Turns out it was those old newspaper pages that had Mr Isaac in such shock. He phoned his friend from the National Library and gave him my address.
“Lionel, get yourself over here. Pronto! Bring extra gloves. You are not going to believe what I am looking at!” He was still speaking in a strangled, breathless whisper.
Mr Isaacs and his friend knelt down side by side there in my lounge, their hands encased in thin, white, linen gloves. Gently, slowly, as if they were handling something sacred, they spread out pages of newspaper.
“Dear Lord in Heaven,” whispered Mr Isaacs again. “South Africa Commercial Advertiser! 1833! Can you believe it? It seems to be the back page, a little worse for wear, but still, Lionel: look at these advertisements!”
“The inaugural publication of the Rand Daily Mail! 1902!” Mr Isaacs’ friend whispered back. “And yes – it’s an original, not a reprint. And here – headlines of the General Strike of 1922! And here – Armistice Day!”
“And these cartoons! We’ll have to contact Dr Shapiro first thing tomorrow. He’s going to be blown away! My goodness, Faheema, my dear! This is a gold mine you have here. Better than a gold mine!”
In the end I made a big pot of tea for them and went to bed. I left the two librarians still sifting through the old newspapers with gloved and delicate fingers. Still whispering to each other – as if they were in church.
Turns out those old newspapers that Ouma Plaatjies and her mother – and even her grandmother – had wrapped around their things, were worth a small fortune. Not 11 million rand like that painting. But enough to do the things I longed to do most!
There was enough money to complete my music teaching diploma. And enough money to pay off Claudette and the bank so that I could live in Mom and Dad’s home once again, filled with its warm and loving memories.
Today I sit beside Ouma Plaatjies’ old piano there in Mom and Dad’s lounge.
And I say, “That’s a semibreve. So we need to hold it for four counts. Right Dermot?” Or Angelique. Or Lorata. Or Justice – who is Mr Isaacs’ eldest grandson.
Yes, I am teaching, sharing my love for music with children. I have over 20 pupils now, with more on my waiting list.
I am doing the job I always dreamed of. Priceless!
And no, I haven’t forgotten my siblings. Of course not. I paid for Germaine to go into a private rehab facility so he can find a way to conquer his drug addiction. And there is some money in trust for him once he’s had a full year clean and sober.
As for Claudette, well, she has her Gucci bag and that makes her very happy. Right now she and her husband are off at Sun City. Not just for a weekend, either. I booked them in for a whole fortnight!
Tell us: If you were suddenly given a small fortune, how would you spend it?