Story postcard – Simi gets ready (3)

Simi tries to relax, to steady her breathing. She closes her eyes again, and focuses inwards, counting her breath back to a pace she can manage. Slowly, slowly it begins to work, allowing her to search for the words that always secure her. At last she finds them, and fastens them into her dark, like pitons in a cliff face.

‘Somebody’s shadow …’

‘Somebody’s shadow …’

‘Somebody’s shadow got in your way …’

Phrase by phrase she climbs back towards the light.

 ‘But nobody …’

‘But nobody …’

‘But nobody steals your sun.’

She repeats the last line again and again, until her hands stop their fretting, and her pacing stills.  She sits down by the mirror, and looks at herself, studying her anger, her misery. Then, she counts ten deep, slow breaths, heaving them into her lungs, one by one, and begins to sing:

“I don’t belong here,

I don’t belong there,

I’ve even stopped believing in prayer.”

She stands abruptly, and leans over the table, her face now close to the mirror.

“Come on Simidele! You’ve got this!”

Her eyes glare back at her, defiant.

“Good. Let’s go out there and face them.”

She straightens, and crosses to the full length mirror, to turn slowly, side to side, one hand checking her headscarf, and the other her earrings. Then she picks up the room keys, and avoiding the patio, opens the door on to the covered walkway. Its polished surface gleams in dark green-blacks beneath the lights. She locks the door, ducking the mini wave of insects crashing into the light beside it, and sets off towards the hum of voices.

“Stay calm Simidele! Stay calm,” she whispers to herself, smoothing her stride. “London’s got you trained for this.”

The scent of roasting meat, of herbs, and wood smoke, fill the air. Through it all run threads of laughter that get louder, as she reaches the stairs. She hitches her kaftan high, her sandals flashing their gold as she takes the stairs one step at a time.

She is by the pool terrace when a waiter comes out from the shadows, and walks towards her.

“Good evening. Can I help you?”

She stops, confused by his tone.

 “I’ve been invited to the hog roast? I’m a guest here.”

She sees the waiter’s eyes flick over her shoulder, as though expecting someone else to be with her. Annoyed, she tells him that Tonderai checked her in.

 “Ask him,” she ends.

“Oh …” the waiter says slowly, his face unhappy. “One moment please.”

He turns, and is about to leave when Rudd appears.

“Good evening. It’s okay. I know this lady. She is our guest from London.”

The young black waiter turns back towards her, his worry changing through surpise, to a wide smile.

“Welcome!” he says, dipping his head. “If you need anything I will be happy to help.”

“Thank you,” says Simi, stepping past him.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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