Written by Alaa (aka Lols)
Previously on Decisions in a Halo:
“….but dear reader, you shouldn’t succumb to despair so easily. In fact, you shouldn’t succumb to it at all. With everything that’s going on in our Egypt, we know that we’re somehow going in the right direction. Repercussions of today’s fight for freedom, for justice and for liberty will be gained. However sad that they might not be felt by our generation and our kids’, but to think that my own grandchildren will one day live in a country governed by those concepts is just breathtaking…”
Salma Al Maleb was knee deep into her latest political analysis. Her hair pulled up in a bun, her glasses reflected the words on her screen; Salma was mouthing every word she typed. The ring of the words, the placement of the sentences; whenever she read them, she knew if they sounded great or out of place completely with her subject. She was so focused that she didn’t notice two blasts from the past walking onto the floor where she worked at Al-Masry Al-Youm.
“Are you sure about this Samir? I mean it’s been a long time…” whispered Sarah as they stood a few feet away from the reception desk. The floor was massive and filled with energy. Just like Sarah’s office (only more alive with motion); telephones rang everywhere, journalists and editors worked side by side to deliver next day’s paper. It was the kind of job Samir dreamed of occupying but couldn’t (for reasons he doesn’t want to dwell on at the moment). On the walls were frames of the most important historical events that occurred in recent times; the spark that ignited the Egyptian uprising of 2011, the news on February 11th 2011 when ex-president Mubarak stepped down, all the way to the now unstable and undefined Egypt in 2013 after the removal of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
“If I wasn’t sure, we wouldn’t be here. Besides, it’s not just you who hasn’t spoken to her in a long time” answered Samir, as his eyes scanned the walls. Samir and Salma haven’t spoken to each other ever since he went for his second year in his graduate degree to Canada. They have somehow maintained a proper friendship after Salma’s breakup with Fady but nothing ever stays the same.
“I think it would have been much easier if Ibrahim was with us”
“Well when you’re a Senior Credit Analyst, your time is as precious as a diamond” huffed Samir.
“Can I help you?” asked the receptionist when she saw the couple stand in the doorway arguing whether or not to proceed. Taking it as a sign, Samir stepped in breaking a very reluctant Sarah’s hold on his arms.
“Good Morning. Yes, we’re to meet Mrs. Salma, Salma Al-Maleb?”
“Do you have an appointment with her?”
“We don’t actually. We’re her old friends from college and we were just in the neighborhood and thought we’d see how she was” smiled Samir.
“Usually, Mrs. Salma is not keen on having prompt-to meetings but I’ll check with her” declared the receptionist as she stood up and walked to the end of the floor where two glass doors showed a very focused Salma typing new words of analysis and encouragement.
“Not keen on having prompt-to meetings!? What was that all about?” sneered Sarah as she tapped on the floor nervously with her heels.
“Now, now Sarah; we’re not here to pick a fight besides, if my memory serves me right, your assistant told us something along those lines when we came in this morning to see you. But this one’s words were…nicer to the ears” Samir threw his friend a condescending look then jokingly pulled out his tongue at her. Sarah took her bag and slammed it in his stomach just as the receptionist came back to her desk.
“Mrs. Salma will see you now. Her office is straight up ahead”
Thanking her both, the two friends walked towards the office dreading the first words that Salma will drop on them. Samir in the lead, he took a deep breath and knocked on the glass doors. Salma didn’t take her eyes off the screen and motioned for them to come inside. Samir and Sarah sat down opposite their friend who didn’t lift her eyes off the screen as her fingers typed as fast as thirty words per second. An awkward silence spread between them for which Sarah took advantage of to scan the office. It was a spacious office -not like hers though- with a window next to Salma overlooking the quiet neighborhood of Garden City. A book shelf stood behind Sarah with books and journals collecting dust over time. Salma’s desk was very tidy though, contrary to Sarah’s with a frame facing away from the visitors, a pencil case and a few stacks of papers with a sticky note on one stack saying “IN” and the other saying “OUT”. Her university degree hung on the wall next to the bookshelf; a bachelor’s degree in Archaeology which was really cool. Salma could be the next Dr. Zahy Hawas if she wanted to but instead pursued her dream of writing. Sarah smiled for a moment. That’s what she liked about Salma; her dreams come first…always.
“Yes? What do you want?” said Salma as she pulled down her laptop screen and took off her glasses setting them down on her desk. Her face was blank, completely devout of emotions whatsoever. Neither Samir nor Sarah knew what to make of it except that this was not to be an easy meeting.
“Wow, we haven’t seen or spoken to each other for a few years now and…”
“I’m sorry, am I making you uncomfortable?” Salma interrupted Sarah as her eyes focused on her former best friend fiercely.
“Look Salma we’re not here to provoke you”
“Oh really? Because you’re doing a swell job at it if you ask me”
“We haven’t done or said anything yet!” retorted Sarah, starting to turn into defense mode when Samir squeezed her hands to calm her down.
“Am I going to wait until you do more than you already did? Huh? Ms. I’m-going-away-because-I-can’t-handle-the-drama? You left me Sarah when I most needed you! You expect me now to what, hug it out?” said Salma, her voice taking on a sharper note.
“Salma we’re not here to…”
“I don’t want to hear it! I’m not even interested in what you’re about to say!” and at that, she grabbed her purse, her phone and her blazer and stormed right out of her office. A few heads turned to see their fuming colleague power-walking towards the door.
Samir made it out of Al-Masry Al-Youm’s headquarters just in time to see Salma hop in a taxi and drive away.
“Damn it! I knew this was going to happen!” said Sarah a few moments later when she joined her friend.
“I have to say I didn’t see this one coming!” said Jack as brought his hand over his head.
“Really!? Now what are we going to do, Mr. let’s-save-everybody-from-themselves?” snapped Sarah as she paced the pavement passing her hand through her hair. She always did that when she was frustrated.
“Relax, S. Relax. We’ll figure this one out. Don’t worry. We’ll think of something” and at that moment, Samir’s cellphone rang displaying Ibrahim’s name on the screen.
“So? How did it go?” asked Ibrahim as he spoke in his usual low tone whenever he was at the bank, as if there was some kind of law forbidding talking normally on the phone.
“Not good man. We barely said anything to her and she stormed out of her office. We couldn’t catch up with her”
“Smooth! Anyway, since the Salma angle didn’t work out, I think we’ve got ourselves a new lead” said Ibrahim in a “matter-of-fact” tone.
“Yeah? Well spill it out!”
“You’re not going to like this but Karim Imnan just called and he wants to meet me”
Your comments are most welcomed
As always, the Cairo Contra team encourages the interaction between the readers and the team itself. What did you think of today’s events in the lives of the Gang’s members? Who is your favorite character so far? Who do you relate to the most? I can’t wait to read your comments!
Until next time!