Robert, had almost forgotten where he was heading when he realized he had to pass by Eliza’s home at the other side of town. He became upset at the thought of seeing her old home, a house that was showing signs of disregard. Eliza had been his childhood friend growing up. They had a lot of things in common one, but soon that widen as the years went by. They spent many days by the lake, they were always seen together, knew each other’s secrets and even finished each other sentences, many thought they would grow up to marry each other, but that didn’t happen. Something happened to Eliza, he couldn’t understand.
Her father, Zachariah was his name, had been an widower who lost his wife during Eliza’s childbirth. When Eliza had turned sixteen, her father sent her away. A year later when Eliza returned, she had changed, she wasn’t the jovial, funny girl Robert knew, she was different as a stranger he couldn’t recognize. Robert hated to think about that, because, Eliza had grown distant and cold. He tried various to resume his friendship, but it was gone.
Her father, Zacharia, died a few years later, leaving Eliza alone in the big house her father had built before she was born. Zacharia, was known around town, he was both revered and feared in the town of Cadogan. Some would say he was a strange fellow who entertained the town with his stories about the imminent. Those that feared him assumed he was delirious or inebriated, and those that revered him believed him, though, they all agreed he was determined.
Robert recalled the time when the elder Zachariah greeted him at the door when he came to see Eliza. Zahcaria was a tall man with broad shoulders and strong hands. His stoic visage was covered by a long bear and mustache. Anyone rarely saw him smile, as he felt he always delivered bad news.
“Hallo, son,” the elder Zachariah with his usual somber expression, “it’s best you went home, your family needs you. I know you came to see Eliza, but not today.”
Robert could not understand what Zachariah meant, but did as he was told, as Robert didn’t ever question the father. When he did, he found his father had just gotten home for a quick lunch before returning to work. His mother had lunch read for them, and cheerfully greeted them when they entered. She normally helped Robert’s father attend their shop, but his brother had been sick with a fever. She had gone to check on him and his father had began eating his lunch when minutes later his mother came running in, telling the father to go get the doctor.
That day, his world had been turned upside down. Robert and his father waited outside his brother’s room, while his mother was inside the room with the doctor. They heard his mother scream from within the closed room. The door opened and a younger Dr. Verwoerd walked out, shaking his head solemnly towards Robert’s father who had rushed inside to weep along side his wife. Robert exchanged glances with Dr. Verwoerd and without words, Robert realized his sickly younger brother had passed away. It wasn’t until then when he realized what Zacharia meant. Robert wept where he stood.
Days later, his parent’s held his brother’s funeral, everyone in town showed up, even Zacharia as he stood in back. His brother’s death had been unexpected. This was why people feared him. He, alone knew, the hour and the day of someone’s death.
Robert warily passed by Eliza’s house in sadness as if he mourned his dead brother. She was very much alive, but she wasn’t the Eliza he known once. It had been four years since he had seen his friend, but it felt like ten thousand years.