Go Away Birds
146 pages

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146 pages

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Skye is looking for normal. She grew up different and it rankles. Home isn’t normal; her mom isn't normal. Her brother, beloved as he is, isn’t quite normal, either. Her marriage was kind of normal (Cam is a wealthy, handsome man who's nice enough) and now it's a dumpster fire. And look at South Africa entirely NOT normal. She's got PTSD and she's in mourning. She doesn’t know who she is or what she wants. She tries to anchor herself to tangible things: to her cooking, to her neighbour's children, to sex. But as she relives her past and tries to plan her future, she feels increasingly dislocated. Skye escapes when things get overwhelming, and realises almost too late that she's about to make everything worse.



Publié par
Date de parution 10 mai 2021
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9781928433064
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0350€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Published in 2021 by Modjaji Books Cape Town, South Africa www.modjajibooks.co.za
© Michelle Edwards Michelle Edwards has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying or recording, or be stored in any information storage or retrieval system without permission from the publisher.
Edited by Emily Buchanan Cover text and artwork by Jesse Breytenbach Book layout by Andy Thesen Set in Berling
Printed and bound by Digital Action, Cape Town ISBN print: 978-1-928433-05-7 ISBN ebook: 978-1-928433-06-4
For my phoenix family
Mpumalanga 26 December 2016
Part 1 Misty Cliffs
Part 2 The Pines
Part 3 Coucal Farm
Mpumalanga 26 December 2016
I emerge, blinking, into the snare of heat and flat white morning sunshine outside the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. There is a man waving to me in the parking lot.
He ambles up to me, comes into focus, his face seamed by deep grooves. He points out his dented silver sedan in the taxi bay.
“I’ve been the only taxi here all morning. Everyone else probably has a babalas after Christmas yesterday.” He reaches out for my backpack and narrows his eyes in the direction of my thighs, which are barely covered by my dress.
“No more bags?” he asks.
I shake my head.
He eyes me suspiciously before flinging the backpack into the boot.
“Where’d you fly from?”
“Cape Town.”
“Holiday here?”
I nod.
He clearly thinks I’m some kind of drifter, but I don’t feel like I’m inhabiting my body and can’t work myself up to caring what I look like. I ask him to get me to The Pines. He’s never heard of it, but I tell him it’s near Hazyview and that seems good enough.
“I’ll take you to White River and you direct me from there,” he says. The grubby laminated card hanging from the rearview mirror says his name’s Siya.
As we’re leaving the parking lot, I ask Siya if he’s got a maps app on his phone, worried that I’ll forget the way. It’s been how many years – eight, nine? – since my last visit, when I came for Lola’s wake, and only stayed two days.
“Nah, no map because my bloody data keeps disappearing off my phone. Bloody rip-off,” he says, clicking his tongue and hitting play on the tape-deck.
Despite the gospel music blaring out of the single functioning speaker in the back, I fall asleep against the dubious headrest. I have to check the sides of my mouth for drool when Siya stops the car at the robot on the intersection heading into White River.
We’ve come up what I still think of as the back road, which used to be a rutted red dirt track until the airport was built. To our right are the deep blue, palm-fringed pools of the Hibiscus Hotel, the first place I ever got drunk (fifteenth birthday party, not mine; Old Brown Sherry, also not mine; puke in the driveway, mine, apparently). Ahead of us stretches White River’s main road, the single street that qualified as “town”, before the malls rose up out of the dust.
Memories flood in, all tastes and textures.
Deeply sweet melted ice lollies in thick plastic moulds shaped like teddy bears from the home industry shop, holes chewed through the top so we could suck the cold-drink out.
The scratchy end of Andile’s sleeve wiping away the luminous green stain around my mouth before we went home so Heather wouldn’t know we’d bought them.
The shiny red booths of the Greasy Spoon diner sticking to the backs of my thighs in summer, runny eggs dotted with oil on cold crunchy toast on Saturday mornings while Lola and Heather were doing the grocery shopping.
On the right-hand corner of the intersection is the antique shop, with the same faded sign it’s had since I was in primary school.
A sudden image of Lola superimposes itself over the darkened shop doorway. With copper bracelets slinking down her forearms, she’s carrying a footstool lined with pine-green velvet, part of the mahogany lounge suite in our sitting room. My mother peddled the stool, or, more likely, bartered it, without telling Lola, and she’s gone in to retrieve it.
“Bloody Roger charged me asking price, so Heather owes me thirty per cent on top of the value of this damn thing, which is so much that I don’t want to tell you!” she says and slams the canopy of the bakkie closed. I’m straddling the gearbox in the cabin, wedged in tight with Andile. We exchange bemused side-eyes because we both know Lola will never see any money from Heather, who doesn’t believe in it.
The light turns green, and Lola is gone.
“Turn right here,” I tell Siya. We glide past new fast food restaurants and a shiny second-hand car dealership. “Stay on this road, it’s the R40. We’ll go straight past The Pines if we stick to it.”
My voice comes out strangled. Siya looks up at my reflection in the rearview mirror.
“Everything okay?” he asks.
A woman alone, in a crumpled, tiny dress at 10 in the morning, no luggage, but clearly plenty of baggage, face swollen from crying: of course he’s concerned. But kindness from a stranger is not something I can deal with, frankly, so I avoid his eyes and turn my face to the window.
Outside, the world is dense and lush and thriving, the rolling hills of pines and the leaves of the mopane trees a saturated, luxurious green in contrast to the drought-bleached lawns of the Cape Town I left a few hours ago. As we weave through the man-made forests marching neatly away on either side of the road, I roll down the window an inch, drawing in the familiar fresh-scrubbed air that smells like home.
Maybe this won’t be so hard, I think. Maybe this wasn’t the worst decision I’ve made since agreeing to get married. Maybe coming back to The Pines is what I needed, instead of the only thing left for me to do after leaving everything I have to my name thousands of kilometres away at the cusp of the continent. “Feel free to tone down the drama,” says Heather’s voice in my head.
We pass the dam on the left, and the small wooden strut with the erf number 143-143 on a white metal sheet jumps out at me, almost obscured by the long grass on the roadside.
Siya brakes too hard and takes the right turn with a screech of tyres as his car scrapes on the gravel entrance before it creaks to a halt at the gate.
I slowly push my door open and step out of the car. Immediately my white sneakers are coated in The Pines’s relentless fine red dust. It crosses my mind that if I moved back here I’d have to give up all my white clothing. It’s a distressing thought. I remember my school uniform ankle socks, which always turned a smudged rust colour before the end of the first term, and how I had to keep wearing them until Heather had the budget for new ones.
We used to have a simple farm gate that swung open when you lifted a warped metal clasp as long as my forearm. Now there’s a proper gate, a serious one, wrought iron, and an intercom buzzer, with the words MAIN HOUSE: THE PINES typed out on a slip of paper next to the top button. The first thing I think is, when did Heather get a computer? And a printer?
There’s new electric fencing stretching along the boundary on either side of the gate, where before there was a crude chain-link fence with barbed wire along the top.
When Andile and I were growing up, Heather would never have wanted to draw this much attention to The Pines. Until we were six years old, she would have done whatever she could to hide it from the road.
I was hoping to get to the house before she or Andile realised I was here, so they wouldn’t have a chance to turn me away. It takes me a few seconds to gather myself before holding in the button.
“Hello?” My mother’s voice.
“Heather, it’s me.”
A beat.
“It’s Skye. Um, Roo.”
“Roo? Are you alright?”
She doesn’t answer.
“Can you let me in?”
There’s a fumbling sound and the gate splits in two in the middle, drawing itself open graciously.
The road is deeply rutted, a sign of recent rains. It hasn’t been graded in a while. As Siya and I bump along, with the long shadows of the pines beating a light-anddark staccato into the car, he says, “I drive the R40 every day but never noticed that fancy gate. This your family’s place?”
“My mother’s.”
“No father?”
“But it’s not safe here for a woman alone.”
“Oh, no. My mother’s never alone.”
We inch down the hairpin bend, where the old gum trees almost touch overhead. During the big rains at the beginning of 2000, this section of road was flooded for five weeks at the end of the school holidays. We were stuck on the farm, and my mother and Lola were so busy with their guests that they hardly noticed that Andile and I missed whole weeks of the first term.
We spent our days sleeping until noon, then sharing a single joint in the ancient avocado plantation, far from the house and the cottages, reading Catch-22 out loud to each other and laughing into the sky, cradled in the two hammocks stretched between the biggest trees. We were 15, living on gifted time, and the days stretched on and on.
That was the last holiday Andile spent at The Pines. He got the private school scholarship tha

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