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Episode X: Courtyard Fate – Salma Al Maleb

Previously on “Decisions in a Halo – Episode IX: Sagittarius”

It’s quite the unexpected to find yourself connected to someone you don’t even know. Like, for instance, when your eyes get caught in the rays of a stranger’s when you’re riding the metro, or walking down the streets, or even sitting in a restaurant. You find yourself connected with that person: you start wondering how his/her life is, what they’re thinking of, if they’re happy or sad, what it would be like to be friends with them or even married to them, what kind of work they’re doing.

These are thoughts that can cross one’s mind quite easily, forming an unspoken, unilateral bond between one’s self and that complete stranger. One can start yearning – even if one doesn’t really know them – for that bond that they “helped” establish. What’s beautiful and mesmerizing about that particular bond is that it doesn’t take, need, or give out energy to maintain: it’s just there. It’s established as soon as one makes contact with the other, from afar, across a void. The eyes make the connection, the heart tugs at it from time to time, and the mind wanders about, looking for an exact replica of the bond one can deem ‘the perfect, low maintenance, exemplary connection’.

And that’s how I felt when I spoke to Samir.

I notice him, walking among the sea of students that lay across as far as the eye can see…

His passion is very apparent in those green eyes of his: the way he connects with musical lyrics, the way he talks about the melody and tunes behind the songs, the instrumentals he believes channel the human soul the most. It’s been awhile since I came in contact with someone as educated, cultivated and passionate as Samir is; it’s not every day that one meets someone who shares one’s affinity for music and has a deep understanding of the feelings that are swayed by the tunes and melodies. Samir and I were still engaged in our talk; for the last fifteen minutes, our passions connected in a way that I never thought they would.

FLASHBACK ALERT

“…and this is my story with Santana,” Samir finished, with a big smile on his face; his passion glinting in the green hue of his eyes.

“That’s an impressive story!” I chuckle, as I run my fingers through my black hair. Despite it being almost October, it is still warm. I pull my hair in a bun and place a pencil I take from the info desk in it, holding the bun in place.

“I never quite understood how you girls manage to make this”, Samir gestures, pointing at my messy bun.

You see, the bun has a significant meaning; not just to me, but to the entire countless generations of girls. It is a symbol of a girl who’s had enough of life’s bullshit. It is an indicator that her power has reached her limit and she is ready to kick some ass. It could also be an elegant “piece de coiffe” that goes well with a backless dress, for example. Or it could just simply mean that we’re hot and sometimes hate these locks we hold on our heads. 

You see, the bun has a significant meaning…

“Well, you can’t even if you tried. You have to be a girl to get the message,” I reply nonchalantly.

My eyes inadvertently scan the area. The back courtyard of the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences (FEPS) was holding no more than hundreds upon hundreds of students, and counting. Seeing as how this was one of the busiest seasons for student activities – the first week of recruitment – it is normal to see students from every walk of Cairo University’s campus gathered in one place.

It’s probably the only place where you’ll see an Engineering student talking to a Sciences major, exchanging laughs with a Political Sciences student who just introduced them to another who’s majoring in pharmacy.

The courtyard of FEPS is an encompassing space, accepting everyone as they are. No matter how different their social status is, how divergent their religions are, or how opposingly their political/economic/social views interact. The courtyard treats them as equal: students seeking knowledge, friendship and enlightenment.

The simulation models had their desks set up, from which a sea of blue, yellow, black, white and red t-shirts poured out towards the many diversified corners of the Cairo University campus. The chatter in the air reminds me of a bee hive; every student on deck working diligently to recruit as many students as possible for a cause I still know nothing about. The excitement is palpable, everyone doing their part, as if rehearsed to the minutest of details, to make sure whatever activity they’re representing gets the right amount of publicity and fame among the freshmen.

Seeing as how this was one of the busiest seasons for student activities – the first week of recruitment – it is normal to see students from every walk of Cairo University’s campus gathered in one place

“Well, I always find it attractive,” Samir says, quickly cutting his gaze and looking away. I smile and notice faintly his cheeks blushing. Or was it just the heat? Mine are not that far away from the peachy bronzage as well; it is unexpectedly really warm.

I notice Samir about to continue the thread of conversation when my heart suddenly falls. I notice him, walking among the sea of students that lay across as far as the eye can see. I notice the one guy who left a mark on me from just that one day, the one guy whose face I know will haunt my dreams for as long as I could and will remember. His confidence radiated, his walk dominating, his smile wickedly charming, his stature invigorating. As I continue to gaze upon him, I notice a small head bobbing lightly behind him, a brown ponytail bouncing up and down with round spectacles for eyes: my best friend is apparently following him.

“Salma?”

I break away from my trance long enough to notice Samir staring at me, apparently waiting for an answer to a question I didn’t even hear.

“I’ll get back to you on that, excuse me,” I add quickly, as I make my way through the crowd towards Sarah, making absolute certain I don’t cross Adam’s way. With lots of “excuse me”, “pardon” and “sorry,” I finally reach Sarah who took station near one of the entrances to the faculty building, near the courtyard, under one of the only trees that provided actual shade in this unusual warmth of September.

“What are you doing here?” I ask, my heart doing a thousand leaps per second.

“Well, I’m talking to you now,” she answers, her gaze still fixed on Adam who finally managed, after a lot of hellos and heys, to reach the info desk of the student activity he’s enrolled in.

“Don’t get smart with me! I saw you following him!” I hiss, my voice tuning down to almost a  whisper.

“It’s him, isn’t it? That Adam guy? I thought so too…” Sarah asks, looking at me through her spectacles as if scanning me for something only she knows.

“Yeah, it’s him but-”

“Interesting…” Sarah breaks away and looks back at Adam, still standing by the info desk.

“So? What do you think?” I ask, nervously.

“When is your interview again?” Sarah asks, her gaze still planted on Adam.

“In three days time, I guess,”

“I think you’ll have it now,” Sarah answers, adjusting her glasses.

“What!? How do you…”

“He’s coming your way! You tell me everything that happens during that interview. I’ll follow you up stairs.” Sarah says, as she darts away quickly and hides behind the tree.

“Salma Al-Maleb, is it?” Adam appears out of nowhere, clutching a clipboard. His name tag hangs around his neck, displaying his name, Adam Ibrosen, with the title of PR Manager written underneath it. He stands taller than I do, with a wide chest that seems wider in his bright white t-shirt. His black hair was military cut, a look that seems to accentuate his dominating yet intriguing stature. His biceps are prominent from underneath the sleeves; he looks like a guy who loves to work out. But his most unusual feature is his eyes.   

His eyes, no longer hidden behind his dark shades, appear sullen and uninterested ;however, Adam holds his gaze, a gaze I feel burning right through me. I see them as a  window to a place I know I would regret visiting, but feel very intrigued to have a peek at. They send out a hidden signal of hopelessness, of longing to a certain place I don’t know if I can provide, of a desired peace of mind, heart and soul that I am in search of as well. His eyes speak a language I never knew I could understand.  

“Yep, that’s me!” I reply with a perk in my voice.

So not what I was going for…

Adam doesn’t smile back. He takes his leave and enters the building. I follow suite, my heart beating so fast my eardrums were about to explode. I look back to see Sarah giving me the thumbs up from behind the tree and gesturing for me to go on.

And I did. I took the first step into fate’s curious twist of events.  

***

 

About Alaa Rahman

I’m one of the In-Betweeners. I hover between reality and fiction worlds (of my own creation or currently existent). However, my 28 year old Economic Analyst alter ego at the Egyptian Ministry of Finance keeps me grounded in real life (unfortunately!). I am a big freak when it comes to Harry Potter related basically anything. I love writing; I draw and paint as well as cook and play the violin (still an amateur though!) Kingdom Hearts is – in my opinion – the best fantasy game out there and music is life! I’ll be writing Decisions in a Halo and editing fiction pieces to whoever feels like venturing in the world of myth.