A woman uses every trick at her disposal to elude the men hunting her.
|They are coming for me.
Patiently following my trail across the world, they slowly clip my wings with each passing day. It began when my credit cards started declining each purchase. Bitterly, I tossed aside those useless pieces of plastic.
Maybe someone would pick one up and use it, leading my pursuers away.
But I knew it would only buy me few hours or even less. The King’s reach was long; I could still feel his fist hovering over my head. Where would he strike me down? Which country would grant asylum from that demon?
Everywhere I turned, blank faces shrugged. Nobody would hear my plea. This was just another day to them, another desperate face with a sob story. I wondered how those apathetic workers would feel if they knew what those alnisa hunters would do with me.
“We’re very sorry, Miss Saleh.” A flight attendant sighed wearily. “We cannot allow you to board any flights at this time.” The woman closed my passport and placed it in a small drawer.
I felt my face burning beneath the niqab.
What was she doing? “Excuse me, why are you keeping my passport?” My eyes glittered with indignation, but I could feel the invisible hand gripping the back of my neck.
Clasping her hands, the official informed me that Interpol had flagged a ‘red notice’ on my account. “You will be escorted to a waiting room until a Saudi diplomat can verify your situation.”
My head felt dizzy as she made a call, asking security to deliver me to the lion’s den. When my captors arrived, I would be handed over like a present. All wrapped up with a bow on top.
“I have to use the toilet.” I said quickly, walking to the bathroom as calmly as I could. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see several men making their way towards me. Gripping the handle of my luggage, I weaved through bystanders waiting for flights.
Security grew closer, air marshals muttering my description into their radios. The King’s laughter echoed hideously in my ears. Checkmate, he whispered. My property always returns, in one way or another.
Hands reached for me, trying to ensnare me in that cold emotionless grip. I could hear the hollow words they would say. We’re just doing our job, I’m sure there’s been some misunderstanding…
Inwardly, I screamed as they slowly surrounded me. Please… Allah, help me. If you truly are a just god, give your servant her freedom.
A TSA agent stepped forward, arms outstretched. I pretended not to see him but he stepped into my vision. “That’s far enough.” He motioned for me to accompany him. This was it, I thought. Soon I would be returned to a world where lives are merely sources of amusement. But Allah answered my prayer.
A woman with a crying toddler stepped between us. Darting behind her, I discarded my luggage and dove into the safety of the women’s room.
I burst into relieved tears and slumped against the wall.
Behind the door, I could hear angry voices arguing, frustrated that I eluded them temporarily. It wouldn’t be long until they sent someone inside.
Wiping my eyes, I took off my niqab, revealing plain clothes beneath. This was my final gamble, the only card I had left to play. Torn jeans and a simple tank top would help with blending in, but my caramel skin couldn’t make me invisible.
Humming a tune, a blonde lady entered and began touching up her makeup.
I approached her with a warm smile. “Hello. Would you mind doing me a huge favor?” Impatient, she gave me a disdained look. “What is it? I don’t have a lot of time.”
Ignoring her irritation, I made up a story that a strange man was stalking me and the TSA wouldn’t do anything. “Please help me, I’ll pay you. I just need you to distract him while I slip away.”
This was greeted with wariness, but when I slipped her two hundreds she became sympathetic to my plight. “Sure, darling. I’d be happy to help you.” All sweetness and charm, she nodded eagerly as I told her my plan.
When she left the bathroom, I waited a few long moments.
I gave her all my money, hopefully it would be worth the price. After a deep breath, I causally left my sanctuary and returned to the perilous world outside.
The TSA agents had surrounded the unfortunate woman wearing my niqab, shouting angrily. She was trying to explain but they wouldn’t let her speak as they brought out handcuffs. I caught her eyes briefly, a glare of betrayal flaring within those blue irises. She pointed an accusing finger in my direction. Heads turned to look, seeing nothing.
I already vanished into the busy crowd.
I felt guilty for deceiving a stranger, but I knew no harm would come to her. She was a citizen with rights, unlike me. The King could do with me as he saw fit, with no consequences. My mother had succumbed to his whims, enduring beatings and emotional torture. She was treated fairly well, compared to those that displeased the tyrannical monarch.
Any usurpers would mysteriously vanish, never to be seen again. Every case was similar, a black car would be spotted nearby and sometimes a struggle was heard. If an example was required, a close relative would receive a damp package with no markings.
A human head can be surprisingly light, when all blood has been drained.
Passing a nearby shop, I acted as if was checking out the sunglasses. In the mirror, I could see air marshals roaming through the crowds, searching for my face. They must have spread my passport photo.
Taking the largest pair of shades, I obscured my face as best I could. While the clerk was busy assisting a customer, I walked away nonchalantly as my heart pounded. My shaking legs wanted to carry me away from here.
I tried not to run towards the exit, glass doors beckoning to me with crystalline arms. Come, they said. Through here lie the gates of paradise.
A security guard brushed past me. I tried not to flinch when his narrow eyes scanned my face. Act natural. Just a few more feet…
He turned to watch me go, did he recognize me or was he just staring at my ass? I bit my lip and kept moving towards salvation. My throat felt as if it was being strangled in the King’s grasp. At any second, someone would place a heavy hand on my shoulder and my fate would be sealed.
The doors opened to me, blinding with radiance. In a daze, I passed through them.
At last, the land of the free stretched before me.
Homeless people held out cups, begging when I passed. Car horns beeped and sirens wailed. The acrid scent of exhaust and urine greeted my nostrils as I hurried down a filthy sidewalk. “So this is New York City.” I laughed to myself, giddy with relief. Who knew a grimy place could feel so divine?
Without a dollar to my name, I danced down the street while confused tourists watched. I didn’t care. Here, I could do whatever I wished. I could be whatever I wanted. I could wear anything! I could…
A black car pulled up beside me.
Before I could scream, the doors opened and two men rushed out. Rough hands muffled my cries as I thrashed, but nobody stopped them as they threw me into the back and climbed in.
Inside, my uncle Hassan leered with savage delight. “You flew so far, little bird. But now you will never fly again.” I tried to hit him, but the men pinned my arms.
"You can't do this! This is America!" I screamed.
Duct tape bound my hands and covered my shrieking mouth as Hassan laughed. "We have diplomatic immunity, my bride. No law can interfere with the House of Saud."
His callous chuckles melded into a roaring guffaw as the King claimed his property once again.