Applause went up as she finished her presentation and Keilah breathed out, relief eased through her. She smiled at the crowd. Keilah took a step back and the moderator a tall young man, in his early twenties maybe, shook her hand, congratulating her. This was her first conference presentation and she had been terrified. She had worn the navy warp dress to hide as best as possible the wet marks that showed damp underarms as sweat trickled. The young moderator whispered something but all Kay could see were smiling bobbing heads and clapping hands. At the corner in third row her doctoral supervisor Professor Professor Nngurah with her tutor Benzi, were standing and cheering her on. They both looked pleased to see her. Broad shouldered tall men with dark smiling lips showing even white teeth. They stood close, shoulder to shoulder and were beaming at her like proud parents. But were was Claudia? Her best friend and fellow doctoral candidate was also on the programme to present her piece on African retentions in Caribbean literary thought. But Claudia hadn’t shown. It was unlike her and beyond the anxiety of presenting at her first major university conference, Keilah knew something was wrong with Claudia. The pair had met as undergraduates in the Professor’s introductory course and became instant friends. Lately, Claudia was preoccupied. Keilah felt her best friend had been acting strangely all week long, and when she asked her Claudia what was wrong she became irritated and walked away. Three days had passed without the two speaking.
Benzi welcomed her with open arms, squeezing her and chanting well done, the Professor held out his hand and gripped hers and motioned them out the main room. Into the corridors without further congratulations or any remarks on her presentation, he placed a phone in her hand and said listen.
Kay froze when she heard Claudia’s voice:
“Professor Nngurah, good afternoon sir, this is Claudia.
A Flying African came to me asking for you Professor. She is tall with thick strong limps, her long legs that I assume are well toned beneath her sand coloured cotton slacks. Her skin is a smooth blue black, her tightly coiled hair is cropped short. Eyes are big bright and black. Her lips are well formed, brown with pink, her lips moved to reveal small evenly spaced teeth. Her accent is indistinguishable. She is unsmiling, serious in her queries. She carries a messenger bag made of a soft brown leather that is stuffed with paper. Her sandals appear to be made of the same leather as the bag.
She fell from the sky.
She came from the sky.
She says she needs to talk to you Professor.
Please call me back at 876-***-****. Thank you.”