After waking up, Dan put on his new coat and headed off to the Aquamarine.
“You are out of place, Daniel,” a voice said.
Dan thought making Simon disappear was not Nolwazi’s style, although she might well be complicit. He had gone straight to the bar when he got to the hotel, and sat there for nearly the entire hour with no interruption. Until at that moment, that is, when he was halfway through a bottle of Merlot, and the voice finally spoke from behind him. He turned around expecting to see no one. But Jefferson was there, and that time he had decided to let himself be seen.
While looking at Jefferson, Dan figured he had perhaps decided to let himself be seen because he was wearing one of Dan’s coats, one of the more expensive ones. He smirked when Dan glanced at it, and readjusted the collar, as if Dan cared about clothing at that point.
“You took my brother,” Dan said.
“I did,” Jefferson responded. “You did not respect my demands, Danny, and it seems like you continue to lack respect.” He shuffled closer. “Nolwazi has a letter for you.”
“I want my brother back,” Dan said.
“You should go and speak to her,” Jefferson said.
“Did you kill him?” Dan asked.
“He’s alive,” Jefferson responded. “He’s been in an opium dream for hours, but from what I’ve heard, he spends so much time drunk or drugged up that it is unlikely to harm him.” He then put a hand on the back of Dan’s neck. “You should go talk to Nolwazi. Then, when it’s late, come back here, and we’ll talk about your brother.”
After Jefferson spoke, Nolwazi greeted Dan with slight surprise.
“Jefferson says you have a letter for me,” Dan said.
“I do,” Nolwazi responded, smiling as she spoke. “I told him I didn’t think you would come to get it … I suppose he knows better than me, in the end.” Dan did not smile back. He held out his hand for the letter, but instead of the letter, Nolwazi placed her hand in his and squeezed it. “You look tired. I hope you have been all right,” she said.
“You don’t care what happens to me,” Dan responded.
“Of course I care. I love you, Daniel,” Nolwazi said, then she lifted his hand to her lips and kissed it before looking him in the eyes. “Tell me what Jefferson’s done now, and I promise I can make it right.”
Before responding, Dan stared at Nolwazi for a while. All week long, he had been expecting an attack on himself at any moment, which had made him constantly vigilant. All week long, he had only been able to think of two things: Jefferson and her. He had tried a million times to rearrange events in his head, restructure their relationship, and turn her into a demon. But now, with her in front of him, he saw her as she had always been: his partner, his friend, and, out of all the world, the one person he trusted with everything.
He swallowed. “No. No. I need the letter,” he said.
“If that’s all you need from me, I’ll give it to you,” Nolwazi said. “But you’re tired. Sit down.” She offered a chair. “Do you want something to drink?”
“No. Please, the letter,” Dan responded.
“Very well,” Nolwazi said, then she handed it to him. He tore the envelope open immediately and read it to himself.
“Dear Mr Matiwane,
“Although you have behaved yourself badly over the past couple weeks, I find it understandable. You have been in a state of emotional turmoil. However, by continuing to reject Nolwazi and myself, you are only causing yourself more pain and worsening your position. Thus, I find that I cannot wait any longer to correct you.
“As you have no doubt realised by now, I have taken your brother into my care. He will be returned to you when you have made amends with Nolwazi and myself. As I could not bring myself to harm someone whom I and Nolwazi care for so greatly, I felt this was the best approach to our current situation. I will not harm your brother if you obey me promptly. But if you do not, I cannot guarantee he will be returned without injury. And if you continue your tantrum for too long, I cannot guarantee his return at all.
“You should be kind to Nolwazi. She has loved you for a long time, and she is deserving of more than either of us can ever give her. You know this as well as I do.
“As for myself, you may say that I have no right to anything from you. You’re right. I am a man who has been born into this world with nothing, no possessions and no virtues except for my books. But I have always claimed what I have no right to. You belong to the hotel, and you belong to me. In the future, you will obey me. I do not wish to have to make demonstrations again.
Tell us: What do you think Dan should do next?