One year had passed. There had been a little accident. Perhaps, accident was not quite the right word, but little was. Farkas was standing by Ide’s bed in Waldmeer Hospital. They were both staring adoringly at their brand new baby boy. Farkas had hoped for a little girl but, regardless, the intensity of his feelings of love for and protectiveness over the child surprised him. Ide had secretly known it was a boy. Her Clinker instinct told her. If that had not told her, the look on the ultrasound technician’s face, many months ago, gave it away. She had worked in hospitals too long to not be able to read the silent language of its professionals. Still, they had agreed to let it be a revelation at birth so Ide kept it in her heart.
It wasn’t exactly a planned birth. The sex was not planned and the pregnancy was even more not planned. After a few months of sharing the same house, Farkas and Ide occasionally slept together. It was still only occasional. One would have thought that a woman who already had a child, had been married for a decade, and was working in the nursing profession would have had no miscalculation in regards contraception. However, Ide was, by nature, unsympathetic to drugs. Her instinct was to keep any of them, including the pill, out of her system. Of course, she did something else instead. She may have been alternative in her thinking but she wasn’t stupid. She knew everything about natural fertility planning and followed it meticulously. Or, so she thought. Perhaps, she did follow it correctly but this little one lying in her arms was determined to come no matter what she did.
When Ide first discovered she was pregnant, she cried for two days. She was stunned and afraid and worried about the future. They hardly had a conventional, stable situation at home. Only after the two days, when she had reached a point of peace about it, did she tell Farkas. She didn’t want to have to deal with his reaction until she was strong enough. He said nothing for a week. He did a lot of talking to himself, however. He thought about leaving and told himself that he didn’t want a child. He wasn’t worried about the child’s future. He knew that come rain or shine, Ide would be there for that child. He was worried about his own capacity and readiness to be a father. By the end of the week, he decided that he would give it a go. Besides, he told himself, the wheel was already in motion.
“The child is coming whether you stay or leave,” said Ide, “and so my path is already set. I would like you to stay and the baby would want that too. However, it is your choice. I will not hold it against you if you go.”
“I will stay. For now,” said Farkas. “I’m sorry but, in all honesty, that’s the best I can promise, at the moment.”
“When you first moved into the bungalow you said the same,” said Ide. “You are still here.”
After that, Farkas relaxed and let himself enjoy the whole process. Every time he felt the fear and anxiety come up, he reminded himself that he was not trapped and that everything could even work out well. So far, so good, he thought at Ide’s bedside.
Amira was returning from a hospital visit to see Ide’s new baby. She was sitting in the corner of the Waldmeer cafe thinking about how adorable the baby was and people-watching the Christmas holidaymakers. She noticed a mother and two little girls at the outside table. Amira’s eyes were drawn to them because the mother had her head resting in one of her hands. She looked upset. The younger girl had grabbed some of her sister’s gingerbread man and they were squabbling. Instead of dealing with it, the mother began to cry. Even the obnoxious daughter looked worried and jumped up to pat her mother’s head. As the mother looked up and wiped her eyes, Amira realised it was Melissa. She was the mother of the little girls Amira had looked after for a year, in Eraldus, several years ago. On closer inspection, the fighting girls were, certainly, Marilyn and Bianca, although, little girls change in appearance quite a lot at that age. They were now eight and seven, respectively. Oh dear, thought Amira, I see my darlings have returned to their naughty ways. She probably meant Melissa as much as the children. Amira waited until the mother’s tears had a chance to dry and then walked outside as if she hadn’t yet seen them.
“Maria!” squealed both the children as Amira hugged them tightly. Amira stopped working with the family before her Homeland transition and name change. They did not know that, nowadays, she lived in Waldmeer permanently. They all exchanged news and the little family brightened up considerably. Melissa sent the girls across the road to the beach and spoke with Amira more earnestly.
“Much has happened in the last six months,” said Melissa. “My husband and I have been through a very rough patch. He became involved with an American woman who he was working with. He was honest enough to tell me about it, although, we kept it from the children. We tried to work things out. We went to counselling, had many arguments, cried a lot, and then he left. Not only left but moved to the United States with his new partner saying that he would save money to bring the girls over for regular holidays. It’s not just the emotional damage of the whole thing. The girls and I are having very real survival issues. These days, my work means I am travelling all over the state. Obviously, that doesn’t work with two little girls and, as you know, I have no relatives to help me. I have asked for work in the city but they cannot give it to me for another year. I can’t afford to lose this job. The girls don’t know about the situation. They are upset enough about their father leaving. I don’t want to add to that. In desperation, I told them that we would have a few days in Waldmeer hoping that an angel might tell me what to do.”
What Melissa did not know was that an angel was, indeed, behind her trying to comfort and direct her. Amira couldn’t see the angel but she felt its loving presence. Suddenly, Amira had a startling but very clear idea. She knew it came from the angel because of its pure, unadulterated authority. That was why Amira decided to act upon the angel’s advice. One shouldn’t fight with angels.
“I have an idea,” said Amira. “Why don’t I speak with Thomas MacArthur, the high school principal here in Waldmeer. He is a friend. I will ask him if the girls can enrol in the primary school for the year. Every Monday morning early, you could drive from Eraldus and drop them at school on your way to wherever you are going in the country. I will pick them up after school on Monday and they can stay with me for the school week, to be picked up again by you after school on Friday.”
Melissa was overwhelmed. “I don’t know what to say,” she said. “I have to accept because I have no alternative. To say the girls will be thrilled is an understatement. I can’t pay you a lot but I will give you as much as I possibly can.”
The girls were running wildly back from the beach. Amira could see Bianca grabbing a piece of Marilyn’s hair and the older sister was complaining bitterly. We’ll be sorting out that behaviour fairly quickly, Amira thought.
“You tell the girls and I’ll go and prepare my two spare bedrooms so that they can see where they will be sleeping,” said Amira. “Here’s the address.” On the way up the hill to home, Amira thought, Looks like I’ll be getting my own babies back for a while.
Although Amira rarely saw angels, there was one that she did occasionally see. She could “see” it just enough to know that it was large (larger than a person), male, and, like all angels, loving and powerful. However, she had not seen this angel for some time because she had not seen its accompanying human. It was Gabriel’s angel. Strangely, the angel only ever said one thing to Amira, although, it had been repeated on several different occasions. It was, “Be patient. He doesn’t know what he is doing.” The angel would then look at Gabriel in a protective, fatherly way as if there was nothing Gabriel could do that would ever break that love. Of course, Amira never told Gabriel any of this because, firstly, he didn’t believe in angels and, secondly, he would have been offended that the angel thought that one needed patience to deal with him. No, that was something Amira kept to herself.
Amira hadn’t seen Gabriel for the past six months. The six months before that, he occasionally came to Waldmeer and worked in the bungalow. One day, he told Amira that she should rent the bungalow out to someone else because he wasn’t there enough. He said that she should let him know when it had been arranged and he would come and take all his things. Amira agreed but she neither rented it out nor contacted him. He, also, did nothing and so the bungalow stood there with half-finished artwork and unused bed. The modest, little bungalow had been in the back garden a long time and, before that, had stood in the grounds of the Waldmeer hotel for even longer. It had time on its side.
Thomas was having one of his biannual styling visits with Gabriel. He would collect Gabriel once he got to Eraldus, drive to the large shopping centre, buy whatever Gabriel deemed worthy, have a coffee and a talk, and then Thomas would go on to his other meetings in the city. Thomas’s day would end with Kathleen over dinner. She always picked the restaurant. In a deliberate effort to get Thomas out of his comfort zone, she picked all sorts of weird and wonderful places.
Tonight, it was the Afghan Light, an endearing and interesting restaurant where everyone sat on elaborately decorated cushions, inside a tent made from heavily embroidered fabrics, drinking tea called Kahwah. The tea was a combination of green tea, cardamom pods, cinnamon bark, saffron strands, ginger, and almonds. Like Masala tea from India and Kashmiri tea from Pakistan, the exact recipe is unique to each family. The first cup of tea was sweetened and the next was not. Thomas mentioned to Kathleen that it was a bit like love.
“First,” said Thomas, “you get pulled in by the loveliness then you get beaten by the issues.”
Kathleen laughed and replied, “Otherwise, who would willingly walk the path of love relationships if they knew its cost without first being seduced by its promise?”
In his own way, Gabriel did a version of the restaurant-choosing technique with Thomas’s clothes. He would pick clothes for Thomas that were pushing the boundary but not over the line, in the hope of modernising his style. He had mixed success. He could, usually, tell as soon as he saw whatever Thomas was wearing how the last six months had gone. Today, Thomas looked a little better. His pants were out-dated but his shirt was borderline okay. Quite frequently, Gabriel would pick things that looked great in the shop but as soon as Thomas wore them once or twice they seemed to change into looking different and less good. And so, it was a work in progress.
“Did you know that Amira now has two little girls?” said Thomas over coffee.
“What?” said Gabriel.
“You know, the little girls she looked after in Eraldus,” said Thomas. “Their parents are separated and Amira has them at her house during the week and the mother has them over the weekend in the family home they have always lived in. I believe it’s not far from here.”
“Yes, it’s quite close,’ said Gabriel recalling where that family lived. He sat there for a few minutes trying to make sense of what Thomas had told him.
“How are things with Kathleen?” asked Gabriel remembering that last visit Thomas explained how happy and grateful he was that he and Kathleen had reconnected.
“It’s been a year of seeing each other again,” said Thomas. “It started out slowly but, of recent months, I probably see her most weeks. She still won’t come to Waldmeer but we are making headway, I think, in terms of rebuilding some trust.”
“What do you think actually happened,” asked Gabriel who was more interested in the general topic of relationship failures and successes than Thomas’s particular case.
Sensing this, Thomas said, “Have you not noticed that, although, we put enormous value on our couple relationships, they are minefields of hurt and betrayal both real and imagined?” Gabriel was listening. Thomas got into teaching mode. His teaching style had improved this year and had a greater depth from hard-earned life experience and practising of what he was preaching. “Have you not noticed how much lying we do in them? We tell ourselves it’s not lies or, if it is, it is excusable for purposes of self-defence. How little we realise that every lie digs us deeper into a painful delusion. We end up building war zones, not love boats.”
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