When Simon woke at seven to go down to the Polite Pawn Shop, Pearl had already set the table for breakfast, with a big pot of tea just as he liked it, and a stack of golden buttered toast to go with it."Good morning Pearl."
"Good morning Mr Thambisa."
Simon frowned. "Mr. Thambissa? I thought...you would call me Simon now?"
Pearl pressed her lips primly together. "Mr. Thambisa, I am your maid. Let us not forget that, Sir, and a good respectable maid knows her place."
"I see." Simon found himself flushing with embarrassment, "If it is because of last night...Pearl, I..."
"Last ni-ni-night?" Pearl stuttered, "what do you mean?"
"When i embraced you. Forgive me Pearl, I was not taking advantage...Never think that. I...respect you."
"Si- Mr. Thambisa, if I recollect, I embraced YOU. I know you have no intentions towards me as a woman, Sir. None."
"That's right!" cried Simon emphatically, "None what-so-ever! And never will!"
A wave of disappointment crashed over Pearl. "Of course not, Sir. Nor do I see you as a man." she bravely pushed on, "I don't want you thinking I will be seeking to take advantage, or get above my place. Because of the children, Sir."
"No, indeed not Pearl!"
"In fact, Sir I wanted to tell you, tomorrow I want to go to the Children's Home, to see what I can find out; and get Isaiah's and Thali's papers, so we can enrol them in the school? And I asked Mrs Markovish of 5 D to have them over, so they won't be alone."
"Very good Pearl, yes, very good plan." Simon Thambisa was fascinated by the tea swirling in his cup. "And Pearl, thank you. For the comfort, for your friendship, and for bringing these children into my life."
"Sir, it is I who must thank you. You have given me a new life." Pearl bit her lips.
Simon Thamsisa lifted his head and smiled. "We are lucky Pearl, you and I. I think these children have given us a new life."
And you Pearl, he thought to himself, you...I must find a way to make you look at me as a man, so I can make YOU my new life. Simon left for the Shop, and Pearl woke the children for breakfast. Thali woke cheerfully enough, but Isaiah grumbled for all he was worth.
“You had best get used to it, Isaiah, next week you go to school, you will have to get up even earlier.”
“I don't see WHY I have to go Mama Pearl. I can read a bit, and count my numbers.”
“There is more to the world than reading street signs and counting money, Isaiah. Much more.”
“Like what? AND...” Isaiah paused triumphant, “A LOT of the older kids on the street had been to school. High school, even - and they still didn't have jobs.”
“That is true.” Pearl pondered this. “And yet I would rather know, than not know. It is terrible that there are no jobs, but one of the greatest treasures in this world is knowledge. Education. Books, Isaiah. The secrets of the world hide in books.”
“Secrets? What secrets?”
“What do you wonder about? What do you ask yourself? What don't you understand?”
“Why my father died.”
Pearl took a deep breath to steady herself and looked Isaiah in the eye. “I don't know Isaiah, I won't tell you it is God's will; but I will tell you it is a question many, many wise people have asked.”
“What did they find out?”
“That there are as many true answers to that question as there are people asking it, but I know what my answer was, when my Mother died.”
“What was it, Mama Pearl?”
“Life is short, but love is long Isaiah. Everyone has a path, and because we love someone we can't understand why their path goes left, and ours goes right. We want to travel with them always, but at that place is where they turn to travel another way. Not because they love us less, or we need them less. And it hurts. And its scary, because now we travel alone. But the love stays with us. And later on, we meet other people on our road and more love grows in us.”
“Like us and you, and Mr.Simon.”
“Yes. And you know, I think one day we find everyone we have loved on a road somewhere. So we walk, and who knows? Next bend we find something new to love and to love us.”
“You learn this in the school, Mama Pearl?”
“No Isaiah, but I learnt how to ask the questions, and the words to answer myself.”
“Ah!” Isaiah was silent. “I go, Mama Pearl. I want to ask a lot of questions.”
He looked up at her with anxious eyes. “You not leaving us yet, Mamma Pearl?”
“No Isaiah, I am not. We have a lot of road ahead, you and I. But not unless you go wash your teeth! You have dead-buffalo breath!”
TO BE CONTINUED