Simi is in a daze. She takes a sip of her champagne, and examines the idea of being the only black woman at a wedding in Africa.
It’s like I’m in a film, or something. 1950’s. Bride and her father riding through tea fields on a white horse.
Mind floating between real and not real, she lifts her glass up towards the sun, and admires the fine stream of bubbles flowing up the centre. Half a glass left. She lets the last mouthful linger, and turns her attention to the come and go in the shade, where families are being arranged into photographs. Nearby, but she is not quite sure where, she hears the best man calling out names to join those under the trees. She is lost in the watching, when Marybelle bubbles up to her.
“Hi Simi. What a beautiful service. Wasn’t it great? Such a special couple. Don’t you think? Oh … look … there’s Katania. Katania! Cooeee!”
Marybelle stretches one hand high over her head in her signature wave. Katania does not respond. To fill the gap, Simi tries to draw Marybelle’s attention back.
“You look beautiful today. Such a pretty dress.”
“Thank you. I borrowed it from one of the teachers. I just love the flame lillies on it,” says Marybelle, smoothing her hand over the billow of light fabric, patterned with reds and greens. “This is our national flower.”
Simi stands back to admire the dress a little more. As she does so, a gust of wind comes through, sweeping her kaftan tight against her, and blowing empty glasses off the cocktail tables. Marybelle topples slightly on her heels, then steadies as the breeze drifts back to nothing. Waiters hurry to pick up the fallen glasses, and under the trees the photographer re-drapes Jen’s dress, and Katania re-pins the veil.
“You’ll have to be quick,” a voice calls. “This wind … getting stronger.”
“Right … everyone …”
Words snatch back, but Simi only catches a few before they fly out of reach.
“Shouldn’t you be there with them?” she asks Marybelle.
“Who? Me?” Marybelle’s hand flies to her chest, with a laugh. “No. They make me feel like part of the family, but I’m not. I’m more like an old rug. Just there.”
Simi laughs, then wonders. “Are you married?”
“No. Came close … but no.”
“He got killed in our ‘bush’ war. They said it was an ambush. I only wanted him.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Simi stands quietly as Marybelle’s eyes bury back into the past.
“It was a long time ago. I’d just turned nineteen. It was mad here. Whole place in a mess. Terrible things happening. Lots of people left. My friends went off to uni, but I stayed. Too sad to go anywhere, so I got a job in my old school. Haven’t moved since.” Marybelle sighs, then catches hold of herself again. “That’s me. School secretary and agony aunt, forever and ever, Amen.” She ends on a shining smile.
“No man since?”
“No. Why would I? He was the one. Now I just love everyone.”
“Good plan,” Simi smiles.
“And you Simi? No one special?”
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023