Town of Darien, Montana. December 1974.
The frigid evening air did not affect Eleanor as she walked onto the bridge, careful not to slip on the snow. Snowy clouds obscured the moon, highlighting the figure on the bridge. Despair filled Eleanor Darien as she watched the river flow on its way to where she could not remember. If only her life had the same tranquility as the way she observed the river. Oh, Carter, where are you? I need you. What are we going to do when my father finds out we are together? He will go ballistic. Then thoughts of Carter dispelled the despair she had felt earlier. She lowered her hands to her stomach and a contented smile appeared as she recalled their weekend away. And now she is carrying a new life which was conceived during that weekend.
She recalled the first time she saw Carter at the farmer’s market, surrounded by people admiring his work. He drew portraits for people willing to sit for him and when she saw the results; she knew she had to have him do one for her. She took a seat, and with surprising gentleness, he moved her head in the way he wanted her. Her insides contracted as she looked into his laughing gray eyes while delicious emotions surged through her body. He had unruly light brown hair, which he tried to keep out of his face. Those laughing gray eyes had send emotions through her body she had never experienced before, and it left her breathless. While he sketched her, she studied him, and knew he was doing the same to her. He drew not only her, but he saw her, and she wondered what he was thinking. How did he see her? Was she just an object to draw for money, or did he see who she was?
He completed the sketch far too fast to her liking and when he handed her the sketch, their hands touched.
“Do you think we must change something, miss?”
He possessed a gentle voice and looked straight into her eyes while their hands kept the tantalizing connection, which neither wanted to break.
“It is perfect.”
She wished there was something she wanted him to correct, but the sketch was perfect and captured the essence of her.
“What do I owe you for this?”
“Nothing. It is my pleasure to have such a beautiful person in front of me. If you can find the time to sit for me again, I want to do a few more sketches.”
“Sorry, but I cannot stay. I am expected elsewhere. Do you always attend the market and sketch people?”
“If I did not before, I will be here every time they have the market. Do you always visit the market on these days?”
“If I did not do so in the past, I will do so in the future, and then you can do a few more for me.”
That was how they met and from that day they undertook to meet every time during the monthly farmer’s market event. They discussed how to meet at different venues and at different times, which resulted in them spending a weekend together, away from prying eyes. The sounds of a vehicle interrupted her thoughts, and she wanted to run toward the noise. Oh! Carter, you made it. Now we can leave this place. It has become my jail until I met you. Laughter bust from her, happy and carefree.
Then she saw the car and knew whose it was. Oh, God no!, this cannot be happening. Please God, not now, never, please!, please! Through the windscreen, she saw the hated face of her father, which showed no expression as he slowed and opened the door for her. She looked around for Carter.
“He is not coming, Eleanor. You might as well get into the car.”
Hatred for the motionless figure overwhelmed her as she looked around, praying that Carter will arrive, but he did not and she wondered why not. At that moment, she knew her happiness and the future she nearly had in her grasp she had lost. Her father remained motionless inside the car with the door hanging open, and she knew whatever happiness she had experienced did not exist any longer and it was but a myth. She could only guess what her father planned to do to her, but who knew?
Johannesburg, South Africa. February 2016.
Once again, Liam checked the computer screen to make sure he had the details correct. He was switching the investments from one of his biggest customers and could not afford to make any mistakes. He advised them to increase their overseas portfolio and decrease their South African portfolio, and to conclude the transaction, he had to push the button. But his mind was wandering while he listened to Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik playing. He found Mozart’s music allowed him to concentrate better when busy with complicated calculations and formulae, and then his thoughts turned to the special day. Emily, his wife, planned to celebrate the second birthday of their daughter, Briget.
While his thoughts lingered on his two girls, he pushed the button to conclude the transaction and closed his laptop. He chose not to work over weekends, because that was their family time, but this was one of his biggest customers and he wanted them to have the results first thing Monday morning. He stretched his six feet four inch frame before jumping out of his chair. Emily and his mother-in-law with Briget should be near to home, and then a few friends will arrive soon after to join in the joyous occasion.
Oh! Emily, my darling, please hurry home because I need you next to me on this special day. The two of them had met during their primary school years. From their first meeting, when Emily walked up to him and declared that they belonged together, they became inseparable. At first boyfriend and girlfriend and later husband and wife. As soon as they matriculated, Liam joined his father’s financial investment business, where he was going to learn from his father while he studied part time.
Emily entered a correspondence course in sociology. Both Emily and Liam wanted to go to university, but with the discrimination against white students because of the ethnic groups representation, they stood no chance to further their education. They ended at the top of their class and passed with honors. But it had no effect on the selection at the university. The university did not admit them because of the color of their skin, and they afforded black pupils without a proper pass rate a place before them.
Emily and Lian understood how lucky they were. Liam worked for his father, who mentored him in his small but lucrative business. His father had kept the business small and selected blue chip customers to whom he provided and excellent service. The real reason he did not grow the business was because of the legislated Black Employment Equity–BEE for short requirements for businesses. Blacks had to have at least 26% of his business, but with the Government’s dismal education, it was impossible to find proper qualified blacks to join the company. For many years, his father had worked too hard to give away 26% of his business. Over time, he introduced his son to his customers and, to give Liam a steady income, his father allowed him to take on a few customers. The customers gave his father positive feedback, and Liam’s services satisfied them.
Emily studied full time from home to complete her degree because she had plans which she had not yet shared with Liam. At an early age, she lost her father when he died in a car accident caused by a drunken driver. It devastated her, leaving her mother alone to care for them. Until then, they filled their house with love and happiness, and that was what Emily wanted to share with Liam. They had discussions ranging from planning their future. When to get married, and the number of children they wanted, and where to live. So many of the people they knew had left the country for good, never to return, and they were considering the same path for themselves.
It was not a hard choice because neither of them had any siblings. But on Emily’s side, there was her mother to consider, and every time they discussed the issue, they did not reach a final decision. Early that same morning, Emily woke Liam and, from her naughty smile, he knew what was going to happen. They made love and Liam experienced an intensity which filled his core with such overwhelming love for his wife. She was still sitting astride him when she kissed him on the tip of his nose and shared her wondrous news with him.
“Good morning, my love. Congratulations, because we have just conceived our second child, which I thought proper on the birthday of the first one.”
She burst out with laughter at the amazed look on his face. Then he found his voice.
“How do you know, and how can you be so sure?”
“Trust me, my love, I know it is time to get you lazy behind out of bed to make more money, because the family is growing. I have to hurry to get Briget to my mother and get shopping done for this afternoon. My mother will bring Briget..”
She skipped naked into the bathroom, while Liam watched her naked form. His roving eyes tempted him to grab her and carry her back to bed, but there was much to do. He had to call Andino, his best friend, because they had several issues to discuss in realizing their endeavors to grow Liam’s company.
He realized the music had stopped and turned to switch off the unit. Outside, the sun drenched the garden and surrounds and Liam knew they will spend the afternoon in and around the pool. Then he noticed a strange car standing outside their driveway. He frowned, but at that moment Emily turned into their entrance. His senses shouted alarm, but he stood frozen in place. As if in slow motion, he saw a figure approach the car and yank the door open, and then he was flying through the house when two gunshots sounded. His heart stopped momentarily with the fear coursing through his body. When he bust out of the house, he screamed at the top of his voice. The figure in the car did not hesitate and ran, and then there was a screech of tyers and a sickening impact sounded.
When he reached the car, he saw Emily was lying sideways on the seat. Blood covered her head, and he froze.
“No!!!!! No!!!, this cannot be happening. This is not real, it cannot be. Dear God, let her be alright.”
When he took his wife, her head flopped loosely, with her warm blood flowing over his hands. A bullet had entered the side of her head, killing her. He placed his one hand over the gruesome wound and tried to contain the blood, hugging her, and not wanting to let go, will never let go. How long he held his wife he did not know. He heard distant voices but did not know what they were saying, until he felt a powerful grip on his shoulders and heard a distinct voice, a recognizable voice.
“You need to let Emily go, Liam. The police and emergency services are here and they need to attend to her, and there is nothing you can do for her anymore.”
“No!, they cannot touch her, they have no right to touch her. Tell them to go away. I do not need them here and they must not touch her. Only I can do that.”
“I cannot do that, Liam. Let her go because you have to take care of Briget.”
When he heard his daughter’s name, he let go of Emily’s lifeless body. Andino placed his arms around him and tried to comfort him. He did not tell him that the gunman ran straight into his car, and the impact killed him, but the driver of the other car escaped. He hoped someone saw him to give the police a description. Andino knew he had to get Liam away from the car where his wife lay motionless. It was too much to bear, and this was on the day they planned to celebrate Briget’s second birthday. Andino was reacting on pure instinct. He could not relate to what his friend was experiencing. But he knew he had to move him away from the car and prepare him to handle Briget and Edith, his mother-in-law. The news of her daughter’s fate will devastate her.
Andino tried to reason how they were going to react to the news, because their lives will be on hold until they have dealt with this dreadful incident. Most of the planning and preparations are going to fall on his shoulders, and he prepared himself for a hard road to travel. He developed a list of priorities which needed doing. From funeral arrangements to Liam’s business and his customers.
Town of Darien, Montana. December 1974.
A jubilant Carter strolled to the coffee bar, where he expected to meet Eleanor. He was supposed to meet her the earlier that evening but got delayed by the company, who tasked him with designing and painting a gigantic mural for their head office building. Carter had to show them what he planned for the mural and the questions kept coming. He knew the meeting could drag on and composed a note for Eleanor to change their meeting. The company had excepted his ideas with moderate changes and, having done his research, he told them what the estimated cost is. He wanted them to negotiate the price because he had a proposal for further work for the company.
He smiled and performed a few dance steps out of pure joy. Carter could not wait to share the news of his successful negotiations with Eleanor. It meant they did not need support from anyone. Eleanor’s father stopped young men without the right pedigree and financial resources to visit her. He will ultimately decide who she can marry, and who did not have the correct pedigree
Carter’s parents were ecstatic when they heard the news and could not relate to the payment they offered him. His father was dumbstruck because he thought Carter could not make a living from his art, but his mother knew her son was carving his own way to do what he loved.
His laughing eyes sparkled when he recalled Eleanor and his weekend away. Carter’s six feet two inches frame twirled around to the amusement of others. Inside the coffee bar, he ordered coffee and relaxed into his chair. He was early and knew that often Eleanor had to delay her departure, not wanting to draw attention from the servants or her parents.
Satisfied with the events of the day, he stretched his legs and sipped the scalding hot coffee. He wondered what Eleanor wanted to tell him. From the excitement she displayed when she told him there was something important she wanted to share with him, he wondered if they had another weekend looming. His thoughts turned to the weekend they shared away for town, and the cosey cottage they rented for the weekend.
When the door closed behind them, they were alone for the first time since he met her, and an awkward hesitancy prevailed. He did not want to make any movements which might affect the moment. But then Eleanor took the first step by unbuttoning her coat, and he followed her in unbuttoning his own coat while they held eye contact. Their clothes fluttered onto the floor as they were shedding it, one piece after another. Then they stopped and inspected each other’s bodies, moving closer and closer. Carter took her in his arms and held her tight against him, feeling every inch of her body molded to his. He shook his head. Better not continue with these thoughts, because he experienced an intense physical reaction, causing him to rearrange his body in the chair.
Not the time to dream of what was and will be again. He looked around and realized it was later than what he thought and then concern filled him that her family might have stopped her from meeting him. The shop’s door crashed open and Carter knew his worst fears had just became reality. Filling the doorway was the leonine looking figure of Noah Darien, one of the wealthiest persons in the county, never mind the town itself. He glared around, and when he spotted Carter, he bustled toward him, and the helpers made way. His whole demeanor spoke of a man who did not tolerate anyone getting in his way or preventing him from what he set out to achieve. Cater’s heart galloped in his chest; he tried to prepare for the onslaught, which he knew was coming. Noah Darien stopped at his table and Carter felt pinned in his seat by the fiery eyes and the anger emanating from the ominous figure.
“You are the man who thought he could commingle with my daughter. Are you out of your mind? We do not mingle with the likes of you. You are just another fortune hunter braying at her door because you know she is from the Darien family.”
Carter’s seat crashed backward as he jumped up and Noah Darien saw Carter was taller than him, but not as bulky.
“Who do you think you are to talk to me in this manner? I am not a fortune hunter, neither am I without sources of my own. I need nothing from you and neither will Eleanor, because we love each other and I can take care of us without you.