Jooke sits at a small table in one of the restaurants at Cape Town International airport. She looks at her watch, she’s early. Jack said his brother will meet her at 7pm, so she still has half an hour. She orders a coffee and looks out the window at the blinking lights of a plane approaching the runway, ready to take off. To think, in a little more than two hours she’ll be on a plane herself, leaving her life as she knows it, behind.
Who would have thought when she met Jack two and a half months ago, her life was going to change this dramatically? Leaving her family behind, her friends, her country, but what she probably will miss the most, is her job.
A sad smile appears on her face as she thinks about all the little faces she had to say goodbye to. She loves being a teacher. It would have been easier if it was school holidays, then it wouldn’t have been so difficult to explain it to her students, but now it was in the middle of the school term and they couldn’t understand why their teacher was never coming back.
Family she won’t really miss. The only family members left were an uncle and a cousin that lives in the Karoo, which meant she didn’t see them that often in any case, only at Christmas time. Her friends, well, she doesn’t know if she could really call them that, they were mainly colleagues with whom she would go out every now and then. She mainly kept to herself, doing her own thing, even when some of her male colleagues asked her out, she always declined. Most evenings she would prefer to spend in her apartment reading or coming up with new ideas to make her lessons more interesting, which made her a favourite teacher amongst the students.
Then she met Jack. It was one of the rare evenings she went out. Her friends decided to try out a new restaurant in Camps Bay and invited her to come with and because she’d been turning down their invites lately, they didn’t want to take no for an answer and she decided to go. During dinner, one of her friends nudged her with her elbow and said, “That guy can’t keep his eyes off you! He’s very handsome, you should flirt with him.” Her friend was looking at a guy sitting a couple of tables down from them but Jooke just laughed it off, not interested in a stranger making eyes at her, doesn’t matter how handsome he is. But her curiosity got the better of her and she sneaked a glance at him, he was very handsome, and she couldn’t help returning his smile when their eyes met and he lifted his glass in acknowledgement.
After dinner she and her friends went for a walk on the beach and while the rest decided to go for a night time swim, the cocktails they were enjoying during dinner being the biggest motivator, she sat down on the sand watching them from a distance. Suddenly a voice spoke next to her and to her surprise the handsome man from the restaurant sat down next to her and introduced himself as Jack Pohl, here on business and would be in town for a couple of weeks. They started talking and maybe it was the one or two cocktails she drank herself, that made the conversation flow easily.
A whirlwind romance followed and after a month, he asked her to marry him and being the first guy she ever felt this way about, she said yes. But their perfect bubble of bliss burst one week after he proposed when he had to go back to Khumkani Island where he worked at the holiday resort. With the promise that he would contact her as soon as he can, keeping in mind that internet excess on the island was limited, he left.
As she understands, Khumkani is a private island and therefor she didn’t find it strange that communication would be difficult, so when the first week passed without hearing anything from Jack, she shrugged it off as nothing. By the third week she started to worry and her nerves played havoc on her stomach. It didn’t get better and when she picked up a stomach bug, her one friend forced her to go to the doctor.
Jooke sighs and takes a sip of her coffee, placing her hand on her stomach. She was so nervous sending Jack that e-mail. He left one of his business cards in her apartment and after she came back from the doctor, she knew she couldn’t wait any longer, she had to speak to Jack.
Another sigh escapes her chest as she recalls the e-mail she sent him:
It’s been over a month since we saw each other and I believe there must be a simple explanation why I haven’t heard anything from you. But I have to tell you something, so I’m taking the chance that this e-mail will find you soon.
I went to the doctor yesterday, wasn’t feeling well, throwing up and feeling dizzy. I thought it was some kind of stomach bug but it turns out, I’m pregnant.
I don’t know if this will offend you, but if you are asking the question if the baby is yours, it is. You’re the only man I’ve ever been with.
I hope to hear from you soon. I love you.
But all her nerves and her worry were for nothing. Jack answered almost immediately and she was so happy to hear from him that she didn’t think twice about why he suddenly could contact her without any problems when he couldn’t for a whole month:
You must come to Khumkani immediately! Get all your things in order, my brother, Ben, will be in Cape Town for business next week and you can fly out with him.
Will a week be enough to sort out all your affairs? Remember, this will be a permanent move.
When she thinks back on his reply, it did sound a bit formal, not like the Jack she got to know when he was here, with his smooth way of doing and saying things. Glancing at her watch again, she shrugs her shoulders, thinking it’s too late to ponder about that now, realizing that Jack’s brother should to be here any minute now.
Looking at the people walking by, wondering how she’s going to spot Jack’s brother, she sees a lady pushing a baby carriage with the one hand and holding onto a toddler with the other, approaching the restaurant. The toddler isn’t happy about something, he is crying and stumping his little feet and when the mother stops and tries to calm him, Jooke can see a disheartened look on her face, which makes Jooke instantly feel sorry for her. When the baby also makes its presence known, probably woken by the little boy’s tantrum, people start to stare at the commotion.
As the mother picks up the baby, Jooke gets up and walks towards the family. When she reaches them, she smiles at the mother and, tucking her baby-blue dress into the back of her knees, she goes down on her haunches in front of the little boy.
Jooke looks at his tear-stained cheeks and takes out a tissue and wipes his nose, “Hello,” she says, “my name is Jooke, what is your name?” When the little boy doesn’t answer and continues to cry, she tries a different approach, “Do you know what I have here in my pocket?” She takes out a small bag of sweets and shows it to the boy, “Tell you what, if you tell me your name, I’ll give you one of my sweets. What do you think?” She glances up at the mother and when the little boy’s sobs start to subside, the mother looks back at Jooke with gratitude.
Jooke looks back at the little boy and brushing his hair on his forehead to the side with her finger tips, she continues, “Lets dry those tears then you can tell me your name, because I really want to give you one of my sweets.” The little boy tries hard to get his sobs under control, looking from Jooke to the sweets and back again.
Jooke wipes over the boy’s cheeks with her thumb and after a while he is able to say, “My,” sniff, “name is, “sniff, “Anton.”
“Anton!” Jooke exclaims, “Oh, I like that name!” and she hands him a sweet.
Immediately he shoves it in his mouth and his mother says, “What do we say Anton?” and Anton manages to get out a thank you in between chewing.
“Now,” Jooke says again with a kind voice, “I bet you you can’t tell me how old you are!”
Anton nods his head and lifts up his one hand, three little fingers standing up straight.
“Three years old!” Jooke says with wide eyes. “Wow, you’re a big boy!” She gives him another sweet, saying “Seeing that you’re such a big boy, here is another sweet, but you must promise me something.” Anton nods his head, taking the sweet and Jooke continues, “You must promise me that you’ll be a big boy for your mom and help her with your baby,” Jooke glances at the baby’s clothes and sees the pink onesie, “sister. And remember, you won’t be able to do that if you’re crying!” She takes his small hand in hers and asks, “So, are you going to promise to be a big boy?” Anton nods his head and with a smile Jooke hands him the whole bag of sweets and say, “In that case, you can have all the sweets, but remember, don’t eat them all at once.”
She straightens up and after the mom thanks her again, Jooke turns around to go back to her table but bumps into a rock-hard chest. The man standing in front of her, dressed in light grey slacks and a crisp white shirt doesn’t show the slightest inkling of moving out of her way. He just stares at her with his piercing steel blue eyes, a frown between his brows and she can see a muscle twitching in his jaw as he clenches them together.
She opens her mouth to apologize but he cuts her off when he says, “You are Jack’s fiancé,” it’s a statement, not a question and she take it he heard her telling Anton her name.
Annoyed by his bluntness and the fact that he listened to her conversation with Anton, Jooke replies, a little more harshly than she intended, “You must be Ben.”
He doesn’t answer, just keeps on looking at her, his eyes becoming a darker shade of blue and she starts to feel uncomfortable. She tries to look away but his eyes keep hers prisoner. After a couple of seconds, he looks at his watch and simply says, “We have to go, where are your things,” his voice impersonal and colourless.
Taking a deep breath, trying to stay calm and not let his brusque demeanour get to her, she walks back to her table. One would think, when you meet your future sister-in-law and, on top of that, will be spending ten hours next to her in an airplane, you’ll try to be friendly, or at least civil. But no, it seems like Ben Pohl is above such things as normal human courtesy.
Ben watches her as she walks to her table. Her honey-blond hair is pulled back in a ponytail, emphasizing the lines of her jaw and the curve of her neck. His eyes go down over her shoulders to her blue dress, reminding him of a type of shirt-dress but wider at the bottom and cinched in at her tiny waist with a thin belt, made from the same material as the dress. His eyes drop lower and where the dress ends just below her knees, her well-toned calves are accentuated by her nude-coloured heels.
She picks up her handbag and the book she is planning to read during the flight and when she wants to take her suitcase, Ben grabs the handle before she can. “Is this all you have? Only the one suitcase?” he asks, the now almost synonymous frown between his brows.
Jooke is irritated by his tone. What does he think, that all women have to be accompanied by a truckload of luggage when they travel? “Well, I’m not big on material things,” is all she says.
He doesn’t respond, the frown between his brows just deepens and with a hand on her back, he pushes her towards the entrance of the restaurant, still not saying a word. As they pass the table where Anton and his mom are now seated, Anton jumps up and grabs her around her knees, making her lose her balance and for the second time in a matter of minutes, she feels the muscular chest of Ben Pohl collide with her. A strong arm circles around her waist, helping her not to fall over and when she tries to free herself from its grip after steadying herself to a degree, it only pulls her in tighter.
“I’m so sorry!” Anton’s mother jumps up and is loosening Anton’s arms around Jooke’s legs. “Anton you will make the lady fall!” She looks up at Jooke, “He can’t stop talking about you since you gave him those sweets, he calls you the pretty lady.”
Jooke smiles at her, saying she doesn’t have to apologize and still trying to loosen the grip of Ben’s arm around her waist but to no avail.
Anton’s mother turns to Ben and says, “I don’t know if you have children yet, but your wife will be a very good mother. She really helped me with Anton earlier.”
Jooke gasps at her words but before she can tell her that they are definitely not husband and wife, she hears Ben answer, his breath warm against the exposed skin of her neck, “Thank you. I know my wife will be a wonderful mother one day. Maybe sooner than later,” and Jooke can feel him press his lips against her hair, a smile on his face which Jooke can’t see but rather sense by the blushing smile on Anton’s mother’s face.