Two Sisters (2)
'No. But she is all I have. And she has been very good to me.'
'Well, it's her duty. A sister's duty.'
'Then it's my duty, a sister's duty, to tell her about something like this. I may get into trouble.'
'Don't be silly,' he said. 'I normally take good care of my girlfriends.'
'I see,' she said, and for the first time in the one month since she agreed to be this man's lover, the tears which suddenly rose into her eyes came there naturally.
'And you promised you wouldn't tell her.' It was Father's voice now.
'Don't be angry. After all, she was sure to hear it one day.'
'My darling, you are too wise. What did she say?'
'She wasn't happy.'
'Don't worry. Find out something she wants very much but cannot get in this country.'
'I know for sure she wants an electric motor for her sewing machine.'
'Mm. I am going to London next week on government business, so if you bring me the details of the machine, I shall get her the motor.'
'Oh, and let me know as soon as you want to leave your sister's place. I have got you one of the government houses.'
'Oh... oh,' she said, pleased for the first time since this awful day had begun.
Down on the beach, the old Sea slides up and down the sands. He takes no notice of humans. He has seen things happen along these beaches. Different things. The same things. He never does anything about them. Why should he? People are unimportant. Here is a fifty-year-old 'big man' who thinks he is somebody. And a twenty-three-year-old child who chooses a silly way to fight life's problems. As they play with each other's bodies on the back seat of the car, the old Sea shuts his eyes, bored. He moves further up the sands, but the car is parked safely away from the sea, and the rising water cannot reach its tyres.
James has come home late. But then he has been coming back late for the past few weeks. Connie is crying and he knows it as soon as he enters the bedroom. He hates tears, because, like many men, he knows they are one of the strongest weapons that women have.
'Oh, are you still awake?' He quickly sits beside her. 'Connie, what's the matter? You've been crying again.'
'James, where were you?'
'Connie, I have warned you about this. I won't let you question me like a prisoner every time I am a little late.'
She sat up. 'A little late! It is nearly two o'clock.'
'Anyway, you won't believe me if I tell you the truth.'
She lies down again and turns her face to the wall, and James throws himself down beside her.
'James, there is something much more serious.'
'You have heard about my newest affair?'
'Yes, but that is not what I am talking about.'
'Jesus, is it possible that there is anything more important than that?'
And as they laugh, they know that something has happened. One of those things which, with luck, will keep them together for some time to come.
'But James, what shall I do?'
'Mercy. She is having an affair with Mensar-Arthur.'
'James, we must do something about it. It's very serious.'
'Why shouldn't she?'
'But it is wrong. And she is ruining herself.'
'Since every other girl she knows has ruined herself and made money out of it, why shouldn't she? Her friends don't earn any more than she does, but every day they wear new dresses, shoes, and so on, to work. What do you expect her to do?'
'The fact that other girls do it doesn't mean that Mercy should do it too.'
'You're being very silly. If I were Mercy, I am sure that's exactly what I would do. And you know I mean it, too.' James is cruel. Terrible. Mean. Connie breaks into fresh tears, and James puts his arm around her. There is one thing he must make her understand, though.
'In fact, tell her to stay with him. He may be able to speak to someone in your government office so that after the baby is born you can keep your job there.'
'James, you want me to use my sister!'
'She is using herself, remember.'
'James, you are terrible.'
'And maybe he would even agree to get us a new car from abroad. I shall pay for everything, but that would be better than that old car I was thinking about. Think of that.'
'You will ride in it alone.'
That was a few months before the coup. Mensar-Arthur did go to London and bought something for all his wives and girlfriends. He even remembered the motor for Connie's machine. When Mercy took it to her, she was quite confused. She had wanted this thing for a long time, and yet one side of her said that accepting it was wrong. She could not discuss the whole business with Mercy, and James always took Mercy's side. She took the motor with thanks; the price she paid was her silence about Mercy. In a short while, Mercy left the house to go and live in the government house that Mensar-Arthur had managed to get for her.
Then, a couple of weeks later, the coup. Mercy left her new place before anybody could throw her out. James never got his car. Connie's new baby was born. Of the three, Connie was happiest with these changes. In her eyes, Mensar-Arthur and everything that went with him meant trouble for her sister and for her own feelings too. Now things could return to normal. Mercy would move back to the house, perhaps find a man who was more - ordinary, let's say. Then she would get married and these terrible times would be forgotten. God is good, he brought the coup before her sister's affair became widely known and ruined her name...
The arrival of the new baby has ended all the difficulties between James and Connie. He is that kind of man, and she that kind of woman. Mercy has not been seen for many days. Connie is beginning to get worried...
James heard the baby's loud cries the moment he opened the front gate. He ran in, holding the few things he had bought on his way home.
'We are in here,' called Connie.
'I certainly could hear you. If there is anything people in this country have, it is a big mouth.'
'Don't I agree? But we're well. He's eating normally and everything. You?'
'Nothing new. More stories about the ex-politicians.'
'What do you mean, nothing new?' said Connie. 'Look at the excellent job the soldiers have done, cleaning up the country of all that dirt. I feel free already and I can't wait to get out and enjoy it.'
James laughed bitterly. 'All I know is that Mensar-Arthur is in prison. No use. And I'm not getting my car.'
'I never took you seriously on that car business.'
'Honestly, Connie, don't you want me, your husband, to be successful and get rich?'
'Not out of my sister's ruin.'
'Ruin, ruin, ruin! Christ! See, Connie, the funny thing is that I am sure you are the only person who thought it was a disaster to have a sister who was the girlfriend of a big man.'
'Okay; now all is over, and don't let's argue about it.' 'Was it you who arranged the coup, I wonder? Just because of your sister? It wouldn't surprise me.'
And Connie wondered why he said that with so much bitterness. She wondered if...
'Has Mercy been here?' asked James.
'Not yet, later, maybe. Mm. I had hoped she would move back here and start all over again.'
'I am not surprised she hasn't. In fact, if I were her, I wouldn't come back here either. Not to listen to endless good advice from big sister, no thank you.'
'Mercy is my only sister. I can't sit and see her life going wrong without feeling it. I'm grateful that something put a stop to that. What worries me now is that she won't tell me where she's living. She talks about a girlfriend but I'm not sure that I know her.'
'If I were you, I would stop worrying because it seems Mercy can take care of herself quite well,' said James.
Then there was the sound of a car stopping outside the house. Ah, but the footsteps were unmistakably Mercy's. Are those shoes the old pair which were new a couple of months ago? Or are they the newest pair? And here she is herself, the pretty one. A happy, smiling Mercy.
'Hello, hello, my people!' And she goes straight to the baby. 'Dow-dah-dee-day! How's my dear young man today? Grow up fast and come to take care of Auntie Mercy.'
Both Connie and James cannot take their eyes off her. Connie says, 'He says to Auntie Mercy he is fine.'
Still they watch her, horrified, and wondering what it's all about. Because they both know it is about something.
'Listen, people, I brought a friend to meet you. A man.'
'Where is he?' from James.
'Bring him in,' from Connie.
'You know, Sissie, you are a new mother. I thought I'd come and ask you if it's all right.'
'Of course,' say James and Connie, and for some reason they are both afraid of what is coming.
'He is Captain Ashley.'
'How many do you know?'
James still thinks it is impossible. 'Eh... do you mean the army officer who has just been given the job of... of...'
'Wasn't there a picture in The Crystal over the weekend of his daughter's wedding? And another one of him with his wife and children and grandchildren?' said James.
'Yes,' said Mercy.
Connie just sits there with her mouth open that wide...
- THE END -