Kristien Liebenberg’s worst fear has come true: her lover has vanished. A fast-paced thriller from the author of Blood Stone.
“KRISTIEN LIEBENBERG MADE HER WAY from dining room to kitchen to lounge, then backtracked before ending up again in the centre of the lounge to check her watch for the umpteenth time in minutes.
It was three o’clock in the morning, and still no sign of Louw.
Entering the house from the stoep brought one directly into this spacious yet cosy room, but now everything seemed dark and dangerous. As if there were people standing in the garden, on the stoep, watching her anxious pacing.
Louw liked to call the stoep the wraparound. ‘What’s the Afrikaans word again?’ she’d muse almost every time they sank down into that soft, delightful seat outside. ‘A rondomstoep?’
But now it felt like rondomskrik, as she was wrapped in fear.
Kristien smiled. Louw was so proud. Of the perfect Victorian broekielace lining the veranda. Proud of every inch of their renovation. But proud, above all, to be able to afford this ultra-pricey home after all these years.
Bulky old interior walls came down, and open space arose, bathed in more light than Louw said she could ever remember seeing. The rooms on the ground floor were converted into one big living space with thoughtfully placed built-in cupboards and dividers to demarcate areas for relaxing, cooking and dining.
The dark oak floors were sanded down, stained and whitewashed, the walls painted white, with splashes of colour on the grey sofas in the lounge. Candles everywhere. ‘Scandinavian,’ Louw liked to exclaim. ‘With a touch of warmth. Danish hygge, as they like to call it.’
They had transformed a dowdy, neglected duckling into a bright new space in which one wanted to play, work, make love.
As Kristien paced around and entered the lounge area once again, she couldn’t say why she was there. Her mind scrambled with fear.
She shifted a book on the coffee table two millimetres to the left, picked up another and paged through it without even looking down at the opulent photos. She tossed the glossy publication aside. Kept combing her fingers through her blonde pixie cut, and glanced at her watch yet again.
She had dozed off around eleven o’clock with the TV still on. As was her habit, she’d been wearing headphones, because Louw would always fall into a lightly snoring slumber ahead of her, as if she didn’t have a care in the world. But at two o’clock she had woken up, her soul ill at ease. Louw wasn’t home yet. Louw hadn’t called. And when Kristien tried to get hold of her, she didn’t answer her phone.
And now it was three o’clock on the dot. An hour of milling around, sitting around in the house. Their house.
And not a peep out of Louw. No calls, no WhatsApps or any other kind of message from a colleague. Was this her worst fear turning to reality? Of something happening to Louw on a night she had to stay out late for work? Or was it something else? Like five years ago, when she hadn’t come home either?
“By now Louw would normally have messaged that she was running late. Especially because that morning her goodbye had been anything but pleasant.”
Kristien sat upright in a chair. In just her oversized sleep shirt and the denim shorts she jumped into when she couldn’t stand staying in bed.
It was so unbearably hot and stuffy. And yet at daybreak, when she got up, it had all the makings of a beautiful day.
She peered around the lounge once more, as if that would bring her answers. The paintings on the white walls. Mostly of her own creation, in purple, yellow, green, blue. Cheerful colours for sombre themes. Her eye came to rest briefly on the first one Louw bought all those years ago. Tempestuous clouds over Table Mountain. Prominently hung over the sofa.
She simply had no idea what to do with herself. How to avoid being torn apart by indecision. How to keep herself from calling Louw once more to find out where the hell she was at three in the morning, without sounding like a jealous housewife. What if she didn’t call, and something had happened to Louw? Her head beaten in for her watch or her laptop, or some other meaningless thing? That driver of hers, that Zimbabwean – was he really to be trusted? And immediately she felt awful for thinking that of poor Trevor.
Back to the kitchen. Opened the fridge to get some filtered water. It was five past three now. And still so hot it seemed you could bite into the air.
There was nowhere to escape the February heat. No pool, no air conditioning. None of that would have suited the style of the old house, they had decided. Just a cold shower, that was all that remained, but she couldn’t take a shower now. What if the phone rang and it was Louw? No, not now.
Again she looked down at the cellphone she was clutching in her hand. As if that would help it ring or beep or something.
Again she opened the tracker app they’d both recently installed. Louw was still in the same place as when Kristien went to bed at eleven. Near Dock Road, said the app. Had to be the One&Only hotel.
Really, by now Louw would normally have messaged that she was running late. Especially because that morning her goodbye had been anything but pleasant.
Kristien checked her watch again. Ten past three.
What if her phone had been stolen? Left somewhere? Fallen out of her pocket? How would she know? What if the cops turned up at the house with grave faces? What would she do? No, she couldn’t carry on this way. She had to try Louw once more. Right away. And if she didn’t answer, then she had to speak to someone. Anyone. To find out whether she was losing her mind, or whether this reaction of hers was normal.”
Extracted from One Fine Day, out now.
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