This is a story of changing times and awakening sensitivities. It portrays the power of unconditional love, the anguish of betrayal and the eventual triumph of enlightenment and redemption.
She was so unimportant that her mother didn’t bother to give her a name, and she was called simply Girlie. She was so defiant that she was branded a child of Lucifer. She was berated and rebuked, but she endured her beatings without shedding a tear. Her pride remained undiminished and her spirit unbroken, despite relentless reminders that she was the unwanted bastard child of a black domestic servant. The love of her life was Bernard, her childhood playmate and companion – the pampered son of her mother’s employer. He accepted her love without question, blindly pursuing his own romantic illusions. Still, she loved him so much that she would do anything to protect him – and anything to give him pleasure, even fulfil his fantasies of forbidden fruit. But had she gone too far? Or could her unconditional love overcome society’s prejudices and open his eyes before it was too late?
It was a warm summer night, and there was great excitement in the
village. At night, you could hear laughter and the sound of running
feet. The hypnotic thump of a drum, mingled with rhythmic
chanting, filters through the moonlight. Aunt Priscilla and Miss
Hester cluck their tongues and shake their heads. It is the Devil’s
work and no good will come of it.
But Girlie is intrigued.
One night, while the house is asleep, she lies in bed and listens to
the far-off laughter, nerves tingling with wonder and speculation,
and delicious fear. She can hold out no longer. She strips off her
nightdress and – too eager to bother with underclothes – covers
her nakedness with the first frock that comes to hand.
Bernard hears the rattle of gravel against his window, and when he
pushes open the sash, Girlie is standing below.
“Come on, hurry up!”
Her voice is an urgent whisper. Bernard starts to speak, but she
holds a finger to her lips. Silently, he climbs over the windowsill
and drops to the grass.
The yard is hushed. Dense, black bushes wave their shadowy
branches in warning as the night wind rushes through them. The
sky is silver-blue in the light of the full moon. On a gust of wind,
they hear the rippling laughter, faint at first, then louder, then
gone.... like a wave. Their eyes are wide, their skin tingles. The
hair rises on the back of Bernard's neck. It is a warm night, but a
shiver runs up and down his back.
“Puss walking over your grave-spot,” Girlie says, for that is the
village superstition. When you shiver like that, it's because a cat
has walked over the place where you will be buried.
They trace the tantalizing laughter to a playing field near the
village Welfare Center. The playing field is little more than a grassy
clearing bordered by whitewashed lines. Silhouetted shrubs and
towering trees surround the clearing. Night jasmine perfumes the
air. Dozens of young men and women are chanting and dancing in
a circle. In the center, a tall, broad-shouldered man squats over a
goatskin drum. He is magnetic. One youth is playing a guitar, and
others have brought banjos.
“He is from the City,” Girlie murmurs, looking in awe at the
The dancers pass by hand-in-hand, mesmerized, unaware of the
two crouching watchers. Girlie's eyes are pools of wonder. “From
the City.” It is a great thing to be from the City. Few people in the
village have ever been there for it is far away. The girls form a
line and dance around the field, with the boys running in and out
among them, chanting, laughing, clutching – trying in vain to
“I want to dance like that,” Girlie whispers and whirls madly in
the moonlight. “Dance! Dance! Dance!” Her arms are flailing, her
hips writhing, her head thrown back in abandon.
Her body is a woman's now. The gawky schoolgirl has been
replaced by a seductive siren. There is electricity in every wanton
movement. In fear for her soul, Bernard grabs her by the wrist.
“For God’s sake, stop. The Devil will take you away!”
For a second she is bemused, as if wakened from a dream. Then
she blinks, and glances at him in disbelief.
“You such a fool," she says. "You believe everything they tell
you. Every stupid, lying thing. What is going to become of you?"
She whirls into Bernard's arms, pressing her body against his.
"Dance," she says. "Dance with me!"
Caught off-guard, Bernard stumbles. He tries to regain his balance
but Girlie's weight pulls him forward. He falls on top of her,
between her legs, her cotton dress riding high up her legs, baring
His body on hers, Bernard can feel the full breasts against his
chest, the warm softness between her thighs. Her eyes are veiled,
her skin and lips taut. Her whole body seems to be throbbing. Her
breathing is quick and shallow. He feels himself grinding against
her, pushing, writhing, hungering... His khaki slacks are stretched
agonizingly by unbearable lust. With a frantic movement, he frees
himself and enters her. The sensation is beyond his most intense
"Oh God," he gasps. "Oh God. Oh God."
Like a maniac, he is driving into her, skewering her, impaling
her... Girlie matches his urgency thrust for thrust, breathing hard,
clawing at his back. Then she rolls him on his back and sits
upright, throwing her head back and bracing her knees against the
hard clay. She pounds at him, harder, harder, harder – until he
explodes inside her and she collapses in a shower of stars.
She lays her head on his chest and closes her eyes.
"Oh, Bernard," she sighs. "My sweet baby."
Lying on his back, still inside of her, Bernard is beset by guilt and
remorse. And fear. What if she gets pregnant? Withered by terror,
he disengages himself and struggles to his feet.
The girls still danced around the playing field, pursued by the
boys. The drummer's arms still flailed. The guitar and banjos
twanged. But there was another sound, and it was growing louder.
A bugle. Grandmother had heard about the revelry, and was
coming to rout the forces of evil. A dozen white-robed members
of her church marched toward the dancers, with Grandmother in
the lead. And they wielded their own musical weapons.
“Thump-thump-thump,” their bass drum challenged.
“Braa-naaa,” their bugle shrieked.
“Onward, Christian soldiers,” they sang.
“Praise the Lord,” Grandmother shouted.
“Alleluia!” her supporters chorused. “Bless his name!”
They drowned out the City man's music and the dancers shuffled
to a halt. Sensing victory, Grandmother shuddered and leapt
convulsively into the air, flapping her arms like a giant screech
owl, shouting in the unknown tongue.
"Halta! Luchia! Bambaria!"
It was too much for the dancers. They turned and ran.
Girlie and Bernard were crouching behind a clump of fever grass,
their hearts pounding. If Grandmother saw them, the wages of
their sin would be too terrible to contemplate.
They seemed to be in luck. Grandmother and her legions of the
Holy Ghost were turning around and marching triumphantly down
the path toward the village. But suddenly she stopped next to the
"Be sure your sins will find you out," she trumpeted, jangling her
tambourine menacingly above their heads.
Had she seen them? Apparently not. Without looking in their
direction, she resumed her procession, and Bernard started
Bernard was wracked by terrifying questions. Was he a child of
Satan? What dreadful punishments lay in store?