'allo there. Are you 'ome?'
9 o'clock on Monday morning, the sun's warming away the early showers. Of course I'm home. Monday is my chore day. I live alone with my cats and Monday is normally wash day and I clean my house.
''ello, are you in please?'
Nice voice, slight accent. Can't quite recognise, um, French? The overlay of Afrikaans is awkward.
'Yes, I'm here. Door is open. Come in.'
'I'm so sorry to call on you early. I'm your new neighbour from across the roadway. We met when I moved in and you brought me some coffee.'
I remember her arrival. Big lorry. Arrived alone just the removal men. haven't seen a husband or partner around but mind you I was only really home evenings, golf three or four times a week and visited the local pub a couple of those nights. She's a good looking woman. I remember now French. I had felt neighbourly and nosy and took over a pot of coffee on the day of her arrival to our wine farm estate.
'Yes, I remember you. Not your name though. I'm terrible with names. Wait a minute ... I think it's a B ... it's Brigitte. How did I do that? Have you settled in? What can I do for you? Do you need some help?'
Slow down, she's only a neighbour.
'Yes, you 'ave it right. It is Brigitte. Brigitte Jeanne De Wet. Born De Balincourt, in France a long time ago now. My 'usband, South African, died last year. Your name, I know is Freddie I see on your door bell. Your nom de famille is Andrews.'
Too much information. She needed someone to talk to. Hey Ho, the perils of living happily alone.
'How can I help you Brigitte?
'It will sound strange. My bedroom window, across the pathway looks directly onto your 'ome.'
'Oh no, don't tell me I've left the blinds up and you can see me dressing in the mornings. Not a pretty sight at my age, I'm so...'
'Non, no you 'aven't and I wouldn't... I told you it was strange... but for the last three mornings I am awake to see a rainbow; it seems to be rising from your thatched roof. It look so wonderful. Your house look so 'appy under it. I seem to feel its laughter. It warms me.'
Well that's a turn up for the book she would probably be smiling if not laughing had, she seen me naked.
'Well, this is a happy house. I felt it the first time I saw it. That's why I bought it. Would you like coffee? I've got a Nespresso, the machine's on.'
'Merci, yes, I would like a cup.'
Looks like she's here for a while,
'There you are, une petite tasse d'espresso. Du sucre?'
'You speak some French? Non, no sugar, thanks'
'Yes, Brigitte. I lived in France for 10 years. Don't get much chance to practise these days, though.'
Perhaps I might now get a chance. I could give up the pub for a night practising with her.
'My husband couldn't speak it and insisted we only spoke Afrikaans and English on the Farm. My son knows no French and I haven't been back to France in 35 years. I've no close family left there now.
Be careful life histories are dangerous ground.
'Me, the same. Now, before we get into our life stories, what was so strange about my rainbows?'
'Yes, I'm sorry. It was so strange to hear you speak my language. I love your accent ... No the rainbow, as I said for three mornings I 'ad seen it so I decided, if it was 'ere again this morning, I would take a photograph.'
'And it was here. It was showery this morning.'
'Yes, it was 'ere and I took some photos. But I can't get any pictures of the rainbow. I can see it but the camera doesn't.'
'Must have a camera setting wrong. If you can see it, it must photograph. How long ago did you try? Is it still there?'
'It was there when I walked over. I don't know if it's still there. Let's see.'
'Well, it's still raining lightly. No, can't see it.'
'Come over 'ere, in front of my 'ouse. Look it's still there. It 'asn't moved.'
'Yes, so it is, Brigitte, but it's strange there is no sun out now to refract the water droplets. I don't see how there can be a rainbow but you're right it's there. Let's use your camera again. Do you have it with you?
'I'll get it.'
You bloody rainbow, look what you've got me into. I thought no one else could see you. I thought you just were about me, that I was seeing things. It makes me happy when you appear and when I've asked other people about seeing you, nobody can. This lady seems to be able to see you. Perhaps I am worrying too much. Perhaps, this time, your a real one.
''allo. I'm up here at my window. I'm going to try again from 'ere. Who are you talking to?'
'Oh, my cat is up on the garage. Living on my own I always have them to talk to.'
Strange I wasn't talking I was only looking up.
'Oh, yes, I see one of them now. I'll take the picture; the rainbow seems to be fading.'
'OK, I'll wait down here.'
'No. There is no rainbow on the photo.'
'Come down let me get my camera and try. Oh wait, I've got my mobile. I'll take it with that.'
Let's hope it works. Stay still my Rainbow.
'There it works. Come down and see. Oh you're down. Look, is that a rainbow or not?'
'It's a rainbow. C'est vrai. Why won't my camera take it? Look it's fading. it's disappearing. It is so sad. I 'ate to see it go. Can I finish my coffee?'
My rainbow will always be back.
'Of course. Come in I'll make some more.'
She seems to be satisfied with me taking the picture.
'I'll send it to you. What's your email?'
'You know something the rainbow didn't seem real when I saw it the second time. You remember, when you said, you were talking to your cats. It seemed to be all round you, you were in it or appeared to be. Just for a minute I saw and when I spoke it blurred and faded and moved up above the 'ouse, Oh, it was probably a trick of the light,'
'Must have been. I don't think it's possible to be in a rainbow. Let me get you another cup of coffee.'
'You do 'ave a 'appy 'ouse. I feel it now. I felt it when I came in, I felt it when I saw the rainbow. I have been so sad since my 'usband died. But strangely today... I should have stayed on the farm but my son has a new wife and I thought a change would 'elp me. Away from the farm where we spent so many years and so many memories.'
'You have a farm? What do you grow? Grapes? Fruit?'
'No, 'orses. We have many 'orses at stud. My son took over when my husband died. It's a flourishing business now. I used to ride and in the beginning I did the accounts but it became just too much for me so we employed a manager. Then I 'ad a fall and broke my pelvis and was advised not to ride again. My son didn't want me to leave but I felt I had to. Just too upsetting. My 'usband gone. Not able to ride.
'My husband, against the normal, left the farm to my son and myself equally. I think, so that I could control anything wayward that my son might do.'
Must have been too difficult trying to control the son.
'No, no, he runs it, probably, better than his father and I 'ave no complaints. It's just my sadness and I feel I need to get on with my life. I am trying but at my age it's difficult. Très difficile. and the people 'ere are not very friendly or they work all day. You, also, are out a lot, I 'ear you go in the morning.'
'Yes, I play golf three times a week and I drink with friends one or sometimes two evenings a week and on Sunday morning I play Boules.'
'The French Boules? Not Bowls?'
'No, Petanque Boule, as it is played in France. You must come with me on Sunday. We have a mixed group. Unlike France you ladies can play.'
'I would love to. I used to play with my father.'
Now you've done it. You're so generous with your invitations. You're gonna get stuck with her and you're happy now, on your own. You've got used to it since you split up with your wife. And how do you explain the rainbow? And what about the cats? Mind you, even I get lonely sometimes.
'Are you sure your friends will not mind?'
I'm not asking her to move in with me only a game of Boules.
'No, they won't mind and I'll enjoy your company.'
Now you've gone too far. You're stuck. I think I'll invite her to lunch and share that good bottle of Viognier I got from the Wine Club.
'Yes I would like that, Freddie.'
'Sorry, what would you like?'
'To share your wine and come to lunch.'
I'm definitely going mad. I didn't say that out loud did I?
'No you didn't ask me. But ever since I saw your rainbow the first time I 'ear all your thoughts. That is why I came over. Even in your thoughts you are always 'appy and laughing. The rainbows showed you to me. It's so incroyable.'
I don't believe this. She is joking with me. I must have said it out loud.
'No you didn't say it out loud and it is not a joke.'
I know I didn't say this out loud. I'll test her. What word am I thinking?
'You are not thinking any word. You thought: 'I'll test her.'
'Am I tested? Did I convince, Freddie?'
More likely than a pot of gold, under my rainbows. I think I could like this lady. She laughs.
'C'est possible je t'aime, aussi.'
About the author
Bill Sargeant is now 83 years old. He has written and told stories to his children, grandchildren and now his great grandchildren. He is at his happiest when writing. He lives alone in the beautiful Franschhoek Valley in the Cape Winelands of South Africa.
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