I got home and found that my lovely sister Amo had already started dinner. She was brilliant in all sorts of ways, but, sadly, not at cooking. Though the effort was appreciated.
“OK, so I made fillet steaks, baked potatoes, and a Mexican salad,” Amo said as she revealed her creations.
“Nice…” The fillet steaks looked like little bits of tarmac. The potatoes seemed fine, but an attempt to poke a fork into one revealed otherwise. “Maybe I’ll put these in the oven just a bit longer,” I offered.
“No, you go get ready. I’ll put them back in the oven. They’re nearly done. You go. I’m fine. I’m really getting the hang of this cooking business.”
I headed toward the shower with one last glance at the Mexican salad, which looked like it was made only of big chunks of jalapeño peppers. How was someone meant to eat straight jalapeño peppers? Our tongues were going to burn out of our mouths.
But I couldn’t worry about that now, Gideon would be here any minute. I had just enough time to shower and dress, but no more.
Gideon was a great guy. I never thought I’d meet someone who would understand me the way he does. He’s kind of an investigator too, an investigative reporter, so he was always interested in hearing about my cases. He thought my detective agency was exciting, even when most of it turned out being spying on cheating spouses and looking for people who owed other people money. Every once in a while, though, I got a good case and he was always keen to hear about it.
I heard the knock on the door and rushed to dry myself off and get dressed. I reached the sitting room just as Amo was serving Gideon ‘drinks’. In this case it was called a ‘mixed drink’ but it really was little more than a glorified science experiment: Oros, bicarbonate of soda, tartaric acid, and water.
She was just adding the water with much flourish as I stepped into the room. Her plan had been to make homemade orange soda. It was just all a bit too ambitious. The orange foam filled the glass and burst over the edge all down Gideon’s hand and under his shirt sleeve filling up the space between his arm and the shirt. In a few seconds, his white shirt had an interesting orange-coloured section from elbow to wrist.
“Oh sorry, neh?” Amo said, rushing for a towel to clean it all up.
Gideon, being the good sport he is, took a cautious drink of the foam beverage and pronounced it not so bad, though his face said otherwise.
“Hello,” I said taking the towel and trying to mop up the mess.
Gideon leaned forward and gave me a kiss on the lips and I flicked my eyes at Amo to warn him that that was as far as things should go with my little sister around.
“So how was your day?” he asked.
“Alright. I might have made Bonang quite angry, but I’ll get it sorted. What about you?”
Just then Amo called us to say dinner was served.
We sat down at the table. “Did you cook all of this?” Gideon asked me.
Before I could answer Amo said, “Yes, she did. She’s amazing.” Amo liked Gideon, liked him too much maybe, and she wanted Gideon to like me. She thought this was the way to help. I suspected it wasn’t.
He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “You really are special.”
“Yes … well…” I looked at the burnt steaks and the now equally burnt baked potatoes and wasn’t sure what to say.
He filled his fork with the Mexican salad and before I could warn him, he popped it in his mouth. In seconds his eyes were watering and his nose was leaking. He reached for his orange foam drink, but it didn’t seem to help. Now he was fanning at his mouth in a vain attempt to stop the inferno burning in there.
Amo shouted, “Milk!”
I ran for the kitchen and poured a large glass of milk. Gideon drank it all down in one go. After recovering he said, “My! That’s quite … challenging.”
After the salad, the steak and potatoes, though charred, were fairly innocent. Sometimes relativity matters – it makes bad things seem nearly good. Dessert was shop-bought ice cream; we were all nearly ecstatic over that.
“You know, something strange happened at work today,” Gideon said. “Our receptionist at the paper quit. All of a sudden, she just quit. Mareledi Moore. She’s been at The Global Mail for nearly twenty years. And she’s such a nice lady. I’m really going to miss her.”
“Did she say why she had to leave?”
“She was very upset. She just packed up her desk and told the boss she’s going. She refused to say anything else. But you know people; they all think they know, they think up their own stories for everything.”
“I’ve found in my work,” I said, “that often those rumours carry a bit of truth.”
“I don’t think so in this case. You see the other day, Kago Mmanthe, the woman who writes the entertainment stories, left a pair of earrings in her desk. They were troubling her ears and she took them off, stuck them in the drawer, thinking she’d dig them out when it was time to go home, but then she forgot. The next day they were gone. Diamond earrings no less. Well there was a big discussion, but no-one knew anything. But then Mareledi resigned, and she was so upset. You can see where this is going: people think she stole the earrings.”
“They might be right. Some people who steal don’t have the nerve for it, but then the deed is done and there is nothing they can do. Filled with guilt, they eventually just become eaten up by it. Maybe Mareledi thought leaving the newspaper would alleviate the guilt. She’ll find soon enough it won’t though.”
Gideon finished the last of his ice cream. “Really Lola, I don’t believe it. I think something else is going on. You get to know people in my job, just like in yours I guess. Mareledi is not a thief. I just know it. And it makes me feel bad, after all she has done for the company, to hear people say such things about her, especially since they really don’t know for sure.”
Lola could see the situation was causing stress for Gideon and she felt bad about that. “I’m free on Monday. Maybe I can take the train to Joburg and sniff around a bit. Are you available?”
“Sure, that would be great. Lola, you really are a star.”
Tell us what you think: Lola says rumours often hold a bit of truth. Do you agree?