“Reeya-oooh!” Ariadne heard Karla cooing her name from the gate. It was annoying enough to pull her out of her reverie as she lay soaking in her antique bath tub.
“Girl I hope you don’t expect me to get out of this water and come open the gate. You know the code, come on up!”
The creaking of the gate almost masked the muttering of Karla as she let herself in, “The girl was supposed to be ready when I got here. Why do I always have to come here and wait on her?” As Karla’s words percolated through Ariadne’s mellow mood she sat up with a splash. Ready? Ready for what? What had she forgotten now?
“Karla, where we going again?”
“Ariadne Williamson, get up out of that bathtub and put on your clothes. Your niece is touching down in an hour, and you do not want that young woman to be standing at the curb being harassed by every taxi driver and fine young man while she waits on you. Where is your cell phone? Why you even have one? You know how long I been calling you?”
Ariadne was hastily rubbing herself dry on her verandah. Yes she had a bathtub on her verandah. Why not? She set the water in the morning, and by the end of the day nature’s own water heater had done its magic. No-one overlooked her, the ferns and hanging plants draped the area, so she wasn’t shocking anyone. But what on earth was Karla talking about?
“Karla, is today mi niece coming?” Ariadne furrowed her brow as she tried to remember what date it was. “Rahtid, is today?”
“Reeya you exasperate me beyond belief.” As always Karla’s vocabulary became crisper and more impressive with anger. She was the only Jamaican to speak more properly when emotional, the only Jamaican to lose her native patois when stressed. “How many times must I remind you to use your calendar? I know you won’t use your damn phone as a planner. You can’t afford a personal assistant, even after all the US dollars you pulled working double shifts as a nurse in Miami. I don’t care when you miss out on art gallery openings, political events and football games, but this is your sixteen year old niece we are talking about. Her mother will freak out if her precious Mali has to spend one moment unchaperoned in our tropical paradise. You will have to do better, for the next four weeks you will have to be more organized.”
Forty years after high school, Karla was still the boss of Ariadne, better known as Reeya. And although the rebel in her wanted to protest, the thought of Rebecca’s one daughter having to worry for one moment that her mad aunt was not there to meet her was enough to make Reeya obediently throw on her best gypsy meets the tropics outfit. She caught the expression on Karla’s face.
“What? I am not dressing up in some sporty chic pants suit to drive to the airport. Let me be relaxed no? I promise I will do better starting tomorrow.”
“Heard that before” muttered Karla, “Seriously, I think you do need a personal assistant up in here. And don’t tell me that Jasmine is all you need. That girl has enough to do without being responsible for your crazy life! You have your pocket book? Car keys? Let’s go!”
“Karla, you know I appreciate this, but I think I need to go by myself. I need to use the ride home to bond with this girl. She hasn’t seen me since I left Miami five years ago, and now she’s a young woman. Her mother wants her to have a real rural experience, and if she sees you she will want to go by you with your big screen cable TV and media room. I promise I won’t lose her or leave her by the roadside. I’ll take my cell phone, I’ll keep in touch. I’ll even call you when we get home!”
Karla was looking skeptical, but nodded her head slowly. “I suppose that makes sense. You’ll do fine. Now hit the road girl, you want to be standing at the door when she comes out. She may act like she’s cool, but I bet she’s fretting right about now.”
Reeya climbed into her beat up but reliable SUV. She had learned that the best way to survive in the at times dangerous world of Jamaica was to live as simply as possible. Her house was a two story structure erected in the 1970’s. The downstairs was her combination shop and clinic where she met the needs of the village of Breadnut Hill with her herbal remedies and more. Jasmine manned the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, food grown on the grounds of the local high school. In the side room Reeya provided counseling, education and general health information to those who sought her out.
As she drove away from her home, Reeya tried to focus. Be in the present, she told herself. Stay in the moment. You need to pay attention to the scary roads and potholes. Jamaican drivers are madmen; you need to make sure you get to the airport safely, so no thinking about Mali and how you are going to entertain a Miami teen up in the bush for four weeks. Just that easily her mind was drifting. The sharp honk of a truck’s horn coming around the corner brought her back to the present. It was going to be ok. She checked the time and realized that Karla had tricked her as usual. She was going to reach the airport with an hour still to spare. As she mentally shook her fist at her longtime friend she laughed out loud. “Where would I be without her, and how did I manage for all those years in Miami?” Coming home to Jamaica was the best thing this white woman had ever done.