He arrived with the wild purple of the sunset, at the end of a long, hot, dusty day. They sat on the cool veranda and watched him walk up the side of the road into town.
“Where’s he from?” Mma Boago the owner of Mable’s Takeaway asked.
“Not from here. What’s that he’s carrying?” Johnny-Boy, Mma Boago’s perpetual customer and occasional bed mate, asked squinting his eyes to get a better look.
“Looks like a guitar. Dirty long dreadlocks and a guitar. He’s not bringing anything we need around here, that’s for damn sure.” Mma Boago turned and went back inside; she had magwinya in the deep fryer and couldn’t waste time keeping track of strangers.
Warona was dragging her daughter, Kelapile, to the clinic when she spotted him. She wasn’t one to believe in love at first sight and fairy tales with happy endings. She’d been there when Kelapile’s father professed his undying love and then slipped into bed with the neighbour. It was more than being heart sore, Warona’s heart was beat down and hung out to dry, then placed back in her chest to perform only the bare minimum required to keep her moving. Sometimes she wished it would give up on that too.
“Hurry up! Mr. Roberts will fire me if I’m not back in an hour.” Warona tugged at her daughter, but Kelapile’s legs could only go so fast, decided by their 3 year old length. Warona gave up and bent down and pulled her onto her back. When she looked up again there he was.
“Do you know where I can find the guest house?”
Warona blinked her eyes. And then blinked again. Something was wrong. Everything had gone funny. A golden light surrounded this odd stranger. It made her feel warm and a barely held memory flooded over her. A remembered feeling, but one she thought she no longer had a use for; one that she had flung away deep into the folds in the grey matter of her brain to be forgotten forever. It was joy; a warm yellow joy.
“Are you okay?” he asked. His full lips and kind dark eyes twisted into concern.
“Sure, yeah. The guest house? Come with me it is near the clinic where I’m going.”
As Kelapile fell asleep on her back, Warona with each step, fell in love with this stranger. It was reckless and without sense, but unavoidable. It was a curious, spooky magic and she welcomed it.
“I’m Silas,” he said.
That was the beginning. The village looked on with jealous eyes as the pair flew high up to the clouds floating lazily in the cobalt blue sky, while they stayed stuck to earth with their leaded minds and chained hearts. Resentment built against the two and leaked out in words whispered in hidden corners and small actions made in public.
“Nothing good can come of that,” Mma Boago cautioned.
Johnny-Boy nodded in agreement. They knew only love defined by the limits of a lived life. Status gaining love. Money grubbing love. Security seeking love. It had been so long since pure love moved among them, all they could see was an outsider, an enemy.
Days passed. Silas played music while Warona hung bits of forest green glass in the sunny window to create emerald patches of light that flicked around the one roomed house. Kelapile danced. It was like that every day as they tried to circumnavigate the tricky business they’d set out on.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The hovering gossip filtered through their shell of private dreams and Warona was affected. She wondered if they were right. When she slipped into their way of thinking, she fought against Silas. “Stop it!” she’d shout. “What do you want from me? Go back where you came from, you know you will one day!” Tears flowed and she pushed her mind to make her heart a block of cold white ice. She couldn’t take anymore love. She would soon drown in the endless pit of it. She was frightened.
Silas was not troubled by this. He knew there would be no drowning. He knew words were nothing more than that. He would slowly reel Warona back in, pour warm love over her ice heart, and set her back on the course they were travelling.
On a certain day they disappeared, all three of them. Mma Boago was cutting off chicken heads when Johnny-Boy came rushing in. “I saw it with my own eyes.” He ran this way and that his eyes wild with excitement.
“Saw what?” Mma Boago said as the cleaver came down with a thud, separating surprised body from instantly dead head.
“Warona, Kelapile, and the stranger. They walked down the road, back into the sun from where he came. Walked and then just … they were suddenly gone.”
“Better. People were getting ideas. We don’t need that kind of thing around here.”
Johnny-Boy pulled a beer out from the under-counter fridge, took a big gulp, and nodded his head. Like always Mma Boago was likely right, he thought.