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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

PAWNING PEARL- Part 31

Monday morning found Pearl and Simon sitting next to each other in Doctor de Bruin's waiting room. Simon sat, then stirred uncomfortably. The chair was too small. Tiny, really. Besides him Pearl was dead still, her hands clasped primly over her handbag, chin up, staring into nothing. At least it looked like it. Directly opposite her was a large poster for Family Planning advocating vasectomies. Simon winced and instinctively cupped his hands on his lap. After a while Simon nudged her. "Pearl? Are you alright?"

Pearl turned her head with that same far-away distant look in her eyes. "Yes, Simon. I am."

"Oh. Because you are so silent." Simon added timidly, "And usually, you know, you have quite a lot to say."

"I need to think. I have been talking so much lately, I haven't been listening to myself."

"Oh!" Simon is struck dumb by this reply. He looks around the waiting room. There is another row of chairs opposite them, all too small. Or at least, too small for him, but quite cheerfully coloured. The whole place was cheerful. In one corner a pile of toys was being pawed by three toddlers and opposite Simon a very unprepossessing five-year old was entertaining himself by blowing bubbles of snot out of his nose.

The boy's mother sat next to him reading something in a discrete fabric cover. Probably one of those sexy books women were reading on the sly now a days, Simon nodded wisely to himself. Erotica...Now women were reading about sex too. What was the world coming to? He sighed and stirred again, glanced at the silent Pearl.

He wanted to reach out, take her hand; but he was afraid to break the fragile accord they had been sharing the last two days. Somehow the Nazi, Rat-shit, they had all faded into the background. The focus of their concern had been Thali.

Simon had wanted to explore possibilities, name the phantoms flitting through his mind: cancer, TB, anaemia, leukaemia, diphtheria; and a million possible congenital defects of the heart, lungs, liver...Simon had spent an agonising afternoon googling all the terrible blood disorders that can assail children.

Pearl had refused to discuss Thali's possible illness. "Let us face enemies only when we can name them. To worry before is energy wasted twice over."

And now Pearl sat in a silent reverie, obviously doing exactly that. He was about to nudge her when he noticed Snot-nose was staring at him, a damp well-chewed finger stuck in the corner of his mouth.

"Are you a giant?" Snotty asked.

Simon stirred again. His butt was getting numb. A peculiar sensation, and one he had never experienced before. "No, I am not a giant."

"You look like a giant." Snotty replied, with an accusing tone, in a surprisingly deep voice.

"Well, I am not."

"Are you strong." the sweet child asked, "Or just big and fat?"

Simon was outraged "Do I look fat to you?"

"You look mighty big. And you have a bulge in your middle, like mom did when she was expecting Xoli."

Simon sat up as straight as he could in the tiny chair and sucked in his offending incipient paunch. "That is muscle. I am just sitting bent over, see? So it looks soft, but it's really not fat at all."

The sweet child looked him over scornfully. "You look fat, and OLD, and ugly too."

Simon gasped in outrage and was about to reply when Pearl took his hand.

"Simon." Simon savoured the warmth of her hand resting on his. It felt astonishingly light, and completely right.

"I...I have been foolish. I have no excuse except that...I am thirty two years old, unmarried. I have spent my life looking after old people. My mother, my grandmother and grandfather, my aunt. I was the plain one who stayed behind in the kraal when all the others left to live their lives."

Simon opened his mouth to reply and Pearl stilled him with a gesture. "I was used to that. It was alright. I had my books, my studies, my lovely old ones, I had a full life. Then my father came back after my mother died. He had no use for me. He took a younger wife. A woman who painted her lips, and her nails purple, and had a blond wig.I become an embarrassment, he wanted me out."

Pearl's eyes filled with unshed tears. "So, he sold me to Jonas' father. And you know how THAT turned out. And then there you were, like an angel, saving me, and I loved you straight away."

Simon opened his mouth again, and Pearl laid cool fingers over his lips. "And you opened up a new life and a new world for me. I was so happy taking care of you, then the children too. Then all these people started making such a fuss of me...Me, Pearl Chabalala, plain Pearl whom nobody loved, but was very useful. They were seeing me, looking at me, seeing a woman: desirable, admirable, lovable..And...oh Simon, I loved that! Because you see, for the first time, I was seeing me too, and liking me."

Simon said softly: " I think you very desirable, and most admirable...and very lovable."

Pearl looked up at him and smiled."As I do you. I apologise Simon. I have been silly. I have been wanting to be a girl, like I never was, instead of a woman. Now it makes no sense to play games. I love you Simon, and my heart tells me a time of terrible storms comes, and we must stand together with no misunderstanding between us, we must stand together in trust and strength and know we are honest and can count on each other, no matter what happens."

Simon was about to reply when a skinny man in a white uniform and fat red-rimmed glasses put his head around the door and called: "Mr and Mrs Chabalala?" Pearl jumped to her feet, but Simon had some trouble extracting his bottom from the narrow chair.

"I am Pearl Chabalala, and this is Mr SImon Thambisa. We are not married."

"Yet..." Added Simon, and took Pearl's hand.

The thin man looked a bit startled at that, and led them to Dr de Bruins's office. He announced them, then stood back and gestured them in.

Dr. de Bruin stood up to greet them with his gentle smile. He shook Simon's hand firmly and invited them to sit down. There were two brown folders on his desk. Dr. de Bruin opened one, took a deep breath and said: "Miss Chabalala, Mr Thambisa, I have the children's blood-work and the news are not what I would like. Isaiah is well, so I won't discuss him further. Thalie..." Simon squeezed Pearl's hand and took a deep breath.

Dr. de Bruin took off his glasses and rubbed a tired hand over his eyes.

"Thali is HIV positive, and she also has Aids."

Simon felt like a mite ground down by a giant's foot. Every particle of air in his body rushed out in a moan. "She is what?"

"Let's not beat around the bush. Mr Thambisa, the viral count is very high. Thali is dying."

TO BE CONTINUED

MC

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