Appointment With An Angel
The sun was just beginning to set, bathing the world in a peaceful orange light and bringing the sweltering heat down to a temperature that was soothing and balmy. A slight breeze ruffled the tops of the trees, and the world was infused with a sense of ethereal serenity. All of this was lost on Wikus, whose attention was entirely taken up by an attempt to stave off an attack of hyperventilation. Westcliff made him nervous. The palatial houses and elaborately sculpted gardens were a million miles away from what he was used to. He sat bolt upright in the driver's seat of his car, his fingers tapping out an erratic rhythm on the steering wheel, and glanced up at the towering mansion in front of him. He had been sat there since unceremoniously stalling the Monza to a halt in the expansive driveway a few minutes ago, still not quite able to muster the courage to get out. He glanced at his watch. 7.34pm. This was it, then. He couldn't put it off any more. He peered into the rear-view mirror, giving himself a final once-over. Hair neatly combed, face clean and freshly shaved, teeth free from debris. Yes, that would do nicely. He scrambled out of the car and began the seemingly endless walk up the driveway to the house. To his boss' house. To her house. Wikus swallowed hard, and raised his arm to ring the bell. As he did so he became painfully aware of the sweat patch that had appeared under his arm. "Fok!" That was typical. Nothing he could do about that now, though. He rang the bell, then snapped the offending arm back to his side with military precision. After what seemed to be an hour or more, the door opened to reveal the imposing figure of Piet Smit. He stared down at Wikus, his face a picture of barely concealed disdain.
This one? This was him? This... Van de Merwe, wasn't it? Very appropriately named, from what he'd heard. His features hardened visibly, but it was lost on the perspiring figure before him, whose wide grin did very little to mask the abject terror in his eyes. Tania had been to several company functions, met many of the employees. Visser was an impressive man, as was Murray. Hell, even Brouwer would have been preferable. He might be relentlessly chirpy and a little too fond of bodily contact, but at least he'd never had to be rescued from the stationery cupboard. Piet had heard all about it. News travels fast in a busy office. No, she had chosen this one. Usually he would have had the maid answer the door, but not tonight. He had wanted to get the first look at the lucky employee his little girl had deemed to be good enough for her. Now faced with this wide-eyed, twitching specimen he was beginning to regret that decision.
Wikus drew himself up, squaring his shoulders and thrusting his chest out slightly.
"Good evening, sir," he said, his voice dropping in pitch. Strong and authoritative, that was the idea. He'd practiced it in the car on the way over. It had sounded much better then. He held out his hand.
"Wikus van de Merwe."
"Yes." Piet reluctantly took his clammy hand in the briefest of handshakes, casually wiping his hand on his trousers after doing so. Wikus could feel his face burning. He had to press on, this was his big chance to make a good impression with the boss. Her father.
"I'm here to pick up Tania, sir."
Piet exhaled sharply.
"Yes," he said coldly, "do come in." He turned away and headed for the elaborate staircase that swept across the back of the hallway. Wikus stepped over the threshold and stood awkwardly in the cavernous room, subconsciously fiddling with his clothing. This was ludicrous. It couldn't possibly work. She probably had a flock of admirers competing for he attention. Wealthy, successful men. Men she wouldn't be ashamed to tell her friends about. It wasn't too late to run. If he just turned around and ran out that door he could just go home and forget this whole ridiculous idea. She was probably stringing him along for a joke, anyway. Yes, that had to be it. She and her father were upstairs now, shaking with laughter at the fact that he had actually believed she would go on a date with him. It would better to go now, just turn around and...
His head whipped around toward the staircase. Tania was stood at the top, her slender hand resting lightly on the the balustrade. His eyes widened as he took in every single detail. The long pink dress that skimmed her bewitching figure, the blonde hair tumbling gracefully around her shoulders, the light glinting on her earrings, the way that smile lit up her soft features. Wait. She was smiling at him. Smiling, not laughing. Wikus could feel his mouth drying up, but forced himself to speak.
"Goeieaand, Tania", he said in a way that would probably have sounded almost as suavely casual as he had meant it to if it weren't for the noticeable cracking in his voice. Tania's smile widened and she skipped lightly down the stairs. Wikus' eyes never left her as she crossed the hallway towards him and gently placed her hand on his trembling arm. He grinned at her, his heart suddenly pounding so ferociously that he was beginning to seriously wonder if it might just explode altogether. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, before gently guiding him towards the doorway. In all the years that followed he was never able to quite figure out how he managed to get his legs organised enough to get out the door in that moment.
Piet looked out of the library window, watching the pair heading across the driveway. He snorted to himself. She would have her little fancies, his daughter. He decided not to think on it too much. It wouldn't last long.