Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chapter 43: Paradise Found

I basked in the reaction from Daise, Alina, Rebecca and the rest as they saw what we call "The Farm" for the first time. I turned off the engine, and climbed out, encouraging them all to do the same. We ended up in a line on the road in front of the Land Rover, staring down into the valley. The land dropped away in front of us in a wide valley. Just off the road to the right, about five hundred meters from the hill where we we standing, the lodge and guest-houses were nestled into the bush. They had a magnificent view down the valley, and overlooked a small lake. "What are those ... those ... animals in the lake?" Daise asked me, clutching my arm tightly. "Hippos ... Hippopotamus," I answered her with a smile. Alina was most taken with the sight of a troop of Giraffe grazing from the Acacia trees on the left of the road. They were no more than fifty meters from us, and completely unfazed by the fact that we were there. Once everyone had their fill, we climbed back into the Land Rover and drove down to the Lodge. I stopped outside the reception and everyone followed me into the lobby. The sandstone coloured walls stretched up for two stories to the exposed wooden beams under the thatch roof. There were large photo-prints some of the scenes of wildlife arranged on the walls. We were very proud of the fact that we had four of the 'Big Five' on the reserve, missing only Lions. I spoke to the woman manning the recpetion desk, and told her what I would prefer, then took everyone to show them the board that displayed a stylised map of the resort and surrounding area. "This is where we are now," I explained as I pointed it out on the map. "You can see the boundaries of the estate marked with a red line. This part of the boundary, marked in green, is where we border the Ihala Game Reserve. At certain times of the year we will drop the game fence to allow the animals to cross freely between the two reserves." "Why would you want to do that?" Daise asked. "For a number of reasons, a lot of them having to do with the management of the game. The most important reason is the use of water. We have some good water here and better access to the river, So in the dry season, the Ithala animals are allowed to come across. The other reason is breeding, we like to allow the various animals the chance at a broader selection of mates." "That makes sense," Alina responded. I was quite surprised by just how intensely foucused her and Daise had been during my explanation. I had the impression that the two of them were sponges feeling the first spring rains after the drought. On reflection, I decided that they were probably so committed to adapting that they wanted to absorb everything that they could. If that was the case then I was happy. That sort of commitment to their new lives meant that my emotional energy and financial resources weren't being wasted. Just then the reception lady called me over and we started dishing out keys to rooms and instructions about how to get there. It was fortunate that it was a quiet time of the year, so we had a very low occupancy and there was plenty of space to house everyone in luxury. Of course, it the resort had been full, then we could have put everyone up in what we called the "Backpackers Lodge". That was essentially a barracks in design; a long room with double-bunks spaced evenly against both sides. Daise followed me happily enough when I set off for our room, but I noticed Alina hanging back a little. She wasn't looking too happy. I rolled my eyes at Daise and pointed in Alina's direction with my chin. Daise frowned at me for a second, then glanced at Alina then back at me. I saw her expression change as she figured it out. "Alina," she said, "Rupert is worried about you. Are you OK?" Alina frowned at Daise, then looked at the expression on my face. We had stopped at this point, allowing the porter to continue on with our luggage. When Alina could see that Daise was correct, and that all she could see on my face was concern for her and puzzlement over the reason, she sighed deeply. "OK," Alina said softly, "I feel like a puppy that cringes all the time, expecting to be kicked. I was worried about where I was going to stay. I didn't know if you wanted me with you." Her voice had gotten very soft and trembly, and her whole posture seemed to lose rigidity. She drooped, and looked exactly like the puppy she had mentioned. I couldn't help myself, I laughed. Daise's head swung sharply, and Alina's face jerked upwards and I found myself speared by two very indignant stares. I raised both hands and started moving them placatingly. "Sorry ladies," I quickly started to explain, "it's just that Alina looked just like the puppy she said she felt like." The intensity of the stares didn't decrease, they increased in power by at least a mega-watt, and I found myself still on the spot. "Alina," I turned to her and said in my most serious voice, "I'm sorry, for laughing but more importantly, for not making this clear to you before." I reached out and took both of Alina's hands in mine, and waited for her to look me fully in the eyes. When her eyes met mine, I told her, "As far as I am concerned, you and Daise are sister-wives to me. There is no difference in status or anything else of the sort in my eyes. I had assumed that you knew that, my mistake. I was also holding back because I am concerned that you will think I am the same as one of those men." Daise had tears in her eyes at this point, and Alina had moisture streaming down her face, her tears and mucus from her nose joining together to drip from her chin. Her eyes were wide, and her head moved slowly from side to side, matching the soft sound of her repeating 'No' over and over again. "Rupert," Alina managed to get out at last, I thought I had made it quite clear that I trusted and respected you, and was starting to love you." She stopped talking, glanced at Daise for a second while wiping off her face with the sleeve of her shirt, then continued, "Obviously, just like most men, you prefer to be shown, not told." With that, Alina flung her arms around my neck and pulled my face down to meet hers for a kiss. When I surfaced from the tumult of emotions, and pulled gently back from Alina, it was to hear the amused voice of the porter announcing, "Your room is ready sir, is there anything else you need from me?" I smiled at him and shook my head, the tucked Alina into an embrace under one arm, Daise under the other, and we finally got to our room. Chapter 44 Home - My Library - Top [Bookmark Next Chapter] - More Info

No comments: