South Africa Part 4 by Anne Azel
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in the Journeys Series are the creation of the author.
A thank you to Lisa, Inga and Susan who patiently edit all these stories for me. It is time consuming work and I greatly appreciate their efforts.
Note: The author has worked in or visited all of the countries in this series. The political situations, topography, cultures and wildlife are as accurate as the author could make them.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
Check out "Anne Azel's World" at <http://www.azel.nru.com.au>
Thank you Jo for this wonderful web page!
Danny sat in the very back jump seat of the helicopter watching while the park ranger, who was trained as a paramedic, worked to stablize Laurie's condition. Laurie's blood pressure was low, her breathing shallow, and she was cold to touch. Danny could hear the ranger describing Laurie's symptoms to the doctor in Jo'burg. Treat for shock, was the response, put her on an IV drip if possible. It wasn't.
Danny could see small beads of sweat on Laurie's brow and hear her raspy breath echoing inside the oxygen mask the ranger had placed over her nose and mouth. Danny reached forward as far as she could in her safety harness and stroked Laurie's hair gently. The contact between the two women gave them both comfort.
The ranger continued to monitor her vitals and keep her as warm as he could. Now and again, he would adjust the mix of oxygen he was administrating to her from the small canister aboard the helicopter. Danny wiped the sweat from her lip and tried not to panic.
Medical personnel were standing by when they arrived and they quickly transferred Laurie to a waiting stretcher and took her to be prepped for surgery.
"When was the last time she ate or drank?
"I don't know."
"What medical coverage does she have?"
"I don't know that either. She is Canadian. I think they have government coverage. Look I'll pay. Just help her."
"Who is her next of kin?"
"Her father, he's in Canada....no she has a hus...a son....I'm her .....I'm her ...friend," Danny spluttered, feeling the heat of frustration and embarrassment. "Look, I told you, I'll cover any expense."
"You'll need to sign these forms. Edith see if you can get ...Laurie... to sign a consent form for surgery...Where are you going?!"
"I just want to see her," Danny said in justification, as she stood half way through the door to the examining area.
"Listen, Miss, you'll be doing your friend a lot more good by filling out as much of this information as you can. The doctor will need it."
Danny looked longingly down the curtained hall of the emergency wing, wondering just where Laurie was. Then reluctantly, she came back, took the clipboard from the nurse's hand and sat down to fill out the information sheet. Once she had completed it as best she could, and handed it in, she went upstairs to sit in the recovery area waiting room. She waited for the next two hours. It was the longest two hours in her life. Her stomach was tied in a knot. Please be okay, Laurie, she begged over and over in her thoughts.
"Ms. Agia?" called the nursing aide through her sliding office window.
Danny was across the room in two strides. "Yes?"
"Laurie Allen is in recovery and everything has gone well. As soon as she is moved up to a room and settled, I'll let you know."
"Thanks, thank you." Danny went to sit down again, feeling weak at the knees and with a blazing headache coming on. She would need to report to a police station and make a report, she knew, but not until she had seen Laurie.
An hour later, Danny quietly entered a two bed ward. Awkwardly, she smiled at the woman in the first bed who sat up knitting. "They only brought her in a short while ago, dear. She's on the other side of the curtain."
"Thanks," Danny muttered and hurried around the edge of the curtained partition. Laurie looked so small and white. An I.V. was in her hand and a tube provided oxygen to her nose.
Danny came alongside the bed and leaned on the metal railing. "Laurie?"
Laurie's eyes fluttered, then opened with effort. "Hi," she smiled.
"The doctor said I'll be alright. The bullet went through the muscle of my upper arm but just missed the bone." She paused to get her breath. "Then it exited through the fatty tissue of my breast. You okay?"
"Yes. You go to sleep now."
"Phone my Dad."
"Okay. You rest now."
"I love you, Danny," Laurie whispered with feeling, already falling back to sleep.
Danny felt the heat rising up her face. Had the woman behind the curtain heard? It was okay for people to say they loved each other. It's not that she was ashamed of Laurie loving her! It's just...well...she wasn't ready yet. Feeling angry with herself and suddenly completely exhausted, Danny lowered her head to the metal railing that ran around Laurie's bed and let the tears silently fall. Today had been the worst day of her life!
The phone call to Laurie's dad had been long, detailed and emotional. Danny was surprised to find out that Laurie's father had Parkinson's. Now she realized why Laurie had suggested that Danny take over the managing of the Allen wineries. She wished to hell she hadn't been so insensitive in the way she had said no. Drained, both emotionally and physically, Danny now sat on a wooden bench waiting to talk to a police superintendent about the statement that she had just given and signed. She felt like her well-ordered and stable life was falling apart at the seams. Everything she had believed in, everything she had loved, she felt she had lost.
"Danielle, its good to see you," said a voice and the South African looked up into the confident face of Deputy Chief Ronald Perkins. He was a tall, well-built man, who wore his uniform well.
"Hello, Ronny. I had to come in on police business. I've just made a statement, I was involved in a shoot out today. No I guess it was yesterday."
The Deputy Chief nodded. "I read the report. Come on, Danielle, I'm going over to the Rand Club for lunch. You look completely done in. I think I need to take you under my wing."
"Thanks but I need to get back to the hospital as soon as the police say I can leave. Besides, I think that might put you in a conflict of interest, Ronny, I...I've killed two men."
"I know. I'm the person who is going to decide if you are going to be charged or not. I need to ask you some more questions. This could be an explosive situation, and I need to be on top of things. I'm sorry, Danny: I have to assist on that lunch."
Danny got up, feeling in a state of shock. She didn't need this. She just wanted to get back to Laurie. The Deputy Chief continued. "The parks department has searched the cave up there and found enough ivory and skins to convince them that Gillery and his men were a large and successful poaching operation," Perkins explained, as he lead Danny down the hall and out into the fenced police parking lot. An unmarked police sedan was parked at the door with an officer standing by to chauffeur them. "They found the boy, you were asking about, by the way. The poor kid was terrified and seemed glad to give himself up before the lions got him."
"I'm glad," Danny murmured, feeling sleepy, depressed and disoriented. Once settled in the back seat, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Ronny Perkins had known her father. It had been Hans Agia who had recommended him for the police service years ago.
"I'm sorry about the manor, Danielle. Bloody horrible."
"Thanks, Ronny. We'll rebuild." Danielle gave a soft bitter laugh and opened her eyes to look out the window as they drove through Jo'burg. "Considering all that has happen recently, it is the least of my worries."
"The reporter that was shot?"
Blue eyes snapped around to fix on him. "My friend. Yes."
The Deputy Chief looked concerned. "I think I 'd like to keep this as low key as possible. Naturally, the South African press is going to give it a good going over. You are well known and from an old Boer family, and that makes it big news. Worst still, a white killing a black is always a very charged situation. I hate to say it, but it makes it easier that a white was killed too. It doesn't help either that the Allens are well known for their anti-apartheid stand. "
"Having to kill either one of them was not easy for me," Danielle responded, her voice grating with emotion and lack of sleep. "And I didn't shoot Laurie!"
"I know, Danielle. But I have to look at the political fall out, that's part of my job. I don't want this story going international if we can help it. The government is trying to encourage tourism and business to South Africa after years of being restricted by a world trade embargo. We have to handle this one carefully," Perkins stated.
Danny listened quietly, watching the old buildings of a past colonial glory and the new bold structures of a new order passing by the window. Crime in Johannesburg was very high. It was unsafe to be out on the streets after dark. Even in the day time, attacks against whites and their property were becoming more frequent. She tried to look into the eyes of the people on the streets. To her, the black South African eyes looked dark, bitter and angry. Those of the white population looked tense, worried or defiant. What did people see in her eyes, she wondered?
The situation in the countryside was not much better in this area. Farmers now had their homesteads surrounded by high electrified fencing, guard dogs had become the family pet and homes were arsenals. A support system had been developed so if one farmer's property was attacked in the night others could be instantly mobilized to come to their assistance. In this area, whites were living in constant fear of attack. The vast majority of people lived peaceful, good lives, but the horror of the violence and hate reported by the press each day scared everyone.
Danny knew that many farmers had called it quits, deserting the land that had been in their families for generations and emigrating to start over again. It was a big and desperate decision because money could not be taken from South Africa. To leave meant to leave everything behind and start from scratch. Worst still, in Danny's eyes, it meant giving up your heritage, your pride in being African, your sense of who you are. It meant giving up on your country. Danny could not imagine herself ever doing that. She rubbed her throbbing temple. Finding it hard to stay focused. She just wanted to get back to Laurie.
"Ah, here we are," stated Perkins with satisfaction, as the police limo pulled up in front of one of the last enduring symbols of Boer colonialism. It was here that her forefathers had quietly finished their dinners and then walked out onto the steps to greet the British officers waiting to arrest them for treason after the Jamieson Rebellion. This private club, built with the profits of gold and diamonds, was a bastion of pride and a symbol of a time long since gone.
"Good afternoon, Deputy Chief Perkins and Ms. Agia. How wonderful to see you again," the manager of the club said in greeting.
"Good afternoon, Hardt," Ronny smiled.
"Hello, Karl. You are looking well," Danny responded on a more personal level. "How is your daughter doing?"
Karl smiled. Danielle Agia was of the old school where manners and good breeding showed. Perkins, although a good enough sort, just would never have the quality of character that Agia had. It must be two or three years since he had last seen her here, and yet she remembered to ask about Sophia.
"She has gotten her doctorate in economics and has now taken a position in Geneva with the World Bank. She is very happy and seeing a young Dutch lawyer whom I much approve of. Thank you for asking, Ms Agia," beamed Karl Hardt.
"You give her my best next time you are talking to her, and let her know that I wish her well."
"I will, Ma'am."
"We'll have lunch upstairs, Hardt, and then tea in the lounge."
"Cook tells me that the roast beef is a fine cut today, Sir," suggested Perkins, taking the Deputy Chief's hat.
Perkins smiled and nodded his thanks, taking Danny by the arm and leading her up the beautifully carved wooden stair case to the dining room on the second floor.
The Rand Club was a beautiful Victorian stone building. Inside, the carpets were Persian and the deep pile muffled all sound. The walls were high and paneled in the finest of woods or papered in rich brocades. Oil paintings of the stoic Boers that had led this country gave way to confident English lords, to be replaced by the quiet determined faces of the first black leaders of the new South Africa. Danny smiled, wondering what those early colonial leaders would think of having the portraits of black leaders now hanging beside their own. South Africa had come a long way, but Danny knew it still had a long way to go.
Laurie blinked back tears. She was awake and feeling both sick to her stomach and in pain. Where was Danny? Mrs. Wilson, the lady who was in the other bed, had showed Laurie the headline of the afternoon paper. The banner had read: White kills third Black! The story headline asked: "Are Our Poacher Laws Being Abused?" It made Laurie feel even sicker. She knew that Danny was going to take a lot of flack over this and it wasn't her fault. She knew how hurt Danny would be to think that anyone would think her a racist.
The article that Mrs. Wilson read her had given a brief history of the Agias, emphasizing their wealth and power and how Agia, a park board member, often took matters into her own hands in tracking down park poachers. It gave the history of the three blacks Danny had now killed and mentioned briefly that she had also killed two whites. There was a statement from Fortune Abute to the effect that he was saddened by the death of his son but that he did not hold Danielle Agia responsible. The article went on to suggest that Fortune was in a difficult position because both he and his surviving son worked for Danielle Agia.
A brief history had been given too, of the Allens' courageous stand against apartheid, but the article had not made it clear that Laurie been shot by Gillery. Instead, it explained that she had been regrettably wounded in the cross-fire.
Hector's girl friend had also been interviewed. The reporter noted with sympathy that the young widow lived in poverty in the Cape Town townships. "They killed him because he wanted the blacks to have the land back that has been taken from them by the whites. Hector was a hero and a champion of all black people!" the girl was quoted as saying. Where was Danny?!
Laurie wanted to take action. She knew that it was important to choke this bad press as soon as possible before high feelings lead to rioting in the streets and Danny found herself a political sacrifice. She had seen this happen more than once in North America, and it wasn't going to happen to her Danny. She knew it would be proper to talk it over with Danny first but Danny hadn't shown. And Laurie wasn't prepared to wait any longer. She picked up the phone and dialed the TV station. "News Editor's desk please."
"Hello, Ms. Tambolti. This is Ms. Allen. I understand that your station was trying to contact me. I'm feeling a bit better and, if you would still like an interview for your evening telecast, I would be willing. I think it is very important to tell Hector Abute's story. He saved my life you know."
"What? I thought Agia shot him as a poacher!"
"Oh no! Hector was working under cover for Danielle Agia. When Rod Gillery tried to shoot me and then Danielle, Hector dived in front of the rifle to save my life. He is a wonderful man! Danielle was broken hearted by his death. She is very close to the Abute family. Why Fortune Abute practically raised her."
"Ms, Allen, I have one of our city papers here in front of me, and they are saying that this could be a racially motivated shooting."
"What?! Oh look, I was an eye witness. I don't want Hector's bravery over shadowed by this sort of muck raking. I'll give you all the facts if you want to send a crew around."
Danny had been dropped off back at her hotel by Ronny and had opted for a quick shower and a change of clothes before she headed back to the hospital. She stripped her clothes off as she headed for the shower. Closing her eyes, she let the warm water of the shower massage her weary muscles. She wrapped a towel around herself and headed back into her bedroom. Her eyes felt gritty and they kept closing on her. When was the last time she had been asleep? Well over twenty-four hours ago. She flopped down on her bed to rest for a few minutes and fell fast asleep.
It was the phone ringing that finally woke her. "Hello," she mumbled.
"Laurie! Are you alright? What time is it?"
"Seven fifteen. I just finished dinner. Danny, I have been trying to get you for hours. I've been really worried. Where have you been?"
"I had to make a statement to the police and then talk to the Deputy Chief. He took me to the Rand Club. He's worried that what happened yesterday could get the wrong publicity internationally. It was very nicely done, but I was interrogated. I guess I fell asleep after I got back here around 2:30."
"Forget internationally, Danny! It really hit the fan today. One of the papers damn near came out and said that you were using the law on poachers to kill blacks."
"It's okay, I think. Danny, I couldn't get hold of you so I went ahead and made a statement to the media. I told them how Hector had been working under cover for you because you were sure that Rodney Gillery was into big time poaching. I explained how Gillery had kidnaped me to set a trap for you and how Hector dove in front of the bullet to save my life and yours." Laurie paused to collect her breath and then continued.
'The police too have made a statement. They released pictures of the cave and Gillery's stock pile of illegal hides and ivory, and they announced that the bullet that had killed Hector was from Gillery's rifle and at very close range. The boy who survived gave the press some long story about Hector really being Shaka and that he would rise again from the dead some day in a new form..........Danny, are you there?"
"How long was I asleep? Shit."
"Danny, are you mad at me?"
"Dear God, no, Laurie. When I get my sleep-soaked mind around all this I think I'm going to realize that you really pulled a rabbit out of a hat for all of us."
"It will make it easier for Fortune, Danny. I mean, Hector did save my life."
"Yeah, yeah, there is no point in going into the details. Look, I am on the way there to see you."
"Be careful. There is still some high emotion over this, Danny, and you are the center of it all."
"I will. Aah, I...I ...well, thanks. I owe you one," Danny sputtered, not being able to get out the words that she wanted to.
There was a moment of silence on the other end. "That's okay, Danny. That's what friends are for," came the quiet response.
Danny hung up and swore. She could kick herself for falling asleep and not being there for Laurie. And why the hell she didn't have the nerve to tell Laurie that she loved her, she didn't know!
Laurie put the phone down sadly. So that was the way it was. Danny had kissed her and told her she loved her yesterday as she lay bleeding. Now that the danger and emotion was over though, Danny was back in the closet, playing the role of the good friend. Damn her all to hell! Why could she be so goddamn brave about everything else and so weak and ashamed about being gay?
Danny arrived shortly later, looking quilty from behind a large flower arrangement. "Hi," she said shyly to the woman beside Laurie.
"Danny, this is Mrs. Wilson."
"Hello, dear. It is a pleasure to meet you. One does hear so much about the Agia family. And you are so nice a young lady. Wait until I tell them down at the bridge club that I met you."
"Aahh, well, thanks. I'll just go say hi to..."
"Oh course, dear. Now you pull the curtain across so you have some privacy with your friend. I won't mind at all. I'm going to put on my ear phones and listen to the TV. I asked my great nephew to tape the news. Fancy me being in the same ward with someone giving a TV interview! My, young girls these days do have adventures. Of course, I think that pioneer spirit must be in us all waiting to come out. Blood will tell."
Danny smiled weakly and nodded as she pulled the curtain across. "Hi, aahh, I brought you these," Danny whispered, holding the arrangement awkwardly and looking uncomfortable.
"Put the flowers down on the table, could you?. They are lovely, Danny! You remembered after all these years how much I loved orchids."
Danny blushed with pleasure. "Yeah, aahh, how are you doing?"
"Are you going to kiss me again and tell me you love me, or are you going to pretend it never happened?"
Danny looked surprised, then embarrassed , then nervous. She leaned forward over the metal rail and kissed Laurie softly on the lips. "I love you," she whispered.
"Good, because I love you too," Laurie responded, "all of my life I have loved you."
Danny frowned and licked her lips. She liked the taste of Laurie. She liked the way things were going. Yet she was afraid because she had no idea where things were really going! "You really scared the hell out of me. I didn't know how badly you were hurt and there was a lot of blood."
Laurie was surprise to see how pale Danny had turned. She squeezed the cold hand that still held hers. "I'm sorry, love. The doctor said I was lucky the bullet hadn't entered my chest. He said you and the ranger had done a fine job applying first aid.
"You saved my life, Laurie."
Laurie smiled and lifted Danny's hand to kiss her fingers. "You are worth it. The doctor said I can leave tomorrow as long as there is someone to keep an eye on me. Are you still free, Danny?"
"Sure I am." The tall South African smiled, although she knew she was anything but.
Laurie was released from the hospital the following day and spent the next few weeks staying at the hotel suite that Danny had booked them. Danny showered her with flowers, attention and affection in the safe confines of their room. Laurie wasn't sure, however, if Danny would ever have the strength to carry her love out into the greater world.
They had taken small outings each day, and although Danny had been caring, she was still very formal with Laurie publically. They had not slept together either. Laurie's chest had been very tender and any movement of the bed caused her pain. But Danny had moved the bedside table that was between them, and pushed her bed next to Laurie's so that they could be close.
During the day, Danny had come and gone. She'd had to go to several meetings with her lawyers and investigating officers. She had flown one day back to Cape Town to provide a pension and medical care for the girl that Hector had left behind and to attend Hector's funeral with the Abute family. There were things there to do as well in regards to the fire.
The investigating police wanted to know why Hector had been seen on the night of the fire, and Danny had done something that she had never done in her life before, she had lied. She told the police that Hector had come to warn her that he thought Rod Gillery was planning on getting her because he was feeling the heat of her crack-down on park poaching. The fire was listed as arson by person or persons unknown, but Gillery was clearly the man that the police suspected of having burned down the Agia manor house.
Charles Abute knew differently, and had questioned Danny on it. "There is no point in hanging dead men," Danny had said in justification. "I'm more concerned with justice for the living." Charles had nodded his reluctant agreement. On the one hand, he was not comfortable with making a hero out of a brother who he knew was just crazy scum. On the other, it gave his father comfort and let him hold his head up with some pride. The story too, had calmed the waters on the stormy relationship between the whites and blacks in South Africa. The killings had been justified and Hector was a hero. In the end, the story was not that far from the truth. Hector, for one brief moment in time, had done the right thing at the cost of his life.
On the Saturday, two weeks after Laurie's release from the hospital, Danny had slipped into Laurie's bed that morning, waking her with gentle kisses. "Are you okay with this?" Danny asked, nuzzling Laurie's ear.
"No, we should have been doing this to each other for the last decade," Laurie sighed, enjoying the feel of Danny's strong, lean body next to her own. "Danny?"
"Take your clothes off."
Danny hesitated barely a second and then carefully slipped out of bed to drop out of her black silk pyjamas and stand naked in front of Laurie. Laurie swallowed. Danny was a magnificent sight. Carefully, she eased out of the cotton t-shirt and shorts sleep set that she was in. She could feel Danny's eyes watching, following her curves and hollows hungrily. Then Danny was beside her and they each gave a gasp at the sensation of their two bodies touching skin on skin for the first time.
"I'm not sure what to do," Danny murmured, as she nuzzled Laurie's throat and shoulders.
"You are doing just fine," moaned Laurie, stroking her hand up Danny's tight stomach and feeling her breast. She felt Danny quiver at the touch and respond with rising need. Danny captured Laurie's breasts, teasing them gently with her fingers and tongue, mindful of Laurie's wound. Laurie's body arched with desire. "I need you in me!"
Laurie grabbed Danny's hand and placed it between her own legs. "In me, with your fingers. Please, Danny, I need you there."
Danny rolled onto her, spreading her wide, and hesitantly at first and then with passion, she gave Laurie what she needed, riding her with the same rhythmic need that Laurie gasped out in short desperate breaths. Danny felt her come warm and tight around her, and she felt a rush of pleasure like she had never felt before. Tenderly, she held Laurie, letting the after shocks tremble through the two of them. "You okay? I didn't hurt you did I?"
"I'm fine. Don't worry, Danny. You were wonderful!"
Danny kissed a swollen nipple and smiled smugly. Laurie laughed and rolled Danny onto her back slowly. "Feeling smug are you? I think I'd rather you feel very, very tired and satisfied!" Laurie sobered for a minute. "But only if you want to, Danny. Only if you want it to be me that takes your virginity. I will be content and happy with whatever you need to give you peace."
"I want you to do to me what I did to you. I want this with you"
"Yes, I'm sure," Danny stated, and felt herself cross an emotional barrier to a new world where she was for the first time in her life totally free to be herself.
Later that morning, Danny took Laurie out. They went to the Johannesburg Golf and Country Club. Like the Rand, it was an island of old colonial grace and traditions. They walked around the gardens and swimming pool out to where the older members played lawn bowling, their whites crisp and glistening against the immaculate green grass. Many members waved to Danny or came over and shook her hand. These people and their families had been friends and neighbours in this closely knit neighbourhood for generations. Some of them still remembered stories of Danny's great, great grandfather and their own enduring the hardships of the Great Trek.
Danny had kept a respectable distance between her and Laurie, taking her arm only to assist her if they were on uneven ground, the sling on Laurie's arm being an unspoken justification for the action. She did, however, introduce Laurie with pride to those who came up to them. The response was varied, some welcoming Laurie home, others politely greeting a stranger, and others still showing the reserve and stiffness that indicated their disapproval of her father's stand against apartheid.
Laurie found herself divided. On the one hand the grace, beauty and old world manners of the club created such a wonderful environment to relax in and to feel that society still had manners and charm. On the other, this place was a symbol of power, prestige and snobbery over others. Danny, today dressed in a beautiful safari-style suit of beige cotton, looked every inch the image of a true colonial.
They sat beneath a three hundred year oak on a small patio and were served by black waiters with immaculate manners. They ordered off the menu even though an impressive buffet had been laid out and black cooks stood by to make omelettes and stir fries on demand. Danny ordered East Indian dishes, Laurie opting for a sea food salad. They talked and enjoyed the sun and breeze on this prefect South African day.
They lingered over the pastry tray that had been placed on their table and coffee and listened to a quartet play Bach. Finally, Danny stirred nervously in her seat. "I know you only have a few more days before your stay here is over. Laurie, I love you and I don't want you to leave. I want you to stay here in South Africa and help me rebuild the manor."
Laurie looked up in surprise. "Is that a proposal, Danny?"
Danny blushed and fiddled nervously with her teaspoon. "I wish it could be. Publicly, we would need to be very discrete, but privately I would want you to know that you are the person I want to spend the rest of my life with."
Laurie blinked back tears both of joy and pain. "Thank you, Danny, that means the world to me because I love you with all my heart. But I can't live a lie, and I can't leave my father. He needs me. I love South Africa. It will always be the roots of who I am. But I am a Canadian. That is the nation who took my father and me in when South Africa scorned us. It is the country that believes in and tries to treat all people with human dignity and equality. We sometimes fail but more often we don't.
"You know, Danny, Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in the world according to the United Nations. There are more than six hundred different cultures living there in peace. Each year there is a big Carousel of Nations in the city, and everyone celebrates their cultural heritage and their pride in being Canadian. Could that happen here, Danny?"
"We have concerts and performances that celebrate the African heritage of South Africa," Danny said defensively. "Besides this isn't about politics, it is about us!"
Laurie shook her head sadly. "It is all about politics, Danny. Whether we are talking about the right to be openly gay without fear or being able to raise a child in an environment untainted by racism."
"A child!?" Danny exploded, her emotions raw and powerful. Several heads turned and looked their way. Laurie smiled and Danny looked embarrassed and lowered her voice. "How did we end up talking about a child?"
"Because I have one. I would want us to raise him as a family. That's the sort of commitment I would want in my soulmate."
"I see," Danny said, swallowing hard. The muscles in her jaw were tight and worked furiously as Danny dealt with what Laurie was saying. There wasn't going to be a happy ending. Laurie was going to leave.
Some weeks later, Laurie wandered with her father along the walking trail in the park land that ran the length of the Niagara gorge. The autumn leaves were a blaze of reds, oranges and yellows on the trees and they made a crazy patchwork quilt to walk on as they drifted to the ground. The day was cool and crisp and the sky blue and Laurie felt a restless depression settling on her. John Allen had suggested a walk and they had left their historical home some kilometers outside of the old village of Niagara-on-the-Lake to cross the street and walk back towards Fort George, a reconstructed British garrison from the 1800's.
"Do you want to talk about it now, Honey?" her father asked, as they walked slowly along.
"About what happened between you and Danny. You love her don't you?"
Laurie stopped and looked at her father. "I tried to be the girl you wanted, Dad. It was just not me. I am gay and I have always loved Danny."
The older man nodded, wrapping his arm around Laurie's shoulder. "I think I've always know too, Pet. I could wish it different but it isn't going to be. I'm glad you gave it a try though because I'm mighty happy to have Daniel as my grandson."
Laurie smiled, thinking of the small boy who was currently having his afternoon nap under the watchful eye of their housekeeper, Allison.
"It was a good series of stories that you wrote, and I thought a fair view of South Africa today. But I think there is another story you haven't told me completely."
"There is nothing much to say. Yes, we love each other, but we live in different countries and have differing views on being gay. Danny has a lot of unresolved issues because of her religious belief and culture." Laurie shrugged. "I needed her to be a real partner who isn't ashamed to be with me and my son."
"I wouldn't have thought Danny Agia would be afraid of anything," snorted Allen.
"Danny isn't afraid of anything but her own feelings," sighed Laurie.
John Allen gave his daughter an affectionate squeeze and let his arm drop to his side. It was shaking. Damn thing drove him crazy. In a way, he had hoped that Laurie would have Danny back. It would have made his daughter happy, and he could have asked Danny to take some of the burden of running the winery off his shoulders. Still, this way he didn't really have to deal with having a gay daughter or the effects that might have on his grandson. Life could deal you a pretty rough hand at times that was for sure.
Danny rubbed her eyes and then forced herself to look back at the computer screen. The time in the bottom corner read 2:45 a.m. She should go to bed, she knew, but she didn't think she could sleep. Sleep was an illusive element these days. No matter that she worked herself to exhaustion most days, when she lay down the memories returned and sleep was impossible. Not that it was any big deal. She was currently sleeping in the field office on a camp cot beside her desk.
There was a soft knock at her door. "Danielle Agia, are you still awake?"
Danny smiled. "Come in, Charles, the door is not locked."
Charles Abute stuck his head around the door, saw that Danny was still at her desk, and walked in. He settled this tall frame as best he could in the visitor's chair and looked at his friend and boss. "Woman, you look like something the cat brought home."
"Thanks," responded Danny dryly, leaning on her folded arms. "What are you doing up at this hour?"
"Fortune got up to answer the call of nature and sees your light on over here so he wakes me and the Missus up and sends me over here to see what the matter is. I told him what the matter was but he sent me any way!"
Danny smiled and shook her head. "Meddling old goat! I bet Charm is ready to kill him."
"She has told me that if my father isn't back to work by the end of this month, she's most likely going to leave me and take the kids with her." Charles laughed. "So how about you turn this light out and go to bed because I'm getting too old and ugly to find another wife."
"You sound like your father," Danny laughed. "I just want to finish these accounts."
Charles frowned. "Danny, I've been doing those accounts for the past three years."
Danny looked down at her hands. "I know, Charles...I..I..need to keep busy."
"You need to go bring Laurie back here," Charles retorted bluntly.
Danny leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. "I asked her to come back here. She refused. She doesn't want to live in South Africa because among other things it would mean her leaving her father. He has put down roots in Canada, and runs a very successful winery there."
Charles leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees and stared moodily at the floor. "Love of the land is a powerful love," Charles muttered. "When I was younger, I often dreamt of owning my own farm, building it up like this place so I could pass it through my family like your people did."
Danny looked at Charles for a very long time. "Inside, Charles, do you resent the whites who live here like Hector did?"
Charles looked up and met Danny's eyes. "It hurts inside, Danielle Agia. It hurts deep inside. It does in all black Africans and I'm sure it does in North American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, New Zealand Moaris and so many more. But you can't rewrite history. That doesn't take a country forward, only into chaos. I've got a good job here and security for my wife and kids. I got no complaints."
Danny sat up straight and smiled. "Maybe, I can rewrite history."
"Most of the Agia businesses can be run just as easily from Canada as they can from here. Charles, I'm thinking of making you president of Agia wines and an equal partner with the Chairman of the Board."
"You are right, Charles, love of a land goes right to your bones and I do love South Africa. I could never leave it completely. I can't anyway because I am not allowed to take money from the country. But that's no reason way I can't live in Canada and just come back to South Africa to visit and do business." Danny got to her feet. "Charles, I'm going to Canada to see if I can't buy a share of Allen wines and make Laurie Allen my partner for life. If I achieve that goal then you and I are going to have to sit down and rewrite some history."
Charles got to his feet, shaking his head and with a big grin on his face. "Well, I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be saying I'm glad you are gay. But it is here if it means I get a chance to run Agia Wines."
Danny laughed and threw her pen at him. "Get out of here, so I can get some sleep! And the first job of the new president is to change the name of our company to the Abute-Agia Wines."
Danny cursed and shivered, picking up the pace a bit as she walked down the park land trail. She had flown to London, England and then on to Toronto the next day. There she'd rented a car and driven around the west end of Lake Ontario to Niagara. Following the signs and stopping to ask directions, she had arrived at the Allen's home, a very impressive Georgian field stone structure set in hectares of vineyards.
It had been the housekeeper who had answered the door. "I'm looking for Laurie Allen," Danny had explained.
"Why dear me! You're Danielle Agia aren't you? Dan has your picture by his bed. Laurie isn't here right now. She and her dad went for a walk down the walking trail. Do you want to come in and wait?"
"No thanks. Which way did they go?"
"Down that way," Allison directed, pointing across the street and to her left. "You won't be able to miss them. They'll have to come back by the same trail. They usually walk down to the Fort and back.."
"Thanks," Danny had said and hurried off. Now she wished that she had accepted the invitation to wait. It was freezing out here! And she had no idea what she was going to say to Laurie and her father when they met.
Laurie walked along lost in her thoughts and enjoying the silent support and companionship of her father at her side.
"I think that you had better go help that poor woman because if I am not mistaken that is a South African about to succumb to our nice fall chill."
Laurie looked up in surprise and saw Danny heading towards them looking indeed cold and very determined.
"Danny!" Laurie exclaimed, her face suddenly alive and filled with joy. Danny waved and strode over to them. She wrapped Laurie in her arms and kissed her. "I love you," she whispered into Laurie's soft hair.
"I love you too, Danny," Laurie whispered back, tears threatening to spill from her eyes.
Danny pulled back but kept an arm protectively around the woman that she loved. "Mr. Allen, I love your daughter and I want to stay here and make a life with her. I'd like to talk to you about the possibility of buying into your business."
For a minute there was silence. John Allen looked at this daughter and saw the happiness radiating from her. It was not the life he would have wanted for her, but he could see that it was the only one that was going to make his daughter happy.
"I think something could be arranged. Why don't you two head back up to the house. There are one or two things I need to see to first," he answered diplomatically.
"Thank you, Dad," Laurie sobbed, giving her father a hug before returning to Danny's arms. Allen nodded and turned and walked off. He knew he had made the right decision, but he needed a little time alone to try and come to terms with the life style and partner his daughter had chosen before he could sit down and talk business with Danny.
Laurie looked up at Danny. "Are you sure about this, Danny?"
"I couldn't be more sure." Danny responded and kissed Laurie again. They walked back together through the fall leaves.
"Does it get much colder than this?" Danny asked her teeth chattering.
"A lot, but don't worry, sweetheart, I'll keep you warm."
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