In that moment, I understood why I had not been able to give up on finding her. We were not two people who travelled the world aimlessly, and we hadn't been the whole time since we first said goodbye, when we left our birth country empty-handedly. We were a single entity, torn apart, little by little.
Set in Australia, England and South Africa in the early 2000s, Words for Anna is the heart-warming story of first love. Twelve years earlier, Anna and Daniel faced the cruelty of being forced apart as a result of one senseless letter. What happens when they are reunited and given a second chance at love?
Striving to establish a new identity, working in the Australian wine industry, Anna has had no choice but to create the best life she can for herself and her son, Mattie, in Sydney, Australia.
Meanwhile, Daniel, who has been pushing his father's corporate agenda in the UK for years, as a means to an end, hopes that he may someday see Anna, his lost love, again.
But when they find each other in a chance meeting in Sydney, they are compelled to revisit the past. Forced to work together every day, the secrets Anna has kept for so long are gradually revealed. This, together with the separation they endured and the strange situation they now find themselves in, raises the question - Do they have any chance of rekindling their love?
Words for Anna is a moving novel about hope, resilience and rediscovery.
The door opened suddenly, the hinges creaking. It felt like my heart completely stopped, before, just as I looked up, it fluttered to life again. Light streamed in from somewhere inside and I blinked twice, deliberately. Towering before me was the executive equivalent of the eighteen-year-old man I once knew. I opened my mouth to speak but that’s when I froze, I couldn’t speak. I let out the last of the air in my lungs and let go of the breath I was holding onto. I inhaled slowly.
He was much taller than I remembered, his blond hair slightly darker, cut almost a little too short. I had no doubt that his suit cost more than my entire wardrobe, the black jacket and pants a strong contrast against his crisp white shirt, slightly unbuttoned at the top. His face was recognisable, of course, but a well-defined jawline had replaced the boyish appearance I remembered. His upper body seemed wider too, giving him a sturdy, authoritative look. I found him attractive before, but age only seemed to have added to his striking masculinity. He certainly wasn’t the boy I remembered. Suddenly, I felt inadequately dressed and awkward.
‘Annie?’ he said, the surprise in his voice unmistakable.
Him calling me that sent a flutter straight through me. No one had called me Annie since, well, him. But it was the colour of his eyes that distracted me the most. They were more grey than blue, the exact colour I had remembered all this time. The same coloured eyes as Mattie’s. I heard the lift opening and closing somewhere behind me. For a moment I thought I could still make a run for it, but my legs wouldn’t move.
‘Hello,’ I said, hating the awkwardness in my voice.
He stared at me in complete disbelief and I felt lost. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for or why I felt the need to find it. Locked in his gaze, I was desperate to find something of the old Daniel I knew once. Not in the physical sense exactly, but the person he used to be. When I couldn’t find it, I looked down, only for a second, because I was compelled to look at his face again. His mouth widened into a grin and the two familiar little dimples on the left side of his face appeared. At that moment, I saw him for the first time in twelve years. Here he was in front of me, the Daniel I once knew. His gentle eyes seemed to study my reaction and it strangely comforted me.
‘Won’t you come in?’ he asked, taking a step back.
Daniel came out first and stopped in the doorway, looking directly at me. A smile formed on his face and he started walking towards me.
I felt unsteady with nothing to hold on to and yet, I didn’t move. It only took about five seconds for him to reach me before he stopped, just outside of arm’s reach but close enough for his soapy scent to encircle us, together with a fragrant sense of something else. Him.
‘Good to see you again, Annie,’ he said.
My mouth went dry. With a dozen questions to ask and without the recollection of any one of the countless forms of greetings I used daily, I struggled to find anything to say. My face prickled with heat.
‘Daniel,’ I said, finally. His name sounded more like a scolding than a surprise. ‘What are you doing here?’
He paused for a second, considering my question. He took a step forward, as if to deliberately close the gap between us. ‘You mean, you still don’t know?’
No, I bloody don’t.
‘Why don’t you tell me?’ I said, trying to stay calm.
‘No,’ he said, his eyes mocking as he took a step back again. ‘This is too much fun.’
I could tell that he wasn’t trying to be callous. It was as though we were kids again and he was making fun. It felt more strange than frustrating.
I could feel the tears coming and I hated it. Did he know how much he had meant to me once? I didn’t want to be affected by him, by everything that made me who I was, as I sat in this uncomfortable airline seat beside him. But the truth was, I had no choice in the matter. I didn’t want to be going back to Africa, but I had no choice in that either. In that moment, however, I could only think of Daniel, who was sitting on my right, so close, our arms were almost always touching.
Heat rose to my cheeks as I remembered a time when my days had been consumed by him. It seemed so distant now. An oasis at the far end of an impossible desert. But instead of moving towards it, we seemed to be moving further away from finding relief from the desert heat. I wondered whether we could withstand twelve years of drought after years of togetherness. Like a wine cork and its rings, which scars would remain for us?
I sat and listened as he walked through the house, searching each room, looking for something. Me, I guessed. When he entered the room where I was and stopped, I could feel his eyes fixed on me. We had been apart for so long, but in the last week we had done nothing but avoid the issue, or non-issue, of us and everything that had happened, back then and now. It felt like we were building towards a climax of sorts, not unlike a film reaching the point when things escalate in the most intense way.