At the hamam J.W. had been working all night and was about to leave when Radouan stumbled in. ‘Salaam alikoum,’ said J.W., ‘you look terrible, what’s the matter?’

          ‘I’ve been sittin’ with my father.’

          ‘How is he?  I keep thinking to stop by and see him.’

          ‘Not good. His breathin’ is difficult. Tonight he slept on the roof and saw a sign in the sky... he thinks it means he will die soon... and the other day he saw an arc en ciel with a loop in it which he thinks means I will soon be very rich’, Radouan laughed cynically, ’I think he's going majnoun, if he would only take the proper medicines and diet he would live much longer but he wont... hes suspicious of doctors.’

          ‘Those twisted rainbows are considered very lucky; can‘t you take him to Rabat?’

          ‘Where is the money for that?  Anyway, I doubt he would go now, he’s too weak...   He was a good father who taught me many things... saved my ass many times so it’s very sad seein’ him like this...very triste.  And now in a few hours I have to go buy sheep for the Sacrifice and this evening make love to this new girl I’ve met, Delphine. You must see her. You will be overwhelmed. I will arrange for you to meet her as if by chance in some cafe.  I love her a lot but right now because of my father my mood is dark... my mind is fucked up!’

          ‘Come,’ J. W. smiled, ‘I’m quitting work.  We will bathe together... the hot vapors will revive you.’

           They entered the hottest of the rooms of the hamam and J.W. scrubbed Radouan’s back. ‘What of the girl your mother has picked out?’ he asked.

          ‘It is done... we have just to choose the date for the L’adoul.  I’m delayin’ as much as possible but it will happen.’

          ‘So you have seen her, what’s she like?’

          ‘We sat on the floor of her parent’s house and she had to bend over to pour tea and serve... her zouk is zween.  I can tell you when she finished it was difficult for me to stand up. For fifteen she is very forward... pretends to be shy but underneath I can see she’s hot, tres chaud.  When I stood up, she looked at the bulge in my pants… I swear, and now she’s excited because she knows that I will be able to satisfy her. She blushed and as we left she stood in the doorway smiling a kind of crooked smile. Her name is Hafida!’

          ‘The Keeper!’

          ‘Yes I know but what does it really mean?’

          ‘Keeper?’ J.W. laughed, ‘ Keeper of Secrets, then Keeper of rules... of traditions... money, keys, and her virginity... and your zahp!  Whatever she can catch hold of she’ll hang on to.’

          ‘I’m a little scared of her because I think she might know maji.  She’s one of us.’

          ‘Our R'hamna women are famous for knowing maji...your own mother...’

          ‘Of course… that’s what worries me... she may be one of my mother’s protégés.’

          ‘So where does your Lady Antonia fit in to all this?’

          ‘I will marry her also... Inch Allah.  After all these years we still make great sex together and she is very tender and kind... but first she must accept Islam, and she will.  No Islam, no zahp!  Believe me she will.’

          ‘She doesn’t have to convert for you to marry her... why do you have to go around trying to convert people?  It isn’t cool man, it’s boring.  Nobody talks like that any more!  Marry her in her own way and let her convert if she wants to.  She’s not a concubine after all... Khliha taamed ala nafssha, let her rely on herself.’

          ‘She’s not a virgin either.’

          ‘You’ve known that from the beginning.’

          ‘You’re right, but now there is another problem... Delphine... the one I will see in a few hours.  I’ve never... no other woman has ever effected me like her... from Arles in France.  Maybe she’s part Arab: I don’t know... maybe she has the maji too.’

          ‘What does she do to you...?’

          ‘When we make sex I start tremblin’and shakin'. When I come it’s like a volcano explodin’ even after comin’ many times... I never had that sensation before...’

          ‘Don’t you think you might be exaggerating a little?’ J.W. ventured, knowing Radouan was fabricating again. ‘I think it sounds like maybe she’s hypnotized you.’

          ‘Yeah, tha’s what I say to myself... which is upsettin’ me because some day soon she’s gonna be very famous and I could lose her!’

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©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006