Story postcard – on the road (6)

It is midday by the time they park up in front of the lodge. Rudd switches off the ignition, and looks at Simi.

“Welcome. We’ve made it,” he says with a grin.

“Never thought we would. That last bit, what was that? A riverbed?

“When the rains come it is.

Rudd braves a laugh, as he swings open the door of the truck. As he does so, Tonderai, smart in his brown uniform, steps out of the lodge entrance, and comes over to greet them. Rudd watches him approach, catching his look of surpise when he sees Simi, but it vanishes as quickly as it came.

Introductions completed, they make their way into the lodge, with Simi, like a ship in full sail, between them. They walk through the reception area and out to the sunlit verandah, where the view stretches out in front of them.

Rudd loves this moment – the scent of cut grass, the colours, the warmth, the bird song, and the relief. He always feels the same after a drive to the airport, especially when he has to return with a guest in the cab. It’s the foreigners, the city-types, he finds the hardest. Or he did, until he met Simi. She, he thinks, is in a category of her own.

He watches her step forward toward the view, her pleasure so fresh, and genuine, that he wonders suddenly if she has ever been to Africa before. She looks the part, but seems so far from home. If she has been, he realises, she’s never stepped outside a city.

He goes to stand beside her.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Oh it is! I like this.” She gestures out over the golf course, her silver bangles glinting in the sun. “Not bad at all. I was worried on the way here, but I really, really, like this. I feel healthy just standing here surrounded by all this green. And so many trees. Are those the rooms, below the swimming pool?”

“Yes,” says Tonderai, wheeling over her suitcase. “Yours is at the end.”

Simi nods.

“Why is it so quiet? I thought you had a wedding on?”

“We do,” says Tonderai, “but the guests haven’t arrived yet. Most will be here this afternoon. You are our first visitor for the weekend.”

“I like that. Some peace while I settle in.”

“Shall I take you to your room?” Tonderai asks.

“Yes, thanks. I’ll freshen up, and then come back to sit up here, and soak it all in.”

“How about a drink, and some lunch on the verandah?” Rudd asks.

“Sounds perfect. Gin and tonic please. Do you have that?”

“Of course,” says Rudd.

“That’s a good start. Lemon and lots of ice please.”

“I’ll get that ready,” says Rudd, her smile making him smile as Tonderai leads her down the stairs.

They must be about the same age as each other Rudd realises, and the same height, although, he notes, she definitely wins on square footage.

His eyes follow the flow of her kaftan down the stairs, exotic and bright against the dark polish of the floor and the lawns beyond. It is Tonderai’s back, tall, straight, and dignified, that is the last to disappear around the corner.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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