Kallis’ festival boots – used my own boots as a model, just added purple and a few flowers 🙂
‘I’m getting hungry,’ said Kallis, ‘it must be nearly lunchtime. Is there any of that bread left over?’
‘Yeah, there’s loads of stuff left in my sack,´ said Dave, stubbing out his smoke.
They spread out their sleeping bags on the ground and Dave emptied the contents of his rucksack out onto the ground : some French stick, still in the brown bag, some apples, tomatoes, black chocolate, a half empty carton of orange juice. Dave broke the bread in half and handed this to Kallis, along with an apple. Dave ate his noisily and with great relish. Kallis nibbled her share slowly. Dave regarded Kallis thoughtfully.
‘So, where do you call home, then?’ he inquired in his slow, sincere way.
‘Well.’ Kallis wondered where to begin. ‘I was born in Egypt, my Dad was Egyptian but Mum is from South Wales. Mum met Dad when she was teaching at an international school in Cairo. They fell madly in love, and in spite of the disapproval of both families, she converted to Islam and married him – and had me nine months later. It was all going swimmingly for about 5 years until Dad bowed to family pressure and took a second, local wife. Of course, Mum was horrified but couldn’t leave. In Egypt you need your husband’s consent to travel out of the country. Dad wouldn’t let her go. It was me, you see. Mum would have done a runner if not for me. Two years down the line and my father gets killed by a motorbike whilst trying to cross a main road. After that, his family are more than happy to see the back of Mum, although there was a tussle over who should have me. In the end the British Consulate stepped in and Mum was allowed to leave the country with me. I’ll never go back though.’
Dave raised an eyebrow. ‘Do you remember your father?
‘Oh, yes, quite well, I was eight when he was killed. Mum still loved him really, and Egyptian life was all I knew at that time. I was even fond of his second wife, Shamiela. It was like having a close aunt living with you. She had some sisters as well, although I don’t remember them quite so well. My dad was lovely really. He was only doing what was expected of him. He had just never warned Mum he might marry someone else as well!’
‘So where did you and your Mum go then?’ asked Dave.
‘Oh, Mum took me back to her family in South Wales, to Newport, a town just outside of Cardiff. We stayed with her sister for a while, then got a place of our own. I settled into the local school and Mum got work there teaching. Mum still lives there now. Anyway, I quickly got used to a different culture and way of life. The Welsh were really nice to us, and even though I looked different at school, I never got teased or suffered any racist remarks, not that I knew about anyway!’
‘And after you left school?’
‘I did a degree initially at Cardiff Uni, then changed to London and finished up with a degree in Business Studies. I’ve been working for a company that sells pensions recently in London. Just a month ago I got fed up, quit and now….I don’t know really. Searching for something, you know, meaning of life, the Universe, trying to find myself and all that stuff.’
‘Hmmmm,’ was Dave’s only comment.
Kallis was lost in thought for a while; she lay back on the sleeping bag and watched small clouds drift by.
‘How about you? What’s your life story?’
Kallis rolled over and looked at Dave. He was sound asleep, lying on his side, his rabbit curled by his stomach into a fluffy ball. Kallis regarded Dave for a while; the contents of his rucksack were still strewn around him. Idle curiosity made her start to pick things up: a small wooden box, sandalwood probably, a packet of Rizla papers, a cigarette lighter carved with the initials E.B. She wondered who E.B. was. A glass bottle lay on its side. It was small and blue and shaped like a twisted shell. Kallis picked it up and fingered it thoughtfully. There was a liquid inside that half filled it. Kallis shook the bottle. It was a still liquid and quite viscous. No bubbles formed and the liquid moved slowly and smoothly , leaving a coating on the glass, rather like a thick rum might. There was a cork stopper. Kallis tugged this out with her teeth and sniffed. It was wonderful! It smelt like, well, like nothing she had smelt before. Imagine coconut and honey, but somehow mixed with creosote and made sweeter. It was definitely something to drink. It didn’t have that alcohol smell to it. It was more medicinal, Kallis decided. Kallis looked at Dave. He was still sound asleep and had not moved at all. She put the cork back in the bottle and shook it again. The liquid caressed the inside of the glass again in a slow, thick wave, as it settled back in the glass. She was going to have to do it. What was it a friend had once said to her? ‘Try everything once except incest and rice pudding?´ Or something similar to that, anyway. Kallis eased the cork out for the second time. She let a drop drip onto her fingertip and inserted this into her mouth.
It tasted exactly as it smelt, in a way that coffee never quite does. Kallis upended the bottle and swallowed the contents, slowly, savouring it to the last drop, holding the bottle for a while upside down over her mouth, to ensure the last of it had slid out. She lay back in the sun and was gone.