That catastrophic rendezvous – Short Story
That catastrophic rendezvous
By: Mandisi Jali
“Derrick?” she asked whispery. She was bent over her desk, clutching the phone tightly towards her ears, with one hand and pulling the cord nervously with the other.
“Yes?” he answered with an impatient, unfriendly and unenthusiastic tone.
Relief made her weak. Then she gnashed her teeth, realising that he was alive.
Surprised by this monstrous tone, she sat up.
“It’s Bettina” as if she needed to jog his memory.
She was baffled by the fact that he called her by her maiden name.
“No, Nyambose” she responded naively. The pen slid from her fingers and fell to the floor.
After a long moment, she said, “Are you still there?”
Then neither of them said anything for so long that the silence began to hum.
Finally she said, “Derrick, last night…” While her ears buzzed, she posed, waiting for him to stop her and apologise frenetically. He didn’t.
Instead “You know I am busy here, if you don’t have anything to say, I am going to put the phone down”.
She was certain she was about to have a heart attack as she felt an abrupt inability to breathe. She pulled the phone cord closer to her chest.
“Don’t bring your madness in my office”
“What the hell, what madness…?”
“I have warned you a thousand times about your inappropriate behaviour”
“When was that, was it when you…?”
“Bettina, I am not going to do this with you”
“When are you going to do it Derrick, after your Cape Town trip? No wait that has passed!”
“Sad how money and powerful position cannot buy you a brain”
A hostile silence lingered between them.
“Derrick if you want a divorce, why don’t you just say so”
“Is it not appropriate to leave the house first and then apply for divorce?”
“Derrick, what are you saying?”
“Now you ask, weren’t you the one who started talking about divorce? Now when I answer you, you have issues?”
“You know what Derrick, I don’t have a problem with a divorce”
“If you don’t have a problem with a divorce then why do you care where I sleep?”
“Who you sleep with, you mean?”
“No, WHERE I sleep, all those degrees can’t even buy you a hearing aid”
“What the hell do my qualifications or salary or position have to do with this conversation? Why are you running away from the question?”
“Which is what?”
“Why didn’t you sleep at home?”
“I think I have already answered that”
“By insinuating divorce?”
“Bettina you are so manipulative and you are such a control freak”
“Pity I can’t control that “thing” which is inside your zipper”
“What the hell are you laughing at?”
“Your dry jokes”
“Derrick, you think this is a joke, why didn’t you come home?”
“You know, I don’t have time for this. Please don’t call me again and I won’t bother you either”
The sound of a dead line shocked her and left her numb.
“I know a woman who can solve the problem you are facing”
Bettina was startled by the cleaning lady who was now standing in front of her.
“Excuse me?” she said inspecting the petite.
“I am sorry to worry you Mam, but you are obviously troubled”
Bettina intervened. “And you are?”
Her amiable eyes shifted to the window. “Sorry…”
“Can you please stop saying sorry”, Bettina asked, testily. “Were you eavesdropping?”
“No Mam, I don’t want any trouble”, the aged lady said, almost under her breath. Then, “But you are crying”
With that, Bettina came to her feet, “No I am not” she responded sternly, touching her wet cheek quickly. “What are you doing here?”
“I clean here every day, Mam”.
“Can you do that later, please?”
“Yes, Mam” with that she left as quietly.
The rest of Bettina’s day progressed with less scandalous moments from creepy cleaners until she got to her office after 17:30 and found a mysterious note on her table. It read “I don’t want to lose my job. I am a breadwinner at home and have young children. Please forgive me, I saw that you were worried and thought Makhosi could help you.”
“Hi, is this Joice?” Bettina had decided to call Joice because she didn’t want the poor woman spending her weekend perturbing about a trivial incident.
“Joice, who?” a man enquired.
“Oh, sorry, I was looking for Joice” Bettina quickly said realising that Joice was even more peculiar than what she had initially thought.
“Are you sure you don’t want to make an appointment with the traditional healer?”
“I will send you directions”
“For w-?” He rang off before she could complete her question, silly man she thought.
She was now passing Thohoyandou, Venda was home to large crocodiles which made swimming in the rivers extremely dangerous. She wouldn’t mind throwing Derrick in such a river.
On the road from Sibasa to Masisi, pass the Makuya Police station – approximately 100km from Thohoyandou. You will see a group of mud rondovals, with a thatched roof ahead of you. You must park your car 100 metres away from the residence and sit on the bench next to the first randoval. That had been stranger’s message.
She glanced at the dashboard clock and saw that it was 6 am, Saturday morning. For nearly half an hour, Bettina had been sitting on cold, rigid, unforgiving wood benches.
A man approached her from behind the group of rondavals.
“Makhosi is ready to start.” He touched his hat as if he had just announced the arrival of the President.
He was wearing jeans, coat and boots. His brown hat had a small white feather which moved sideways. Even Derrick, who had been taller than anyone that Bettina had ever known, would have felt diminutive next to him.
As they walked through a banana plantation, sensing Bettina’s reluctance to continue, he just said “follow the route”
She continued. And then, an excruciatingly scream escaped Bettina’s lips.