Father O’Reilly had just returned from his visit to the orphanage when Sister Hughes rushed over to him. She looked very distressed. “Oh, Father O’Reilly, thank Heaven’s you’re back.”
He looked at her, concerned. “What is the matter, Sister Hughes?”
He stiffened at once. “What about her?”
His face went pale. “What do you mean she’s gone?”
“She left this afternoon.”
“Did she say where she was going?”
“No, Father. I don’t know if it had to do with that young man–“
“What young man?”
“You know, the young man who visited the parish a couple of months ago.”
“He was here?”
“Yes, he was here today. He wanted to see you but you were at the orphanage.”
“Did he see Zendaya?”
“Yes. I told him to wait for her because she would be back from the market fairly soon and he said the strangest thing–“
“Did Zendaya leave with him?” he asked tightly.
Sister Hughes shook her head. “No. I saw him leave alone and he looked very upset.”
“Didn’t Zendaya say anything to you about where she was going or why she was leaving?”
“No, Father, but she did mention that she left a note for you in your office. She was pretty upset. This place will never be the same without her.” Sister Hughes sniffed. “Excuse me, Father,” she mumbled before she quickly walked away.
Father O’Reilly hurried to his office, closed the door behind him and went over to the desk. He searched for the note but couldn’t find it. Frustrated, he dragged his fingers through his hair while he tried to figure out where it could be. Then, his eyes fell on his Bible. Something white was sticking out of it. He opened it and saw an envelope with his name written neatly on it. He snatched it and sat down. He used the letter opener to slit it open and then, with trembling fingers, he unfolded the sheet of paper. His heart pounded heavily as he read the words on the page.
Before I explain why I left, I should tell you that Anesu came to the parish again today. This time I spoke to him. I lied and told him that I had left and then returned. He wanted me to leave with him. His plan was for us to go to his uncle’s house house in Cape St. Francis where we would stay until we got married. I told him that I couldn’t marry him because I didn’t love him. He asked if there was someone else. I lied and said no. How could I tell him about you–about us?
I gave him back his ring and he left. He was really hurt and I’ll never forgive myself for that . He’s a wonderful guy and deserves much better. Marrying Anesu would have been a terrible mistake. I would have been living a lie. How could I be married to one man and thinking about another? I know that I made the right decision where he’s concerned just as I know that I made the right decision leaving the parish and you.
I had to leave before you came back. I couldn’t say goodbye to you face to face or I would have lost my nerve and stayed. It’s no use. There’s no future for us. Your life is wrapped up in the church. Leaving was the best thing for both of us. I hope that in time you will see that I’m right. Please take care of yourself.
My deepest regards,
He crumpled the note and dropped it on the desk. Leaning back in the chair, he closed his eyes. How could she possibly think that leaving him was the best thing? Did she have any idea of how not having her around, not seeing her or being with her was going to be torture for him? Of all the foolish, selfish things to do…His eyes flew open and he sprang up from the chair. He paced restlessly about the room, agitated and furious. Granted, she hadn’t left with Anesu and had broken off her engagement to him but any satisfaction he might have gotten from that was squelched. She was gone and he had no idea where she was.
He strode over to the desk and picked up the telephone. He quickly dialed a number. “Hello, Father Botha. I hope I’m not calling at a bad time. Has Zendaya been in touch with you?”
“No, she hasn’t. Why?”
“She has left the Parish.”
“You mean she has left the parish for a while?”
“No. She packed up and left.”
“That’s strange. Didn’t she give you any notice at all?”
“That’s not like her at all. Well, if I hear from her, I will get in touch with you.”
“Thank you, Father Botha. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, Father O’Reilly.”
Father O’Reilly hung up and walked over to the window where he spent the next several minutes staring out of the window, his expression tense. Where was she?
“What’s the matter, Zendaya? Don’t you like the hat I made for you?” Agetha asked, a concerned expression on her small face.
Fighting back tears, Zendaya hugged her and said, “Of course, I like the hat. It’s very pretty.” When she released her, she put the hat on. “How does it look?”
“It looks really nice on you.”
“Thank you for making it for me. It’s the best Christmas gift I ever got.”
“Why are you sad, Zendaya?”
Her question startled Zendaya. “Sad?” she repeated. “Do I look sad?”
Agetha nodded. “Yes. Are you sad because you’re not spending Christmas with your family?”
“I don’t have any family,” Zendaya explained. “My father died when I was your age and my mother died two years ago. I don’t have any brothers or sisters.”
“You can be a part of our family, if you like. You can be my and Elsabe’s big sister. I heard Mama once say that you were like a daughter to her.”
“I do feel like a part of your family and I always wanted to have sisters.”
Agetha smiled. “Can I brush your hair?”
“Sure. Go and get Elsabe. While you brush my hair, I can tell you a bedtime story.”
Agetha ran off to get her sister. Zendaya removed the hat and set it on top of the dresser. She wiped her eyes on her pajama shirt sleeve. Agetha was right. She was sad. By now he would have read the note. Was he wondering where she was? Was he furious with her for leaving? She had no choice. Still, it hurt to be separated from him and the thought of never seeing him again…The two girls bounded into the room and she turned to face them. I mustn’t let them see that I am still sad.
Next is, Zendaya’s Visit to Johannesburg.