فصل 10

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فصل 10

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Chapter ten

Family

Mr JLB Matekoni looked up at the empty sky. Then he looked down. Mma Ramotswe was still there, not understanding what she saw. She knew that he worked for the orphan farm. She would think he was taking two orphans out for the day. She would not imagine that he had two foster children, and that they would soon be her foster children too.

‘What are you doing?’ she said simply.

It was a reasonable question. Mr JLB Matekoni looked at the children. The girl had put her photograph into the plastic bag on the side of her wheelchair. The boy was holding his photograph tightly, afraid, perhaps, that Mma Ramotswe would take it away from him.

‘These are two children from the orphan farm,’ said Mr JLB Matekoni with a weak voice.

The girl smiled and greeted Mma Ramotswe politely.

‘I am called Motholeli,’ she said. ‘My brother is called Puso. These are the names that we were given at the orphan farm.’

‘I hope they are looking after you well,’ said Mma Ramotswe. ‘Mma Potokwane is a kind lady.’

‘She is kind,’ said the girl. ‘Very kind.’

Mr JLB Matekoni spoke quickly.

‘I have had the children’s photographs taken,’ he explained. ‘Show yours to Mma Ramotswe, Motholeli.’

The girl pushed her wheelchair forward and gave her photograph to Mma Ramotswe.

‘That is a very nice photograph to have,’ she said. ‘Is Mr JLB Matekoni taking you back now, or are you going to eat in town?’

‘We have been shopping,’ Mr JLB Matekoni said quickly. ‘We may have one or two more things to do.’

‘We will go back to his house soon,’ the girl said. ‘We are living with Mr JLB Matekoni now.’

Mr JLB Matekoni felt his heart jump. ‘I am going to have a heart attack and die now,’ he thought.

Mma Ramotswe looked at Mr JLB Matekoni.

‘They are staying at your house?’ she said. ‘This is something new. Have they just come?’

‘Yesterday,’ he said slowly.

Mma Ramotswe looked down at the children and then at Mr JLB Matekoni.

‘I think we should have a talk,’ she said. ‘You children stay here for a moment. Mr JLB Matekoni and I are going to the post office.’

He followed her into the post office with his head down, like a schoolboy who had been caught doing something wrong. She would not marry him now. He had lost her because he had been dishonest and stupid. And it was all Mma Potokwane’s fault!

Mma Ramotswe put down her basket of letters.

‘Why did you not tell me about these children?’ she asked. He could not look at her. ‘I was going to tell you,’ he said. ‘I was at the orphan farm yesterday. The water pump was broken. It’s very old and it will have to be changed soon…’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Mma Ramotswe. ‘But what about these children?’

‘Mma Potokwane is a very strong woman,’ he said. ‘She told me I should take some foster children. I did not want to do it before I talked to you, but she did not listen to me. She brought the children to meet me. I had no choice.’

‘So,’ she said, ‘you agreed to take these children. And now they think they are going to stay.’

‘Yes, I suppose that is true,’ he said quietly.

‘And for how long?’

Mr JLB Matekoni took a deep breath. ‘For as long as they need a home. That is what I offered them.’

To his surprise, Mr JLB Matekoni began to feel more confident. He had done nothing wrong. He had not stolen anything or killed anyone. He had just offered to change the lives of two poor children. If Mma Ramotswe did not like that, there was nothing he could do about it now.

Mma Ramotswe suddenly laughed. ‘Well, Mr JLB Matekoni,’ she said. ‘Nobody can say you are not a kind man. You are, I think, the kindest man in Botswana. I do not know anybody else who would do that.’

Mr JLB Matekoni stared at her. ‘You are not cross?’

‘I was,’ she said. ‘But only for a short time. One minute maybe. But then I thought, “Do I want to marry the kindest man in Botswana? I do. Can I be a mother to these children? I can.” That is what I thought, Mr JLB Matekoni.’

He looked at her, not believing what he had heard. ‘You are a very kind woman yourself, Mma.’

‘We must not stand here and talk about kindness,’ she said. ‘There are two children there. Let’s take them back to Zebra Drive and show them where they are going to live. Then this afternoon I can collect them from your house and bring them to my home. My home is more…’

She stopped herself, but he did not mind.

‘I know your house is more comfortable than mine,’ he said. ‘And it would be better for them if you looked after them.’

They walked back to the children together.

‘I’m going to marry this lady,’ said Mr JLB Matekoni. ‘She will be your mother soon.’

The boy looked surprised, but the girl lowered her eyes politely.

‘Thank you, Mma,’ she said, ‘We shall try to be good children.’

‘That is good,’ said Mma Ramotswe. ‘We shall be a very happy family. I know it already.’

Mma Ramotswe and the boy drove off in her little white van. Mr JLB Matekoni took the girl in his pick-up. When he got to Zebra Drive, Mma Ramotswe and Puso were waiting for them. The boy was excited and ran to greet his sister.

‘This is a very good house,’ he shouted. ‘Look, there are trees and fruit. I will have a room at the back.’

Mr JLB Matekoni let Mma Ramotswe show the children around the house. Her father, Obed Ramotswe, had done a very fine job, he thought. He had given Botswana one of its finest ladies.

While Mma Ramotswe was making lunch for the children, Mr JLB Matekoni telephoned the garage. The younger assistant answered. His voice was high and excited.

‘I am glad that you telephoned, Rra,’ he said. ‘The police came. They wanted to speak to you about your maid. She had a gun in her bag and they have arrested her.’

That was all the assistant knew, and so Mr JLB Matekoni put down the telephone. His maid had had a gun! He knew she was lazy and dishonest, but this? Was she going to kill someone?

He went into the kitchen.

‘My maid has been arrested by the police,’ he told Mma Ramotswe. ‘She had a gun in her bag.’

Mma Ramotswe put down her spoon. ‘I am not surprised,’ she said. ‘That woman was very dishonest.’

Mr JLB Matekoni and Mma Ramotswe decided to spend the rest of the day with the children. Mr JLB Matekoni telephoned his assistants and told them to close the garage until the next morning.

‘I told them to use the time to study,’ he said to Mma Ramotswe. ‘But they won’t study. They will go and chase girls. There is nothing in those young men’s heads.’

‘Many young people are like that,’ said Mma Ramotswe. ‘They think only of dances and clothes and loud music. We were like that too, remember?’

Mma Ramotswe called the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Mma Makutsi answered and said that she had completed her report on the Badule matter. They would have to talk about that, Mma Ramotswe told her.

Lunch was ready, though. It was time to sit down to eat as a family for the first time.

‘We are grateful for this food,’ said Mma Ramotswe. ‘There are brothers and sisters who do not have good food on their table. We think of them and wish them food in the future. And we thank the Lord, who has brought these children into our lives so we can all be happy and the children can have a home with us. And we think of the mother and father of these children, who are watching us from above.’

Mr JLB Matekoni’s heart was so full of emotion that he could say nothing. So he was silent.

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