Chapter no 45


GEORGE AND FLEW from Lesotho to Cape Town, to meet up with some mates, and Marko.

March 2004.

We were staying at the home of the consulate general, and one night we talked about having some people over. For dinner. Just one small problem. We didn’t know anyone in Cape Town.

But wait—that wasn’t completely true. I’d met someone years earlier, a girl from South Africa. At the Berkshire Polo Club.


I remembered her being… Different.

I went through my phone, found her number. Give her a call, Marko said.


Why not?

To my shock, the number worked. And she answered.

Stammering, I reminded her who I was, said I was in her town, wondered if she might like to come over…

She sounded unsure. She sounded as if she didn’t believe it was me. Flustered, I handed the phone to Marko, who promised that it was really me, and that the invitation was sincere, and that the evening would be very low-key—nothing to worry about. Pain-free. Maybe even fun.

She asked if she could bring her girlfriend. And her brother.

Of course! The more the merrier.

Hours later, there she was, sailing through the door. Turned out, my memory hadn’t lied. She was…different. That was the word that had come to mind when I first met her, and it immediately came to mind now, and then again and again during the barbecue. Different.

Unlike so many people I knew, she seemed wholly unconcerned with appearances, with propriety, with royalty. Unlike so many girls I met, she wasn’t visibly fitting herself for a crown the moment she shook my hand. She seemed immune to that common affliction sometimes called throne syndrome. It was similar to the effect that actors and musicians have on people, except with actors and musicians the root cause is talent. I had no talent—so I’d been told, again and again—and thus all reactions to me had nothing to do with me. They were down to my family, my title, and consequently they always embarrassed me, because they were so unearned. I’d always wanted to know what it might be like to meet a woman and not have her eyes widen at the mention of my title, but instead to widen them myself, using my mind, my heart. With Chelsy that seemed a real possibility. Not only was she uninterested in my title, she seemed bored by it. Oh, you’re a prince? Yawn.

She knew nothing about my biography, less than nothing about my family. Granny, Willy, Pa—who’re they? Better yet, she was remarkably incurious. She probably didn’t even know about my mother; she was likely too young to recall the tragic events of August 1997. I couldn’t be sure this was true, of course, because to Chelsy’s credit we didn’t talk about it. Instead we talked about the main thing we had in common—Africa. Chelsy, born and raised in Zimbabwe, now living in Cape Town, loved Africa with all her soul. Her father owned a big game farm, and that was the fulcrum of her world. Though she’d enjoyed her years at a British boarding school, Stowe, she’d always hurried home for the holidays. I told her I understood. I told her about my life-changing experiences in Africa, my first formative trips. I told her about the strange visitation from the leopard. She nodded. She got it. Brilliant. Africa does offer moments like thatif you’re ready. If you’re worthy.

At some point in the evening I told her I’d soon be entering the Army. I couldn’t gauge her reaction. Maybe she had none? At least it didn’t seem a deal-breaker.

Then I told her that George and Marko and I were all heading off the next day to Botswana. We were going to meet up with Adi, some others, float upriver. Come with us?

She smiled shyly, gave it a moment’s thought. She and her girlfriend had other plans…

Oh. Too bad.

But they’d cancel them, she said. They’d love to come with us.

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