Fanny lets out a little shriek of joy when she returns to her room. Somebody (Kleinpiet? Boggel?) must have delivered her luggage to Vetfaan’s farm after their sudden departure from Rolbos. They must have realised something strange was going on and that it would be silly to keep her bag is Boggel’s Place. The logical thing was that they’d end up on the farm – and that’s exactly what happened.
Skipping happily to the bed, she blows an imaginary kiss to the patrons in the bar. She takes a lot of care in dressing; the wardrobe at her disposal is limited, but she wants to look beautiful and alluring for Vetfaan. Oh, she knows he’s nervous – the typical Kalahari-shell prevents the men of this region from just letting go and enjoying the moment. But tonight, tonight… She takes a few dancing steps on the melody.
The sheer silk blouse fits comfortably over the frilly camisole. She did hesitate about the bra: white or flesh-coloured. After trying both on, she went for the white. It looks alluring without being too obvious. Her skinny jeans will accentuate the shape of her trimmed-down legs. For shoes, she decides on the pair with the medium-sized high heels. With the extra height, she’d be able to rest her chin comfortably on those broad shoulders. After combing her hair into a ponytail, a dash of lipstick and a dab of perfume, she feels ready for the evening.
Vetfaan is still showering, so she sets about fixing dinner. Time is not an issue – if the food takes time to prepare, it’ll give them ample opportunity to talk. Vetfaan’s cupboard supplies the essentials: tinned butternut soup, spaghetti, spices. She sighs happily when she finds a tin of meatballs. She collects the cheese from the fridge and is surprised to see some bottled sauces on the shelf next to the stove. Yes, maybe not exactly the variety one would expect in Harrod’s, but for tonight, she’ll be able to feed her man.
The thought jolts her. Her man? What a novel thought? Has she – subconsciously – already progressed to that point? Oh well, the road to a man’s heart… She takes another few dancing steps before getting down to business.
The floorboards creak out the warning of Vetfaan’s approach just as she finishes laying the table: two candles, wine glasses at the ready, cutlery laid out just so. She wonders about the worried frown on his forehead, but is pleased to see it replaced with an expression of surprised amazement.
“Wow!” He takes step back to stare at the table. Then, cautiously, almost fearfully, he allows his eyes to rest on her. Just for a second – then he looks away. Just when Fanny thinks there must be something wrong with her hair or maybe she has some lipstick on her teeth, she sees his gaze return to her. This time it is a deliberate, emphatic stare, filled with total admiration. Then, slowly, sensuously, with calculated slowness, he lets his eyes travel down her body. It’s the gaze of a predator, a conqueror after the victory, a look that hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. She feels a little shiver of anticipation – even of lust – travelling through her body.
And then suddenly, he breaks the magic. Stepping towards the table, he picks up the wine. “Would you like some?” He manages not to stutter.
Damn! Wave after wave of disappointment washes over her. He could have said something, couldn’t he? About the table, if nothing else? Or the smell of her perfume, the food, the rich scent of spices. And … about the care she took to look beautiful for him, her man.
She manages a straight face; and not trusting her voice, simply nods.
“Um.” He obviously wants to say something, but only the muscles of his jaw work away frantically.
“Have you seen Vrede?” This is not at all what he wanted to say. Not even close. He wanted to say she looks unbelievably beautiful. The words to compliment her on her looks, her dress, the table, the food…these stuck in his throat. She is Henry’s woman, for goodness’ sakes! He asked her, she said yes. End of argument. Best to steer the conversation to a safe direction.
“Er, yes.” This time her voice is uncertain. What is wrong with this man? The past few days he acted out the role of a perfect gentleman – and now he seems distant and disinterested. Did she do something wrong? Come on too much? “He just ate a meatball.”
Vetfaan turns the radio softer and sits down with a sigh. “You mustn’t spoil him.”Even that came out wrong. It sounds as if he’s chastising her. He doesn’t want that. “I’m sorry.”
Somehow the evening doesn’t get better. He says the food is ‘nice’ and she says ‘thank you’.He doesn’t want a second helping. Vrede has a feast.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he says afterwards. Both of them feel uncomfortable at the table. The evening that promised so much, simply imploded for Fanny. Vetfaan, on the other hand, struggles with the reality of her belonging with another man. Out there in the desert, everything seemed so simple. Now, back in a normal setting, he can’t help feeling awkward. He loves her, of that he’s sure, but what on earth can she see in him…? Worse: how can he even consider being involved in a classical love triangle? Surely there’s only one result: anger and heartbreak?
The moon is still bright, being the evening after full moon. They walk slowly down the path to the road to Rolbos, listening to the crickets and the night wind whispering through the grass.
“Fanie,” she says softly, “this is wrong.” She wants to tell him about how she anticipated the evening and how much she wants to be with him.
“Ja, I know. This is terribly wrong. Maybe we should just call it quits. I enjoyed the time with you, but it was a mistake. You belong in London, with somebody rich at your side. Look at me – I can’t possibly offer you what that chap can.” He doesn’t want to say ‘Henry‘ – the sound of the name makes him feel sick.
She’s silent for a long time, the heels wobbling along on the uneven surface. Is this what they’ve come to? Walking in high heels on an uneven surface? All good intentions – but circumstances preventing a smooth passage? A city girl in the Kalahari in so many more ways than one?
Sure, Henry asked and she said yes. She remembers the awkward moment when he asked her to ‘be his girl‘. So very reserved and oh-so-English. Aloof, distracted, Eaton-educated Henry, so afraid of rejection. What else could she say? Henry’s idea of a wild night out was to have a beer at The Harwood Arms, an upmarket and Michelin-starred pub. It was here that he – after wiping the froth from his trembling military-style moustache – stuttered the question. His efforts to get through the simple sentence were so obvious, that he had the attention of everybody around them by the time he finally got through the question.With all the other customers staring at her in solemn silence, she had no choice and demurely said the single word that now weighs so heavily on Vetfaan’s mind.
But that was before…is there no going back? She glances up at her man, and sees the set of the jaw, the frown between the eyes. This man is about integrity and honour.
She takes a faster step, turns around and stops in front of him. Her soft hand on his chest forces him to come to a halt. “Fanie, don’t kill this. Don’t kill us. Please…?”
He folds his strong arms around her. Is that a sob?
“I can’t do this, Fanny. We have to end it, stop it, before everything gets out of control. I’m but a simple farmer, but I can tell you one thing: Love is an absolute. Either it is or it isn’t. It’s like that. Tomorrow we’ll go back to Rolbos. It’s better that way.”
“But why, Fanie? Why?” Her voice trembles as she feels the tears well up.
“You’re engaged, Fanny, that’s why. I have no place in this picture.” Soon…