Simi thinks back to the day before, to her rush to catch the tube out to the airport.
Seems like a different planet. That rain. All those umbrellas. At least it was Heathrow, and not miles away but I could have picked to go somewhere with a direct flight. Should have checked. Impulse. Every time. Looking for the special deal. And that travel agent was so persuasive. Zimbabwean. Told me I’d love this place. Not touristy. Proper Africa.
She looks around, memories melting under the heat.
Plus she said it would be cooler up here.
Simi tips her glass up, finishes the liquid, and crunches through the vanishing ice. Then she slips her feet out of her sandals, and into the thick scratch of the grass. It rubs across her soles like an old sponge, smoothing in sunshine. She stretches then curls her toes. First, up towards the sky, and then down again, blades of grass catching between them. She feels the bruising in her feet begin to ease, and she leans back, letting the jetlag, like a slow tide, begin its to and fro. She has no energy left to worry about her hair. She closes her eyes.
In the background there are noises – a shout, the clang of a piece of cutlery as it drops to the floor, and the sudden flap of a bird in the trees behind. Each sound triggers a memory, metal grey at first, then raw, soil-red. Barefoot children run beside the truck, shouting for sweets, hands outstretched. Small thatched houses give way to trees, and fields of tea. The images fracture and blur, heavy now, and slow. Then there is a cough. It repeats, marking something, getting louder, more definite. More annoying.
Simi’s mind, half-asleep, begins to catch hold of itself. The cough comes again. For a few more tangled seconds she stays confused, then suddenly she sits up. She knows she’s heard the cough before. Tonderai.
She looks around, and sees Tonderai standing a pace or two behind her. He dips his head in apology.
“Your lunch is ready.”
“Oh, thank you,” says Simi, her toes scrabbling to find their sandals.
She slips her feet into them, and stands up. She straightens her kaftan, and picks up her bag.
“I must have fallen asleep.”
“It is warm today,” says Tonderai, as he leads her towards the shade of the verandah.
There Simi sees a white cloth over a small table, its creases falling bright and sharp down to the polished floor. Tonderai pulls out the chair that faces the view. Simi sits down and places her bag on the floor beside her.
“Thank you for the nuts,” she says, as she makes herself comfortable. “They were delicious.”
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023