The car was warm. As I laid my head down on the soft leather of the backseat I could feel the light hum of the engine and the soft tread of the tires on the tar against my face. I lifted my feet up into the sunlight that flooded the vehicle. I drifted off to sleep, never having felt this comfortable in a very long time.

I awoke as soon as I felt the tires hit the gravel of the road that led from the highway through the vineyards to our house. I sat up and absorbed what I saw. It had been five years since I had seen the place I had grown up in, five years since I'd been home. It was the beginning of summer now and the leaves grew thick and green atop the trees and the flowers were all splendidly in bloom. We drove along the base of the mountain, against which our farm rested, towards our house that overlooked the entire farm. Ahead of me I could see the gravel road stretch far out to where it formed a large brown courtyard in front of our house. I looked along the vineyards that stretched out towards the highway on the other side. It was a Friday and the fields were full off workers attending to the vines. It was then that something caught my eye.

It was somebody rather than something, somebody that sent a familiar pang through my abdomen and adrenalin through my veins. I shouted for my Dad to stop the car and after a slight hesitation he pulled the car to a stop. I got out of the car and slowly started walking towards the distant figure. My parents exited the car after me and tried to attract my attention back to the car and the house, but I left them wide-eyed as I started down the slight hill into the vastness of the vines.

The figure continued to work. Bending over and crouching to clip branches or tie them together. His tall physique moved effortlessly, his large arms and hands worked tenderly and his face matched the strength and beauty of his surroundings. I began to walk faster, my sneakers kicking up the loose dust off the ground in a cloud around me. Suddenly I yelped in pain. I looked down to see my right lower thigh had been cut by a protruding branch just below the hemline of my khaki shorts. I wiped a finger over the bloody cut and held it to my face. But it was the figure beyond the blood that caught my attention.

I had stopped just a few metres before him and he had turned around to see where the yell had come from. We stood before each other in complete silence. I hadn't seen him in six years and as much as we both had changed, my feelings didn't. After 5 minutes I started to close the gap between us. Tears had started to escape my eyes and began trailing down my flushed cheeks. I stopped in front of him, held my hand out to his face and lightly brushed the little but of stubble across his jaw. I removed my hand. I could see it then, the way his eyes began to tear up. After all this time, after all the suffering he had put me through, he wasn't going to break down in front of me. I would not allow it. As fast as I had taken my hand off of his face I replaced it with a quick, powerful, resounding slap! It wasn't enough to put him off balance but I saw his face stain a deep crimson as he faced me again. A tear had trickled onto his cheek. I slapped him again, this time with more force, after which I turned and began walking away, not wanting to see the immense sadness that filled his eyes. I walked all the way back to the car, where my parents had waited, not turning around once and Hugo not saying a single word.

 

Dane du Toit

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