“No, I don’t have anyone special,” Simi says.
“No? You’re so glamorous. So strong, so … so … I don’t know, confident. And I love that red wrap around your hair. You look … magnificent.”
“Ha! I know how to walk the walk. I’ve had to learn that. My parents taught me. When they tell you you’re wrong – wrong colour, wrong place – that’s what you do. Walk tall.” Simi pauses, watching the wide wonder in Marybelle’s eyes.
“I like that.”
“You’ve got to sail out there like a ship. Look your finest. Every time. Catches attention. Gets you noticed.”
“So… who’s noticed you? Somebody has.”
“Well … there was …”
“And? Please. Everybody tells me. You might as well. Not like you’re going to bump into me anywhere in London.”
Simi lowers her lashes, and considers her inquisitor. “That’s true. Okay … so there was someone. But … it ended.”
“Why? What happened.”
“Well. I moved on. Maybe I’m just wary.”
“Is that why you’re here? A broken heart?” Marybelle’s eyes shine with warmth.
“No. Well my heart’s not broken. Mostly I was annoyed. He said I was a fraud. Didn’t know anything about Africa.”
Simi laughs. “Well. He was right. Until I came here I’d only been to Morocco. Once, on a school trip. That’s why I’m here. When he left I picked somewhere properly inside Africa just to show him. And my friends”
“Is he waiting for you?”
“No. He’d met a Lola somewhere. Younger than me. I don’t mind. I never wanted to marry.”
“What? He left you! I thought you left him. Why? Why don’t you want to be with him?”
“Okay. So …?”
Simi wonders if Marybelle can possibly imagine life in a tower block. If she’s ever even seen one.
Light as a dandelion. Like talking to a leaf.
“I don’t know if you’ll understand this, but our neighbours, when I was little, they were always fighting. We could hear them through the wall. Then one night she came pounding on our door. White woman. Your size. Face a mess. Said she didn’t want the police. He only did it when his team lost.”
“Beat her.” Simi, voice flat, looks directly at Marybelle. “She went back to him. Can you imagine?”
“No. I can’t,” says Marybelle.
“We moved soon after that. Don’t know where she is now, but I’ve never forgotten her. I can still see her. Eye swollen, nose bleeding, shirt ripped, and it was freezing. November, I think.”
“Horrible. Awful. But men aren’t all like that. You can still find someone Simi.”
“You think so?” said Simi,
“Well, not if you don’t try. Then, when you find them, keep trying.”
“We’re from different worlds Marybelle. It’s tough in the cities. Stressed. Not like here. It looks easy to be happy here.”
Marybelle looked around. “Perhaps. Maybe we’ve just got to trust in God Simi. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
How am I talking to this woman? Back in London I’d walk right on past. And I don’t want this God stuff that’s for sure.
“Marybelle,” Simi says, taking a step away and studying the crowd, “how about we look for some more champagne?”
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023
Georgie, I love your turn of phrase: so much wisdom about fitting in, belonging and connection, “sailing out there like a ship”, “Light as a dandelion. Like talking to a leaf.” Please keep on writing, I’m hooked!
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So pleased to read this – thank you! Little images come suddenly as I write, then I try to untangle them into something that will slip into a sentence without causing mayhem. Sometimes they work – so happy these did for you!