Later, after a hearty dinner, Aggie stood on the patio. Despite the darkness, she could make out the silhouette of the Swiss Alps in the distance. After six months in the country, she was no less transfixed by the mountains and how they seemed to touch the corners of the expansive sky. It was the kind of natural beauty that endeared her even more to Switzerland. It didn’t yet feel like home, but Aggie sensed that soon, Waldo in a sea of cookie cutter faces or not, it would. Before long, however, her mind was pulled back to Marième. The strange uneasiness she felt from earlier came roaring back. What was bothering her about this woman?
“There you are.”
Aggie turned to find Daniel approaching her. “Here I am,” she replied. “Where is everyone?”
“About to watch a film. I was tasked with finding you.”
“All right. By the way, you have to stop teasing Marley.”
Daniel nodded. “I know. I’ve apologized profusely. It won’t happen again.”
Aggie laughed. “That part I don’t believe. Isn’t it written somewhere that older siblings have to torment and tease their younger siblings endlessly?”
“Well, yes, it is in the handbook.” He peered at her. “So what are you thinking about?”
“How do you know I’m thinking about something?” she asked.
“People don’t usually gaze at those mountains for no reason. Plus, I’ve known you since before you were born, so I have a clue when you have something on your mind.” He gently tapped his fingers against the side of her head. “So what’s going on in there?”
She proceeded to tell him about Marième, from their first meeting to not seeing her for the past several weeks.
“So what do you think is troubling you about her?” Daniel asked.
“I can’t figure it out,” Aggie replied, sighing. “It’s just this peculiar feeling, like something is off.”
“Well, let’s hope for the best. I’m sure you’ll see her soon.” He paused. “She’s really important to you, isn’t she?”
Aggie shrugged. “There’s something kind of amazing about seeing someone like me on the Cornavin. Silly, right, to connect so quickly to a total stranger?”
Daniel shook his head. “Not silly at all. I’m sure you miss home.”
She nodded, envisioning her parents likely gathered in their house in Accra alongside her manifold aunts and uncles from both sides of the family, almost certainly locked in heated debates about a variety of topics. The image naturally came with a lump in her throat. Aggie hadn’t seen her parents since last year, when she had traveled back to Accra for a month-long stay after completing her graduate studies. Skyping twice a week just wasn’t enough. She missed the scent of her mother’s cooking, her father’s bellowing laugh. As her eyes quickly grew misty, Aggie felt Daniel’s arm encircle her shoulders. “Thank you,” she muttered. “Maybe you are a good big brother after all.”
“But I’m not,” he replied quietly.
“Your big brother.”
“Well, you’re like a big brother to me. You knew me before I was born, remember?”
He gently turned her face towards his. “Don’t think of me that way, okay? Not anymore.”
Aggie frowned. “I don’t understand.”
Without replying, he squeezed her shoulder before walking back into the house.
What just happened? Aggie asked herself.
At 3:30 that morning, Aggie’s eyes flew open. After a restless, sleepless night, recalling Daniel’s comments from the previous evening had won the battle—she was officially wide awake and confused. Did Daniel have feelings for her? After all, to insist that she eliminate the “older brother” view of him had non-platonic, romantic implications, right? And how did she even feel about that? Relationships were typically the last thing on her mind, despite her mother’s mild threats about the matter. Aggie considered turning on her laptop and Skyping with her mother, who, despite the early call, would nevertheless engage in a long, undoubtedly animated conversation about the matter. Of course, the conversation would have nothing to do with the fact that Daniel was Danish and a different race; before Aggie left Ghana for school in the UK, her parents had merely expressed that she not take up with a murderer (Dad) or a poor man (Mom). If anything, her mother would be far more interested in receiving the green light to plan the wedding of her only child. In any case, Aggie abandoned the Skype plan. Perhaps it wasn’t time to discuss something she herself hardly understood.
The questions continued to overflow, enough for Aggie to throw on her robe and quietly make her way out of her room. She needed an interruption to her thoughts. Soon, she was in the kitchen and helping herself to a generous portion of the chocolate cake Diana had baked for dessert. Daniel found her like this some moments later, feasting on cake and sipping from a glass of warm milk.