HACKED! (A fictional piece based on a little bit of fact.)(or is it!)

The African heat had taken it's toll on her life and the country was now diving in a headlong nose plunge that seemed to be quickening at every turn - every new day brought violence and mayhem and life was now unbearable. Her marriage needed saving and this was the only way that seemed to solve all their problems at once.Two kids, two dogs, no money and a shed load of debt left both her and her husband gasping for financial breath - wondering how the hell they had managed to survive this long without going crazy!

The house had sold quick enough as due to the high standard of living beautiful houses were prerequisite. The kids were now heading for the age of their own independence and all that stretched out in front of her was the beginning of what they both deserved - FREEDOM!

It seemed like a long way to go and a hefty price to pay but emigrating to the country of her husband's birth was a long held dream and although coming from the hot, dusty African way of life to settle in a cold, wet and sometimes frightening European country started to feel like a distant memory as the crazy days of preparing for this mammoth task started melting away and the future slowly became a reality.

Life in her New World started off unsettled as the wait for a home of their own dragged on for six months, living in a rented, furnished place while her husband Jan searched for a job that would keep the wolf from the door and the kids settled into their new school, job and way of life respectively. She seemed always to be on edge worrying about everyone - waking up early to rush the family off to their days finally collapsing in a heap to watch a bit of news on the telly curled up with a coffee warming hands under a blanket on the couch - cursing under her breath - or lack thereof - at the unaccustomed cold that seemed to go on relentless and unending. At times like these her mind would wander back to the land of her birth wondering how bad things were and reminiscing over a happy childhood - long ago and far away.

The days seemed to race by and eventually the time to move into their own house arrived and this time the move was easier as they had lived out of suitcases for the last six months -purchasing basics like a few pots and pans and a new dryer - what a luxury! The new house was a modern, clean, newly built typically Dutch style home in a row of a hundred other modern new houses built for today's people - minimalist light airy and easy to manage - dream ONE accomplished - she now began to relax and settle into the humdrum of things as she'd imagined they should be. Jan found work with a high flying structural engineering firm - specialising in the design of major projects such as bridges dams and airports etc - that left her feeling proud and secure for the first time in a long time. Finally life was beginning to feel good and at last security became a reality.

Days rolled into months and her youngest - Cerys - was now at Utrecht University studying psychology while Joel was well settled in an accountancy position with a well known financial advisory company. Life seemed good although being a housewife with the daily drudgery of housework was beginning to lose it's sheen even though the work was done to her satisfaction and the luxury of servants a long gone memory. Mastering the Dutch language was a slow uphill task and she needed a bit of stimulation to bring her back from thinking about the old country and news reports of the terrible things going on there to the few white people remaining. Thoughts of friends were pushed to the back of her mind as there was nothing that could be done hundreds of miles away and living almost on what seemed like a different planet.

The computer Jan had given her to keep in contact with friends back home had lain idle for some time and watching TV was not an option - more important things filled her mind. Jan was spending more and more time at work - either due to business pressure or out socialising with new business contacts - or so she thought. No, it couldn't be - their marriage was strong and she didn't believe for a single moment that he could be having an affair. Maybe her slowness to grasp the new way of life culture and language was becoming an issue and clouding her thoughts - no it just couldn't be. The realisation was beginning to dawn and this terrified her - what if the whole move was a mistake and things were going off rail again - how would she deal with it now. This move was supposed to fix everything - make their lives together better - repair all the cracks and give the kids a future. What if it was all going wrong? what to do next?

The longer time went on the more the realisation that he was busy elsewhere with other things more important to him than their relationship and she had to do something to rectify the situation. They were beginning to argue constantly over nothing and her heart grew heavier each day to the thought of possible failure. She was becoming desperate and their small circle of friends started sensing something was not right. At a pre-Christmas dinner party one cold November evening, a friend casually remarked that she might like to try communicating on the internet with more Dutch people to widen her knowledge of the language. This seemed like quite a reasonable thought although it did not move her greatly she could give it a try on one of her quieter days.

TO BE CONTINUED.......................!

Sinterklaas, Christmas and New Year passed relatively peacefully and Joel and Cerys introduced their new companions - Joel managing to drag his pretty blue-eyed blond Dutch divorced protegee nervously into the family circle - interjecting the silences during dinner with the newly acquired Dutch he had learned while at evening school and Cerys still on her own weighing her options between a half Filippino/Dutch young man with an amazing sense of humour and an Italian gigolo who on these such evenings spent most of his time oogling Joel's date. January dragged on into February and the computer had been tentatively commissioned into the occasional service to check out news items and the odd info e-mail from the few stubborn friends who had remained back in Africa. Life seemed to be settling down and the arguments seemed less urgent as a semblance of mundaneness crept back into her world.

One evening, after a family dinner, Elise, Joel's now regular partner prepared coffee and sat next to her while she vaguely tinkled through her e-mails and set the computer down next to a stack of magazines on the floor - drinking her coffee she idly commented on the situation back home and enquired how things were between her and Joel. Elise seemed to warm to her and sensed things weren't good between her and Jan. She chatted on about nothing in particular then mentioned a chat room she might like to try where the people were friendly and Dutch but would communicate in English without making her feel uneasy. Not giving it much thought she handed Elise her pc and suggested she find the site and put it on the favourites.

Without giving the evening a second thought, weeks passed and the day of the major row dawned and seemed to roll on into weeks. They fought at every turn as Jan was now going away on an alleged business trip and she had found out purely by a careless secretary leaking out details of the trip via an answer machine message that the air tickets for both Jan and his lady companion were ready in the personel office for collection. Her worst nightmare had now come true and although she knew this was not the way to deal with the situation - especially at such short notice , she could not help herself. Her mind ran away with thoughts of what she imagined was happening and life again became unbearable.

Late into the night after one of their caustic rows she noticed the chat room site on her favourites while Jan lay sleeping exhausted and resigned unaware of the adventure Elise had unwittingly launched her future mother-in-law into. Clicking on the site she filled in her required details and signed up into the unknown world of cyber chatting. She nervously responded to a few requests to chat with non-committal benign comments and promised to chat with one or two people later on in the week. She started to enter this ritual every night late until one evening while Jan was away on his business trip with the mysterious lady she found herself talking to one particular person yet again and again who intrigued her with his different open and excitingly refreshing outlook on life, amazingly good looking photo - long dark hair, piercing brown eyes and quiet gentle acceptance of her non-Dutchness and attempts to try and learn the language by chat site communication.

Night after night she whiled away time with this man who seemed to have the patience of Job, sounded like he understood her every feeling - positive and negative - and was an excellent teacher when it came to languages - he taught and spoke five various languages at a university before retiring to become an expert in computer security - divorced as well - this seemed too good to be true. She was honest about her situation and slowly opened up to him about her problems with her husband which she knew was not wise but he lulled her into a sense of security which she prayed was not false and her life story slowly leaked out.She made crystal clear that when Jan returned their late night chats had to end and they would need to communicate during the day so time spent 'together' would be curtailed. This seemed to dishearten him and he started pressuring her into a realtime meeting which she vowed to herself would never happen. He was a kind, gentle and understanding man who was well educated and drifted into her thoughts more and more as the days went by. What harm could it do? Jan was due back in two weeks time and she felt as if she had known this man forever. He was a university lecturer for God's sake - what could go wrong?

TO BE CONTINUED..................!

The day finally arrived when the decision had been made and there was no going back. She had passed the point of no return and had committed to a date. The nagging suspicion of doubt still lingered at the back of her mind but the excitement of the unknown dusted all that away as she carefully jotted down on a piece of paper the date time and location of their first meeting - secretly hoping it wouldn't be their last.The agreed location was a small bar in the Utrecht Central Train station - pretty harmless she thought and the plan was to meet during the week on one of his off afternoons for a drink and maybe catch a light meal before going for a wander around a few of the city's notable sights. Simple enough - nothing serious or untoward as the rest of the busy world would probably not notice them and Cerys would be busy attending lectures at that time. The precise day was a Wednesday at 2 o'clock and she would be there - ready and keen to meet her new adventure into the unknown. God - she nearly lost it and called the whole thing off as her thought of her little tryst invaded her mind constantly distacting her from everyday chores and drawing her into a mist of worry and uncertainty .

The alarm radio switched on loudly - invading a restless and unfulfilling sleep - screaming out Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" one of her favourites but not at that hour of the day! It was THE day - Wednesday - the day of the beginning of a new adventure in her life and she felt shattered - not enough sleep - constant worry over trying not to let anyone think that something was up in her life and a deep concern for if she was really doing the right thing - going off to meet a total stranger without telling anyone. Well here she was and there was now no going back. Showered dressed and made up to what she hoped was perfection she stepped out into the unknown and caught a bus to where, she didn't know. The whole morning up till now moved in a haze of almost slow motion but she knew one thing - she was on the threshold of something new and exhilerating and she was there and now - and that was all that mattered.

The train came to a noisy halt and she hesitantly waited for the other passengers to disembark before stepping on to the platform - looking up without allowing her turmoil of nervousness to show. He stood at the far end before the escalators smoking a cigarette and excuding a totally confidant but relaxed air and filling her sight with amazement as he was so beautiful - way better than his picture - and now here he was in realtime - a real and alive man so tall and dark but with the face of a angel and here standing within a few steps of her waiting to take her away into his world. She never thought another man would move her in such an astounding way and thoughts of Jan and the children friends etc faded into oblivion as he greeted her warmly and took her arm gently guiding her onto the escalator and towards their arranged meeting place.

The forecourt of the station bustled furiously so it seemed with people going to and from life and the sight and sound of the whole tableau melted into passing as they wended their way deliberately to an empty table in the window area of the quaint small bar.His smell invaded her panic - seated and finally passive she regained her composure and became aware again. Their stuttered attempts at initial conversation melted once one glass of wine became two and eventually the ease of communication seeped in and they both relaxed into the afternoon.

The warmth of the bathwater enveloped her body and the wine she poured herself slid effortlessly down the back of her throat as she luxuriated in her bath turning over and over thoughts of that afternoon - all that had been said and done. His smell - a smell of warmth hinted with a faint aroma of cologne remained firmly embedded in her memory forever and a smile slowly drifted across her face at the thought of all this.

TO BE CONTINUED............!

The next day burst into life with a passion of birdsong, street noise and people's voices and life seemed brighter, more intense, clearer and exciting. She constantly played thoughts of the previous afternoon over and over until the adrenaline pulsing through her veins became unbearable and she had to open up the computer and sign in to quench her need to see his name and face on the screen again and soak up his gentle soothing words reminding her of the sunny afternoon now fading all to quickly into her past as a memory of what she now conceived to be sheer delight and a burning need to replay that day again and again. The days turned into weeks and her trysts became a weekly event of coffees, wine, light afternoon meals and stimulating banter about her past and present life and how she hoped the future would turn out for her and the family - aspirations of a new life lived happily ever after and the security she had worked so hard to attain here in the new land - never possible in the land she had left behind.

Her afternoon trysts were becoming more than a slight and delightful distraction to look forward to in her mundane and repetitive life and suddenly marriage or the lack thereof with Jan was not so tragic as now she knew she could find companionship with another man albeit underhand and so totally going against her moral belief in the sanctity of marriage. He filled her with confidence, encouraged her to learn and do new and exciting things and opened up a whole new world of knowlege encompassing the arts, history and philosophy - places she never dreamed existed and brought a new hunger for more until she thought she would burst.

She became reliant on their meetings until she realised that her reliance was turning into love and had to be dealt with one way or another or else her world would explode in her face and too many people would get hurt. Jan was seemingly unaware of this new situation as his days were filled with office, work and various other activities she no longer cared about or even wanted to know about. She discussed this situation with Gerrit and he seemed pensive but not overly concerned with her apprehensions and eased her conscience with another glass of wine and promises of taking a leisurely cruise through the tangle of canals that wound their way through Utrecht - suggestions of yet another carefree afternoon spent sightseeing new territory.

Her life seemed perfect - easy and relaxed until she started realising that they were walking closer together and the day eventually dawned when he held her hand and instead of pulling away as she had done before when he accidentally brushed against hers, she left it there feeling his warmth and trusting his motive of a gently friendly action instead of the path he was actually leading her up. This confused her more and more and although she felt safe - secure and trusting of his physical attentions she felt powerless to avoid them as maybe she was giving the wrong signals by allowing these small gestures instead of denying them.

Talk of her worries over her predicament faded and she became more and more relaxed until one evening she found herself at his apartment, in his embrace and unable to refuse his sexual advances due to the haze of alcohol and the trust he so cleverly and assertively infused her with. He knew she wanted him as much as he did her and he knew she was powerless to rebuke his advances and he took full advantage of the situation shamelessly and masterfully invading her soul with his whole being - claiming ownership of his conquest and celebrating his ruthless abuse of her trust by adding more alcohol to her lost cause.

She was devasted but giddy with the whole affair - replaying the previous night's events over and over until it made her ill. She had to escape back to the safety of her own world - her family and her man but maybe it was too late to retrieve the remnants of what was once a healthy marriage - she needed to know now and fast and cover the tracks of her deceit as well as was humanly possible before she lost everything due to a stupid dalliance for the sake of companionship to kill boredom.

Home - she avoided the computer like nothing else and lost herself in her panicked thoughts endlessly - safe - dinners with the children - everything back to normal. Even Jan seemed normal - no trace of what had happened the previous week while he was in Beijing - nothing - everything normal - kids, friends everything. She slowly calmed down and life began to return to normal without any suspicion of what she'd just been through - nothing.

TO BE CONTINUED...........!

These delicious trysts continued regularily for weeks - then the weeks quickly melted into months and she slowly came to repress the guilt she had felt at first, replacing it with a sense of need then accepting this new part of her life as normalcy. The usual chats on the msn then agreeing on a day - time, etc and the actual meeting - time spent lost in a world of passion laced with the newness of this man intruding more and more into her thoughts, her life and eventually, her whole being.

More and more this intrusion became the norm - life gliding on smoothly and without interruption as eventually he led her into needing him like a drug - an addiction she couldn't survive without craving the excitement of it all - the conversations teaching her amazing things about everything he'd learned, his life, university years and all the experiences he'd garnered from a different world to the one she'd known She'd managed to incorporate this sequence into her daily routine magically, without raising suspicion from anyone. Friends, family, anyone and everyone - it worked perfectly - perfectly enough that is until the day Jan returned home from a conference early due to illness and found the house empty. He'd unpacked, showered and settled down with a whiskey trying to clear his head finally noticing her absense wondering idly where she was as he carelessly flipped through the mail and sat back to read it all. He noticed her laptop on the couch open and decided on a whim to see what she'd been up to.

What seemed like only a few moments later, the key rattled in the door and she was home, totally unsuspecting of Jan's early and unannounced return. She stood mesmerised for a few moments before launching into a guilty semblence of an excuse about a non-existent shopping spree with a non-existent girlfriend then went to shower and change before collapsing into a chair, tired and praying for a non-conflict evening. Jan suddenly seemed concerned for her but in a strange way she hadn't experienced before in their marriage - he seemed interested in her but in a slightly reticent sort of way - almost as though he sensed what she was up to but holding back on actually approaching the subject - content to just watch her from a distance but being there in case she needed him. This was the strangest emotion she'd been through and found it slightly unsettling but felt grateful there was no locking of horns - no having to explain herself and no real upheaval in their relationship - strange - really strange she thought.

Slowly, over the ensuing weeks she started feeling uneasy, trapped by a sense of confusion and insecurity and the realisation began to dawn that this was not going to take her to a good place and something had to be done. Gerrit was stifling her with his constant demands and Jan was confusing her with his newfound interest in her activities - this was not good and she decided to prioritise her problems and then deal with them one by one. Gerrit was the catalist she needed to complete things for the moment and give her momentum to her present life - an exciting interlude - a distraction and simple but guilty pleasure but Jan was her stability - the father of her kids - the future she could not live without - she had to choose - make a decision and for once and for all - act on it.

TO BE CONTINUED..................!

The most important thing was the fact that Jan actually cared. Gerrit had to go and she had to pull herself back on track - how the hell was she going to achieve that. Think. Think Think. She had been so strong before and she needed that strength now to move forward as a normal functioning woman - not reliant on some fleeting romance filling her mind with a fantasy that was never going to realise her goals.Sliding back into the now, she found herself avoiding Gerrit's requests to chat, his constant e-mails and text message requests and started surfing the web for other more mundane topics that vaguely interested her - occupying her mind with the trivia that she needed to think clearly and concentrate on dealing with her immediate problems.

Her days seemed to drift on endlessly, without purpose and although she immersed herself totally in the house, shopping and gardening and other trivial pursuits, she developed a numbing sense of well being, a sort of complacency that although constant, clouded her thoughts of Gerrit and what he was up to - where he was and if he was thinking about her. So what, she thought, it wasn't so painful now and she'd even got to the stage of waking up without dreading the long and sometimes boring drudgery of everyday housewifery. After a long, tiring, dreary, grey day, the bath beckoned and the warmth of the water gently dissolved away her fatigue as she sipped her red wine and contemplated an evening alone - without Jan - yet again, wallowing in self- indulgence and doing nothing much in particular.The computer had lain idle for a few days now and e-mails needed sorting. At last everything was done and after a quick phone chat with Elise, now Joel's wife and her daughter-in-law, she settled into watching a movie on the tv. God this is boring she thought - back to the computer. Scrolling through trash, trash and more trash it suddenly jumped out her. The initials S.E.M. Interesting - what was it though - more research - seemed like some government military thing - but what was it really - more intensive research.

She awoke with the yellow/gold warmth of sunshine on her face and the sound of the day beginning to rise. The computer was on but the screen was blank. Sleep had come quicker than she had expected the previous evening but thankfully so. Okay, time to get up and feign being human again but what was this nagging thought? Oh yes, last nights memories of endless web sites and then suddenly, the letters S.E.M. bouncing back into her mind like a huge cinema screen having just come to life. Did she manage to save it on her favourites? No - damn - never mind - will search again tonight, if and when she had time.

Days passed and life dragged on until the memory returned with a vengeance as if to haunt her. The whole day was littered with unfinished chores and pointless tasks until she capitulated to the idea of doing more research on those dreaded initials that seemed to occupy her thoughts like an old refrain, the title of which consistantly eludes. Okay so now settle down and for once and for all find out what those letters are about. Oh God, here it is - Securite Militaire Extraordinaire - S.E.M. Can't be. Who and what were they? There was so little there about this set-up she had to go further - yet again more endless,agonising research and then suddenly, as if she pressed the magic key, it came up - Securite Militaire Extraordinaire - an elite, select group of committed combatants dedicated to relieving besieged, third world nations of repressive and murderous despots. This strange and almost terrifying site came to her almost like a tantalising advertisement, taunting her judgement yet shocking her at the same time. This was an ad for mercenaries to be recruited at random on the bloody internet for goodness sake and here she was going through her own private and personal war herself and she was now reading this stuff. Vulnerable as she was she pushed away the pc and sat for a few moments, silent in the shock that had just invaded her thoughts. Why this site and more importantly, why me?

TO BE CONTINUED.....................!

Dutch flower fields

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