Apprehensive of being caught red-handed, I returned to my seat with my little treasure enfolded in my hand. I skimmed the office area around me, ensuring that I wasn’t been preyed upon, and with a fluttering heart, I opened the drawer pretending to be looking for something inside. I hurriedly threw the small piece of paper inside, and pushed the drawer back with the same speed, eyes still sweeping the vicinity, ascertaining no one was spying on my “grand secret.” Assuming normality, I leaned back in my chair for a few moments, trying to catch my lost breath, and controlling the pleasurable sensations of my body. Patience wearing thin, I re-opened the drawer seconds later, and unfolded the paper I had placed inside, not forgetting though to grab my small mirror that I kept in the drawer, in order to give the pretence of a routine feminine checking of make-up. My eyes surveyed the office one last time before they devoured avidly the words on the paper.
It was a concise letter of six or seven lines that he started with “Lu”. His apparent caution, just in case the paper fell into the wrong hands, much impressed my little heart. His plan was directly stated. He was leaving that same week for the States and will be away for two weeks to attend to some personal matters, after which he was to return to the region to resume his new job. It wasn’t lost on me that his main concerns revolved around working out a safe departure for me. Of course, he didn’t forget to re-confirm his utmost readiness to meet my parents anytime, anywhere.
His letter said it all. And the six-month romance seemed to have finally jumped successfully over the huge chasm that the cultural differences and political impediments had planted deeply in our paths. Our marriage seemed assured.
I refolded the precious paper and enclosed it in my hand; I signaled to Fury through the pane of glass to follow me to the toilets. Having ascertained that no one was about, we went through the words of the letter together while we jumped excitedly up and down, trying hard to contain the agitation in our voices. She hugged me tight, “envying” my perseverance in “fighting for the man I loved.” Before we left the place, however, she made me surrender grudgingly to her steadfast orders to tear the letter to tiny bits, and flush them down the toilet.
It broke my heart not seeing him around again that day. But knowing how busy he was, working out his imminent departure, I felt resigned to his absence.
Dina, as usual, took the responsibility of conveying the news of the latest development to my parents, which prompted another visit to my grandpa’s that same evening. The family had another “summit” in order to determine a safe place for the rendezvous. Once more Sam came up with the smart suggestion of meeting in a quiet avenue in a business district where the traffic slows down considerably after three in the afternoon. My parents would meet Martin the following day at four. The plan was that Martin would leave his car in the area designated for the meeting, and join my parents in theirs. My share of the plan was strictly limited to conveying the details of the rendezvous to Martin, leaving the rest for dad to handle.
Considering the hazardous situation, nothing, as of this point, seemed certain or secure. Chances of things turning gray, or even black, at any minute were not farfetched. The code was to be kept red, signaling danger, at all times and under all circumstances. The jeopardy was great, and the aftermath could turn tragic if things were taken lightly.
Much to our bad luck, the office was packed to the brim when Martin arrived around noon the following day. As he sat down talking to Tom, it was evident that he was awfully anxious; his eyes were focused on me for the entire duration, seemingly trying to get some reassurance.
The office never quieted that day, and time seemed zooming by so fast that it seemed desirable to enlist Fury’s help. I signaled to her through the pane of glass; she flew to my office in an instant, gasping after the latest morsel of news. Well, I thought that seeing us, he and I, talking in Fury’s presence would not raise as many suspicions as if we were seen alone. So, having exchanged some meaningful glances with him, I stepped with Fury into the photocopying room, pretending to be attending to some routine photocopying tasks. We stood there giggling and talking, like we usually do every time we get together. A short while later I heard his footsteps approaching. He wouldn’t have been my Martin had he missed catching the language of my eyes. He appeared in view, leaning against the coffee maker that was placed near the doorway of the photocopy room, while filling his cup with coffee. He lifted up his head and saluted us both, Fury and myself, “How’re you doing, gorgeous?” he said as he stood there sipping his coffee. Fury smartly busied herself with the copier. While she assumed the role of a seasoned mechanic who seemed engrossed in some technical complexity that had suddenly occurred, he stepped slowly inside the room.
I swiftly conveyed the plan to him, stating the place and time of the rendezvous, not forgetting, of course, to explain my all-important absence. Despite the obvious joy that beamed on his face, yet for the first time during our relationship I caught an evident concern in his eyes. This incredibly self-possessed man couldn’t hide his fears of the possibility of being rejected by my parents. “Will they turn me down?” he muttered. The fact that he was divorced, I knew, weighed heavily on him. I was after all, young, beautiful, and not only from an entirely different culture, but also from a Christian denomination that was intolerant of divorce.
I tried reassuring him, but deep down I knew that I needed as much reassurance as he did. He then left the room, and went towards Tom’s office; Fury and I followed suit a while later, each to her office. Shortly afterwards, I saw him standing up, facing me, and seemingly addressing me rather than Tom to whom he announced his need to have a “haircut”.
My body never ceased trembling, head to toe, that whole afternoon. And the colic waves that usually invade my body during periods of excitement or anxiety took hold of me from the minute my parents left home to meet Martin, and persisted long after their return. My fidgetiness and my disquieted pacing around the living room annoyed Dina, who said that my movements were threatening to make her cross-eyed. My heart thumped, and sweat poured profusely off my whole body. My concerns about my parents’ view of Martin seemed to have dwarfed far and away in comparison with my gigantic worries about the safety of the whole group: my parents, Martin, and one of my brothers who insisted on accompanying my parents. I repeatedly made needless visits to the toilet. The atmosphere around me wasn’t any less anxious. Even though Grandpa, Uncle Sam, and Dina were trying their best to distract me, it was clear that they themselves were on tenterhooks. And when the door bell rang around seven-thirty, Sam jumped up and ran to the door, while I nearly had a heart attack.
To be Continued.......................................................
To be Continued.......................................................