Thursday, 20 November 2014


The next morning bright and early Pearl, Thalie and Isaiah were at the doctor's office for their appointment.

Doctor de Bruin was a small, kindly looking man with pale grey eyes and three tufts of reddish hair adorning his pink scalp: one above each ear, and one right on top of his head. Thalie stared at it, fascinated. It wafted and waved enticingly every time the doctor nodded his head, which he did often.

He examined both children, starting with Isaiah, whom he declared “in the pink!” which startled and alarmed the boy no end. “PINK? Like a girl?”

The doctor laughed and called Thalie over. He listened to her lungs, her heart, took her temperature and blood pressure, looked at her throat and her eyes. He weighed her, and frowned. “Miss Thalie, you are too thin, Princess. We must feed you up.”

“Ice-cream!” cried Thalie.

“Ice-cream, too. But more vitamins, and proteins and vegetables and fruit. Lots of fruit.”

“Ok...But ice-cream goes with fruit, right?”

The doctor laughed “You a good negotiator, Miss Thalie! I am going to draw some blood, have some tests done, for you and Isaiah!” Dr. de Bruin gently drew blood from Isaiah's stringy but strong arm, then from Thalie's frailer one.

“Miss Chabalala, Isaiah is surprisingly well, considering they have been living on the streets with insufficient care and nutrition, Thalie is underweight. It is unfortunate that the Children's home lost their medical records, but I will order tests, see what antibodies are present, so we can get their vaccination records straight.”

“Thank you Doctor, and please, call me Pearl.”

Dr. de Bruin smiled, “Pearl, lovely name! Now, I will advise you to wait a week or two for the tests results before we pop them into the school. Make sure we send them in protected. Many childhood diseases that we thought eradicated are making a come-back; and having been undernourished, the children - specially Thalie - will be most vulnerable.”

“YAY!” Shouted Isaiah. “No school!”

“No school yet!” cried Dr. De Bruin,”BUT I am recommending reading, every day. One hour in the morning one in the afternoon. Vitamins for the brain!” He sent them off with a grin and a lolly pop each, and a list of vitamins and food supplements to get the children back into “tip-top condition”.

Pearl and the children exited the doctor's office and headed for a pharmacy for the supplements, then to a bookstore where Pearl plain refused to consider comics “reading”.

“Books Isaiah! With more words than pictures. Understood?”

Groaning and moaning Isaiah headed for the books, and was soon piling up adventure stories about pirates, and spacemen and zombies. There after, Pearl took them for the promised hamburger and watched as both children put away a double cheeseburger and a double order of chips drowned in tomato sauce each. Pearl shuddered and sighed. It was only once in a long while, and both were reed slim, and Thalie was indeed over-thin...After a hot-chocolate-fudge-ice-cream-banana-split, the children declared themselves well-satisfied, and Pearl called a taxi to take them back home.

“Can we stop by the Polite Prawn Shop and say hello to Papa Simon?” asked Thalie.

“Polite PRAWN?” Isaiah screamed with laughter. “Is that a prawn you beg pardon before eating?”

Thalie frowned “Why are you laughing at me, Isaiah?”

“Polite PRAWN!” Isaiah howled again, dashing tears from his eyes. “POLITE prawn...”

“Stop!” cried Thalie, “Stop right now!”

“Oh? Really? Or what? What will you do?”

With a screech Thalie threw herself at Isaiah, and Pearl was hard put to separate them. Thalie's small frame shook with rage, Isaiah's with laughter.

“ENOUGH!” Pearl cried, “Or no dessert, no TV, no stories! Just dinner, and straight to bed. Thalie, in this family, we don't hit each other. Ever.”

Subdued, Thalie snivelled: “I am sorry Mama Pearl...Isaiah made me so angry!”

“Isaiah, we must respect each other. We all make mistakes.Do you like being mocked when you make a mistake?”

“No, Mama Pearl.”

“So maybe when we make mistakes we must be more tolerant. Forgive each other, and help each other do better.” Pearl paused, thinking back to Simon's penitent downcast face. “We must forgive...Yes. Now then...Let us go home, talk to Mrs Markovich, see if she will be willing to put up with two wild children for tomorrow night!”


Thalie trooped into 5 D shouting: “Mrs Markovich! Pearl is going to a ball, and she needs a princess dress like the ones you’ve got!”

“Goodness,” cried Mrs Markovich smiling, “A ball!”

Pearl sighed, “It’s a concert, at the Opera House. Mr Ratsik’s debut. There is a Gala Dinner afterwards, but I don’t think I will go, I have only street clothes, and even those are not the fanciest.”

“You must go. You WILL go! And you will be the belle of the ball.”

“Yes!” cried Thalie.

“You are pretty nice looking, Mama Pearl,” noted Isaiah, running a connoisseur’s eye over Pearl’s figure.

“Isaiah, it is not how a woman looks that matters.”


“Come, Pearl, I have just the thing…Bring a chair from the lounge, Isaiah,” ordered Mrs Markovitch, “the box is on top of the cupboard.”

In the corner of Mrs Markovitch’s room stood a gigantic armoire stuffed with dresses and skating costumes.

“Not one of these?” asked Thalie with a disappointed look in her eyes, “The pink one with the sequins?”

“No,” said Mrs Markovich firmly, “None of that will do. Now, Pearl, climb up onto that chair and get me that big box!”

Pearl did, and handed down a huge ivory box. It was made of some kind of faux snakeskin and had a name embossed on the lid in plain black letters: CHRISTIAN DIOR and underneath it said PARIS.

Mrs Markovich set the box on the bed and opened it. Inside it was full of paper, or so it looked to Thalie. Silky paper, it was true; but paper, none the less. Mrs Markovich folded back the paper and pulled out a dress. Black. Not pink and no sequins at all. This did not look promising…

And then she lifted it and it unfolded a wide skirt fit for a princess, and the bodice was all little ivory pleats and pearls. Under the wide skirt peered layers and layers of softest black tulle. From the box came high pointy shoes in black satin, and best of all, long ivory satin gloves that would reach all the way up Pearl’s arms.

Thalie sighed. If it couldn’t be pink and sequinny, she supposed this would be alright.

Pearl stared at the dress in Mrs Markovich's hands. “I cannot wear that.”

“Why ever not?”

“It is not suitable.”

Mrs Markovich's eyes narrowed, the delicate jaw tightened and Pearl suddenly glimpsed the ferocious will that had taken a dirt-poor small-town girl to the top of the skating world and beyond. Mrs.Markovich simply did not accept a “no” for an answer.

“Try it on. Now.”

“Mrs Markovich...”

“Isaiah, if you will be so kind as to take your books to the lounge and entertain yourself? Pearl needs some privacy here.”

“Why? Sexy Sally dressed in front of me. I have seen boobs before.”

“Isaiah! OUT!” cried Pearl.

“Now Pearl, lets take a look at the figure you keep hiding under those shapeless dresses...”

Ten minutes later, Pearl stood open-mouthed in front of Mrs Markovich's full length mirror. Mrs Markovich nudged Thalie with her elbow. “What did I tell you? Perfect.”

“It is pretty, but I still like the pink.”

“Thalie, let me tell you a rule of fashion every chic woman knows before she is eight years old: never wear anything pink after five in the afternoon unless it is for the sole purpose of having it removed by a dashing man -with his teeth.”

“Mrs. Markovitch!” Pearl nearly screamed, “Madam!”

Mrs Markovich sighed. “Yes, yes...Alright...By the way? You better let the children sleep over tomorrow night...”



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