The Exit Plan

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Chapter thirteen

Tristan

A tiny white band held Chantel’s finger in a tight embrace. I’d try to hold her but a belt and a three foot distance between us scoffed my wishes away.

“It’s a pity we had to book first class,” she said, looking at the distance between us. “We could still trade tickets, right?”

Horror struck me. I didn’t want to sit in some uncomfortable seat for the rest of our flight and neither was anyone else going to make me. The first class was free of bad seats, limited dietary options and crowded cabins. What it wasn’t free was of children that screamed at the top of their lungs.

“Will this kid ever stop?” I sighed, giving the kid one of my scariest looks.

“Ignore him,” she said as she peeled off her sweater. “We’ll be in Lucca in a few hours.”

“You know I really didn’t dream of spending my wedding night a few feet away from you being serenaded by a toddler.”

“Oh, you don’t have to spend your wedding night away from me,” she whispered as she flashed her dimples at me. “Those bathrooms look good don’t they?”

“We could be fined…..”

“Trust me,” she said, getting up from her seat and leaning against mine. “I’ll make that kid sound soft-spoken. And besides, it’s worth getting fined for.”

My heart pounded through every second of it. I didn’t care if I got fined or flogged. I didn’t care if we woke the whole aircraft up. All I cared about was the girl whose body sprawled beneath mine. My fears, however, proved groundless. Unlike us, the bodies of everyone else lay beneath their luggage.

“Oh look, that kid is trapped beneath his luggage,” Chantel gasped.

“He deserves it.”

Chantel helped the brat as his screams echoed through the plane. The wails grew louder and louder until the plane landed and we were where I had always wanted to go ever since I got my hands on a particular classic romance novel. We were in Tuscany.

“Does this satisfy your idea of far away?” I said to her as we drove through the streets a few hours later.

The streets were filled with tourist and bright sunbeams stole shy gazes through the city’s roofs. Old buildings battled for attention among the newer ones. I winced. I hoped this city wasn’t too like Cape Town but that thought didn’t seem to strike Chantel’s mind for an instant.

“In a way, it sort of does,” she said as we walked over to the vintage hotel that Cassandra had booked as a wedding present.

Cassandra didn’t have the best tastes when it came to accommodation, but she knew how to make Chantel happy. Chantel beamed as we passed a stained glass chandelier and broke into a speedy tirade about the details etched on the glass. I listened to as much as I could.

“Look at all those people,” she said as she pointed to the millions of passers-by. We stood on a balcony with the orange autumn leaves falling beneath us and people huddling in trench coats as they hurried to their villas. “Look at every single colour they wear. Do you think they have exit plans too?”

“Not as grand as yours and mine,” I said as I dropped a kiss on her soft hair. “And our plan worked didn’t it? We got away.”

“Hmm…” she said before turning away from me. I saw a concoction of longing brew in her eyes and I just tried to figure it out. Was it her love for me? Was it a deadly sense of intoxication that made her want more wine than she had already drunk? I didn’t think so.

“Do you really feel like you’ve left?” she asked as she arched her eyebrow and challenged me to a drinking game.

“Of course,” I said as I let the wine rush down my throat before passing the bottle to her. “We’re far away from Noordhoek. We’re going to stay here for three weeks then God knows where we’ll go. Somewhere far. How about Amsterdam?”

“Yes,” she said as she shivered in an alcoholic daze. “Let’s go. Let’s go away and never ever ….”

“Return,” I finished.

“But I’ve left something behind,” she said. “I’ve left something –or someone I care about and I know it. I feel this emptiness and I want to run away from it. But it taunts me. I feel like I should get away from it and I want to get away but somehow I can’t.”

“You, my love, need more to drink,” I said as I passed her a new bottle. “It’ll make you warm up. And maybe, we could warm up here if there weren’t any laws on public nudity.”

Chantel was far from responding. Her thin, long body was crumpled into a deathly sight and her almond eyes almost seemed too big for her face. I tried to carry her off to bed when I heard a ring that echoed through the all too quiet night.

“Fuck whoever thinks they can stop our drinking,” Chantel said as I glanced at my display. It was Elizabeth.

“Hello,” I said, picking up my phone and refusing to fight the smile that shone when I heard the familiar tone.

“Y-you married her?” the voice stammered.

“Mum, I love her,” I said, hoping that my mum wouldn’t lecture me much. “Remember when I told you I wanted much more than some boring classes and a boring life. Chantel is much more than all of that. She’s everything I want and I love her.”

“I see,” my mum said as her sobs attacked the receiver. “So she- a girl whose kind killed my son right in front of my eyes- is who you love? S-she is the girl you care for more than anyone else in the world? Including me?”

“No… it isn’t like that,” I said, feeling my heart contort within me. “It’s been ages. The world doesn’t need hate. It needs love and I know you love me. You love me because I am your son. And I love you too.”

“But you’ve chosen her,” she yelled. “You’ve chosen that –that….half breed.”

“No, it’s not like that,” I lied. “I love Chantel but I love you too. I understand what you’ve gone through. I love you because you’ve taken care of me and…”

“Well, then I’ve taken care of you long enough then,” she sniffed. “I’m moving back to Johannesburg. You needn’t come home.”

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