So near and yet so far – Part One

By Drum Digital
08 February 2017

Bonny's fingers idly traced a pattern on the windowpane. She held a mug of tea in her hands, felt the warmth, but it didn’t comfort her one little bit

BY AGNES KIMBERLEY

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Her only concern was how was she going to cope with the next few days.

Her heart raced as she spotted Thabo walking down the path. She knew his walk so well, but now he might as well be a stranger to her. He’d barely glanced at her, let alone greeted her, when she had arrived at the house a few hours earlier.

When she couldn’t bear to look at his grouchy face a moment longer, she had excused herself, saying she was exhausted and needed to catch up on some sleep. And indeed, she was worn out after working seven straight nights at the emergency department of St Luke’s Hospital.

She had escaped to her bedroom, fallen into a fitful sleep and then woken up more exhausted than ever. Knowing how she liked to drink tea, her mom had put a kettle in her room, so she could make herself a cup whenever she needed it.

Bonny never took her eyes off Thabo as he walked with heavy strides down the sandy pathway that led straight to the beach. She had been six years old when her mother had remarried a handsome doctor, after seven years as a widow. She’d liked Oupa straight away. He used to lift her up on his shoulders and swing her around. He’d never once let her feel left out and always used to buy her sweets whenever he came to see her mother.

She could still remember how excited she’d felt when she had woken up in her new home, not the familiar mass of tall buildings that was Pretoria, but the beautiful beach in Jeffrey’s Bay.

OUPA SOON became as dear to her as any father could be – and then there was her stepbrother, Thabo. He was 12, and seemed so old and mature to six-year-old Bonny. He treated her like a little sister. She had strict boundaries to keep. She wasn’t allowed near his bedroom when his friends called. And she was not allowed to follow him around and make a nuisance of herself in front of his friends.

But when they were alone, it was different. He’d give her a piggyback ride to the beach, he taught her how to find crabs and he gently coaxed her into the sea. After that her mom took her for swimming lessons and pretty soon she and Thabo were able to swim together in the sea.

“You’re like a fish,” he’d tease her, as she soon learnt to dive though the waves.

For the past 20 years, they’d been the best of friends. Thabo had gone on to qualify as an economist, and was making a name for himself. But now Bonny felt as if she’d never known him at all. Somewhere along the way, something very precious had been lost. Bonny had no idea how to make it right between them.

In a week’s time, Thabo was leaving South Africa and going to London.

It was her mother who had told her last week on the phone that Thabo was emigrating. Bonny stopped breathing for a moment. He hadn’t even had the decency to tell her himself, she’d thought.

Tears welled up in her eyes and coursed down her face. She bade a hasty goodbye to her mom, telling her she had to get back to ER.

It was only when she’d finished her shift that she’d seen the text: “Thabo will be here this weekend. Why don’t you try and come as well? It would be lovely for all four of us to be together.”

Now she was deeply regretting her decision to visit. He had barely looked at her when she arrived, let alone spoken to her. Bonny slumped to the floor, next to the window, her whole body shaking. She was panting for breath, but the air wasn’t reaching her lungs. She took another deep breath, then another, until finally the shaking stopped. For a while she sat, curled up on the floor. Then with unsteady steps, she managed to walk across her bedroom floor. She crawled into bed, and with her right fist jammed into her mouth, she started to cry.

She must have fallen asleep, because when she opened her eyes, her mom was standing beside her bed.

“It’s nearly 7 pm, darling. We’re going to have dinner soon.”

“Okay, I’ll get dressed and I’ll be down shortly.”

To be continued . . .

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