The next few weeks they fell into a routine: she’d go running in the early morning, shower at her mother’s, and then pick him up afterwards. Sometimes they had pie or cookies while chatting with her mom first, other times they didn’t. Rosemary seemed nice, but Becca’s anger always pressed against him, made the moments uncomfortable.

Not that there were any comfortable moments with his parents. His mother was always gone or locked in her room. His father rarely called; blamed it on the time zones. Pathetic.

It was like he and Becca were running away with nowhere to go. Sometimes they’d hang out with her friends. Sometimes they go off on their own. Other times she had to go back up the mountain and work. He found being at the ranch odd. Never before had he spent so much time around sheep and cows. Nor had he ever kissed a girl in a barn before. It was nice, but the barn smelled.

Occasionally they went to a movie in the bigger town – driving over seventy kays there and then back again, which only highlighted the desperation the ‘island’ mentality had put him in. He couldn’t remember a thing that they saw. But he did get to run his hand along her thigh – toned, muscular. Not that it ever went further than that, despite being sure to always have a condom in his wallet. Things always stopped for one reason or another. He didn’t want to push it. Well he did, but not really.

However her father seemed particularly worried about this point. Their encounter alone occurred because Becca had forgotten to muck out one of the horses’ stalls. So her dad, Billy, made her stay and “get on with it,” and drove Malcolm the nine kilometers down the winding mountain road.

“You and my daughter seem to be getting along well,” Billy had said after rounding the first tight bend.

“She’s nice.” Malcolm inwardly cringed, clutching at the armrest.

“She is a good girl, but mixed-up.” Billy cast a pointed look at Malcolm’s direction, then another at the shotgun sitting on the rack behind his head. Malcolm was positive that it was loaded.

Billy cleared his throat and didn’t say anything for a few minutes, navigating the bakkie down one crazy hairpin turn after another, while Malcolm tried not to focus on how far they’d fall if the guy missed. His knuckles already ached from gripping the armrest so hard.

A sound, much like a bark, came out of Billy, then he said, “Her mother, she’d been hurting bad for some years now. I’d always hoped she was fine with the life we had despite … you know … but there we are. Not a nice thing for a man to deal with, I’m sure you understand.”

Malcolm didn’t, but he got the picture. He jerked out a nod as the bakkie sped around another curve, clinging to nothing but centripetal force.

“At least I kind of knew what had been on Rosemary’s mind, but it caught poor Becca off-guard and, well, I don’t want her doing something stupid just because she is upset. You know, end up pregnant. If you get what I am saying.”

Yes, Malcolm thought. He sure ‘got’ what Billy was saying.

“Becca’s really into her church, you know.”

Malcolm nodded as if he understood, although he hadn’t ever been in a church. But he’d seen enough about America on TV, always talking about God and country, to know that they took church seriously.

However, he didn’t think church was really the issue. He wondered if Billy knew that. If the man could admit it to himself? Probably not. Malcolm watched people all the time. People seemed to sweep their most vile honest thoughts to the side and hope nobody would notice. But like cockroaches at night, they still crept out in the oddest ways. The way some of his parents’ friends would bend over backwards, act differently when he was around. They were so nice. Too nice.

“Bending over blackwards,” his mother called it.

“Well, I’m glad we had this talk,” Billy said, as he pulled up to Althea’s house.

Malcolm wasn’t glad, but all he said was, “Thanks for the lift.”

As Billy drove off Malcolm wondered if Becca was worth it. She screwed with his head and her life was as messed up as his own. But what else would he do around here? Plus, she was nice. The twinkle in her eye made him smile, her laugh eased that ever-present knot in his belly. And she was so smart. Funny. He liked her. Liked her a lot, even if she hadn’t let him near those pink panties again.

Speaking of those panties, he wondered if she always wore pink, or if she wore other colours, too? One thing he did know – this was the most bizarre summer of his life. And it was winter in Cape Town.


Tell us what you think: Is Billy right about his daughter being reckless due to discovering her mother is gay?