Ups and downs in Samira’s life, an Arab young lady who immigrates to Brazil. Her father, after a luxurious life in Damascus, is broke; they struggle to start over, they win and prosper. When everything is getting on track, an unexpected proposal involves Samira in an amazing and frenetic adventure which takes her back to the Orient, its ancient tradition and endless religious wars.
BIN LADEN’S WOMAN
a novel by GUSTAVO HOMSI
translated from the Portuguese
by Tulana Oliveira
© 2013 Gustavo Homsi
This is a work of fiction, an attempt to share the Brazilian experience, where East and West live in perfect harmony. Any word that comes to be understood as an offense to any of the two cultures is not intentional.
To Tulana, by the encouragement, by the trust and above all, by the patience!
- Georgie, my son - said Zobaida. You are broke. The sooner you face it, the better it will be. I asked to your uncle and he checked your accounts carefully. We can’t help you anymore; I am sorry, it would be an injustice to your brothers.
George almost crying listens to his mother in silence.
- You haven’t had any legal debt collection yet. Sell out your stock and go with your family to Brazil. People there are having a good time, by now. My cousin, who lives there, told me that. Thank God, your father is no longer here. It will be a shame to the family, but we can bear it.
And she continued.
- Remind! You've done all the stupid things you could possibly do. Hand in all the remaining money to Samira and let her manage it. Come on, don’t cry, give me a hug.
And so, they did. George Naffah, his wife Samira, their daughter Sammy and Eli, their little boy, have gone to Brazil. More precisely to Tupã, countryside of Sao Paulo, where Zobaida's cousin was living.
Soon they realized that things weren’t doing so well with their relatives in Brazil. The cousin’s husband was dead and the widow was facing hot times to keep the nice house at the fancy neighborhood. Well, money was short, but they haven’t lost their style and prestige.
Anyway, the widow received the arriving family at home with care and endorsed the lease for their new house.
After the trip, Naffahs’ possessions got even more limited. They saw many houses and finally decided to rent a street corner building facing a church. It wasn’t the finest place in town, but it was good.
There was a commercial room in the front; just behind it, a house with backyard, trees, chickens, anyway, everything else for the family. It belonged to another Arab man who had returned to his homeland. It was really quite a find.
The language, of course, was a problem; everyone was struggling to learn it. The widow sent Carolina to live with them. She was Brazilian, one of her goddaughters, her parents died some years before. She got to the cousin’s house when the situation was better; now, it was difficult to manage another mouth to feed
Anyway, Carolina was a blessing, diligent, intelligent, always ready to help, and at ease with Arabic and Portuguese. She was the same age as Sammy, they became friends immediately. Finally, Carolina felt at home again.
In the beginning, everything was difficult. Samira used to control every single penny. Finally things started getting better.
The commerce received the pompous name of "The Eastern Star." They didn’t know exactly what they were going to sell, so they got a little of everything.
Step by step, they had to learn the neighborhood’s needs. They understood that credit was the crucial point. It was unbelievable. The customers were nice people, but they were used to live on the edge. The Naffahs were surprised. How those people could spend all their money just after the pay day? How could then live that way? Depending on credit to survive until the next payment. Next month, the same again, get the money, spend it all and get back to credit.
Samira, stuffing the kibbes, used to think: - I have faith, I trust in the good Lord, but this people put their lives completely in His hands!
Samira was good at everything she did. In the kitchen she was unbeatable. Her delicacies were a huge success. It is unbelievable how a woman raised with all the comfort could work so well and knew so many things. Everybody worked, George used to spend hours and hours in the store. The girls used to help in the kitchen, Sammy enjoyed feeding the chickens.
Good observer, Samira noticed that she should reduce the Zathar, the traditional Arab spice, those people were not used to it. She also learned some Brazilian recipes, and soon the coxinha of the "Eastern Star" was the best in town. A delicious snack, pastry filled with chicken, bread crumbed and finally deep fried.
She was delighted with the abundance, especially of beef. It was hard to understand how women could pay for takeout if the ingredients were so cheap. Well… She didn’t ask any questions, she had a family to support, children to feed. Bit by bit she raised the prices.
The girls went to school together. Carol helped Sammy with the language. Sammy repaid with math, she had a natural talent with numbers, a gift.
Both girls, and Eli, the little boy, used to study in the store. The afternoons were quite slowly there. George - waiting for customers - spent hours teaching the complicated Arabic alphabet to his children.
He told them his people’s stories, their legends. He was a well-educated man. Weak in business, but educated. He told them how important their family was, its titles, its wealth. He dreamed of paying his debts and going back to Damascus.
Anyway, George’s mother was right.
He restarted almost from zero, living a much simpler life than they lived before, in Damascus, but there was hope again, they would be better one day.
George was a good-natured guy, sometimes in a slack manner, but, controlled by Samira’s hands, he could get successful. He was friendly with customers, knew how to listen, was kind.
Samira also got her space. As soon as she mastered the language, her neighbors found in her a strong woman, fair and wise, they could always count on her.
- Mrs. Samira! For the love of God, my son is burning with fever.
And she gave laxative to the child, teas, supported the desolate mother.
The catholic priest, from Germany, enjoyed spending some time with George at the store in the afternoon, chatting and drinking a small shot of cold cachaça, the Brazilian national drink, a spirit from sugar cane.
Finally he convinced George that God was the same everywhere and taking the family to the church on Sundays wouldn’t do any harm.
Samira felt responsible about that question. At the beginning she asked the patricians where they could say their prayers. She realized their almost broke situation wasn’t exactly a passport to any community.
In fact, she didn’t find an Arab community. The majority of Arab immigration had happened a long time ago. The patricians got married to Italians, to locals, mixing completely. This country had received those people with an open heart, they had become Brazilians. She agreed with her husband, the Naffahs would seem less strange if they went to church.
The whole family was wearing the best clothes and went to the eight o’clock cult. When the ten o’clock one – frequented by high society – finished, the "Star of the East" was open and was ”The Point”. Many people stopped to have a guaraná, local kind of soda, or a snack. Some Catholics can’t eat before cult, because of the Holy Communion, so they were hungry.
That year, the Samira’s stuffed lamb got the highest price at the charity sale. An absolute success.
The years passed by.
To Sammy, even faster. That girl - skinny, scared – grew up. She had long hair, silky, curly. Brown and awesome. From afar, it looked tangled; closely it was bright, fragrant and soft. Very soft. Her friends liked to tighten the curls, carefully, slowly.
The Naffahs bought the rented property, built another floor, it was beautiful. There was a large terrace overlooking the church square. Of course there are always ups and downs, difficulties. Still, they progressed.
Sammy was young, but embraced the universal law of smart women, foolish choices, always picking the wrong guy.
She didn’t like watching her mother worn out, working from sunrise to sunset. She admired and loved her father more than anything in the world, thought he was polite, elegant. Her mother was wise enough to not let herself down for that, she went on, taking care of her daughter with love and attention.
Samira was already used to local habits, but that couldn’t be applied to her daughters, that was another story! There was no other way; they were under control all the time.
When they completed fifteen years old, the city's social columnist looked for the Naffahs.
- My dear, my debut party cannot happen without your daughters. They are the most beautiful girls in Tupã.
- Really? What a marvel! - George exclaims.
Samira, who didn’t like the type very much, adds diplomatically:
- We admire your work, but I'm afraid that is above our means. You understand, don’t you?
- Absolutely, ma'am, but we don’t charge anything for it, it's all for the party, their presence will be the ‘masterpiece’ at our ball!
- See, Samira? – George gets excited.
Samira, who is not easy to be persuaded, retorts.
- I’m sure there will be expenses, what would they be?
- Just a little detail. Naturally, the girls will be photographed by our studio; the pictures need to be published in the newspaper. We would then have a small expense with the photos, the clichés, you understand, of course.
The wise woman smells the setup. She ends the conversation.
- Would you like another kebab? A little dried yogurt? No? Alright. I’ll talk to my husband and then call you if the girls are interested. I'll wrap some baklava (puff pastry with honey and nuts), I know your mother loves it. Thank you for the note in your column last week, it’s very important to us. Don’t forget us. Come to see us more often. Next week, we’ll have that dried yogurt and chicory esfiha you like so much, you’ll be our guest.
When he leaves, she tells her husband.
- Georgie, for the love of God, we still have so many problems with these girls in the house, imagine them in a store window!
George - as he has been doing in the past few years - is silent and sad. In the good old days, Sammy would have been the prettiest and best dressed debutante in the most elegant club in Damascus. He would have been the proudest father in the world, instead, he was there, selling kibbes - Hara!
Carol was a bit upset, blonde and beautiful, she could see herself in that white dress, hosted by a TV artist, dancing with one of the princes.
Sammy didn’t give a damn. She was upset with the frustration of her father. Her mother wouldn’t let him do anything he wanted.
As time went on, the two girls were increasingly different, Carol got curves, became feminine, the boys fantasized about her, she liked wearing dresses, makeup, spent hours at the mirror.
Sammy also got curves, in a different way. She was tall, slim, small breasts. Always wearing a white shirt and a long oriental patterned skirt. Her curly and shiny hair, almost at her waist, was tied above her ears. She had a beauty spot over the right corner of her mouth. The spot darkened when she was angry
Carol fell madly in love. In this family, no dates, no chances, nothing at all, only getting married, and that's what happened.
Samira’s thoughts were hammering in her head, she was against that marriage, it was too soon. Whatever! The boy was also in love, nice guy, good family. Carol’s godmother liked the idea. At the end, you know? Better this way – thought Samira, the blonde wouldn’t last too much in the middle of that wolf pack.
The German priest loved those girls, he extended the red carpet from the church to the Naffahs’ door.
Even in ours days, if you go to Tupã you will be introduced to the couple; him, a rancher, and her, beautiful and polite. Then, you’ll have to listen about their children and their perfect marriage. The bride who was the fairest of them all. The wonderful dishes that were served. How the party went into the morning hours, that night with a full moon shining on the Naffahs’ terrace.
It was the first extravaganza in years, but the marriage of a daughter is really important to an Arab.
Sammy left Tupã to study computer science in Marilia.
Sammy was living in an Arab home, some friends of George’s mother’s cousin’s. It was a big family. They had also seen better days, but were fine.
Young people, among whom Sammy was included, were on aunt Nadia. She had no children, so used to take care of everybody’s kids.
The leash was tight as usual, but it was different. Aunt Nadia was strict, but she wasn’t Sammy’s mother. They could talk. Nadia had received a careful education; as well as Arabic and Portuguese, she spoke and wrote French and English.
In the first year, Sammy made friends. Giardini was the only one, besides her, who was interested in the lessons. Except for a Japanese girl from Jales, who was also their friend, the rest of the class had no idea what was happening.
Giardini had Italian name, but looked like an Arab, early hair loss above the temples, curly hair and a thin beard. Chubby. Not flabby, chubby.
- Aunt Nadia – sad Giardini, for God's sake, I’ll explode, nobody makes dolmah better than you. Even my aunts. Oh boy, if they hear that, I'm dead.
And he has one more, then another dolmah.
- Aunt Nadia! You’ve changed your hair, don’t try to fool me. New boyfriend! I'm sure.
The old lady’s heart was melted; this boy knew how to use the words gently. He surely did. He had a mother and affection, that’s the way people grow up like that!
They were always together, Sammy, Giardini; the Japanese girl was also there, but apart in her own thoughts.
No one knew if they were dating or what.
Samira was always looking further.
She was an Arab; she wanted to get her father back to the old and glorious time he used to talk about.
Aunt Nadia liked Giardini, she watched Sammy’s back. She loved the girl. God hadn’t given her any children, she had so much to teach, her nephews were so foolish, a waste of time!
Nadia used to ask Sammy to help her when preparing the refined dishes she occasionally liked to do. French cuisine.
She also encouraged the girl to study French and improve her English, paid for her classes, she was delighted delighted with the pupil’s progress.
Sammy first taught Nadia how to play solitaire on the computer. Then to read the newspaper, watch the news. Set up an e-mail to her, a page in a social network. Nadia loved it all. Soon, she had her own computer. Sammy arranged everything, of course, but the lady thought she was all that. Suddenly she had in Marilia the whole world at her feet; she snubbed and laughed at her friends.
In Marilia, Sammy was Samira – Mrs. Samira, her mother, was in Tupã. She grew up, got sophisticated. The world became small for her.
The Arabs are always very intelligent, but with this craze thing about to marry their cousins – so as not to split the money –sometimes they get a little silly, beyond the common sense. Sometimes they were doing everything right; and suddenly they change direction, completely.
George was there. He had taken his mother's advice and it worked. I mean, more or less, his wife returned to slavery, worked from dawn to dusk to support them. His daughter, studying computers, dating a bearded guy with no future... Thank God, Carol, who had good sense, was happily married with children, was fine.
His Samira - that always worked like a horse - was getting tired, no longer had the same patience with neighbors, and left everything in Eli’s hands; the kid was good, but anyway.
Mrs. Samira controlled everything, she was great in retail but wholesale things were harder to deal with. They wouldn’t get very far. They were only getting fatter!
In the middle of this, they hosted Omar, a distant cousin, who had many appointments in Brazil and was passing by Tupã.
What elegance! That was a real Arab, refinement, manners, gifts, money!
There he was. Omar was prepared for the worst. Oh God! – he thought – Days in that tropical hell, hayseed relatives, loads of junk food. Nobody deserves it.
Well, He was taken by surprise, they were great, he couldn’t have been better received anywhere else in the world.
Naffahs’ terrace was a privilege.
September 7th, a national holiday, joined with the weekend. Sammy came to see her parents; Carol left out her parents in-laws by her adoptive parents, brought her husband and children. What a happy day.
Eli grew up, already had a girlfriend, he was the sensation of the night. For an Arab father, the son with a girl was the glory, a relief.
Sammy had inaugurated a new relationship with her mother. She was no longer a girl. She respected Mrs. Naffah, she was an “institution”, but the girl also had some news.
She gave a few tips at dinner, helped as who really knows stuff; she was more sophisticated, confident.
Sammy delighted the cousin, spoke Arabic, French, and pretended to be Scheherazade in "Arabian Nights".
The mother's head was working pretty fast. - Bitch! This girl had sex. And she likes it! - I'll kill Nadia.
Time went by. One day, the Cousin suddenly shows up.
- Cousin! We need to talk. Verry imborrtant subject.
- Tell me, cousin - George responds.
- I came back to Damascus with an idea in mind; I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Your daughter is a brincess, she must marrry a brince.
George seemed to have awakened from a dream, so many years on this land, he had forgotten the old ways. Of course, Sammy’s wedding. They had to think about it, it was getting late, actually. Mrs. Naffah listens from afar and frowns.
- It's all settled, George. You’ll be relieved of dowry and still know the gratitude of your future son-in-law, a wealthy and powerful man, verrry powerful.
- But tell me, cousin. Who is this man?
- Trust me, Allah will bless you for all eternity, your grandchildren will be venerated.
The offer was generous, much more than they could expect, it came from a close relative… They asked for a few days to think.
The world turned upside down in Naffahs’ house.
Marriages, for them, were like that, it has always been. Arranged! The possibility of paying all their debts and getting back to what they were. The daughter married to a prince. That became a fixed idea in George’s head. There was no other subject for them.
Mrs. Samira was divided.
If they were still living in Damascus, it would be natural. That had happened to her, to her mother, to all the women in her family.
She hadn’t hit the jackpot herself, but at last, her marriage worked. Her mother-in-law was right. Mrs. Samira knew herself, she was a strong woman, she probably wouldn’t have stood a bossy man. The friendly and kind nature of George fitted like a glove, he was a friend, respected her opinion, and they had wonderful children. What more could they expect? The eldest daughter married to a prince. Rich, powerful, very powerful, said the cousin.
Sammy wasn’t easy either, besides the strong personality, she needed space to grow, wouldn’t hold up at home taking care of her husband and children. The daughter needed adventure. And there it was. Getting married to an Arab prince.
And more, if they didn’t do anything, she would end up with that chinstrapped guy.
Sammy already had all the credits she needed to receive the college certificate. She came back home before the end of the year.
She was sad about Giardini, her friend also had his credits, he said he would give the diploma to his father and start over, a new college in São Paulo. Anthropology, his true passion. He got a job at night, in the processing center of a bank. He was studying for the university entrance exam.
She now had a problem. At best, her parents would let her spend more time with aunt Nadia to continue studying a little more, it wouldn’t be easy. George was counting the days to his daughter’s graduation. He wanted her back.
It was in this climate that Sammy heard the news.
Sammy knew her people, their traditions. Her mother’s strong and liberal personality was the only reason she wasn’t already married to a cousin, and now this odd story.
Her dear father. Crazy about the idea.
Her mother. Washed her hands.
Her sister was married, children, she had a family of her own.
Giardini. With his own new thoughts, anthropology. In São Paulo!
Her turn. That would come anyway.
Here comes de bride!
When the cousin returned with the contract, of course, there were a lot of fine print. The advantages for the Naffahs were even better, but Sammy would be practically unreachable in the next few years. They would have news of each other, but secrecy was essential. For their own safety. The prince was very rich.
They opened an account for Samira, in a unusual bank in São Paulo, they put a large sum in it, and they gave her a card for immediate expenses. She enjoyed computers, so the cousin brought her a brand new laptop, state of the art.
None of this cheered Samira up. She was really disappointed with everyone. She could understand their reasons, but until the last minute, she waited for someone to take action.
Nothing, no one had courage enough to say it was an absurd, that she was more important to them. None.
Impressive how the group stands for what seems correct. Everyone is afraid of getting burned. "Imagine if I condemn this marriage and then, it works out, I’ll be shamed." Nobody cared about the poor Sammy, gift-wrapped.
She even thought up that a few years without contact would be a relief.
And there was Sammy toward her destination.
George was counting his thirty pieces of silver.
Mrs. Samira regretted her omission, never recovered her joy of living.
Carol had followed her destiny.
Eli spread himself through the house.
- Abbotsomethingbad, what a name. It must be something really bad.
Samira was in an awful mood, she wasn’t even in the desert yet and was already cursing as a camel driver.
The cousin escorted her to Islamabad. There, he received his share and couldn’t go with her anymore. Security issues.
You know what? - Samira thought - this guy is an artist, he even tricked Mrs. Samira - that “monument” of wisdom! - then received his share and left. I’ve got to learn that from him. Idea, goal and class.
She wasn’t introduced to anybody, just kept herself quiet on the back seat. The younger brother was driving the van, the elder looked dumb. They went along the dusty road.
Samira closes her eyes and thought, all the family struggle for this? For everyone else, the glory. For her, an enormous emptiness. She tries to get distracted.
The trip wasn’t too bad at the beginning, with her cousin, he was really polite. This step, by van, wasn’t as good as she had planned, but whatever. Local customs!
Half asleep she imagines the van coming to a huge castle! Stop, this is Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Ok, again. A great camp with big tents, wonderful rugs, torches of fire. Got better. She is received by Nubian slaves. Stop again, there aren’t Nubian slaves anymore. By Arab ladies in charge of bathing her in goat milk. Eww, stop again, stop, less Sammy, less!! A bath with salts and oils that will scent her skin. Would they have conditioner? Her hair can’t go without it. Then they would dress her, put flowers in her hair and walk her to meet the prince. Not bad! Thanks, Mr. George. What a trip! We are in the twenty-first century, of course we go to a five star hotel where the prince has a suite. He must have his women, a secretary who takes care of everything. No, not that either. It must be one of the condos we see on the internet, with artificial lake. Oh boy! I don’t know.
When they are entering the city, Samira wakes from her thoughts, looks at the incredibly green hills and smiles, it looks like Marilia. When they come closer, nothing is like Marilia, as a matter of fact. What a disappointment, no buildings, where's the five-star hotel? Where's the condo?
They pass right through the city, stopping to buy some bread. To buy some bread? Her, a princess? Yeah, to buy some bread.
The mute brother, who she would discover that is called Arshad, gets out. She and the other brother, Tariq, were waiting in the car.
They drive some more, pass by the simple houses on the outskirts. Stop in front of a high wall, a big house, like a prison. Men armed with machine guns open the gate and let the van go inside.
They stop in the middle of an enclosed passage, more guns, they enter a courtyard, chickens, goats, a mess.
My God! - Samira thinks – I was kidnapped by slave merchants! What you did to me, my father?
They get into the house, Samira is received by a woman and a little girl, five, six years old, rubbing her runny nose in her mother's skirt and looking curiously at the hair of the newcomer.
They show her the room where she’ll stay and leave her to get ready, they would return later to pick her up.
Samira hasn’t recovered from the shock yet. My God, my God! What happened to me? The windows are barred. Outside, it's getting dark, the city lights start to bright. It's cold.
She tries to put herself together, there’s nothing to do. It’s impossible to imagine what’s going on. She consoles herself; after all it was a cousin, a relative indicated by her grandmother, who intermediated the arrangement. OK, the business, but it can’t be that bad.
After a time that seems huge, they bring her a tray with a simple meal. A glass of water, bread, olives, dried curd, eggplant with sesame oil. Nothing she didn’t know. It wasn’t as good as Mrs. Samira’s, but she could eat it. For her, the lunch hour had passed, there were eight hour difference in time zones.
It was all very strange; she hasn’t been being well treated. A guest in an Arab house was a king, as she had learned. She hasn’t been being abused either, but that constant tension was frightening her.
Later they picked up the tray and told her to sleep; tomorrow someone would speak to her.
Someone would speak! Who?
Samira was very intelligent, lively, her head was trained to think, hours playing backgammon with her father in the store, school, college, computers.
Arabs don’t forgive slow people.
Yalah - fast -, girl.
Sehif! No, she wasn’t silly.
She opens her suitcase, turns on her laptop.
Nothing, no network within range.
It’s not possible! In Tupã, there would be four or five, but here, nothing. She looks at the walls, an outlet, a switch, nothing else. Not even a single telephone point.
She puts the computer aside and rubs her face. What can I do?
The computer goes into screen saver mode, pictures appear. Her, smiling, her nephews, aunt Nadia.
She closes the laptop and collapses in tears.
She cries, cries, can’t sleep.
When she finally sleeps, is awoken.
It Can Always Get Worse
It’s always a fuss, a tension. They tell Samira to dress up quickly, Yalah!
She washes her face, dresses up a bit. Some women examine her again, looking for weapons or something; she is taken through a passageway and enters the room. There’s a bed, lying down on several pillows, there he is.
Samira smiles. She always does it, a nervous smile. Fuck!
Bin Laden is also embarrassed, he smiles.
Samira’s head spins, she almost falls down, my God, what the fuck?
With a gesture, Bin sends them out; he wants to get alone with Samira.
- Samira! - he starts, she barely recognizes her own name in the mouth of that man.
- Sorry - he continues. - I couldn’t receive you yesterday as I should. My pain was killing me. I'm medicated, but I'm not well.
Samira is still stunned.
He continues with that paused speaking, looking into her eyes with that long beard and that messianic look. Like dead fish look, actually.
- My life has been a constant struggle, always running, always hiding. These past five years, you might imagine, were the worst. I spent too much time in the caves, I feel a horrible pain throughout my body.
Bin realizes that the young woman can’t understand anything, he keeps talking.
- Please, have a sit. I know it is difficult for those who live in the West understand our cause. I was told you spoke kindly about our people. I know you were born in Damascus.
- Kindness ... But three thousand people killed ...
- I know, I know, it takes a while to understand, I hope you don’t close your mind completely to our ideals, our God. You've probably noticed that I am not in a position to take a new wife, especially beautiful and young as you. Not that I don’t have the resources, my health is not good enough.
My God, what will happen to me? - Samira wonders.
- You know our customs, a man can have as many wives as he can support with dignity. It’s not as people imagine, the man only sleeps with his favorite; the others had done their role as mothers, become wise counselors and help taking care of the family. Now, my wife is Amal, the fifth. She must have taken care of you.
- We needed a reason to bring you here, all our promises will be kept, but we need you for a bigger mission. For all intents and purposes, you are my fiancée, everyone will respect you as you deserve. Only Amal, the Doctor and I know the whole truth. These two have given me proof of absolute loyalty and I still believe they will do more. I hope you keep this secret for your own safety. Anyway, don’t expect much understanding from Amal, I assured her about her position, but you know how women are. Please make yourself at home, our life is modest because the target is our fight. Today, I can’t go on, my condition gets worse with any effort; we’ll talk again tomorrow, sorry.
The man closes his eyes and sighs.
Samira leaves the room.
In the following days, Amal explains to Samira what is expected from her.
The situation was becoming unsustainable. With twenty-five million dollars prize for her husband's head, the world was shrinking.
The doctor thought that the only possible escape route was Brazil, especially the inner cities of São Paulo.
They were pretty developed; the arrival of a group of immigrants wouldn’t arouse much attention.
They were used to Arabs, who were part of the people, immigration and miscegenation was massive there.
Paradoxically, it was the only place in the world where first word excellence and corruption could live together.
There was many good hospitals and doctors, Bin needed treatment and an important plastic surgery. He still refused to accept the idea of changing his face, he liked his image, but it was the only way. He spent hours watching videos with his own image, it seems he wanted to memory as he had been.
Samira had everything they needed. A Brazilian passport, an unsuspected name, a bank account and was an expert on computers, internet, these things.
They would begin with modest transfers of funds to Samira’s account; they would gradually buy some properties. Finally, they would prepare for the moving.
Most of this should be done by Samira via internet. The messenger brothers were very trustable, but, except for the arms, their knowledge about technology was zero.
A New Life
Samira was a tough girl, she wouldn’t sink into despair, she thought a lot about her situation.
Their plan was very simple. As for her, she soon realized that she would become the key to the safe money box and she would be closely watched, very closely.
They were patient and careful when talked to her about their struggle, hoping one day she could really understand what Girad was, and do all she was expected to do by faith in God. Samira soon realized that she should avoid any indiscretion or she and all the Naffahs would pass into history as some more martyrs of the Holy War.
For those who had knocked down the Twin Towers and a piece of the Pentagon, it would be a piece of cake, definitely.
She also couldn’t imagine what it would happen to her when they got what they wanted. They didn’t seem to worry about it. They trusted she would soon be fully engaged to the Holy War, would be one of them. She knew this wasn’t going to happen and she would be at great risk.
- Take your time, they said, to avoid suspicion. Moreover, Bin’s health was getting worse and worse, they would have to move soon. Oh my God.
Samira accepted the game, at least temporarily; her fate was to do what they wanted. She had to keep herself alive. After three thousand innocent people, one more, one less wouldn’t make any difference to them.
For safety reasons, the only communication with the outside of the house happened when the brothers left for shopping. They had no telephone, TV or internet.
In today's world - Samira thought. Wouldn’t this raise any suspicions? A house that big without a phone line?
Every day, Samira, closely watched by Amal and the brothers, left the house in the van. While Arshad went shopping, the others were in the car, protected by the darkened windows.
Then Samira tried a WiFi internet network that could be invaded and started navigating. They often changed position and network to not raise suspicions.
It took a bit, Amal prayed, Tariq always seemed to be in another world. Samira used all the features on the laptop to download multiple files at once. Later, she would work with them. She received passwords for some accounts of the organization and started making transfers. At first, they were monitored by the Doctor, far away, he followed everything over the network.
After some time, Samira joined up to that strange community. They were all very reserved and cautious, continued taking care of their lives.
Their faith was impressive; they were living with a sword over their heads. It made no difference at all! They didn’t lose a night's sleep, and each new day was a blessing.
They didn’t want to be anywhere else, nothing more than that simple life. The men watching over, the women taking care of the house.
To be helpful, she offered to take care of the chickens, she liked it since childhood. Also showed her skills in the kitchen, her nice and brown fried chicken with a generous onion and garlic sauce, was successful. She learned to eat with her hands.
And time went by.
Bin was only getting worse!
Resources were limited, they had tried everything they could, samples were sent for examination. They didn’t find anything, it wasn’t rheumatism, arthrosis, arthritis, gout, nothing. No bacteria, no trace of virus.
The pain got worse every day.
Samira was getting more scared. She was afraid of being left if they decided to move suddenly; afraid of what they would do with her if he died suddenly.
She spent more and more of her precious time on the net, visiting sites about health and medical advances. It couldn’t be a common disease; otherwise they would have already found it. She started looking for alternative therapies.
She found several references, some sites seemed reliable, linking the problem of muscle pain to fungal infestations.
It had everything to do with that. Years in dark and damp caves. Poor diet, low in protein, natural defenses decrease.
She studied the subject deeply. It was something new, the medical community was skeptical, but there were many testimonies in favor.
Apparently, the fungal colonies adhering to the intestinal walls ended up making the wall permeable. Toxins escaped from the intestinal tract and were deposited in the muscle tissue, causing pain.
Even if the explanation wasn’t exactly this, it was worth a try.
She spoke to Amal, who told her:
- It can be that; when Bin was still in the caves, he had some itching and took an antimycotic. The pain actually decreased. After some time, the drug began to do more harm than good, intoxicated him.
It was a very good sign, she continued looking.
The suggested diet was relatively simple and without risk. Cut down on anything that could ferment easily, feeding the fungi, such as gluten, sugar, flour, etc. The idea was killing fungi by starvation.
He could eat only protein and vegetables. Garlic, ginger and coconut oil, coadjuvants.
She had to convince her patient. She found it difficult to say to that noble warrior he was simply plenty of fungi.
She began comparing the human body to a battlefield, which caught the attention of the Arab.
- In this field, the battle never ends - she said. Each new day, good microorganisms fight the evil ones and vice versa. When we are happy, doing the right things, the good ones start to win, we are healthy, otherwise we get sick.
Bin thought this metaphor also had something to do with his own struggle, but he felt terrible, was ready to try anything, such was his pain.
As anticipated in the treatment, the symptoms worsened at the beginning, that was the reaction of the fungi, and then, they gradually slowed.
Everyone was very grateful to Samira, even Bin, very reserved, used to call the young woman. He liked the stories she told from Brazil, the people, their jokes.
Travel plans to Brazil were postponed, the urgency decreased, they were enjoying that apparent safety.
Life followed its course, the amounts transferred were increasing. For safety, the money and the custody of the bonds were moved from one bank to another, to hinder tracking.
Taking advantage of Samira’s ability, they developed new operations, increasingly complexity.
Samira created a large spreadsheet with that movement; it was the only way to keep up with Bin’s prodigious mind.
He didn’t know the exact number, but he had the bulk of each operation closely kept in his mind. No notes at all.
The only distractions Samira had were Safiyah, Amal’s daughter, and the chickens.
- Aunt Samira, make me a hair like yours?
- Of course, my love, come here.
Then she washed the girl’s hair, combed them with a thick comb, put the sides up, over the ears, they looked quite alike. She remembered herself, little child in Bauru, in Mrs. Samira’s arms, she began to cry.
- What is it, aunt, why are you crying?
- No, no, my angel, your aunt is silly. I remembered my mother.
Samira asked permission to build a higher frame, inside the chicken coop. Like the one her parents have in Tupã. She thought the chickens would feel safer sleeping perched. They would have more eggs, more chicks. Arabs don’t understand much about chickens.
The chicken coop was leaning against the wall at the back of the building. There was a single entrance door, it was the only place where they didn’t need to watch over Samira. From there, she had nowhere to go. They agreed with her project, then she went with tools and boards to do her job.
The chickens were sleeping on an old wooden floor, it seemed building waste, improvised. Samira started cleaning and disassembling it.
Many pieces of wood were joined by others, nailed, impossible to move. She began removing the nails and releasing piece by piece, she had plenty of time.
By the middle of the job, she found a hole in the concrete slab. It must have been a gateway for materials, water, or something. It was hidden by the wooden floor, it hadn’t been closed at the end of the construction.
Carefully not to draw attention, she looked inside; it was a waterway, behind the house.
She had her heart in her mouth, my God, it was a way out, useless by now. If she went out there, she would be recaptured and who knows what would happen to her parents.
She arranged the boards recovering the exit, left two of them unattached, enough for her to escape if there was an opportunity.
A few more days, she concluded the roost. The set was even heavier than it already was, completely hiding the exit. Only she knew what boards were loose.
Bin was recovered, free of pain, became another man, a dynamo.
He forgot the danger, only could think about the big and apotheotic action to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the September 11th.
Samira became his right hand. Since the cure, he completely trusted in the young woman.
Maybe the old idea of marriage could be reconsidered.
She, in her turn, felt more and more trapped. She couldn’t communicate over the internet, but she read the international news.
Bin wanted a magnificent event, but at the same time, Americans were doing everything they could to capture the Arab leader.
That would eventually happen.
Her “beloved” father had sold his daughter for a dozen camels; you can imagine what people would do for 25 million dollars, the reward for Bin’s head.
In fact, everybody knew that, the alert was complete, the guard was doubled, and slept ready for the worst, dressed and armed. They wouldn’t be captured, not even alive.
The plans were focused in attack the trains.
The modus operandi was pretty much the same, it wouldn’t be as spectacular as the twin towers fall, but they could do a great damage.
American trains are very fast and large, all that mass multiplied by the high speed comes to a huge destruction potential.
They are also very safe, it’s almost impossible for a train to collide head-on with another; the system has many alternatives for each mistake.
Everything was harder.
– These Americans are paranoid – they complaint –, they have security enforcement all over the place!
They asked Samira to download a video they’ve seen on TV. A recreation of a big disaster that happened years before.
A ferryboat bumped into a rotating bridge, minutes before the passage of a high speed train.
The impact of the ferry in one of the ends dislocated the bridge a little bit.
The disaster was huge. That was it! Instead of the ferry bump, suicide bombers would move a bridge seconds before the train arrives.
Samira did what they told her to, she was fighting for her life... Even so, thinking she could be part of such an atrocity was killing her.
That was a night like many others; they were all retiring to bed.
Samira woke up with the sound of helicopters far way. At the first shot, she got up and began to run. Everybody was running, trying to understand what was happening. Amal goes to check on Bin, she knows he’s the target. She looks through a window and sees Samira holding her scarf and running to the chicken coop.
- This Brazilian is crazy – mumbles Amal, to herself. – Better this way, I think she was starting to threaten me. When everyone finds out that, in a moment like this, she was taking care of the chickens, they will laugh at her. Stupid girl!
In the middle of that troubled dark night, Samira removes the boards, hidden by the frame she built, passes through the hole and gets out into the channel, outside the house.
She goes along the small trickle of water toward the trees. When she comes to the forest, the flash of the explosion of a helicopter illuminates the sky. The shots cut the air. It was an attack for real, nobody would survive. She runs a little longer between trees and comes to the street.
People are coming out of the houses to see what happens. She joins a group that runs away from the combat and comes to the main street.
Then she gets on the first bus that passes, it goes to Islamabad, a blessing.
She puts one hand into the pocket, caresses her Brazilian passport first and then her credit card.
Samira passes the other hand on her neck and follows a pendant that hangs her memory card, the spreadsheet with the transactions and all the passwords. Only Bin and she knew those accounts.
Whatever happens in the coming days, everyone will be too busy putting themselves together.
Probably, for all purposes, she’ll be the widow of a very important man, every Muslim should watch over her.
Sammy will have time to find a safe place and enjoy the rest of her life as a free and rich woman. Very rich.