Chapter 52 (The big BRAAI)
Deric was whistling a happy tune as he got dressed. Mae and Nathan were in some kind of argument about Nathan wanting to go as “Batman”. She was trying to reason about the practicality of Batman at a Summer-braai and he wasn’t budging. Deric smiled as his thoughts drifted back to two, or so years ago, when he, Deric, couldn’t decide on an outfit either. He got dressed about three times that day. All in a desperate attempt to impress a girl, which just happened to be his wife now. They’ve been married for just over a year and were about to become parents in seven months’ time.
Still a fairy-tale to him.
Yesterday they went to see both sets of parents and told them the good news. His Father and Mother were totally elated. Mom cried right through the whole two hours of the visit. That is, if she didn’t hugged one or the other. Even Nathan - who had been told about the new sibling couldn’t care one way or the other (if it didn’t compromise his room and his things) had to endure the hugging. To lighten the mood Deric said: ’Remember mom, no names of composers or singers, I’ve suffered enough under “Frederic Chopin”. Got that!”
That brought a smile to her moist face.
It didn’t get any better at Mae’s parents except her Mom didn’t cry like a baby. She, however, use the words “Blessed child”, by Deric’s calculations, about seven times. So, whatever it was going to be - for they didn’t know at this point - will have “The Force” with it.
Mae entered defeated after her discussion with Nathan.
‘If he’s arguing this much at seven, do you we think we’ll make it through puberty?’ She exhaled as she opened the cupboard.
‘Let him find out for himself how impractical “Batman” in a South African summer is. Just make sure you have something else that he can wear if his decision backfires,’ Deric smiled as he put a hand round her waist and give her a kiss. She kissed back and then proceeded to fold his collar down.
‘You don’t like my style?’ he said with mock surprise, ’Well, just remember, it was my style that caught you in the first place, Mrs Offbach.’
‘No, no, it wasn’t, it was the shy lad hiding behind the tough “Captain” that knock my socks off! Style? No, not the style, maybe the lack there off, but…’ she kissed him once more before she bent down to look for he shoes, ‘I knew you would be far more handsome if I dressed you.’
He slapped her ass, ‘I can understand Nathan’s frustration with his interfering mother.’
‘Hey, don’t start something you cannot finish, Deric Offbach.’ And she smiled that heart-stopping, sexy smile.
Nathan appeared in the doorway dressed in a black cape and mask.
Deric suppressed a smile.
Well, “Batman” is going to melt like wax in this summer heat. However, everyone must make their own mistakes at some point in life. Like Minke Blignaut said way back then.
Josie was at the door with her usual hugs and bright smile. Deric handed over the melted “Quality Street” chocolates, waited out the bear-hug, and then gave her a peck on the cheek.
‘You better put that in the fridge.’ Deric said, pointing to the chocolates.
‘Ooh, I knew you two will be good for each other. What a handsome couple you make.’ She chuckled as she patted Nathan on his masked head and added, ‘A little hot for the “Phantom of the Opera”’
Deric and Mae both suppressed smiles.
’I’m “Batman”’ Nathan said aghast and put his hands on his hips. Then started to run to the backdoor at the sound of Peter Junior’s yelling.
’Yes, Aunt Josie, you should know you’re “Batman’s” from your “Phantoms”! I don’t think Batman can sing –can he?’ Deric said with mock distaste and then with a whisper, ‘Okay, so spill the beans, how do you propose to keep the first wife and the second wife happy at the same time?’
Josie looked at Mae. ‘You see, women discuss, men are plain nosy!’ She looked at Deric, ‘Go see for yourself, oh doubting Thomas.’ She pointed to the door. ’Mae, sweetie, you come help me put this in the fridge and pour something cold for the two of you, and…ugh…Batman, of course. You, sir, can put the salad in the fridge under the Lapa.’ She pointed to the back door.
’So that the two of you can go and discuss - I guess.’ Deric said tongue in cheek as Josie put her arm through Mae’s, ‘just don’t be too long, my tongue is already sticking to my palate, and I can’t think of a thing I can say to any of the four of them.’
He followed the chatter and laughter coming through the sliding door and was greeted by a chorus of voices. Everyone, so it seems, were there. Monty with his Misha, Danny and his girlfriend in matching t-shirts stating “I’m with him!” and his “I’m with her!” which made Deric smile. Latisha and Peter were there, as well as Adie, the blossoming adult, who was standing next to a skinny kid with some acne and knobbly knees. So this must be the “little sex-driven” boyfriend that’s giving Latisha all those sleepless nights. The one she threatened to show a photo of the left-overs of Chuba Jackson’s dick, in order to put him off sex forever.
Poor little sod!
The toughest task ever thrown on, and at, a teenager: A Willing Willy and a Bamboozled Brain, with absolutely no way of knowing what to make of either. No wonder teenagers are a difficult species.
Deric nearly tripped over his own feet when he observed the four people sitting in deckchairs. The two women were chattering (or discussing) away like weavers. As if they’re friends forever. The two men, sitting at either end of their woman, sipping away at their beers. Both trying desperately to look vaguely interested in what the women and Jim were saying. Jim was telling some kind of joke, or an amusing story. The laughter coming simultaneously from the two men shortly after, was just a tad too forced and a tad too hearty.
Natasha Sheffield and Mandy…hmm…Sheffield was chatting away. Lt-Col Brooke Sheffield and – as he was later introduced – Bertie Schoeman, was the weapons of choice for each of the women. Maybe more politely, respectively husband and boyfriend.
Monty winked at him as they shook hands and said softly, ‘Hi Cappie, who knew?’ Deric leaned in and gave Misha a peck on the cheek, ‘Could be us in twenty years.’ Monty added.
‘Oh, please, shoot me!’ She whispered back and smiled.
‘Yeah, Tim, who the hell knew?’ Deric mumbled out the side of his mouth, and with a smile towards Misha, ‘I’ve got a .22 and a 9 mm.’
They all giggled.
Jim waved him closer to make the introductions. He looked just as calm as every other day, as if he entertains exes and next “sis” every weekend.
Latisha enquired after Mae and Deric motioned inside. She got up and as she passed him she let go with an “I hope you brought pepper-spray” and he nearly choke on his own saliva.
Deric knew all about Mandy. You’re bound, at some point or another, to hear the gossip about Sheffield’s and Mandy’s steamy romance while he was still married to Natasha, when you work near or in the office. Mandy was quite aware that Sheffield was married but that didn’t stop her. He’s not excusing Supt, but given his Achilles Heel, namely beautiful women, it’s no wonder he couldn’t hold back! Deric met Mandy only a few times before but. If they said anything memorable to each other, he can’t remember what it was. However, he noticed that she was quite attractive and friendly. She just…well, just a tad too tanned for his liking – sort of orange. He sensed that she was the optimal flirt! Held on to his hand just a second longer than necessary. Crossing and re-crossing of her legs. The round innocent eyes looking straight at you as if you were the only person in the world. As the day went on however, he found that she had quite an interesting point of view and very good conversational skills. Well, she sells houses for goodness sake, and she does it apparently better than most! Must be her conversational skills that get people to buy houses; “Yeah, right!” Deric surprised himself by his nasty thought.
But he could see why Brooke Sheffield was easily distracted and captivated by her, especially those long legs. He noticed Bertie was giving them a nonchalant glance ever so often. Well, so did all the men.
But here, now, Natasha is chatting away with her worst nightmare as if they were long, lost friends.
People are the weirdest species ever!
He smiled at his own inner fun at other people’s expense. He sat down next to Peter to see how he was doing. After the usual exchanges, he found that they were both so intrigued by this “you can have him, I’ve got another”- under-laying sexual tension scenario playing off before their eyes that they scarily said anything to each other for two or more minutes. They just caught each other’s eye, then and quickly and guiltily looked at the sky or garden or Jim, scared that they would start to giggle like little girls.
Bertie Schoeman – Natasha’s new boyfriend - was maybe the same age and length than Sheffield. A tad more padding around the waist, but with a full head of thick, grey hair. He also had a pleasing attitude and quite a few, not dirty, but certainly scruffy, jokes rolled of his tongue. He told it really well. Everyone burst out laughing at the punch-line and couldn’t wait for the next anecdote. Natasha Sheffield was really smitten with her new guy. Maybe she’d laid it on thicker than normal just to throw it in Sheffield face. To let him know that she’s not pining after him anymore.
Deric had to say, she looked happy and that made her quite attractive too.
‘FC,’ Jim’s voice came to him, ‘Coo-wee, Earth to FC, come lend a hand with the fire.’ He wiped the sweat from his brow and added, ‘Shit, what a hot day to braai. But braai is braai, and we’re going to braai! After all, we’re South African. No rain, hail or hot day will keep us from a braai.’
Deric didn’t know how long Jim was calling out to him. Peter’s amused smile told him Jim had talked to him a few times already. Peter nearly pushed Deric off his chair in an effort to bring him to the present.
‘Sorry,’ he said apologetic and a little embarrassed. The best he could come up with was, ‘a little lost in thought.’
‘FC?’ Mandy said sweetly just as Mae and the others join them, ‘That would be for Frederic Chopin, not so? It is such an amusing story. Are you any good at composing music?’
Mae put her arm possessively round Deric’s waist, smiled sweetly back at Mandy and said, ’Well, he’s no Chopin, but he can compose and conduct some music very well!’ She also sounded a little flirty whilst smiling broadly. He looked at her with surprise as she winked at him and added, ‘What? I never told you?’
Deric felt that familiar rouge starting in his neck.
What the hell was going on with his wife?
‘Let’s make that fire,’ he said as he quickly turned to Jim, who cackled like the wicked witch from the East.
‘It seems the hell-fire is already a-burn.’ Jim said softly as he handed Deric the fire-lighters.
All were fattened up and just a little sleepy in the summer heat. A lazy, warm breeze meandered through the Lapa every now and then. A few thunder clouds were starting to gather to the south. It was only Nathan, Peter JR and Alex, the youngest of Brooke and Natasha’s three children, who seemed to have an endless abundance of energy as they were still running around, playing some or other game. Nathan still stubbornly dressed as “Batman”. Maybe he had cooled down after their swim, or maybe he was just proving a point to his Mother. Either way, he was still caped, although “Batman” had abandoned his mask.
Josie was still the perfect hostess and tried to force-feed them one more time like geese.
All declined. They were stuffed!
‘Whoa, Josie,’ Latisha started, ’you know I like my food as well as the next man – and I mean man – but, we should’ve had a “Guinness Book of Records” judge here today. I’m sure we could go down as the people who ate more than a small village in one sitting!’
’You had to say the word Judge!’ Jim said lazily.
‘No! No work-talk! Rule number one!’ At last Josie placed her tiny bottom on a chair, looked at Jim sternly, and then at everyone in turn and said, ‘Right, now, any announcements of note? And don’t be shy, we’re all friends here. Nothing work- or case related nè.’ She looked at Deric directly.
He nodded. Don’t know why she’s looking at him, he seldom talk shop to women when he relaxed.
After a little silence Natasha Sheffield gave Bertie a nudge in the ribs.
‘Well…well,’ he cleared his throat a little too well, looked at her with pride and a little embarrassment before going on, ’Natasha and I…well… we’re going to be wed as soon as she sets a date. I hope it would be sooner than later. Within the next three months, hopefully...we’re going to buy the ring this coming week…’ His voice dwindled a little, but then her took her hand and kissed it, which made her smile, and the rest of the woman burst into spontaneous chatter and clapping of hands. Mandy Sheffield looked happily-relieved. Brooke Sheffield’s face was unreadable. Deric couldn’t tell if he was relieved, “especially about that pension” he was so worried about, or maybe, he was quietly a little disappointed. As Jim had said, way back when, to Clement Hastings as he was struggling with his ex’s anger about his relationship with the late Grace Woods: “Maybe Nicky (his philandering wife) still thought you to be in love with her. Maybe all (women and men alike) still like to believe that she, or he, will always be the love of their ex’s life, no matter who was responsible for the what.” He remembered Jim went on to say: “People always tend to reach out for the future with the one hand, while the other hand is still firmly gripping the past.” Maybe that’s what Brooke Sheffield was experiencing at the moment – total loss of the past.
‘Well done you!’ Josie said with exuberance when all the kissing and handshaking and hugs were done with. Deric was sure she knew this long beforehand!
‘Anyone else?’ She said as it quieted down. This time she definitely looked at Deric intensely and his ears suddenly pricked up. She couldn’t possible know anything, could she?
Monty saved him by clearing his throat, ‘Well, people, I hope you’re in the mood for weddings, because Misha also said “YES” and we intend to get married before the year is out – maybe October, November.’ They both beamed.
Again, big excitement, hugs and congratulations.
‘And here I thought I was the only one in your life.’ Mae said jokingly with a sacking lower lip as she gave Misha a hug and then Monty.
‘Well, you didn’t want me; you went for bigger fish, so…’
’Now what am I, smoked Herring?’ Misha said pretend-annoyed while looking at Deric.
‘Ha! And so it starts. Get your hard hat on, surfer boy!’ Jim said smugly.
‘Oh shush, no-one wants to hear of your misfortune. At least not in a year full of celebrations,’ Josie hammered away in her good-humoured manner, ‘not so Deric?’
Deric looked at Mae. She just shrugged her shoulders as if to say “I didn’t say anything.”
Everyone was looking at Deric and Mae. He felt a little sheepish but Mae gave him that smile and a little nod, ‘Okay, okay! Good grief it’s hard work to keep something from you lot! Monty and Misha, you two better pick your wedding date with care, and let us know well in advance, otherwise it might coincide, if all goes well, with the birth of a little Offbach.’
Yells followed a short silence before everyone, once again, clambered over each other to kiss, hug and shake hands.
Josie looked at him as if to say, ‘Now, was that so hard?’
Jim wasn’t surprised at all. He smiled like a cat who got the cream.
He knew! Somehow he knew or guessed!
He was the blabbermouth!
Suddenly, for that few hours, minutes and seconds, on that beautiful Sunday, the world looked perfect to Deric.
‘I see trees of green, red roses too…’ Louis Armstrong grumbled smoothly through Deric’s head as voices wanted to know about names and boys and girls and such.