Simi, her own fears almost forgotten, moves closer to the doors, and peers through their glass. At first she sees no sign of the young man, then suddenly she spots him, bent low into the wind. Curtains of rain sweep around him, hiding him and then exposing him, as he makes his way through the tables to the crate of champagne. By the time he reaches it, he is so low to the ground Simi thinks he must be on his knees.
“He’s got it,” someone shouts.
“Any bets he won’t make it back?” jokes another.
“He better!” shouts Katania, and the room bellies with laughter, until a sudden cry cuts through the noise.
“No way! Look at that.”
Simi cups her hands against the glass, and sees the roof over the walkway begin to lift. She watches it strain at its edges, and then, with a muffled, clattering wrench, one side peels back, twists free and cartwheels out into the darkness towards the pool.
“What’s happened?” voices call.
“The roof over the stairs … far side of the verandah … it’s come off.”
“Where is it?”
“And the champagne?”
Simi refocuses. She tries to find the young man but when the lightning comes again all she sees is the crate, closer now, but without its escort.
“Can you see him?” Simi asks, eyes straining into the dark.
“Yes,” says Marybelle. “He’s just there. Something knocked him over, but he’s up again.”
“I see him,” someone shouts. “He’s on his hands and knees.”
“Agh, we’d better get out there and help him.”
Then Simi spots him. He is trying to stand, but the wind forces him back down, toppling the table beside him and blocking her view. New shoulders squeeze in beside her.
“Where is he? I can’t see him?”
“He’s just behind that table there. Not far … by the crate,” says Marybelle, stepping away from the doors as they slide wide then closed again.
“Who’s gone out now?” a voice at the back calls.
Simi sees two more bodies double into the storm. Staccatoed by flashes of lightning, they reach the upturned table, and pull it to one side. Then, crouched together around the crate, the three push, bobsleigh, through the deluge. As they get close to the doors, hands reach forward and pull them open and the three stagger in, their shouts spinning into the room.
“Yassus man …”
“That’s wild out there!”
The doors thump closed, and the champagne is lifted high and carried forwards, torchlight bobbing to either side.
“Good job,” shouts Katania, over the cheers and whistles.
Simi turns back to the glass, unable to resist the force of the chaos outside. In the flat bursts of light she watches as the tables, dishevelled in their white cloths, jumble and jam on the verandah like logs across a spillway.
She is immersed in their jigsaw when she hears Rudd shout over the crowd.
“Listen up please. Has anyone seen Uncle Fred and Bernard?”
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023