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Here In Africa: The Lily Pond

Barbara Durlacher's tale tells of a dramatic conclusion to an unhappy relationship.

“Julia, would you like to spend the weekend in the Blue Mountains?” the question came unexpectedly on a hot sultry morning, after another of the furious fights which were occurring with dreadful frequency day after day, leaving them bruised and wounded, emotionally scarred and with nothing left of their former happy marriage except to retire into their respective corners to prepare for the next round.

Still nursing hurt feelings, she tossed her head, and snapped, “I’ll think about it; I don’t know if I can spare the time.”

“Oh, come on darling, don’t be like that, I’m sorry for what I said, and I’m sure you are too, let’s just forgive and forget and make up our minds to go on from here.”

Angrily, she banged the frying pan down, scooped the eggs onto a plate and added toast, fried tomatoes and bacon. “There’s your breakfast, she hissed, “I’m not eating, I’m going upstairs to take a shower.”

Thoughtfully wiping his plate with the last of the bread, he brooded on the continuing difficulties he and his second wife were experiencing. First, there were the twins. They just would not accept Julia as their new mother, and tried by fair means and foul to put every possible obstacle in the way of welcoming her into their family group and starting afresh. Then, the excessive demands Ursula was putting on him for support. Financial, emotional and moral, as well as her continual pleas for ‘emergency’ help; for special attention; for immediate answers to telephone queries and requests for extra money, and her insistence that he give her more, more, more…

More money, more time, more attention, more emotional support … Ursula could always think of absolutely valid reasons why he had to “pay for the kid’s new shoes,” “dentist’s bills,” “new jeans for the boys,” and worst, of all … “more money for food.” Didn’t he give her enough? For goodness sake, couldn’t she be satisfied with what she got, didn’t she realise that a man’s pay only stretched so far?

Of course, she did, hadn’t they been married for ten years before the divorce, most of which she had worked to put him through university. She knew the value of money as well as the next person, and also knew just how difficult it was to stretch every rand from payday to payday. She was just exerting her ‘rights’ and being a total bitch into the bargain, and making damn sure that life for the new wife was going to be as difficult as she could make it.

No wonder Julia was fed up, and no wonder she was wondering why she had married him. But there was no doubt about it, the love he and Julia had felt in those early months, the feeling of being so special to one another had gone and only a sour dislike was left on both sides. These last few months had been horrible and promised to get worse unless he could find some way of solving this problem.

“Well, no good brooding on spilt milk, brooding won’t help and nothing but positive action will make any difference at this stage.”

But, no matter how he tried to push the negative thoughts to the back of his mind, and no matter how he attempted to wipe out the bad feelings that grew stronger every day, his love for Julia was rapidly turning into a feeling, which if it was not pure hatred, was deep unbridled anger.

But why was he so angry with Julia? After all, it wasn’t her fault that things had gone wrong. When they got married everything seemed perfect, she and Ursula even had a good working relationship regarding the weekends when the twins slept over. Of course, at that time, Ursula had a wonderful new man in her life, and was happy and making plans. She was upbeat and hopeful, and indicated that her future might include a permanent move to another town. With the new man, of course.

Then, inexplicably, the relationship with the wonderful new man cooled, and he disappeared from her life. Gradually Ursula became resentful and bitter, taking it out on him, Julia, the twins and all her workmates. Her boss noticed the change in her demeanour and behaviour and soon, as her work performance began to deteriorate, to her horror she found that she was moved into another department where the female supervisor made her life such hell, that it was not long before she called it a day, and handed in her notice.

From that day onwards, Ursula changed, and she started to focus her anger and disappointment, her frustrations and loneliness on him, although in her heart of hearts, she knew that it was her fault, not his. Naturally this took its toll of him and his new marriage, and many was the time when he returned home after a night of heavy drinking to face Julia and the same bitter round of recriminations, blame, anger and retaliation which so often now, ended in blows, slammed doors and bitter feelings.

How was he ever going to solve this present impasse? Perhaps a weekend away would start the healing process, give them a chance to return to the happy communion of souls they had felt when they first met, and which had meant so much to them both during the early months of their marriage.

Or perhaps there could be another solution to the problem?

Rising, he put his dishes in the sink, and, squaring his shoulders, mounted the stairs to where Julia was starting the long-winded business of choosing what she would wear for the day. Rushing in, he seized her by the waist, whirled her round and kissing her soundly, pushed her down onto the bed. “Darling, darling,” he breathed into her neck, “Let’s put all this fighting behind us and make a new start. I love you and I know you love me. I’ll get the car out, you put a few things into a bag for both of us, and in half-an-hour we can be away, up to the Blue Mountains where we can relax, do some bush-walking, have a nice dinner and start again on a new footing.”

Wearily, she considered his suggestion, and then – rather to her surprise, and far from the reaction she had expected she would feel, she sullenly agreed. “Oh well, if you insist,” she drawled in the infuriating tone she knew he hated, but at the same time, running her hands over his buttocks and squeezing in the way she knew he found so sexy, and then, immediately wriggling out from under him, she moved to the mirror to tweak her hair in front of the glass.

“Right, then,” he said resignedly, his erection subsiding with her abruptly cooling passion.

“I’ll go and sort out the car. You pop some things into a bag, and we’ll be off”.

Cruising up the highway towards the Blue Mountains, Harry suddenly said, “I’m starving, I’m going to pull off at the next roadside services. Then we’ll find somewhere attractive next to the road where we can stop for a rest, a drink and a bite. It won’t add much extra to the travelling time, and it’ll be nice to stop a while, stretch our legs and take a breather.

Having made his purchases, a few miles further on he pulled off and drove a short distance down a sandy lane, parked the car and opening the bags of food and drink, quickly drained his first can of beer.

Later, sleepy, replete, and sexually satiated, they leant back in the warmth and cocooned silence of the closed car. Suddenly, she woke with a start “Need to pee,” she whispered into the silence, reluctant to wake him after the tumult of their lovemaking. Silently, she slipped out of the car, and walked quickly away, down a narrow path between the bull-rushes towards a small lily pond in the hollow. Walking idly along, fingering the cross at her throat, her thoughts returned to the past hour, when the thrust and force of his lovemaking had assured her that in this department at least, nothing had changed, and that his need for her was stronger than ever. If they could just keep this feeling, surely they would be able to build on it, and wipe out the hurt and damage of the past few months?

Sitting on a log, dangling her legs in the water, she watched the jade dragonflies flitting from stem to stem, and the pink and blue waterlilies opening in the warmth of the afternoon sun. Swallows swooped in their flight to scoop water from the surface while a kingfisher dried his feathers after a successful dive, and in the distance a small green frog croaked “ribit … ribit” into the drowsy air.

Then behind her, an unseen line of ripples crept silently across the pond. As she happily daydreamed in the sun, the water foamed and rose upward; huge jaws with rows of vicious teeth fastened on her legs, took hold and quickly pulled her into the water with so much force that she cracked her head hard on the log. Merciful unconsciousness followed as she disappeared into the murky water. A flurry or two, and it was over.

Soon nothing remained except the ripples which spread out to the pond’s edge. Into the silence came the sound of croaking…

“Ribit …Ribit …”

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