30: The Heart
There was only the swish of the grass pushed aside by their legs and the soft crunch of the soil beneath boots to fill between the far off repetitive calls of a ring-necked dove and the soft chatter of a honey-guide.
The little bird trying to get their attention would have no luck today, the scout patrol was steadily moving south along the rivers margin. Stretch line abreast to increase the chance of picking up tracks, or finding snares they moved with purpose and in silence.
Not having to concentrate on following a track Moses walked slightly to the rear of the formation. He let his mind and soul bask in the pleasure of walking with the team and his thoughts.
He was at one with the world. He had spent his life moving with men. Mostly peacefully and uneventfully. But sometimes he had strode deliberately and purposefully towards violent confrontation, if necessary. Moses hoped it would stay calm this time, but one never knew what would happen if they came upon a group of armed poachers.
Man is made in the image of God. Ever since Father Xavier showed him how to shelter in the
images shadow away from the heat of evil he felt comfortable dealing with those who moved there with him. Father Xavier had taught him to be practical about his faith and service, that sometimes it was necessary to strike back even while turnigng the other cheek. It was why he had spent his life as a private military contractor fighting, even killing to preserve the shades of Godly goodness.
As such he had not spent much time dealing with the affairs of women, definitely not dealing with how women can seep into and take over mens hearts.
Yes he had married early, barely passed his teens. It had been arranged. But, with his choosing to fight against those who opposed the way of God he had spent little time at home. The struggles had been far away in Angola, Sierra Leone and lately Nigeria. As such he never really knew his wife with her womanly ways, before malaria took her away, with all the sadness that goes with death and a daughter barely walking and a son still crawling towards his future. Luckily there had been grandparents to raise the children he barely knew. At least the pay in his unusual career had been good, and the grandparents and his children benefitted from that abundance.
Now he was discovering the space in his heart, a wasteland for so long, was being flooded to overflowing. How that overflow was affecting every facet of his life, with the unaccustomed elation of it.
He had always been driven to impress and prove himself to men. It had been in ways of strength, fortitude, resolve, courage or determination. Never had he sought the approval of a woman. So where did his compulsion to find favor in this woman’s eyes come from? Suddenly the approval of men was nothing compared to that of this girl. Her shy smile indicating her interest in him. His pleasure at impressing her. At bringing her little gifts. A string of lucky beans, a bouquet of flame lilies.
Her response brought so much joy. Her glow didn’t even need gifts to be kindled. Like hers to him, his presence to her seemed to bring her joy and happiness. Its sufficiency was triggered in the small things he said to her, the little favors he performed for her. Inviting her out to show her insignificant, maybe even hidden things. To track a tortoise, show her an ant colony on the March, find her namesake, the beauty of a Narina Trojan in a thicket. Sometimes it was a focus on the flowers of the Bush, where he had picked the flame lilies. Maybe it was a walk in search of some of the small five, the ant lion, the elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, rhinoceros beetle and buffalo weaver.
How was it that after tracking the mystery man all day, when otherwise he would be filled with tiredness, his gait increased its urgency as he returned. He was effused with pleasure knowing that each time, before sunset she would appear. All evening they would sit side-by-side on the sandbar at the edge of the river with the fire at their feet, listening to the snort of the hippos, as they talked about the trivialities of life.
He would tell her his stories, of Angola and Nigeria and of Africa. He would even tell her snippets of some of the darker dealings. He went so far as to show her his wounds, pulling up his shirt to reveal the scars on belly and back.
This happiness with her was something completely new.
It had arrived suddenly, surprisingly as he watched her approach. He couldn’t remember, was it the second or third time she visited his campsite? It flooded forth as she approached. With her hips like bells, and the sensuous catlike way she walked making her long black hair sway so that it brushed her shoulders above the tightness of her clinging top. It opened the gates to his heart.
It manifested itself as an awareness of her being,, when he realized her appearances meant she was interested in him as a man, not as a guide.
Blinkers were stripped from his mind and eyes. He saw her in a new light. Everything about her was beautiful.
He had fallen in love.
It was strange. It felt so utterly good. That first time sitting before the fire, with their feet resting on a big log as they spoke and laughed. One foot had slowly inch closer, until her toes touched his. He hadn’t drawn his foot away.
The flare in his heart had been immeasurably more intense than the flames of the fire they were staring at.
He was sure God would forgive him when later she received him as willingly and excitedly as he could ever dream.
The shadows of goodness are always dappled at the edges Father Xavier said, as long as one made sure there was enough sunlight for the flame lilies to flower.
But, as he walked behind the scouts his mind was jerked back to the present as his eyes picked up the familiar tracks of an old grey haired nganga.