Sunday afternoon

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

“This is absolute nonsense, I’m taking her to the doctor. There is nothing more to say. End of discussion.”

It was the words of Rassie Koch, fearsomely echoing against the walls of the quiet living room on a Sunday afternoon, where only the ticking of the grandfather’s clock could be heard. Marina, sitting on a chair against the wall in the opposite side of the room, wanted to run away from her husband, who occupied himself by staring through the window at Klaradyn, their adopted daughter, having his back turned to his wife.

Tick tock, tick tock, the sound of the clock grew louder, amplifying the loneliness inside of her, and the thought of running away from him, from the house, from the farm, just seemed like an idea to die for. Her feet however did not move and from where she sat, she could also, over the broad window sill, make out the figure of Klaradyn on the swing outside the house.

Rassie,” Marina said in a low tone, not wanting their daughter to hear, who was at the time taking an afternoon nap in the adjoining room. “We’ve taken Lisa to the doctor. We’ve taken her to the reverent. The only advice they could come up with was to get her a friend. A sister, someone for company. That’s why we adopted Klaradyn. Now, because she’s not speaking for a couple of days, you want to run to the doctor with her as well? I mean, people will start thinking there is something wrong with us!”

“A couple of days, Marina? It’s been two weeks! Not a word! For two bloody long weeks!”

Marina saw her efforts of keeping the volume of the conversation down was fruitless, and without intention, spoke somewhat louder as well.

“So she is not talking. Can’t you just give it a couple more days?”

“She is not talking… she is not talking,” Rassie laughed sarcastically shaking his head, before shouting,

“She drove a pair of scissors through a student’s hand! She burned down the headmaster’s house!”

Rassie, please…”

“That’s not normal!” Rassie hollered at the top of his voice. “I want the best for my daughter, and this is the company we get? A Hungarian girl who seems to have brought the evils of her town with her! How long before she burns down our house as well?”

“We don’t know her Rassie,” Marina said trying to save the state of affairs. “She fled the war. We don’t know what happened to her… or her parents, or what she has been through. You know she never talks about what happened there. What is the doctor going to say anyway? ”

Rassie didn’t respond, and kept staring at Klaradyn swinging ever so slightly. She was reading a novel, bare feet hanging from the swing, making her appearance quite innocently, childlike. The bright light of the sun shining on the green grass and trees outside were in stark contrast with the strenuous tension in the house, and for a moment Marina thought it ironic that Klaradyn, even though not talking, were perhaps more content and fulfilled under the old oak tree, then all of them in the house put together.

Tick tock, tick tock the clock kept going. Marina knew loneliness, and also knew that it would all be over once she was married. Once married she would be so happy, content and a constant stream of joy would, in abundance spring forth from her heart. How wrong she was. A Sunday afternoon such as this one, it seems, especially in recent years, amplified the realization that there is no loneliness so cruel as a loneliness within a marriage. Not even their own fourteen year old daughter provided any form of consolation for the deep grey hole inside Marina.

Tick tock, tick tock, the deafening sound of clock hammered in her ears.

Rassie?” Marina said while looking at a framed photo of a younger Lisa on the side table in front of her, the depression and darkness so relentless that she spoke without thoroughly thinking, almost in a manner of confusion. “Why is this happening to us?”

Rassie didn’t answer, and kept his eyes on the mesmerizing motion of the swing going back and forth.

“I mean, you are right. This is not normal. I look at other people’s children… Take Helen for instance… and Sarah. Their children are doing fine. I know we are perhaps not the perfect parents, but I can’t see how it can come to this,” Marina sobbed. “It is just too strange.”

“Speak for yourself,” Rassie sighed.

“What do you mean?” Marina said in a forceful cry, immediately expressing the hurt.

“How much time do you spent with Lisa? Huh? Tell me? When was the last time you did something for her? Go on! Tell me!”

“That’s not fair, Rassie,” Marina started crying, with the first tear running over her cheek. “She shut herself in that room and never come out. She locks herself in there, night and day, she doesn’t answer when I call. Is it my fault?”

“Don’t blame her now! You are a damn excuse for a mother, you! And typically, just as I expected, you blame her for everything! No! It’s never you! Always someone else’s fault!” He shouted then said in a plain voice; “But maybe she is as bad as you are. Maybe it is a good thing if you two stay away from each other. At least then will your ghastly influence on each other be kept to a minimum.”

Rassie… please,” Marina kept on crying.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this. Two women, good for nothing in my house, and now, to top it all we have a third one, high and mighty, thinking she doesn’t have to speak,” he forced the words through his lips. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you the choice. Mm?” He said in a sarcastic, manipulative voice.

“Please, don’t, I beg you…” she said as she knew what was coming.

“No, no. you want to make the decisions here, now let’s hear what you have to say. Either I take her to the doctor first thing tomorrow morning, or,” He raised his eyebrows, facing her, “I take my belt, go over there right this minute and give her a hiding, so much so that she will start speaking until you go deaf of it! Go on! Tell me! What do you make of that?”

Marina was so teary and Rassie so busy with his discourse that he was quite startled when he suddenly noticed Lisa standing in the door.

“Lisa darling…” He started saying but saw her wide eyes looking at the window, upon which he turned around to see what it was that caught her attention.

Rassie turned around, then tensed up, seeing Klaradyn standing right outside the window. She had an axe in her hand, and gave the window three gentle taps with it, before looking right into Rassie’s eyes, tilting her head to the left.

To Rassie, the smile she had was most frightening, as her unmoving grey eyes and every other line in her face, expressed the total opposite.

*****