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July 2010 Volume 12 , Issue 7 submit to us!

by Bernice De Lucchi -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

Sisters, Elsabe and Katrina still lived in the same house they had grown up in, in the Namaqualand; a hot, almost desert-like region of South Africa that stretches from the Northern Cape to the shores of the wild Atlantic Ocean in the west.

Both had never married. Not that they were ugly mind you; some people even said that if Elsabe took the effort she would be quite attractive. Katrina on the other hand, resembled the dry, harsh landscape, but nothing that a little makeup couldn't fix said others.

For those who dared ask as to why they remained single, Katrina would quickly point out, ‘Ach, it's because we prefer not having to answer to anyone, hey Elsabe?'

And even though she disagreed with her sister, Elsabe would nod and go along with Katrina as she always did; it was easier that way.

The backdoor and the windows were open wide, but inside the small kitchen it was scorching. Elsabe sighed as she glanced up at the ceiling fan.

‘We should ask old Danny to come over and fix this thing  . . .  I can't take much more of this heat,' she grumbled.

Katrina nodded, ‘Just a few more weeks and then the spring rains will come, that'll cool things down nicely,' she replied.

Elsabe nodded. She loved the spring rains. It was as though Mother Nature waved a magic wand over the dry, scorched ground which would be instantly transformed into a wondrous explosion of colors. And for a time, the earth would be covered in a blanket of flowers and the air filled with the scent of nature.

Wiping her face with a damp facecloth, Elsabe wondered how come the heat never seemed to bother her sister. She always managed to remain unflustered.

‘Hurry up with those sandwiches, they must go into the fridge before they spoil,' ordered Katrina as Elsabe lethargically spooned the egg and mayonnaise mixture between the slices of fresh home-baked bread.

For as long as she could remember, she and Katrina were responsible for preparing the eats for the Church's monthly picnic for the underprivileged colored children of the community.

However, recently, Elsabe had been feeling restless and lonely. Hardly anyone stopped by for a visit anymore, not since their old pa had passed away some eighteen months earlier. She longed for male company, but it was more than that, she wished for someone to come along and sweep her off her feet, like in those romance novels she read. Of course she dared not mention this to Katrina as she'd be horrified.

Just then there was a loud knock on the front door and Elsabe, glad to escape her thoughts, rushed to see who it could be.

She gasped as she opened the door, for standing before her was the most beautiful man she had ever seen; almost like Elvis in a way.

‘Morning lady,' he flashed a wide, friendly grin.

Smoothing down her dark, unruly curls Elsabe gazed up at him. He looked as though he had walked for miles; his shoes, trousers and jacket were covered in a layer of the red dust from the gravel road that passed their house. The first three buttons of his white shirt were undone and exposed his smooth, pale chest, drops of sweat clung to his forehead. Her cheeks burned as she tried her best not to stare.

‘Um, my car's gone and broken down a few miles down that way,' he pointed vaguely towards the unbleached grass plains that surrounded their house.

‘And this was the first place I happened to stumble across  . . .  I wondered if you have a phone so I can call the garage?'

Elsabe reluctantly raised her gaze from his chest and stared into the bluest eyes she'd ever seen; just like the color of the wide African sky.

‘Ja, certainly, come inside,' she replied, somewhat breathlessly.

That he had not bothered to shake the dust off his shoes or any of his belongings for that matter, including his guitar, didn't upset her in the slightest. She studied the lanky young man and decided he looked as though he could do with a good meal.

Elsabe waited until he'd lifted the phone to his ear, then not wanting to appear inquisitive, left the lounge and hurried into the kitchen.

‘So, who was it?' asked Katrina as she emptied the chocolate cake batter into the baking tins.

‘A young man, his car broke down and he wanted to use the phone,' explained Elsabe as she opened the fridge.

‘Well, I hope you told him to keep walking ‘til he reached town,' replied Katrina.

Elsabe shook her head and waited for her sister's inevitable outburst.

‘What? You let a stranger in, knowing he could murder us or even worse  . . . ' she gave an exaggerated shiver.

Elsabe clicked her tongue impatiently, ‘Tch, don't be silly Katrina! I could tell he's a decent bloke.'

Katrina shook her head in astonishment, 'Elsabe Du Randt, what on earth is going on in that head of yours?' then she held up her hand and answered her own question, ‘actually I don't want to know, the expression on your face says it all! Have you no shame?'

And as she watched Elsabe taking food out of the fridge, she exclaimed, ‘Don't tell me you're feeding him too!'

‘Yes, shame, the poor thing looks starving, like he hasn't eaten in flipping days!' she replied as she dished up chicken, cooked ham, roasted sweet potatoes and baked pumpkin onto a plate. She turned to Katrina, ‘I hope there's still some bread pudding and custard left, hey?'

‘Hmmm, a feast fit for a king!'

Elsabe glanced up and giggled like a school girl as the young man swaggered into the kitchen and boldly pulled out a chair and flopped down, making himself quite at home.

‘I'm Katrina, Katrina Du Randt,' said the older of the two sisters holding out her hand, but the young man did not bother glancing up as he wolfed down the food. Between mouthfuls, he mumbled, ‘Hello Kat  . . .  my name is Elvis, Elvis Terblanche.'

Elsabe's jaw dropped as she exclaimed, ‘And you even look like him  . . .  when he was young though, not when he got fat like that, you know, before he died!'

He laughed, ‘Yah, that's right, everyone says so! My old ma was besotted with him  . . .  when he died she even put a verse in our local newspaper!'

Elsabe chuckled.

‘She was pregnant with me at the time, so when I was born she named me Elvis Presley Terblanche  . . .  try growing up with that name hanging around your neck!'

‘And I suppose you can you sing too  . . .  I see you've got a guitar with you,' said Elsabe.

Elvis shrugged, ‘A little bit.'

She pulled out a chair on the opposite side of the table and proceeded to watch Elvis eat. She had read somewhere that one could tell a lot about a man from his appetite. And judging by the way Elvis devoured the chicken; Elsabe would not have minded being the drumstick.

Licking his lips, Elvis exclaimed, ‘Well, whoever cooked this meal, I must say well done, it is absolutely fantastic!'

‘It was me, Elvis,' gushed Elsabe and as she said the words, realized how ridiculous she sounded. But, it didn't matter; there was a beautiful young man in their kitchen, that his name was Elvis was not important, he could have been called Jannie or Piet, it didn't matter.

He leaned back in the chair and slipped a cigarette between his lips and then reached into his pocket and pulled out a box of matches and a lighter. Oddly though, he did not use the matches to light his cigarette, instead this he did with the lighter. Elsabe's gaze rested on his hands. The hands of an artist she thought, wishing she could feel them caress her body.

As he exhaled, Elsabe watched the smoke twirl and swirl above his head.

‘I don't want to put you two ladies out, but the garage can only have my car ready in a few days, so do you mind if I stay here until it's done?' he asked as he winked at Elsabe.

Her face flushed with pleasure as both she and Katrina for once agreed on something and together they replied, ‘Certainly Elvis, certainly!'

He chuckled as he lifted the matchbox and shook it a few times then slipped it back into his shirt pocket.

Later that afternoon while Katrina took Elvis to see their vegetable garden, Elsabe slipped into her bedroom. She opened her dressing table drawer and pulled out the tube of lipstick and the small bottle of perfume she had bought from the chemist shop on her and Katrina's last trip into town.

Slipping into a pale, pink cotton dress, Elsabe had never felt so alive. For the first time in years she felt a sense of anticipation in the pit of her stomach. Every nerve in her body soared with excitement.

She slid the bright red lipstick over her thin, dry lips. Elsabe glanced into the cracked mirror and then added some of the color to her pale cheeks. She reached for the bottle of perfume and turned the cap. She breathed in the scent; it smelled of flowers, like the ones that bloomed after the spring rains. Undoing the buttons in the front of her dress, she splashed the perfume between her breasts and behind her ears and even sprinkled a few drops in her hair.

At that moment her bedroom door burst open and standing there was Katrina. She stared at Elsabe, an expression of pity in her dark eyes as she asked quietly, ‘What are you up to? Is this for him, for Elvis?'

Elsabe's cheeks burned with embarrassment. She glanced down and shrugged.

‘Don't be stupid, man! He's far too young for you  . . .  besides he's not going to stay!'

Elsabe knew Katrina was right.

‘Go wash your face and take that silly dress off, supper's almost ready,' said Katrina kindly.

After they'd eaten, Elvis regaled them with tales of his travels. Apparently he'd worked in every profession imaginable, even as a diver on the alluvial diamond diggings along the West Coast.

‘Hmm, that Atlantic Ocean is freezing,' he laughed, shaking the matchbox in his hand. He said he'd even done a stint as a singer for a few months in a bar in Bloemfontein, then spent time as a fisherman on a trawler in Cape Town and after that he'd worked as a chef.

‘Actually it was more like a cook at a café by some railway station, nothing fancy, just pies, chips and sandwiches, that kind of thing.'

Elsabe smiled. She didn't care what he did. She wished he'd stay, or better still; ask her to run off with him. But, she knew that wouldn't happen. He had far too much life inside him and lots of living that he still had to do; he wouldn't want to stay in such a desolate part of the country where the only entertainment was when the small town held their annual Boere Orchestra contest.

Over the next several days, she spent as much time as she could with Elvis. He had even fixed the ceiling fan in the kitchen and the one in the lounge. Most nights as they sat in the darkened lounge, the only light from the full yellow moon and the only sound, the whirring of the fan above, Elsabe would convince Elvis to sing for them.

‘Elvis, come on, play for us,' she urged.

At first he had appeared reluctant, but then picked up his guitar and began to strum. He sang in Afrikaans, of sad lives and lost loves. And if there is one thing South Africans love, it is a really miserable, depressing story. His tone was deep and rich and cracked every so often, but Elsabe didn't mind, she thought it added texture to the sound of his voice.

‘Gosh, Elvis, you sing really well, hey! Even better than the real Elvis, actually half the time I couldn't understand him, he mumbled so!'

They laughed, even Katrina.

That night after Katrina had gone to bed, Elvis had crept into her bedroom. He sat on her bed and they spoke for a long time in hushed tones. And then he had leaned over and kissed her on her mouth; nothing passionate, just a soft touch of his lips on hers, but that's all she needed. It felt like the first time she had tasted an ice cold coca cola. After he'd left, Elsabe breathed in deeply; his scent filled the room and it smelled of life. She lay back on her pillows and smiled.

Then one day, Elvis announced he was leaving.

‘The garage couldn't fix the car, so I'm going to take a train up to Jo'burg  . . . ' he said, his gaze darting around the kitchen.

Elsabe felt as though her heart would break. Tears pricked her eyes.

Katrina shrugged, ‘Oh well, you were bound to leave sooner or later, I suppose,' she murmured.

Filled with sadness, Elsabe watched as he packed the cheese and jam sandwiches and the flask of tea she'd made for him into his old suitcase. It dawned on her that she would never see him again. She had to have something to remember him by.

He left the room and then she saw her chance, she grabbed the box of matches out from where she'd seen him place it, under his underpants at the bottom of the case. She also took a small brown envelope and slipped both inside her bra. She'd keep it there everyday, close to her heart.

The house was quiet after he'd left. Elsabe was glum, Katrina more miserable than ever.

‘Let's go into town and spoil ourselves a little,' said Katrina.

Elsabe shrugged, ‘Okay, if you want to  . . .  maybe we can buy our dresses for the church picnic and then go to bioscope!'

A few moments later, Katrina burst into her room.

‘Well, we can forget our shopping trip, we have no money, even our bank cards are gone . . . . It's that flipping Elvis, he's gone and stolen all of it!' she shrieked.

Elsabe would not hear of it, ‘Never, it must've been someone else  . . . ' she said. But no sooner had she said it, realized that Katrina was quite right; it could only have been Elvis; he had stolen every last cent of theirs.

‘We better phone the police,' she murmured.

‘What? Phone the police, how do you think it'll look if we tell them that Elvis Presley Terblanche robbed us  . . .  we're going to look like two idiots; being taken in by someone called Elvis, we will be the laughing stock of the entire district!'

Elsabe sighed; her sister was right. She reached into her bra and pulled out the envelope and the matchbox. She opened the envelope and slipped out the sheet of paper. As she read, her eyes widened, ‘His name isn't even Elvis  . . .  it's flipping Johnnie-boy, Johnnie-boy du Plooy.'

As Katrina grabbed the letter from her hands, Elsabe opened the matchbox. Her jaw dropped, her eyes grew large, ‘Katrina look, Katrina look  . . . !' she thrust the box under her sister's nose.

After the reality of their situation sunk in they both burst out laughing. They rolled on the bed, clutching their stomachs.

‘He can have our bank cards and the two thousand rand we have between the two of us  . . . ' howled Katrina.

Elsabe wiped the tears from her eyes, ‘Yah, we're rich, rich!'

She emptied the contents of the matchbox onto the purple quilt on her bed and there it lay; twinkling and sparkling up at her, a handful of diamonds that Elvis must have stolen when he'd worked as a diver on the alluvial diggings.

‘Well, well, Elvis robbing us was a blessing in disguise  . . .  ‘ said Elsabe. She harbored no anger towards Elvis, or Johnnie-boy; instead she felt gratitude for that bitter-sweet kiss they had shared.

Elvis had awakened something inside her, something she had only ever dreamed of; the desire to love. And now with these diamonds that's just what she was going to do. She could leave this dry, forgotten town and find herself a man to love, someone she could call her own. And she had Elvis to thank for that.

Elsabe smiled; for a moment she was almost certain she heard the real Elvis murmur, ‘Thank you, thank you very much!'

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Features -- July 2010 -- Mid Month Issue

Bernice De Lucchi
-- Additional Work --