For the last ten years, I've lived in a part of Africa that experiences the four seasons. Africa is a largely tropical continent so it's not a common occurrence to go through them. Even when I lived in Durban, the warm Indian Ocean made it more like summer three-quarters of the year and a mild winter for a few months in the middle. Here, at the foothills of the mountains, although our summers are still long and very hot, we do have real fall and winter. The trees shed their leaves and many of them turn beautiful shades of orange, red and brown. The mornings are crisp, and toward the end of fall, we experience frost and need to bring out our warmer clothes. This year, it seems that summer is lingering long.
Last year during our spring and the northern hemisphere's fall, I joined a group of sweet romance authors to publish an anthology called Autumn's Kiss. I'm sure if you've been following my blog you will remember me talking about it. Anyway, to make the southern hemisphere readers happy, it's going on sale until the end of May for $0.99. And for those in the northern hemisphere who feel like reading it anyway, enjoy.
Here's an excerpt from my short story set right in my home town:
Seth spotted her from a distance, and she stood out from the crowd. For him, anyway. She epitomized the typical country girl with her soft mannerisms—the way she smiled sweetly at customers, bent down to talk to a child and supported an elderly lady with her walker. She took time to chat openly with each customer, never losing patience or looking harried. He made a beeline to her stall, pushing through the rows and rows of people in the dusty winter festival. Bodies of people he’d never met pressed against him, but he didn’t care.
The Newcastle Winter Festival came every fall when the trees turned fiery colors and fires burnt the grasslands of Northern KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. He’d only lived there two years, but knew how much the town revolved around the occasion. He still couldn’t figure out why the festival was coined “The Winter Festival.” The weather had turned cooler, but the frosty mornings hadn’t set in yet. No, fall was in full force, turning the tree-lined Drakensberg road into a kaleidoscope while the days still blew warm.
“I make them myself,” the pretty lady said, handing a bar of soap in a gauzy, glittery bag toward a customer.
The older woman sniffed the cream bar dotted with green flecks. “Mmmh, smells like lemon grass.”
“That’s exactly it.” Her face lit up, making her eyes comets in a sky of ordinary stars, and dimples pressed at the base of full cheeks. Something stirred within him as he watched the exchange, and his whole body became alert. “Lemon grass and coconut oil. Great for your skin as the air turns dry this time of year.”
“How’s your husband?” the customer asked. “Away as usual?”
Could he have imagined the woman spoke of the pretty soap lady? The one he couldn’t help watching?
She merely kept her gaze turned down toward her wares. The table was laden with a variety of soaps, jars of creams, or so he presumed, and about a hundred bottles of apple sauce and chutney.
Then he spotted it on the pretty lady’s hand, on the ring finger—a huge stone the size of the Gibraltar rock. His heart sank and he turned away.
He should have known by the way she dressed. Top class—sleek cashmere sweater, hair salon-sculpted, classy make-up and hot-potato-in-the-mouth speech. The faded denims didn’t match though. He sighed and went back to his stall. Maybe a good thing, he realized, as he neared the stand. A group of people harassed his assistant, Bongani, and the man looked flustered.
“Just hand out the flyers, Bongi,” he said, patting the youth on the back.
“They’re asking lots of questions. Like do you fell trees, clean gutters, burn fire breaks?”
“What?” Burn fire breaks. Why would they think he did that?
“Okay, everyone,” he announced to his new audience, “one question at a time.”
Once everything had calmed down to a steady stream, he chanced a last glance at her. Strange, he’d never thought of her as the married-to-a-rich-guy type. She looked too sweet, too approachable and way too lonely.
You can buy the book here:
Barnes and Noble