Chapter 3

The ice glittered in the morning light, its silver surface reflecting the weak rays of the autumn sun. It seemed both beautiful and treacherous – the ice. It glittered and sparkled, but were someone to step onto its sparkly surface, the thin sheet would probably break – just like the crispy biscuits the housemaid put out every afternoon – and send that someone plummeting down into the freezing waters of the pond. I didn’t know how deep it was, nor did I want to find out. Before allowing Toni and I to venture out into the cool morning, Monsieur Jacques had sternly warned us to keep away from the ice.


But Toni thought she knew better, as she had often demonstrated in the two months I had gotten to know her. Despite my best efforts to keep up with her longer stride and cling to her hand, willing her to slow down and stop before she could slide onto the dangerous icy surface beginning to envelope the pond, her slippery gloved hand escaped my smaller grasp and she sprinted forward towards the water.


As I pushed myself to hurry after her, my skinny legs shaking with cold and anxiety, I watched as she bounced onto the thin layer of ice coating around a fifth of the dark pond. In the split second when her shiny new boots collided with the crystallised glittering surface and an ominous crack resounded in the otherwise still and silent morning air, I knew that Toni was going to go under. And as the split realisation hit my mind, my heart momentarily thudded to a petrified stop.


I had never felt fear like that in Africa. Not even when my grandfather had battled a crocodile as the massive angry beast tried to drag one of the young buffalo that had come to the water to drink into the muddy brown river. My grandfather came out of the fight triumphant. He had stuck a finger into each of the crocodile’s eyeballs until the green beast let go of the limp little calf.


Normally, the tribe would never have interfered with such an exchange of nature. But this particular buffalo had been nursed to health by my tribe when my grandfather had come across him lying, moaning weakly, in the savannah plains by the dead body of his mother who, it seemed, had died giving birth to him in the scorching sun, not having made it to the shade of the sparse tree growth not far off, where the rest of the herd stood waiting in anticipation as the buffalo calf squealed, unable to leave his mother.


Seeing first Toni’s shiny black boots, then torso, and then her head disappear under the silver of the broken ice into the murky depths below sent my memories of watching my grandfather struggle against the might of the crocodile flooding back. They engulfed my mind for a moment and I felt the panic rise within me as I came skidding to a stop on the shore, worried the seconds of reflection had made it too late to save Antonia. But before I could let my thoughts wander off again in crazed circles of fret, I saw the red bob of Toni’s hat float to the surface along with a chunk of wet brown hair. She was there just beneath the waterline! I could grab her, if only my arms could stretch far en-


A sudden cold, freezing sensation alerted my whole body as I plummeted into the black depths of the treacherous pond beside Toni. Gasping for air as my face resurfaced, I could only move my legs well enough in the piercing cold to orientate myself in the direction of the red bob of Toni’s hat and swim – or jerk unsteadily – towards it.


All the kids in the tribe knew how to swim from a young age. Everyone had to learn one day when an older sibling would play a cruel trick and rock the fishing boat just enough to tip the youngster off balance and out into the river. What a racket the younger sibling would cause, and what a laugh the older one and his friends would get, followed by a telling off by one of the village’s elders for scaring away all the fish. But it was a lesson everyone learnt and profited from.


Toni, on the other hand, had never learnt how to swim.

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The crocdile grabs a buffalo which then becomes a fowl. Is there another name for Buffalo that I don't know about. I wonder if the young boy wouldn't panic more. This could be captured by shorter, staccato sentences. The language could almost read like a, flashing images/thoughts/memories. You certainly had me gasping for both their sakes.