Simi sees a tall woman approach Jacobus as he leaves the verandah. Her blond head dips like a reed in the wind to kiss him on each cheek, and then moves on to Karen whose face is already tipped up to receive a similar blessing.
Simi turns on her stool.
“Oh … sorry, I never saw you,” she says. “Too busy people watching.”
“Plenty to watch here. I’m Jen. The bride,” the young woman says smiling.
“Oh,” Simi is on her feet now. “Congratulations. Thank you for including me.”
“Not at all. I’ve known Rudd all my life, and any guest of his is a guest of ours,” Jen says, pulling her long hair off her face as a gust of wind rushes between them.
Over Jen’s shoulder Simi sees the tall woman approaching.
“Jen, introduce me please,” the woman calls.
“Oh,” says Jen looking around. “Simi, this is my mother … Katania.”
“Hello. Over from London, I hear.”
Simi shakes the long-fingered hand, trying to ignore the eyes that sweep over her kaftan, and then slow as they ascend past her earrings to her headscarf.
“Adorable,” says Katania, her attention already back on the crowd, eyes hunting through the faces. “Lovely to meet you.”
Then she is gone.
“Don’t mind her,” says Jen with a laugh. “I’m off to get some food. Can I get you anything?”
“No thanks,” said Simi. “It’s coming.”
“Okay,” Jen smiles, disappearing back into the crowd in a flow of skirt.
Simi has just sat down again when a sparkly top catches her eye. She studies its progress as it tries to find a path through the elbows, a glass of wine raised precariously. Suddenly it succeeds, and Simi realises that its small, slightly disarranged occupant, who she judges to be in her late sixties, is toppling towards the stool next to her.
“Hello. May I join you? Oops I’m spilling … these shoes. And the wine, but I’m not drunk… hic … just does this to me if I haven’t eaten.”
The spangly lady places her glass down beside Simi’s .
“Hello. I’m Marybelle. And you’re? No … don’t tell me … don’t tell me … you’re … you’re S…ss …” She puts a finger on her lips and frowns, her hand extended. “You’re … hic … sss? Sss …. sss … … kay, tell me.”
“Simidele. Please call me Simi.”
Simi shakes the hand, and then releases it to allow its owner to wriggle herself up on to the stool.
“Simi. That’s it. Lovely name. Why do they always make these so … hic … tall? Excuse me, while I hold my breath. Get rid of the hiccups. Count of twenty does it.”
Marybelle leans back, strands of grey hair tumbling loose from the clasp on the back of her head. She plumps her cheeks with breath and holds the pose, eyes closed.
Simi, eyes wide, finds she is counting the seconds. She has reached nineteen when the eyes pop open.
“Done. Always works. Sorry about that.”
“No problem,” says Simi, taking a long slow sip of wine.
“Now, you’re from London. We are SO pleased to have you with us. First visit?”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Well, you look so … so … unrelaxed.”
“That so?” Simi raises an eyebrow, and takes another sip of her wine.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023