Monday, February 13, 2012

Finding Her (Muse 5 A Misplaced Identity)

Continued from Muse 4

A tiny moleskin notebook is tucked tightly into one of the side pockets of the backpack. Rick's astounded. "Didn't Silverman even look for an address book?" 

It's alphabetised pages promising contacts, names and numbers. Yet as he flicks from A to S, there isn't a single entry. Each page blank and clean. Under 'S'  a name. "Fariq Said" Rick feels like he's now in familiar territory. Although he knows Fariq is dead, perhaps there's family, if not here in the US; maybe in Farique's home country.  As he strokes a finger beneath the handwritten name, he can smell coffee and freshly made bread, as his subconscious is taken to a land far away; to breakfast with a couple he's never met.


Women can do many things here despite having to obey Sharia law. Unlike their Saudi cousins, a Persian woman can drive, attain a university degree and hold pubic office. Unlike their Arab neighbours, Persian women don't cover their faces even though remaining covered everywhere else at least, in public, it is mandatory. One thing Persian women cannot do, is leave the country without their husband's permission. Tala Hosseini hopes that this will not present her with a problem. Her husband loves her, as did her brother.  A brother who loved her enough to divulge a secret. A tale of a beautiful Colombian and a child he'd never met. Unable to bear children herself, she longs to see the child she now calls niece. Although she has limited access, she's maintained contact with Candide. When the emails ceased, she worried for Marique - A teenager alone in a country less respectful of its women than even Iran. A child cosseted by guerrillas and naive about the world.  And now a young woman in the wilds of America, a landscape so alien to home. 

Tala is an educated woman, an intellectual. Well-read and wealthy beyond her years. Helped in no small way by a lucrative career, a successful marriage, and a family long-established in Tehran.

"Shahin?" She looks up from her newspaper and takes a sip from the tiny cup of strong coffee before biting into a piece of still warm Shirini Keshmeshi. She knows her husband will be slow to react.  "I worry about Marique. I haven't heard from her in so long. She's in America, she sounded unhappy, lonely. In her last letter, she sounded frightened. The longer I let time pass, the more I think about her, where she is, whether she's even alive."

Shahin is an understanding man and raises an eyebrow. He has an inkling towards what's coming next. "You know leaving the country will be difficult. You will have to return once you've found her?"

"I will but she deserves a good life. She didn't ask to be born. Fariq wasn't able to look after her. She has no family except us. We're wealthy, we can help. We can share his legacy. What do you think? Will you let me go?"

"What for? What will you do when you find her?"
"Give her her father's inheritance. His name. Tell her about him and how wonderful he was, how he loved her mother.  Let her know that she's not alone."

Shahin is reluctant but agrees. Even Sharia won't protect him from the persistence of a determined woman and one thing above all, marks Tala, she's irrepressible. That's what he loves about her.

"How will you find her?"

Tala speaks fluent English. Born in the US during a four year exchange where her father obtained his doctorate. She has dual citizenship and doesn't really need her husband's permission. As a young woman she'd returned to Iran after completing her own degree at UCLA. As a law student, she excelled, and now holds a professorial position in Tarbiat Modarres University. Leaving her homeland, even for a visit will be no problem. Finding her niece? A more challenging task.

"Er, I anticipated your allowing me to go....I have a friend. I met him while I was studying law. He's been around the traps, he knows people who could help.  Missing persons are his speciality, his expertise. I've already called him."

Shahin folds his newspaper. The silence between them deafening. She waiting for permission. He deliberating over such a reckless act. But he knows his wife and she'll go whether he permits it or not. 

"If you must." He stares intently at her, "You know it's a wild goose chase? You know you'll never find her?"

"Perhaps," she lowers her head in that demure way that drives him crazy and he gives in.

"Go...go to the land of the infidel. Just be careful."

Her delight causes her to leap forward and spill the coffee. As it's warmth penetrates her blouse she kisses the man she loves. The husband to whom she is devoted.  He would travel with her, but having never completed his National Service, he is not able to gain a passport.

"Thank you Shahin, you are a giant among men. I love you."


She begins rummaging through her top drawer, "I'm sure I put it here.." 

There's no sign of the familiar blue passport.  "Shahin? You seen my passport?" 

He hasn't, and inside he's rather glad that it's missing and this act of folly thwarted even before it began.  Her determination unperturbed she turns the house upside down looking for the misplaced identity.  As the frustration begins to percolate into anger, and even suspicion, Shahin proffers a quiet 'cough'. She turns to face him. The passport held high between his thumb and forefinger.

"I'm a lucky woman to have found such an understanding man."

She kisses him softly and holds him tight as the horn of a waiting taxi blares impatiently. She's excited and afraid. Checks her travel documents once more. Hotel in LA - check. Ticket - check. The last photograph she has of a young girl sitting on cool steps in a school uniform..

"I'll find her, I will!"  She kisses her passport and passes a parting smile to Shahin.

"A month. I'll be back in a month." She sweeps through the door, hijab intact, limbs covered with western clothes stashed in her wheelie case. He wishes he could go with her. He secretly fears she won't return.

She's unrecognisable when she lands. Dressed smartly in western clothes. A short sleeved top providing liberation in public, for one who's normally covered. Her hair pulled neatly up into a French roll and uncovered. Her knees beneath a shortend pencil skirt, seeing the bright Californian sun for the second time in 40 years. She resolves to hit the beach when this is all over, just once, to lie beneath the sun - bare-legged and bare-armed.

She pulls her cell phone from a stylish handbag and reconnects with someone she hasn't seen for a very long time. There's no time to waste. Her stay short and purpose clear, 

"Josh? Joshua Silverman?"

The portly cop smiles, "Tala...My God it's been years, how the hell are you."


  1. Josh Silverman... is this the same Silverman who's the police detective in part 1? Um...

  2. loving the character developement and the direction this seems to be going.

  3. Wait... what? Did her husband find the passport? Or was he hiding it all along? There's some confusion there.

    That stated, I do love this chapter and its new characters. THAT stated, I'm wondering how a four-year-old Iranian girl would remember a white boy she knew... when, exactly? The detail is confusing... you mention she was born during a four-year "exchange," but then imply she grew up in the US? Or did she return? DETAIL!

  4. I admit, I am a little confused. Hoping it clears up as I continue.