Chapter 1 (November 1980 – A PARTY to forget)
Minke Blignaut nearly skipped. However, seeing that she was all grown up now she just walked at an excited pace. Her platforms nearly didn’t touch the ground. She was happy - very happy. Saturday she turns 21 and her fabulous mom agreed to a fully grown-up party. All the arrangements were left to her and her best friend Rita, along with a very hoity-toity party-planner.
No family Saturday!
She’s going to have a nice, sit-down dinner with the older folks the following week Sunday, but Saturday - no small kids running, screaming, playing tag, or take over the dance floor as the adults – that sounds good – adults celebrate.
She giggled out loud.
Trina Coetzee, the party-planner gave her a worried, sideways glance and lopsided smile, not sure how to deal with a girl giggling as she explained the finer details of the whole make-over to her. She refrained from any comments.
Minke gave her an innocent smile and gestured her to go ahead but her mind quickly back-tracked to the dream-world that was hers the last few weeks and days.
This party was to celebrate her adulthood with her friends - new and old – and, hopefully, all would have the time of their lives. Well, the intention and expectation was to make some memories too. Her own, private memories!
Even Mom and Aunt Nora planned on staying only for one toast before going to Aunt Nora’s for an overnight and, she bets, some white wine and crackers and cheese.
She giggled again.
They arrived at the main hall and the planner started to babble and wave her arms around as to let Minke knows were what was going. She was far too excited to pay any attention.
The setting was a beautiful little out of the way place where the theme was: Anything you can dream up. Minke opted for a “Gatsby” night, roaring twenties, and all that. Maybe it was a little old-worldly, but she liked the idea of dressing up for her twenty-first. She looked around at the lovely gardens surrounding the thatch-roof centre. It was like a jewel in a ring. They would have this all to themselves – all fifty of them. Rita will be here in half an hour to help finalise the last minute details. Then the two of them would enjoy some gossip, paint nails and test out hair-styles in their own quint little cottage that they would be sharing. Her sweet mother hired all the little chalets - twenty in total - so not to let her friends drink and drive. All could stay over if they so wish and most already confirmed. On Sunday morning they will all have a leisurely brunch at around ten before all go their separate ways. It’s going to be a roaring time – like the twenties – she hoped, especially now that Burger Steenkamp announced (late, and on purpose, make no mistake) that he will be coming after all.
He was a pre-med student – one year her senior - with a small ego-problem. Not only was he intelligent, charming and handsome, but to all accounts, not too humble. It would be far worse, she defended him to her friends, if he pretended not to know the effect he has on the female variety as is. Minke would prefer him, if truth been told, a little more of a “one-man-woman-guy”, than the “variety” sort that he apparently was. However, her sober brain’s arguments didn’t make a dent in her poor heart’s swooning over this particular arrogant bastard. And that was that.
At first he didn’t respond to the invitation at all. She was a little sad that he wasn’t coming, or so she assumed, when she didn’t hear anything from him as the RSVP date came and went. She phoned – not only him, three others who didn’t respond – but he couldn’t be arsed to phone back. She tried to put him out of her head and went ahead full of gusto with her plans. But the excitement for her was halved. Then, today, this morning in fact, less than a day before the party, he phoned.
‘Hope it’s not too late, but I’ll see you tomorrow if the invite still stands.’ His mellow voice flowed over her. She, of course, pretended as if it was nothing out of the ordinary for an invited guest to accept at the last minute (as if all of her guests only phoned this morning). She’d even made excuses in her own head on his behalf! At least, she thought, he didn’t utter any lame-ass excuse like “Sorry I’m late” or “Had another appointment that was cancelled” or something silly like that!
Maybe Rita was right, Burger Steenkamp spelled trouble in any language! But she can’t help feeling like a little butterfly escaping from a cocoon.
A frown adorned her face momentarily.
This morning’s business did upset her a little, but she wasn’t going to let that interfered with her fun and frolics. She immediately turned back to the party-planner with a broad smile and said, ‘Everything sounds great, thank you so much.’
Saturday morning Rita kept saying with more than a little annoyance, as they reshuffled the table-planning, ’If he treats you like this now, it’ll not get better later on. Not to even mention if you marry this ego-“testical” (her own play on the word egotistical) bastard…’
‘Who’s talking about marriage? It’s just a party!’ Minke interjected defensively, but Rita was on a roll.
’Please, don’t tell me you’re not planning a little further ahead, my little smitten, gorgeous friend. It’s not like you’re looking for a playboy-toy, is it? Maybe he is, but certainly not you! Remember, I know you since first grade. All I’m saying is go slow and don’t burn your fingers with Doc “Golden-balls”.’
Maybe Rita was a little jealous, she speculated, there’s not a girl that wouldn’t give her front teeth to be in Burger Steenkamp’s company.
She’d giggled as she’d pictured some girls, including herself, without front teeth, just to find Rita’s bemused eyes on her.
‘We are excited, aren’t we?’ She said with a smile.
Minke looked up and smiled at her best friend, ‘I am, yes, very excited.’
Rita put the last place-card down and gave Minke a hug.
‘Just be careful, is all I’m saying, I don’t want you to get hurt.’ She said softly.
‘Love you too,’ Minke said as she hugged back, ‘and thank you.’
While they pushed here and pulled there Minke thought to herself that she was totally wrong about Rita. She was committed to Rodney for one thing, and secondly, far too level-headed to swoon over someone like Burger Steenkamp. Rita was the utterly realistic type: Out of her league – out of mind. And Burger was out of her league – not Minke’s words, Rita’s own.
A little frown crept between Minke’s eyes. She really hope she can get the other business settled without bad blood.
Minke realized she hadn’t heard a word the planner or Rita was saying about anything for the past ten minutes. She hoped she’d given the right answers and reaction to whatever they’ve asked or said.
She saw Rita looking towards her with question marks in her eyes.
‘I think you mean he should be sitting at the next table, the main table we’ve settled?’
‘Yes, yes, that’s right, sorry but I’m a little distracted.’ She gave a clumsy giggle.
‘Thank you girls, you can go do girls’ stuff, wash your hair and prettied yourselves up. My staff and I will put the finishing touched to everything. I promise it will be fabulous!’ Trina Coetzee said.
Minke Blignaut smiled broadly as she thanked her one more time.
It was going to be fabulous!
Rita woke with a start and held her head for a minute to let the drumming inside subsided. It felt like she’s been hit over the head by a clubbed Neanderthal man. She rose slowly and looked around. A thin smile tugged at her lips. Minke wasn’t there, in fact, her bed wasn’t slept in.
‘So, did my friend tame the beast?’ she wondered out loud and threw the duvet to one side, ‘Burger Steenkamp is like having a lion for a pet - doesn’t matter how tame you think he is, never turn your back on him, Minke.’ She said out loud while wondering why the hell she slept under a duvet when it was sweltering hot outside.
It was nine in the morning and already as hot as hell. The last she saw of Minke was around, what, eleven-thirty, maybe later (she can’t exactly remember) walking off hand in hand with “Pre-Doc-Heart-Throb” into the garden. Rita remembered feeling fuzzy – if that’s the right word - shouting something like “Beware of the wild-life!” after them with a thick tongue and slurring sounds.
Not like her at all.
She shook her head and was instantaneously sorry she did. She became aware that the thudding in her right temple became louder and louder and then it hammered away in both temples, like Tom-Tom drums somewhere in a jungle announcing war! For a level-headed girl she must’ve drunk way too much last night.
She stood up slowly and tenderly placed her fingers on her temples.
She hated the term “level-headed”. It, most of the time or all of the time, meant that you were somewhat boring and set in your ways. No spontaneity. Well, maybe she was set in her ways and liked to plan things, but someone has to think for others. Anyway, she drank far less than most of the party-goers. But then again, she wasn’t use to drinking at all. Did the drums in her head meant she was experiencing a hangover? The thickness, the dizziness throbbing temples and the thirst, was that what a hangover felt like? She had three, or was it four glasses of… the first three were white wine, but the last one? She can’t even remember. The last round Rodney bought – just before they left. Vodka, no, not Vodka, Tequila she thinks he said. Tasted terrible! She never drank Vodka or Tequila before, and the way she was feeling right now, she never wanted to see it again, never mind drink it!
She waddled to the kitchenette like a duck so not to set the drums off again.
’So, this must be it – a hangover. Been there, done it! Will not do it again! Not worth the trouble.’ She mumbled quietly to herself as she took a bottle of water from the fridge and gulped it down. Good thing Rodney returned to Pretoria last night. She didn’t want him to see her like this - ever. He drinks, of course he drinks, but mainly beer and always sensibly – like sex – don’t overdo it!
They are birds of a feather.
Outside a sudden burst of loud voices send the birds in the trees a fluttering into a squawking fury, and her head into a throbbing drum-solo once more. A nasty nausea was fun-fairing in her throat.