A frigid wind blew up the back of Table Mountain, ripping through the thick Newlands’ forest and tugging at the squat, tightly gnarled fynbos which covered most of the mountain. Great big black, storm clouds somersaulted over the mountain edge, high above Cape Town, then cut like a knife down through the ravines on the face of the mountain, and howled into the crosshatched city streets below. Blowing northwards from the South Atlantic, the wind collected tons of icy water, and dumped it on the mountains that dotted and ridged the Cape Peninsula.
Icy sheets of rain lashed the streets of Cape Town, man-made rivers collecting and directing the water down into the freezing waters of Table Bay; the storm water drains drowning in the sheer volume of water falling out of the sky. Trees strained violently against the wind, old branches snapped off and flew into the road. Debris littered the road; lighter items following the wind as it wound its way through the north facing streets; heavier items sweeping down the temporary, raging rivers, sometimes getting lodged under cars or swept into doorways and alleyways.
Under the rain-drenched floodlights of the main entrance of the Cape Peninsula Maternity Hospital, two women struggled out of a car, desperately trying to stay out of the worst of the ice-cold rain whipping around them. Wracked by labor pains, each one held their swollen and distended abdomens, trying to support the weight of their unborn children as they made their way into the warmth of the hospital interior.
They were close friends: Iris and Norma. They lived almost next to each other in Belgravia, Cape Town. They worked at the same clothing factory and they spent their free time together. They were both quite short but where Iris tended to fill out her clothes, Norma was usually stick-thin. Iris was Coloured, single, and of the two, ten years senior. Irma was Caucasian but she’d married a Coloured man and had chosen to stay in Belgravia. In those days segregation was still in effect, but Cape Town was fairly liberal and cross-color marriages were accepted.
Vladimir was a young man, seventeen years old. He was in Cape Town, living with his father who owned the clothing factory where both women worked. Tall for his age, blonde hair, and Russian features he was considered quite attractive.
With his Eastern European mannerisms, and a natural arrogance – probably due to him being the son of a successful clothing manufacturer, a capitalist, and an industrialist – he captivated both women.
Soon he was dating both Iris and Norma. Whether they both knew it at the time, possibly competing for his attentions, or whether he kept his affairs with each private, is unknown.
As is the case with women who spend a lot of time in close proximity to each other, their menstrual cycles aligned and they both fell pregnant and conceived during the same monthly cycle. They both identified Vladimir as the biological father of their unborn children.
Nine months later, they both went into labor on the same stormy night – their friendship still strong – leaning on each other for support as they struggled into the hospital entrance through the battering, winter rain and wind.