Stuart was worried about the old man who had fallen ill in his office.
“I need to go and see him,” he said to his receptionist.
Later, in the hospital, Stuart saw that Victor had regained consciousness.
“How are you feeling?” He looked at the tubes wending their way in and out of Victor’s body.
“I’m strong,” Victor replied quietly. After a short pause to gain his breath, he stuttered: “Let’s start again... ”
“I’m your father and a woman called Shirley Retief is your mother.”
Stuart took a while to let this sink in. “How do you know?
Victor responded: “I’m embarrassed to say, but we had a fling and you were born as a result.” He paused. “Don’t say a word to Anton.”
“Where did you say you were from?” Stuart asked.
“Scallyclare. It’s a coal mine about two hours west of here.” Victor could see that Stuart was stunned by this astonishing disclosure.
Victor asked: “What is your mother and... ” He stalled for a few seconds. “What is the father of Jako and Kate-Emily doing now?” He immediately regretted asking that question.
Stuart laughed. “I must tell you that I have lost my memory.”
Victor stared at him. “You don’t remember anything of your past?”
“Nothing. I don’t have any idea what happened to my parents. I wish I knew.”
“What have you been doing? I know you’ve done well in law, but, tell me, what are you able to remember?”
Stuart interrupted: “I must get back to a meeting now.”
“When can I see you again?”
“I’ll come around this evening.”
“Yes, I’d like that.” Victor answered.
Stuart arrived that evening. Victor had barely touched his dinner. An open sandwich sat on the tray in front of Victor. An orderly finally removed it.
“It was a sandwich made from this morning’s bread, with ever so thinly spread butter and some sort of processed cheese. Not too edible.”
Stuart laughed in sympathy. He explained as far back as he could remember, to waking up and wandering in the sugar plantation. He told Victor how he had been welcomed into the farmer’s family with open arms. He shared that he had twin “adopted” sisters in their early 20s.
“And, you don’t remember anything that happened before that?” Victor asked.
“It’s all blank. You need to fill me in,” Stuart part jokingly said.
“I remember you youngsters going to shoot fowl, and that time your friend was killed by the falling rock in the cave on the mountain, and... ”
“You said: ‘youngsters’. Did I have brothers and sisters?”
“A brother and a sister. Their names are Jake...”
“Jake? That’s an unusual name?”
“And Kate-Emily... ”
“Yes. Have you heard from them?”
A look of intense concentration crossed Stuart’s face.
“What is it?” Victor queried.
Stuart said: “Peculiar. I met people with those same names. But, the girl is only four or five years old. I lost my memory more than that many years ago. Kate-Emily must be a teenager now, if she’s my sister?”
“She was about 11 when you left.”
“Where did we go?”
“You left because of your Dad’s debts.”
“My parents… What were their names? And what debts?”
“Anton and Shirley Retief.”
“Did you say ‘Retief’? That’s the name of my client who’s in jail.” Stuart was stunned.
“Really? In jail? What’s in he in for? As soon as I can leave my bed, I want to see him.”
“My client allegedly aided to murder someone. You may have heard of her. She was Madelaine née van Wyk.”
“Madelaine? She’s dead? She’s from the mine I lived at.”
Suddenly, it dawned on Stuart how much he had forgotten. He battled to hold back his tears.
“What were my father’s debts?” Realising that he had called someone else his father, he corrected himself: “Stepfather.”
“He got into huge trouble, and it ended with your family leaving the mine.”
“You mentioned that someone was killed in the cave on the mountain? What was his name?”
“There’s a lot to take in. What was, or is, my name?”
“Michael Retief, shortened to Mike.”
“Mike Retief.” Stuart looked as if the whole world had landed on his shoulders. Victor reached over and gripped his hand.
Stuart gently let go of his hand, got up and walked around the room.
“I wonder where they are now.”
“I don’t know.” Victor answered.
“What are their names, again?”
“Anton and Shirley Retief. Tragically, my wife, Jeanette, was killed in a car accident a few months back.”
“I’m sorry. Tell me about Kate-Emily.”
“She is a beautiful girl and a bit wild. As in, she loved to adventure. When you lived at Scallyclare, you used to go to the forests on the guest house property.”
“Tell me more about Anton’s debts. Who knew about them?”
“No one. I don’t think your mum knew about them, either. But, she found out the hard way.”
Victor continued to tell him stories of their childhood years and about what life was like on the mine. Stuart spent at least three hours at the hospital.
That evening, Stuart felt stunned. Victor had lifted some weight off his shoulders by revealing the identity of his family and perhaps who his father was, but it would be down to DNA to prove his lineage.
He looked in the mirror. It was time to shave off his beard. Charlie also found it irritating. He wondered how he’d look without it.
After he shaved, he dried himself with a towel, being careful to avoid the two nicks to his skin.
“That looks better,” he said to himself.
Stuart was still feeling shell-shocked. Suddenly, he broke down and wept.