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Saturday, 1 November 2014

PAWNING PEARL - A Serial Novel - Chapter 16

Pearl walked into The Polite Pawn Shop trembling with rage.

“'morning Pearl!” Gideon cried, and Simon looked up from where he was sorting through a pile of comic books from the 60's an old gentlemen had sold him, looking for the possible treasure, that one rarity that would make it worth while buying a stack sight unseen. His heart jumped at the sound of her name, he noted, and jumped again when, looking up, he saw her face.

“Pearl!” He got to his feet, brushed off his knees. “How did it go?”

“Here Sir...” In her hand was a big fat brown envelope with the emblem of the Children's home.

“Here, the papers for the children...” Simon saw that her hand was shaking.

“Pearl? Are you well?”

She shook her head dumbly, lips pressed together, eyes very wide.

“Come with me.” Simon placed a hand on her elbow, lead her to the back office, closed the door, and suddenly she was in his arms. Pearl was in his arms. She was trembling, pressing her face against his shoulder, her arms wrapped around his waist. A child's embrace.

“Pearl!” Simon hesitantly placed his arms around her. How do you comfort someone? Then he knew. He rocked her gently as she sobbed. “Pearl, don't be sad, please...”

“SAD!” Pearl pulled back, stared up at him. Simon saw her eyes were red with tears. “I am so angry, so angry!”

“Why Pearl- what happened?”

“They knew – they knew they were out there, lost, abandoned! They did nothing so they wouldn't get bad publicity. They left my babies out on the streets!”

Simon was outraged “THEY KNEW?”

“I want to hit her, I want to tear off her face! She with her fancy rings, and my babies were eating garbage on the streets.” Pearl was gasping for breath. Her rage overwhelmed her. “I can't, can't feel like that. I can't live with feeling this hate.”

Simon held her tight, and suddenly against his lips he felt the gentle slope of her forehead. She smelled sweet and clean, like Thali after her bath, but under that was a warm mouth-watering spicy scent, like cinnamon, and dark chocolate; and her skin was satiny smooth, soft. She was soft and so warm. Holding Pearl was nothing like holding a child. Not at all...

Simon decided to end the embrace before he embarrassed himself or Pearl.

He cleared his throat and stepped back.“We have the children safe, Pearl, that is what matters now. The rest I will think about, how we bring this into the open with out harming the children. Ours, and the other poor things still in this place.”

Pearl nodded, took a deep breath and attempted a smile. “Yes, Sir. You are right.” She hesitated, “I am sorry, Sir, for making a fuss.”

“Its quite alright Pearl.” Simon remembered the sweet feel of her in his arms.“You can make a fuss anytime.”

****

That night after dinner the four of them lingered over a lovely chunky chocolate ice cream Simon had brought home as a treat.

Simon hit his spoon on the table: "Silence in this house!"
Thalie and Isaiah, who had been squabbling over who had the right to first seconds, stopped and stared at him mouths wide open, pink chocolate speckled tongues practically hanging out in astonishment at the severity of his tone, and his mock thunderous frown.

"I have somethingto announce!" He lowered his brows and looked at the children.
"There are going to be some rules in this house. From today on, we are a family,, is that understood? That means I am the boss, and what I say is the law."

Thalie giggled, and Isaiah snorted back his laughter. "I am very serious. I am the big boss here. My first orders is you call me Papa Simon from now on, and we have this chocolate ice cream every night."

A discreet cough and Pearl's flinty stare caused him to amend "We have chocolate ice cream every other nigh!" Another cough, and Pearl raised her eye brows. Simon sighed. "Once a week?" Pearl smiled and nodded.

"YAY!" Cried Thalie, and Isaiah grinned even wider.

"So we are a real family now? A forever family?" he asked.
"Yes," answered Simon quietly. "We are a forever family. No one goes away or leaves. Ever." Simon kept his eyes on the children, longing to look at Pearl, ask her the questions troubling his heart. In an impulse he stretched out his hand to took Thalie's, and she reaching out gripped Isaiah's chocolaty paw, he in turn take Pearl's hand; and Simon turned to her. He reached for her, felt her slim fingers in his. A huge grin dented his cheeks. "A forever family! Thalie, Isaiah, Pearl and Simon!"

She was smiling! Pearl was smiling at him and warmth, tender affection brimmed in her eyes. And she was looking at him, Simon, not at the children. Pearl was lookng at him with something that might be love in her eyes.

The doorbell rang. Silently cursing, Simon jumped up to answer the door.
It was Mr Ratsike. Simon frowned. "Good evening Mr. Ratsik. How can I help you?"

"Mr Thambisa...Good evening Sir."

 "Is there a problem at the flat, Mr Ratsik?"

 Mr Ratsik shuffled from foot to foot. "No Sir,not at all."

 "And so?"

"Ahm, Mr. Thambisa, I wanted to thank you for the violin Sir. Thank you."

"You are welcome, Mr Ratsik."

Mr. Ratsik did more shuffling from foot to foot. In fact he was almost dancing... "Sir? Is Miss Chabalala home?"

Simon stared at him in astonishment. "Pearl?" He could swear Mr Ratsik's caramel complexion darkened in a blush.

 "Yes Sir, Pearl..."

Frowning, Simon called "Pearl? Could you come here please?"

Pearl peeked into the hall, Thalie at her side.saw the visitor, and immediately she smiled. "Mr Ratsike! How nice to see you!"

Simon noticed for the first time that Mr Ratsike was quite good looking. Tall, and slim, with large soul-ful eyes. Cow-eyes, really! And he was making cow-eyes at Pearl!

 Mr. Ratsike - handsome, artistic Mr. Ratsike was making eyes at Pearl.

HIS PEARL!
It could NOT be borne...
Simon was determined not to allow this one moment longer!

There they stood in the hall-way for a long moment, Mr. Ratsike staring at Pearl with open-mouthed adoration, Simon Thambisa stiff-faced and enraged, and a perplexed Thalie watching the little tableau.

“Oh, Mr. Ratsike!” Cried Pearl, “Do come in, sit down!”

“Pearl, I am sure Mr. Ratsike is a busy man. Are you not, Mr. Ratsike?” asked Simon.

Mr. Ratsik did his peculiar little shuffle and twisted his hands together. “Well, yes Miss Pearl. I wanted to speak with you...” he glanced at the glowering Simon, “To you both.”

At a warning glare from Pearl, Simon led the way to the lounge and with a curt gesture, invited Mr. Ratsike to sit down. Mr. Ratsik did so, removing a long slim envelope from his coat pocket and carefully placing it on his knees. Pearl sat next to him on the couch and smiled.

“So! How are you Mr. Ratsike?”

“I am very well, Miss Pearl, very well indeed. Mostly thanks to you.”

“To me?”

Mr Ratsike, leaned forward, cow-eyes shinning worshipfully. “The violin, Miss Pearl, I not only got the job, but have now been named First Violin!”

“That was Mr. Thambisa, Mr. Ratsike. It is his violin.”

Mr Ratsike turned to Simon. “And to you too Mr. Thambisa, I must give thanks, Sir. Your kindness changed my life. But Miss Pearl, I know it was you brought my misfortune to Mr. Thambisa's attention. I know it.”

“Mr. Thambisa is a most generous man, most kind. All I did was mention your need, Mr. Ratsike.” Said Pearl.

“This is all very pleasant Mr. Ratsike,” said Simon sharply, “But it is getting late. What was it you wanted to speak to us about?”

Mr Ratsike spoke to Simon but gazed at Pearl. “Last week something wonderful happened, Mr. Thambisa. A great violinist, a German gentleman, is here to play with the Orchestra, and in the interval between rehearsals I was playing a composition - my own - and he heard it. He has asked that I play it at the Opening Gala for the season, the day after tomorrow. As a soloist, Sir, playing my own composition.” Tears stood out in Mr. Ratsike’s eyes. “Me, Sir, a boy from the Cape Flats…Playing with the greatest violinist in the world, as a Soloist, Sir.”

Pearl reached out and grasped Mr. Ratsike’s hand. “My dear Mr.Ratsike, it is no more than you deserve! Congratulations! I am proud to know you, and that you call me friend.”

Mr. Ratsike held Pearl’s hand as if it was the most precious treasure and brought it tenderly to his lips. “The honour and the pride is mine, Miss Pearl.”

Simon felt hot rage and jealousy rise up in his manly breast. This little wimp was touching his Pearl! “Congratulations Mr. Ratsik,” said Simon, with a narrow smile, and just then reinforcements arrived. Isaiah wandered into the lounge and stood flabbergasted by the sight of a strange man kissing Mama Pearl’s hand. He immediately sat close to Simon and fixed on Mr. Ratsike his unblinking and unnerving owl-like glare.

“Mr. Thambisa, Miss Pearl, I came to extend to you an invitation to the Concert, and to the Gala Dinner afterwards. As my guests.”

“A party!” Cried Thalie excited, “Mama Pearl, you going to a party! And what will you wear?”

“Yes Pearl,” said Simon, “What will you wear? It is most probably Black Tie for gentlemen, long dresses for Ladies…”

“Miss Pearl will be beautiful, whatever she wears, Mr. Thambisa.” said Mr. Ratsike.

“What about the children? They can´t stay home alone!” Simon turned to Mr. Ratsike with a triumphant smile. “I am afraid we must decline.”

Thalie was jumping up and down with excitement: “No! No! No! Mama Pearl must go! Like Cinderella to meet a Prince! We will stay with Mrs. Markovich!”

A Prince! Thalie was looking at Mr. Ratsik with blatant admiration.
“That is perfect!” Cried Mr. Ratsike with a huge smile, and handed the narrow envelope to Simon.

He opened it and extracted the creamy invitation. He scanned it quickly, noting date and time; black tie…And then his attention was caught by the phrase:

“…proud to present the debut of Mr. Charles Ratsike as Violin Soloist playing his own composition “Serenade for Pearl””

“I don’t want to stay with Mrs. Markovich, I don’t!” said Isaiah with a ferocious frown. Simon’s heart soared. He was proud of his boy. Proud! He winked at Isaiah encouragingly.

“Why Pearl, you don’t want to traumatize the boy further…And it’s not like you know anything about classical music!”

“But Miss Pearl is a most talented soprano! Did you not know?” cried Mr Ratsike, “Why, that is how we struck up conversation. She was singing Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” in the lobby. The acoustics are incredible there.”

Pearl looked embarrassed “I thought I was alone…I had no idea anyone was listening.”

“You have a wonderful voice, Miss Pearl. Wonderful…” And Mr. Ratsike smiled that stupid cow-eyed smile.

“Then Miss Pearl goes, and if Isaiah does not want to go to Mrs. Markovich, Papa Simon stays home with us!” cried Thalie.

NO! Pearl at a Gala all alone with cow-eyes all alone? After he had played a Serenade to her on that dratted violin in front of the whole world? NEVER!

“Well, that is settled,” cried Simon, “Pearl and I will come, Mr Ratsik, and you Isaiah, will stay at Mrs. Markovich with your sister.” And he stared down Isaiah’s outraged squawk with his own flinty-eyed stare.

Simon had a fight on his hands, it was now clear. A fight for his life, for the hand of the woman he suddenly realised he wanted as his wife.

The family accompanied Mr. Ratsike to the door, and saw him off. Pearl closed the door on one last ecstatic smile from Mr Ratsike and turned around to face Simon with an overbright smile: "Well then! Lets go finish our dessert, then off to bed!"

Thalie and Isaiah raced to the kitchen, elbowing each other at the doorway, clambering up onto their chairs and fighting to see who got seconds first.

Pearl sat and stirred silently at the melted mushy ice-ceam on her plate. Simon felt very uncomfortable. He had a vague notion he had done or said something profoundly wrong but he just couldnt for the life of him figure out WHAT.

The tender light that had been in Pearl's eyes moments before that dratted Ratsike had knocked on the door had quite gone out.

Pearl addressed the children with that bright, brittle smile. "All right my children, here is the plan. We go to bed early and get a good rest because we have a busy day tomorow. Thalie and Isaiah, we have a doctor's appointment to see that all is well and you have all your shots; then we go to the school to hand in your forms, then we go talk to Mrs Markovich and ask if she can stay with you for the Concert night."

"I don't want any shots!" cried Isaiah.

"Me neither!" said Thalie, pouting, "We not sick Mama Pearl, why must we go to the doctor?"

"Well, we must be sure you have all your vaccines, so you don't GET sick. It will be alright. It is a very nice doctor, and I will be there with you, and after we will go for a hamburger, is it a deal? Now! Off to bed."

"Yes, Mama Pearl,"sighed Isaiah.

"I want my bed-time story!" said Thalie.

"Not tonight, Thalie," said Pearl, "It is late. Brush your teeth, and go and sleep. I must do the kitchen, then I will also come to bed."

The children trooped out grumbling, and Simon hesitated, then decided to stay behind. Pearl gathered the dishes and carried them to the sink.

Simon cleared his throat "Ahm...Well, Pearl, looks like you have a full day tomorrow."

"Yes, Sir."

"Yes...Very full. And then we have the concert day after tomorrow..."

"Yes."

"Very exciting...Isn't it? I am looking forward to it."

"Very good, Sir."

"Pearl? Is something wrong?"

Pearl had her back to him and was busy washing and rinsing, her movements brisk, her shoulders stiff.

"No, Sir."

"Pearl...I think I said or did something wrong. Help me."

She stopped moving, back very straight. After a long moment she turned around to face him. Her hands were soapy, her eyes very wide. "No Sir,. You didn't. You said what was in your heart. The mistake was mine."

"I don't understand..."

"We were sitting and having ice-cream like a family, and for a moment I saw us like that. Two people standing equal, with two children to love. Then when Mr. Ratsike came, I saw I was wrong. That is not how you see me at all."

"Oh but...I do, Pearl, I have great respect for you. I am very...fond of you."

"No, Sir. Mr. Ratsik came, and he invited us to a wonderful event. And the first thing you said was what I would wear, and I knew you were afraid I would shame you. You put me in a box." Tears stood out in Pearl's eyes. "You are the kindest man I know, I admire you so, I so wanted you to admire me back."

"But Pearl..."

Pearl lifted a soapy palm to hush him. "Please let me finish. You have put me in a box, Sir. Like everyone I have ever known. I am in a box. It says: Pearl Chabalala, Black, woman, ignorant. Useful, but limited. Plain but serviceable."

"NO!"

"Yes, Sir. We live in a world and in a country that likes labels on things. It makes it easier, you see. Easier than taking the trouble to get to know people, judge them for what they are. Not how they look, or where they come from. You don't see me, Sir. You see my box, you see the labels. Pearl. Black. Woman. Useful. That is fair enough, SIr. You are my employer, I should not have expected more; except that you told me we would be friends."

"And we are!"

"It was hurtful. You assuming I would embarrass you, that I would not like the music; that all of it would be above me. It hurt."

"Pearl...I am so sorry..."

"No, Sir, you were frank. It is how you felt, what you thought. You were honest, and I was foolish. So don't be sorry."

Simon swallowed horror. In his jealousy and insecurity, in his rush to squeeze out a rival, he had wounded Pearl. He had doomed the delicate and promising beginning they had made. He would have to find a way to make amends, and quickly, or all hopes of his future happiness would be at an end.


MC

TO BE CONTINUED

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