Glass Enclave
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Tarig, Rae had asked about Tarig. There was Ethiopian blood in his family, in the copper hint to his skin, the shape of his nose. Studying for exams, so many exams to become a doctor. Tarig doodling music on his notes. They came to Aberdeen for more exams. Part One, Part Two. Exams that never ended. Culture-shocked they were alone together for the first time. No Mahasen, no Hanan. No one in this new city but them. They had dreamt of this, talked of this. Yet like the elderly who remember the distant past more clearly than the events of the previous day, Sammar lived with a young Tarig inside her head.

'When he was fourteen', she said to Rae, 'Tarig broke his leg. He fell off a ladder while he was trying to hang up a poster in his room. The ladder fell too. It made a terrible bang which woke Mahasen from her afternoon nap. She came rushing into the room and beat him with her slipper for being careless and for waking her up. I was laughing at him, I couldn't help it. I covered my mouth knowing it was wrong to laugh when grown-ups were angry. But I couldn't stop myself. He looked so funny tangled up with the ladder, fending off Mahasen's slipper. It was a good thing she did not see me laughing or else she would have turned on me too'.

In the Winter Gardens, Sammar started to laugh. 'I always laugh', she said, 'when people fall down, I can't help myself. And Rae laughed and said, 'Not a very refined sense of humour'.

She said, 'No, not very', and went on. 'His father had to take him to Germany for an operation -- the doctors had to put metal pins in his calf. The day they came back, the house was full of people and all the lights were on. From Germany, they brought with them boxes and boxes of lovely chocolates. Mahasen saved them for the important guests and everyone else got Mackintosh, a tin that was past its sell-by date. They sold them like that, imported at the Duty Free Shop, the chocolates ashy-grey, the toffees stuck to their wrapping.

'Tarig came back different, like he was suddenly older, even though he had been away only for a month. His leg was in plaster and he had crutches which Hanan and I took turns to hop with around the house. I wrote my name in Arabic and in English on the white plaster'.


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