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Memory of Shame

By Patrick Midzi


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This story is selected for publication in Author Africa 2007.


Stacy took the only bag she had brought with her and headed for the lounge where she ordered a cup of tea. The terminal was not busy, contrary to what she had expected. On the runway, there were only two planes visible from the large windows which fronted the lounge. In the lounge itself, there were less than ten people.

As she took off her overcoat, she caught sight of herself in one of the large mirrors and was pleased to note that very few of her forty years were showing, even after the long flight from England. Her eyes were large and clear without the tell-tale crow’s feet at the corners. There were no unsightly bulges anywhere. A religious application of creams and oils had left her skin smooth and glowing. She considered her young looking body that two children had failed to mark and turned to her tea with a sigh of satisfaction.

Jack had told her to wait in the lounge until he came to pick her up. She wondered idly who would be the first to spot whom.

The waiter came by and asked if she wanted anything else. She shook her head and told him to bring the reckoning which he immediately dropped on the table.

They had told her that the prices were astronomical, but it was ridiculous to be paying over $50 000 for a cup of tea! She stared at the bill in horror, thinking that there must have been a mistake.

"Excuse me," she said to the waiter. "I only had a cup of tea. Is this the correct amount?"

"It is correct, madam," he replied formally.

She nodded dumbly. Then she did the conversion from dollars to pounds and nearly burst out laughing in her relief. The amount was less than four pence!

She was rooting in her bag when someone dropped a wad of notes on the table. Stacy looked up into the face of a wizened, white-haired old man who wore a three piece suit, even in the torrid heat.

"I haven’t seen you in years but they can be no mistake. You must be Vimbai."

"Stacy," she replied automatically. Vimbai was a name she had not heard for over twenty years. She had not expected Jack to be so old. The picture of the vibrant handsome man who had taken her to school she carried in her mind failed to match the decrepit, bespectacled man who stood in front of her.

"I can’t allow you to pay for my tea. Honestly, I can’t," she said feebly.

"Really, my dear? I suppose you have on your person wads of dollars? No? In that case, we better leave before I accumulate a large parking bill while you change your pounds."

He took Stacy’s bag and headed for the exit.

Jack’s car was an old Peugeot – the same one he had driven for over fifteen years. In stark contrast, most of the cars on the road were shiny models of the latest cars on the market in Europe.

Jack drove in silence, giving her the opportunity to absorb the scenery. The sun was shining, and after the cold of England in the grips of winter, the heat was very welcome.

As they got into town, she noticed that they had passed several intersections and the traffic lights were not working.

"I didn’t believe things were this bad, Jack. They can’t even repair the lights."

"Oh, the lights work. It’s just that there is some electricity load shedding going on and parts of the city are without power. And, incidentally – I don’t mind what you call me, but I think you better be careful how you address your other relatives, if you don’t want to upset them."

Stacy did not say anything. Although Jack was her mother’s brother, they had been close once. That is why he was the only one who had been prepared to meet her at the airport, she reflected ruefully.

"How long are you here for?" Jack asked, as they drove up the pot-holed King George Road which led to Greencroft where Stacy had grown up.

"I can stay until the end of the week then I have to get back. I have a really important client meeting I must not miss next week."

"You know, Vimbai-"

"Stacy!" she cut in sharply.

"I’m sorry – Stacy. It takes some getting used to. You went away as Vimbai and now you are Stacy. You’ll have to make allowances for us if we continue to call you by the name we have always known."

"Stacy is my second name as you very well know, Uncle Jack." She wondered furiously why she had stressed the "uncle."

They were silent for a bit.

"It just seemed easier to use my second name in England."

"I understand."

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Read the remainder of this story in Author Africa 2007, scheduled for release late summer, 2006.

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