All young girls, gather around and prepare to hear
About a young bachelorette by the name of Heather.
As is the African custom, I, your humble narrator,
Ask for guidance from the spirits of my ancestors
Who told stories by the fireside in by-gone millennia.
First, here’s introducing the main characters:
Heather – Eighteen, lush, innocent, pretty;
If she were a painting, she’d be done in soft pastels
And fetch a tidy sum at the local art gallery.
Florence (“Call me Flo”) – Heather’s mom; slim,
Debonair, snooty as an ambassador’s wife;
If she were a dog, she’d be a poodle.
Jonathan – The stable hand; twenty-one, chiselled body,
Ready smile, handsome face; Venus as a boy.
Theodore – Twenty-eight; born with proverbial silver spoon,
Sharp dresser; one of the most eligible bachelors in town.
Now, Heather and her family lived on a sprawling ranch
Where they kept a thousand head of cattle, a hundred sheep,
Twenty horses and ten noisy German Shepherd dogs.
The family property – acres upon acres of it –
Covered a wide area as deeply contoured as a face.
One day, Heather’s parents went to the city on business
And while they were there, the discovered a couple
Who were big in the banking business and had a bachelor son.
Florence saw an opportunity and went into overdrive,
Bringing up Heather and postulating her as the perfect wife
For their son, Theodore. She termed it: ‘A match made in Heaven.’
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Heather was restless.
She decided to go and ride one of the horses.
Going round the large farmhouse and gaining the stable,
She was surprised to find Jonathan grooming a new white stallion.
His curvy chest was bare but he had a hat on
And his legs were planted into faded blue jeans and brown cowboy boots.
Heather felt an odd but pleasant fire shoot up her tummy
But quickly composed herself and said hello to the stable boy.
He smiled and said hello, looking directly into her eyes.
Blood rushed into her cheeks as she returned his gaze.
‘So big and stately and beautiful,’ she rhapsodized.
‘Me or the horse?’ inquired the strapping labourer.
‘The horse, Silly!’ Heather shot back, engulfed in laughter.
‘And if you’re through, I’d like to take him outside.’
Jonathan was shaking his head like a holier-than-thou pastor.
‘I wouldn’t advice that, Miss,’ he said. ‘He’s a real kicker.’
Heather didn’t like being patronized and raised her voice one octave:
‘I’ll ride any horse I like, thank you very much!’ she said.
Jonathan shrugged, saddled him up and turned the reigns over to her.
‘It’s your funeral,’ he said, giving her another or his barreling stares.
Our Heather confidently mounted the great stallion,
Made herself comfy and then dug her heel into the horse’s flank.
The one-thousand-pound beast went wild, braying and bucking
As if they were in the rodeo and sending poor Heather into the air.
The moment she hit the ground, Jonathan arrived.
‘Are you okay?’ he asked as he helped her to her feet.
His hands were large and strong and yet surprisingly gentle.
‘Yes, I’ll live,’ Heather mumbled. ‘Should’ve listened to you.’
Jonathan saddled up a less temperamental stallion for Heather
And helped her get ‘on board’ as if she was a beginner.
He then mounted the stubborn stallion like Alexander the Great
And together they raced around the vast ranch, shouting and laughing.
Heather loved horses because of their strength and beauty.
Like her spirit, they liked to run wild and free.
By the time the youths got back, the sun was setting.
Heather thanked Jonathan for a most enjoyable afternoon
And entered the house where she found her parents waiting.
Florence informed Heather that she had made some friends in the city
And they would be visiting over the weekend for a small party.
The object of the party was to introduce Heather to Theodore
Who she said came from a ‘very highly placed’ family.
Heather rolled her eyes and left the room groaning inwardly
She was tired of her mother’s match-making tendency.
The dreaded weekend arrived and with it, the visitors.
Flo and Theodore’s bejewelled mother looked like sisters
And laughed aloud while their husbands swapped anecdotes.
(The men were savouring Famous Grouse whiskey
And also getting on like a house on fire.)
Theodore turned out to be a handsome devil
But character-wise, he was as hard as a saddle.
He asked practical questions and expected practical answers.
He never laughed, didn’t think much of the great outdoors
And – horror of horrors – was allergic to horses.
He was a rising star in the banking industry
And, according to his calculations, it was now time to marry.
A smiley wife would make him look more mature and responsible
And she, in return, would live in the lap of luxury.
Heather was appalled by his opinion of the marriage institution.
She told him that not everything was about profit and loss;
Sometimes, all people wanted was just to be happy.
Flo detected the appearing cracks and swooped in for the save.
‘You two make such a lovely pair!’ she crooned. ‘Let’s see you dance.’
She all but dragged them to the centre of the room
And on the stereo, she played, ‘The Nearness of You.’
As they danced, Heather’s mind kept returning to Jonathan –
His easy smile, free spirit, Adonis body,large hands …
The dilemma stared at her like a crocodile peering over the surface of a pond:
Theodore was clearly the best choice for her in practical terms
But he was Prince Charming without the charm;
It was Jonathan who promised happiness and romance.
A loss of co-ordination made Theodore step on her toes
And she snapped her eyes open and began to hop about going, ‘Aow! Aow!’
As Theodore offered profuse apologies, Heather realized something:
On or off the dancefloor, she and Theodore were out of step;
They were so different, it was like a dog dancing with a cat;
They’d never be dance or life partners and that was that.
Leaving behind a stunned audience, Heather ran to the stables
Where she found Jonathan sitting on a wooden fence,
Watching the stars as if he was expecting visitors from space.
He detected her movements, turned around and smiled.
‘May I join you?’ Heather asked, a smile lighting up her face.
‘Of course,’ he said and helped her mount the fence.
Heather didn’t mind the fact that he smelt of hay
And together they sat, side by side, watching the Milky Way.
After a while, Heather leaned her head on his sloping shoulder.
She could hear his breathing and feel the gentle rise and fall of the shoulders.
Somewhere, a horse brayed once and then fell silent.
Above, a trillion trillion stars winked in an inky black sky.
Elsewhere, no doubt, Cupid was busy shooting arrows.
When Heather told her mother that loved Jonathan,
Flo went into all manner of theatrics before she finally collapsed.
She came to, heard the news again, and had a relapse.
Luckily, the lovebirds found an ally in Heather’s dad
Who regarded Jonathan as the son he never had.
He agreed to cede part of the vast ranch to Heather
But warned the suitor that if he ever hurt his little princess,
He’d promptly load his shotgun and dispatch him to his Maker.
Flo, who had just regained her consciousness offered to provide the alibi.
Heather and Jonathan got married that summer
And lived happily on their own ranch where they kept lots of horses...