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The hands of time

Love and romance

The small town of Utrecht is located between Vryheid and Newcastle in the picturesque province of KwaZulu Natal. There are many other towns like it, I suppose, but there are not many places where the humidity levels are so high in summer that even a short walk to the postbox can make you feel as though you have just stepped out of a shower.

I was alone, lying on a couch in the family room. It was still fairly cool, but I knew that it was only a matter of weeks before the grey sky would give way to the kind of days that make Utrecht one of the most beautiful places in the world.

I sighed, my thoughts returning again to Amanda Buthelezi, and all the pain she put me through. She had been everything I dreamed of… until the day she broke my heart. I closed my eyes for a while, trying to clear my mind. As I opened them, I knew exactly who I was. I was Skeelo Khumalo, a 21-year-old young man. I was holding a picture of a young woman by the name of Alicia Williams.

Alicia Williams was a nice girl. We had been in the same class throughout our school years, and I’d be lying if I said that I had never talked to her. In Grade 10 she had sat next to me for a year, and we’d even had a few conversations. But this didn’t mean that I spent a lot of time socialising with her in my spare time. It was not that she was unattractive. Fortunately, she seemed to have taken after her mother and not her father, but she still was not exactly what I considered pretty either.

She may have been slender, and I suppose she was quite pretty in a way, but she still looked kind of, well, plain. That was if or when you noticed her at all. Alicia didn’t care much about outward appearances, because she was always looking for things like inner beauty, and I suppose that was part of the reason she looked the way she did.

For as long as I’d known her, she’d worn her hair in a tight bun, almost like a spinster might, without a trace of make-up on her face.

This, combined with the brown cardigan and plain skirt you always saw her in, made her look as though she was on her way to a job interview at the library. We used to think that it was just a phase and that she would eventually outgrow it, but she never had.

Still, it was not just the way she looked that made her different. It was the way she acted. Alicia didn’t spend any time at the places our crowd went to, and never seemed to have any fun with other girls, and I knew for a fact that she’d never had a boyfriend. Her father would probably have had a heart attack if she did. But even if by some strange turn of events he did allow it, it still wouldn’t have mattered. She carried her Bible with her wherever she went, and if her looks and Mr Williams hadn’t succeeded in keeping the boys away then the bible would have, that’s for sure.

Alicia seemed to enjoy the Bible in a way that was completely foreign to me. She even read it during her lunch break at school. To my mind that wasn’t normal, even if she was the minister’s daughter. To the average teenager like me, reading Deuteronomy, Numbers and Psalms wasn’t nearly as much fun as flirting. But Alicia didn’t stop there.

Because of all her Bible reading or maybe because of her father’s influence, she believed it was important to help others. Like volunteering at the orphanage and being in charge of one fundraiser or another. She was the kind of girl who would pull out weeds in someone’s garden without being asked or stopping traffic so that little kids could cross the road. In other words she was the kind of girl who made the rest of us look bad, and whenever she glanced my way I couldn’t help but feel guilty, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Nor did Alicia limit her good deeds to helping only people. If she came across a wounded animal she’d try to help it too. Dogs, cats, squirrels, frogs - it didn’t matter to her.

Dr Smith, the vet, would shake his head whenever he saw her walking up to the door carrying a cardboard box with yet another poor creature inside. He’d take his glasses off and wipe them with his handkerchief while Alicia explained what had happened to the latest victim.

“He was hit by a car, Dr Smith. I think it was in the Lord’s plan for me to find him and try to save him. You’ll help me, won’t you?”

With Alicia everything was in the Lord’s plan. She always mentioned His plan whenever you talked to her, no matter what the subject.
Since Amanda Buthelezi cheated on me, was it the Lord’s plan to see me with a heart broken? If Bafana Bafana lost a match, must it be part of the Lord’s plan to let them lose? And if everyone in class fails a surprise maths test is it His plan to challenge learners? Anyway you get the picture.

Then of-course there was the whole Mr Williams situation. Being the Minister’s daughter could not have been easy, but Alicia made it seem as though it was the most natural thing in the world, and that she was lucky to have been blessed in this way. That was how she used to say it too: “I’ve been so blessed to have a father like mine.”
Whenever she said it, all we could do was shake our heads and wonder what planet she actually came from.

Holding her picture in my hand, I started to remember the day Alicia stood in front of the class, helping us with a chemistry lesson. I must admit that I was not that interested in her teaching us. As she looked around the room, she stopped and smiled right at me, obviously glad to see that I was in the class.

Anyway, as I said earlier, someone I trusted broke my heart. Amanda was my first real girlfriend. We went out for two years, until she dumped me for a guy named Lewis Botha, who was 27 years old and worked as a mechanic in his father’s garage.

His primary attribute, as far as I could tell, was that he had a really nice car. He always dressed like an American pop star, in designer jeans and wore a flashy chain around his neck. He’d lean against the hood of his convertible BMW, saying things like, ‘Hey baby’ whenever a woman walked by. He was a real winner, if you know what I mean.

So there I was, alone, thinking that I was a loser. I took another look at the picture in my hand. Alicia wasn’t bad looking, I told myself. And she was really sweet. If I asked her for a date, she’d probably say yes. I placed the picture on top of the coffee table. Alicia Williams? The Minister’s daughter? No way. I could just imagine what my friends would say. They would give me a hard time. Why shouldn’t I ask her out though?

I spent the rest of the evening debating the pros and cons of my dilemma, but in the end the choice was obvious, even to me. I had to ask Alicia Williams to go out with me. I paced around the room for what seemed like hours, thinking of the best way to ask her. Say she said ‘No’? How would I feel then? I barely slept that night.

When morning finally came and I had finished my chores I dressed carefully and set off to visit Alicia. To let off some steam, I suppose, I started running, which wasn’t such a good idea. By the time I reached her home I was perspiring all over. Taking a second to catch my breath, I knocked. Alicia opened the door. She was wearing jeans and a pale blue T-shirt, and even though her hair was still pulled up into a bun, at least she looked a lot more casual than she usually did. That’s when I realised that she could actually be quite cute if she gave herself the opportunity.

She was obviously surprised to see me, but still greeted me in a friendly manner. Looking a little uncomfortable, she looked down and shuffled her feet for a minute, “I’d invite you in, but my father isn’t home. He does not allow boys in the house when he’s not around,” she said.

I would far rather have been inside the house, but I did not want to break her father’s rules so we sat outside. I wanted to ask her, but wasn’t quite ready yet. So I ended up talking about the weather and lots of other nonsense.

“Skeelo, you did not come here to talk about the weather, did you?” asked Alicia with a small smile.

She was right. The moment of truth had arrived. I started to explain why I had come to visit her, but it didn’t go quite how I had expected. Alicia was interested in going out with me, but needed to talk to her father first. But I noticed that even though she was surprised at first, instead of answering right away, she looked away for what seemed a long minute. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach at that stage because I assumed that she was going to say no.

“I’d love to, but on one condition,” she replied, a slight smile on her face.

I steadied myself, hoping it was not something too awful.

“You have to promise that you won’t fall in love with me.”

I knew she was teasing by the way she laughed, and I couldn’t help but breathe a sight of relief. She even had a good sense of humour. I smiled and gave her my word.

The day of my date with Alicia was actually quite special for me. I had been asked to arrive about 30 minutes early because her father wanted to talk to me. She had only sprung that one on me the previous day. I can’t say I was exactly thrilled by the prospect, because I thought he was going to talk about temptation and the evil path it could lead us to. I said little prayers all day long in the hope of avoiding this conversation.

After I had showered, I dressed carefully. At least my dad had let me borrow the car, which meant that I could pick her up in style. When I arrived at their front door, 30 minutes early as requested, I knocked and waited until the door finally creaked open. It wasn’t Alicia at the entrance though, but her father. It was the first time I’d seen him up close, which made me think that he must have been older than I had thought.

Swallowing my trepidation. I greeted him politely, explaining that I had come to pick up Alicia. Mr Williams had always looked very formal in church, but right now, dressed in slacks and a T-shirt, he looked more relaxed. He took me through to his study and motioned for me to sit, then asked me to tell him something about myself.

I thought this quite a strange question as he had known my family for a long time. He had also baptised me and seen me in church every Sunday ever since I was a baby.

After telling him that I was studying for a degree in Mechanical Engineering at university, I wasn’t sure what else to say. Part of me wanted to pick up a pencil off the table and start balancing it, but on second thoughts, I didn’t think it such a good idea. Alicia’s father looked at me for a long time, as if thinking about what I was saying.

“Why did you ask my daughter out?” he eventually said.

I was taken aback by his question, and know that it showed. I tried to explain. His interrogation about my true intentions went on for some time, and I breathed a big sigh of relief when Alicia came into the room and her father stopped talking.

She looked quite nice, even though I knew her clothes were not exactly the latest fashion, and that other girls would have dressed differently. As always, her hair was pulled up in a bun. I think it would have looked better if she’d kept it down, but that was the last thing I wanted to say. At least she was not carrying her Bible. That would have just been too much to live down.

The evening was actually quite fun, and she seemed to like the food and atmosphere at the restaurant we went to. But even though everything was going better than I had expected, I couldn’t help wondering what I was doing. I hadn’t really wanted to go out with Alicia; I was consoling myself. I felt a bit depressed for the first hour or so, although she didn’t seem to notice.

The first part of the evening was fine. It wasn’t until Amanda’s boyfriend showed up that everything went sour. Amanda, in a revealing dress and lots of make-up, was hanging all over him. It was obvious that she’d had a few drinks and I knew that she would be out of control after another drink. When I saw her down another glass of wine I thought it would be wise to keep an eye on her.

Even though she’d dumped me, I didn’t want anything bad to happen to her. After all, she was the first girl I’d ever kissed, and I still had feelings for her. I was finding it increasingly difficult to listen to Alicia, who was chatting away about the wonders of Bible classes, while I was watching Amanda out of the corner of my eye. Unfortunately Lewis saw me looking at her, and reacted immediately. He grabbed Amanda and dragged her over to the table, giving me one of those looks that mean business. I could see that he was already tensing up, as though itching to get into a fight.

“Are you staring at my girl?”

I tried to say something, but Amanda spoke, almost slurring out the words. “He’s my old boyfriend, the one I told you about.”

I’m not much of a fighter. Usually I didn’t have much trouble staying away from incidents like this because of my passive nature, and besides, no one ever messed with me when Goodman, Vusi and Khaya were around. I tried to apologise but Lewis took no notice. I think he would have hit me right then and there, but all of a sudden Alicia intervened and managed to calm him down. They finally skulked off.

“Thanks,” I mumbled sheepishly, thankful that she had saved me from possible grievous bodily harm.

Alicia looked at me strangely. “What for?” she asked. When I didn’t exactly spell it out for her, she went right back into her Bible stories, as if nothing had happened at all. But this time I actually found myself listening to her. It was the least I could do.

As it happened though, it wasn’t the last we saw of either Lewis or Amanda that evening. The last two glasses of wine Amanda had swallowed had been her undoing, and I saw her stumbling in the direction of the ladies’ room, holding her hands over her mouth. Being the kind of guy he is, Lewis left in a hurry when he saw that she was on the verge of being sick, and that was the last I saw of him.

As fate would have it, Alicia found Amanda in the bathroom, and took immediate charge of the situation. She even cleaned up the mess on the floor and walls, while my ex-girlfriend sat slumped in the corner, looking very sorry for herself.

We ended up taking Amanda home. Alicia and I had to try and keep her upright while we made our way to the car, with Amanda repeatedly asking where Lewis was, and Alicia telling her not to worry. We managed to bundle Amanda into the back seat of the car, where she passed out like a light.
When we got to her home, her mother answered the door, took one look at her daughter and dragged her inside without so much as a word of thanks. I think she was embarrassed.

By the time we dropped Amanda off, it was almost 23.00, and we drove straight to Alicia’s home. I was really worried when we got there because of the way she looked and smelled, and said a silent prayer, hoping that her father was not awake. I did not want to have to go into details. I walked her to the door, and we stood outside under the verandah light. Alicia crossed her arms and smiled slightly, looking as though she had just come in from an evening stroll.

“Please don’t tell your father about this,” I said.

“I won’t,” she said. “I had a good time tonight. Thank you for taking me out.”

There she was, clothes dirty and smelling strongly of vomit, thanking me for the evening. Alicia Williams could really drive a guy crazy sometimes.

A week later I was busy with my assignments in the family room when the phone rang. I smiled to myself thinking that it was Amanda. Even though she’d been sick, she was still fun to have around. I thought she was probably calling to thank me or suggest getting together for a burger or something, but then I recognised the voice. It wasn’t Amanda, but Alicia, and I can’t say that I was happy to hear from her. I almost dropped the phone.

“Are you busy?” she asked.

“Kind of,” I replied.

“Oh I see…” she said, trailing off. She paused again, and it took her a few seconds to get the words out. “ I just wanted to know if you wouldn’t mind coming by later this afternoon?”

“Coming by?”

“Yes, to my house.”

I didn’t even try to disguise the surprise in my voice, but Alicia took no notice and went on talking. I knew that she was not going to let me off the hook and that we’d end up talking one way or the other.

In the meantime, I was considering various options, wondering which one to choose: talk to her where my friends would see us or at her house. Though neither was particularly great, something in the back of my mind reminded me that she’d helped me and the least I could do was to listen to what she had to say. I may be irresponsible, but I’m a nice irresponsible guy, even if I say so myself.

Of-course that didn’t mean everyone else had to know about it. We arranged to meet later that afternoon, and I left home 20 minutes early to give myself enough time to get there. Alicia answered my knock on the door and a quick peek inside showed that the minister was not around.

The sun was beginning to set and no one else was on the street. For the first time since I’d known Alicia she actually looked nervous as she sat with me.

“I don’t know if you would mind going with me to the orphanage now.”

I didn’t know what to say. It was not easy to say no, because she didn’t refuse the day I asked her for a date, so I agreed. Maybe I would learn something more about life.

It took almost an hour to our destination, and we got there just as it was getting dark. Alicia had her Bible with her. I thought she probably wanted it for support, but then again maybe it was just a habit.
On the way back home we were talking about the kind of life that orphans lead, but after a moment Alicia changed the subject, throwing me off track.

“Do you ever think about the future, Skeelo?” she asked.

“I suppose so,” I answered cautiously.

“Well, what do you want to do with your life?” she asked.

I shrugged, a little wary of where she was going with this. “I don’t know yet. I haven’t worked that part out yet. Maybe I’ll be sure once I have completed my degree.”

“You will,” she said “I’ve prayed for that too.”

When she said that, I thought she was leading into another discussion about the power of prayer, but Alicia threw yet another curved ball at me.

“If you had money, what would you do with it?”

I shook my head because I didn’t know what to say. It was my turn to ask a question.

“How about you? What do you want to do in the future?”

Alicia stopped and a far-off look came in her eyes. “I want to get married,” she said quietly, “and when I do, I want my father to walk me down the aisle, and I want everyone I know to be there. I want the church bursting with people.”

Though not averse to the idea of marriage, it seemed a bit silly to hope for that as your life’s goal. I won’t even mention the part about having a big crowd in the church. It was one thing I couldn’t even imagine.

As I was walking her home, she grew quiet, as if thinking of something. I waited for a while, until she started speaking again.

“What happened to your mother?” she asked.

“My parents were divorced, and my mother went away. My father brought me up,” I replied.

“Do you miss growing up without your mother around?”

“Sometimes,” I said.

“I miss my mom too,” she said. “Even though I never knew her.”

It was the first time I’d ever considered that Alicia and I might have something in common. Her mother had suffered six miscarriages before Alicia was born. Sadly though, she died in childbirth, leaving Mr Williams to raise a daughter on his own. But things were different for me because my mother hadn’t died. She left us when I was seven years old.

“It must be hard for you,” I said sincerely. “Even though my mother is a stranger to me, at least she’s still alive.”

She looked up at me as we walked, then away again, tugging gently at her hair. I was beginning to notice that she did that whenever she was nervous, and started thinking of what she usually said about the Lord’s plan. Maybe it was the Lord’s plan that we had something in common.

The next time we met I wanted to know why she was always carrying the Bible. I had assumed she did this simply because she was the Minister’s daughter. But the one she carried was old, with a cover that was worn and frayed.

Alicia walked a few steps before answering. “It was my mother’s.”

“Oh…” I said, feeling as though I had just squashed someone’s pet tortoise under my shoe.

She looked at me. “It’s okay, Skeelo. How could you have known?”

I felt as though I had to apologise, but she told me that I hadn’t mean anything by asking. Then she started to explain that her mother and father were given the Bible for their wedding, but her mother had claimed it.

She was so devoted to it that she read it constantly, especially when she was going through a difficult time in her life. She even had it with her in the hospital when Alicia was born. When her mother died shortly afterwards, Alicia’s father carried the Bible and Alicia out of the hospital together.

I was surprised by how sorry for her I felt when she told me.

“It just gives me a way to – to be a part of her. Can you understand that?” she wasn’t saying it sadly, but more to let me know the answer to my question. Somehow that made it worse.

We ended up spending almost two hours together, and it wasn’t long before we got into the habit of meeting every day.

One day Alicia asked if I wouldn’t mind collecting the bottles and tins she’d left in shops and businesses in Utrecht and Newcastle earlier in the year. The amount raised from all the money left in the containers would go to orphans.

I remembered that my friends and I always used to put paperclips and small stones in her collection boxes when the cashiers were not looking. They sounded like coins being dropped inside, and we would have a good laugh about it. Sometimes the way you have behaved in the past can make you wince, which is exactly what I did then.

Alicia saw the look on my face. “You don’t have to do it,” she said, obviously disappointed. “I was just thinking that since Christmas is coming up so quickly and I don’t have a car, it would take too long for me to collect them all…”

“Don’t worry,” I said cutting her off. “ I’ll do it.”

So that’s what I did. Alicia had given me a list of all the places she had been to, and I set off the following day in my dad’s car. By the end of the first day I realised that it was going to take longer than I thought. I’d only picked up 40 bottles and tins, and that was just in Newcastle. To save time, I didn’t stop to check the amount in each container along the way, simply combining the various amounts as I went along.

At the end of the first day I packed all the change into two large jars, and carried them up to my room to count. I must say I was disappointed when I saw that the takings came to only R64,05. That was not a lot of money, even in 1999, especially when it had to be divided among 52 children. I didn’t get discouraged, though. I went out the next day and chatted with another 20 business owners while I collected the various containers.

This time the amount was a little more, but not much – only R78,30. Which made a not so grand total of R142,35.

It was such a small sum that I felt bad. I was supposed to call Alicia that night to tell her how much money had been donated, but I just couldn’t do it. She’d told me how she’d want something extra special this year and this wasn’t going to be enough. Instead, I lied to her and told her that I wasn’t going to count the total until the two of us could do it together, because it was her project, not mine. I promised to bring the money over the following afternoon. The next day was the 21st December: Christmas was only four days away.

“Skeelo, this is a miracle!” she said after counting it up.

“How much is there?” I asked, knowing perfectly well how much there was.

“It comes to R425,” she exclaimed joyfully. Mr. Williams was in his study, writing his sermon for that Sunday, and we had been allowed to sit in the living room.

Innocently, I asked her if it was as much as she had been hoping for. Tears of joy ran down her cheeks as she looked at the amount again, not quite believing what she was seeing. Smiling at me through her tears she told me that the previous year’s takings had come to only R82,70. I felt good about what I had done and didn’t want her to know that I had to put in my own money to help her achieve her dream.

Being in love with a girl like Alicia Williams wasn’t like anything that had happened to me before. Even though we’d grown up together I had never really taken much notice of her. But there was also something different in the way my feelings for her had developed. Unlike Amanda, who I had kissed the first time I was alone with her, I still hadn’t kissed Alicia. I hadn’t even taken her to the movies or done any of the things I normally did with girls, yet somehow I’d fallen in love.

The only problem was that I still didn’t know how she felt about me. I hadn’t missed a few signs though. There was the way she’d looked at me when she’d closed the door on Christmas Eve, and she’d let me hold her hand on the way back from the orphanage. To my way of thinking, there was definitely something there, but I wasn’t too sure about the next step.

The following day I walked to her house and the first thing I noticed was that her father’s car wasn’t in the driveway. I wouldn’t be going inside this time. When Alicia answered the door I saw that her hair was down and she looked really pretty.

Don’t even ask me how it happened, because I still can’t explain it. One minute I was standing in front of her expecting to walk to the side of the verandah and the next I wasn’t. Instead of moving towards the chair, I took a step closer to her and found myself reaching for her hand. I took it in mine and looked straight at her, moving a little closer. She didn’t exactly step back but her eyes widened in surprise, and for a second I thought I’d done the wrong thing. I paused and smiled, tilting my head to the side and the next thing I saw was that she’d closed her eyes and was tilting her head too and that our faces were moving closer together.

It didn’t last that long and it certainly wasn’t the kind of kiss you see in movies, but it was wonderful in its own way. All I can remember is that when our lips first touched, I knew that the memory of that moment would last forever.

“You’re the first boy I’ve ever kissed,” she said. It was a few days before New Year.

“I thought I might have been,” I said.

“Why?” she asked innocently. “Did I do it wrong?”

She was actually a great kisser, and that’s what I told her, giving her hand a squeeze.

She nodded; her eyes getting that far-away look again. She’d been doing that a lot lately. I asked her if she was okay but instead of answering she changed the subject.

“Have you ever been in love, Skeelo?” she asked
I gave her one of those looks. “You mean before now?”

Alicia made me feel as though I always going from high to low and back to high again in less time than it took to swat a mosquito. I wasn’t sure if I liked that part of our relationship yet, though to be honest, it kept me on my toes.

I was still feeling off-balance as I thought about her question. When I finally said that I had she fell silent. She probably thought that I was talking about Amanda, but looking back, I realised that what I’d felt for Amanda was totally different from the way Alicia made me feel.

“How did you know it was love?” she asked me.

I knew it was not a time to pretend it was something that it actually wasn’t.

“Well,” I said seriously. “You know it’s love when all you want to do is to spend time with that person and you can sense that the other person feels the same way.”

Alicia thought about my answer before smiling faintly.

I wanted Alicia to add something else, but she didn’t and I was suddenly aware of something else. She may not have been all that experienced with boys, but to tell you the truth, she was playing me like a harp. In the following two days, for instance, she wore her hair in a bun again.

A few days later, I decided to speak to my father about my feelings for Alicia.

“She’s all I can think about, dad,” I confessed. “I mean I know she likes me but I don’t know if she feels the same way I do.”

When my father asked me if she was aware of how I felt, and whether I had ever taken her out, I explained that I’d been going to her house every day to visit her.

“Going to her house is fine, but it’s not what a woman would call romantic. You should do something that will really let her know how you feel about her,” advised my father. “Why not take her out for dinner?”

I thought that this was a really good idea, and decided to pay Alicia’s father a secret visit. At first he wasn’t keen on us going out, but when I told him that I loved Alicia and was planning a future with her, he agreed. Even so, I don’t think he had liked what I had to say.

On New Year’s Eve, I took Alicia out to dinner. It was the first real date she’d ever been on and I took her to one of the best restaurants in Newcastle. We held hands while we waited for dinner and talked about some of the things that had happened in the past few months. She laughed when we remembered the first time we had been out and I finally admitted why I’d asked her in the first place. She was a good sport about it and I knew that she’d already worked it out for herself.
By this time I knew that she was a part of me. My life was incomplete without her.

The dinner was delicious and when the music started up I offered Alicia my hand.
At first we were the only ones dancing and people at the other tables watched us as we glided around the floor. I think they could see how we felt about each other and this probably reminded some of the couples of the time when they were young. I could see them smiling wistfully at us. The lights were dim and the singer began a slow melody. I held Alicia close to me with my eyes closed, wondering if anything in my life had been this perfect and knowing at the same time that it hadn’t. I was in love and the feeling was even more wonderful than I could ever have imagined.

Of-course, spending time with Alicia also meant doing the things she enjoyed. I wouldn’t go to her Bible study class because I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of her, but we did go back to the orphanage. We kissed again too, though not every time we were together, and I didn’t even think of trying to go any further. There wasn’t any need to. When I kissed her it was more than nice; it was something gentle and right and that was enough for me. I realised that Alicia had been misunderstood her whole life, not only by me, by everyone.

Alicia wasn’t simply the Minister’s daughter, someone who read the Bible and did her best to help others. She was also an 18-year-old girl with the same hopes and doubts that I had. At least that’s what I assumed until she finally told me.
I’ll never forget that day because of how quiet she had been, and I had a strange feeling all day long that there was something important on her mind.

“I love you Alicia. You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.” When she heard my words she bent her head and started to cry.

I wrapped my arms around her, wondering what was wrong. I was shocked when I felt how thin she was, and realised how much weight she must have lost since we had started going out. She’d hardly touched her food earlier either. She kept crying, head still against my chest, and I wasn’t sure what to think. Perhaps she didn’t feel the same way.

“Please don’t say that,” she said to me. “Please…”

“But I do,” I said thinking she didn’t believe me. She began to cry even harder.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered through her ragged sobs. “I’m so sorry.”

My throat suddenly went dry. “Why are you sorry?” I asked, suddenly desperate to understand what was bothering her.

It took her a while to stop crying, then she kissed me gently and ran her finger over my cheek. “You can’t be in love with me, Skeelo,” she said. “We can be friends, we can see each other, but you can’t love me.”

“Why not?” I shouted hoarsely, not understanding.

“Because,” she finally said softly, “I’m sick, Skeelo. I’m dying of cancer.”

Years have passed since that day. I’m 26 now, but she has left something in my heart that no one can take away. And that is love.

I was with her when she died. She gave me a piece of paper on which she had written the following: Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence and is not resentful. Love delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.

Alicia was the purest essence of that description. How I wish I could turn back the hands of time and tell her how I feel.

Published: 2007-05-09
Author: Skeelo Khumalo

About the author or the publisher
I am an author. In September 2004 I won Anglo Platinum Short Story competition. In 2005 I was nominated as on of the best poets in Africa. My first short story book will be launched July 2007.


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