Simi stands in front of the mirror trying to decide whether or not she has chosen the right outfit for the dinner. She has gone for blue and gold, with a high styled hair wrap, patterned in deep browns with golden threads. Her skin is creamed smooth, and her eyelashes the thickest she has with her.
“Magnificent” she says to herself, mimicing Marybelle’s voice, as she checks her earrings are safely fastened. The swing of their bronze orbs reaches down her neck to her shoulders.
Turning sideways, head still, she smooths her kaftan across her hips, her earrings glinting in the glass.
I think it’ll do. Didn’t know I’d be coming to a wedding.
She picks up the room keys and steps outside. The wind slams the door closed behind her, and tugs at the edges of her kaftan. Looking up she can see no stars, just a stream of torn clouds across the moon.
She takes the shortcut over the lower terrace, past the dark of the pool, and up towards the broad backs and tight-fitting dresses that circle around the bar. She has just reached the top of the steps when a gong sounds from inside the lodge. It rolls out once, twice, three times, and the bar falls silent.
Rudd calls out over the crowd. “Please make your way to your seats. There’s no seating plan. Bride and groom know where they have to go. If you want a beer, take it with you. Wine is on the table.”
The crowd begins to shift, and Simi to follow it. Moving in the opposite direction is Marybelle, making her way towards her.
“Simi, will you come and sit with me?” she calls.
“Of course! Wow – look at you. That’s an amazing pink.”
“Same teacher friend,” says Marybelle with a little pirouette.
“You too Simi. I love your kaftan, and your … your … headscarf. Like an Egyptian queen.”
They walk together past the small stage, where the wedding cake sits on a pedestal, and on out to the verandah lined with tables in white cloths, each buttoned down the centre with wild flowers and candles in glass jars. Along the outer edges, waiters deliver plates of steaming soup.
“Come, we’ll sit here, next to Jambee and Sal.”
As Simi squeezes through behind Marybelle, Jambee rises to his feet.
“Evening ladies,” he says, eyes shy.
“Hello,” says Simi. “Nice jacket.”
They sit down, Simi catching sight of Katania as she does so, with Fred beside her. Then she sees the man she’d glimpsed at the service – tall, angular, his skin as black as hers.
She nudges Marybelle. “Who’s that beside Fred, please?”
Marybelle cranes her neck to see.
“Oh that’s Bernard. Friend of Fred’s. Army friend. They were in Malaya together right at the end of those troubles. Same regiment. I think he was Fred’s driver. Still is. Can fix anything.”
“Ah,” said Simi, taking in the broad forehead, the deep age lines, and the eyes, still and watching. “Malaya? Zimbabweans fought there? I’ve heard about that war, I think we had to study it at school. But I thought it was just the British?”
“Well … we were Rhodesia back then. Southern Rhodesia. A colony. I don’t know the details. Fred doesn’t say much. Just know they were both there together.”
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023