We fly low but too fast to study the bush below. I catch glimpses of Impala bounding through the thorn scrub. I glance at the helicopter pilot who grins and gives me the thumbs up. The smell of fuel worried me at first but it’s forgotten now. Instead, exhilaration battles stomach lurching fear as I watch the ground rushing passed.
Flying in a circle, I see the town below where I am to spend the weekend. Enkeldorn, or single thorn in English, is more a village than town but it has an impressive square flanked by hotel and bank. The helicopter lands with a whump, its blades rhythmic as their harmonics slow to a stop.
I stare out the window in horror as I see the red carpet, the Pipe Band, the dignitaries on their podium and the little girl in long gown holding the bouquet. I can’t do this. I’m terrified. Once more, I am furious with my sister for doing this to me.
A beaming man opens my door, his hand held in courtesy. I have no choice and clutch his hand to alight, my bag grasped in my free hand. The Churchill pipe band squeeze bagpipes under sweaty armpits as a blast of hot air buffets me.
As I step down from the helicopter, my dress flares then plasters against my thighs and I have no free hands to pull it straight. The humiliation burns my cheeks as the girl runs up and curtseys, handing me a bouquet of Arum lilies. Now my arms are full and my skirt still sticks. I sneeze with pollen in my nose and sweat runs my mascara.
The man steers me to the dignitaries, introducing me to the self-styled Prime Minister of the Republic of Enkeldorn, the hotel owner and his Minister of Finance, the bank manager. Other people hover but I forget their names immediately. The Prime Minister, alias hotel owner, stamps my passport and hands it back to me.
The Pipe Band falls silent with only the ubiquitous sounds of cooing doves in the distance. Do they expect me to say something? The panic is momentary as the pub owner clears his throat. Unrolling a scrolled sheet of paper, he precedes to read a formal welcome to his unrecognised republic.
He bows and takes my arm, leading me towards the hotel saying ‘I will show you to your room and then when you are refreshed, we have a game of rugby scheduled and will be honoured if you will meet the players. Tonight you will be the queen of the charity ball.’
I still can’t believe this is happening to me and all because of a magazine competition my sister entered, in my name.