by Anne Goodwin

There are lines so wide, so deep and dark, no-one warns you to avoid them. They reckon you already know. Where I come from, those lines read murder, caning kids and thievery. Taboos are different here.

I could pretend my uncle’s line was rendered fuzzy by the heat haze. Pretend the gin he poured at sundown fogged my brain. But I sensed his line when we drove between the gateposts, felt its clout when he parked beside the house. Saw it when he jogged around the van to open the door for me, without acknowledging the man who lugged my backpack from the boot.

I could pretend I thought I’d crossed a line already, though not the one my aunt revered the most. I was welcomed, but not as family. Like Abel, I was a hired hand.

But my duties left me ample time for leisure. Beds made and showers sluiced, I sunbathed by the pool. But there was no chance of lounging there with Abel: my uncle’s stock on the dusty veldt consumed his daylight hours.

When our tryst came to light, my aunt blamed Abel; unless I’d seduced him to embarrass my hosts? ‘You can scorn race lines in Cape Town, but you can’t ignore them here.’

I despise her rigid rules on romance. Whom I bed is no-one’s concern but mine. Yet I have crossed a line, and I’m sorry. There’s often fallout from a holiday fling. At summer’s end, I’m going back to university, while Abel treks from farm to farm to beg another job.

I should be glad my uncle’s still prepared to drive me to the airport. But he’s drawn the line at opening the passenger door. Nor does he offer to carry my pack to the vehicle. With Abel gone, I haul it from the house myself.

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a particular interest in fictional therapists.

Twitter @Annecdotist.
Amazon author page: