Simi smiles at Jacobus as he leans back and pats his stomach.
“Good braai hey?”
She lets the word roll around in her head, feeling it thick with wood smoke and red meat. Beside her Marybelle is quiet, her plate scraped clean. She catches Simi’s eye and raises her almost empty glass, then dips it towards her new friend.
“So nice to chat to you Simi,” she says.
“It’s been quite an evening,” Simi replies, her mood mellowed by food and wider company.
Around them the crowded tables begin to shed their guests. Young couples drift into the darkness, whilst a few singles cling like limpets to the bar. Jacobus scrapes back his stool.
“Time to head to our beds,” he announces. “Good night everyone.”
As he gets to his feet, Karen does the same, bending down to pick up a fork off the floor as she does so. Then she adds her own farewells, and Jambee drains his beer.
“I’m coming,” he says.
“Where’s your room?” Simi asks.
“Not a room – a tent. Just above the tennis court.” His eyes, suddenly shy, flick back to his mother.
“Right, come on. Time to go,” says Jacobus, already several strides away from the table.
“Wait. I’ll come with you,” calls Marybelle. She slips down from her stool, and walks around to hook an arm through Jambee’s. “I want to see this tent of yours Jambee. I think you’re just outside my room. Sleep well Simi.”
Marybelle blows her a kiss, and Jambee nods, without looking at her.
“You lot, come on. Good night Simi.” Jacobus raises a hand in a half-wave as they head off into the dark.
“Good night,” Simi calls after them, sweeping one foot under the table in search of her missing sandal. Her bare toes find it, and hook it back. She picks it up, loosens it slightly, and slips it on, wondering which way she should take back to her room. It is nearly midnight, and she knows she has to be up early if she wants to join the morning birdwalk.
After a little hesitation she decides to take the route back past the bar, and on through the main body of the lodge. On her way she sees Rudd chatting to a group of men. She slips past unnoticed towards the quiet space of the verandah above the pool.
There is a warm wind, and clouds race across the dark. On the grass terrace below, the blue-lit pool is gusted with tree shadows. Simi hears the water lap softly against the sides, and stands still for a few seconds, enjoying the quiet and the moment. The breeze pulls at her kaftan, and her mind drifts away to other pools in other places.
A sudden shout of laughter lifts her back to reality. She peers along the dimly lit verandah, and at the far end sees a young group playing cards around a table. They are intent on the game and unaware of her gaze. It is as she draws her attention back that she notices an old man, half swallowed by the arms of the chair closest to her. He is hidden in its bulky frame, only his hands, and his smile caught by the light.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023