« Delight Dwells Ordinary | Main | Seeking The Bubble Reputation »

Roses Aren't Everything: Chapter 68 - Treading Lightly

...She decided to broach the big question. “Beth says you’ve never been married. Why’s that?” At this, he looked away, and she felt afraid that she had trodden on forbidden ground.

He replied in an offhand manner. “Certain things you can’t plan. I guess I’m just not the marrying type.”...

Ingrid goes on another trip to the orphanage with Brian.

Leanne Hunt continues her novel set in an ever-changing South Africa.

Alice kept her word and got the sickly roses bagged before breakfast. There wasn’t much time for Ingrid to think about what to wear as she had to take Debbie to school. She pulled on jeans and a yellow blouse, fastening her hair with a bright scarf. When Beth eyed her suspiciously and asked why she wasn’t coming to run that morning, she cited Alice's impatience to exchange the weak roses they had been sold for stronger ones. She did not add that she was making the trip with Brian.

Back at Steelesbury, she tried the same evasive tactics with Tracey but with less success. On learning that she expected to be home late, the girl couldn’t resist warning her to be good. However, Tracey also had her tea with Nunny to think about, and it was obviously weighing on her mind. As she left the kitchen to wash her hair, she murmured, “Pray that it goes well, Ingrid. Hopefully, by the time you get back, I’ll have crossed that bridge and be ready to talk to Gavin – at last!”

Ingrid wandered outside to wait for Brian, drinking in the early morning sunshine. The hillside below the house seemed to shimmer under the bleached autumn sky. Where there had been lush, long grass, tufts of scrub now bristled, making the lower part of the estate look dry and bare. Bales of hay stood in a neat line along the western boundary fence, ready for collection by a nearby pig farmer.

At a quarter past eight, Brian’s sturdy four-by-four trundled up the driveway in a cloud of dust. Alice was there to supervise the loading of the sixteen or so plants, and she thanked him for saving her the trip. When the roses were safely stowed and Ingrid had checked that her cell phone was in her handbag, she climbed into the passenger seat, feeling exhilarated. Not only was it a treat to be spending a day away from the estate, but her company had been specially requested for the trip. It made a nice change from being the general dogsbody around the house.

They waved goodbye to Alice and got going. Brian was eager to fill Ingrid in on matters concerning the orphanage, now that she knew where it was and how it functioned. The crevasse in the road, he reported, had caved in and become easier to drive over, but it could easily develop again. He had put in a request to the Provincial Roads Department to have the section graded. Otherwise, the orphanage might be cut off from the town in the rainy season and have to rely on air transport.

When his voice trailed off worriedly, Ingrid decided that it was time to change the subject. “By the way, how’s Thabo?” she asked. The image of the infant’s large, trusting eyes had come to haunt her every time she held Luke.

Brian gave her a look that conveyed both understanding and professional reservation. “He’s doing all right, considering that he’s lost both his mother and his grandmother in the space of a month. You saw how shell-shocked he appeared when he was brought in. Babies that age aren’t usually so quiet. He was hungry and should have been yelling his lungs out.” All at once, a grin spread across his face. “You should have seen him the week afterwards! A tummy full of milk and a bit of cuddling from his carer and you wouldn’t know it’s the same child.”

She was pleased. “That’s great. What about his brother, the one with TB?”

He hesitated. “I don’t know. We’ve started treatment, of course, but his system isn’t strong.” With a grunt of frustration, he added, “It’s the problem with rural communities. They have so little access to health education that they don’t realize the danger of letting a disease like that develop. Ordinarily, TB isn’t hard to treat, but left untreated, it damages the lungs and can be fatal.”

Ingrid shuddered, wondering how Brian managed to cope with such harsh realities on a daily basis. His burden of responsibility was so much greater than her own. In comparison to the life that children like Thabo and his brother led, life at Steelesbury was idyllic.

After giving this some thought, she turned to sit sideways in her seat and asked, “What drives you, Brian? I mean, none of the other doctors in town are as involved with HIV and AIDS as you are. You could do what my old GP used to do and run a cash practice. He did so well that he spent three weeks of every year skiing in Austria.”

They were passing a truck that was heavily laden with logs and driving slowly. Brian kept his eyes fixed on it till they were clear, then changed gear and shook his head. “I’ve never been one for luxuries, Ingrid. You saw my house. When I travel, it’s usually to medical conferences, and then I might spend a few days looking around. Three years ago, I went to Colorado and saw the Rockies, but it wasn’t much fun sightseeing on my own.”

She decided to broach the big question. “Beth says you’ve never been married. Why’s that?” At this, he looked away, and she felt afraid that she had trodden on forbidden ground.

He replied in an offhand manner. “Certain things you can’t plan. I guess I’m just not the marrying type.”

She thought of his commitment to the Thandabantwana orphanage and compared it to Beth’s dream of entertaining crowds of guests on an elegant estate like Steelesbury. They were poles apart. Indeed, most women would find it hard to settle for what he offered. And yet, she mused, fancy luncheons and garden parties were trifling preoccupations when judged alongside the care of the sick and fatherless. Beth would do well to re-examine her priorities and make some adjustments.

It was true, Certain things you couldn't plan. Like Warren getting ill and her falling for Carl Meier. It occurred to her that she hadn’t told Brian about Carl, but then wondered if it would be appropriate. Perhaps, in view of his reluctance to divulge details about his own personal life, it would be better to keep the matter to herself.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.