‘Goodbye and thank you.’ Tears flowed and Anna couldn’t wait to get away. Away from the bright cheerful Hospice where the many floral scented air fresheners turned the smell of death into a nuance. The staff who had become her family over the last 7 weeks had gotten her through the biggest challenge of her life. She walked out into the cool January morning vaguely noticing the dawn painting.
Jem was her soulmate. Her everything. 30 years of memories were all she had left. They had no children apart from their fur-babies who no doubt would feel the loss just as much as she did. Tears flowed along her cheeks and down her neck, wetting the lace on her pink T-shirt. Anna got home, fed and cuddled the animals, climbed into bed and dropped into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The next few weeks flew past. Friends, family, funeral, fear. Anna stared at herself in the mirror, wondering when the wrinkles had moved in. When the crayon-black under her eyes had begun. When the pink happiness of her life had left. She prayed it would return.
Anna worked as an editor. She could do it from home which worked against her now as she needed the company of others. Trudging through yet another poorly written manuscript, she made her notes in the margins on auto-pilot. Kitzi her street cat turned lover, wandered over for a scratch. She put down her pen and squeezed him, taking comfort from the feeling. He purred his love to her. Anna wiped away the tears dripping onto his soft grey fur.
December came too soon and Anna dreaded Christmas. Her family were making an extra fuss of her and she was grateful and smothered at the same time. Waking up on Christmas day Anna felt the tears burn behind her eyes but refused to give in to them. She loved this time of year and Jem wouldn’t want her to spend the day mourning.
Gathered around the tree the family opened their presents, shrill cries and laughter washed over her pushing her sadness away. At the back of the boxes was a plain white envelope which obviously contained a card. With a look from her sister Joanne, her brother-in-law George handed it to her with a quick squeeze.
‘Its from Jem’ he said. The noise died down as the children ran off with their toys accompanied by yelps of excitement. Joanne and George went to brew coffee and she was alone, with Gem’s gift. How extraordinary that this man, this beautiful man thought ahead enough, most likely while in debilitating pain, to get her something for Christmas.
Tears flowed down her cheeks blinding her to the contents for a while. As the flood passed she saw a picture of the sea. Anna loved the sea and Gem knew it. The envelope contained a flight ticket, an accommodation voucher, spending money and a boat pass for a champagne sunset cruise. Anna hugged the envelope to her chest wandering if anyone else would ever know her as well as he had.
Joanne returned with steaming coffee and fresh shortbread.
‘You ok?’ she asked Anna. Anna nodded and Joanne squeezed her hand, she knew what was in the envelope and it made her sad too. For 30 years she had had a brother and missed him on days like today.
‘So you have 2 days to pack’ Joanne said business-like. I will look after Kitzi and George is taking you to the airport. Anna was shocked, she hadn’t checked the date.
‘But nothing’ George said, carrying a delighted child over his shoulder as he walked into the room. Plonking her down he gave her a tickle until she ran away screaming, Anna laughed.
‘So you too have this all planned?’ Joanne stood up.
‘Yep and you are going to have a ball.’
Christmas day passed and despite herself Anna looked forward to the trip. George got her to the airport and only when she buckled into her tiny window seat did she take a breath and wander what the hell she was doing.
Settled into her Bed and breakfast just outside of Clifton Anna stopped to take a breath, surprised at how nervous and excited she was. The sea stretched away like an azure carpet, the shore waves making a frilly white border. It was breathtaking and she couldn’t wait to dip her feet into the healing water. Anna stepped onto the sand feeling it tickle her toes, heaven. As expected the water was ice cold and refreshed her in the late December heat.
Several people on the beach smiled a welcome but Anna needed to be alone. She ate supper at a small local restaurant her Kingklip was cooked to perfection and she washed it down with a chilled Chardonnay and a lemon mousse. It was divine and just what she needed. Anna walked back to the sound of waves and felt her heart pull, she missed Gem.
The next morning was bright and clear as the Hadedas woke her up with a song. Anna had the whole day to explore, lie in bed, bask on the beach or whatever she wanted. Sending a silent ‘thank-you’ to Gem, she dressed and went for breakfast. Munching on freshly baked scones smothered in thick cream she decided on her action plan. The hop on and off bus went right past her Bed and Breakfast and went to wonderful places all over Cape Town. That’s it. She packed water, fruit, sunscreen, put her hat on and was moving along the coast on the bus within half an hour. It was bliss.
The boat trip was scheduled for that evening. Anna caught the bus to the waterfront, had a light supper and waited to board. The hum and buzz of the place was captivating and she sat for a while just watching the hordes of interesting people milling around. Her excitement grew as time ticked on, the boat trip was the highlight of her trip and she couldn’t wait.
Rouxhan met her at the jetty, welcoming her with a glass of pink bubbly. He checked her ticket, she signed her indemnity and found a seat facing the front of the boat next to the captain. She wanted to jump up and down with excitement but instead sipped her champagne smiling into her glass. Anna was early and watched the rest of the guests arrive. Laughter, music and eager voices washed over her – pushing her sadness at being alone away. The warm evening breeze tickled her face and Anna turned her face to the warm sun, loving every second as they pulled off.
The party started and the boat came alive, it was magic. One of the guests grabbed Anna’s hand and whirled her around on the tiny dance floor. Giggling she found herself dancing to a song she had never heard before but whose beat was infectious.
‘Anyone want a chance to drive the boat?’ the Captain said. Anna’s heart jumped ‘Would she!’ It was like a dream, she took the wheel loving the feel of the water under her feet and the rise and fall of the waves over the bow. It was like taming a wild animal and Anna adored it. Reluctantly she had to hand over to someone waiting, but the bug had bitten. This was it! This was what she wanted to do. Excitement pounded in her chest and she turned this over in her mind.
The boat stopped and faced the sunset over the water. Anna found herself at the front on the little bosuns seat. Champagne bubbles popped on her lips as she sipped and watched the sun dip her feet into the water. Colors painted the sky and Anna wished this moment would go on forever. The party carried on behind her but Anna just breathed in the sea, wind and feeling of the waves. Enchanting.
The boat powered up and slowly turned back towards the shore as the sun said goodbye. Light snakes moved along the roads. Anna could still see the waves breaking and foaming along the shore, she felt it settle into her memory like an old cat settling into a basket. Drinking in the sights she willed herself to remember this forever.
1 year later Anna felt the wind in her face again. This time she was the Captain. She moved to Cape Town, wrote the tests and got her experience, easily finding a job on the boats.
As she felt the engine come to life under her feet, she felt life returning to her too.
‘Thank you Gem, love you’ she whispered to herself as she maneuvered out of the harbor. Life was good.