Chapter 2


    Joe stood scowling by the airport’s huge bank of public telephones. He was mad and worried. In the few minutes it took the international operator to connect him, he was thinking dark thoughts.

    “Wadi, Maggie is on her way. I just put her on flight 705. She’ll get into Beirut on Friday. Pick her up but don’t give her Ali’s passport and see if you can get her passport. That will scare her and show her who is in charge.”

    “Ok Joe, I’ll pick her up. Shall I take Ali with me to the airport?”

    After a thoughtful pause, “Yes, go ahead and take her with you.”

    Maggie arrived at the Beirut Airport midmorning. Standing in the baggage area she was anxiously looking for Wadi, Joe’s brother. She was trying hard to remember what he looked like, but she’d only seen blurry photos of him and his family. He held a high executive position with the official Lebanese government radio station, according to Joe. She expected a man in a suit leading Ali by the hand.

    “Oh!” She thought. “I think I see him. No...that’s not him.”

    She continued to scan the crowd. “Yes I do see him.” He wore the same sunglasses in all his photos. He wore a short- sleeved, white sports shirt which was not tucked into his pants.

    But where was Ali? “Keep calm,” she lectured herself. “She’s here. I know she’s here!”

    Wadi walked toward Maggie holding a little boy’s hand. “Is that his son?” she mused. “I thought he and Amale had two girls.”

    As he drew closer she suddenly realized it was Ali. “Oh my God. She looks like a boy! What happened to her long curly hair?”

    “Calm Down. Don’t cry.” Maggie lectured herself again. “Keep your cool.”

    They came face to face.
    “Hello Maggie.” Wadi greeted her.
    “Hello Wadi,” she said. But her eyes were locked on Ali. “Hello Sweetie.”
    Ali looked up at her mother and said, “What are you doing 
here? Daddy told me you didn’t want me now because you have Daddy Lee and Jackie.”

    Maggie felt lightheaded. Her heart dropped to her feet. “Keep calm. Don’t panic. You can do this,” she kept saying to herself.

    She knelt and tried to take Ali in her arms. “Ali. Mi vida. Mami te adora. Yo no te abandone.”

    Ali, her life and love, looked away from her mother. Eyes down. “Don’t talk to me en Espanole. I only speak English and Arabic now. I don’t know what you’re saying.”

    Six weeks ago Ali mostly spoke Spanish. “Oh my God. She doesn’t want anything to do with me or even my language.” Maggie whimpered to herself. She thought, “Joe’s family has brainwashed her.”

    Wadi said, “Is this your suitcase?”

    Maggie nodded, while trying to fight back the tears. She was both angry and frightened. He picked it up and walked off holding Ali with his other hand. Heartsick, Maggie followed.

    Wadi’s car was a little 4-door European model. Ali rode in front with Wadi. Fuming, Maggie sat in back.

    “I’ll take you to your hotel so you can check in and then we’ll go to my house. Amale is making lunch for us.”

    The streets of Beirut were crowded. Many women wore traditional Islamic hijab and others were in European styles. Men wore both Middle Eastern robes and western suits. The mix of style and culture seemed very foreign and exotic to Maggie. There were grand boulevards and mysterious little streets and avenues going off in all directions. Tall palm trees graced the street corners and parks they passed.

    Army tanks were positioned on major intersections with sand bags piled around them. ”What a strange, scary city,” Maggie thought to herself.

    Food shops had barrels of pistachios, olives and herbs lined up in front of their doors. Women were carrying small plastic sacks filled with exotic groceries.

    The drivers seemed rough. Traffic was fast and aggressive.


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Copyright © Bill Serle 2011