She took his hand. It was soft and chilled from her cooldrink. They walked down a path that led closer to the river, until they came to a slight clearing with a makeshift picnic table. They sat down on the table’s top, hands breaking free, avoiding making eye contact. Then the sound of the band broke the silence.

“Guess the speakers are fixed,” Malcolm mumbled to the sky.

“You sure you’re OK?”

“Ya, why?”

“Bit worried you might find all this a bit crazy.” Her mouth broke into a devilish grin. “Think we’re gonna lynch ya.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“Liar,” Becca laughed.

Malcolm joined in, uncomfortably. Their laughter faded and the evening air expanded between them. Becca pulled a boot off, and began to adjust her sock. Malcolm studied her legs, encased in the tight denim, long and lean. He felt an urge to run his hand up the contours of her thigh. He took another swig from the can.

She glanced over as she slipped her boot back on. “So why are you really here? I mean, living here; not here, here.”

He ran a hand over his head, trying to figure out how to explain what he didn’t know himself. His friends in Cape Town didn’t ask these kinds of questions. Actually, they didn’t really talk at all. Just hung out. And like a spectator in a cricket game, he was always firmly on the boundary with his mates. Was this awkwardness was due to being an only child, he wondered again.

He glanced at her. She was looking at him expectantly. He swallowed carefully. “My father felt coming here would be a fantastic opportunity for both my mother and me.”

“But you think that’s bull, right? You don’t really believe it, do you?”

Startled, Malcolm put his drink down. “No.”

She waved her hand. “Never mind. Some things are just messed up; nothing more and nothing less.”

That was one way to put it.

Becca peered at him closely. “Hey, don’t take this wrong, but you look more like your dad, right?”

Malcolm snickered. “No. I’m adopted. My parents thought they were being really liberal when they got me.”

Becca paused with the can hovering near her lips. “What? Was your dad some big activist, or something?”

Now the laugh turned harsh, and the words spat out, “No. He’s an ophthalmologist.”

Becca looked at him quizzically, while letting the drink slip down her throat.

“You know, laser eye surgery and stuff.”

“Right,” she said in a way that sounded like she understood. That she got how ridiculous his life was. His parents’ façade. How, as crazy it was to be living in nowhere America, with bands playing in the forest, this wasn’t really any stranger than what the hell was going on with his family. That nothing made sense, yet everyone acted like they knew what they were doing. It freaked him out when he considered that most of them didn’t.

“So you lied to that kid back there, didn’t you? Your parents really did name you after Malcolm X.”

“It’s an image thing.” He pressed the cooldrink to his lips and took a deep drink. The stuff was awful but a quarter of the price of brand names.

“You think?”

Malcolm let out a long breath. “Positive. They never … it isn’t like they couldn’t have children, you know? They just talk about the selfishness of adding to the population when there are kids that need homes.”

She nodded.

“You see, it’s like how my father has all these photos of me in his office, but can’t be bothered to actually talk to me. As if I’ve already served my purpose. And my mother works in ‘The Arts’. It’s obvious. My role is to prove how they’re not like those other whites. I’m just a living, walking, breathing ethical CV.”

He glanced at her. She was still listening. Not a glimmer of surprise crossed her now-serious face. Something inside of him relaxed.

“My parents are crazy, too,” she whispered.

He arched an eyebrow while taking another swig.

“My mom, you know, she lives next door to you and–”

“Wait, but I thought that the women there are–”

“Yep. It’s true. They are. And she left my daddy. Last year. Always was the kind of ordinary mom that stayed home and baked apple pie; and, well, she sure does still make the best apple pie there is.”

She forced out a hollow laugh. Catching his eye, she laughed harder; this time more real, but more like she was laughing at herself for trying to laugh about it all. Then she put the can to her lips and turned it upside down.

He couldn’t stop watching her guzzle it. She noticed him noticing. He looked away.

“I wish this was beer,” she said.


Tell us: How do you like this twist in the plot ?