[Novel] The Road to Shamawes ⑬

They walked silently, Emad’s heavy, angry steps, his uncle Nabil’s light, but quick steps to catch up with his nephew. Nabil felt he let down Emad and his sister. He wondered what mad Nargis did out of home. She does her prayers regularly. She’s modest and brilliant, though her voice rises when they discuss an issue, but that’s the vigour of the youth. He convinced himself that she loves him as he loves her. What have you done, Nargis? Where is she taking us to?

“Tell me, Emad. Where is she taking us to?”
“Wait, uncle. We go into the fields and I’ll tell you everything.”

Emad who walked along the dusty track an hour earlier was not the same Emad on his way back home along the track which is empty by now. Emad regained his calm and told his uncle what happened on the telephone and that his sister was in a flat of a woman everybody knows isn’t a saint. Even he himself heard from Dr Karim about her many evening parties, influential guests and suspicious deals.

“Well. What about the Gareral’s affairs? How do positive and negative poles combine?!”

Nabil asked Emad trying to make him calm down; thinking that talking vents his anger.

“That’s the strange part of it, uncle. There is collusion. The General is Dr Karim’s other neighbour. I wonder how they agree to hide what’s happening to Nargis!”

Nabil was deep in thought. Has Nargis been seduced? Her good parents don’t deserve such agony. Knowing this can kill them. Her brother will feel shame among the village men. He himself will feel humiliation in the eyes of his wife. He will be ridiculed, and so will their children at school.

“Listen, Emad. You’re a wise man, not just my nephew. You must handle this matter very wisely. The scandal is bigger than us. Your sister will humiliate us all if she has committed a sin, but if we punish her the result will be more serious.”

Emad didn’t know what to say. Every word his uncle said made him angrier. As they were halfway he had mixed feelings of shame and sorrow. He didn’t know what to do next. He looked at the sky as if cursing and wanting him to be swallowed by the ground.

General Wagih couldn’t bear with Nargis’s hysterical cry. He came to pay court to her, but now she, Viola and he himself are in an uneviable situation.

Viola was witnessing the scene uncomfortably. Half an hour later his guests will start to arrive. She doesn’t want the evening to be one of misery and agony. Her guards can deal with Emad if he comes alone, but if he comes in the company of others, that will be a problem.

She pulled the General’s hands, pointing to Saadiya who was trembling to help Nargis calm down.

“Listen, General. The girl is now in a difficult situation. Did you intend to marry or play with her?”
“To marry her of course, Viola. I intended to approach her about this tonight.”
“Deeds are judged by intentions, you know, General. I’ll try to make her accept. Her brother is on his way to the villa. You tell him about your intention and leave the rest to me.”

In the small room where she changed her clothes Nargis sat distracted. She looked into the mirror but found her face and features had changed because of anxiety and fear.

“Listen, Nargis! You’re free to choose: either to go back with your brother when he is sure you didn’t do anything bad, though I doubt that he will believe you. I know men. Their suspicions hide facts…”

She sighed, adding as though offering the perfect solution: “Or you fulfil the General’s wish by marrying him. Don’t be surprised. The man loves you, and you know that he has a villa here. True, he’s oldish, but he’s wise. More importantly, he’ll save you from the problem that your brother will implicate you in.”

Nargis’s tears dried, and Viola wanted to be a little humorous:
“But don’t forget this favour. You must be here when I receive foreigners. I don’t want to get into a fix. I won’t forget your support. Moreover, I’ll invite all the country’s VIPs to your wedding party. How about that, Nargis?”

Going upstairs, Viola was uneasy:
“A young girl like Nargis thinking of marrying his old ax? What’s wrong with society? Thirty years ago, before I was a movie queen, I wouldn’t have accepted this. What happened? Does this reflect the despair of the younger generation at having no promising future? Or, as he Shamawes woman said, though dark, the night moon has its lovers.”

Viola looked at the small framed photographs on the silver table near the chaise longue she leaned on. The photographs show her dance, act and sing; others with men, whooping and loving glamorously. Memories with men, some of whom are dead. Photos moving quickly like a reel about to be cut as the memories came flooding back suddenly. As the reel stopped Viola wiped a tear from her eye that rolled down her cheek with a sofe hanky.

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