Fury’s judgement of the guy wasn’t in any way erroneous or even impulsive. The fact that he was impetuous in a perilously irresponsible manner was indubitably obvious. It wasn’t the accident that had me drowned in a sea of concerns and apprehensions, but his audacious behaviour, which was incongruent with the rules and regulations prescribed by this land of prohibitions. The accident would have been regarded as a ludicrous mishap in the normal goings-on of the office, and would have shaded imperceptibly into the background, had it happened with someone else, like Jack for instance, or Larry, or even Gerhard. It would’ve ended with smiles and apologies from both sides, and would have been over and done with in no time. But his besieging eyes left no room for any doubt that the incident was premeditated. He had kept tabs on me all the time, had followed me stealthily, exploiting the noisy background to ensure I didn’t hear his footsteps, and he stood so close behind me as to preclude the slightest margin for the failure of his venture. This just terrified me. It terrified the extremely obedient daughter of harsh traditions and of a stern, merciless society, let alone any terror at the thought of the readily pouncing eyes of minders. It also shocked the shy, inexperienced ingenuous girl that I was. My green wisdom anticipated that it wasn’t going to stop there, but, in all likelihood, it was only the beginning.
I returned to my office in an hour or so. I asked Fury to watch over me for fear of his returning in Jack’s absence, but ‘luckily’ he opted out. Nevertheless, I couldn’t put out of my mind what happened. It required no subtle capacity for perception to gather that I was acting in an uncommonly weird manner. Hiding my apprehension and anxiety from Jack’s perceptive eyes later during the day was not an undemanding task. A couple of times I flinched at his calling my name, and the poor thing apologized earnestly for startling me. He sat silent, eyes focused on me, seeking to puzzle out the abrupt enigmatic transformation that had come about in me within the mere two hours of his absence. All at once I heard him asking, ‘Say Liana, when did Martin leave here?’
‘Who’s Martin?’ I replied to his question with another, masking my face with ignorance. The sudden irrelevant question had me stunned nonetheless.
‘The American guy that I was talking to this morning when you went to Fury’s office’, he replied, further canvassing my face.
‘Don’t know,’ I replied, and quickly hid my eyes in my papers. ‘I was working in Fury’s office, and when I got back he was already gone’.
I lied, and I just hated the mere thought of it. I wondered what was I endeavouring to hide, or more truthfully whom was I protecting. Was it HIM? Had what had happened propagated wings and spread to Jack or the others? And would some disciplinary action be initiated as a result. Or was I merely snuffing out the sparks of a silly accident before it grew into an uncontrollable blaze, out of all proportion to its cause as it started spreading. Thinking back, I know that it was certainly not the second, but rather the first. Lying to Jack, whom I very much respected and liked, pricked my conscience. ‘But there’s nothing to hide’, I comforted myself, thus justifying and ridding myself of the sense of guilt. ‘It was a mere accident; yes, a silly accident not even worth mentioning, and it’s true I was at Fury’s office all the time, until he left, so I wasn’t lying after all. Besides, I don’t even know the guy, and of all the advisors, Jack didn’t introduce him to me, and somehow now I begin to figure out why’.
For the rest of the day I shunned Jack’s side, striving for a normal face. However, I was very apprehensive that my unguarded and expressive eyes would betray, as they were prone to, my innermost feelings. Of all the advisors, Jack, was the most deferential to Iraqi tradition and culture, and had the least tolerance for impudent acts, especially when it involved someone whom he cherished and respected. He remained silent, watching me, with his left fist supporting his cheek. After a few heavy moments, another question came, ‘Are you all right, Liana?’
‘Yes, yes,’ I replied nervously, ‘I’m fine, why ask?’
Well, my unruly evident edginess, the restless movement of my hands, the repeated clearing of my voice and my enlarged eyes, I suppose, said it all, and made Jack doubtlessly certain nothing was right. Ploughing on with more questions was far from the disposition of someone as gentlemanly as Jack. His eyes, however, attentively appraised me often during the rest of the day.
Around ten to three, I tidied up my desk, locked my drawers, grabbed my handbag and strolled towards the door. I stood a small distance away from his desk and took my leave of him, ‘See you tomorrow, Jack’. He raised his head. I smiled, but he didn’t. I walked away slowly, but before reaching the door I heard him say in a reassuring tone, ‘Take it easy, Liana’. I stopped and turned to him, but I said nothing. I just smiled, and lifted my left hand slightly, gesturing good-bye.
Fury was waiting for me at the main entrance. We headed in reticent silence to the buses. I got in and sat next to the window, drew the curtain, adjusted the air-conditioning outlets, and leaned back in the seat, eyes shut. Fury spoke to me a couple of times, but I gave her a deaf ear, and she hushed up for the rest of the time. The bus pulled out on its daily return journey. I got detached from the entire world, busy replaying the incident, and unravelling my thoughts. I was at a loss. My mind was a riot of bizarre, conflicting feelings, which were hitting me so powerfully, further perplexing my virgin mind and my naive heart. It was first time ever that I had got so close to an alien male, and this fact dismayed me enormously. The sense of guilt for running into him and for his body touching mine, though circumstantially, was awful. It seemed like a sinful act. Families, traditions and the blue laws of our culture ceaselessly counsel us females to protect our purity and chastity and to remain untouched, truly untouched, by a man until our marriage. We are exhorted to be unrelentingly wakeful, and to be consciously and subconsciously on our guard against anything that would taint our priceless reputation or undermine the honourable standing of our men. What happened weighed heavily on my ideal of purity. ‘Wouldn’t have happened had I been more careful’. I thought, upbraiding myself. I also felt some embarrassment. Well, the situation was awkward and clumsy. However, strangely enough, and in the midst of all that, I could sense an obvious trace of joy tickling my heart, introducing some surreal feelings and emotions that I was strongly denying and cruelly holding up. It seemed as if I had wished for it to happen, and was excited by the fact that it did happen, but at the same time the thought of it dismayed me for I felt I had betrayed the enormous trust that my parents had placed upon me. The more I thought of it, the more I felt that ugly joy, and my unseemly pleasure nagged at my conscience, exacerbating my sense of guilt. Everything Fury said about the guy was utterly right. He was dangerously appealing, with incredibly irresistible charisma; he was also daring, most daring, and in the most loveable manner. My mind entirely disapproved, rejecting and condemning, his move, and my mouth allied with my mind. But the emotionally vulnerable female within was thrilled, pleasantly yielding to novel sensations, and wilfully enjoying every bit of them. A luscious shiver would run through me, electrifying my whole body every time I recalled the warm looks of those beautiful eyes.
I was entirely wrapped up in my world of thoughts when Fury prodded me. I opened my eyes. ‘Home already? That quick?’ I asked astonished. She replied with a meaning smile. The usual lengthy ride seemed relatively short, as if it were only a ten-minute journey. I’ll call you’, she said when I got up. I nodded and alighted.
To Be Continued.......