Simi swirls the ice around her glass, enjoying the clink, and the cold of her fingertips. She places the glass down on the small table, then leans her head back against the rough canvas of the deck chair. Sounds come and go around her. Half-awake, she listens as a burst of laughter blurs lazily with the call of a distant bird.
The sounds soothe her, and she’s on the edge of sleep, eyes half-closed, when a shadow falls across her face, blocking the the sun. There is a polite cough from somewhere above her, and then an apology.
“Madam. Sorry. Excuse me.”
The words pull Simi upright, her body awkward in the dip of the canvas.
“Oh, hello Tonderai.”
“Would you like to try some of these with your drink?”
“What are they?”
“Macadamias. Our local nuts. I just wanted to check that you have no allergies.”
She wriggles herself a little straighter.
“I don’t have any allergies. Thank you. I’ll try them.”
Tonderai places a small bowl of the round, creamy nuts on the table beside her. He gives a brief nod, and then heads back to the verandah.
Simi picks up a nut between thumb and forefinger, and examines it, turning it like a pale moon between the sunset flash of her nails. Then she pops the nut into her mouth, and chews slowly.
“Hmm … buttery. Touch of vanilla. Salt…”
She picks up another, and eats it. Then she dusts the salt from her hands and lies back again, twisting her neck from side to side to release the tension from the top of her spine. She closes her eyes and allows her mind to jolt back over the journey.
She thinks of the slow motion airport, and of finding her host. She’d seen him holding the board with her name on it as she came out of arrivals. At first she’d assumed he was the driver, and was amazed when he introduced himself as the manager.
Not even half my age, Simi thinks, still struggling with the idea that she’s come all the way to Africa to be hosted by a white boy. And the brown uniforms don’t help. Maybe that’s the safari look. Should be selling popcorn in a cinema.
Frowning, she opens her eyes, and smooths her kaftan, remembering again the sweaty fright of the drive.
“So long. And those queues for petrol. Why did I have to choose Zimbabwe? Remote Zimbabwe? Can’t even remember what I was trying to prove. Feels like I’ve gone mad since he walked out,” she mutters to herself. “Maybe I’m just tired. Hope it won’t be too long until that lunch they promised.”
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023