Gail Gilbride Bohle
Stories from the heart
Copyright © Gail Gilbride Bohle
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
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Published by allaboutlove
Postnet Suite #43, Private Bag X7,
Parkview 2122, South Africa
One misty afternoon in Grahamstown, Gigi and Nigel, lectures done
for the day, wandered off campus and into the Botanical Gardens. The
earthy forest filled her nostrils and she breathed in the rich growth of
trees and the dying leaves.
He was holding her hand, guiding her through the carpet of
fallen foliage. She shuffled them with the toes of her takkies and felt
the warmth of the filtered sun. She pressed herself against his side,
rubbed her nose against his blue jersey.
Unable to contain herself suddenly, she broke free and climbed
a fallen log. She twirled for him, balancing easily, then threw herself
into his waiting arms. She wanted to be in this moment forever.
Nothing could ever match this perfect, passionate now, and she
laughed out loud at the beauty of it all. This was love. This was what
she had been waiting for all her life and she wanted to catch it and
freeze it in time. She was the forest and it was her and Nigel.
“Nigel, where would you most like to be, in the whole world,
He hesitated before he answered. “Here Gi, right here with
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This is my world, Nigel.”
She jumped down and, as he caught her in his arms, he
“You are a funny thing, you know that? I think I’ve become
addicted to you!”
Gigi’s mood slid from playful to pensive and, as they passed
the pond, she bent and picked up pebbles, which she threw in, one by
one. Perfect circles appeared and just as gently, disappeared.
“Is something wrong, Gi?”
She shook her head… eventually she met his eyes and said,
“You won’t ever leave me, will you?”
“What kind of a question is that now?”
She made circles in the sand, while she formed the words she
wanted to say.
“People I love tend to leave me.”
She tried to break free, but Nigel held her firmly.
Gigi found herself unable to answer. The tears were too close.
She pulled away from him and ran as fast as she could. When she
reached the wooden gate, she stopped and flopped over it, panting.
By the time Nigel reached her, his face was angry. He grabbed her
arm and swung her around.
“Don’t do that to me!”
Gigi tried to look away, but she couldn’t escape his eyes.
“My dad left me. He died. Just like that.”
Nigel took a deep breath. After what seemed like forever, he
touched her cheek.
“I have no intention of leaving …”
Gigi began climbing over the gate but Nigel jumped over
before she could get down and held out his hand.
“Come on you crazy kid. Let’s go and grab a bite to eat
somewhere. I’m starving…”
She adjusted her step to his and they floated down to the only
steak house in town. After supper they made their way home and
poured themselves a last glass of wine in the handkerchief-sized
garden. Nigel pulled her down beside him and pointed up at the sky.
“Look at the stars Gi. You see that one over there? We are as
tiny as that in the universe.”
She followed his finger as the cold air bit into her thoughts.
Deep below the happiness, was a tiny cloud of foreboding.
She tried to blow it away, but it kept appearing in her mind’s eye.
This was just too good to be true.
As she wormed her way into Nigel’s arms, the cloud seemed to
“You know,” he said, a teasing look on his face, “the sangoma
on our farm told me I’d have an interesting life.”
Gigi smiled at him through the darkness. “I hope not
‘interesting’ like the Chinese curse.”
“What curse is that?”
“May you live in ‘interesting’ times!”
“Well …” and he laughed. “You could say that. He told me I’d
die young … before my thirtieth birthday, in fact.”
A shudder crept down her spine. She brought her hands to her
mouth. “What a terrible thing to say to a child.”
Words spun in her head but she couldn’t arrange them into a
sentence that would express her feelings.
“Don’t say that to me, Nigel. I don’t want to hear that.”
His eyes twinkled in the dark as he pushed her over
onto her stomach and began to tickle her.
“Aw come on, Gig, don’t tell me you believe in that stuff?”
* * *
Gigi tossed in her bed. In her dreams she saw policemen.
Lights flashed in the dark and she felt a scream rising. There was
movement outside her door. She expected the door to be forced open
any minute now and the police to barge in, looking for Nigel.
He was an activist, on a secret mission out of the country and
she feared … for herself and for him. She smelled her fear all around
her and she forced the scream to stay inside the dream.
She awoke with relief. The light was streaming in through the
window. But as reality wormed its way into her thoughts, new tears
rose and fell.
The reality was so much worse than the dream had been.
* * *
The hospital lift door opened and she stepped out into the cold
passage. Clip clop clip clop. She cursed her kitten heels as they broke
the awkward silence. Praying hands guarded the entrance to the
She saw bodies hooked up to machines. Gigi scanned the
room quickly for Nigel’s body … no, not Nigel’s body. She searched
for Nigel. Involuntarily she smiled. He was the only one lying there
with a Sandy Bay tan!
“It’s me, Gigi,” she whispered as she took his hand. He
probably couldn’t hear, but she spoke anyway, just in case .
“It’s so good to see you, Nigel.”
Tears plopped onto her lap as she watched his chest rise and
fall. There was life. At least there was life. And with life, there was still
Nigel was in a coma, close to death. On his way to a secret
political meeting in Lesotho, his car had rolled on the dirt road and he
had been terribly injured.
Gigi gently shook her arm so that her trademark silver bangles
jingled. She wanted him to hear. She wanted him to wake for her.
Nigel groaned and swung his head from side to side. His body began
to shake and stifled noises burst from his lips. Nurses appeared from
all sides and Gigi found herself pushed aside.
Swish. Curtains closed her off. Shut her out. She couldn’t get
back to him. She was frantic now. Why wouldn’t they let her in?
Nigel had recognised her voice. He wanted her there!
“It’s okay. You can see him now.”
Gigi moved closer to the bed.
“He opened his eyes for a second,” one of the nurses said, to
no one in particular. Why couldn’t she have been there?
* * *
Nigel lay in his drug-induced tranquillity. Gigi watched the red and
yellow sunset through the hospital window. The darkness descended
and she looked up into kind, brown eyes.
A young dominee took her hands across Nigel’s body and
began to pray softly, in Afrikaans. A profound stillness filled the space
between them and a sense of spirit hung in the air, ever so gently.
When he left he handed her a piece of paper. It had his phone
number and address on it and the offer of a spare bed, anytime…
As the dominee moved away, Gigi reached into her purse for
her little white shell. They had found it together, a perfect whorl of
their joy together, walking the beach, laughing into the wind. She had
kept it, not knowing that she would need it to remember the two of
them, and the way they had been. She pressed it into her palm until it
Then she prayed, willing him to wake and be whole again,
walk, run, and ride and be her knight in shining armour once more. “If
you make him better, God,” she bartered, “I’ll do this every day for
the rest of my life.”
That was the last day that her hands lifted, and clasped, in
Remembering Jimmy part two