C h a p t e r Six
Everybody has got that one place in the world where they can go to when things become too much for them. It isn't necessarily a place of great natural beauty or tremendous historical importance. It doesn't have to be. There are only two criteria that such a place has to meet: it has to be a place that has got a calming effect on you as a person, and very few people -- preferably none at all, should know about it, or about you going there.
Such a place can offer you comfort when you are scared, solace when you are sad, and clarity when you are confused. If such a place happened to be in a very busy setting, for instance a square or piazza, it can also offer you anonymity when you need to be removed from all the elements of your daily life, if only temporarily, to be able to sort things out in your mind.
Authors use places like these quite often. Ask almost well-known author and they will confess that they have a special coffee shop, or a specific library that they frequent to get themselves into that state of mind that they need to be in to be able to weave their tales. J.K. Rowling wrote what is arguably one of the most popular set of books on Earth -- the Harry Potter Series, in a small, previously unknown coffee shop in England.
My special place was not where people might think it would be. Despite my love (or is `gnawing hunger' a better phrase?) for music, it was not my studio. It was probably the one place where most people would least expect to find me, especially those who knew me the best. They knew my hopes and desires, my likes and dislikes, and this put me at a great advantage, ironically, when it came to hiding from them.
Just about everybody who had ever met me knew that the one thing I could not stand above anything else, was shopping. Therefore, if anybody were to look for me when I didn't want to be found, they would probably not even think of checking out the small strip of local shops around three kilometres from my house.
As it so happens, I did not want to be found. The previous day had simply given me too much to think about. I was literally on sensory overload, and I felt as though my head would burst if I didn't let off steam quickly. I needed to get away from things for a while.
When I was tired of walking down the strip, I turned into a little Mom and Pop owned coffee shop. I especially loved this place because of its homey atmosphere. I didn't come here all that often, though, because Kevin doesn't like restaurants or anything that might closely resemble it. I think it might have been because he only got restaurant food or takeout for dinner when he was smaller. Gloria wasn't ever really around much when he was younger. He started staying over at our place a lot shortly after he turned eight, though, so everything ended up working out fine.
I took a seat at a table right in the back of the shop next to the kitchen door and ordered a beer. In South Africa the legal drinking age is 18, but very few establishments ask for ID if you look old enough. I was only six months away from being eighteen, so the waitress didn't even blink when I placed my order.
I'm not usually a drinker, but I felt like I deserved it, no, needed it after Gloria's multiple revelations the previous night. As I sipped slowly on my beer my thoughts turned to the conversation that took place in the studio shortly after I fetched Kevin from upstairs.
Kevin had been more than unwilling to leave our room, but I just about dragged him downstairs. I knew that everything needed to come out into the open between Kevin and Gloria before it poisoned their relationship even more.
I had a seat at my usual place in front of the piano and, to my surprise, Kevin squeezed in next to me instead of sitting on his chair by his guitars. He looked like he wanted to cry. I felt so sorry for him, but the only thing I could think of doing was to take his hand and hold it tightly against my leg. Luckily this seemed to make him feel a little better.
Gloria cleared her throat. She also looked like she wanted to cry, but I felt less sorry for her. It was her fault that Kevin was in the state he was in. She seemed to note the expression of dislike on my face, because her shoulders slumped a little bit.
`I need to say some things,' she started. The room was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop on the plush carpet. `But I need to get everything out in one go. I don't want anybody to interrupt, and I don't want any questions asked about what is said here -- at least not tonight. We can sort through all of it tomorrow or whenever, so tonight just listen.'
It sounded fair enough, so all three of us just nodded. I noticed Sally inching closer to Gloria, possibly as a silent show of support. Who knows? It was more than obvious that she knew more than anybody what Gloria was going to tell us.
`Okay,' Gloria breathed, `Here goes. Kevin, there is no easy way to say this so I'm just gonna close my eyes and get it out. Your father tried to kill you when you were three years old.' There was deathly silence in the room. It was not the kind of silence where you couldn't hear anything. No, it was rather the kind of silence so intense that you could hear everything.
The cars in the street; the ticking of the clock on the wall; Kevin's quick breathing; Sally sympathetically rubbing Gloria's shoulder. Oh, shit, Kevin's quick breathing! I turned just in time to catch him before he toppled off the chair. He had blacked out.
Gloria quickly got up and started to rush over to us.
`Get away from him!' I almost snarled as I held him even tighter. Gloria's eyes widened at my outburst, and a look of guilt seemed to settle on her face. Of course, I felt guilty at once for it.
`Look, I'm sorry Gloria, but I think I'll be able to handle him better than you at this stage.' She resignedly nodded her head and went to sit back down as Kevin regained consciousness again. He started sitting back up but I wouldn't have any of it.
`Shh, babe. Just lie still. I'm going to pick you up now, k?' He nodded dumbly and I took him in my arms. I carried him over to the couch on the other side of the room and sat down, positioning him so that he lied on the couch with his head on my lap. I doted on him for around five minutes, and my mom and Gloria wisely decided to go make more coffee during that time. When they eventually came back, Kevin seemed to be a lot better. When I asked him how he felt, he just said he was still a bit dizzy. Otherwise he was fine.
Both of us accepted the coffee Sally brought us with gratitude, and when everyone was settled down, Gloria started speaking again.
`Kevin, baby, I know this is hard for you to hear, but everything needs to be out in the open now. Not only because Marc seems to be back in our lives, whether we like it or not, but also because these secrets had been held for far too long. Do you think you would be able to listen to the rest without it affecting you too badly?' Kevin looked is mother straight in the eyes before nodding. A small smile formed on her lips, but deftly disappeared as she began to talk again.
`Okay,' her eyes were focussing on the floor, and her shoulders seemed to drop again. `I guess I should maybe start at the beginning. I was born in Nylstroom, a small farm town in Limpopo Province. Even though it was beautiful place, it was also stifling. You see, Nylstroom wasn't exactly known for its acceptance of any person who was not white, Afrikaans and a farmer. My dad was Chinese, and my mother South African. Shortly after I was conceived, my dad disappeared from our lives. He just went to work one morning and never came back home. I believe he's dead, but I still continue looking for him to this day.
`We lived in this area at that time, but around four months after my dad's disappearance, she packed up all of her things and moved back to Nylstroom. This turned out to be one of the worst decisions she could ever make, and she paid for it till the day she died. Her parents, my grandparents, completely wrote her off for being pregnant with a Chinese mans child. They didn't even bother to get to know me after I was born.
`My life in that town was from day a living hell. I was ostracized by the whole town because of slight Chinese features and never once did I have a friend. My mother always tried her best to keep my spirits up, and I hers. She possessed quite a sum of money before she moved back there, but the move itself together with the day to day living expenses for eighteen years sucked her dry of all of it. She never did manage to find a job, so there was no extra income for us.
`Then something happened that very nearly destroyed me. My mother died. It was shortly after my eighteenth birthday. A drunk driver sped over a hill as we were walking home from the shops. Both of us were hit. I obviously survived, but my mother was killed on impact. Nylstroom didn't have a hospital, only a clinic, so I was taken to Warmbaths, a small city about an hour's drive from Nylstroom.'
Gloria was crying by now. Kevin wanted to go to her, but I pushed him firmly down back onto the couch. He was still a little unsteady on his feet, and my mother was already sympathetically rubbing Gloria's shoulder. I thought about how bad her childhood must have been, and all because of racial discrimination. It wasn't even as if she looked distinctly Chinese. Her eyes had a slight slant to them, she had black hair and her lips were quite full, but apart from that she looked just like any other white person. Kevin inherited his black hair, nearly hairless body and full lips from her, I guess.
I started feeling a little bad for not giving Gloria the benefit of the doubt, and I felt myself feeling much more compassionate towards her. But she had a lot more to say, so we just stayed quiet and listened.
`While recovering in Warmbaths, I experienced my first taste of humanity. Everyone was nice, and nobody minded that I seemed to be half Chinese. There were charities that helped out with the burial and hospital costs, and even charities that sent people to visit you regularly in hospital should you not have anybody.
`To make this part of the story shorter, I met a man in hospital who was willing to pay for me to go to university, on the conditions that I went into law and worked four years back for him with minimal pay at his practice. I readily agreed, and that is how I came to do what I do now for a living.' Gloria seemed to have calmed down slightly, and she finished her coffee in one big draught before continuing.
`After I finished four years of work at his legal practice, I decided to move to Johannesburg. I was tired of the small town environment and was ready to see for myself what the big city was like. With the experience I gained at the practice in Warmbaths, I was able to find a job pretty easily. Within the space of two years, I had worked my way up the ladder, laying the groundwork for where I am in my life today. My boss at the time was an oddity in the legal world: a jolly old man in sixties called Tom Greenford.
`Like many rich men, he loved his drink and smokes, but he loved throwing parties and other grand events even more. Only the elite of the business world were invited to these parties, so you can imagine my delight and surprise at receiving regular invitations to them. I still maintain to this day that if it weren't for those late nights I spent at his estate mingling with the who's who of South Africa, I wouldn't be where I am today. I built up a great many contacts during those events, your mom being one of them Shane.
`It was also where I met your father, Kevin. He swept me off my feet the moment I saw him. This was... strange, for me. You see, shortly after I started attending the small university at Warmbaths and learned about friendships, relationships and the like, I realised that guys do not interest me. I am a lesbian, Kevin.' Kevin gasped. I could just stare at Gloria in shock. Maybe I was being very stereotypical, but she was the most un-lesbian looking woman I've ever met.
Kevin, I could see, was looking at his mother with a small frown on his face. I thought I sort of knew what was going on in his mind. Having a lesbian mother gives them common ground. They would be able to identify much better with each other, and it could positively influence the whole dynamic of their relationship. The conflict so evident in his face most probably stemmed from the fact that it was another secret she kept from him for all those years. After a while of stunned silence, Gloria went on.
`Regardless of his gender, your father struck me as my soul mate. He had me totally entranced by him, and a year later we were married. The subject of my sexual preference never came up between us, and that might have been the one of biggest mistakes of my life.' She gave a humourless laugh. `Like mother, like daughter, right? Looks like both of our lives were ruled by enormous mistakes we made.
`You were conceived on our honeymoon, Kevin, and things went very between your father and me for two years after you were born. It was around that time in my life that I started getting... urges. Don't misunderstand me, my love for your father still ran just as deep as it always did, but physically I craved a woman. It was killing me, but I just could not deny who and what I was.
`So I started having sexual relations with one of the women I met at one of Tom's parties. We got together on the sly very regularly over the course of the next six months. Additional to our sexual exploits, this woman and I also formed a very strong friendship. We could easily relate to each other, since, even though unmarried, she also had a boy your age, Kevin.' Gloria looked at my mother, and I could definitely see a whole silent conversation passing between the two of them. Finally my mother gave a small nod. It was then that the realisation hit me squarely between my eyes.
`Kevin, Shane, the other woman was Sally.' Even though the realisation had already hit me, it had still been necessary for Gloria to say the actual words to let it sink in. I could literally feel a wave of shock run through my body. It looked like Gloria was not the only person in this room with skeletons in her closet. Kevin was turning green, also, I think, from shock.
`Um...' He said, mouth opening and closing like that of a goldfish.
`Let me finish, Kevin and then you can ask your questions.' Gloria said. `We were extremely lucky to not be caught by your father sooner, but it had to happen at some time. He walked in on us one day. He decided to come home from work for lunch. He was a very successful accountant at a big firm, so he could take a lot of liberties at work. You two were asleep in the room next to us when it happened.
`I can still remember the look on his face...' Gloria trailed off, a far-away expression in her eyes. She recovered soon, though and the next words that came out of her mouth were the hardest of all to have to hear.
`He just stood there for a couple of seconds, obviously mortified. Then all hell broke loose. He started screaming and shouting.' Her voice was getting louder by the second. `He grabbed... Oh God... He grabbed your mother by her hair, Shane, and yanked her off the bed. He then started kicking her all over until she was unconscious. He then used his leather belt and lashed me with it for what was probably more than fifteen minutes. I still have the scars...
`I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything. He was yelling some things, but I couldn't make out what they were. Finally he stopped. It brought no relief, though. I heard him storm out of the room, bellowing that he was going to kill his son, that anything coming out of a dyke's pussy would surely be unnatural, evil. A freak. I don't think anything else that he might have said would have been able to get me off that bed. Ask any mother. Her child comes first, before anything else in her life.
`Sally was still out cold, so I knew I couldn't count on assistance from her. I dragged my sore body over to our dressing table where Marc kept his gun and took it. I tried to get to the room you guys had been sleeping in as soon as possible, but it was slow going. My body hurt so much. When I finally reached the bedroom, he... he had his hands around your throat. He was strangling you. You were...' Then Gloria totally broke down. The sound that was coming out of her mouth scared me, and chilled me to the bone.
I was not aware that humans could make a sound as desperate, as heartbreaking as that. Sally had Gloria in her arms and was slowly rocking her, letting her get it all out. Kevin was also crying. I could feel the shudders of his body against mine, and I could feel the wetness of his tears on my leg. All I could do, all I could think of doing, was to stroke his hair. I had no idea how to comfort tears caused by something like this. When Gloria calmed down again, she started speaking again through the tears.
`You were blue in the... in the face, Kev. My baby, my life, was being murdered right in front of me. Shane, you were crying and screaming blue murder. I tried to shoot Marc, but I was at the wrong angle. I could risk shooting you, Kevin. It was Shane that ultimately saved your life. He bit Marc on his arm. It must have hurt quite badly, because Marc jumped. I had my chance. I fired two bullets into his chest and another three into his stomach. How he could survive that...
`In the end Marc, Sally and I were all rushed to hospital. He spent six months in a coma before standing trial and getting sentenced to twenty years in a max security prison. That was sixteen years ago. He is out because of good behaviour. He told me himself. He only has one purpose in life now, Kevin. In his warped mind he thinks you ruined his life. He is adamant to ruin yours now.'
After she said that, I wordlessly picked Kevin up and carried him to our room. He was shaking, and his face was deathly white. I undressed him, put him our bed and lay down next to him, taking him in my arms, kissing him on the back of his neck every so often. His shaking, however, was just getting worse, and two hours later we both found ourselves still awake. I knew what was coming. It's happened before. Kevin was slowly working his way up to a panic attack.
I knew what needed to be done, and I didn't relish in the thought. He had progressed to the point where he didn't hear or respond to what I said, and I needed to act if we wanted to avoid going to hospital on top of all this tonight. I got up from our bed.
Kevin immediately started screaming and jumped up after me. The sounds that were coming out of his mouth were incoherent and I couldn't make anything out. I struggled to the door, with Kevin clinging onto me.
`Sally!' I shouted out the door. `You guys get up here now!' They were there in a flash. Gloria was a bit confused at the scene that was playing out in front of her. She had never seen Kevin have one of his attacks. She was never around for it. Sally, on the other hand, knew exactly what was going on.
`Take him.' I told her. `I need to get his meds.' As soon as Sally pulled Kevin off me he started screaming and kicking again. `Gloria, for God's sake stop staring and help her!' I snapped. `Get him into the bed.' I ran down the stairs and grabbed a syringe and a hypodermic needle out of the medicine cupboard and rushed back to my room. Kevin's emergency tranquilizer was in my dresser.
When I got back Kevin was still thrashing around. Our two moms had their work cut out just to hold him still. I fished the bottle of fluid out of dresser and removed the plastic around it. I worked as quickly as I can. I opened the syringe and fitted the needle. As I walked over to the bed, I pierced the rubber disc on top of the lidless, sealed bottled and withdrew all of the fluid inside.
`Try to turn him around.' I instructed. With a lot of effort they managed to get Kevin turned onto his stomach. `Gloria, take off his underwear.' She stared at me dumbly. `Gloria, now!' She took hold of her son's boxers and quickly yanked them down. I moved over and quickly established my landmark. Divide the left buttock into four with an imaginary cruciform, then divide the top left quadrant into four again. Then take the top left part of the second division and divide it into four more with an X. I got the syringe ready and inserted the needle into the top negative triangle the X created.
Within seconds of the needle plunging into him, Kevin started to calm down. The injection contained Valium, and it would knock him out completely within a couple more seconds. Finally he was unconscious and we put him back into bed. I didn't get much sleep that night though. Actually, I got none.
Around nine this when Kevin had still not woken up, I quickly dressed, grabbed my wallet and walked out of the house towards the strip mall. It was noon by the time I sat down at the coffee shop, and now it was already four. I ordered my fifth beer from the waitress who just lifted an eyebrow at me before fetching it.
I was already well and truly drunk. The waitress walked back to me, but something was missing. In my befuddled state I finally figured out that she didn't have the beer with her.
`We're all out.' She said. `Sorry.' It made complete perfect sense to me in my inebriation that I finished their only four beers, so I ordered a glass of red wine.
`We're all out of that too.' She said with a frown.
`Look, we have no more alcohol. I'm going to have to insist that you pay and leave immediately. I started getting angry. It was starting to dawn on me that she was lying to me, and I began seeing red.
`You bring me my motherfucking beer now!' I slurred, fixing her with one of my patented evil eye stares.
`You will pay now and leave, or I will call the police, punk.' She fumed. I didn't care. Let her call the fucking police. I just wanted my beer.
I said between clenched teeth, `Fine, then I will get it myself.'
`Right,' she said. `I'm calling the police, and with that she turned around and walked toward the counter. I was about to jump up after her when a familiar voice calmly spoke from behind me.
`That won't be necessary, will it Kevin?' I swung around so fast that I nearly lost my balance and fell. It must have been a funny site, but the person standing there wasn't laughing. Instead, he looked furious.
`What the hell are you doing?! Half the West Rand is on the lookout for you after the manhunt your mother organized. Kevin is ready to kill himself with worry!' It was Chris.
Damn, my characters can get themselves into trouble if they want to. This has been one of THE most exhausting chapters to write ever. But I think it was worth it. The real action had finally started in the story. But hey, I'm not really here to talk about myself. What did you guys think of it? Please let me know!
Do you want to check out any of my other stories on Nifty? Here's a list of what I have:
Here's to Eternity, a Short Story