An excerpt from the debut novel by DAVID CORNWELL.
It was sweet how Charlotte got the house ready for Dewald, even if most of the time she was quiet, really quiet, and her face had this sore look on it that just wouldn’t go away.
It took her two days, and god, she worked slowly. She wanted to do it all by herself, but what didn’t help was that she was drinking while she went along, and so whenever she was done with something she had to clean up after herself again. It was like another version of a Greek punishment and eventually I started following her with my own bucket and sponge. On the day he was meant to arrive we promised we wouldn’t drink and she made supper, and she got me to cut about a ton of ivy off the walls outside. Everything was done by six, and we stood for a while in the lounge with the last light of day pressing in through the windows, and she’d found a warm yellow bulb for the lamp and the couch was made up like a bed again.
Even though it actually looked something like a home, we weren’t fooled—we knew how rickety it was—and for the longest time we just stood in the lounge and held each other, and I know I was dying for a drink.
Dewald was late, though, really late, and he wasn’t answering his phone and obviously that made us worry, and so we started drinking when the sun went down and we didn’t feel too dingy about it. Then, just before midnight, Charlotte’s phone rang and we found out Dewald had just made it through a roadblock the other side of the tunnel coming in from Paarl. She told me that, and then she said, “Wow, Ed, he’s coming.”
Her voice wasn’t right, though.
And her face—
“What’s going on?” I said. “Are you okay?”
And it was like what happens with little girls—her chin scrunched up and then it shook and then her eyes sprang tears, and I hugged her while she cried into my t-shirt and she kept saying, “I’m scared, Ed, I’m so scared.”
“Why, Charlotte? What’s up? What’s happening?”
“Are we going to be good with The Rule?”
“Ja, of course. Of course we will,” I said, but it was fucked, it was like the act of saying the words immediately made me doubt them, and I started catching her anxiety in a big way.
She didn’t cry for long, and while she went off to go wash her face I poured myself another drink and I asked myself if there really was a difference anymore, whether or not we took anything else while Dewald was around.
I knew there was.
But I also knew that if you had a mean heart you might say, Bad enough is bad enough, and it didn’t matter much either way.
Like it Matters is published by Umuzi, and is the inaugural title to be featured by our monthly Book Club: read the review here.
GIVEAWAY: Win one of three copies of Like It Matters! To enter, email competition(at)aerodrome.co.za, with the book’s title in the subject line. In the body of the email please include your full name, contact number and physical address (including area code). Only readers resident in South Africa are eligible. Entries close on 15 July 2016.
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