Questions jumble around the room. Simi tries to connect names to the voices, and faces to the names. Ruan is easy. She can’t forget his voice, the one that said she must be somebody’s maid.
“Aneke went to the squash court to fetch her jacket.”
“Did she go by herself?”
“Hey, you’re her husband. Why didn’t you go with her?”
“No ways man. Not out in this.”
“You’re such a wimp man.”
“No – she’s mad.”
“Say that again. Hasn’t changed one bit.”
A voice, more English than the others, cuts in and Simi guesses that it must be Tim’s, for it does not have the older authority of Father Norman’s.
“Why the squash court? Haven’t you two got your own room?”
“Ja, but Aneke gets hot hey. We were by the pool chatting, and someone said she could leave her jacket on their bed in there until she needed it. ”
“Rudd, did you check the squash courts?”
“No. We just did the rooms. There’s a tree down. She’d have to go round the far side of the pool,” Rudd shouts from the back.
“Maybe she’ll find Fred.”
“Ja,” says Ruan. “Maybe.”
Now other voices join in, some urging the need to search, and others to stay safe. Then a shout from Rudd cuts them off. He’s still on the chair, and Simi can just make out his face, its shadows half-lit behind his torch beam.
“Listen. It’s chaos out there. We’ve just got to wait for it to calm down a little or we’re going to lose someone else …”
She cannot catch his last few words before they are squashed beneath a dump of rain. Around her the torches switch back to the windows to resume their watch. She does the same, hoping for a sighting. At first she sees nothing, but gradually her eyes refocus. She can see shapes and the blustering white of the cloths, and gradually even as far as the pool’s wet terrace.
“There!” The shout almost jumps Simi out of her skin. “She’s there!”
The cries and questions come from further down the line. Simi strains to see what has been seen, but she cannot.
At last Simi sees her right by the doors. She steps back as they wrench open and Aneke staggers in, hair shocked, jacket in one hand. Loud from the moment she arrives.
“Jeese man. Ruan … where were you?”
“Agh, I knew you’d be fine …”
“Only just, hey.” Her laugh is bitter, like a tin can full of nails, bursting against a wall. “The squash court is completely flooded. Someone must have left the door open. And the walls are bending hey.”
“Aneke, why …”
“Freaked me out.”
“You’re lucky …”
“Any sign of Fred?”
“No. Didn’t see anyone,” says Aneke, colour blind in the dark as she pushes past Simi. “But I reckon the wind’s dropping, hey.”
Simi listens. The high whine has gone, so has the slap of its pushing and shoving and breaking.
“Hey … she’s right,” Ruan shouts.
“She’s scared it off.”
“Maybe the storm’s ending.”
“Aneke, towels are here.”
That voice. I know that voice. Father Norman.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023