Unfortunately my story did not make the shortlist this year.
Oh well, I will keep writing, because that’s what I love doing. So this is my submission for 2015:
He stood on the balcony peering out over the water that lay before him. There was this vast expense of the Atlantic Ocean captured in the bay of Cape Town. Under the sea he imagined the flurry of life: Fish darting to and fro, the seaweed on the ocean floor waving as the current moved by and the dolphins playing catch. Standing there, it appeared he was looking for something or someone…
Later that evening she was sitting in the lounge, where friends, both new and old were catching up and sharing stories. She sat there soaking it all in; wondering what she was to expect of that week to come?
Then, he walked in, and dished out hugs and high fives to everyone in the room. He stopped at her and asked: “Hey is that a Red Hot Chili Peppers hoodie?”
She stood there taken aback. No greeting or names exchanged.
Darn it, it looked like the cat had got her tongue.
The next day, they met again at the dining room table.
They exchanged names: Willem and Anne. He spewed out a bunch of questions as if he were interviewing her. Although, she did graciously answer.
Gee, is this an interview or what?
She moved the salt and pepper shakers that sat between them. But they didn’t even need moving…
After their meeting in Cape Town, a few months earlier, they had continued chatting. The 550km that stood between them didn’t stop their continuous conversation. They were getting to know each other and were keen on something more…
That warm Saturday afternoon in January they decided to go with some friends to watch Bastille playing at Emmarentia Dam in Johannesburg. As the sun crept behind the horizon the band jammed some beautiful inspired melodies. The mood was perfect.
Willem and Anne stood side by side their shoulders touching as they sang along:
“With all of your flaws and all of my flaws are laid out one by one, a wonderful part of the mess we have made, we pick ourselves undone.”
He reached out for her hand. She didn’t resist.
The next day, he couldn’t hold the question in any longer…
So he asked if she would go out with him.
She said yes!
As they still lived in different provinces; he had to drive back home. But that ride home for Willem was filled with day dreams and love inspired ideas. As the various landscapes flashed by it seemed the cars wheels weren’t even touching the ground. The hue of the afternoon sun spilled on the pink and white Cosmos flowers giving them the look as if they were painted along the roadside.
She did a little jig on her kitchen floor. The music came from inside her head…
I’m so glad he asked me out!
That year was a jam packed year for the both of them. The kilometres didn’t stop them from building memories and moments. From drives in nature reserves; spotting Giraffes and Bush Babies, to camping and to having picnics. They even walked along the beach, with the sand seeping between their toes… they were savouring all their times together.
The thirteenth of January was approaching. That would be their first year anniversary. So they had planned a three day holiday in Winterton, a town situated at the foothills of the Drakensburg. The scenery was stunning!
“This is so beautiful!” he said to her as they sat at the table sipping on ciders.
If one could bottle moments that afternoon would definitely be one to bottle.
All just felt so right with the world.
(And Willem had that pending question waiting in the back of his mind.)
That Monday night he wondered how he could share his surprise to her without giving out too much information.
“Hey babes, tomorrow, we kinda have to wake up real..ly early? I was thinking 4am. Is that okay?”
She beamed as she replied: “To watch the sunrise?”
“Yes, that’s what we will be doing…”
That’s a perfect alibi. He mused.
And she didn’t even suspect anything. A few minutes later they fell asleep.
The alarms went off greeting them and the chilly morning. They hastily got ready, he packed a camera. Anne wore Willlem’s hoodie. And off they went to watch the sunrise. Well that’s what she had thought.
The darkness was lifting as he led her along the dirt road towards the mountain. They were both in their heads:
I wonder if we’re going to watch the sunrise from on top of that mountain.
Seriously, has she not seen the signs yet? They’re coming up more frequently now.
Willem disturbed her thoughts.
“Babes, I know that we’ve both had this on our bucket lists for a long time. So we will be watching the sunrise. But we will be watching it from a hot air balloon.”
“Eeek!” (That seemed to be the noise that came out of her.) She lent over and kissed him on the cheek, “Wow, wow, wow, I can’t believe it!”
“Happy Anniversary!” he said smiling ear to ear.
They watched as the team skillfully prepared the balloon and basket for take off. She clung on to his arm filled with excitement.
Willem is always full of surprises.
They launched into the air just in time to see the sun rising from behind the distant horizon. The morning light fell upon the entire Drakensburg mountain range, right through from north to south. One could see all the well known peaks: Cathedral peak, Monk’s cowl and the entire Amphitheatre.
Strangely, it was loud and quiet up there. The engine shooting up hot air into the balloon above was noisy enough to stop conversation between the eight people in the basket. Willem and Anne stood in their own cubicle cuddling as they took in their incredible surroundings. Below, they saw some Giraffe running along. (Giraffe are “their” animal like a couple has their own song.)
Then when the engine wasn’t emitting out flames… the silence that hung around the basket was so peaceful one would also want to contain that moment.
After a wonderful hour up in the air, they landed celebrating with the other guests; a glass of champagne each. The bubbles in their glasses popped in the morning sunlight.
As part of the package, they were all treated to a scrumptious breakfast. The various guests from different countries exchanged stories and laughter.
Willem and Anne were back at their holiday cottage. They were both still beaming from such a thrilling experience. He then suggested that they should go for a hike and pack some lunch for the trip up Rainbow valley.
So as she got ready; he got ready too. He took the backpack and snuck in some champagne, some glasses, a picnic blanket and the most important object of the day…
After parking; they climbed up the first steep hill that loomed over the parking lot. Pausing; they snapped some pictures of the mountain range across the valley.
There is just something about the Drakensburg, a piece of heaven on earth.
So far their anniversary day was going so well: From an early start looking at the mountains from the balloon to now walking along the well marked trails in the mountains.
The earth was humming. One could witness and sense the life around them. Willem and Anne both quietly thanked God for this beauty around them. The birds were fluttering from one bush to another. The Protea flowers basked in the warm sunshine. The sheer cliff faces hung on each side of the valley. There was a certain majesty about the place.
Willem set the camera on self-timer and they posed for a fun photograph of them standing on a rock that jutted out. Behind them the back drop of blue sky and the valley was breath-taking!
I feel so alive!
They arrived at the water spot and what would be there lunch spot.
They put on their swim gear and headed for the water. Willem let Anne go ahead as he laid out the picnic blanket with the lunch ready.
They braved the cold Drakensburg water giggling as those in love do…
Anne was surprised to see the blanket laid out.
“Did you carry this in your bag?”
“Yep.” he smirked.
You’re always surprising me. She smiled at him.
During lunch, Willem was formulating the words in his head.
And then, he started:
“Anne, it has been a great year. I’m so thankful you’re in my life and I have loved all our fun memories and moments together. So we should celebrate, right?”
She nodded and he opened his bag and pulled out the champagne and champagne glasses.
“Happy Anniversary!” And he filled their glasses. They drank and then lay on their backs looking up drinking in the view. The trees ahead sheltered them from the direct sunlight.
All did seem so perfect with the world, right then.
He lent in to kiss her. It was perfect!
They then sat up again. He still had words to get out…
“Babes, would you be keen on watching movies more regularly together?
Would you be keen on making more meals together?
Would you like to build some puzzles together and go on afternoon walks?”
She looked at him quizzically. “Yes, I would.”
“Well, in that case…” Willem reached over for his backpack, opened the zip and pulled out the little black box.
He got on his knee and opened the box and asked Anne:
“Would you like to marry me?”
The diamond in the ring and the tears in her eyes glistened simultaneously.
She said yes!