Road to Redemption - Michelle Dalton
The scent of China roses in full bloom. Silky satin skin beneath his fingertips … Eyes the shade of Earth’s richest soil sprinkled with hints of copper, and lips as red as ripe pomegranate, so sweet, so hot, so …
The bus jolted and Raymond Le Roux found himself once again in the present.
“Penny for your thoughts.” Lullu giggled as she rode past Mina on horseback.
Mina twirled the rose between her index finger and thumb. She wasn’t sure why, but she’d not been able to resist the bunch of lilac blooms when she’d visited town early this morning. They’d been her favourite, once upon a time.
Thoughtfully, she slipped the rose behind her right ear and glanced at her daughter. Lullu flashed Mina one of her bright grins as she passed her a second time in the arena.
A soft ache trotted across her heart, as it always did and always would when her daughter smiled. She was the spitting image of her father.
Mina plucked the rose from her hair and dropped it to the ground.
Wiping a hand down his face and adjusting his jeans, Ray shook his head.
He focused on the ever-changing vista as the bus cruised down the narrow road. Here and there, they passed a donkey cart or a farm house. The ocean, to his left, ebbed and flowed, blue, pristine, and inviting. Holiday homes sat atop white dessert dunes with their matching whitewashed walls, thatched roofs, and fancy four-by-fours parked out the front.
A fellow inmate offered him a gwaai.
“You can’t light up in here, boet, but thanks.” He waved away the offer. The man simply shrugged and tucked the it behind his left ear.
The cigarette was tempting, the dream lingering.
The hunger for the long lost, of a time gone by, and the ever-demanding need for a hit fought for first place.
“Ssss.” Ray sucked in a breath as his dream faded, leaving his nerve endings frayed and overwhelmed. A hit. Would the desire for oblivion ever go away?
For the first time in more than a decade, he was completely sober. Not even the acrid bitterness of nicotine had come close to his lips in over six months. He was dry, free of any sort of drug except his longing for her.
He could cope with the dreams of a distant, happier past, but the memories of what had robbed him of a life he could have led gnawed at him with poisoned, hungry fangs.
Ray was determined not to relapse, but only God knew how he would ‘work through’ the bottled up regret.
Drugs had kept him numb for so long. Actually feeling something was like being stung by a thousand hornets at once.
The constant stench of guilt hovered over him like a rotting corpse. Ray only just kept his head above the surface of the black hole he fought to keep from falling down once again.
He only had one person to blame: himself. He had so much to make up for—he would need three lifetimes to come anywhere close to redemption.
Ah … the word reverberated through his soul. That was exactly where he was heading—Redemption. A farm for scum of the earth who’d been allowed a second chance.
He did not believe he deserved one, nor was he about to squander it.
The small Western Cape town of Tatensrope was the holiday possie for the rich, and the coast’s gem—one of the few untouched landscapes left in his beloved country.
It was odd that this would be where a rehabilitation centre for crims was also located.
“Lullu! Will you please put on your hat?” Mina scolded her fair-haired daughter. The frown on the teenagers face deepened as she continued working her pony in the lunging ring.
“Ja, Ma,” she replied as she slowed the Basotho gelding and beckoned to him.
Unlike Mina’s darker olive skin and dark brown locks, her daughter took after her father’s family in every respect, but for her eyes. Those, at least, she shared with her.
Mina glanced at her phone. The bus with ten new inmates was running late, as usual.
Africa time—a sense of things happening as and when they did—was something that Mina would never understand even if Africa was the blood coursing through her veins.
They’d also still not emailed her the paperwork—something about load shedding affecting their systems. Hopefully, printed copies of the new inmate register would accompany the driver.
“We’re almost ready for Nationals.” Lullu smiled as she strolled up to her with Boesman at her side. The pair were inseparable. Many a night, Mina would find her daughter asleep beside the horse.