It was late evening when, as I had promised nearly six weeks earlier, I again approached the almost deserted village. The landscape was awash in pastel azure moonlight, while inky black shadows etched sharp outlines to starkly highlight the austere habitations. Candle light glowing from the shabeen‘s doorway illuminated the yellow sand churned aloft by the swirling winds of dust devils as they made their way into the night.
Then in a doorway on the other side of the street I saw a familiar form sitting back reading a book by the faint flickers of light streaming out from inside a small native hut. Yes, it could only be one person – Rachel. Eager and curious to find out what had happened and what she had done in the time that had passed since I was last here, I brought my vehicle to a halt just in front of her.
Climbing down from my mechanical horse I greeted my friend in the usual manner. She was smiling excitedly and certainly had changed in demeanor from the previous times we had met.
‘Well, John,’ she said,
‘I suppose you want to know what I have done since you left?’
‘No, not really, Rachel, unless you feel compelled to enlighten me.’
I teased her, knowing that she could hardly hold back any longer from telling me.
She had managed to rent out a small hut right on the main street. It was some two meters in width by two meters long and two meters tall. The sturdy walls were made from wattle and covered with a blend of straw and grayish brown mud. Roofing consisted of a wooden frame with a grass thatch roof that was neatly trimmed just where it rested on the top of the walls. It had a wooden door and a single window that opened downwards forming a simple counter. A lean-to had been added to shade customers from the searing heat of the midday sun and to offer protection from the drenching monsoon rains.
Around the walls were simple shelves filled with all manner of basic commodities ranging from sugar and spice, to candles and copperware. Hanging from the ceiling on little pieces of string were shampoos, soaps and razor blades. On the mud floor was a rolled-up mattress with a small pillow resting on top.
‘Well John, here is my little shop.
What do you think?’
Her face beamed with satisfaction.
‘It is a great!
And you look much more vibrant since I last saw you.’ I replied.
I was every bit as animated as Rachel.
And proud of her.