It’s the banging that wakes Simi. She tries to ignore it, but it insists. Head sunk in her pillow she registers that the sound is connected to a door. She opens her eyes, and tries to focus sideways, through the mosquito netting, but its blur sends her straight back to sleep.
“Simi … Simi …” The voice plays in her head, but her eyes stay closed. “Simi!” The voice comes closer. Much closer, and pulls both eyes wide open. They see a figure, ghost-like through the mesh, standing at the end of the bed. “Simi!”
Simi sits up, her mind piecing together like a jigsaw. “Marybelle?”
“At last. You’ve been sleeping ages. Are you okay? Listen I’ll go and get a cup of tea for you. Tea? Or coffee?”
“Coffee please.” Simi thumps back on to her pillow.
“Okay. I’ll be five minutes. Doctors are here from Harare,” Marybelle calls as she closes the door behind her.
Groaning, Simi fumbles her way out from under the net. She picks up yesterday’s kaftan and drapes it over the back of a chair, wincing at the pain in her hand as she does so. In the bathroom, she lets the shower wash over her, one hand lathering and the other raised awkwardly. By the time Marybelle returns with coffee, she is wrapped in a towel and putting cream on her face.
“What time is it?” Simi asks.
“Oh, it’s about three …”
“In the afternoon? What?” Simi walks over to the patio doors and pulls open the curtains. Light and heat fill the room.
“The helicopters woke me.”
“Yup. Here’s your coffee,” says Marybelle passing her the mug, and walking over to the cupboard. “Which kaftan are you going to wear today?”
“The doctors’. Two. Two helicopters. Four doctors. I think you should wear this one …” says Marybelle, picking out a kaftan in sunflower yellow, patched against sky blue. She holds it out to Simi. “Oh, maybe you should sit first, and drink your coffee.” Marybelle pulls out the chair. “When you’re finished we’ll get you ready. I’ll sit here,” she adds, clearing mosquito net off a patch of bed and sitting down, with the kaftan beside her. “The doctors say the area’s wrecked. Can’t even reach some places. Roads, bridges, houses … all gone. Landslides. Everything. Sounds terrible Simi, and more rain coming.” Marybelle sighs, trainers tapping on the floor.
Simi sips her coffee. The dry and the warmth, and Marybelle so breezy in jeans and t-shirt, make her feel like the night before never happened, but when her eyes drop down to her coffee all she sees is Tonderai’s face in the firelight, alarmed for his sister’s family.
“Are you okay to help in the kitchen?” Marybelle asks, eyes watchful.
“Sure, but not in that.” Simi nods towards the chosen kaftan. ”I’m saving it for going home.”
“Oh Simi … today’s the day. It’s cheer up day. It’ll be perfect.”
“Cheer up day? Really?”
“Yes. We need bright. And you. I don’t want to be by myself in that kitchen being bossed around by Katania.”
“Where are the others?”
“Clearing up. Rudd wants us to feed the doctors. Oh no!” Marybelle jumps us. “They’ll be back soon.” She holds out the kaftan. “You ready?”
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023