Nicola stood at the window, looking out. Her uncle was in his study. She was bored out of her mind. Frustrated, she went to his study. The door was open. He was sitting at his desk, watching something on his laptop.
“What are you watching, Uncle Leo?” she asked.
“Yesteryears and yardsticks, a fascinating series on the Amish and how their way of living was the yardstick against which to measure the progressiveness of a community without the benefits of technology. During Amish times, technology was unheard of and everything was done manually,” he replied.
“That sounds rather boring,” she said. “Why can’t we go somewhere now? It’s such a beautiful day.”
“What about the book you were reading?”
“I’ve finished reading Laughter and licorice.”
“What about the other book?”
“Exits and Endings? I finished reading that ages ago.”
“Read another book then.”
“I’m tired of reading.”
“Then, find something else to do.”
He paused the video and turned around to look at her. “I don’t know. Surely, there’s something you can find to do to occupy your time.”
“I can’t think of anything right now, Uncle Leo.”
“Why didn’t you go with your mother tonight?” If you had, I would be able to watch my video uninterrupted.
“You can’t be serious. I went with her once to the Quilts and Queens club and I was bored out of my mind sitting there and watching a bunch of women making quilts for queen sized beds. I swore I would never go back. I would rather watch paint dry.”
He sighed. “Why don’t you watch a show on television or go for a swim in the pool or for a walk or–“
“Are you trying to get rid of me, Uncle Leo?”
“No. I just want you to find something to entertain you until your mother picks you up.”
“There isn’t much on television that I like to watch. Most of the shows are crap. I don’t feel like swimming and besides, I didn’t bring a swimsuit. And I don’t like going for walks by myself.”
“Why don’t you call a friend? You can use the phone in the drawing-room or in the kitchen.”
“I’m not sure who to call.”
“Why don’t you visit Mrs. Cavendish?”
“Not on your life. I can’t stand those slobbering hairy creatures of hers.”
“Yes. What ridiculous names to give her dogs.”
“Why don’t you pop over next door and hang out with Sylvie?”
She wrinkled her nose. “Uncle Leo, you know I can’t stand her.”
“Would you like to watch this series with me, then?”
“Not on your life. What do I care about the Amish and their ways?”
Just then, the doorbell rang. She went to the door to see who it was and grimaced when she saw Sylvie and another girl. She returned to the study.
“Who’s at the door?” he asked.
“Sylvie and a girl I’ve never see before.”
“Well, don’t leave them standing out there, let them in.”
Sighing, she went and let them in. “Hi,” she said with a forced smile.
Sylvie smiled at her. “Hi. I knew you were here so I thought I’d pop round and say hello.”
“That was nice of you,” she said but thought to herself, I wish you hadn’t bothered to come.
“Oh, this is my friend, Jina.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
They shook hands.
“Where’s your uncle?” Sylvie asked as they went into the living-room.
“He’s in his study watching a rather boring series called Yesteryears and yardsticks.”
“Oh. I’ve heard so much about that series and have been meaning to watch it,” Jina said.
“Really?” Nicola was unconvinced. “Perhaps, you would like to watch it with my uncle.”
“Wouldn’t he mind?”
“No, he wouldn’t. And while you and he are watching it, Sylvie and I will go for a walk.”
“Come, let me introduce you to him.” She took them to the study. “Uncle Leo, Sylvie wanted to say hello.”
He paused the video and turned around. “Hello, Sylvie,” he greeted her, rising to his feet. He seemed to tower over them all.
“Hello, Mr. Fernsby.”
His eyes shifted to Jina. “Hello.”
“Oh, this is my friend, Jina,” Sylvie said.
“Hello, Jina,” he said, holding out his hand.
“Hello, Mr. Fernsby.” She shook his hand, smiling up at him.
“Jina watches the series about Amish,” Nicola told him. “So, I suggested that maybe she could watch it with you while Sylvie and I go for a walk. I told her that you wouldn’t mind.”
“No, I wouldn’t mind at all. We can watch it on the television instead of on my laptop.”
“All right, we’ll leave you two at it,” Nicola said. “Come on, Sylvie.”
“Make sure you’re back here by the time your mother comes to pick you up,” her uncle told her.
“Yes, Uncle Leo.”
“See you later, Jina,” Sylvie said to her friend. Then, she and Nicola left.
When they were outside, Nicola exclaimed, “It’s so good to be outdoors after being cooped up in that house. Where shall we go?”
“To the park, I guess.”
“All right. To the park.”
“You know, I think your uncle has taken a fancy to Jina.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. They’ve only just met.”
“Didn’t you notice the way he was staring at her?”
“No, I did not!”
“All right, not need to bite my head off.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that the idea seems rather ridiculous. He’s much older than her and besides, he’s dating Miranda. She’s an English professor whom I simply can’t stand. I hope he doesn’t end up marrying her. If he does, I will not go to the wedding or visit him ever again.”
“May I get you something to drink?” Leopole asked Jina when they were in the living-room and he had set everything up.
“Yes, thank you,” she said.
He excused himself and returned minutes later carrying two tall glasses of lemonade. He handed one to her as he sat down on the sofa beside her. “Have you and Sylvie been friends for long?”
“No. We became friends last year when we had some of the same classes together.”
“Your name, Jina. It’s Kenyan, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. My parents are Kenyan. They moved here to England before I was born.”
“I’ve been to Kenya many times and I love it. It’s a gorgeous African country with its tropical weather and white sandy beaches. Have you and your parents been there since they moved here?”
She shook her head. “My father has been back a couple of times but not my mother. I hope to visit one of these days.”
“I hope you do. You will be happy you did. I have so many wonderful memories of the place, I can tell you tales and time will pass so quickly I will have continue another day.”
“Please, I would really like to hear about your experiences in Kenya.”
“Would you like to hear about them now or after we’ve watched the series?”
“I’d like to hear them now, if you don’t mind.”
“No, I don’t mind.” Smiling, he told her about Nairobi, the amazing wildlife, the safaris, the camping sites, the Maasai Mara, the Mara Plains, Africa’s second highest peak, the amazing weather, the people and the Kenyan coast.”
In no time, Sylvie and Nicola were back and Jina had to leave.
“Thanks for telling me about Nairobi,” Jina said to him. They were alone. Sylvie and Nicola were on the porch.
“It was my pleasure. Perhaps you would like to visit me again soon and I’ll tell you more about the safaris and if you spend a longer time, perhaps we can watch the series too.”
“I’d like that, Mr. Fernsby.”
“Please call me Leo.”
“Are you free on Saturday?”
“Come and see me around 10. That will give us ample time for me to tell you more about Kenya and for us to watch the series.”
“I’ll see you on Saturday at 10.”
“Yes. Thank you for the lemonade.”
“You’re welcome, Jina.” He followed her to the foyer and let her out so that she joined the others on the porch. He hugged Nicola, said goodbye to Sylvie and went back inside. Instead of going to the living-room, he went to the study. He didn’t finish watching the series. He wanted to watch it with Jina. I must be out of my mind, he thought. She’s young enough to be my niece.