Egypt and the river Nile: view from a satellite. Watercolour and pen painted using NASA images. WARNING: Not accurate, please do not use for navigation purposes…. 😉
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
The houseboat was wooden, long and flat and moored up at the end of a row of other such boats. It had a large ship’s wheel and along the side railings batik prints were strung, giving some privacy and a bright feeling. There were lots of plants in pots and tinkling wind chimes The sweet smell of joss sticks pervaded the air. The whole thing had a very bohemian, hippy feel to it. Kallis loved it at once.
‘Oh, Yusef, it’s lovely!’
He laughed. ‘Yes. I wish it was mine but I have the next best thing – my friend is abroad on business and he asked me to look after it. All I have to do is put some water in the pot plants now and then. Come below, Kallis, and have a look.’
She followed him down some wooden steps. There was a tiny kitchen area, with a cooker and fridge, a small sink and draining board. There was a wooden table laid for two with seats around it built into the sides of the boat with large colourful cushions to sit on. There was a door across the centre of the boat, and Yusef opened this, showing a bedroom area and a bathroom. Kallis wandered around, taking this all in.
The oven was on in the kitchen and Yusef produced two pizzas out of it with a flourish.
‘Ah, Kallis, I am afraid I am not a cook, but I hope you like pizza?’
‘Love it.’ Kallis was pleased to have something simple after last night’s feast.
Yusef opened a bottle of red wine with apologies. ‘I am sorry but the Egyptian wine is not what you will be used to. We, as a Muslim nation, do not drink alcohol. I must confess, however, that I do partake from time to time.’ He pulled a face. ‘Don’t tell my mother.’
Kallis laughed and they clinked a toast.
Yusef asked Kallis about her day and where she had gone with Mona. The conversation flowed easily and Kallis felt relaxed and happy.
After they had finished eating, Yusef moved and sat next to Kallis.
He looked earnestly at her. ‘You know, Kallis, you are very beautiful. You look like a pale skinned Egyptian girl but you have such beautiful green eyes. I have never seen such eyes.’
‘I get them from my mother.’ Kallis wriggled away from him a bit. She didn’t like where this conversation was going.
‘Don’t move away from me, Kallis. Don’t you like me?’ Yusef put an arm around Kallis’ shoulders. She stood up and walked over to the other side of the boat, pretending to be interested in the Nile drifting past outside the small porthole. Yusef stood up and followed her over.
‘Ah, Kallis, my beautiful Kallis, come to me.’ Yusef grabbed her firmly by her arms and pulled her towards him.
Kallis shook him off and backed away. ‘No, Yusef, I’m sorry, I don’t feel that way about you. Listen, I would never have agreed to come here with you like this but you said I was like a sister to you…’
‘Ah, yes, a sister ….but we are not of the same blood, Kallis.’
‘No, I know that. The thing is, Yusef, I’m just not looking for a relationship at the moment. And in spite of what you may think of us Western woman, I don’t go in for casual sex.’
‘Well, you are straight to the point, Kallis,’ Yusef replied, looking a little embarrassed at her blunt comment. ‘I am not in a hurry either. I just want to get to know you and I was trying to say that I am developing feelings for you. You are very lovely, Kallis.’
Kallis hung her head down, unsure of what to say.
‘Aren’t you seeing anyone at the moment, Yusef? I mean, isn’t Ramadan a special friend?’
Yusef frowned. ‘Yes, he is of course a good friend. What do you mean?’
Kallis felt she had started so she had better finish. Her mother had always said, ‘Think, Kallis, before you speak’, but sometimes it just all came out of its own volition….
‘Well, seeing you together yesterday, I thought, I don’t know, perhaps I shouldn’t be saying this but I assumed, that you were, well …’
‘I was what?! What do you mean!! ?’ His face was black now and Kallis was afraid. She knew she shouldn’t have said it.
‘I thought perhaps you were gay, Yusef.’ Kallis said this quickly. ‘You know, when I saw you with Ramadan and you seemed so close-…I just…’
‘GAY! GAY! You think I am a – a – he spat it out ‘a HOMOSEXUAL! How DARE you you, you western SLUT! YOU WHORE!!’ He spat these words into her face. ‘Phuh! How dare you say such a thing to me?! There is no greater an insult you could give me. NO Muslim man is homosexual. We do not have such a thing here, you hear me? It is a sickness that YOU have created in your perverted and corrupt Western society!’
‘Yusef, I am sorry. Truly I did not mean any insult to you, please believe me. Where I come from it is not an insult. I would NEVER deliberately insult you, you must believe me, accept my apology…’ Kallis could see he was not listening. She started to back away from him and to think of how she could get off of the boat as fast as possible. Too late, he grabbed her by her wrists and pulled her towards him. ‘You, Western woman with your Egyptian looks, you think you can treat me like this then turn me down. I bet you have fucked’ – he spat this word out – ‘hundreds of men. We see it on the western television all the time, how you behave in your society, it’s disgusting. And you think I am a sodomite. Well, I will show you, woman!’
‘No, Yusef, I’m not like that, it’s not like that – let me go, please don’t. You said I was like your sister…’ Kallis pleaded with him.‘Please Yusef, let me go. I take back all I said, really. I beg you, let me go. Don’t let it be like this between us.’
Yusef’s face was a mask of darkness as he threw Kallis to the floor. He held one hand over Kallis’ mouth and with the other hand he tried to pull her shirt up. Kallis brought her foot up hard between his legs and he yelled, releasing her mouth for a moment. Kallis bit down hard on his hand and he yelled again, a dreadful wail of curses in Arabic. He pulled Kallis up with his other hand and flung her hard against the wall. Her head banged hard against the wooden door and for a moment she thought she would lose consciousness. Yusef took that moment to get on top of her again. Kallis tasted blood in her mouth. She grabbed Yusef’s hair and pulled as hard as she could before he slapped her hard across the face. She rolled over and tried to stand up but he had hold of her ankle and she lost her footing again and fell to the floor, kicking out with the other foot as she did so. It was a lucky kick and she caught him in the face. He released her ankle to try and protect himself, giving her a precious few seconds to climb up the wooden steps and out onto the deck of the boat. He was up the steps after her and they stood facing each other for a moment. He took a step towards her; she took a step backwards. They eyed each other again.
‘Stop this now, Yusef, please. It has gone far enough.’ Kallis tried to reason with him, but everything had changed and she knew he was not the same man who had been so kind to her, who had shown her around Cairo. He was not her new brother anymore but a madman, someone who wanted to hurt her, to rape her. Kallis felt she had no options left. Time seemed to have slowed down for her and her thoughts had become very clear. She felt that accepting calmness she had experienced before, when the horses had stampeded past her. She spun around and ran for the railing surrounding the boat. Yusef watched in frustrated amazement as she jumped high over it and plunged into the dark waters of the Nile.