On the way to his car Radouan telephoned Toni.
‘You’re late!’ she said anxiously, ‘You said you’d call at seven and it’s already nine.’
‘You said I’d call at seven. I said nine. What are you doin’?’
‘I’m in my bath.’
‘See… you aren’t ready at all. I’ve been with my family. Problems. Just now gettin’ in my car...’
Tooling out through Bab Dukala, Radouan made a left toward Toni’s place in Hivernage. A few minutes later, just as he pulled up in front of her building, his phone beeped.
‘Hello, is this Radouan?’ A seductive female voice was speaking French.
‘Yes, who are you?’
‘I am Delphine, Delphine Benne. You gave me your card at lunch.’
‘Yes,’ Radouan replied, trying to control his excitement, ‘because I want to see you, where are you?’
‘At Hotel Maison Arabe.’
‘Too bad. I was just nearby. Now I’m in my car on the other side of town going to see a client. Can I come over later?’
‘How much later?’
‘Three hours...maybe less.’
‘I have to work tomorrow; I’m a model on a shoot. I must go to work very early tomorrow morning... the light you know...’ Her voice drifted away to a whisper.
‘Then sleep now and I’ll come very early in the morning. What time do you go to work?’
‘Half past eight.’
‘Then I’ll be there at five exactly, OK? If you go to sleep right now that will give you eight hours.’
‘You’re sure you can’t come right now? We could have dinner together.’
‘Believe me, I would really like to come right now, you can’t imagine, but I can’t. This client I’m about to see is very difficult and I’m already an hour late. Let me come at five.’
There was a long pause. He thought she’d hung up. ‘OK,’ she said at last, ‘I’ll set my alarm.’
‘Tell the boys at the desk that you’re expecting me. Write it out... my name... just as it appears on the card that I gave you. Tell them I’m working with the camera crew and will be coming to wake you up and prepare you for your shoot.’
‘You’ll really come?’
‘Of course, jus’ wait and see.’
‘You won’t be late, will you?’ she said sleepily, ‘Everyone here seems to be late...’
‘I’m never late,’ he replied.
She clicked off. As he got out of his car Radouan discovered her voice had excited him mightily. All the better for Toni he thought as he ascended in the elevator to her flat where he found her in a robe relaxing on the terrace. He bent over, kissed her and massaged her shoulders. ‘I was sittin’ with my father and fell asleep... sorry.’
‘You look very zween tonight in your white gandoura ... almost angelic. What a pity we aren’t the same age. I’d give you a run for your money.’
‘Runfoyomoney; what’s THAT... some disease?’
‘It means I’d make you very jealous.’ Toni sighed, ‘Instead you make me jealous... But I’ve concluded that in fact I’m not really jealous of you as I once was, as a lover I mean... no, it’s something worse and much more basic... its because you’re in your prime and I’m not, not any more. Isn’t that shameful? I have to confess it... I mean really I’m ashamed of myself for even thinking that way.’
‘What does “inyoprime” mean.?’
‘Oh gosh...’ Toni looked puzzled, ‘well it means... fit... When you walk down the street, or anywhere, people notice you, stop and stare, smile across rooms at you. In the big square young men come up and brush against your thigh. I remember when we first met; I had that… the power to attract. I know what it’s like and I know I don't have it any more. But when I’m with you, habibi, I feel it again and I guess I’m jealous of your life here in this marvelous old city because mine is so boring.’
‘Strangers in the night…' Radouan crooned embarrassed by her confession…'it’s so enchantin’, lovers at first sight exchangin' glances… da da da da da’.
She smiled up at him, ‘Falcon eyes… yes you are… a hunter high on the chase... admit it!’
‘Wonderin’ in the night what were the chances… da da da da da… Yes, you’re right... In another age I would have dressed in women’s clothing, everything covered but my eyes... entered the Sultan’s harem and made love to his wives.’ He knelt down and gazed at her thoughtfully, ‘It used to happen like that, believe me. But if we were the same age, you know we’d be fightin’ all the time... as it is you are a little older, but wiser and kinder than I am. Don’t think I’m not grateful for all the ways you’ve helped me out ‘bibti, I jus' can’t say it most of the time... you’ve taught me alot... like when you took me to Paris.’
Toni smiled at him fondly. ‘You went mad in Paris, I couldn’t believe it.’
Radouan frowned, ‘You were afraid someone who knew you might see us together.’
‘Just as you are afraid someone will see us here together in Marrakech.’
‘I’m not afraid! It’s impossible for me to be afraid of anything. It’s for your own protection that I don't like to be seen with you. Guys would know you’re seeing me, that maybe you like Arabs, and start comin’ on to you... playin’ tricks on you...swindling or blackmailing you.’
‘Out of jealousy, of course, because you’re famous! Believe me, until yesterday I never knew how famous you are...’
‘Who told you I’m famous, that’s ridiculous?’
‘Never mind, I know.’
‘I suppose you saw something in one of those tabloids,’ she sighed, ‘Listen, appearing in there is not being famous, it’s infamous... scandalous.’
Radouan hugged her ‘Yes, you are one bad, bad girl. You PLAYGIRL!’
‘If I’m a playgirl then you are a playboy!’
Radouan laughed. ‘No, no, me no playboy me highly skilled worker! Jus' because sometimes I enjoy my work doesn’t mean I am playboy. I don’t play around. You forget how many people depend on me.’
‘Never ever do I forget that... believe me.’
‘But we are more alike than we are different, habibati.’ He held her hand. ‘Both of us we love the night... all those red evenings together in strange places... prowling like the cats… late at night to walk through the derbs and see everything that’s happening... explore and do crazy things... you liked that. I know it.’
‘That’s what I miss,’ she whispered, ‘Does it mean one is getting old... or are the times changing?’
‘Maybe we should move to a country where no one knows us... maybe Argentina or Mexico.’
She shook her head thoughtfully. ‘You know you would never leave Marrakech… We’ll take long vacations and come and go as we please but we must make our base here.... Are you hungry? I had some brochettes sent over from Mamounia, they’re in the oven.’
‘Your oven, habibti... I wanna roast my brochette in your oven... look...’
‘Are you spending the night?’ she said, ignoring his gesture.
‘Of course...why would I come to see you at this hour if I wasn’t spending the night?’
‘Sometimes you do leave in the middle of the night.’
‘Sometimes I have important things to do, my darling... like tomorrow morning I must go to the Mosque very early to pray, and before that to hamam to purify myself. So I must get up by four thirty or five. Come, let’s... I’m not hungry let’s go to bed... all this yak yak... I wanna make love and sleep with you in my arms. Come!’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006