Sandton with street names on every corner this is something to get used to.”
“The children living on farms are driving around in everything you can think of. They only drive on the farms and never on national roads but they can drive anything on wheels. I felt bad when I realized how isolated it would be for you here. In the city most things are within walking distance and you have your bicycle and the city’s infrastructure helps with the rest but here you can feel cut off from life,” his mother sympathizes.
At last they turn into a small dirt road leading up to a farmhouse.
“This is where we are going?” Dillon asks with wonder. What on earth could his parents need here on this farm?
“Don’t be deceived by the outside…” his father warns him.
An older man with more grey than brown in his hair comes out to meet them at the car. He is rather short and round.
Two dogs come sniffing around the guests’ ankles and Dillon laughs, giving them his hand to smell and get acquainted.
They sniff and then let him scratch their heads.
The round little man watches him in silence.
“I see you like dogs,” he says at last.
“Oh he doesn’t actually…” Meav starts explaining but Richard interrupts rudely.
“My wife means he has always loved dogs but we couldn’t get him one as we used to live in the city.”
Dillon is surprised. Is he going to get a dog of his own? Is this what this exercise is all about? He doesn’t want another dog. Grieves and Tristan are enough and he actually cares for them. Since arriving on the farm he has regarded them as his very own pets rather than his parents’. He and the dogs are getting along just fine, at home. They don’t need another addition.
Has he just referred to the farm as home? When did that happen? To think of staying the next year is something totally different as seeing this dead town as home!
The short man turns out to be Dave Smith.
His wife appears on the veranda and invites them into the house. Mrs Smith is a tall woman with iron grey hair and a no-nonsense air.
She leads them into a lounge with old but beautiful furniture.
“We took over the farm when my in-laws died in a car crash. It was at a point when we needed to start a new life. I loved all the old things and we kept most of the furniture,” she explains to Meav when she sees the appreciation in her eyes and her hand lovingly caressing the wood.
“I was a jockey in my younger days. But a person can only compete for so long and then you need to look out for another job. Luckily for us the farm was waiting…” Mr Smith explains.
At last Dillon sees the light and looks at his father in shock. So this is where it is leading to, he thinks and his mother’s talk about sitting on the farm was about getting a horse. At first he feels the old resentment rising in him. Do they still think he can be bought with a horse?
“I have a young stallion I think will suit you,” Mr Smith explains. “Your father told me you had a horse of your own. I don’t like for my horses to go to people who will not care for them – or not enough…”
The challenge is fired neatly into Dillon’s corner.
His first reaction is a desire to embarrass his parent’s then to defend himself. He bites down on his lip before he looks up, measuring Mr Smith with a cool look.
“Show us the horse, please,” Meav intervenes quietly but quickly.
By this time she knows when trouble is knocking on her door and these last few months have shown her that her son isn’t the easily manipulative child he used to be. The months staying on his own at her mother’s has given him his independence.
Mr Smith with all his talk about ‘caring’, is after all a businessman and he knows he must sell the horse.
He leads them around the house to the back where the stables are. In front of the building in the sun is a young horse. He was brushed and groomed for this important day of his life. He gleams black in the light and Dillon slowly walks around him. On his left foreleg he has one single white spot in the rough form of a heart.
Dillon can’t help himself – he smiles. A heart – and suddenly everything goes light and happy inside him.
“He is a bit temperamental but a good horseman will be able to master him…” Mr Smith explains.
“He’s perfect,” Dillon says softly and lovingly rubs the horse’s neck.
Meav sighs and for the first time realizes how tense she has been. Her son is getting to be his own self again.
“Can I take him for a ride?” Dillon asks and then immediately corrects himself, because his mother is standing next to him. “May I take him for a ride?”
Mr Smith laughs. “Your father asked me to get you a new saddle…” he tells Dillon and then calls out loud: “Frank, come and saddle the horse…”
Frank is a young black man with typical African features. His white smile flashes out at Dillon and without a word, he slips the blanket and saddle over the horse.
“Frank used to help out here in the holidays, but now he is here full-time. His father worked for me for a long time. Frank has been around horses since he was a child. He is good with them,” Mr Smith explains.
Dillon, watching the youngster sees the hurt in his eyes for a second before Frank continue tightening the buckle.
Dillon hasn’t been on a horse for a rather long time, except in his dreams, when he was riding with his dream girl.
Riding a horse it seems, is like riding a bike – one never forgets how. He hops onto the saddle and sets off in a slow canter around the enclosed camp.
The horse may be temperamental but he shows nothing of this nature and obeys Dillon’s commands without any show of stubbornness.
“Well, I have never seen anything like this. The horse took to you as I have never seen him do before. Your son must have a special affinity with horses,” Mr Smith declares and then calls out: “Frank, open the gate.”
Frank quickly throws the gate wide and Dillon rides through it, taking a path leading to the far boundaries of the farm yard.
The horse gallops and Dillon’s hair stands up in the wind.
With a breathless laugh he pats the horse’s neck and tells him: “You will do, beautiful.”
Richard, afraid that something could go wrong and his son could change his mind, asks for the transaction to be concluded, pretending to be familiar with the procedure. Silently, he thinks what is done is done and can’t be undone.
He is afraid Dillon will refuse their gift and all his plans will be in vain.
The grown-ups leave for the house where Richard hands over the bank-guaranteed cheque for the asked amount.
When Dillon rides back into the camp, only the young black is waiting for him.
He dismounts and starts talking to the youth.
“What is your name?”
“Frank,” the boy answers with a frown.
“No, I mean your real name?”
The youth is surprised. “You want to know my real name?’’ he asks bewildered ‘’I’m called Peacy Maclowa,’’ he answers after a long moment of silence.
“Peacy Maclowa,” Dillon repeats the name. “One of my friends in the city is called; Ntokozo Mahlangu. He is a Zulu. We live near each other. He is a very good athlete and we used to run together. I’m going to miss him. You must be a Sotho?”
Young Frank’s mouth opens and he shuts it hastily. Nodding, he agrees softly: ‘’actually I’m a North-Sotho. Most of the people here are…’’
“Where do you go to school?’ Dillon asks.
“I went to the high school here in town. But I left on the last school day.”
“Why? Don’t you want to finish school?”
“I would have liked it, yes. But my father died and my mother can’t afford to send me to school. Now I’m taking over my father’s job. I like the horses and it will give me money to help my mother with the younger children.”
Dillon is uncomfortable, not knowing how to handle the situation. He guesses a person needs to get older, to learn a whole lot of finesse to talk to people with confidence. “I’m sorry about your father,” he tells the boy and can only hope his sympathy is obvious.
“Tell me about the horse?” he asks.
On the other side of the horse the youth lifts his head and his easy smile spreads around his mouth, showing some very white teeth.
“This horse is special. He likes you! He doesn’t like people! The boss was afraid he would show you how difficult he can be. But something funny happened. I have never seen him like this! He never takes to people like he did to you. I think you will have a special bond.”
“I think this horse wants to show me something. He wants to take me places…”
The easy grin spreads over the black face. “I think you are right. This horse has been waiting for you. He is yours!”
“Did you notice if he likes special things to eat?”
“He sure doesn’t like apples. I think he actually hates them. But he likes fish- paste sandwiches. One time my mom gave me fish-paste on my bread and I put it down for a second and when I looked back he was eating it.”
“Fish-paste?” Dillon starts laughing. The horse is as different as the heart on his leg.
Peacy smiles, happily. “I named him, Darling,” he tells Dillon cheerfully. “The boss calls him something different – a long name, but I call him, Darling.”
“I’m sure my father will ask Mr Smith to deliver the horse to our farm. Will you be the one to bring him to New Horizon.”
Peacy is shocked. “You will not ride the horse back? It’s not that far to go…”
Dillon laughs. “It’s not my father’s style. Wait and see…”
The two youths make their way back to the house. At the porch Peacy stops and watches as Dillon mounts the steps. At the top Dillon turns back.
“I’ll be seeing you…” Dillon tells him.
Only one Chapter tonight, it is the end of a long weekend thus most people want to do some light reeading before bed time… stay tuned for more tomorrow