Story postcard – introducing Marybelle (3)

Marybelle looks at Simi. “You asked about Rudd. His granny was killed by a landmine up here when his dad was a teenager. Dad married, stayed here. Too much for Rudd’s mum though. She started drinking. Then left. Then Rudd and his dad left too.”

Horrible,” says Simi. “I remember my parents listening to news about your war.”

“I don’t like talking about it,” says Marybelle. “Let’s enjoy ourselves instead. You look amazing, by the way. I can’t get over your eyelashes.”

Simi half smiles, then turns her gaze to the wide night beyond. She does not want to be under the fashion microscope of this spangly lady.

“You okay Simi? Not sad are you?”

Simi shakes her head. She is not sad, but she is hungry and does not want to answer any more questions about God or her eyelashes.

Marybelle has another question. “Is England wet, and crowded?”

“Well, it gets rain, and it is crowded.”

“And cold?”

In winter.”

“Must be so hard for you, I mean being from Africa, and all that.”

Simi puts her glass down, and turns her full focus on Marybelle. I’m not from Africa.”

“But you look like you are.”

“I’m a Londoner. Born and raised. And, by the way, I’m used to the cold. In fact I like it.”

“No.” Marybelle’s eyes are as surprised as street lights in the dark. “Are you really a born-in-London, Londoner?”

Simi nods, eyelashes lowered.

“Went to school there and everything?”

Simi nods again, wondering about Marybelle’s sanity. She tenses, knowing more is coming.

“Somehow I never imagine people like you in London. Sorry. That sounds all wrong. I love your kaftan. You’re like a goddess, but a proper African goddess. Except when you speak of course. Then you sound English, but I can’t believe you actually are?”

Simi closes her eyes, and clasps her hands together in front of her. She takes a deep long breath.

“You see. You do believe in God.”

Simi shakes her head.

“I am not praying. I am calming myself.”

“Oh,” says Marybelle.

Simi’s eyes fly open. “There may not be many of me in the books or tourist brochures, but there are plenty like me around, especially in London.”

“Oh. Funny how we get things wrong, hey? Anyway, I only know about England from how I imagine it. I’ve never been there.”

“Haven’t you got a television?”

“No. Too expensive.”

“Never had one?”

“When I was a child. Don’t have any electricity half the time anyway.”

Simi is silenced, but Marybelle is not.

“Are you surprised by us Simi?”

“Yes,” Simi replies emphatically. “Why are there so many of you white people here in Africa? In the middle of nowhere. Not even near a beach.”

 “A beach?”

“Well that’s where white people love to go, isn’t it?”

“I’ve never even seen a beach. Not in real life.”

“What? Never?” Simi frowns.

 “Never. Isn’t that funny?” Marybelle smiles, eyes bright.

Simi swirls her wine around her glass.

Neither of them notice Jacobus coming over with a tray loaded with plates of food.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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