“Just have to hope it’ll get better, not worse, hey. Oh great. There’s Tim. Excuse us ladies, I need to catch him.” Hansie, plate of food in one hand, makes his way back through the tables towards the dining room, where Tim is herding the last walkers in to collect their breakfast.
Simi, pleased with her choice of pancakes and bacon, sits down. As she does so she hears a voice calling across the grass behind her, a voice she recognises as Katania’s.
“Oh there you are. At last. Such a stressful morning.”
“Oh. Hi,” says Jen, watching her mother warily. “Why so stressful?”
As Katania pulls out the chair at the head of the table, Simi looks at the pair of them, one soft as a pillow, the other, tall and thin as a knife.
“Good morning. No breakfast?” Simi asks.
“No. I never have breakfast.” Katania’s eyes dismiss Simi and focus on her daughter. “Your uncle can’t come. Some storm or something. Got half a message first thing. Can’t tell you how furious I am. Mick knows this is your big day …”
“But why?” Jen’s eyes are wide green with worry. “Why can’t he come? Is Uncle Mick okay?”
Katania waves one hand dismissively. “Oh, he’s fine. He’s not ill or anything. Just doesn’t want to get stuck here. Says he needs to be with his colleagues in Beira because of the storm. It’s so annoying.”
Storm, Simi wonders. She feels uneasy, unsure whether to leave the table, or stay trapped in the family drama.
“Just as long as he’s okay,” Jen says softly.
“Oh he’s fine. Anyway, it looked like it was all going to be a disaster, but then I had a brainwave. Thought there must be a local priest, and turns out there is. I’ve met him. He’s perfect. Problem solved.” Katania leans back, shaking her hair down the back of the chair.
“What?” asks Jen. “Who? We don’t even need a priest. Are you really sure Uncle Mick can’t come?”
“I am,” says Katania, straightening up again.
“Can’t a friend do it?”
“Who Jen? Do be sensible. I’ve been through everyone here. There’s no-one. Trust me. This priest will be perfect. Such presence.”
“What’s his name?”
Jen pushes her bowl of fruit away and gets to her feet.
“I’m going to find Hansie.”
“Okay,” says Katania, waving a bangled wrist towards her daughter, “I’ll wait for you here.”
Jen makes her way back through the breakfast tables, while Simi, reluctant to abandon her pancakes, scans the tables hoping she might be able to attract a stray birdwatcher looking for a perch. But she has no luck, for the last of them flutters past, excitedly seeking out friends. Simi sighs and picks up her knife and fork.
Better just eat quickly.
“So tricky,” Katania says, taking off her dark glasses and puting them down on the table. She leans back, eyes closed, tipping her chin as high as it will go. Then she runs her fingers through her hair, sunshine flicking off it, as she traces her scalp down to the base of her neck.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023