“What do we really know about this girl, except that he met her in Namibia?” Margaret Whitmore asked her husband, Charles as she stood at the window of the drawing-room looking out at the snow covered grounds of the estate. Winter had come early, promising a white Christmas which was a couple of days away. Her step-son, Clive had come home for the holidays and had brought a friend with him.
Charles glanced up from his newspaper, removed his pipe and replied, “Clive wrote to me about her. They met last year at a mutual friend’s engagement party.”
Margaret turned to face him. “He wrote to you about her?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact, I feel as if I know her very well. I think it’s serious.”
“Why do you say that?”
He looked surprised. “Haven’t you noticed the way he looks at her?”
Margaret turned and walked over to the fireplace. She stood with her back turned towards him. “No, I hadn’t noticed. I’m not sure I approve, Charles.”
“Why on earth not?” he asked.
“I just don’t think she’s suitable for him.”
“Is it because she’s African?”
Margaret swung around. “Of course not!” she replied, irritably. “I’m not prejudiced, you know.”
“Then, what is your objection?”
“I’m sure she’s a nice girl but–“
“You don’t think she’s right for Clive.”
“I seem to recall us having this same conversation before. Do you remember when he brought home Emma Fennimore a couple of years ago? You didn’t approve of her either although she was a lovely girl. And then, there was Lilly–“
“Oh, don’t mock me, Charles.”
“I’m not mocking you.”
“I just want what’s best for Clive.”
“So do I but Clive is an adult, capable of making his own decisions and choosing whom he want to be with. And if you don’t want to get in his bad books, don’t interfere in his love life.” He put the pipe back in his mouth and resumed reading his paper.
Margaret looked at him, was about to say something but changed her mind. She turned back to stare at the flames as they licked the logs. She heard voices and then Clive walked in. The girl was behind him. She glanced at her first and then at him. His face was flushed from being outdoors. He acknowledged her and his father, “It’s cold out there,” he announced as he warmed his hands. “but, it’s beautiful with the fresh snow on the ground. Come and warm your hands, Ndeshi.”
Ndeshi joined him and held her hands over the fire. She was thankful to be in the nice, warm room again. “I’m not used to the cold,” she said.
Clive smiled and took her hands. “Here, let me warm them for you.”
Charles gave Margaret a knowing look. Margaret turned away. Just then, Reginald went in to inform him that he had a call. Charles set his paper aside and stood up. “Thanks, Reginald. I’ll take it in the study. Excuse me, everyone.” He left the room.
Reginald said to Margaret, “Lunch is ready.”
“Thank you, Reginald.” After he was gone, she said to Ndeshi, “Why don’t you go ahead? Clive and I will join you shortly.”
Ndeshi smiled. “All right.”
Clive released her hands and watched her go. He turned to Margaret. “You wanted to talk to me about something?”
She wrung her hands. “You haven’t said much to me since you arrived.”
“What is there to say?”
“Why did you have to bring her?”
“I didn’t want to spend the holidays without her.”
“But, it’s the first time you’ve come home for Christmas since…”
“I know. And I’m only here because of Dad.”
“Why do you always bring a girl with you when you visit? Are you doing it to hurt me?”
“My life doesn’t revolve around you anymore, Margaret.”
“Your father thinks it’s serious between you and that girl. Is he right?” she asked, her eyes filled with pain and jealousy.
“Yes,” he replied. “Is that all? May I go now?”
Color suffused her face. “Why are you being like this?”
“How am I being?”
“Cold and distant. I remember there was a time when you were so passionate.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“Does she know about us?”
“There is no us. What we had ended the day I came home after graduating from Oxford and found out that you married my father.”
“Is that why you packed up and moved to Namibia?”
“Yes. I was hurt and angry.”
She reached out to touch his arm and he flinched. “Clive…”
“Lunch is ready and I’m hungry. Excuse me.” He turned and abruptly walked away.
She watched him leave, her heart aching. It was his first Christmas home and she had hoped that it would be just the three of them. Why did he have to bring that girl? Was it to spite her? Seeing them together was like a knife turning in her stomach. How on earth was she going to get through the holidays?