SHE tore up the wedding photo with swollen, stiff fingers. Finally, when the pieces were to her liking, she released a handful into the air, as high as her bird-like arm allowed. The shiny confetti rained down on her sheepskin slippers.
“No, Ouma. Tonight you’ll cry for that photo!” Anna’s voice was sharper than usual. Tears clouded the pale, almost seethrough eyes gazing up at her.
Normally Ouma’s antics amused her. It was all this worry, the strained whispers in quiet corridors, made more ominous by the plastic visors guarding weary faces. They said it was just a precaution, nothing to worry about . . . yet.
She bent down, careful to scoop up all the pieces. Ouma’s face had remained intact on one of the little shreds. Her grey hair like a permed mane around her beaming face. The bride, one of her granddaughters, had her arm around Ouma’s shoulder. Her face was severed in half. Ouma loved to tear things up. To-night Anna would have to tape it together, eyes straining, only the candle for light.
Tomorrow things would be better. She gathered her belongings – her handbag, an umbrella, and the beautiful crocheted blanket. She draped the soft mint-green throw around her shoulders. Ouma had made it for her.
ANNA stared longingly at the taxi hooting as it whooshed past her – it would be a much shorter trip home. Instead, she joined the long, snaking line for the bus. Eventually, with a sigh of relief, she took a seat in front. She listened to the bus driver’s phone conversation.
“The president is speaking tonight . . . No, I don’t know . . . No, they say no buses. No, not us . . . maybe taxis . . .”
He was talking loudly, worry making his voice rise and fall unevenly. This sickness, it was on everyone’s lips. Could a microscopic virus dump the whole world in disaster? She’d heard the nurses talking about it. Anna had wanted to be a nurse. She’d dreamt about it when she was a little girl.
Her sister had cut a photo from a newspaper in the school library and got her hands caned for the transgression. But it was worth the pain to bring home a present for Anna’s seventh birthday.
Even after the paper became worn, the image remained clear: the crisp-white uniform, the shiny shoes, and the kindest face Anna had seen.
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17 September 2020