last time on “Diary of Another Time“-it was 1990
He was confident, following his instincts. In the same way he knew now as the bus inched forward a car length at a time, that he would see Fiona.
“Forever!” It had been said often then and before. Forever…. now there was a word…..
The lined face looked out at the rows of damp vehicles filled with impatient drivers yelling into mobile phones, trying to get to work to earn a living and Mitch was glad that it was all in the past for him.
The sun light seemed to be trying to make a guest appearance as the mist cleared, but slowly low heavy clouds took it’s place.
“This is London, man! How silly, to have actually expected the sun to shine on my return, stupid man, clown!”
Even the summer sun in London could never shine the way it did in Sunbay in the mornings back home.
“Home? where was that, home is an abyss now…”
No loud traffic noises, only the barking of the neighbour’s dogs and the cheerful voices of Zulu maids and garden staff arriving for work. It was hot and there was sunshine, hardly appreciated by the locals. The world was at his feet, right! He had a wife, a family and a run down business in the place where dreams were realised. Who were they kidding! You only found out that it was a myth after the first year of eternal parties.
One entertained in Sunbay. That was what everyone did.
The place was as beautiful as it was decadent.
The crystal water of the Mngeni river wound down into Lake Cascades much like the majority of the residents who had originally hailed from some other part of Southern Africa, bringing with them their life’s savings. In contrast, the town on the lake was like a large swamp which sucked you into a way of life and all but imprisoned you there.
You were forced to live with what remained of an almost bankrupt community who all pretended otherwise. The price of a drink, a smoke and a new outfit to impress were never too much. No one discussed their real problems, there was no need, you pretended they didn’t exist and it was easier that way.
Sylvia with her lavish tastes some of which she had passed on to their beautiful daughter always had the credit card close at hand. Their exquisite home and outbuildings, with the obligatory thatched roof, overlooked the lake, large swimming pool and a perfect garden.
The servants she employed had the necessary qualifications to keep the home and grounds running smoothly. She shopped in the city for her wardrobe and loved the social standing they had achieved. But kept her husband’s financial state top secret.
And the North’s were no exception. People came to make a fortune out of holiday trade and enjoy the laid back relaxed atmosphere between seasons. New businesses opened and closed often. It wasn’t paradise.
Hands were never idle, they found other things to embrace.
And the sun shone, at least the sun shone there!
It was back in 1969 in Johannesburg-
Sylvia Rowe had made a beautiful bride, her long black hair in contrast to the snow white dress even though she and Mitch knew that in less than seven months time they would be parents. The wedding plans had happened quickly, and Ruby, her Mum kept things very hush, hush. Sylvia was becoming a North.
Pete and Ruby were asked all kinds of information about the North’s background by ‘Rowe’ aunts and uncles. Where were they from, which part of town, also was there any ‘money’ in the family, therefore the added fact of Sylvia being in the family way becoming common knowledge would have been disastrous. Mitch North with his God given gift of smooth talking and a vivid imagination painted a picture and created a more acceptable and interesting history for his family overnight. No one ever met his Gran till years later, and she wasn’t invited to the wedding, something he never forgave himself for. He was ashamed of her and his dysfunctional family. This was another unforgivable sin for the growing pile he carried on his back. The wedding was a huge affair with no costs spared by Daddy Rowe.
Before marriage to Mitch, Sylvia believed in her father’s wealth and all that it stood for, which was everything. Without money you couldn’t exist. He’d taught her that. Daddy had always said he would set his girls up for life. Mitch, who was never going to be the best catch in the first place for a girl like her, had to change into a perfect partner overnight. She had ideals. Every material possession mattered more than life. Whereas for Mitch, the most important thing he had missed out on in his own life, which he had gained when he met Sylvia, was security and love.
These were commodities he was growing to enjoy. Not to mention the stability of a real family. He had shed his old clothes and old ways for soundness, and trust. Mitch firmly believed they were in love and it was going to last forever.
Four years before -Sylvia
It was midnight. I waited for Daddy until the car lights from the Pretoria highway stopped flashing on my framed picture of Cliff. Solitary flawlessness, that’s Cliff. It was in his eyes. He deserved the whole wall. There were no tatty paper posters on my side of the spacious bedroom that I shared with Meryl. The thatch hung low outside the small paned window frame and the evening smell of pink, climbing roses wafted through the open fanlight. We weren’t supposed to have open curtains or windows after dark, but it was hot that night and the breeze was so welcome.
“Jy must mak toe the windows, Miss Sylvie! Dere ees scabangas outside! Dem want trouble! Maria, she knows, she knows this things!” Maria had warned me hours before as she put away our freshly ironed clothing, lovingly re-arranging and tidying our shelves with her chocolate brown hands. She had cared for us since we were little. The Sotho woman knew our moods and even our way of dress better than Mummy.
Maria had a bus to catch at night, the last bus back to her home in Alexandra, the black location. She didn’t live in, although there was accommodation, but went back at night to her aging husband who could no longer earn a living. Each night they shared her dinner, which was ample. She always cooked enough to feed all of us with plenty left over for her ‘home dishes’ which included fruit or cake. But the road home was not often pleasant. It was a good night when the police were not questioning the people at the bus stops, looking for trouble makers and anyone without a ‘pass’. It was an even better night when Maria reached home without having to avoid groups of A.N.C. intimidators, lobbying for people support against the whites in a very forceful way.
Now I lay watching the stars in the dark sky, thinking of James. Daddy could always close the window later. He had probably gone to yet another political meeting opposing our prime minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, in preparation for the coming referendum. If he wasn’t at meetings he was selling houses to the rich and the famous.
It had been sharp at ten when Mummy yelled down the passage at us,
“Turn that music off. Get to sleep you two, school tomorrow!”
She was always busy with her writing and we were a nuisance. She created us and that was where it ended. The bare essentials of motherhood was as far as it went. Meryl dropped straight to sleep as she always did. I waited, Daddy very rarely forgot to come and kiss us goodnight. Dad was tops!
You could rely on Dad, just as one could say that I was the passionate one of the family, while Meryl was passive, nothing ever bothered her, even when she overheard people say how different we were; being that, she wasn’t pretty like me. I hoped and prayed, as James Labaschagne had said about me in the walk in cupboard today, that I would be ‘someone’ one day. I looked after my skin and my nails and always conditioned my hair.
“You will be really distinctive one day, unlike your sister, bless her. You are the epitome of ravishing loveliness. There is still work to do, and a little polishing which will soon make you the perfect catch for some lucky bastard.”
I know he would have started there and then, ‘polishing’ in the dark again, if Daddy’s voice hadn’t been loud and urgent. I never felt so flattered nor beautiful than when I was with James. It was cosy and exciting held in his arms as he kissed the top of my head which hardly reached up to his chest.
Unfortunately, Daddy was searching for James that day which was the reason he left me standing, beaming and dishevelled, feeling almost grown up in that cupboard. It was a secret, he said.
“A grown-up secret of our own.”
I think this crush I had on James was there for me from the first day. Since Daddy started running his Real Estate business from home. James wore tennis shorts, he was suntanned, tall and gorgeous. Daddy said he was priming James to take over the management one day. I was just fourteen then and he was twenty five. His hair was jet black and he combed it backwards. He pushed a small black comb into the top of his sock with his right hand where the tips of both his thumb and forefinger had been removed in a shotgun accident. His perfect features and smooth skin made him God-like in my eyes, the injured hand was, somehow, an added physical attraction.
The warmth I felt when James held me, made me wonder, at the time, why the two of us, Meryl and I, had to miss out on such things, like being hugged more often. Although as twins, we were more fortunate than most, to have each other, and all that money could buy. Me, choosing expensive face creams and lipstick to apply to an already flawless complexion, with mascara and shadow to enhance my big dark eyes; while Meryl rubbed on her cream for pimples with a new cluster appearing every other day. She cropped her hair and lived in shorts and jeans and had no need for fashion like me.
Sometimes we climbed into bed together on a rainy, windy night; when the lightning lit the room like day and the rumbling thunder crashed as if it could almost crack the sky above us, striking the earth with deafening blows. We would cling like two sides of a peach pip, the way we did in mother’s womb; one side darker and one lighter. Two halves always meant to be split because they were worlds apart. In the morning Meryl would go on and on about how lovely it was to be close and cuddle, while I assured her that we were getting too old to be holding on to our sibling love for each other. It was time to move on with our lives and be introduced to the opposite sex.
A time for coming out of the closet. We were sixteen. The years flew by…..
…..to be continued.
Link to other chapters