A lovely harvest of holiday entries for last month’s challenge. It was, if you remember, to write a scene in which someone who has betrayed their partner, has the enormity of their crime brought forcefully home to them.

What’s remarkable is that many of the writers we’ve singled out for praise are new to the Allaboutwriting community. Well done, all of you – and congratulations also to all those who entered the challenge. To writers, the journey is the destination, remember…

And the winner is… Tanya Püth, for her subtle and surprising piece. She left it unnamed, but I’ll call it The Schumann Resonance for reasons that’ll become obvious when you read it. What’s less obvious is what “the Schumann Resonance” is – but I’ll leave you to google it.,

Alexa van Tonder gets the silver medal (we especially liked the ending of your tale), and John West the bronze for his perfectly pitched dialogue.

Mentions to Emmanuel Nwafor for his story, which stands out not so much for the story as for the quite wonderful voice and the array of completely convincing details; to Rhoda Isaacs for the clear simplicity of the emotions that underpin her story; Liz Kirsten for the stunning reveal at the end of hers; and Florence Onyanga for the conundrum that so compromises her perspective character.

The prize is, as always, a R300 voucher to an independent bookstore of Tanya’s choice.

The Schumann Resonance by Tanya Püth

This is why I love my profession; I treasure the brilliance of crooked minds. Joan is telling me about the affair she had had with another woman, and every single word of it is like poetry:

“It was like being possessed,” she smiles, “and the demon wasn’t the demon of lies or deceit… but, the demon of truth.” She frowns, inhaling sharply; “Is that…you can understand that, right?”

I nod, wordlessly, lost in thoughts of her ascending breath and her first ever descent into infidelity; and my mind cluttered with images of her olive skin touched by hands more akin to mine.

“What do you understand from that?” I ask, entertaining the fabrication, as always.

“It’s rather like I was sleeping with myself-,”

And you were, I think to myself.

“- like falling in love with myself, like freeing… and at the same time, so meaningless.”

“How so?”

“Because it’s nothing! You would know, Viv… it’s only sweat, only bodies moving in harmony with the otherwise inaccessible rhythm – that pounding at the centre of the earth, you know?”

“The Schumann Resonance?”

“Yes, that. All it is, is… is the closest you can get to death without being sucked in.”

I merely smile. She is so beautiful. I am tempted now more than ever to inform her that neither her husband nor the seductress is real, and to reset her belief about the nature of our relationship. I have no more pills to prescribe. At least we both enjoy the sessions.

Alexa van Tonder

Jane’s just come in, her yellow skirt flaring as she turns to greet two boys sitting at the counter. They stare after her as she confidently walks on.

“So, what’s this urgent matter that just couldn’t wait till tomorrow?” she asks as she plants herself next to me. She waves the waitress over.

“I met someone.” It feels strange to say. I start laughing.

Jane’s hand drops, she turns to me. I can’t contain myself. “His name’s Alex. Nothing really happened-”

“Joan?” She interrupts.

I’m disappointed when I look at Jane. She seems worried.

“It was the orthodontic conference this weekend. In Cape Town. Grant was one of the keynote speakers.” I’m talking way to fast. I keep my gaze focused on the cappuccino in front of me. Crap, I knew I should have rather asked for the house wine.

 “You know he booked separate rooms for us, because he was afraid that I would distract him from his work.” Why am I suddenly making excuses?

Jane takes my hand. I become very aware of my wedding ring. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

She sighs. “You know we’re not the same.”

I suddenly feel like crying, because she’s right.

“You won’t enjoy this life. Nothing happened, right? So, rather just forget it all.”

Yes, nothing happened, but everything is different. I made the choice to take the hand of a stranger, and since then I haven’t thought of anything else. Something has changed.

I think it’s me.

Besties by John West

“You were right. It does feel liberating.”

John smiled around the rim of his beer glass as Steve shook his head.

“You dog.” Steve raised his own glass and saluted. “And just when I’d stopped playing the field myself.”

Steve’s swinging approach to marriage had been the envy of most men in the company. The women in the company had either slept with him or refused to talk to him. There was no middle ground. Until he had eloped with the girl of his dreams, divorced his long suffering wife, and remarried in a Vegas chapel.

“So when do we get to meet her?” John asked. “The goddess who tamed the beast. She must be out of this world.”

Steve sat back, practically glowing with newly-wed exuberance. “She is.” He shook his head again. “She’s unbelievable. Too good to be true.”

“Too good for you, I bet.”

Steve raised a finger. “Do I hear the colour green?”

 John gestured to the barman for another round. “Not at all. I’m perfectly happy with Susan.”

Steve’s eyebrow responded.

“Hey, it was a one-time thing.” John sipped the fresh beer. “I didn’t even get her number. Now I can go back to a blissful marriage.”

“Good luck with that.” Steve’s eyes lit up as they drifted over John’s shoulder. “Speaking of luck, you are about to meet the best thing that ever happened to me.”

John grinned as he stood and turned.

His gasp of recognition echoed hers.

Emmanuel Nwafor

Ma entered the sitting room and let out an angry hiss. PHCN had just cut the power supply and the room was hot. It was 5pm on the wall clock. The ventilation was poor so I and my two sisters sat on the worn leather sofa in our underwears. We fanned away the heat embers from our sweating bodies. The leather crinkled beneath our buttocks.

Ma had just come down from a bus which shuttled between 3rd Mile and Lagos bustop. Her workplace, Incredible tailors, was located beside Lagos bustop, close to the train line of restaurants, boutiques and filling stations. Her fair face was sun burnt and her eyes a dull squint. She looked lean and I felt a pang of guilt. If not for I and my three sisters she wouldn’t be this sick.

Pa had left us when I was three years old. He had left us for a woman with protruding buttocks and large breasts who was carrying his child. That was how ma described the interloper. We were living from hand to mouth. Ma catered for us through her sewing skills. She was a seamstress and she struggled to grow Incredible tailors.

I was blessed with a beautiful name. Nma, an Ibo name which translated to beauty. I was the family’s cynosure. My mum teased me with fondness. I was her favourite and her affection for me was an open secret. Sixteen years was enough to become wise and know what lay ahead of us.

Rhoda Isaacs

Joan sat opposite Lerato, her friend of 22 years. She told her how, a week ago to the day, she’d opened her hotel room door and let another man in.

It wasn’t planned, and though she’d danced with him at the conference’s after-party, she’d had no other intentions. All she knew was that she was dancing in a group, a whiskey warming her blood, when someone came up and danced close to her. He didn’t touch her, but her very molecules reacted to his presence like iron filings under a magnet, flowing this way and that, following his every movement. Her centre melted; she felt exposed, a chocolate puddle in the midday sun. She was confused at this powerful response he’d elicited from her body. A swirling maelstrom inside, she whirled off the dance floor, grabbed her bag and fled to her room.

“He came knocking on my door – I don’t know how he discovered which room I was in. Lerato, I don’t know how it happened but…it did. I was fluttery and liquid and I loved it!”

“What?? Did you forget about your vows?”

Joan thought longingly of how she used to feel about her husband, how she’d always been faithful and had never considered anyone else. She was overcome with sadness at how their love had disappeared, one lonely wisp at a time, until the day she realised she was empty.

That was the day she opened her door to someone else, smiled and welcomed him in.

Choice…and its repercussions by Liz Kirsten

John stirred his cappuccino, hiding his impatience as Peter described the party that had moved from the bar to a room upstairs at the hotel, on Friday night after the conference.  The debauchery had continued till dawn he said.

At last it was John’s turn.  He was about to divulge his burning secret when Peter’s phone rang.  Peter answered it, listened for a while and then whistled.  “You’re kidding!” he exclaimed.  Eyebrows raised, he listened some more.

John checked his watch.  He had to fetch Amy from her book club soon. He desperately wanted Peter to know what had happened on Friday after the others had gone upstairs, leaving him alone to finish his drink before going home.  Once again he relived the moment when the girl with glittering eyes, sitting at the bar, had gripped his arm.

“I need to speak to you urgently!” she had whispered. She seemed agitated.  Concerned, he had allowed her to lead him into the dark passage.

“What is it?” he asked.  She pushed him against the wall and kissed him fiercely.  At first he resisted but began to respond despite himself.  Ten minutes later they were tangled on the bed in her room.

Peter put his phone down.  “It’s a good thing you rushed home to your wife.  At least one head is going to roll today,” he smirked. “Our CEO has identified the man who’s been sleeping with his wife.  Apparently there was a hidden camera in her hotel room.”

John froze.

Florence Onyanga

Kate pulls out a bar stool and sits down. Her hair is still damp with musk from shower steam. She motions the bartender.

“She’ll have a double Chivas on the rocks” Joan informs the bartender.

“You know me too well.”

 “You’re not exactly subtle.”

Kate delves through her bag and takes out her wedding ring. She puts it back on, “I’ll tell you later, right now I need the juice.”

“What juice?”

“The conference…wait, you’re smoking? I thought you quit.”

Joan takes one last drag before putting it out. “I did. Just felt like one today.”

“Morris just got arrested. I guess it was true what he did to the poor girl.”

Kate grips her wine glass and bites her lower lip. “It’s not possible.”

“I thought so too. You never know these days.”

“Did he say anything?”

“Only that he was with someone else that night but can’t say who.”

Kate nervously turns her wedding ring round and round her finger. There is no way Morris could have recognized her that night. It was going to be alright.  “What if he’s saying the truth…?”

“Nah, his story is totally dodgy.”

Kate drains her wine. They got the wrong man but, she was going to save her marriage.

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