“Dammit” Stefan shouts, hitting the Landrover’s steering wheel with his hand. He turns the key in the ignition but nothing happens. He will probably have to walk back to camp. Where he is situated he is in the middle of all the wild animals on the farm surrounding him. He hopes he makes it in one piece. He climbs out, put his backpack on his shoulders and start walking towards the camp. He is angry and caught up in his own world, and does not notice what is going on in his surroundings. When he steps into an open spot where there are fewer trees something tells him to look up.
When he looks up, he looks straight into the eyes of a rhino cow. He immediately freezes in his tracks. She looks at him, and he back at her. Something is moving behind her, and when Stefan looks closely, he see the little rhino calf moving behind his mother. He knows what’s going to happen next and starts running right away. As soon as he starts running, the cow starts chasing him.
“No please leave me alone, I won’t take your baby, I promise!” Stefan shouts as far as he is running.
He runs past thorn trees and through bushes and mud pools to get away from the rhino cow. He could already feel that horn of hers carving into his buttocks. After a few kilometers of running, it becomes quiet behind him. To his relief, he sees the camp in front of him and runs in by the gate until he is sure he is safe. He looks back to see the rhino cow have stopped not far from the gate. She gives one last snort.
“Up yours too!” he shouts back at her.
Tired and out of breath, he walks into the reception area.
“The Landrover left me stranded!” he says short of breath.
“I left it in the veld. And on top of that the damn rhino cow chased me al the way to the gate! Yes, have a good laugh, next time it’s your turn! ” he snorts at the girl behind the counter, who can’t help but laugh. He swerves like a drunken man down the path to his bungalow.
“Where in the world do you come from? And look at your clothes! You are full of mud and have scratches all over your body, what happened to you?” Christa asks with a laugh in her voice as Stefan appears in the doorway. He leans against the frame of the door. Stefan is smeared with mud and looks as if he has run through all the thorn bushes on the game farm. His eyes are wide and he looks terrified, he is as pale as a ghost.
“The damn Landrover broke down with me. The radio also didn’t want to work and there is no cell phone reception, so I had to walk back to camp. Just about two kilometres from the Landrover, I ran into a rhino cow with her calf. I must have scared her, because when she saw me, she stormed and chased me most of the way to camp. She stopped just in front of the gate. I was so scared. I could feel how that horn of hers went up my buttocks” Stefan says with his hand gesturing towards his back. Christa bursts out laughing. She wishes she could have seen him. It must have looked like a scene out of a movie.
“Well then, you are one to laugh. You can be glad it didn’t happen to you this morning when you were out in the veld” Stefan says angrily and walks in the direction of the bathroom.
Christa and Stefan have been working together for many years. They do research on rare plants that grow in the drier regions of the country. He is a very attractive man but stays single. She is also not in a relationship at the moment. Something they have in common is the fact that they were both abused as children. That is why they understand each other so well and can work together so closely.
“Go take a shower. When you’re done, come here so I can see how many wounds you have. Then I will take care of it for you” Christa says still laughing.
Stefan is not very impressed by her. He just makes a snorting sound over his shoulder as he pulls his torn shirt over his head. He will feel better once he takes a shower and had something to eat. Poor thing, Christa thinks as he walks away.
About fifteen minutes later Stefan comes out of the bathroom, with only a towel around his hips. He is very well built and has muscles in all the right places despite the scars on his chest and back sustained in his abusive childhood.
“There must be a big cut on my back. Can you please have a look how much damage has been done” Stefan says and turns around.
There is a deep cut over his back, probably caused by the thorn trees in the veld. Christa takes the disinfectant and a piece of gauze and begins to clean the ugly wound. Stefan complains about how the disinfectant burns but has to keep still so that Christa can also clean all the smaller scrapes to prevent infection. When she’s done, she gets a peck on her cheek.
“Thank you Christa, what would I have done without you? You are just like the sister I never had.”
Christa knows Stefan means it. He is an only child and his mother was a prostitute who lived a very tough life. He actually should never have been born because his mother accidentally got pregnant but did not want to go for an abortion. She didn’t use drugs while pregnant but shortly after his birth she started using again and continued with her nightlife. He grew up under appalling circumstances and decided the day he finished high school, he was going to run away. He will find a job to be able to pay for his own studies.
He was always bullied at school about the ‘work’ his mother did. He was not willing to have to sell his body to stay alive like she did. He wanted to step out of the underground world to which he had been exposed for so many years. His mother’s handler tried to prepare him to become a prostitute by sexually abusing him. But he decided he would never stay in that underground world. He hates his mother for what she let him go through and what she does for a living.
With perseverance, he passed his matric and did a course in Botanism, which he paid for by working as a waiter and also the scholarship he received. After finishing his diploma, he got the job at the outdoor magazine and has never looked back.
About a year ago is mother was killed by a serial killer. He only killed prostitutes and has not yet been arrested. She was his second victim and since then there have been four other women killed. They were raped and strangled and then their bodies were dumped along side a river in the long grass, like they were trash. The day they informed Stefan about his mother’s passing his response was “well, at least she have been set free from her hell on earth”.
“Come on then, let’s put on a shirt over that beautiful body of yours so that we can go and have something to eat.”
He smiles at her and disappear into his room. Fortunately, you cannot at first glance see what impact his childhood had on his life, because he has learned to hide it away from the world. She on the other hand is struggling these days to suppress these ghosts from her past. After dinner and a few glasses of wine they are both relaxed and return to their bungalow. It’s already after ten o’clock when Christa gets into bed.
Stefan struggles to fall asleep. The scratch marks on his back are very sensitive and as soon as he turns on his back it hurts. It is in the early hours of the morning when he finally falls asleep. He suddenly wakes up from a noise and listens for a moment. He hears noises coming from Christa’s room. He gets up to go and see what’s going on. Just as he reaches her room, he hears her scream and he slams the door open. Christa is sitting in bed, crying inconsolably. When Stefan sees it was just her in her room, he sit down next to her and pulls her to his chest.
“Christa calm down, you’re having nightmares again,” he says in a calm tone so she can calm down.
“Is it the same monster that is chasing you in your dreams again?”
“You know he can no longer reach you. It’s time to deal with this and move on. Somehow this situation must come to an end” Stefan says and rubs her back gently.
Since working together for the last few years, Stefan has become accustomed to these nightmares that Christa sometimes gets when they are on a trip and have to share a bungalow. But this has been happening more and more lately. He will have to inquire about this man who molested her so mercilessly when she was a child. He would like to know if that man is still alive at all and what can be done about this situation.
It took him years to process his traumatic childhood and go through life as normal as possible. Having a relationship is difficult because he does not want to be emotionally and physically broken down again. And getting hurt time and time again is not worth it. He also has not yet met the right person who can understand and support him. Neither does Christa. She believes her humanity has been broken and there is no recovery. She thinks no man would want her if she is so broken inside. She has had a few relationships but has struggled not to shy away from physical contact. And that is making it difficult to have any healthy relationship.
When she calmed down, Stefan lay her down in bed again and covers her with the blanket.
“Sleep peacefully now, I’m not far,” he says softly and leave her room.
The next morning Christa is walking towards the dining room, when she is suddenly hit by a stream of cold water. She gasps for air and angrily looks at the person responsible.
“What the hell do you think you are doing!” she shouts as soon as she catches her breath. Annoyed she looks down her cloths where the water hit her.
“I’m very sorry, I didn’t see you coming around the corner!” says a male voice.
Slowly Christa looks up and is taken aback by the image of the man standing in front of her. When was the last time she saw such a handsome man. Usually you only see an image like this in a magazine. He has dark hair with green eyes that look like they have brown spots in them. He is tall and well built as his muscles bulge under his clothes as he moves closer to her. He has beautiful hands that look like they can sculpt a woman’s body. He walks closer to her with a dishcloth in his hand and aim to wipe the water off her, when Christa suddenly wakes up from her trance and take a step back.
“Don’t touch me!”
He stops in his tracks.
“Give the dishcloth to me!” Christa says impatiently, taking the dishcloth out of his hands to wipe her face and clothes. At least it’s just a little bit water and she can dry it off. It is not necessary to go back to her bungalow to put on dry clothes.
“Again, I am very sorry. My name is Petrus Brand and I am the new cook here at the game farm” Petrus says apologetically and holds out his hand to Christa.
First Christa looks at his hand and then back into those green eyes. Something stirs inside of her. But she is still too angry to react to it. She shakes his hand. When their hands touch there is warmth that runs through her body. That is very odd, she thinks to herself. She’s never felt anything like this before, especially not when a man touches her. She immediately relaxes in the attractive young man’s presence.
“My name is Christa” she says as she pulls her hand out of his.
“I see you wear khaki clothes, are you a game ranger or something?”
“We are Botanists, my colleague and I am doing research on rare plants that grows in the drier parts of the country.”
“Then it was your colleague who was chased by the rhino yesterday?” Petrus asks with a smile.
“Yes poor thing arrived at the bungulow wide eyed and full of mud with scratches all over his body. He was quite furious when he appeared in the doorway of the bungalow. When he told me what happened to him, I could not help but laugh. Poor thing, he was exhausted when he walked in” Christa laughs again and suddenly the tension between her and Petrus is broken.
“I would advise you not to go out into the veld again if you are alone. This morning we got a message that rhino poachers were spotted on the farm adjacent to us. However, the owner fired a few shots and they left. But that is not to say that they moved out of the area. So when you go, always be more than one person and make sure you take two way radios here at reception. Today we are going to have a look at the Landrover with which Stefan got stuck. We suspect it was the new GPS we installed that caused a short circuit on the electrical components. However, it will be fixed today. Then in future if you take the Landrover out again we will be able to see exactly where you are moving around on the farm.”
“That is good news. Thank you for telling me.”
“I think breakfast is ready. You can go ahead to the dinning room. Once again I’m very sorry I threw you with water. Will you perhaps please go to dinner with me tonight so that I can make up for my mistake?” Petrus ask with pleading eyes.
Christa hestites for a while, but when she looks into those green eyes, the answer washes over her lips before she could stop it and say yes.
“All right then, I’ll meet you at your bungalow at seven o’clock?”
“That will be fine thanks” Christa replies and walks to the dining room.