“You could’ve said something.” Fanny snuggles in under Henry’s shoulder to hug him. “That was the most unselfish thing anybody had ever done for me. Except maybe for the !Ka family and the Rolbossers…I think these three rank in the top spots.”
Henry blushes and swallows. Since Fanny came back, she’s such a changed person! The overweight, shy person; simply noticeable because of her wealthy father; has turned into somebody with poise and grace, a speaker of note, a researcher who earned her PhD with distinction. Sometimes he feels inadequate to manage a relationship with such a magnificent person, but the combination of the two family fortunes beckoned. How could he ignore that? That’s why he’s taken private classes in public speaking, started a course in martial arts and resumed his interest in becoming a pilot. He’ll pop out his shell and match her step for step.
The letter from Gertruida was so convincing; she painted the Kalahari in such vivid terms and her suggestion that he swapped the CD’S to show the raw, unedited pictures of this arid region and all its peoples,
“When did you think the project must start?” She raises an eyebrow as she studies his face. As she expected, the Roman nose twitches, mouse-like.
“I had a look at the donated figures, and it is quite astounding. There’s more than enough to start the planning phase immediately. Then there are several promises for future donations to ensure the sustainability of the project. We’ll be able to build two schools, at least one hospital, get in some infrastructure. The coverage of the goodwill shown by the conglomerates will generate the consumer confidence big companies need to maintain their customer base. Yes, the sooner we start, the better.”
“It sounds great, Henry – especially the bit about the infrastructure. But…that would mean roads, houses, water. Are you sure this is viable? I mean…it is such a lot of things.”
“Oh, I’ll get a team on it, believe me. The best engineers, scientists, architects – everything. The provisional idea is to make this project absolutely eco-friendly. You’ll see, everybody will be proud to be associated with this.”
The limousine stops at her father’s house and she gets out lightly. Henry escorts her to the door and plants a clumsy, wet kiss on her proffered cheek.
“She’s coming back!” Vetfaan almost trips as he storms into Boggel’s Place. “Look, a telegram came! She’ll be here next week already!” He sighs happily as he sits down at the beer Boggel slides across the counter. “I can’t believe it…”
“Vetfaan,” Gertruida lays a soft hand on his shoulder, “you must remember she’s spoken for, now. You’ll have to respect that.”
“Ja, I know. And she says that Henry fellow will be coming out here as well. But,” he shakes his head in wonder, “I can’t understand how this all happened. I never thought she’d be back.”
“Oh, you know how it is.” Gertruida can look particularly innocent if she wants to. “Life happens while you’re planning other things, I always say.”
“Well, I think it’s a miracle. It’s not that I want to pursue anything specifically with Fanny, it’s just that I thought never seeing her again would be such a bad thing. Even !Ka asked after her the other day. Said he misses having her around. She’s that type of person, see? Everybody likes her.”
“So do I,” Boggel nods his agreement, “she used to be a heap of fun when she was around.”
“!Ka, that woman is coming back.” !Tung, the old woman with the almost-blind eyes stare into the fire. This is the third night they’re spending on this spot; they’ll have to move on again soon. The veld has been stripped of berries and tubers – a new camp must be found with enough food around it. “…And tomorrow you’ll find the springbuck over the-e-ere.” She waves a wrinkled hand in the general direction of the horizon. “You’ll have to start before sunup to get him.”
!Ka shakes his head in wonder. She’s been around since he was a child still, and even then she looked old. She knows more about the desert than everybody else. More impressive, however, is her ability to foretell events. Even she’s not sure where these thoughts come from; but her mother had it, too. So did her grandmothers as far back as people can remember. Every month, when the moon is full, each member of the clan must recite the bit of history he was entrusted with. The rest of the clan – who knows these history-poem-songs by heart – will criticise any mistakes made. In doing so, they ensure the oral history stays fresh and accurate.
In all the years !Tung has had her story told by one of the younger members of the family, the bottom line remains: she, like her forebears, have been amazingly accurate. She knew when droughts were coming, when to hide from others, when death or pregnancy would occur.
!Ka knows he’ll find an antelope the next morning, but the story of the woman?
“The white one that stayed with us. She’s coming back”
!Ka claps his hands in joy. !Tung holds up a hand.
“And I see death. It is coming…”