by Paul du Preez
Last week: Darren had stepped off stage to adulation, and a confrontation with Marcus (du-rag) which Pastor Arendse deftly defused. In the aftermath, Leandré took charge of her brother only to be interrupted by her bestie, Saloni, intent on making a play for Darren.
“What?” says Darren, inching back.
“Actually, I switched them,” purrs Saloni, reaching up to play with one of Darren’s dishevelled locks. “It’s success hugs you in private… Don’t you think I’m clever?” Saloni is a Bollywood buff. Her conversation affects movie quotations laced with echoes of the British Raj.
“No,” says Darren, disengaging her plump, elegant hand from his hair.
She twists her fingers, brushing their smooth softness against his wiry palm; manages a fleeting squeeze. “Ah…you smoulder – like an Indian lover. Not as handsome as Ranveer Kapoor, but you are still a little handsome, I think.”
She sees tension roil in him, like sediment stirred by the flick of an unseen tail, and waits while it slowly settles as he imposes control.
Leandré watches, tension hiking her shoulders. Darren glances at her, and – Thank the Lord! – reads her warning glare, and chooses not to misbehave.
“Thank you Saloni,” he says grudgingly, inching back yet further. “I…uh…”
“The talented duo!” booms Pastor Arendse, pushing between Darren and Leandré, embracing them, one beneath each paternal arm. “The siblings, I mean. Leandré, where’s your cello?”
Leandré knows better that to hedge. “It’s in the back of my car, Pastor.”
“No! It’s not safe there. Why didn’t you bring it inside? Doesn’t matter – you must play for us.”
She nods dutifully. “I’ll get it now.”
“Excellent!” trumpets Arendse, and sails on, already engaging another virtual patron.
“Sorry,” edges Darren, disengaging himself from Saloni. “I’ve got to help my sister with her cello.”
“So soon?” she meows. “I bet you will never remember what I will never forget†.”
Leandré and Darren clatter up the stairs to street-level.
“She’s very intelligent…really.”
Darren stays tight-lipped.
“She’s pretty… She’s pretty, isn’t she?”
“Did I say anything?” he bites.
“Great fashion sense. Come on! And she’s not even thirty.”
“Well…maybe a little older.”
Darren halts on the threshold, framed by the door to the street, fills the space with his impatient gesture. “Why are you so interested in hooking me up with her?”
Neither of them budges.
“She’s my friend.”
“That’s what I’m worried about.” Abruptly, Darren turns, exits into the night.
“I’m not so sure either,” admits Leandré quietly to his back.
Part of her wants the best for everyone. And Darren and Saloni are two of the best things in her life.
“I don’t need help with my cello, thanks.” The hatchback of Leandré’s electric car thumps shut hiding the tangle of blankets she had used to disguise her instrument.
“I know,” growls Darren. “I’m going for a walk.” The mid-autumn air is cool, a little fresh. Wisps of vapour pool around street-lamps. “You can take your mask off now,” he tells her. “You’re going on stage anyway.” Darren had removed his as soon as he stepped into the street.
Leandré hesitates, wrinkles her nose underneath the snowy polypropylene cup: It’s itchy – terminally so, she agrees. And slips it off, folding it back into her bag. Then, without another word, she hoists the white, shaped cello case to her shoulder and begins the trek back to the church.
And, along the ill-lit road, is grateful, after all, for Darren tagging along behind her, unasked, but acting the gentleman.
At the entrance she turns to interrogate him: “So, what was all that about…with Marcus?”
“That’s his name.”
She sees tension roil in him, like sediment stirred by the flick of an unseen serpent’s tail, and waits while it slowly settles as he imposes control.
Her brother’s fetish. His religion – not always observed. Ruefully, she recognises that, as he says, he tries to be ‘a philosophical guy’.
“Not now, Leandré.” Darren eases the words out carefully. “Not now.”
And turns, and with rapid strides vanishes into the shadows.
† Widespread, not attributed.
Saloni: Success Hugs You in Private by Paul du Preez
Angel Wings by Sergei Tomakov on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/illustrations/angel-wings-fairy-isolated-4870050/
Intro Music (on Podcast)
Excerpt from Black, White and Blue by Paul du Preez
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Syblings the Syrial is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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