Chapter I: Die laaste totsiens (The Last Goodbye)

A cool breeze of air whips over the sapphire waves, bringing a taste of the ocean with it. In the blinding moonlight of the January night, the ocean is like a perfect mirror in the water. The sand is the most gentle hue of coffee, almost earthen and dampen.

She closed her eyes to the lullaby of the ocean, breathing in its delightfully but poignant salty breath. The breeze blew warm announcing the arrival of summer’s cool days. The aroma of the bloomed violet Orchids was an intoxicating perfume and the night sky was such a welcoming sight, appearing like magic at each sunset. The sky embellished itself with brilliant ivory glow, clothed itself in flashy grandeur. Her favorite though, of everything that is here, is seeing the sunset at the horizon and basking in the moon.

The stars lit up the night sky as the moon glistens over the ocean. She stared back at the white-slivery disc as whites of her hazel eyes turned pink by crying. Then at once, the sunlight that turned into moonlight above became her friend, her companion, it matched the new fire kindled within her.

Annika sat, legs outstretched on the cool January night coffee sand as she watched the ocean, lost in the rhythmic drumming of waves on the sand. Her eyes are steady to the horizon, face aglow with the twilight beckoning the stars. Her lips bear the semblance of a smile, just enough to show that she is enjoying her thoughts, whatever they may be. She feels her mother’s presence, as a single tear falls down her rose-colored cheeks. Yet she stays quiet, allowing herself to stay lost in the moment a while longer.

Her eyes dripped with tears. She laid across the blanket of sand and curled on her side and wept, with her small shoulders heaving in and out. The beauty of the night’s sky only intensified Annika’s pain without her mother there couldn’t be, shouldn’t be, no beauty in the world.

Eight months ago…

Soule Valley, South Africa

Annika’s mother was sitting in a French print accent chair, legs firmly still on the mahogany floor and fingers intertwined over her sketchbook. She leans forward and carefully studies the Nigella flowers in a vase upon the wooden table in the living room. Her almond chocolate hand delicately moved over the sketchbook as the whispering hum of the rain gently tapped onto the roof of the cottage. Her hand steadily moved up and down, sketching out the shape and patterns of a gorgeous flower. Beneath her feet the mahogany floor felt soft, Annalise moved her chair closer to the edge of the coffee table, her jeans brushing against the accent chair and oak coffee table.

On the wall was her family portraits each hanging on the wall and mapped out in a circle. On the coffee table was a glass of crimson Rooibos tea and her Diamond pendant. As the rain gently tapped on the window outside of the cottage Annika’s mother started to feel a sharp pain in her lower back.

Her hand started to go numb as she sketched on her notepad. She slowly stood up from the French print accent chair but she couldn’t hold her balance. Her muscles started to weaken. She tried to hold herself up on the wooden table but she started to lose the feeling in her legs. Forgetting the floor she rushed forward, trying to walk and fell onto the floor.

Annika walked into the cottage, carrying a basket of Begonia flowers while hearing her steps echoed on the beautiful mahogany floor. She put down the basket of Begonia flowers near the back door. She headed to the living room when she noticed her mother’s sketchbook, a glass of tea, and a diamond pendant scattered on the floor.

A gaggle of goose pimples laminated her mocha-caramel skin. Annika walked closer and she came upon her mother laying on the floor motionless. Her eyes shifted to the side and as she blinked, tears dripped from her eyelids and slid down her cheeks. Her lower lip quivered as words slowly made their way out of her mouth. “Mammie word wakker! Mamma! Ma…” Nicholas rushed out of the main house as he heard his daughter screaming.

He ran into the cottage and in that instant, his skin became pale. His mouth hung open slightly as his eyes widen. His chest tightened as he looked helplessly at his daughter standing over her clutching her mother’s hand into her small tiny hands.

Annalise laid there quietly, keeping her eyes closed, matching her breaths to the beeping of the machines that surrounded the bed, the only indications of her heartbeat, her existence. Nicholas leaned down to kiss Annalise on the forehead. He stepped out of the room to speak with the doctor. He held her hand in silence, as tears rolled down his face. It seemed as if this was the end of the road for her.

That didn’t sit well for Nicholas he couldn’t imagine his wife not seeing their daughter grow up or being there for her. Nicholas was scared… He never expected this to hurt so much, it felt like a thousand knives just pierced through his heart. He looked at a picture of his daughter and waves of regret washed across his face.

Nicholas couldn’t figure out how to tell his daughter her mother was dying. Nicholas wanted to protect her from getting hurt. But he knew to keep the truth from her was going to hurt his daughter more. A choked cry for help forced itself up his throat, and he felt a drop run down his cheek. The room was beautiful, the Begonia flowers fresh, perfumed.

There was a view of the greenery of the lush mountains and the garden was perfection. Annalise slowly eased herself into the bed while Nicholas put on some soothing music. Her husband sat at her side, quietly holding her hand.

Twelve years of love and he would leave this scented room alone. Cancer spread fast, robbing Annalise of her strength. From losing bits of pieces of her hair to her bones becoming fragile and her skin pale, the transformation couldn’t have been any crueler. It was like she couldn’t breathe, it felt as if she was suffocating trying to get air to breathe. Annalise clasped his arm.

“I love you, Annalise said to Nicholas.” He nodded. Nicholas wrapped her in his arms and kissed her charcoal curly black hair.

There is nothing that could prepare him for the pain of this farewell. Annalise kissed him gently on his cheek. Nicholas squeezed her tighter and to the sound of the calming music, she slipped away to heaven. That day she will never forget the words it didn’t exactly come out of her father’s mouth. Something was off about his demeanor he seemed shaken unable to cope with what happened.

As he sat Annika down on her bed she could hear a crack in his voice as he spoke. His words fumbled out of his mouth but he refused to look away from her, even as his lips trembled and his shoulders heaved with emotion, unwilling to back down. His dark thick lashes overflowed heavy with tears; his hands started to tremble and shake in a crucial battle against what he wanted to say.

A single tear traced down his cheek, and just like that, tears begin to flood his face. He continued to weep, tears streaming from his ocean infused eyes the color of aqua, as heavy sobs ripped from his throat, and still, he didn’t look away from her. Then he spoke and said “ My Engel, Ek het iets om jou te vertel van mamma.” Her eyes shifted to the side and became glazed with a puddle of tears. As she blinked, they dripped from her eyelids and slid down her rosy cheeks.

She began to bite her lip tightly in an attempt to hide her pain and from any sound that wanted to escape from her small fragile mouth. At that moment Annika knew the truth that her mother was gone. She wasn’t coming home to see her or papa.

Her heart begins to sink. She was only five-and- half but that day her heart broke into million pieces… She was just an innocent girl who had a ray of light-filled with so much joy. But that soon changed. She walked through the chapel with her pa like a silhouette of herself, wishing she really was just dreaming. The coffin gleamed in the early spring morning light that streamed through the sanctuary windows.

It was built with love to be the final resting place of her mother who had been so adored in her lifetime. Annika and her father stood at the front of the funeral. Everyone’s heads were down.

The silence dwelled as they entered the church. As they took a pew near the front the long-held tears slowly burst forth like a river overflowing. She was not sad anymore. She loved her very much. Annika and her father had to see their loved one in something of beauty, something that showed what she had dearly meant to them.

They laid flowers on the top that would be placed at her gravestone, everything beautiful to hide a reality their hearts could not bear. Now she was gone a light had been put out forever in her heart. She sat in her seat beside her pa in silent grief and awaited the start of the funeral service.

She quietly asked herself, ”Hey, why did they put Mamma in that box? She can’t take pretty pictures in that box! Stop! Annika said.” She suddenly let out a loud scream, ”Stop it! ” she shouted, tears streaming down her face as pappa tried to calm her down. Unexpectedly, Annika’s pappa begins to rock her back and forth to calm her down. He whispers in her ear, ”Dit is okay Engel. Mamma het Hemel toe gegaan en sy waak oor ons as ons gurdiaanse Engel. ”

He strokes her hair and back gently but holding her tight as to not let go. She softly cries wanting to hug her mamma but can’t escape her pappa’s arms. Slowly her pappa walks over to her moeder’s coffin and places a white rose on top while holding Annika in his arms.

He gently lets a tear roll down his face, as he turns his daughter to her mamma’s coffin she quietly says ”Bye Mamma, pappa en Ek sal jou mis… Totsiens! ”

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