Mary Mitchell reaches for the handle just when Boggel opens the door. For a moment they stand frozen – just like everybody trying to look normal in Voortrekker Weg. The town is completely silent,; except for the thump-thump-thump of Vrede’s tail on the wooden floor, behind the counter.
Boggel croaks out a Hello Mary, aims to hug her, thinks again, stands back and extends his hand.
“You’ve changed,” she says, pulling at her dress.
“Ja. My hair…” He runs a nervous hand over the bald spot at the back of his head. “And I got wrinkles.” He’s embarrassed – he had hoped for a more romantic greeting.
“It’s not that. You’re…you’re different.”
“I’m sorry.” What else can he say?
“No, not like that.” She reaches out and they shake hands like strangers. “It’s your eyes…they’re so sad.”
“Come on in,” Boggel glances at the way the townsfolk try to look normal out there on the street, and smiles despite his discomfort, “you’re being spied on by the entire population.”
The distance between the door and the little table Boggel has arranged next to the counter, is only a few yards. It feels like ages before they sit down.
“Thank you.” Boggel manages relatively normally. He can see she’s changed, too. The pig-tailed schoolgirl has matured into near-middle-age. The lines next to her lips tell a story of hardship end determination. And there are a few grey strands, aren’t there? He can’t be sure. “For coming here, I mean.”
“That’s okay, Boggel. Gertruida can be extremely persistent.”
“I know.” He sighs; this is so uncomfortable. “Would you like something to drink?”
Both of them remain silent while he filters the coffee. “Amarula?,” he asks over his shoulder.
“Boggel,” the uncertainty in her voice is unmistakable, “I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing right now. I mean, we were forced into this meeting. If you really wanted to see me again, you could have phoned yourself. So I don’t know…”
He sets the mugs on the table and holds up a silencing finger.
“Yes, I know that.” He pauses, searching for the right words. “You now, Mary, some people drift in and out of your life, and that’s how it is. Some stick – for various reasons. Now you – you – have been part of my life since forever, it seems. And somehow, it’ll remain like that for as long as I live.”
She takes a tentative sip and nods her appreciation.
“Then why, Boggel, didn’t you contact me?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Many reasons, I suppose. You have your life, I have mine. And after the band and the convent, I wasn’t sure whether contacting you was a good idea. I…I sort of thought it’d be better to leave you to be your own woman. And you did well, I hear, with the record company and such.”
For a minute or so, they sip the coffee, each lost in own thoughts.
Yes, she thinks, she can understand that. She’s taken a few tumbles in life and she’s definitely not the same woman she used to be. If only she hadn’t run off with the band that time! It messed up her life completely, what with the drugs and the unbridled lifestyle she enjoyed for the while it lasted. Or at least, she thought she enjoyed it. Now it’s a black mark on her personality, a time she wishes she could erase. Her shame and her guilt forced her into the convent, where Mother Superior made sure she realised what a worthless, sinful woman she was. Oh, she tried escaping all that when she left the convent and buried herself in her business. She’s been running, running, all her life.
On his side of the table, Boggel entertains a similar line of thought. The time in the orphanage was tough, and it left scars. And then, then he was the one who murdered her father! He shudders at the thought.
“Life’s been cruel, Mary. To both of us. We had the wrong start, that’s all. I suppose we’ll never outlive those memories, will we? We’re two broken people. At least we have that in common.” He smiles wryly at his attempt to get the conversation going; it’s patently obvious they’re getting nowhere fast.
She stares at her empty mug for a while. This is so…awkward! She takes a deep breath…
“Boggel, I-I’d like us to start over. I’ll go out, knock on the door, and you open it. Let’s see if that doesn’t make a difference.”
She waits for what seems to be eternity before Boggel nods slowly. “Yes, let’s do that.”
And that’s what they do. Boggel meets her at the door with a hug and a peck on the cheek. He tells her she’s looking beautiful. She blushes, remarking something about the wonders of cosmetics…and she’s glad to see him again. They sit down once more. This time, she takes the initiative.
“Boggel, my life has been a mess. I’m lonely and depressed. I make coffee for one person at a time. Will you be my friend?”
And he laughs, saying much the same is happening in his own life. Yes, let’s be friends, he says, he’d like nothing better.
When at last the townsfolk trickle in at dusk, they find the two in deep conversation. Boggel is talking about letting go of the past, while she’s going on about embracing the future.
Gertruida lets out a long, drawn-out sigh.
“I knew it,” she says.
For once, nobody believes her.
“Because I’m feeling alive
and I’m feeling whole
I feel like I’m loosing
I’ve been trying to resist
this silly thing
Im heading straigt for a fall
to somewhere beautiful”
Luna Paige is going to perform in the Netherlands soon. Go. You won’t be sorry.