Three Years Later – December 2014

“Olerato! Where are you?” Ayanda looked around the packed beach frantically. Where on earth had the little girl gone? One minute she had been standing right here beside her and when she looked again she was gone, just like that.

Ayanda shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun and looked first to her right and then her left. She was about to take off in one direction then stopped suddenly. What if Olerato had gone off in the other direction? Would it be better if she stayed right where she was?

But Ayanda wasn’t good at doing nothing. She couldn’t stand still for any length of time. She had to find Olerato now. Children went missing all the time. She began running.

“Please can we go to the beach?” Olerato had begged her this morning.

“Only if you promise not to wander off,” Ayanda had told her.

“I promise,” Olerato had said and looked up at her with huge, brown eyes. It was impossible to refuse her anything.

“I think this belongs to you,” a voice came, halting Ayanda in her tracks.

“Yeah, well, yes,” Ayanda said, and skidded to a halt in the soft sand. She took some deep breaths, her relief obvious because the man standing in front of her was holding Olerato in his arms and she was unusually quiet.

“Thank you,” Ayanda said, a little breathless. It wasn’t the chasing after Olerato that was making her catch her breath. It was the sight of the picture-book ‘tall, dark and handsome’ man holding Olerato. Thankfully he didn’t seem to notice the effect he was having on her; his eyes were on Olerato.

She’d have to have some more strong words with her about running off like that. Often Ayanda felt she needed eyes in the back of her head to watch over her.

Suddenly Olerato’s hand reached out and grabbed the sunglasses from the stranger’s eyes. He chuckled, not in the least put out that the little girl had just grabbed an expensive pair of Oakleys off him.

Ayanda’s heart nearly stopped when she saw the huge, dark brown eyes grinning roguishly at her over the top of Olerato’s head. He was drop-dead gorgeous. For the first time in a very long while, a member of the male species was having an effect on her. It was the last distraction she needed right now.

Or maybe not! It had been quite some time since her heart had beaten so fast, since her skin had felt like every square centimetre had fallen asleep and was now just waking up. Since she’d been so aroused. She’d had begun to fear that her heart had turned to stone.

“Sorry Mama,” Olerato said. “I was looking for shells.”

Unexpected tears sprang to Ayanda’s eyes, but she blinked them back defiantly. Every time Olerato called her ‘Mama’ she felt the pain and loss of Gloria all over again. She still missed her terribly. She expected to turn her head and Gloria would be right there behind her…

“It’s alright, sweetheart. You’re here now.”

“This nice man found me. I heard you calling but my legs got tired. I couldn’t run back to you.”

The nice man smiled at them both. Olerato squirmed in his arms. “Can I get down now, please?”

“Oh sure,” he smiled as he gently put Olerato down on the sand. She ran straight into Ayanda’s arms.

“Well thank you again,” Ayanda said as she suddenly became aware of herself in a skimpy T-shirt that hid her bikini, but barely covered the tops of her legs. At least the vital parts were covered – well just about.

Anybody observing her would have had to be blind not to notice how alluring she looked. She was in good shape, a perfect size eight. She looked the epitome of a mother playing happily with her child on the beach, on a lovely sunny weekend morning. It was obvious to anybody looking that there was a strong bond between the two of them.

“I bet she’s quite a handful. She’s certainly got a will of her own,” the stranger’s deep voice broke through Ayanda’s thoughts.

“She has her moments,” Ayanda smiled, and tickled Olerato under her arms to show she was joking with her.

“I like playing in the sand,” Olerato said with an indignant look on her face. “I was looking for sea shells. I need them for a very important project for school.”

“I understand,” the handsome stranger said, as he put his hand on his chin. “What is this important project then?” he continued, playing along with her. It was obvious to Ayanda that he liked children very much.

“It’s a big, big secret,” she said, hands on hips. “I can tell you though, but not my Mama.”

“I understand,” he smiled at Ayanda over Olerato’s head.

She indicated for him to kneel down in the sand. When he obeyed and did just that, Ayanda was surprised. This man was intriguing her more and more.

Olerato put her mouth to his ear and whispered something. He nodded several times. When she stopped talking he stood up again and smiled down on her.

“I won’t tell a soul,” he said solemnly.

“Promise?” she asked him.

He put his hand over his heart. “I promise, not a word.”

Olerato giggled. She was such an adorable child that everybody who met her fell instantly in love with her.

Ayanda smiled and shook her head. She had a good idea of what Olerato had said to him. Christmas was only a few weeks away and the pre-schoolers were busy making gifts for their parents and other members of their families.

The stranger leant over then and whispered something to Olerato. She ran off.

“Don’t go too far, Olerato,” Ayanda yelled after her.

The little girl stopped, turned around and looked at Ayanda. “I won’t,” she promised. “The nice man told me where to find some crab shells. Yippee!” She took off running again.

“I need an extra pair of eyes in the back of my head,” Ayanda smiled.

He smiled back. Ayanda felt her heart start to race.

“She’s beautiful, just like her mother.” He looked directly at her.

***

Tell us what you think: Should Ayanda present Olerato as her own child? Why or why not?