Friday, 7 April 2017

Mareijke's Courage Chapter 6

Physical strength is measured by what we can carry; spiritual by what we can bear.


After greeting Derrick and Marianne, they returned to their apartment. She sat in the back of the car in isolated silence while Béch was taciturn, listening to Breyton talk about the fire on Devil’s Peak. His monologue made the ride home bearable for Mareijke.
At the apartment, Béch excused himself from their company and went out onto the balcony. He made it blatantly obvious that he did not want to speak to Mareijke by directing his words to Breyton, whilst turning his back on her.
She went to her room and Breyton followed. Behind the closed door, Breyton ardently tried to seek Mareijke’s favour. She feigned exhaustion, which infuriated him.
“Come on, Mareijke,” he said, pulling her close against him. “It’s been so long.”
“I’m really not in the mood,” she said, trying to push him away. He stood as solid as a rock.
“Just relax, Mareijke,” his voice was hoarse and his breath hot on her neck.
“I’m tired, Breyton,” she said.
He stepped back and looked at her. She kept her eyes on his mouth, too afraid to look into his eyes. He would see her deceit and she couldn’t bear the thought of being exposed.
“Tired!” She could hear the edge in his voice. “Okay, Mareijke. If you say so.”
He turned and left the room leaving her consumed with guilt. She knew she loved him. They had been together for almost four years. How could she turn him away? Perhaps Béch’s stifled anger had dampened her mood....
Mareijke sighed. She felt unsettled. Why did her thoughts always return to Béch? She started to pace the room, wearing a figurative groove into the carpet. She needed to keep busy or she would lose her mind. She unpacked her suitcases and then emptied all the cupboards in the room, folding and sorting the clothes.
Once everything was neatly folded and put back into place, she waited for Breyton to return to the room. It was near midnight and she was still wide-awake. She took a long, warm bath and then sat on the bed contemplating whether to sleep. She couldn’t sleep. Her thoughts were in disarray.
Certain that Béch had retired for the night, she decided to find Breyton to apologize. If she could make peace with him, she would be able to rest her weary head. She entered the lounge on stealthy feet, moving surreptitiously through the moon-lit room. The dark silhouette that stood ceremoniously beneath the arch leading to the balcony startled her. Her stomach tightened as Béch slowly approached her, his white shirt glowing against the near darkness of the room. She studied his moon-lit expression intently, again searching for some indication of what he was thinking, but there was nothing.
“I … I’m sorry,” she stammered, starting to feel awkward in the silence. “I couldn’t sleep and …”
Standing on her toes, she quickly glanced over his shoulder onto the balcony.
“He left,” Béch’s voice was restrained.
“The apartment?” she was taken unawares. “Really?”
Béch remained silent, watching her closely. She turned in embarrassment and moved towards the kitchen. It was the first time Breyton had actually left the apartment after a quarrel. Then again, it was the first time in four years that she had seen Breyton angry.
She switched on the kitchen light and made two mugs of steaming hot coffee.
“What’s wrong, Mareijke?” Béch prompted as she entered the lounge, handing one of the mugs to him. She sat down, while Béch made himself comfortable on a sofa opposite her.
“Nothing,” she answered untruthfully.
“Nothing?” he challenged.
“It’s Uri,” she lied again.
“Uri?” he asked quietly.
She tried to steer the conversation in a new direction. “Am I in danger?”
Béch was no fool. She realized that he had come to know her rather well and was reading her like a book. She didn’t like it. She didn’t like it at all.
“Not here,” he said.
“Should I be concerned about Uri?”
“He reminds me of a dangerous bird of prey,” she said. There was another lapse of silence before she ventured saying, “You don’t like him much, do you?”
“I don’t trust him.”
“Really?” she returned, not feeling very surprised at his simulation of Uri’s feelings. “Why don’t you trust him?” 
“The attack on the dunes was unnecessary,” Béch said calmly. “I know he doesn’t trust my men, but he could have approached the entire “rescue operation” – as he no doubtedly calls it – differently.”
“Perhaps he …”
“Perhaps nothing!” Béch said sharply. “What he did is inexcusable!”
Mareijke instinctively knew it would be best to keep quiet. She sat listening to the ocean rocking back and forth. After several minutes, Béch was in control of his emotions again.
“Do you have any idea how I felt when you were taken away?” he asked. “You know exactly how far we had travelled that day. I had to return all that distance to Agadir burdened with the tension of not knowing what had happened to you.”
“I don’t understand Uri. He says he’s not the enemy,” she said in retrospect, “but he seems to be a treacherous ally. Can I really trust him?”
“I have great respect for Uri Ayrrault,” Béch stated simply, without giving her a direct answer.
“Why did my father never speak of him?”
“I’m not at liberty to say,” he said softly. Then quietly, he stood up.
Their eyes met and she felt the weight of his look upon her. She was trapped in a whirlwind of emotions. Her heart fluttered and she felt extremely nervous. She had never felt like this with Breyton. Perhaps, she had never really loved Breyton. Their relationship had been based on a solid friendship. Then again, she had never been infatuated before and Béch made it so easy for her to sway. He was handsome and well-built. He was warm and sensual. 
“We need to rest, Mareijke,” he said softly.
“I know,” she said, analyzing the distance between them. She put her mug on the table next to her sofa and stood up slowly. Two steps and she would be in his arms.
“Good night, Mareijke,” he said and turned to go to his room.
“Béch,” she called softly.
He continued to walk as if he had not heard her, but then, unexpectedly, he stopped. He turned slowly, keeping his distance.
“What is it, Mareijke?” he asked patiently.
“Please, don’t be angry with me when you find me with Uri,” she said slowly.
He stood watching her for a few seconds before crossing the room, returning to her with calculated stride. He stopped in front of her. Again, the space between them became frighteningly smaller. She could smell the freshness of the soap on his skin. She wanted him to take her in his arms, but knew it would be wrong. She would be punished for her unfaithfulness.
“Then don’t let me find you in his company,” he said slowly in a low and husky voice.
She couldn’t look away. His eyes bore into her soul. She didn’t have any other explanation for what she felt at that moment. She must have been drugged on the vast ocean of desert sand because her feelings were real. They were intense and she had never felt like this before.
Time was the laggard while Mareijke relived the suspended moments before he had turned to leave. She walked to his bedroom door. Standing outside the wooden barricade, she could hear him moving about inside the room. Taking a few steps back, she wavered and then hurried to her own room. She had to put enough distance between him and her emotions.
Mareijke climbed into bed and hoped she would be able to sleep. She lay quietly, listening to the ocean. After a while, her bedroom door opened slowly. Breyton was home. She closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. The movement was slow and deliberate as he crossed the room to her side of the bed. She sensed his nearness and breathed slowly. She didn’t have the strength to talk to him. Her heart was in turmoil.
She was engaged to Breyton and loved him. They had met four years ago and had become so comfortable in each other’s company that everything just seemed to fall in place naturally. The engagement and living arrangements were as unplanned and sudden as his impulsive nature. One minute they were on the beach laughing and playing in the waves, and the next they were standing in the jewellery shop. Once the ring was on her finger and paid for, he refused to let her remove it.
“So, that’s it?” she had asked in surprise.
“I guess so!”
“No engagement party?”
“Nope,” he had responded, laughing at her reaction.
“What about my father?”
“Oh, he’s okay with it!” Breyton had said. “I’ve asked several times and he keeps saying that as long as you’re happy, he’s happy.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that!”
Dawid van Staalduinen had treated Breyton with great respect. Breyton had always helped him with the business and showed an unusually keen interest in Dawid. It was as if her father’s personal life had fascinated him. Breyton had often travelled with Dawid on his business trips to various international places. At first, it seemed as if Breyton’s interests were only in Dawid. Later, their own relationship developed – rather haphazardly.
Nothing between them should have changed. Her father had passed on and she was still grieving her loss, which would obviously put a strain on her relationship with Breyton. Neither he nor their relationship was really at fault. Her mind was telling her to focus on her relationship with Breyton and retrieve the artifacts, but her heart was telling a different story.
She listened attentively as Breyton turned to leave the room. He seemed different. It was as if he were trying to be quiet and considerate. He would probably sleep in the lounge and while she preferred it that way, she couldn’t help feeling guilty.
The next morning, she woke up to a bright and sunny day. The apartment was alive with sounds and aromas. She could hear Breyton talking and decided to listen to the radio, while taking a warm and relaxing bath. Feeling invigorated for the new day, Mareijke ventured into the lounge.
Disappointment seeped through her veins as Marianne greeted her from the open-planned kitchen. Breyton was the epitome of happiness, preparing his usual mouth-watering omelettes. He waltzed over to her, giving her an apologetic look before kissing her.
“Look who I found outside,” he said.
“Outside?” she asked confused.
“I’m sorry, my angel. I went to Derrick and bunked there for the night.”
Mareijke stood gaping at him as she tried to process his words: he had spent the night at Derrick’s place. She didn’t know whether to be angry with Breyton for not having returned home or thrilled because Béch had come to her room.
“I’m working all day,” Breyton interrupted her thoughts.
“You can come shopping with me,” Marianne’s enthusiasm bubbled over ad nauseam.
“I have too much laundry,” Mareijke said laconically and then asked, “Where’s Béch?” 
“I have no idea,” Breyton said. “He wasn’t here when we came in.”
Breakfast was torturous. Marianne’s presence was like an intrusive nuisance-fly buzzing about the table. She knew well how to eat, but couldn’t crack an egg. She babbled on about her work and life and friends and preferences and … Breyton made all the right sounds to show his interest. Mareijke only nodded when she felt it necessary.
After breakfast, Breyton greeted Mareijke and left with Marianne. Mareijke started cleaning up. She needed to keep busy. Her mind was darting from the doings in the apartment to the whereabouts of Béch. 
Mareijke did the necessary chores, took a nap and paged through the newspaper. She kept busy all day, but found herself drifting off at regular intervals thinking about Béch. The late afternoon mourned Mareijke’s lack of company and by the time Breyton returned from work, she was obsessed with Béch’s absence. Dinner lingered like an unwelcome guest leaving her frantic.
“Let’s go out,” she said suddenly.
“Okay,” Breyton was a sport for impromptu decisions. “Where are we going?”
The car had no specific direction. 
“What are you thinking?” Breyton asked. “You’ve been very quiet since dinner.”
“I’m just tired,” she lied. Feeling guilty she added, “And I was wondering about Béch. I haven’t seen him all day.”
“Béch’s in Bloubergstrand with Derrick and Marianne.” Breyton said and the car instinctively turned towards the coast.
“Really!” she said, trying to sound collected.
“We were invited,” Breyton said, “but you wanted to stay at home.”
At the time of the call, she had no desire to spend an evening with Derrick and Marianne. Had she known Béch would be with them, she would have accepted.
They were just in time to catch Béch and his newfound friends leaving the restaurant. Marianne was practically hanging all over Béch, which infuriated Mareijke beyond measure. What surprised her more was Breyton’s reaction.
“What the hell!”
She looked at him as he stared at the couple. There was something different in his manner.
“And now?” Mareijke asked.
“Look at those two,” he said impulsively, getting out of the car. He seemed agitated.
“Ah, poor Mareijke!” Derrick said as they approached the group. “Does Breyton want to paint the town red?”
She looked at Breyton. He was definitely upset.
Turning to Derrick, Mareijke said, “Actually, I’m the guilty one. I needed to get out.”
She looked at Béch. His eyes held hers and she was spell-bound. 
“Let’s go for a walk on the beach,” Breyton said suddenly and spontaneously.
The frown was still visible as he put his arm around Mareijke and coerced her across the road. Something wasn’t right. Her mind was trying to multi-task comprehension of Breyton’s change in character and Béch’s expression when he had looked at her.
Then suddenly, Breyton stopped. He turned, swinging her around to face Béch and Marianne who were straddling behind, an arm length between them.
“Béch,” he said quickly. “My keys! Please, man, do you mind? I’ve left them in the car.”
“Don’t want your car stolen,” Derrick said.
“Or my lady waiting,” Breyton laughed.
Like wind changing direction, Breyton was his old self again. Mareijke couldn’t shake the uneasiness that had edged its way into her heart. Perhaps Breyton didn’t like Béch, which was strange because he usually liked everyone. Could he be jealous? Had he sensed something between them at Hout Bay? No! Breyton wasn’t very observant.
Marianne. Perhaps he didn’t like seeing Béch and Marianne together. Was something going on between Breyton and Marianne? Conveniently, he had found her outside their apartment that morning. What was she doing there? She never came to the apartment that early. Did he really spend the night at Derrick’s?
They stood against the railing, waiting for Béch to return. The evening was peaceful and the sea timeless. Mareijke looked out at the sun setting over the distant horizon and was jolted by the sound of tyres screeching on the road behind her, shattering the tranquility. The oncoming vehicle accelerated heavily. Mareijke whirled to see where Béch was. She heard the car hit Béch and saw his body as it landed on the hood of the car.
Breyton grabbed Mareijke, turning her face away from the accident scene. Her heart pounded against her ribs as she tried to wrestle free from Breyton. Her breath was trapped in her throat, constricting her hysterical urge to scream. His grip was tight and she had no choice, but to succumb to the flood of voices and hysteria.
Nausea washed over her as she stood frozen with fear, and weakened with disbelief and astonishment. Her head reeled and the sudden rush of blood roared in her ears like an invasion of sun beetles until she finally collapsed into a world of total darkness. 

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