The Exit Plan

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Chapter seven

Tristan

Chantel was wilder than the waves that crashed on the shore. On the drive to Noordhoek my mind flooded with her image. I thought of her dark skin, her sparkling eyes and the mound like breast that made me wish they were my steering wheel. Yes I drove. I convinced Elizabeth that my days of driving intoxicated were over. At least as far as she knew.

“I’m so proud of you,” she said as she flashed her whitened teeth at me. “You’ve really kicked back your alcoholism.” I couldn’t help smirking as I thought of the amber bottle that lay under the back seat of her car. As I parked the car beside her Mustang, I saw a white blob sit on the beach. It was probably some tourist who spent his lonely days on a lonely beach. It didn’t worry me much.

“I’ve always dreamt of visiting this beach,” I said as I walked over into her house. It was a beautiful three-story villa with a wooden floor and a staircase that spiraled all the way to rooftop bar. Books ranging from old English classics to foreign language ones to raunchy magazines lined the wall I was leaning against as the smell of sea air and air-freshener battled for supremacy.

Every corner of the house, except Chantel’s room, was decorated to the latest fashion and as the housekeeper informed me, was redecorated every month. The wastebaskets were full of everything that was last season and as I shook my head and headed to Chantel’s third story room, I got a feeling that Chantel’s dad was everything that was commercialized and unimaginative.

“Did you?” she said as she leaned over, her face facing the other side of the railing. I wondered how she managed to do a graceful bend while balancing her long body. But most of all, I wondered how she dared.

I’ve always been considered pretty brave. At least, by the people who only enjoyed a distance glance at me. I captained the whitewater rafting team and the rugby team back in my old school. My old math teacher, Mr. Rowe, had seen my finger as many times as I had seen the detention room. Yet, despite all of the cheek, I still loved life.

“Yeah, I did,” I said, gazing at the wide stretch of sea in front of me. The waves howled a warning to all who decided to get too close and there was something in her that seemed to challenge it.

“Then why didn’t you?” she asked. “Why didn’t you leave your cute little life and Johannesburg and come over?”

I thought of this. I always dreamed of Noordhoek like hungry kids dreamt of their favourite fast food joint. I wanted to battle against the power of those waves. But each city had its own thrills and Johannesburg was no exception.

“I had other distractions Chantel,” I said.

“A girl?” she asked, her eyes scanning mine as she waited for an answer. The truth was, there were girls, the plural form of what she had said and they came as quickly as I flicked them away. I saw them all, girls with blonde hair, girls with dark hair but none of them had a mind as wickedly intelligent as Chantel did.

So I told her. I told her about the girls and the fights and the lies and the expulsions that shattered my world.

“I was bored,” I said at last, listening to the crashing of the waves. “And boredom trapped me. It forced walls around me until I felt smothered in it. So I lashed out in the only way I could.”

“I can understand,” she said as she dragged me to the out of the house to the beach. The sand was glittering white and sea-spray coated her hair leaving jewel like drops on them. “And I admire your bravery.”

“I’m not brave,” I said, shaking my head. “Brave would have been being able to stand up to my feelings. Brave would have been not breaking poor Nick Maredi’s nose.”

“Don’t,” Chantel squirmed. “You sound just like Will. Brave wouldn’t be standing up to your emotions; it would be embracing them even if you know it could harm you.”

‘Will?’ I thought. ‘Wasn’t that the obese boy who couldn’t take his eyes off Chantel?’ I coiled at the thought of being compared to him. Chantel’s eyes didn’t flash when she glanced at him they way they flashed at her art or her Mustang or me. They just glanced straight at him with a deep expression that I couldn’t read. I didn’t want to be like some loser who was too shy to tell Chantel how he felt. I didn’t to be someone whose cold manners made everyone around him disgusted. “No, I’m not heartless enough to be compared to Will. But I have fears. Fears that haunt the very life out of me.”

“So do I,” she said, walking towards the waves.

“Please,” I said, thinking of what she could possibly be scared of. “You’re the girl who isn’t afraid of death. What could you fear?”

“A lot,” she said as she walked forward. “I fear boredom and abandonment and the ever looming fear that I may lose every ounce of myself. Tristan what if I fade away into the heartlessness of everyday life? What if I become one of those people who look back on this time and tell my grandkids that I’ve outgrown every emotion I have? What if I forget Art and humour and everything else other than society’s rules? No, I’d rather die.”

I pulled her away from the waves that were inviting us to curl up in its destruction. I didn’t want destruction. At least, not while Chantel’s eyes burned so perfectly in the night.

“You losing your emotions is like the world ceasing to love you,” I said as I my hands curled around her thin waist. “And we know that both of these are impossible.”

We spoke a little more about Elizabeth and exit plans and forgiveness and I kissed her. Her lips were clothed with booze but so were mine. We lay there amidst the shipwreck and the cold, white sand with our tongues intertwined until something shook from the bushes.

“What was that?” I asked but Chantel shrugged and went back to kissing me. I obliged until I spotted a shape get up from its hiding place in the bushes and walk away. The shape towered above Chantel and me. And it was fat. It was very, very fat. I felt my fingers curl up into fists in bubbling anger.

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