Cookies and scented soap

Cookies and scented soap

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

Hurrying past the duty-free shops on the airport, Amalia started to feel nauseous. The nausea actually started when she had to check in, but forcing herself to remain calm, she didn’t pay attention to the state of her body. She knew for a fact that her name couldn’t possibly have appeared on the police screens as a suspect, but still, her mind couldn’t help but to think of the “what ifs.” There was no turning back now. A brand new life will begin as soon as the plane takes off.

Her eyes glided over the expensive brand names in the aisle, but it all went unnoticed. Her attention was with Barry. The loving Barry. The Barry she once knew. The perfect husband Barry. The Barry everyone liked, and whom she loved with all her heart.

How is it possible that a person can become so controlling and so ridiculously jealous? Everyone has friends. Male and female friends. True, there were things that she couldn’t discuss with Barry, however hard she tried, but she realized his lack of understanding triumphed her efforts. She was so desperately hungry for conversations about the deeper meaning of life. About faith and relationship, creativity and the abundance of life itself. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He limited his means of verbal communication to rugby, braai and politics. The racial side of politics as he would get so worked up by the government’s incompetence.

It was inevitable that she would eventually find someone who shared her interests and her passion for spiritual and personal growth. It didn’t really matter if this someone was a male or female friend. What mattered was that she, Amália found a friend with whom she could share ideas and a part of her life that she greatly valued. She didn’t even spend a dedicated time with this guy. Their chats were limited to half an hour or an hour after church, never alone and always in the company of other church members. A church Barry attended once and refused to go ever again.

“They are living under the law,” he said. “They focus too much on the old testament,” he complained.

Amalia quickly glanced at her watch, then fixed her eyes on the numbers above each boarding gate. The nausea wouldn’t go away. Could they halt the plane while taxiing to the runway? Do the Russians have the power to arrest her in Moscow on behalf of the South African police? On what charges? She would be a suspect but of what? No, she didn’t think so. It’s always like that in the movies. Once that plane takes off, you are home free baby! But not yet, she must still get through the boarding gate. The gate where there are security officers. They have computers and phones and walkie-talkies and goodness knows what other means of communication.

Amalia thought of praying but quickly realized that it wouldn’t help a bit. Not after what she had done. She’ll ask for forgiveness. But now is not the time. She read somewhere in the scriptures that there is a time for everything and now was the time to get on a plane with as few incidents as possible.

Alongside the rugby, braai and politics, Barry developed a new line of thinking. A married woman, apart from work related issues, ought not to have any social conversations with other men, regardless of their relationship status. Naturally, this new line of thinking quickly escalated to more than a few intense arguments. She then, good wife as she is, sacrificed the conversations with her dear friend at church, but Barry thought he needed to make a point and posted the whole affair as a question on Facebook.

It came as no surprise that a few of Barry’s friends, through a long line of comments, fully agreed with him. Those Facebook friends, who didn’t agree, conveniently neglected to publically give
their opinion. He wanted to make a point and so he did. He was right. She read it all. One notification after another, as he thought it only right to tag her in the question he posted. Until one man, wherever he came from, sarcastically commented that if Barry felt that way, he might consider locking his wife up in the house, buying her a leash and taking her for walks every afternoon.

That comment did not sit well with Barry, and he eventually took it out on her. He restricted her movements in every possible way. He monitored her every move. It became an obsession with him, so much so that she was the one who ended up seeing the psychiatrist. “Bipolar,” he said, but she knew better. She knew where the depression came from. She took the pills nevertheless.

Until about two weeks ago. It was nothing serious, she just neglected to renew her prescription. The effect however was more serious. It was dark. She didn’t know how to get rid of the awful feeling in her head. She wanted to run away from herself. He came barging into the kitchen with his ranting over where she was the previous day. She didn’t think, but at the same time she knew exactly what she was doing. She took the biggest steak knife, turned around and forced it into his neck. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly.

It was messy.

The two ladies and security guard at the boarding gate were professional and friendly. Pre-flight procedures took a while but no longer than usual. The airplane started moving toward the runway with the airhostesses performing their safety demonstrations. The armrests underneath Amalia’s arms vibrated a little as the flying capsule lifted itself into the air.

A new life just started with newfound freedom.

Maybe Barry was right after all. Maybe married woman shouldn’t speak to other men. Men were not as creative as woman when it came to making cookies from the drained blood, and bars of scented soap from the remaining parts of a corpse.

*****

Photo by
Olia Gozha

Sunday Afternoon

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.

*****