[Novel] The Road to Shamawes ⑭

For the first time Emad comes near Viola’s villa where she instructed the guards to let him into a room on the ground floor. A guard told her Emad was not alone, which she didn’t object to.

Emad and his uncle entered a room which they felt looked like a movie studio: On the wall Viola’s photos from her films in the 1970s and 1980s before she retired. It was dark outside in contrast to the light and the fire burning inside. Dark red curtains. Gold-plated tables. Thick carpets. Glass cupboards filled with silver frames, boxes and jewels. Emad thought: “Dr Karim’s villa can’t match this one at all. The only thing that distinguishes his are the oil paintings of him and his old colleagues, in addition to a picture of a donkey face in one corner. But here no donkeys or humans. He only sees creatures of fire and light.”

The sound of Viola’s footsteps on the stairs like a Persian princess awoke him. Her real face looked different from that on the wall photos. But he felt a halo round her, as if a Renaissance icon in a Roman Church.

“Welcome, Mr Emad!”
She shook hands enthusiastically, warming his cold fingers because of walking through the fields in the early evening cold.

“To cut a long story short, Mr Emad, I know you’re worried. You know I’m a businesswoman, and foreign visitors come to clinch deals. Your daughter is fluent in foreign languages. Because my guests love to stay up late, I invite Nargis to do the same and act as an interpreter, like those in the UN …”

She was interrupted by Nabil:
“What about Alnuzha Hospital, the General, and …”
“Come with me,” she said firmly as if acting a film scene.`

Viola went up the stairs, two steps ahead of them, with her buttocks in line with the eyes of Nabil who was nervous and sweating. He looked at the buttocks moving under the soft dress, and felt for a while as if the cloth disappeared and he touched the plump, tender-skinned buttocks. He didn’t know what aroused his thoughts, as far felt as if his wife’s face reflecting on the shiny cloth. He sought refuge with God from two things: Viola’s attractive buttocks and his wife’s angry face.

“I didn’t do anything to be ashamed of, as you know, Emad, We don’t know the road to sin. But I have ambitions, and you know, university means expenses which dad can’t afford. You also have financial commitments, and I don’t want to be a burden on you. Saadiya works here and she suggested that I act as an interpreter when Viola has foreign guests. But I swear that I never drink with them. This is the fourth time I’ve done that, and I didn’t tell you because I know you will refuse without giving reasons. And it will be a problem if this is common knowledge in the village, because they will tarnish my image on the pretext that they defend honour.”

Nargis’s voice was harsh when she said these words as if being prompted. General Wagih sat in a side corner. He got out his glasses and browsed some magazines, sneaking an occasional look at Emad’s astonished face. His hands, which he got ready to hit Nargis, stiffened. Apparently, his sister didn’t do anything bad, but what about the hidden facts?

Nabil looked a the corner where the General sat and approached him:
“You’re …”
‘General Wagih Essamuddin. I rang Miss Nargis’s uncle to reassure him. We take great care of her…”

“I’m Nargis’s uncle, Nabil Zainhum, teacher of history and geography at Martyr Abdullah Hamdi School.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr Nabil. I hope the confusion has been cleared up. I acted on Viola’s view concerning the hospital affair to help her. She is my neighbour, and the Prophet recommended that we be good to the seventh neighbour.”

A moment of silence was broken by Saadiya :
“Juice, Mr Emad.”

Saadiya’s presence didn’t surprise him, nor did Viola’s boldness. Nargis’s words didn’t disturb him. The General’s mysterious presence was the only thing that upset him. No other guests were there. The man looked like a thorn among three women.

“How about spending the rest of this evening with us, Mr Emad? You and Mr Nabil wash your faces. My guests, especially foreigners, are dressed casually when they come here. And at the same time you set your mind at rest about Nargis and go home together.”

Nabil rose:
“You wait, Emad. I have to go back home. I don’t want to miss your company, but I’m afraid my wife will be angry at my absence. So I want to reassure her. She doesn’t go to bed before I return. Good night!”

Emad’s resignation and silence were suspicious. He didn’t utter a single word. He stayed montionless. He didn’t eat anything. His mind was in a whirl. Dr Karim’s face in the morning, his daughter’s in the afternoon, his mother’s and uncle’s in the evening, Nargis’s, Viola’s, the General’s and Saadiya’s in the early night. He stopped his uncle, held his hand, turned his head toward the stairs and said to his uncle helplessly:
“Take me with you.”

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