The Lemon Moon
A family trip gives a young girl some perspective in this insightful short story by Alison Carter.
Jessica didn’t want to go to North Africa, but she soon learned that sometimes things are outside your control . . .
JESSICA wished her dad would stay in one place for a bit. He spent months travelling every year, or so it seemed, doing whatever it was he did for the government. But this was the last straw.
“There is no way I’m going to a desert, Dad,” Jessica said.
They were round the kitchen table – Jessica, her mum and dad, and her horrible little brother
Frank, who didn’t care where anybody went.
“It’s supposed to be beautiful,” her mum said. “The desert is like nowhere else on earth.”
“What, like sand and . . . sand?” Jessica asked. “This milk’s off.”
“No, it isn’t,” her mum said. “You’ve read the ‘sell-by’, like you always do, and assumed it’s off. Sniff it, like normal people do.”
Her dad had been asked to go to some place in the Sahara and write a report on some people there.
Jessica didn’t want to go at all right now, especially not for three weeks. There were two sixteenth birthday parties due to happen over Christmas, and who’d willingly miss those? It was a time for shopping, make-up and boys.
“It’s a great opportunity,” her dad said.
Her mum was nodding, like she always did. She was a teacher, so she had the school holidays.
“How many families get to see the lemon moon of the Sahara desert?”
“The lemon what?” Frank asked, spilling yoghurt on the table.
“It’ll be amazing,” her mum said. “We’re lucky. And you’ll be back in time for January revision.”
“Oh, great,” Jessica said. She slid the milk towards her mum and stood up to make toast. “Being stuck in some sand then back to education. What larks!”
Her mum had been doing a lot of planning around this trip, it turned out.
“We need to have some work done on the front of the house,” she said to Frank and Jessica as they loaded the dishwasher after breakfast.
“Like, because it’s going to fall off?” Frank asked with a certain relish.
“Well, it is in need of pinning,” her mum said. “We’re going to hire a company to move us into temporary accommodation while we’re away. We can avoid the stress of the move.”
“Well, I’m going to pack everything of mine in advance,” Jessica said. “Nobody is going to fiddle with my make-up!”
This is the weirdest place, Jessica thought as they drove from their hotel to the town where her dad was going to meet his people.
For a start, there was sand everywhere – and not the sandy-coloured sort of sand Jessica expected, but a really red sort.
It was the town itself that was strangest. It was massive, with only some buildings – plain, boxy ones in the same colour as the sand, which made them pretty boring to look at.
Scattered among the buildings were thousands of tents. The land was very flat, so it seemed as though the town went on for ever.
“These are the Sahrawi people,” her dad said. It was early evening, and she was tired, and they’d hardly had time to unpack in the hotel before he wanted to set off. “They came here from Morocco.”
“I think I’d have stayed in Morocco,” Jessica said.
She was looking out at the endless miles of sand.
Their hotel, apparently, was in Morocco.
“But we’re in Algeria now,” her dad said.
“What, there’s no hotels in Algeria?” Frank asked.
“Not in this bit,” their mum replied. She was gazing at the boring view.
“Look, we’ll give you the history tomorrow. We wanted you to get an impression first.”
While her dad went to meet his people, the rest of them set off to see Tindouf.
Jessica reckoned there wasn’t much to see; no one part looked different from any other. It wasn’t like Leeds, where they lived.
“Silly name,” Jessica said.