“Engaged? What are you talking about?”
Vetfaan gapes at her, not sure he can believe what she’s saying.
“Um…Gertruida said you were spoken for…”
Suddenly her legs are too weak to support her any longer and she has to lean against him to stay upright. At first a wave of hysteria threatens to spoil the moment, but she gets it under control. So this was it? The reason for his reluctance, his distance, his disinterest? She fights to keep her breathing regular.
“Oh…Fanie…you are such a fool!”
“Ja, I know. I shouldn’t have…”
“Oh shut up, will you, you big oaf!” Despite her efforts, a small giggle escapes before she can go on. “Henry is what the Brits call, a dandy fop. He’s rich, educated, knows all the right words…and boring, I’m afraid. He asked me to be a special friend, and I said yes. No vows, no rings. Of course, the two families have great expectations to combine their financial empires – my father makes no secret of that – but it isn’t as if I belong to Henry, Fanie, you must understand it.”
“…Um…” She feels his arms tightening around her body. It’s a comfortable, warm feeling. “You-you’re not engaged? Not? Really? Well…”
She puts a delicate finger on his lips. “No. I’ll have to talk to him, of course, but we’ll sort it out.”
Vetfaan struggles to find words. Sighing, he looks up at the moon, imagining what it must look like from up there: two lonely people in the middle of the Kalahari, hugging and sharing warmth of a simple, uncomplicated embrace. “We must look like two ants,” he says, hoping to sound intelligent.
And then the wind changes. Before it came from a southerly direction, but now it blows gently from the west, where the main desert sleeps silently. Fanny notices it because it is ever so slightly warmer than before.
“Listen…” She holds up her hand. There’s no doubt about it: woven into the sound of the breeze rustling through the dry grass, they hear something that sounds like a voice. An old woman, whose melodious words are punctuated by many clicks and sounds, is whispering along with the wind. The words aren’t distinguishable, yet the meaning is all too clear.
“It’s !Tung, Fanie..she’s wishing us well.”
They turn to go back to the house. Vrede meets them at the door, tail wagging his approval. Dogs are like that: they sense shifts in atmosphere. He lets them know how he feels by letting out a happy arf-arf. He stretches, chases his tail once and then stares at Vetfaan. Why is his master and best friend suddenly so tall? As if some weight has been removed from his shoulders, and he can now rise to his full height?
Vetfaan rewards Vrede with a biltong snack, walks over to the radio to get the music playing again and fills the wine glasses.
“Fanny,” he says with unknown and new confidence, “I love you.”
Should be out later today. A journey into the sexuality of ageing people. Do they still do … it?