“Manolis weaves an intriguing tale of international malfeasance and its effects on many including two Iraqi war orphans in America and their lovers…”
– Ben Nuttall-Smith

Circle is a political intrigue story that reflects recent world events and their aftermath. The characters are caught between circumstances of their cultures and politics of the times, players who are not what they portray: naïve and cunning, loyal and duplicitous, sentimental and appetite driven.

Hakim wakes up and turning to his side, he looks at Jennifer who’s still asleep. She looks beautiful when she’s asleep, like an angel, he thinks, and he runs his hand down her body.
Like an angel with a nice ass. He smiles at the thought.
It’s Tuesday, 6:00 in the morning, and he has to meet his uncle at the hotel for their ride to the airport. He hurries to the shower. When he’s out of the shower she’s still sleeping. He goes closer to her and wakes her up with a light nudge. Jennifer opens her eyes.
“Is it time, already?”
He nods yes. Jennifer is up and ready in a little while and they have a quick coffee before he has to leave. It’s still early for her to leave for her office which is just a short distance away. The other day Hakim gave her a key to his apartment.
“I’m going, sweetie.” He kisses her.
“Have a good trip, my love. Take care. I love you,” she hugs him.
Fifteen minutes later he’s at the hotel and takes the elevator to his uncle’s suite. Ibrahim is ready. Before they get into the elevator to go down, Ibrahim says to one of the guards, “Rassan, you remember my nephew, Hakim? No matter what happens, he’s to you exactly as I am, do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.”
Both bodyguards shake hands with Hakim, a sign of understanding and they all go into the lobby. The clerk at the desk calls their limo and they get on their way, arriving at the airport about two hours before the flight. Although so many years have gone by since the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, the security procedures at American airports haven’t changed very much. People still have to deal with long lines, strict rules, and expensive regulations.
They check their bags and go to the lounge for a drink before departure. Ibrahim orders a bottle of carbonated water, and Hakim orders a coffee. The two guards sit close by at a different table.
“Who are we to meet in New York, my uncle?”
“My lawyer, my stockbroker, and my banker. I want them to meet you. I want you to open an account with the broker and deposit your certificate in that account. I also want you to open an account with my banker in your own name.”
Their flight is a five-hour affair. They have first-class seats and are served a light lunch once the plane is in the air. Hakim is hungry and enjoys the food, although Ibrahim eats only a bit of his. They each enjoy a glass of red wine.
Hakim asks the same question as on the previous day.
“My uncle, you promised to tell me more about the work Matthew Roberts and the Admiral do for the CIA, do you remember?”
Ibrahim takes a deep breath, smiles, and says,
“It is a long story, my dear boy; however, in a nutshell, this is it. They both work for a department that goes by the code name the ‘Circle’. They are located in Washington D.C., not in Langley. In their department 130 people analyze intelligence, data, and information, and make recommendations to the Executive Branch. This is where decisions about war take place. Based on the recommendations of the Admiral, who bases his decisions on the analyses of Matthew’s people, the war room as some call it, takes its stand against any enemy as circumstances dictate.”
He stops and takes a deep breath. Ibrahim does that a lot more often, Hakim notices. The old man looks at his nephew, wondering how far he can still go with this.
“They are the basis of a detailed system that undermines the governments of various countries, based on what their goals are and serving their interests the best way possible. They formed the basis for the decision to go against Saddam Hussein in the war of 2003. That department of the CIA is the one which sexed up the propaganda before the war.”
“In other words, they are the reason the war started?”
“Well, I wouldn’t put it that way exactly; however, they had a lot to do with it. You see, they are not the final decision makers of the government, but they make recommendations based on data. They have a plan of action for any foreseeable event, which could turn the outcome of their strategy one way or another. They plan with various options always before them, and even then they prove to be wrong on many occasions. There’s always a variable that cannot be predicted ahead of time, and when it comes to play, it alters the results time and time again. This is the same reason they are wrong so many times — the unpredictability of the reactions of people to certain events and to intelligence. Every time you think how or why a decision has to be made, it’s like being in a maze, and you can only hope for the outcome you have predicted.”
He stops for a while, calls the flight attendant and orders two glasses of wine. Hakim takes a sip of his wine, looks at his watch, and estimates they are halfway to New York. His uncle looks tired. Yet Hakim wants to know more.
“What else do you know, my uncle?”
He learns that the CIA have undermined a number of governments over the years. They have been involved in several countries, from Chile in the seventies, to Bosnia in the nineties, Somalia, and more. Ibrahim continues, “Of course, most importantly they got involved with our country. However, don’t think that this is the only time they got involved with Iraq. Americans have been around for a long time and they are the ones who armed Saddam in the first place; they provided him with the best army at the time and set him against the Iranians. It was a war that lasted a long time and cost us hundreds of thousands of dead and billions of dollars.”
“Well, if they helped Saddam to power and armed him, then why did they turn against him and cast him out?”
“It’s the way politics goes sometimes, my son. Politics makes bad bedfellows. You have a friend now, and later that friend becomes the enemy, and the game goes on. You see, in politics, being in the game is what matters, not whether you win or lose. It’s just the need to be in the game.”
He stops and sips his wine as Hakim tries to absorb all he has heard. In other words, Hakim thinks, one could say it was Jennifer’s dad’s work that started the war in 2003. The reality of such a thought brings a taste of hatred to his mouth, a taste he doesn’t like at all. Feelings of hatred go deep for the people who killed his parents. But how can he hate Jennifer? Still the end result was the death of his parents and the destruction of their home, and someone will have to pay for that.
“Then, one can say it was Matthew’s work that caused the war that started in 2003, my uncle?”
“That would be stretching the case to look at it that way. The work of that department is a major instrument for the decision taken, I agree.”
“What else do they do in that department of the CIA?”
“Basically, that, my boy. They undermine and destabilize countries, giving them reasons to get involved and come to the assistance of the populace. You see, when a country is destabilized they find the right to interfere. They claim it’s in their national interest to do so. After the fall of the Soviet Union, so many eastern countries were desolate and the Americans leapt in like vultures, and by throwing dollars into their economies, sought to buy loyalty for a long time. You could call it ‘Divide and Conquer’. The British were experts at that 100 years ago. However in the end, they were kicked out of great many places, and even lost the influence they had exercised on those people. That’s the way things are now going for the Americans and that’s why you see anti-Americanism all over the world. You know, my son, five billion people cannot all be wrong and the Americans the only ones right.”
“One more question, my uncle, then I’ll leave you to rest as I see you look tired. Since Saddam didn’t have the weapons of mass destruction, the main reason for the attack, why didn’t he come out in the beginning to state that clearly, and get the support of the other countries around the gulf?”
Ibrahim looks at him for a moment, “Always remember, my son, power is so convincing, so overwhelming, it’s like a drug; it makes a person become addicted. Saddam liked it to be known by the other nations of the gulf that he had weapons of mass destruction, because that made him look even more powerful than he really was. It was another part of the political game; one he lost in the end. He bluffed with the Americans for years for that very reason. He didn’t expect them to attack. That’s where he was wrong. But the results of the war are the thousands of our people who lost their lives and the billions of dollars it has cost us, and the thousands of orphans it has created. There is no end to the misery that war brings. Always remember it’s a good policy to keep your head down and be out of sight; never gloat about things you don’t have no power over.”
Hakim leaves him to close his eyes for a while as they are drawing closer to their destination. Their flight is smooth and relaxing and there has been no turbulence at all. Hakim feels like closing his eyes as well, so they both relax for a while.
In New York on schedule they head for the Sheraton Manhattan Hotel. Ibrahim, as always, has reserved a penthouse suite on the top floor. The guards take the luggage upstairs. It is about 6:30 in the evening and Ibrahim wants to rest for a while before dinner.
Hakim lies on the couch and tries to relax, but finds it very hard to do so as his mind jumps from one bad thought to another. He starts to feel a hatred he hasn’t felt before, like a fire slowly burning inside him, yet he welcomes that feeling as it gives him some consolation for his parents. Deep inside, he has never forgotten the hate he has carried since the days when he was taken home by his Uncle Ibrahim and Aunt Mara. Now, he recognizes the feeling he has suppressed it for such a long time and now it comes to the surface to give him the release he needs, a release that will only be fully realized when he can avenge their deaths.

* * * * * *

Jennifer is at home with Emily watching the game shows they both enjoy. They finish their dinner around seven in the evening when the phone rings. Jennifer rushes to get it hoping that it’s Hakim but it’s Matthew from his hotel in Washington.
“Hi Dad, how are you?”
“Hi sweetheart, I’m good; how are you both doing?”
“I’m okay, Dad. I’ll get mom.” She passes the phone to her mother.
“Hi, Matt,”
“Hello, my love; how are you?”
“I’m fine; how is the weather there?”
“It’s nice and warm for this time of year. I phoned yesterday around lunch and couldn’t find you. Is everything okay?”
Emily thinks back to yesterday, “Yes, everything is fine.” She lowers her voice and continues. “Jen is lonely since Hakim went to New York with his uncle, but other than that we are good.”
“Hakim is in New York? That was what I wanted to talk to you about yesterday.”
“What is it, Matt? You sound excited.”
“Honey, it’s a lot bigger than what we thought. Do you know what he is to inherit? Ibrahim is a very rich man, very rich; and guess who it is all going to? — Hakim.”
“What is he going to inherit?”
“An estate worth over two billion dollars.”
“Two billion dollars, now come to your senses, Matthew, you’re not serious, are you?”
“I’m dead serious, baby; I’ve done the research. I know facts.”
Emily’s mind, like Matthew’s, races to what an astronomical amount of money two billion dollars is. She smiles at the thought. What, if any, effect will this have on Talal? After all, they are buddies. They are like brothers. Has Talal a piece of that?
“Should we say something to Jennifer?”
“No, leave it alone; we’ll tell her when I get there on the weekend.”
“Alright then, I won’t mention anything to her.”
“I’m still wondering why he went with his uncle to New York, though. Perhaps the ball has started to roll already. If that is the case, we’ll see the results very soon.”
Emily says is ready to hang up.
Mathew is still excited with the idea of the money and carries on.
“You didn’t tell me where you were yesterday, where were you?”
“I was out shopping.”
“Good night, then. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Matt.” She ends their conversation. She’s not in the mood for more talk tonight; her favorite game show is on and her mind is preoccupied with two eyes full of sadness and anger, as well as all the money Matthew has just told her about.
Matthew is on his bed, at 9:20 p.m. in Washington D.C., and wants to rest his brain from the exhaustion of the day at the office. Yet his mind won’t let him relax, as it races to the troubling suspicion of his wife’s whereabouts yesterday. Could she be cheating on him? Matthew has been married for a long time; he’s a fifty-five-year-old established bureaucrat. Why suddenly does he have all this anxiety about his wife being unfaithful?
He turns on his other side and crawls under the sheets. He changes the TV channel and slowly his eyes grow tired. He feels all the emptiness in his stomach and in his heart. Then his worrisome mind slows down and he falls asleep.
“What did Dad have to say, Mom?” Jennifer asks.
“Nothing important, honey, the same old story.”
“Is he coming home on the weekend? I heard you telling him Hakim has gone to New York. Did he say anything about that?”
“No honey, nothing. He says he’ll be home on the weekend.”
Jennifer goes upstairs to her room and Emily pours herself a drink.

* * * * * *

Wednesday morning in New York and the sky is clear. A tired city awakens from a last night of excitement and partying. New York is a city that never sleeps, like Las Vegas. New York has the reputation as being the best entertainment city in North America, although the big corporations running the Las Vegas casinos like to think their city is the best in that department.
Hakim is up. He gazes at the view of the waterway. Far to his right he can see the boats as well as cars in the streets. He has been up for a while when Ibrahim comes into his room, prepared for the day.
“Good morning, my uncle.”
“Good morning, my dear son.”
Ibrahim calls Rassan to order their breakfast. While they wait Ibrahim calls his lawyer, William Polson.
He speaks to the receptionist, “Good morning, this is Ibrahim Mahdi. I am in New York and I would like to talk to William.”
It takes a few moments before a person answers.
“Good morning, Ibrahim, how are you? Welcome to New York. Where are you staying?”
“Good morning, William. I am at the Manhattan Sheraton as always. I want you to get Bill Wanton and Regis Hudson and come over for an hour, some time after eleven. I need you all for an hour or so. Get Regis and Bill to bring along the necessary forms for new accounts. You also need to prepare a power of attorney and bring it along.”
“That sounds good, Ibrahim; I’ll put everything together. I’ll confirm our timing within half an hour.”
“Very well, then,” Ibrahim puts the phone down.
His lawyer, William Polson, wonders what brings the old man to New York this time of year. Usually, he comes in the spring because he likes to stroll when the flowers are in bloom and he gets the chance to play a game of golf. However, his task now is to find the other two and make sure they show up on time because he knows their time is limited and he doesn’t want to keep Ibrahim Mahdi waiting.
Breakfast has arrived and Hakim and Ibrahim enjoy it while the two bodyguards eat theirs in the other room. Ibrahim briefs his nephew about what is to take place.
Before they finish their breakfast, the phone rings and the lawyer confirms they’ll be at Ibrahim’s suite no later than twelve o’clock. That pleases his uncle and they relax for a while. Hakim wants to call L.A. to check on things at the office and he also wants to talk to Jennifer. He makes his phone calls. He is reassured by Peter that everything is fine at the office. After speaking with Jennifer, he decides he’d like to go for a walk in this big city for an hour. Ibrahim tells him, “Go ahead, my dear boy, go for an hour. A walk will be good for you. Don’t be late; our visitors will be here by noon. That gives you an hour and a half. Take along Rassan; he knows a bit of this city.”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary, I just want to be alone and walk for a bit. I won’t go far and I won’t be late, don’t worry.”
He gets organized and in a few minutes is on the street, outside the big hotel. This is such a busy city with all the traffic, all the honking, and all the cabs. He spends some time looking around and taking pictures. Hakim realizes this is the city that got hit by the terrorists back in 2001 and has never been the same since. Yet people are everywhere, walking, talking to one another or to themselves as they go by, a lot of them talking into the earpieces of their phones as they walk. It’s a big city with big buildings and big problems. Like other cities New York has the unemployed, the hungry and the homeless, the well-to-do, the criminals and the law-abiding citizens, and others who write their own laws in the streets, day and night. Hakim comes to realize this is the way of life in every big city of the world, New York is no exception.
About an hour later, he returns to the hotel by backtracking and is in his uncle’s suite at 11:20. He steps into the shower and gets ready for the meeting.
The visitors, as Ibrahim called them, come right at 12:00. Rassan has ordered a bottle of champagne and finger food.
“Good morning to all,” the lawyer says, as he enters. He shakes hands with Ibrahim.
The other two do the same.
Ibrahim introduces Hakim.
“Gentlemen, here is my son, not my natural son, as you know I was never gifted with one, yet this is my son, Hakim. Remember his name, Hakim. Always remember that he’s just as I am; when he speaks to you, it’s like I am speaking to you.”
Then he turns to Hakim and says, “My dear son, this is your lawyer, William Polson, your bank manager, Bill Wanton, and your broker, Regis Hudson. These’re the men you’ll be dealing with from now on regarding our affairs.”
They shake hands with Hakim, who feels overwhelmed by all the attention. Ibrahim calls Rassan to pour champagne for all of them and they have a toast. They drink and they take some food, and they chat for a few minutes until Ibrahim says, “Well, gentlemen, now is the time to put together all the papers. We want one bank account in Hakim’s name and one account with Regis.”
They do the paperwork. Ibrahim transfers ten million dollars into Hakim’s bank account. The broker takes the certificate of Hakim’s shares and gives him a receipt. Toward the end of the meeting, Ibrahim asks the lawyer, “You have a power-of-attorney prepared, I suppose? Let me sign it. Keep it in your hands and remember that power of attorney gives this young man the right to everything I have with the three of you here in the United States. If for some reason something happens to me unexpectedly, or should I become incapacitated, this man will manage my affairs, as he is my heir.”
All three listen carefully to what Ibrahim says and nod in agreement.
“Is there something we should know, sir?” William asks, taking Ibrahim aside while the others concentrate on doing the paperwork.
“I’m facing a health issue, William, and I want everything to be in order should something occur. I’m about to start chemotherapy, and since I don’t know the side-effects of the medication or to what extent it’ll affect my ability to manage my affairs, I present you with my heir, and you now know what to do. I rely on your professionalism to see that things go smoothly, when the time comes.”
Hakim feels extremely hot all of a sudden as his mind fills with what he can do with all this money and the shares he’s to start dealing with as early as tomorrow. He feels anxious about all this activity which has to do with his future and the responsibility of reigning over the empire of his uncle’s wealth. The champagne makes him a bit more relaxed. Ibrahim has just transferred ten million dollars into his account and his shares are worth close to three million dollars. Suddenly he is a multi-millionaire. His mind goes back a few days ago to when he was just a poor computer engineer. Now, with a few strokes of the pen, and thanks to his Uncle Ibrahim, all that has changed. But with all the money comes a very heavy responsibility.
He starts feeling the weight of the anticipated expectations of his uncle, and a fear overtakes him: will he be capable of doing what is expected of him? Yet, he knows deep in his heart that he’s destined to achieve big things. Hakim takes what’s in front of him with courage and a positive attitude, and suddenly all the responsibility seems a lot easier. He’ll make sure the water trickles down the proper ditch; why should he feel bad?
What is there to feel bad about, after all, when you are given a few million dollars to play with and you know that there is a lot more coming your way from the same source?
He smiles at the thought and moves closer to his uncle, who is talking to Bill Wanton.
“Congratulations, Hakim,” the banker says to him.
“Bill, I’ll be in touch.”
“Don’t forget to give your name to reception and always ask for me.”
“Of course, of course.”
Regis Hudson has been a broker for the past twenty-five years. He specializes in mergers and acquisitions. He has a small portfolio of selected clients with the big bucks — the big wheels, as he calls them — one of them Ibrahim, perhaps the largest account in Regis’s portfolio. He turns the old man’s portfolio around once every twelve to eighteen months; however, a portfolio of this size gives Regis the income of a few months at a time, and he is happy with that. Now he has to deal with the young man, and he sees the opportunity of further rewards as he expects Hakim to be more aggressive in the acquisition and disposal of securities. He moves closer to Hakim and takes him aside.
“Let me ask you, Hakim, is there anything on your mind you need to attend to anytime soon?”
“Yes, there is something I’d like to do; however, I’ll be in touch with you from L.A. Give me a few days.”
The meeting comes to an end at about 1:45 in the afternoon. The visitors leave and Ibrahim decides to rest for a while. Rassan makes arrangements for their flight back to L.A. They fly at 6:30 p.m. on an American Airlines flight that will get them to L.A. around 8:30 p.m. Hakim cannot relax with all the activity of the day, with all this money in his account he feels overwhelmed. The feeling is hard to describe. He knows his life will be different from now on, but in exactly what way he cannot see, as yet. But he himself is not any different, he knows that; his bank account has a lot more money, that’s all. Yet, how is Jennifer going to look at him from now on?

* * * * * *

Thursday morning Los Angeles opens her eyes, staring at the sun rising steadily on the eastern horizon, gifting the city with warmth and joy. Even the homeless smile this morning knowing it will be easier to locate food in the restaurant garbage bin or the neighborhood pub garbage; there’s always something edible there. The smog overarches the city touching the taller buildings, sitting lazily on top of the high-rises. Rush hour is beginning and traffic increases with bottlenecks in main arteries. One can hear the morning sounds of the commercial, business center as people slowly reach to their destinations, stores open their doors and customers rush in.
Ibrahim Hazim Mahdi sips his morning coffee and reads the latest news. He’s pleased with the way his day went yesterday; he felt pride with Hakim next to him all along. Sometimes, he remembers having asked Allah why he wasn’t gifted with a son of his own, yet that was years ago. These days he takes what comes his way as a gift from the Almighty because he knows the days of each are counted first by Him and next by His people.
Ibrahim knows deep in his heart that Hakim is going to do just fine with the money that he’s leaving for him. He also knows that Hakim will take good care of his Auntie Mara, as long as Allah choses to keep her in this world. Despite all these positive thoughts there still lingers an unexplained anxiety which has taken hold of his mind and makes his heart ache; yet he cannot find the reason for it. He wonders why he feels this now, after has taken care of everything.
The phone rings and he answers to a girl’s voice.
“Good morning, I’m calling from the medical center. Mr. Mahdi, please.”
“This is Ibrahim Mahdi.”
“Sir, I need to arrange an appointment for you with the specialist who examined you. He has the results from your tests. What would be the best time for you later today?”
“Any time is fine, young lady.”
“Alright then, is one in the afternoon okay?”
“Yes, that will be fine; I’ll be there at one.”

* * * * * *

It’s early evening in Baghdad, and Ibrahim decides to call Mara. He dials his number at home. The maid gets the phone and calls his wife.
“Hello,” he says, “how are you? I haven’t talked to you for two days.”
He hears Mara weeping on the other end and asks, “Why are you crying, my beloved? I’ll be home in a couple of days. Is everything alright?”
“Yes, everything is alright,” she manages to say while sobbing. “Are you really on your way home soon?” She doubts him.
“Yes, my dear, everything I need to do here is done. We got back from New York last night; I’m on my way to the medical center to get the results this afternoon. Don’t worry. I’ll be there in a couple of days.”
“Alright then. How is my son doing?”
“He’s doing very well; he has a girlfriend who seems to be a nice girl. Everything is fine.”
He says goodbye to her and puts the phone down. Yet a feeling of discomfort still lingers in his mind.
Perhaps I’m just apprehensive of the test results, he thinks, and that gives him some peace of mind.

* * * * * *

Hakim has been up for one hour or so, as the events of yesterday have kept him awake just about all night. His mind jumps from one thought to another, and always, the question of what he can do with all this money at his disposal. He needs to buy an apartment; he may buy a new car; what else? He cannot think of anything else right now. Maybe he can help Talal with his bills, as well. When he thinks of his friend, he picks up the phone and calls him.
“Hey, Talal, how are you?”
Talal is surprised to hear him this early in the morning.
“Hey to you, too; what time did you get in?”
“Around 8:30 last night the flights were on time, both ways. My friend, you wouldn’t believe what happened there. I’m still amazed at how things went. I’ll tell you all about it when I see you; I’m not going to the office today, so we’ll hook up later for a game of pool, okay?”
“Okay, you dirt bag, but what happened, tell me now.”
“No, not now, when I see you later.”
“Well, I have news for you also, remember?”
“Oh yes, I remember. I’ll call you later.”
He hasn’t called Jennifer yet. He doesn’t feel like calling. His mind travels to her father and he wonders how he can see him without saying anything. He wonders whether it would be a good idea to talk to Jennifer about it; Matt is her father, and he should let her know of her dad’s activities. On the other hand, she may already know. Perhaps it would be better to leave her out of it completely.
He wants to know how things are in the office; however, it’s still a bit early to call. He has a quick shower and makes toast. He likes the looks of the weather outside, so he decides to go for a walk. He’s out of the apartment within ten minutes and heads to his favorite spot in the park. He spends about half an hour walking when Jennifer calls him.
“Hello, honey, you are up already and haven’t called.”
“Hi, sweetie, I didn’t want to get you up this early; how are you?”
“I’m good. I miss you.”
“Sweetie, I was only gone for two days. What are you going to do if I’m gone for a month or so?”
“Where do you have to go for a month?” she asks, and he feels her panic.
“I don’t, I’m just asking. What are you going to do if I’m to go for a month someplace?”
“I don’t know. If that happens, we’ll see. When am I going to see you?”
“Later on this afternoon or evening. I’ll call you as soon as I’m free.”
“Alright. I love you.”
He returns to the path and carries on with his walk. His mind goes to Ibrahim. Hakim cannot stop being amazed by his uncle’s decision to trust him with all this money. Yet, he also knows his uncle’s estate is worth a lot more than ten million dollars; he also knows he’s the only heir besides his Auntie Mara. His brain spins at what a person can do with so much money. He also remembers that he has three cousins in Iraq from his uncle Osman in Tikrit, two women and a man. Hakim wonders whether Uncle Ibrahim has put anything aside for them.
His uncle is in Hakim’s thoughts when the phone rings and it’s Ibrahim to let him know he has to go to the medical center for the results of the biopsy at one in the afternoon. Hakim promises to go along with him and Ibrahim sounds happy.

* * * * * *

Emily Roberts is browsing through the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine while drinking her morning coffee and listening to the television. Nothing but killings and all the horrid things people do all over the world. Sometimes, she doesn’t even feel like putting the TV on, yet she does it automatically, like so many other things people do without thinking.
Jennifer has gone to work and Matthew will probably call around 9:30 his usual checking-in time. Emily knows she has to be careful from now on, ever since the day he called and she was out with Talal. She knows his mind goes to a million different things, and rightly so, she admits to herself; he’s a man and Emily knows what men do when they think of their wives being unfaithful.
She grabs the phone and calls Talal.
“Hello there, sweet Talal.”
“Hello to you, too, my sweet Emily; how are you this morning?” His voice is melodious to her ears, like honey on his tongue.
“I’m okay, and you?”
“I’m good, what’s on your mind?”
“I’m alone, I’m thinking of things and I wonder if—‘’ She stops right there, giving him the chance to take the initiative.
“Oh, is that so?” he says with that laugh that makes her feel so good. “Perhaps some company from a certain man would be in good order.” He plays with her.
“See you in twenty.”
She’s elated. He’s on his way. She rushes to the shower. She’s so happy and finds herself to be so aroused as well. She finishes her shower, puts on a robe and fixes her hair. She’s ready. She looks at the clock; Matthew shouldn’t phone for at least another three quarters of an hour, enough time to enjoy Talal’s touch, his firmness. As if listening to her thoughts, he rings the doorbell. She rushes to the door.
“Good morning, my sweet Emily.”
“Good morning to you, too, my sweet Talal,” she says, as he comes in and she falls into his arms. He smiles and her whole world is smiling at her, her whole world changes into a fairytale, and his voice sounds like a fresh spring song. Her lips search for his with passion.
They walk slowly upstairs, kissing along the way, and at the same time he removes his clothes. They lie down and make passionate love.
She is in seventh heaven for a long time. He is there next to her, relaxing after all the pleasures of their lovemaking. When Emily touches his body, she knows heaven can not be much better than that.
He turns to her and asks, “When is your husband coming home?”
“Why are you asking me that?”
He doesn’t go any further with that, but asks instead, “What do you like to do, Emily? What hobbies do you have?”
She finds his interest strange. He has never asked her that before.
“I don’t have any, really.”
“Why not, what do you do for Emily, my sweet Emily?” he insists.
What do I do for myself? She asks herself out loud.
“Yeah, besides being a wife and a mother, what else do you like to do? Some people like to go for walks, others like to play pool, what do you like to do that you enjoy?”
“I know what you are asking me, my sweet Talal. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever giving much thought to that before. What do I like to do? Well, I like to take pictures. I always liked the idea of someday starting to take underwater pictures. I’m a good swimmer.”
“Underwater photography. Now, that’s something I would love to do myself,” he says.
“Yeah,” he says. Then, as if thinking to himself, he carries on. “There is so much beauty to take pictures of back home, in the gulf.”
She gets excited about the idea and says to him with a smile on her face, “Perhaps one day we may get the chance to do that.”
He looks deep into her loving eyes and says quite seriously,
“Yes, perhaps some day, my sweet Emily, some day soon, I hope.”
He gets up, dresses, and goes downstairs. She’s in her robe when she kisses him at the door and says, “I hope to see you soon. I love you.” She’s afraid of her own voice as she utters these last words.
He stares at her like he did earlier upstairs and says, “Yes, sweet Emily, soon. I love you, too.”
He leaves. She’s higher than heaven. She’s a woman in love, again, in love with a younger man, and this recognition makes her feel like a seventeen-year- old girl, finding the beats of her heart, singing a melodious tune, the same as his voice when he talks to her.

From Manolis’s new novel ‘The Circle’ (Libros Libertad 2011)

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