Terror traces the first weeks after Janet's traumatic ordeal at the beach party.
Just imagine this; these chapters from A Family Affair by Bernard Preston, are an early unedited version. If you've enjoyed reading this far, isn't it time to lash out and spend a measily 99c, yes that right, ninety nine US cents, and buy the fully edited version? Enjoy it on your computer or mobile using free Kindle software from Amazon. In any case, if you are wanting to find out what happens to Klein Jan, you're will have to find 99c to enjoy book II, Peter's Children and book III, The Return.
Well, Amazon fudges the prices without telling their authors; inevitably upwards. The greed factor kicks in.
‘Are you coming to the office, Janet?’ Santie already knew the answer but she wanted Janet to be explicit. She had tried to convince Janet to phone her parents, and Anton, to no avail. She wouldn’t talk to anyone about the ordeal.
Janet shook her head, staring out of the window and making no attempt to eat. Santie leaned over and sprinkled some sunflower seeds and a few cashew nuts on Janet’s cereal, and added some yogurt for her. ‘Honey?’ she asked. Janet pushed her chair back violently so that the high-backed wicker chair crashed on its back, and fled in the direction of the bathroom. Even with the door closed Santie could hear the deep sobbing cries that had rent her friend’s heart ever since the nightmare on the beach. She had tried to comfort her friend but, try as she may, she couldn’t break through Janet’s curtain of grief, enfolding herself in layer after layer of muslin. Her privacy had been violently penetrated once in the last forty-eight hours, and Santie wasn’t about to do it again. She could only wait patiently for her friend.
A family affair is a somewhat saucy trilogy about women in love, and the trauma that drove Janet and Santie to lesbianism.
Santie quickly rinsed off the early morning teacups and her cereal bowl, and collected her things for the day. Her laptop was already at the front door with some files; she quickly assembled the makings of a sandwich. She tapped on the bathroom door: ‘I’m on my way, Janet. I may come home at lunchtime. You rest up, and maybe go for a walk. Bye.’ She knew there wouldn’t be a reply, hearing Janet grieving.
It was an easy bus ride to the office, but it was an uneasy Santie who that morning sat on the aisle seat, inviting no company. Usually they enjoyed the low stress trip on public transport, rather than fight against rush hour traffic in Janet’s car. They would chat together gaily, munching their apples but today Santie’s thoughts were sombre, her instincts telling her that the events of the weekend at the beach would probably bring about a profound change in their lives. Realising that delving into the future could just as easily be terrifying as comforting, she willed her thoughts to drift elsewhere. The short walk across President Street from the bus stop found her preoccupied, wondering what she was going to tell Miss Hansen. Their immediate boss would demand an explanation as to why Janet wasn’t at work. Santie wasn’t sure if Janet would come back for several weeks, if at all. Reaching her office on the seventh floor she penned a quick note, saying that Janet was ill and wouldn’t be back for a few days. Deciding that the best way to bury her thoughts, was to engross herself in work so, when Jan Jansen knocked softly and let himself in, he found Santie busily typing on her computer from one of several journals open in front of her.
‘What’s it look like? Only earning my keep,’ answered Santie viciously. She was in no mood for her smooth-talking boss.
‘I hear Janet is not well. Is everything all right?’
‘No, everything is not all right. She had a most dreadful experience on the beach during our staff party. I thought you knew: she was raped.’
‘Mm, that was unfortunate. Are you sure it was rape? The version I heard mentioned consensual sex.’
‘Your informer is self-deceived, Mr Jansen. Janet is weighing her options.’
‘I hope you girls aren’t considering something you might regret,’ Jansen said, coming closer to her table. He was a big man and towered over her.
‘Is that a threat?’
‘No, of course not. Just a bit of advice. You haven’t a chance of winning a case.’
‘Maybe not, but it would look interesting on the front page of the Sunday Times.’
He considered that. ‘Are you now threatening me?’
‘Maybe. In any case, just stay away from us both. Would you please leave? I think I am going to be sick.’ Santie put her hand over mouth.
When she looked up again Jansen had moved over to the door. As he was leaving he stopped and looked back saying, ‘Think very carefully before you do anything foolish. That’s if you want to be credited with three years of satisfactory articles.’ With that, he slammed the door. It was no idle threat. Santie knew that he meant it. Bastard!
Santie slipped out for an early lunch, catching the bus home again. She let herself quietly into the apartment, but as she stepped into the hallway there was a shriek from Janet. ‘It’s only me, Jan,’ she called. ‘Where are you?’ All she heard was another wail coming from Janet’s bedroom, so she headed in that direction, finding her friend trying to hide behind the curtain. ‘He didn’t come with you? Please don’t let him near me. You haven’t let him in, have you?’
‘Let who in, Janet?’
‘Jansen. He didn’t come with you?’ Santie watched the terror, sheer panic and the total loss of control as Janet clutched at the curtain as though it could protect her, shivering violently. Santie put her arms around her friend, holding her tightly, waiting for the little cries and the whimpering to stop. ‘He phoned!’
Janet said. ‘He said he was coming out to see me. You didn’t let him in?’ Janet was wild-eyed.
Santie didn’t go back to work. She spent the afternoon at home, making cups of tea and eventually they went out for a cycle together. Janet rode like a demon, exhausting herself and then collapsed on the roadside weeping again. ‘I can’t go on, Santie. I can’t get him out of my mind. He’s going to come again. I know it. He’s going to rape me again.’
‘You’ve got to stand up to him, Janet. You’re not to let him win. He is going to try and terrorize you, but you’ve got to be strong. I’ll be right there alongside you. Together we can stand up to him. If we let him get away with it then he will rape again and again. Unfortunately, you’re probably not the first but we must make sure you are the last!’
Eventually they climbed back on their bikes and rode quietly home, Santie savouring the autumn sun and the towering Highveld cumulus clouds, but Janet’s thoughts were black and formless, with a hard core of terror: Jansen would come again, she knew it. They stopped for an ice cream but Janet left hers, hardly touched. Later she confided that she was beginning to feel nauseous, just as the doctor had told her.
Janet hated the ARV’s. It was only Santie’s constant badgering that made her take them.
‘You know, Santie, I feel that every pill that I manage to swallow is a great victory. It’s that bad. I feel awful.’
Anton rang several times but Janet refused to speak to him or return his calls. ‘I’m sorry, Anton,’ Santie said. ‘Something has come up that I am not at liberty to tell you about. Just be patient and I’ll expect Janet will call you in a few days.’ But a few days passed and Janet wouldn’t phone him back.
Jan Jansen also phoned Janet several times while Santie was at the office. ‘I’m so glad to get hold of you at last, my dear,’ he said to Janet. I’m terribly sorry about the misunderstanding on the beach. How are you?’
‘How dare you phone me,’ Janet shouted at him. ‘Don’t ever, ever speak to me again.’ She slammed the phone down.
He rang back immediately. ‘Janet, please don’t hang up. I understand completely that you feel so upset, but I love you, and I want to make you happy.’
‘Real men don’t rape the women they love, Mr Jansen. I hate you!’ She slammed the phone down again, bursting into tears. She pulled the curtains and lay on her bed, quivering and whimpering quietly. Eventually she slid under the quilt and pulled it over her head. Fortunately the telephone never rang again. That was how Santie found her several hours later when she let herself into the apartment. She brewed a pot of tea, and sat on the edge of Janet’s bed, waiting for Janet to come to herself. Eventually she emerged from her dark hole. ‘He keeps phoning me, two or three times every day, telling me he loves me. Why does he do it?’ she whimpered.
‘Why didn’t you tell me, Janet? When did he start?’
‘From the first day. I can’t stand it anymore, Santie. I’m not going to answer the phone.’
‘That’s a good idea. I’ll give you three rings first if I call. I want you to consider coming back to the office, Jan. It’s the only way you’ll get over your terror. Show him your strong face. I’ll be there with you. Fight the bastard. You mustn’t let him make you into a whimpering victim.’ Janet nodded numbly.
Santie was astonished to find Janet dressed and ready for work when she woke the next morning. ‘I’m coming to work, but please will you stay close beside me? I feel terrible fatigue from those pills, but I’m coming to work. And I’m really frightened of Jansen, but staying here is doing me no good. I think I should resign and go elsewhere.’
Santie nodded. ‘Maybe. I also thought we should perhaps both quit, but that gives him the victory over us both. He knows we’ll have difficulty finding articles at this time of the year, particularly if he puts in a bad word. I think we should stay and fight him. Together.’
Janet gave her friend a first wan smile. It felt good to have someone who stuck by her and believed in her. She thought to herself: It was such a happy coincidence us falling in each other’s path.
The first few hours at the office were uneventful. Jansen kept his distance. Rumours were flying around the office as to what happened. Sam kept digging for information, but Janet ignored her. Miss Hansen put in an appearance, kindly welcoming Janet back. ‘Glad to see you back, my dear.’
There was only one crisis. After that Jansen kept his distance. He realized that they meant it. Janet had gone off to the library to look up a reference. Jan Jansen found her there, carefully closing the door and, putting on his charming best, greeted her: ‘Good to see you back, Janet. You are looking so much better. I’m really sorry you’ve taken it so badly. I just want to make you happy.’ He had Janet cornered and, as he approached her reaching out with his arms, she screamed in one loud, piercing scream that echoed around the whole office block. Santie sprinted to the library, finding Janet with a heavy guillotine defending herself and Jansen backing off, doubtfully. She ran quickly to her friend’s side, taking the guillotine from her friend.
‘Do you know what this is, Mr Jansen? It’s called a guillotine. If I find you within ten metres of Janet again, without her express permission, then together we will hold you down and …’ She put the heavy instrument on the table, opened it and, with a rasping steel-on-steel sound, snapped it closed, ‘we’ll use it for what it was designed: chopping things off. Comprehendo? Do I make myself quite clear? Stay away from us both or you’ll find yourself emasculated. I’ve done it once, and I’ll do it again,’ she finished her voice rising to an angry crescendo that had the whole staff come running. They heard Santie’s closing threat only too clearly.
Jansen went grey, hung his head and elbowed his way out through the crowd. Santie and Janet gathered their bags and hurriedly left for the day. The gossips they left behind had a field day.
Janet wanted to go home and hide, but Santie wouldn’t hear of it. They made a start in a mall café where Janet did eventually finish her coffee and apple cake. Santie then insisted they go and have their hair done and finish with a deep massage. Janet flinched when the masseur touched her leg, rearing at the intimate touch, grabbed her clothes and fled. ‘I’m sorry Santie, but I couldn’t.’
She shivered. ‘Can we go home?’ She looked at Santie, pleading. Her friend nodded, cursing herself. There had been only two available therapists, and she couldn’t bear to have a man touch her. She had chosen the woman.
But Janet’s day of misery was not done. She was lying in a deep bath when there was a knock at the door. Santie looked through the peep-hole. She sighed: should she let Anton in? She decided that they kept him on a string long enough. Janet owed it to her boyfriend to tell him something. The cruel silence couldn’t go on indefinitely.
‘Come in, Anton.’ She managed a small, tired smile. ‘Janet is in the bath. She might be a while, so come and have a coffee or a beer.’ She tried to be bright.
‘What’s happening, Santie?’ he demanded.
Santie shrugged her shoulders and turned away from him so he couldn’t see her face. ‘It’s up to Janet to tell you.’
‘Is there someone new in her life? Why all this secrecy? Please just tell me the truth. I’ve got broad shoulders.’
Santie shook her head. ‘No, there’s no one new, Anton. Worse than that, I’m afraid, but it’s not for me to tell you. Take your beer to the patio, and I’ll tell Janet you are here.’ Just then Janet opened the door with only a slip around her. When Anton saw her, he turned towards her, arms outstretched. She screamed again just as she had that morning and dashed back through the door, slamming it. Santie found her wound up in her curtain again: ‘Don’t let him near me, please, please Santie.’ Anton wasn’t to know that all Janet had seen was a man reaching out towards her. It mattered not a jot that it was not Jansen but the man to whom she was betrothed.
‘You must come and tell Anton, Janet. You owe it to him.’
‘Anton? I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,’ she whimpered, starting to shiver violently again. ‘You tell him, Santie. Please tell him for me. Please!’
Santie slowly unwound Janet from her hiding place, holding her friend tightly. ‘Okay, but are you really sure?’
Janet nodded silently.
Santie passed her a warm dressing gown and went out, quietly closing the bedroom door behind her.
Anton was standing on the patio, wide-eyed, his beer untouched. ‘What did I do, Santie?’
‘You didn’t do anything, Anton. Janet was raped two weeks ago, and she is absolutely terrified. I’m sorry but you had better just give her space for a few weeks. Send her flowers, write her letters but stay away until she calls.’
‘Raped! When? Who?!’
‘It happened on the beach near Durban. You remember we went to that staff weekend. I’m not at liberty to tell you anymore. Janet will tell you, if you will give her time and space. I’m sorry, but that’s the best I can do.’
Anton was white. He left without another word.
It was two weeks and Anton hadn’t heard a thing. He picked up the phone one Saturday afternoon and called. Santie answered. ‘It’s me, Anton.’
‘Can I speak to Janet? Will she talk to me or can I come over?'
‘Let me go and ask her. We’re trying to make gooseberry jam. Hang on.’
Anton waited for about five minutes and was about to hang up when a small timid voice came on the line: ‘Hello Anton.’ He hardly recognized the voice. Janet was usually so self-confidant. ‘Hello, Janet. I’m terribly sorry about what has happened. How are you?’
‘I’m getting a little better, Anton. I’ve been going to work, and the bastard has stayed away from me.’
‘Which bastard, Janet? Who did it?’
There was a long silence. ‘It was my boss. Jan Jansen.’ He could hear her voice breaking up and, even with her hand over the phone, Anton could again hear a cry of anguish.
After what seemed like a lifetime, Anton said: ‘I’m coming over, Janet. We need to talk. I need to hold you. I want to comfort you, Janet. I love you very much. I still want you to be my wife, nothing has changed.’ He said it tenderly.
‘No, don’t.’ Janet almost shouted. After a pause, she went on, ‘Sorry, Anton, I shouldn’t have said it like that. I’m sorry, but I am very frightened with men around, even you. Right now I don’t think I can ever live alone with a man. I’m sorry Anton, but everything has changed, particularly the way I feel about relationships. You must start looking for another wife.’
‘No, no, Janet. It’s you I love.’
‘You don’t want a used woman, Anton, and frankly I can’t bear the thought of a man near me. It would just remind me every moment of what happened. I’m sorry, but please forget you ever knew me. Goodbye. I have to hang up now.
Goodbye, Anton. I adored you once, but I can never love again.’ With that she hung up.
Anton rang again every day, came over at the weekends, but Janet resolutely refused to speak with him. Their betrothal was over. Just the thought of sex put her into a cold shiver; it would remind her each time of her night of horror. She knew she could never have a serious relationship with any man again.
The last time he came, Santie said to him: ‘Anton, that rape was Janet’s first sexual encounter. It’s coloured everything; she’s very uncertain of herself now. It’s affected all her relationships with both men and women.’
‘I’m her fiancé, Santie.’
‘I know that, but she has lost her trust in people, and especially men. She is very frightened and seems to expect something bad to happen at every turn.’
‘Santie, I can’t accept it’s over, just because she was raped by some bastard. Please, won’t you convince her?’
‘Accept it you must, Anton. Send her flowers once a month, and a card now and then, and who knows?’ Santie shrugged, not finishing her sentence. She had never seen a man in tears before.
The nausea and extreme fatigue lasted about a month. About a week after the last pill, Janet’s energy gradually returned, but what really puzzled Santie was that Janet refused to eat the jam they had made. ‘Just the smell of it, Santie, reminds me of that horrible nausea,’ Janet said.
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Adding fresh herbs to your cooking is one easy way to get those ten coloured foods that help reduce the chances of getting cancer.
And most of them grow like weeds in a pot or sunny spot in the garden.
Coriander grows very easily, either from the nursery, or planting your own seed. We do both, to get a head start in the spring; within a week or two you're adding snippets to your green salad. The greens are sometimes called cilantro.
Then your own seed makes sure you have fresh coriander right through the summer, and dried seeds for the winter soups and stews.
Really, it's a piece of cake and adds so much flavour to your cooking.
Bernard Preston's books are in the main about the oddities that make up the human psyche; we're all a bit queer, except for thee and me, and I'm not so sure about thee.
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Book I: The Bostonians