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Roses Aren't Everything: Chapter 51: All Aglow

...“It was my friend Dave who handled the paperwork,” panted Margie. “You see, he worked for the Registrar of Births and Deaths. I knew he had fiddled the records before, so when Alice told me about the girl who was having Warren’s baby, it struck me as the perfect solution...

During a visit to a health farm Ingrid hears astonishing news concerning her husband's love child.

Leanne Hunt continues her story, set in present-day South Africva, about a woman at a crisis point in her life.

On Friday morning, Ingrid got up at dawn and went for a long walk around the grounds of the health farm. It was situated on the banks of a river that had become swollen on account of the heavy rains over the previous few days. Dainty leaved jacaranda trees and thorny acacias stood dripping in the meadow. Plovers squawked as Ingrid drew near and dashed helter-skelter from one clump of tall grass to another in their attempt to draw her attention away from their eggs. No one else was up at that hour, and it felt good to be alone with her thoughts.

Across the city, she reflected, Carl’s mother would be doing her last minute packing in the big gabled house, and Carl would be putting her suitcases in the trunk of the Porsche in preparation for their drive to the airport. Their mood would be tense. Ingrid thought of what the family in Jerusalem must be going through. It was hard to picture anything as she had never been to the Holy Land or even taken much interest in its affairs. However, she knew what it was like to live in a state of uncertainty. It was natural for Carl's mother to be distracted with worry and anxious for the family’s wellbeing. No doubt she would do her best to restore normality, as Ingrid had tried to do when Warren’s health had begun to deteriorate.

She spent a pleasant day, working out in the gym, having her nails manicured and taking advantage of the free facial that was on offer. Towards late afternoon, she went to the sauna, where she was shocked to hear a familiar voice. It exclaimed from within the cloud of steam, “Ingrid! Well, I never!” Then the face of their local florist floated into view as in a vision.


Margie sat wrapped in a towel that barely covered her hips, flushed and flabby. “Alice told me you were going to a health spa, but I never expected…!”

Ingrid was determined not to give any explanation. Instead, she focused the conversation on the other woman. “So you got your holiday at last?”

“Yes, I did!” Margie patted the bench beside her. “Come and sit here. I’ve got a few more minutes before I have to get out. I was just hoping that someone would join me for a chat. The time goes so slowly when you’re sitting on your own.”

“Have you come here before then?” Ingrid inquired, trying to steer the conversation away from herself.

“Not to this particular place,” she replied. “Several years ago I went to a spa up north. As a matter of fact,” she said, eyeing her keenly, “I thought Alice said you were going to that one. When did you change your plans?”

Ingrid stared at her toes, hoping her voice would sound casual. “Actually, Margie, I let Mum believe I was going there on purpose. If she knew where I was really going, she would probably organise something for me… like an expensive medical check-up.” This was pure improvisation, but as a credible explanation of her actions, it wasn’t half bad. Ingrid gave Margie a conspiratorial grin, guaranteed to make her believe that she was being told privileged information. “You know what Alice is like.”

Margie tittered. “Oh, I know all right. So, have you had fun? How is Warren, by the way?”

Familiar with her companion's customary barrage of questions, Ingrid chose the one that called for the briefest answer. “Yes, I’ve had fun. I took a walk down to the river this morning. It was really pretty.”

Margie rubbed her knees thoughtfully. “You know how fond I am of Warren, Ingrid. I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something for ages, but the shop is always so busy. One no sooner starts a conversation than the phone rings, or someone comes in to order an arrangement.”

Ingrid speculated whether she could have guessed about Carl. If so, finding her here at the health farm must surely allay suspicion. Nevertheless, the florist's awkward manner made her uneasy. Attempting a smile, she said. “Don’t worry, Margie, I have the same problem. I guess we should be grateful that business is going so well. They say the economy's starting to boom, and with the emerging Black middle class –”

“As I was saying,” interrupted Margie forcibly, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you. I’m very concerned. Sometimes, people don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.” She paused and then added, “I don’t suppose you know what I’m talking about, dear, but it’s time I let you in on a little secret.”

“A little secret?” Ingrid echoed, feeling some of the tension ebb away.

“Yes, dear. It concerns your husband and a certain old friend of mine in Pretoria.”

Ingrid looked at her blankly. “You’re right. I don’t know what you’re talking about, Margie. What friend?”

She coloured. "This is strictly between you and me, dear, all right?”

“Sure.” Ingrid could feel the perspiration on the back of her neck beginning to prickle. Behind her knees, the sweat started to break out and trickle down her calves.

“Well,” Margie began hesitantly, “I once had a flame who lived in our town. Dave was his name. He used to come into the shop to see me, but in the mid-eighties he was transferred. He used to call me his Buttercup and bring me chocolates every Friday afternoon. Isn’t that romantic?”

“It certainly is,” Ingrid murmured, marvelling that someone so ordinary could have drawn such ardent male attention.

“Anyway,” she went on, “we kept in touch, partly because we wanted to and partly because of something Alice needed.” She looked at her with doubtful eyes. “Do you know anything about a baby that Alice and Vernon adopted years ago?”

Ingrid drew in her breath. “I… yes, actually, I do.”

Margie dabbed several droplets of perspiration from her chin with the corner of her towel. "You know about Tracey then?”


Margie let out her breath. “Well, that makes it easier for me,” she confessed. “I was afraid you were as ignorant about it as everyone else.”

Ingrid rubbed her own chin, then her mouth and forehead which were sweating profusely. She didn’t know what to say, so she waited for the other woman to continue. Fresh billows of steam rose between them, making breathing difficult.

“It was my friend Dave who handled the paperwork,” panted Margie. “You see, he worked for the Registrar of Births and Deaths. I knew he had fiddled the records before, so when Alice told me about the girl who was having Warren’s baby, it struck me as the perfect solution. All Dave had to do was remove the actual document and replace it with an amended one, so that no one would ever be the wiser. And it worked! You can see for yourself how everyone benefited. Warren didn’t have to provide for a child he had fathered by mistake, and Tracey grew up on the right side of the racial barrier. What’s more, Alice and Vernon got a new lease on life. To this day, they think the sun shines out of that child, in spite of her mixed blood.”

Margie's allusion to mixed blood disturbed Ingrid, but she let the remark pass. “That’s no lie. Mum and Dad still can’t grasp the fact that it was because of Tracey that Warren had his breakdown.”

“Why do you say that?” Margie stood up to adjust her towel, exposing a flaccid white belly and a pair of scarlet briefs.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Ingrid demanded. “The day Tracey announced she was pregnant and intended to keep the baby, Warren went ballistic. From that day on, he got steadily worse until his collapse in October. Oh, I know there were other things weighing on his mind,” Ingrid allowed, thinking of his meeting with Nunny, “but he could have dealt with those things if she hadn’t pushed him over the edge.”

To her surprise, Margie contradicted her. “I don’t think Tracey was to blame at all. I reckon it was Alice who pushed Warren over the edge. Do you know what she did?”

Ingrid shook her head. “No. You’d better tell me.”

Margie said with feeling, “I couldn’t believe it. We discussed what the best option would be, and I even offered to contact Dave again to help us. Dave could have supplied new adoption papers to make it look as if Tracey’s parents were complete strangers. That would have explained any signs of racial mixing that might have come out when the baby was born, and –”

At this, Ingrid rounded on her. “For goodness’ sake, Margie! Luke is as European looking as they come! Besides, tampering with adoption records is a criminal offence. You couldn’t have asked your friend to do that!”

Margie pouted. “I was willing to try. It was me who got Alice’s flower business going, remember? We’ve known each other since the seventies. Dave would have done it too, I’m sure. He wasn’t the kind of man to let rules and regulations stand in his way.”

Ingrid raised her eyebrows. “If you say so, though I don’t imagine that someone who worked for the Registrar of Births and Deaths in the eighties would have access to adoption records today. Times have changed, Margie.”

Just then, the door of the sauna swung open. Two slender brunettes in their early twenties entered. At the sight of Margie and Ingrid sitting on the bench, they exchanged disappointed glances. Ingrid said dryly, “Don’t mind us. We’ll be out soon.”

Margie, who was clearly offended by the girls’ attitude, stood up. “Times have indeed changed, Ingrid,” she declared. “In my day, we knew how to show respect for our elders. The behaviour of young people today is quite shocking. Let’s go and have a cool shower to finish off, what do you say?”

Ingrid cast an apologetic look in the direction of the brunettes, but they had removed their towels and were folding them up to use as cushions on the bench. Their figures were firm and shapely. Feeling her age, Ingrid followed Margie out into the shower room.


To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/roses_arent_everything/


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