Simi hears the voices but can’t catch them. They chatter into her sleep like birdcall on a breeze.
“… lekker … hey?”
The words float, soft then lost. A female voice … now another …
“They’ve done it up. Love the bathroom.”
“Rudd said there’s some lady from London taken over his rooms for now. Just back there.”
There was a whisper, then a giggle.
“Did you see Katania?”
The gossip, and the flip flop of sandals, drift away. Simi opens her eyes and sees the mosquito net floating above her. She lies still, letting her mind catch up with reality. Suddenly it focuses. She props herself up on one elbow, and checks the clock on the bedside table. 5pm.
Oh no … don’t want to be late. Tonderai said 5.30 I think. Family expecting me …
She kicks off the sheets, disentangles herself from the net, and crosses the room to the small, open window that looks out on to the walkway. She tries to catch a glimpse of whoever has just passed, but there is no sign of them.
The only people she sees are a young couple on the verandah above the pool, where a waiter in khaki uniform is bringing them a drink. The woman’s long hair dances in the wind. As Simi watches she reaches a hand around to sweep it over one shoulder, raising the other hand to wave at the suntanned group coming out of the bar. There are shouts and laughter. Must be old friends, Simi thinks. She studies them for a few more seconds then turns to her kaftans in the cupboard, flicking through until she reaches one in deep oranges and reds . She picks it out, holds it against herself, then slips it over her head.
More voices lift down from above, drawing Simi back to the window for a last look. Through the near dark she notices for the first time that everyone gathering above is white.
Hmm. Well, that’s strange. Not what I expected. Guess they’ll notice me. Better make it worth their while.
Fifteen minutes later, eyelashes in place, brows brushed and beautiful, she picks out a pair of shoes, loosens the straps and twists her feet into them. Then she pirouettes on their high heels in front of the full length mirror on the cupboard door. At the mid-point of the second spin she holds her pose, and looks back over her shoulder.
That’s good. Tall and shiny as the Shard. Now for some Nefertiti.
She rummages in the drawer and pulls out a net cap, and two strips of fabric. With the cap tight over her hair she scrunches the softer fabric into a bundle and balances it on the top of her head, wrapping the second rectangle of red cloth up over them both. Once its tucked in tightly, she adds her long hoop earrings and stands back a little further to fit herself into the mirror.
I like it.
She blows herself a kiss, and, deciding to go up the patio way to join the others, pulls back the curtains, and steps out through the wide glass doors.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023