Today is the 177th day.
At the first signs of morning, we are awake. We eat breakfast together, feeling the warmth of the sun on our backs after a cold night. There isn’t much food left. Daddy promises to call for supplies as soon as his friend, Richard arrives. Richards is a new friend of Daddy’s, he is supposedly a professor who admires Daddy’s works. I am somehow skeptical. From what I hear, he is a wealthy man in his early thirties and an ambassador of Feinder’s Globe, which is how he met Daddy. Daddy works for Clive Feinder, the founder of the Feinder Globe charity. He is said to have journeyed from England to Africa in a cargo ship in 1946 and continued to live in a rural village in Africa until 1957, when his German wife found his whereabouts and took him home. When he was found, he had “married” an African woman who bore him a child, a girl. He left his African family and returned to England. The child was only a year old.
I have met Mr. Feinder many a time when we were living in England. He is very cheerful and playful, even at an age nearing death. Daddy says that there is a game among the people who knows Mr. Feinder guessing his age. He has never revealed his age, not even to his wife, Hilda. When I was still a baby, Daddy and Mama would leave me in the care of Hilda. Over the years, Hilly became my term of endearment for her. She is my grandmother, although not biologically. I have never met my real grandparents. I remember running around their house, trying to find the perfect hiding spot. Hilly would always find me and say, ‘Now there, you cannot hide from me for I know every single nook and cranny of this house!’ I miss her terribly, especially now. But I keep Daddy’s word to heart. He promised me that we will return to England as soon as he is finished.
I jump at my name. I look at Daddy, feeling our legs getting crowded underneath the tiny table. Daddy has beautiful blue eyes. Mama had once told me how she married him because of his eyes and how she wished I would inherit them too. Sadly, my eyes are a dull brown. He is frowning at me.
‘Did you hear what I said?’ he asks. I shake my head, taking a piece of bread crust and placing it in my mouth. Daddy has always lectured me not to waste. He sighs and covers his hand over mine.
‘I said it will be some time before we return to England.’ His eyes look tired and worried. ‘I cannot get something done. There is something wrong with the water system. Thank goodness Richard is coming over in a few days.’ I drink some water and look outside; the sun is beginning to rise above the hills. Daddy is saying something again. I look at him again, ‘Pardon?’
‘Ellie, you must learn the patience to listen to conversations. I am tired of repeating myself. I asked if you were alright with it. The prolonging, I mean.’ He says, running his fingers through his oily hair. He is only forty six, but his hair is peppered with the color gray. I shrug and stand up, collecting our plates. He stares at me hard. I go into the toilet to wash the plates. I hear his footsteps following me. When I look up at the mirror, he is standing at the doorway.
‘You know, Ellie, you were the one begging me to bring you. I insisted that you remain in England with Hilda and Clive to continue your studies but…’ I cut him off and give him a peck on his rough cheek.
‘I’m fine with whatever decision you make. I am missing England, but I mustn’t put myself before others. You should continue with the project and be sure to make it perfect.’ I say. He is smiling now. He returns my little kiss and touches the crown of my head.
‘You are a star, my dear. I’m glad you came.’ He says. I grin and wish him goodbye. It is almost seven now. Daddy disappears out of my view and heads out to a place I know from heart. I bring his lunch there every day. Walk down the little slope, pass the huge Baobab tree, turn left at the rock and walk straight ahead.