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Friday, 7 April 2017
Mareijke's Courage Chapter 3
do not ask to walk smooth paths
Nor bear an easy load.
I pray for strength and fortitude …
Mareijke’s arms were spread across the
open sky in suspended animation. She was flying with the eagle, yet fighting to
stay grounded. She wasn’t alone. Sensing another presence in the room, Mareijke
frantically tried to open her eyes, but her body was paralyzed to sleep. She
was a guest in her own unresponsive body.
She willed herself to move,
if only her fingers. Nothing happened. From somewhere there seemed to be an
enormous vacuum sucking the air out of the room as breathing became more and
more difficult for her. The force pressing against her lungs made her panic.
Was she dying?
Lost in a dream, she was running
down a winding path within a maze of giant green hedges with the most intricate
walls she had ever seen. Mareijke was listening to the gentle poetic rhythm of her
English teacher’s voice. It seemed to fall like a feather from the puffy clouds
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close
Rage, rage against the dying of the
She couldn’t see her teacher, but she
could hear her voice until it was drowned out by the shrill noise of the
The buzzing noise became
louder and louder. Feeling light years away from the dirty little town without
a name, Mareijke was silently screaming for things to be normal. She would
certainly rage against death. She was far too young to die.
“Mareijke,” a voice called
The voice sounded familiar.
It was pulling her out from deep space. Her mind was a spiral of disoriented
thoughts as she anxiously tried to speak. Her muscles were weak. Again she
tried to open her eyes only to have the heavy lids fall shut.
The room was dark and cool.
She faded in and out of consciousness for what seemed to be an eternity. She
was swimming in the swirling water of a dark and murky whirlpool. From the
centre of the vortex, she could hear the voice calling her:
It was a slow, arduous
process trying to wake up and still she had no idea where she was.
She recognized the voice. Opening
her eyes slowly, she blinked a few times to clear her blurred vision. He wasn’t
a dream. He was real. One of his caravaneer friends was standing behind
“Mareijke,” Béch spoke
“Béch,” she whispered
softly … and drifted off.
There was no use in trying
to wake her. Mareijke needed to sleep off her fatigue. Béch and his companion
left the room quietly. He was filled with smoldering resentment for the people
who had taken her from his camel-train and was determined to find out who had
been responsible for the dune ambush.
Béch had been informed by
the executor of Dawid’s testament of Mareijke’s condition. With strained stress
levels, her sleeping patterns had been fragmented since the death of her father.
Her sheer stubbornness had brought her in a state of exhaustion to Morocco and
He had booked her into a
hotel so that she could rest for a few days, but Mareijke was insistent about
leaving for the mountains immediately. Her impatience had made it impossible
for her to recuperate. Their slow trip across the desert and the prolonged
exposure to the heat had tapped her remaining energy severely.
Béch had promised
Mareijke’s father that he would help her. He had come a long way with Dawid van
Staalduinen and helping Mareijke find the artifacts was part of Dawid’s final
instructions for him, on his deathbed and through the testament.
While Béch was committed to
keeping his promise to Dawid, Mareijke’s life was now in danger and he needed
to rethink his strategy.
Béch had been about seven
years old when he first heard Mareijke’s name. Dawid had left Morocco to live
in Cape Town, but returned a year later bringing the exciting news of his daughter’s
birth. At the time and throughout Béch’s life she had always remained a name. Yet,
he had constantly been aware of the fact that the person who bore the name was
the daughter of a man he loved, a man who had been like a father to him. It was
the only connection of her that he allowed himself to make.
Dawid’s lawyer had
contacted him after the car accident. Taking the first flight from Agadir to
Cape Town, Béch had stood next to the bed of a dying man, barely able to speak.
Mareijke was in Australia at the time and her flight to South Africa delayed,
taking her longer to arrive.
Béch remembered Dawid’s
pain. He had taken Béch’s hand with forced exertion, begging him to help
Mareijke find the artifacts. Shortly thereafter, Dawid had died. Consumed with
despair, Béch had returned to Agadir with the sole purpose of travelling to the
mountains to retrieve the artifacts. Before he could leave, a copy of the
testament was sent to him and he was devastated when he discovered what Dawid
had wanted of him.
Waiting patiently at the
airport for Mareijke’s flight to arrive, Béch had no idea what to expect. He
wondered how he would recognize her. Dawid was a dark-haired man with the
bluest eyes Béch had ever seen, but Mareijke may have been blessed with her
mother’s looks. Margaret van Staalduinen was a beautiful woman with chestnut
hair and steel-blue eyes.
He had been standing
casually against one of the railings when a young woman approached him. She had
stopped a few meters away from Béch. Standing perfectly still, she had stared
at him. Instinctively he had known it was Mareijke even before the concern that
was etched on her face transformed to a visage of relief.
The young woman had a
powerful inner strength that emboldened her weak façade and he remembered being
impressed by her gentle courage. It had given him the confidence that he needed
for the harsh journey that lay ahead. He knew then that she would not hinder
them along the way and from that moment the pace was set.
Now, Béch’s thoughts lay
stretched across the night. A few hours of restless sleep passed quickly and he
found himself in Mareijke’s room before dawn sitting quietly next to her bed,
watching her. He watched the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she lay
sleeping. He was fascinated with her placid beauty. With soft golden hair,
green eyes and a fine bone structure, she neither resembled Dawid nor Margaret
van Staalduinen. Yet, the very essence of Dawid defined her.
It was the slow diffusion
of something inexplicable and unfamiliar within him that made Béch stand up. He
walked to the bedroom door slowly and crossed the lounge to the balcony. Standing
outside in the fresh morning air, he watched the ocean as it slept lazily
beneath a scarlet sunrise, his thoughts heavily preoccupied with Mareijke.
had never really
loved a woman. He had worked as a humanitarian in Morocco for many years,
helping those who suffered from poverty, malnutrition, exploitation and
ignorance. He didn’t have time for relationships and the few that had come his
way over the years weren’t meaningful enough to make a difference in his life.
Mareijke was the first
woman to rivet his attention. From the moment they had met, he had been
attentive to her reactions and behaviour, curious about her thoughts. It was
perhaps a mere association. The loss of Dawid had been profound and all that
was left of him was Mareijke.
Béch knew that he couldn’t
allow his mind to plunge into an analysis of his emotions. He couldn’t lose the
equilibrium he had always been able to control. It was far more important to
suppress his emotions at all costs so that he could focus on their assignment
and the best way to push Mareijke to the back of his mind was to keep busy.
He left the apartment
quietly for his usual morning run. By the time Mareijke emerged from the bedroom,
he had already returned with tickets for their flight to Cape Town. He kept the
tickets in his bedroom with the intention of telling her about his plans later
She sank into the soft
cushions of a comfortable sofa and Béch gave her a warm mug of tea.
“How did you know?” she
“I’m not sure I
understand,” Béch returned.
“How did you know where to
Béch frowned. “I didn’t
find you, Mareijke. When I got back, you were already here.”
Mareijke looked at him in
“What happened, Mareijke?”
he asked, settling down next to her. He listened patiently as she told the
She looked at him
questioningly, but Béch was at a loss for an answer and even if he could find
some sense in everything that had happened the previous day, he didn't want to
explain anything to her at that moment. He looked at his watch.
“I have to go,” he said
“Why?” Mareijke asked, as
he got up to leave.
Feeling awkward for having
asked, Mareijke stood up almost too quickly. Her head started to reel and she
swayed dangerously. Mareijke caught Béch by the arm to steady herself and felt
his taut arm muscle flinch at her touch. She was suddenly aware of his
masculinity and stepped back, putting distance between them. For a brief,
fleeting moment they were caught in a wave of consciousness as their eyes
“Please find something to
eat,” he said quickly, adding more space between them. “The kitchen has plenty
He turned and walked out of
the room, leaving Mareijke dazed. She tried to make sense of what had just
happened. Confused by her own emotions, she went to the kitchen and made a
sandwich. She sat on the balcony of Béch’s apartment and ate slowly.
She looked at the flat
beach that stretched out in front of her, disappearing into the sparkling
Atlantic. The people on the beach were immersed in their own activities. The
beauty of the white sand and blue ocean made it difficult for Mareijke to
imagine that the city had once been destroyed by an earthquake.
Her mind kept wandering
back to those fleeting moments before Béch had left the apartment. Her
actions had been so innocent, a response to a situation. His reaction to her
touch was completely unexpected. The sensation that had passed through her
the moment he flinched was uncomfortably real.
She suddenly regretted
everything that had happened. She was afraid of the effect it would have on
their relationship and inadvertently,
the rest of their trip.
Later that evening, one of
the caravaneers brought Mareijke a prepared dinner. He made an excuse for
Béch’s absence and stayed at the apartment until Mareijke retired for the
night. When she awoke the next day, Béch was still not at the apartment. She
ate a light breakfast and decided to take a walk.
The apartment was in close
proximity to the beach and shops, and the cool Atlantic breeze lifted her mood
as she walked down the wide street. It was her first visit into the vibrant
Moroccan city. She ambled along the bustling boulevard where sky blue taxis and
other vehicles were competing in honking and screech-braking competitions as
far as they travelled.
The stench of drain water
filled the air and Mareijke found herself constantly harassed by dirty hands begging
for “inglish munny” or locals trying to sell something to her. Deciding to
extricate herself from the ensnaring trap set in Agadir for foreigners, she impulsively
hailed a petit taxi. The driver spoke of a souk and she nodded. Mareijke had no
idea what a souk was, but didn’t want the driver to take advantage of her
ignorance as a tourist.
The souk was nothing other than an enormous market. It was a
hub where tourists
were being bantered into various kinds of negotiations by Moroccan hawkers and
food cart operators, while little children darted between the people and stalls. She
was fascinated with the various products that dominated it and slowly mingled
with the brilliant smells of leather, incense, oils and spices.
She was constantly hassled by
a merchandiser to purchase something and soon found the experience of being at
the souk as daunting as walking the streets of Agadir. She saw a merchandiser
approach an elderly woman. The woman lifted her hand and said ‘No!’ quite firmly
and the merchandiser seemingly backed off. Mareijke decided to do the same and
soon was able to enjoy looking around with much more confidence.
After several minutes of practicing
firm and very conclusive assertiveness between the stalls, Mareijke approached a
stall where mint tea was available. Mareijke accepted the woman’s offer
immediately and stood fascinated as the tea was poured from a fulgurous height.
It was done without any mess. Mareijke knew it was poured that way to aerate
the tea. She had seen it being done in the nomad
camelhair-dining tent at the oasis and Béch had explained it to her. Mareijke drank
the sweet refreshing tea, thanked the woman, paid and
moved on to another stall.
“No!” she said firmly for
the umpteenth time and truly enjoyed the response she got as the merchandiser
turned and left her alone.
Admiring a leather handbag,
Mareijke suddenly experienced a strange, yet intense feeling that she was being
watched. She stopped and scanned the area subtly. Startled suddenly at seeing
her abductor, Mareijke was uncertain whether to return to Béch’s apartment or
confront the man who had made absolutely no attempt to conceal the fact that he
was watching her.
She wasn’t given much time
to decide as he casually started walking towards her. She darted behind a
carpet. Beneath the prodigious sun, Mareijke started to weave her way through
the stalls and people. She found herself running past fresh produce and chickens
and goats and goofy smiles. Her feet kept moving in reckless directions. Refusing
to look back, lest she stumble and fall over some obstacle or person in the
overstocked market, Mareijke kept on running only to stagger eventually into a
squalid alley filled with the stench of urine.
She stopped for a moment,
bending forward with hands on knees. She was an extraordinary picture of
pathetic inability, dry-heaving like a dog. Her legs were heavy and her lungs
exhausted; she knew she wouldn’t be able to run much longer. More importantly,
she realized that she was lost and would soon be unable to extricate herself
from the labyrinth of stalls and walls.
“We need to talk,” a casual
voice said from behind her.
Still heaving, she turned
to see him standing behind her as casually as he had spoken. Not a hair was out
of place and his breath was intact. She straightened her back and stood in
front of her abductor, desperately trying to control her breathing.
“I know a nice little café
just around the corner,” he said, a wretched smile splashed across his face,
“and if you want, we can run there.”
He turned and walked in the
direction she had come. She stood for a while, infuriated with his arrogance.
She knew now that she had been running in circles and realized there was no
escaping his omniscient presence. She followed at a distance and was intrigued
with his confidence that she would in fact comply.
Mareijke didn’t know why,
but sensed that she could trust the man with the stern composure. He entered a sidewalk
café and, pausing outside to glance quickly at her reflection in the window, Mareijke
followed. She was a mess, but there was absolutely nothing she could do to
The delicious smell of the
grill was very appealing to her hungry stomach. She crossed the room slowly. It
was filled with Agadir's smart set and there seemed to be no tables available.
Nevertheless, she found her abductor comfortably seated in a far corner,
waiting for her. It seemed as if there was method in the madness: while she was
running in circles, he perhaps had booked their table.
She didn’t want to waste
any time deliberating the matter. Confident enough to approach him, Mareijke
remained wary as his foiled attempt to kidnap her still lingered in the dark
recesses of her mind.