Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chapter 08: The Spring Ball

I gave Bev a call and asked her to meet us at the Heritage Market. I figured that it would be good for Daise to meet her earlier rather than later, and it might also help to have a sympathetic female while she was shopping.

I was very surprised at how compliant Daise was being. I got the feeling that she was determined to escape her situation, and that she had decided before even coming to meet me that she would accept me just as long as the situation was something better than what she was leaving. I was not under any false impression that what we were about was any sort of text-book romance, but I hoped to make some sort of emotional attachment before anything else, that that I could avoid any sense of her obligation or gratitude. I could see that was going to be difficult though; Daise was acting like a small puppy that had been mistreated all its life and was suddenly shown a little affection. I could see the start of the puppy-dog eyes. It was my ambition to turn that into something a little more like mutual attraction, before taking this too far.

We chatted a little more as we travelled, with me pointing out various landmarks and things that I thought were interesting along the way. There wasn't really much to see that was out of the ordinary, although I could see that Daise was appalled by the sight of the squatter camps at various places where they were near to the freeway. I had to explain to her about the huge divide that still existed between the rich and poor in South Africa, and how while that divide still had a majority of blacks on the poor end, there were a lot of blacks on the rich end; most enriched as a result of either climbing onto the political Gravy Train or of the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) polices of the ANC led government. She was woefully ignorant of South African politics, but had, of course, heard of Nelson Mandela. She did tell me that she had a photo album at her home from her Father, and that there were a number of pages from when her father had served in Angola. She remembered that they were mostly labelled as have being taken near a place called Cuito.

“Cuito? You mean the Cuito River? Or Cuito Carnavale? Do you remember any labelled with the Lomba River?”

“Yes? How did you know?”

“It seems we fought against each other,” I laughed. I was in Operation Modular in 1987 near the Lomba River in Angola and near the town of Cuito on the Cuito river in 1988. We knew that there were Russian 'advisors' with the FAPLA soldiers. How strange that your father was there. I have got some photos from those same places, especially of a battlefield just over the Lomba river where we wiped out a FAPLA Brigade in an afternoon.”

“That's amazing. I can't believe that that sort of co-incidence.”

“Not that difficult I suppose. From what you tell me about your father, it makes sense that he would have been there, and there were almost three thousand of us.”

Just then we got to the Heritage Market. I pulled to a stop in front of the Keg Restaurant, and as I got out of the Land Rover, saw Bev waiting for us. I went around to the passenger door and opened it for Daise. She needed the help getting out: the Land Rover is high off the ground. I took Daise's hand in mine to lead her over to Bev, and was surprised at the way that she gripped my hand and held on. It was suddenly a wonderful feeling. I was at the beginning of a relationship with a very beautiful girl, and we were holding hands. I felt young and excited, more so than I had about anything for a long time.

“Daise, this is my daughter Beverley. Bev this is Daise.”

I could see the two women appraising each other in that indirect way that woman have while they greeted each other with a quick kiss to the cheek.

“What's your plan Dad?” Bev asked me.

“I thought we could start with a dress, then shoes, then maybe the Salon for hair and nails. What do you think Daise?”

“Um. Ok. If that is what you think.”

“Cool. Let's go take a look.”

The Heritage Market is a series of small shops, all in long rows of buildings with brookie lace in the corners between the pillars and the ceiling. The intention is to make it look sort of rustic and cute. If you ignore that, there are actually quite a few nice little shops. I knew that there was a boutique there, having seen the shop's name enough times on my wife's credit card statement, so we went there first. We were greeted politely by the shop assistant, but I waved her off as I knew exactly what I thought would be appropriate.

“I was thinking something like this Daise, what do you think?” I asked as I pointed to a rack with about thirty little black dresses on it. Each one was a different style, but they were all beautifully made and I knew that any one of them would look stunning on her.”

“Good call Dad,” said Bev, “now get out of here and we will call you when we need you.”

“You Ok Daise?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but I would like you to stay.” She was still clinging to my hand. I could see that in spite of her nervousness about everything that was going on, her eyes had lit up when we walked into the shop, and were riveted on the rack of black dresses.

The shop assistant was still hovering, and she must have figured out some of what was going on. “Sir, You are welcome to sit on the couch while your daughters look at the dresses” she said.

“Only she is my daughter,” I said pointing at Bev, “this is my girlfriend.”

I don't think I could have chosen anything better to say at that moment. Daise turned her face up to me with an abrupt movement. She must have been reassured by what she read there as she smiled sweetly at me, then let go of my hand and went over to the rack of dresses to start looking through them with Bev.

I sat down on the couch and watched them while they picked over the dresses. It only took about ten minutes before they had selected four and disappeared into the changing room to try them on. When Bev emerged a few minutes later, she came over to me and told me, “You've found a good one there Dad.”

“You think?” I asked her with a lifted eyebrow, “You can tell in such a short time?”

“Yes. She seems really sweet and just watching you, I think she is already starting to think of you as her big protector. The way she was clinging to your hand was a bit of a clue too.”

I grinned at Bev, then I stopped and stared; gobsmacked. Daise had just come out of the changing room wearing the first dress. She was a little hesitant, but when she saw my face, she got that secret little smile on her face that women do when they know they have caught the attention of a man. She walked closer, then twirled around.

“Do you like it?”

“No,” I said, “I love it on you. You are going to stop traffic everywhere you go.” I was rewarded with a huge smile, then Daise threw her arms around my neck and planted a kiss on my lips. I knew right then that I was sunk. No more rational thought was going to be possible.

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