Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chapter 10: Breakdown

I woke up just before dawn. I was feeling a little musty from the Port and table wine, but didn't have a real babelas. I lay in bed for a short while before getting up and pulling on my baggies. I grabbed a towel and headed out for my morning swim. When I walked past Daise's room, the door was closed and there was no sound that I could hear, so I guessed she was still fast asleep.

I headed out to the pool area at the side of the house, but stopped to great Thembi. He was the groom for the people across the road, and he was just bringing their horses across to graze in one of my paddocks. The arrangement was that the horses were allowed to graze, but Thembi had to ensure that all their droppings were cleaned up. I pointed out to him that it was more important to me now than ever because I had a guest and I didn't want a plague of flies and he was very apologetic; promising not to forget.

The water was cold as usual, but after the first few lengths I started to warm up. I swam for half an hour, not counting how many lengths I did, but rather just going into that wonderful Zen-like state that good exercise can often bring. I got out and towel-dried, then went into the kitchen. I pulled on the T-shirt, under-pants and shorts that Nqobile left there for me every morning, and dropped my towel and wet costume into the laundry basket put there for that purpose.

Twenty minutes later Daise appeared. I guessed it had been the smell of the eggs and bacon frying, or maybe the coffee, that had woken her.

"Hi Daise," I greeted her; "did you sleep well?"

"Very well, thank you. Are you making breakfast? Something smells delicious."

"You caught me," I grinned, "although I was hoping to surprise you with breakfast in bed."

"No, no. It should be me doing things for you. I couldn't stay in bed when I realised you were up already."

"No problem, I like cooking breakfast. How do you like your eggs?"

"Slightly runny please."

"Ok ... If you will just grab the toast and that plate of bacon, I'll bring the eggs and other stuff. I think it would be nice to eat out on the veranda."

"Sure. I love the view. I couldn't tear my eyes away while I was getting dressed." I had to ignore the sudden vision that sparked in my mind.

Daise picked up the various bits and pieces and carried them out onto the veranda. I couldn't help watching her as she went. She had gotten dressed in shorts and a plain green T-shirt. I thought she looked adorable and I couldn't take my eyes off her as she walked away.

Once I had everything on the table we settled down to eating breakfast.

"We need to talk a bit Daise, we haven't had much opportunity so far," I said, once we had finished eating and I had poured us both a second cup of coffee from the plunger.

"Yes, you are right. I had a wonderful time last night, and also yesterday afternoon with the shopping."

"Let me lay my cards on the table. I brought you out here to see whether we could get on reasonably well. I didn't have any expectations of having any feelings for you, I must admit I thought that this would be pretty much a loveless match, where I was giving you what you needed in exchange for you doing the same for me..."

"Oh no Rupert," Daise protested, "I got a good feeling about you before I came, or else I would not have come, and now I feel that even more."

"I was just going to say something like that. In the short time that you have been here I have decided that I really like you, and that I think it could develop into something deeper with time. That being the case, are you interested in marrying me Daise?"

"Are you asking me to? Already?"

"No, I was asking you if you are interested. I would like to know that I am not wasting my time, so if you could just think about it and tell me so that I know if it is worth my while. I would prefer not to get involved with you emotionally only to be left high and dry later."


"Yes what?"

"Yes I am interested in marrying you and whenever you ask the question, Yes I will marry you."

"Just like that? I thought you would need some time to think about it. I was actually thinking that we would spend some time getting to know each other during this week, then you would go back home and you would have some time to think about it and let me know later on and then sometime after you had finished your course, we could make arrangements for how we would take it further. While I am delighted, I have to ask you if there is a reason that you are so keen to agree."

Daise looked at me for a few seconds, then to my dismay, huge tears started welling up in her eyes. I watched as they gathered up in the corners of her eyes, and then rolled slowly down over her cheeks. I reached out my hands and cupped the sides of her face while I used my thumbs to wipe away the tears.

"What on earth is wrong Daise? Did I say something to upset you?' I was frantically racking my brains, trying to figure how out I had caused these tears with my words of the past few minutes.

"No Rupert," Daise choked out eventually, "it isn't you who upset me. It is just that I was so happy to hear that you said that you wanted to marry me. I was thinking that I would be happy to stay here as your servant. I can still do that if you want. I don't want to go back to Kiev. Ever!"

"I guess it is tough there now huh?"

"More than you can understand. I think I would rather jump into this valley of yours than to go back."

"That sounds worse than what I expected. Why so bad, is it something you can tell me about?" I asked.

At that Daise really broke down and started sobbing. I stood up and moved around the table, pulled her gently from her chair and wrapped my arms around her. After a slight hesitation, Daise put her arms around me and pressed her face into my chest, soaking my T-shirt with her tears. I just held her; patting her on the back every now and then and muttering really unimportant words like 'there, there' at odd intervals. Living in a household with three females had taught me that there is no use in trying to fix a woman's problems when she cries, you just have to listen; hold and comfort them until they were finished crying and talking. I was discovering that women were the same, whether from South Africa, Russia, or the Ukraine.

After ten or fifteen minutes Daise's sobbing had eased and she seemed to realise that she had been crying into my T-shirt. She back off a little and started to wipe at her nose and eyes with the back of her hand, and looking embarrassed.

"I suppose you think I am a big baby now?' she said. Her delightful accent was thicker than it had been before.

"Actually, I think you are the sexiest big baby I have ever seen in my life," I answered honestly.

She gave a small chuckle and hit me softly with the side of her fist in my chest. "Oh, you," she said, "You are bad. You make me laugh when I am sad, and cry when I am happy. I have been so scared and when I am with you I feel as if I am in the safest place in the world."

"Thank you," I said, "you have got no idea how wonderful that makes me feel. Hang on, I think you should sit down on the couch here for a while and let me get you something to make you feel better."

I sat her down and then went inside. I put on the kettle and got out the makings for some Rooi Bos tea, then while the kettle was busy went and found a face cloth in the downstairs bathroom. I rinsed it out in cold water and grabbed a box of tissues before going back outside.

"Here we are," I told her, "let's try this." I sat down next to her and wiped off her face with the cold cloth. Then I handed her the cloth and the box of tissues and went back inside to make the tea. When I came back out with the tea, she had managed to compose herself and was sitting quietly and introspectively.

I sat down and told her, "You are going to have to tell me the whole story now you know. I have to know everything so that I can do my best to help you."

"I wasn't sure if you could," she replied, "and then I saw a different man last night; one whom the obviously tough soldiers like Sgt Major Dhlamini respect. Ok, I will tell you everything."

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