This is an extract from “The perfect choice and other stories” published by Macmillan.
ISBN 978 1 77030 732 2
You’ll end up working at Jimmy The Greek’s bloody shop with a bastard to take care of; you’ll be known as the town slut!
Even now, the taste of beetroot and gammon together sends me back to that hot, deserted sand dune where I’d fled from my father’s words. I’m sure the whole caravan park heard him; nosey Sandy had probably run as fast as her fat legs could, up to Jonty’s house to tell his folks. Becky went with Jonty in the boathouse, her dad went to get her when the sun came up and he saw her bed was empty. He saw them and dragged her home by her hair.
Banished. And he said nobody was allowed to talk to me, but Momma said Chrissakes Ant, it’s Christmas Day! And he said She shoulda thought of that before she lay down for him and him a bloody Jew at that… And I just ran; past staring Ben Conradie and daft Pietie Snyman, testing their remote-control helicopter. I ran past the hotel, where rich English people sat waiting for the lunch bell to ring in the dining room. I ran past telltale smells of chosen family menus; chicken roasts and mutton braais, a curried fish soup down near Mr. Patel’s shop. The Patels didn’t do Christmas, but they closed the shop and had a party all the same.
I sat on the dune, no towel or sunscreen, sore from Jonty’s roughness and trying to forget that he said things so beautifully. I want you. Oh God, you are so… Oh God … and his accent like nothing I’d ever heard before, the strawberry-blonde stubble on his cheek scratching me.
My brother brought me the gammon and beetroot sandwich and news. Jonty’s parents had packed up and locked the house, bundled everyone into the car and returned to Johannesburg. Mr. Solomon said it was an emergency at his practice, but Boet said that Mrs. Solomon wanted to send Jonty down to speak to my dad and Sanna, the Solomons’ maid, heard Mr. Solomon say Leave it Mirriam, that’s quite enough! The girl is only fifteen, you never know what notions these people may get into their heads. Next thing you know, we’ll have them trying to litigate.
At six o clock Boet came up the dune again. He had a black eye; he’d wanted to bring me a sleeping bag and another sandwich, but Old Man Venter saw him and went and told my dad. They were all packed, he said; Dad wanted to be back in Kimberley by lunchtime the next day. He said my mom would try to leave some of my things with the lady who cleaned the ablution block.
When everybody came to the beach on Boxing Day, I went and hid behind the main bar exit at the hotel. Sometimes one of the kitchen staff shared her lunch with me. It was quiet and I could use the toilets. Once Sandy’s mom came in, she pinched my arm and said you’re finished now, thought you were so fancy; hobnobbing with them up at the private houses. I could smell her cigarette breath.
By and large the townspeople ignored me for two weeks and then one night the first one came looking for me; it was a hotel resident down from Pretoria I think; because when he gave me his twenty rand note, he spoke Afrikaans. I never asked his name, this first customer of mine.
Ja, that was all so long ago, I’m twenty four now. I still make a special little Christmas celebration every year, except now days I go down to the beach at Sea Point; where there are no dunes. I sit and eat my gammon and beetroot sandwich and I wonder if Jonty Solomon ever thinks about me.
©Cindy Taylor 2009