Love at War
The greatest battle they will face is the one within.
An Inspirational Drama
(c) Lynelle Clark 2020
Measured in seconds, time's algorithm captures infinity within each movement. Worlds changes and fragments become relics. Fashioning a new set of rules to profit from your only choice.
20 September 1995,
Pretoria, South Africa.
TIRED, SHE REACHED THE FRONT DOOR with no interaction. Through the grimy glass, the emptiness extended.
Blood trailed her every step. At the boomed entrance, she curled into excruciating pain.
Three things happened in one moment. A cork-like release followed by a blood clot that landed between her feet, and a woman screamed. Then she fainted.
A curse revived her.
Her view blocked by pedestrians.
The sick sensation of the rejected foetus left her paralysed. He was all she had.
Her sins under scrutiny.
At her feet, blood covered his body.
A fist under the cheek.
He was a dark red stain on the cemented driveway.
One Jacaranda flower dropped on top of him, just like a heavenly garment. The act so minute but understanding whispered. He was in a safe place. A better place. Far better than her motherly offering.
From there, things happened in an instant. People gathered around her. One man's soft, endearing words reached her befuddled mind. The pain only a dull throb. And she was cold.
"She must be drunk."
"What kind of mother is she!"
Her client appeared in front of her. His condescending insolence endorsed the crowd's whispers, and he left.
The next moment they placed him on her breasts. His tiny form blueish, and she shielded him with trembling hands.
Sirens filled the air. The faint smell of petrol fumes released an oppressing heat. The merciless sun left her powerless. A uniformed man covered them with a soft blanket.
Focused on her son, she burned every perfect part of him into her mind. He was her courage, the reason she still breathed. Tears formed as she closed her eyes. Blackness, her only solitude.
An eternity passed before she opened them in an altered world.
Everything was different; brighter and clean.
The sting of disinfectants confronted her, and a woman hovered above her. She whistled a well-known song, one she had learned at her mother’s knee. Her compassion stirred her spirit, and tears stung a bruised cheek. Enclosed behind a curtained area, the bed was soft.
"What is your name?" She could not remember the last time she used her actual name. Brandy, no, that was not correct. She was never a Brandy.
"Where is my baby?" The woman lowered herself.
"He's in the Father's hand, child. Do not fear. He will look after him." The soft hand brushed her face.
"Cry, my child. We will take good care of you. When I come back, we can discuss it."
She isolated her with a white sheet. Warm and stiff, but clean.
More tears filtered into the pillow; stained with regrets, and why's. When she returned, the day had passed, night changed into day before pale blue eyes appeared again.
"How are you?" A covered plate drew her attention.
"Better, thank you."
"Eat something. I know it's not the best, but it will strengthen you." The matron lifted the lid, and she inhaled the food. Her intensive stare never left as she ate with gusto.
She dragged a chair closer, her features more prominent in the daylight. She did not imagine the kind-heartedness.
"Can you remember what's your name?" The matron spoke when she put the spoon on the table. Satisfied. A feeling long forgotten.
"Sonia," she cleared her throat, and repeated, "Sonia Main."
"I am Matron Sally van der Walt, so happy to meet you, Sonia." In the motherly irises, she found no judgment.
"How old are you? Can you remember?"
"Nineteen," uncomfortable under the observation. The last time she had experienced this kind of acceptance was when her mom was alive. How long ago was that?
"What are your plans for your future?"
"I don't know," and pulled the sheet towards her. Her shame hidden.
"Today I want you to rest, get stronger, and then, when willing, we can talk about your future. God has not forgotten you, my child. You have come to the right place. God's plans are greater than what you can see. Never forget that."
LOVE IN CONFLICT
Iraqi desert, March 2019.
SHOCKED, HE STARED AT THE EXPLICIT PHOTOS.
Excessive perspiration dripped from him, unnoticed. The boiling heat; airless.
His attention arrested with the terrible images; engraved in his mind. The betrayal left him in utter devastation.
Before long, uncontrollable hatred replaced it, as he tossed them in the corner. It connected with a filing cabinet with a thud.
His marriage was a farce!
Vile tasting shock infiltrated the mouth. Balling fists pressed against the desk, his vision blurred. Automatically his fingers massage his temples and pinched himself.
His lovely wife of twenty-five years. How could she? He had been home in February when they celebrated it, and now this.
He picked up the crumbled pictures and straightened them. The digital date and time on each caught his scrutiny. Captured adequately over four years. The last one, the day he left. Her track of deceit adequately defined in each emotion and position.
It joined the rest of the discarded pack. His personal world had tilted in seconds; from virtuous, too depraved in a heartbeat.
The uncomfortable silence stifled the office, and chairs moved. Colonel Curt McGee avoided the staff, disgraced.
He swiped the images from the table and collapsed back into his seat. Anger tightened his jaw, which framed the day-old stubble.
"Sir, is everything okay?" Curt looked at his aid, speechless.
How could she? We made love that last day. We assured each other of our devotion. I was the luckiest husband on earth. The next night she was back in her lover's arms and by the roguish looks, enjoying herself.
"I'm going for a walk!"
"YES, SIR." THE COLONEL'S normal straight shoulders slumped, the long strides weaker.
Doug regarded the coloured prints with unease. The woman was in an appealing encounter. Buck naked, the guy pounded into her. Her hips held in a fierce grip. She was a looker. It was the colonel's wife.
Footsteps on gravel propelled him into action and jumbled them together. Then shoved it back into the large envelope marked in bold letters: Colonel Curt McGee. Then placed it in the desk's drawer.
He straightened as Sergeant First Class Ralph entered the office. A deep frown creased his rugged face. He glanced through the workplace.
"Is the colonel here?" The stern voice thundered. His DNA formed with military precision. The broad shoulders and perfect stance brooked no-nonsense.
Doug saluted him, and the moment he acknowledged him he relaxed.
"Just stepped out, sir."
CURT WALKED TO THE FURTHEST end of the camp. How could she?
Sand drifted into the warm air.
And with that person? More sand floated upwards.
Out of breath, he glanced around. His throat parched.
A jeep pulled up, and he waved the soldier closer. The private saluted, but he demanded the keys with a careless gesture. He jumped in and stepped on the accelerator. The engine roared into action and left the camp in a dust trail.
"That Bitch!" Banging the steering wheel.
Tears evaporated in the drive.
Fifteen minutes later, Curt stopped at the local tearoom. The owner well-known. Usually, he refused his subtle offerings. Today he wanted to forget.
Once inside, he removed his shades. It took a few seconds to adjust to the dimness.
Divided into sections with elaborated carpets, curtains, and cushions. The cosy place was a favourite amongst the military staff. Satisfied he had the place to himself; he relaxed. The owner manned the battered counter to the right of him.
SAMER SLEIMAN; THE PROUD OWNER of the establishment met Curt with a slight bob. He beamed with pleasure. "Ah, my favourite officer," twisting his hands with the unexpected fortune.
"What do you have?"
"I have anything you want, my leech." Sleiman fawned with submissiveness.
"Ah, an excellent choice my leech."
He scrutinised the colonel.
Allah has blessed him with an unusual feast; one he will savour.
He had waited for him to cave. He hated the western capitalists. They walked into his place as if it belonged to them. It irked him every time he came face to face with one of them. He made money from their drunken debauchery with no guilt.
"Any other pleasures?" His hands gestured two boobs in front of him. He did not understand the illustration until the penny dropped.
"Now I can entertain the officer in my modest abode," an ugly smirk transformed his face in an uglier mug.
"Follow me, my leech," with arrogant confidence, Samer led the way. The steady gait of the client energised his own pace.
The depilated stairs led to a dimmed hallway. At the door of a shabby room, he waited till the officer walked in, and closed it with a wicked grin. It took him minutes to collect the beverages.
The officer showed no interest when he approached him. With undeterred greed, he spoke, "You will love this, my leech."
Samer presented the bottle with a well-known bourbon sticker. For the first time, the officer's attention perked while he opened the cap. He filled a glass and served it. The officer sniffed the content.
Samer knew it was the best batch of bourbon he had bought. The apt name of Heaven's door with its distinctive flavour a favourite amongst the rich Americans. Today was undeniably an outstanding day to open the case.
PLEASED WITH THE LABEL, Curt swallowed the golden liquid. The burning sensation welcomed and smacked his lips. He snatched the bottle from him and ignored the gleeful chuckle.
"Bring another!" Tossing money on the bed, Samer bowed. "I have a present, with your permission." He waved towards the door. A woman, enclosed in black, approached them.
"I'm sure she will pleasure you, yes?" The owner pressed the girl closer. Curt removed her hijab.
Hell, she is younger than my daughter! Outraged, he examined her. At first, he wanted to dismiss her, then paused.
"Does she please you?"
"Isn't she too young?" Long black hair protected the face. Her gaze diverted to the floor.
"No, my leech, I assure you she's twenty." Smacking her on the butt. She shrieked. Her nervous giggle echoed through him. This was not him.
Curt groaned; she was someone's daughter.
He knocked back another swig, then got to his feet. Dust motes swirled upwards, and she coughed. A small hand protected her mouth.
He touched her hair and let the silk glide through his fingers. Huge eyes stared at him. Her innocence a sharp contrast to the environment.
With a sneer, he pushed them aside and left.
Bottle in hand.
The area of Bentiu, South Sudan, Africa. April 2019.
SONIA MAIN WATCHED the human line.
It often included women and children. Even early in the day, sweat coated them with a glossy sheen. No one bothered to swat the persistent flies away. Silence, their only resolution. The ragged tent was not adequate, and a lengthy line trailed listlessly outside the tent.
It was the last day at this camp. Tomorrow they would continue to another line, much bigger than this one. The war-torn country in desperate need of help.
In partnership with David Sulliman, her interpreter, they examined the patients. He was of average build, his constant smile exhibited pearly whites against the darker skin. Based in South Sudan for two years, they had developed a thriving relationship. He genuinely cared about his fellow countrymen.
"David, she needs to see the doctor." Sonia pulled an older woman from the line-up. Her concealed face feverish.
"As-Salam Alaykum, awewe," he greeted and showed her where to go. With slow steps, she met Alice inside the tent.
"It will be another long day," Sonia said.
"Yes, it will."
Armed with the vaccine, she followed him. The clipboard present while he spoke to each person. Scanning the crowd, she shifted her attention to the landscape. The deserted area gave no hope of rain. Each breath laboured. The patients a mirrored image of the countryside; as barren as the parched earth.
"They reported another case of diarrhoea." David broke the silence during a break.
"Head office promised to look at the quality of water," Sonia redirected her attention back to her work, "they sure can send more tents. Food and medicine are much-needed here."
"The critical needs are dire," David said.
"And manpower. We need more help." Sonia said.
"You know they struggle with trained personnel." Medical personnel were difficult to find. The hours, heat, and minimal luxuries held no appeal for many.
"The war doesn't help." She stated.
A sudden outcry interrupted them, and both scanned the people. A youthful woman wailed as she gripped her abdomen. The next moment she fell. Wisps of dust swirled upwards before they spread over her. Impassive bodies stood aside.
"I got this." David motioned and went closer. Sonia administered the child's drops while monitoring David. By the time she reached them, the woman was comatose. Her black skin strained over a thin frame; dull eyes stared upward.
"She is unresponsive," David said.
"Stretcher!" Sonia called when she detected a faint pulse. The heartbeat was cumbersome.
"What do you think?" On closer examination, she replied. "She is losing the baby," and stood aside as the two soldiers approached.
"Be careful with her." In her delirious state, the woman slumped around, and Sonia calmed her as they reached the tent without incident.
"Here," Sonia directed them towards a bed in the corner. People pushed against them before they stepped aside. With only cardboard on the worn springs, she pulled a sheet from an empty gurney.
"Lay her down." The acrid stink of rotting flesh and sickness made breathing difficult.
Soft weepy sounds immersed from the patient's lips.
"The baby will not make it."
A lonely tear trickled down the woman's frightened face.
"Dr Wek will help you," with a calmed tone,
"I struggle to find her pulse rate doctor."
The woman cried; a sudden spasm pushed blood-water from her legs. Sonia glanced at Dr Wek knowingly. Her own heart in pain.
The doctor's face a blank canvas as he explained to her what had happened. More water stained the white sheet and with it came the foetus. The last breath slipped from her parted lips.
Oh, Lord, no! Not again. Please.
Blocking her line of thought, she turned back with a sheet. Dr Wek stood aside as she swathed her. Afterward, she notarised the death.
Another death in a senseless war; no one cared about.
"LET'S GO PEOPLE. We must be at home before dark." David called. Sonia closed the van's backdoor. David hitched the trailer as she took her seat. The sliding door the last act.
Children ran alongside them, their energy appreciated as they waved. Amidst the poverty, they still beamed.
Behind them, the sombre landscape displayed tints of orange and deep yellows from the last sun rays. It softened the harshness.
As they sped away, a boy waved at them in his run. Up ahead, his donkey’s gait a two-step as the cans jiggled from side to side.
Each trip to the refugee camps met her with humbleness. The children's toothy grins a personal highlight. What she valued most was their carefree attitude. They cherished life in every moment. With only the bare minimum, they seemed unworried about the future.
For the medical staff, it was crucial to venture out to lift the tremendous burden. The influx of exiles gave them no rest while they suffered. She could leave, but the South Sudanese people had no choice. To help them remained the closest she could come to excellence.
At the hospital, they filed out. A tired but satisfied lot. Sonia started to unpack the van.
"We will help you."
"They shot a doctor today," David informed them when he returned.
"Where?" The weight of their predicament was oppressive.
"Khartoum. Trapped with protesters inside a house in Buri. They shot him without reason." David said.
"I don't understand this wave of murders. We are here to help them."
"These people have no consciousness," Alice said.
"We have to be watchful." David agreed.
Reluctant, Sonia removed the bags with filthy linen.
"Take this and I will take those bags inside."
"Thanks, Alice." Sonia placed the clean linen inside the marked crate and closed the lid.
"Good night Sonia."
"Goodnight Alice, see you tomorrow."
In the compact kitchen, she drank a supplement, showered, and went straight to bed. Lathered with enough Tabard, she added a flimsy sheet as a shield against unwanted night crawlers.
It was well after eleven when she flicked off the light. A thick blanket of darkness wrapped around her. A miserable sense which devoured you if you were not careful. Restless, she stared out the window.
When she did fell asleep the woman's face intertwined with her own haunted her. Drenched in sweat, she woke and reached for the water. When her thirst was quenched, she laid back.
The soft mattress's peaceful embrace drew her back, but sleep evaded her.
When the orange globe tinted the sky, she prayed. A solitary commodity that kept her sane. The constant battle for self-control became worse in the last couple of days.
Sticky after the night's heat, she made way to the showers for a refreshing spray. By 06:00 she left.
"As-Salam Alaykum, Sonia, what a fine day to do what we love."
"As-Salam Alaykum, Alice."
Alice Abiodun was a local nurse and a dear friend. Her animated nature boosted her energy.
"Here comes David," she waved as he parked. David was the driver, interpreter, their main bodyguard, and liaison.
"As-Salam Alaykum, Dr Wek." He greeted them all. He joined them two months ago and proved to be an asset to the area. His volunteer work gave him the opportunity to serve his country and did his work with no complaints.