The Le­mon Moon

A fam­ily trip gives a young girl some per­spec­tive in this in­sight­ful short story by Ali­son Carter.

The People's Friend Special - - HOBBIES -

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.

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