By Frederick B. Philander
“IN God’s name, how could you bring this shame onto our family? Your father is now surely turning in his grave,” Bets prophesises.
“But mother, be reasonable …” Emma argues with her mother.
“No buts. You better take this man and leave my house right now before I call the police,” Bets threatens.
“In that case I never want to see any of you again. I refuse to send any money home as from this moment,” the angry daughter says getting up from the sofa and pulling her friend up, too. “Come, Gabriel, let’s go. We are not welcome here.”
The couple leaves the house, watched by Bets.
“Child or no child. You don’t ever have to come back to my house again. As from this moment you are disinherited. I am done with you,” Bets shouts after the couple viciously slamming the door.
Outside Gabriel starts the car that instantly speeds off.
Two days later there are many last-minute dock crane activities in progress on the Tristan de Cunha, moored in Dock B. A tug boat is on standby to drag the cargo ship out of the harbour.
In the master’s quarters captain Gabriel Song, keeping an active eye on the loading and offloading of provisions, attentively listens to apologies of the love of his life, Emma.
“I still feel terribly ashamed about my family’s irrational behaviour and attitude back home,” the offended woman says.
“Stop apologising for them. You are a woman in a million. The important thing to me is that we both love each other. No one can ever change that fact, right?” he tries to get her assurance.
“Right. I will remain faithful and truthful to you until you come back because love isn’t love, which alters when alterations found,” she assures him.
“Good,” he replies retrieving a locked gold metal box from a bookshelf. He hands it to Emma. “I want you to keep this as a token of my undying love for you. Here are the keys. It’s for your eyes only.”
Examining the box from all angles Emma expresses her reservations accepting the valuable gift.
“I don’t think I can accept it,” she says.
“I insist you take it, just for safekeeping until I return for both our sakes,” he reassures her.
“In that case I will have it,” she replies.
“Good. We have to say goodbye now. We are about to sail,” he says hugging her and tenderly kissing Emma.
With tear-filled eyes they both hesitantly take leave of each other.
“Goodbye, my love,” Emma says holding onto the box as she exits from the ship. A loud ship honk brings the craft into motion dragged by the tugboat.
On the dockside Emma emotionally waves to Gabriel high up on deck in his quarters until the ship gently sails off into the distance on it’s way to the Far East. She’d be prepared to wait for the man of her dreams until her dying day …
It is exactly nine months later.
Seated at Martha’s kitchen table peeling potatoes, Emma is high with child. The pregnant young woman is joined at the table by Auntie Martha, who turns on a portable radio before expressing some concerns.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking. What are your plans for the future after the birth of the baby, Emma?” the tired looking Martha asks.
“I am not sure yet, Auntie Martha,” Emma, who drops a peeled potato into a dish, replies.
“I was thinking … maybe you should put up the child for adoption,” the old lady proposes.
“Never in creation. This is my child. Nobody will ever take it away from me,” the young woman says lovingly stroking her belly with in tinge of anxiety in her voice.
“Be realistic, child. I am getting old and since Dottie left for greener pastures to Johannesburg with a man she hardly knew, I can hardly manage keeping up this house. With you not working, the new child on its way and the little pension money I receive monthly, it will be worse,” Martha explains with a sigh.
“Don’t worry, I will get another job to support us all. I will go to Henry …” she tries to encourage herself.
“That is easier said than done. The fishing industry is not what it used to be with all the restrictions imposed by the government and many businesses that have been forced to shut down,” Martha says with a dejected expression on her face.
“I believe that every cloud has a silver lining. When the need is at its highest, a solution can be found,” Emma moralises.
“No matter how optimistic you are, the future looks bleak for you living here. I think you should rather go back to your mother and beg for her forgiveness. After all, it will be her first grandchild,” the homeowner strengthens her urge to get rid of her guest.
“I truly understand your situation, but I am afraid I cannot go back there as a matter of principle. My family’s and my ways have parted for good,” she says with a determination Martha has never seen.
“I only mean well, child …” she replies turning on the radio news.
“The news…First the headlines…A Ghanaian cargo ship, the Tristan da Cunha has sunk in high seas some 200 nautical miles off the Namibian coast on its way to the Middle East. No survivors have been reported …”
Emma is about to faint on hearing the devastating news.
“My God. Auntie Martha, the father of my unborn child is captain of that ship,” Emma exclaims falling over, but is caught by Martha before she hits the floor.
“What are you talking about, child? Martha asks.
With an excruciating and painful scream Emma shouts.
“Help me, the baby is coming.”
“Let me help you to your room,” the old one helps the pregnant woman from the table and sets her up comfortably in her bed before rushing out the house.
“I’ll go fetch the midwife.”
Forty minutes later screams of a newborn baby can be heard from behind the closed bedroom door. Martha anxiously rushes into the bedroom and finds the midwife holding up a dark-skinned baby.
“It’s a girl,” the midwife announces with pride looking at the baby and the weak and murmuring young mother on the bed.
“Bring some warm water. I need to clean the child,” she orders Martha, who instantly responds.
Shortly afterwards the midwife tucks in the child into the arms of her waiting mother.
“Have you thought of a name for the child?” Auntie Martha inquires.
“She will be called, Anna, after my grandma,” Emma says proudly with a heavenly broad smile on her face.
A week later, despite all her inquiries with the help of Henry on the tragic death of captain Gabriel Song through the Ghanaian embassy in Windhoek, Emma is none the wiser.
All she could find out was that no bodies had been found, including that of the man she dearly loved.
“Console yourself to the fact that he has left you with a beautiful daughter, Emma,” Martha tells her niece, in an effort to comfort her.
Baby Anna lies warmly wrapped in a blanket on the bed. Emma combs her long blonde hair. When done she picks up the gold-plated metal box from the bedside cupboard and opens it. For the past few months the box had been standing there, untouched. She now curiously unlocks it and opens the box. She finds a letter lying on top and starts reading the handwritten content from Gabriel.
“My dearest, Emma…I salute you for the brave and decent woman you are for sacrificing your own family for our love. I can only but respect you for that,” she says momentarily stopping to wipe away tears from her sobbing eyes.
“… I will never forget your warm personality and spontaneous surrender for the love I feel for you in my heart and soul. I had been the happiest man ever to have shared your life for the short time together … Please, do not feel offended. I left you some money in this box to fullfil all your dreams. I am convinced that you were born to be a nurse because of your concerns and care about your fellow human beings … I look forward to seeing you again in six months to marry you. Your everlasting love, Gabriel,” Emma finishes reading the heartrending letter.
With tears now freely running down her face the broken woman neatly folds up the letter before she throws out the contents in the box onto the bed, American dollars, bundles of it.
“Thank you Lord, thank you Gabriel,” the utterly relieved and happy woman shouts with joy in a very long time, clutching some of the notes in her hands.
To be continued next week.