A few days after the big feast, Francesco hired a helicopter and they had flown over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate. As they were landing, Radouan explained that although the city was once a destination for caravans from Tomboucktou, it fell into ruin and only recently had been revived by the film industry. When they landed and rented a car, the temperature was hovering at 40 degrees Celsius. On the drive to their hotel, Radouan explained that foreigners had been buying up many old Kasbahs in the area and restoring them. ‘It’s like the sea shore,’ he said expansively, ‘except the sea is the Sahara... I have an old friend here who has invited us to his house for dinner tonight... we call him Lord Jim.’
Peering out the tinted windows of the car Delphine was not impressed. To her it looked like all the small towns she had seen in Hollywood cowboy films... clean and new with very wide empty streets.
Francesco had booked two suites in the Berber Palace Hotel; one for Delphine, the other for himself and Radouan. Delphine retired to her suite to unpack and change, and while Francesco made calls on his world cell phone, Radouan settled down in a corner with his daily crossword puzzle. For the first time in his life, he suspected, he might be a victim of Assababa, obsessive love, also known as El jawa. Maybe she was right, maybe they might be going too far, but he cursed himself for his own weakness in allowing this female to upset him so. .
After lunch Delphine decided to rest and they agreed to meet for coffee around six. Pretending exhaustion in order to avoid having to deal with Francesco, Radouan retired to his room but could still hear him talking on the phone, laughing and gossiping. Then silence and after some time he heard a door open and close. Immediately suspicious, he got up, checked out the salon and Francesco’s room and found them empty. Gone... GONE! Where had the shark gone? He called Delphine’s room and was told the line was engaged. Who was she talking to? Why wasn’t she asleep? A thick atmosphere descended upon him and he paced back and forth through the suite snapping his arm muscles, wanting to punch someone. Then he opened the door, went out into the hallway and listened, walked down to Delphine’s door and listened again half expecting to hear muffled sounds of someone making out with her.
‘How could he have just called her and been told her line was busy and now she was gone?’ He knocked on the door and then pounded, which attracted a room boy he was in no mood to see. Struggling to control his temper, he explained that he was the bodyguard of the occupant of the room and insisted that the door should be opened or he would have to break it down. Understanding immediately that resistance would be dangerous, the room boy opened the door only to find the telephone receiver had been improperly replaced; which explained the busy signal; but then why was Delphine not there, where had she gone?
Moving to the window, Radouan parted the heavy curtains and looked out. Near a swimming pool below, there she was stretched out seductively on a chaise wearing the briefest of bikinis. And who was hanging over her, his pectoral muscles drooping like the breasts of a middle-aged woman, but Francesco! Across the pool two waiters were making certain obscene hand signs which any Moroccan would understand. He wondered if he should go down and make a scene, which would end in a fight and finish off any chance of her becoming a star? Seeing her in that bikini was arousing him too much. She belonged to him! He cracked his knuckles, handed the room boy a wad of dirhams and told him to shove off. Then he locked the door, flopped down on Delphine’s bed and fell asleep.
‘What are you doing here? How did you get into my room?’ Her voice broke into his dreams, and he came awake.
‘Where have you been?’ he yawned.
‘Down at the pool. I couldn’t sleep. How did you get in here?’
‘Through the keyhole - made myself very small and squeezed through. Come here...’ He extended his hand.
‘I’m still wet,’ she laughed carelessly. ‘My hair is all wet, too much chlorine in the water, I must shampoo it immediately.’
‘Why did you go down there?’
‘It’s nice down there, it’s good to swim, and you should have come down.’
‘Nobody asked me... moreover I dislike pools, I only swim in the sea. Where is Francesco?’
‘How should I know ... I haven’t seen him?’
‘Oh, I see.’
‘That you haven’t seen Francesco... Come here!’ He jumped up and grabbed her.
‘Stop you’re hurting me,’ she cried and struggled in his arms.
‘Why are you lying at me? Jus' a few minutes ago I saw you down there with him.’ He dragged her to the window and opened the curtain. ‘See, he’s still there... fuckin’ Francesco... you’ve invited him up here, haven’t you... You... you need a good thrashing.’
‘Stop! Stop right now. I must shampoo my hair... I must... Stop you’ll leave marks.’
‘I will leave marks ... I want to leave marks! You lied to me, why?’ He dragged her into the bathroom.
‘Radouan NO! You must come to your senses... please...’
He lifted her into the shower and got in with her fully dressed. ‘PLEASE WHAT? You don’t want me any more?’
‘Not now. Have you been drinking?’
He began scrubbing her with a loofa. ‘First I’m seein’ you down there with Francesco, and then you lie to me. I saw him leanin’ over you.’
Delphine stared at him and said matter of factly: ‘He wants to watch us do things together... you and me... he was explicit and very determined.’
Radouan stopped scrubbing her. ‘See...What did I tell you?’
‘It’s your fault...you introduced me to him.’
Radouan thrust out his chin defiantly. ‘You want to be a big star, don’t you?’
‘He just offered me a lot of money if I could persuade you... fifty thousand francs just to watch us for one hour.’
‘Are you kidding... five thousand dollars is nothing to him… he’s jokin’ you! And if he wants to watch us he would have to pay me too, but I would never do it! I won’t allow it. I forbid...’
‘Look,’ Delphine said angrily, ‘who is the subject of all this drama? It’s me! And I have bills coming due when I get back to Paris... I have to pay them and I’m broke... the money from this shoot won’t come for weeks.’
Radouan melted. ‘I will help you, 'bibti, don’t worry. You think I’m a beggar? I have money. Believe me, I love you, I swear it... ahtajouka I need you... oridouka I want you... By God, I will get money for you before we leave this place.’
‘Here in Whazzawhaterver? You must be joking!’
‘Here or anywhere, habibiti. I can always get money, no problem. But if we give in to Francesco now, believe me; we will have to give in to him on many other points.’
Delphine began shampooing her hair. ‘He plans to get you drunk,’ she gurgled, ‘said you’ll do anything when you’re drunk.’
‘Francesco and me we have shared many women together but they were all prostitutes. You are not a prostitute.’
‘Of course you’re not!’
‘What’s a prostitute then?’ she laughed
‘One who takes money for sex...’
‘Then I’m a prostitute. I have taken money for sex... lots of it... paid all my college fees that way. And you, I’m sure you’ve taken money for it too.’
‘A man cannot be a prostitute... it’s different with us.’
She gave him a sour look and turned off the shower. ‘How can it be different? If you sell your body you sell it, you can’t say you’re not selling it.’
‘I never sell my body, I give pleasure... believe me I enjoy giving pleasure but I give it to whom I choose... I’m a selective guy. Only a few people have ever interested me. If they want to help me out later that’s their business.’
‘I never had the chance to be selective,’ Delphine smiled sadly. ‘When I was about to begin college, my father lost his teaching position and we had no money. I had to help support my mother and pay tuition fees... mostly I’ve had to make it with older men like the one you saw me with at lunch that day. You’re the first one who hasn’t been over fifty...’
‘Don’t worry,’ he smiled and rubbed her back with a towel, ‘those days are over. But if we give in to Francesco now, I know him... I’ve watched him operate for years... He’ll be satisfied and jus' go to sleep on us. When he wins Best Actress for you at Cannes, we’ll make a ten minute video he can watch!’
‘You really believe he can do that for me... Cannes?’
‘Yes, why not? He’s a genius. Whatever he proposes people are ready to give him money for. But he is like the devil - Shaitan! Really, I think I must come back to Paris with you. If I am not there I’m sure you will make some crazy mistake. How big is your apartment?’
‘Can you get a visa for France?’
‘I already have one. But Paris is an expensive place, especially for laundry. Tha’s why I’m asking you about the size of your apartment. I change my clothes a lot. Do you have a washing machine?’
Delphine giggled: ‘my place is small... really only a studio apartment but, yes, I have a washing machine.’
‘Don’t worry then. I’m a very quiet guy. When we will be together in Paris we will be very relaxed, very tranquil... I will wait on you I want to be with you. I don't want anyone else to touch you, I want to marry you. You will see, things are gonna change fast for us. By this time next year you will have a huge apartment. But we must be careful with Francesco, thas’ the most important thing. And now you must lie down and sleep. I will come by for you around nine. I want to take you to my friend’s place... you will be impressed.’ He knelt down and kissed her feet.
‘I don't want to have babies!’
Radouan gazed up at her in astonishment. ‘What are you talkin’ about?’
‘Children.’ Delphine said firmly, ‘I don’t want any... why get married if one doesn’t want children?’
‘You don't want to have babies we won’t, but believe me some day you will regret it. I promise you... Inch Allah... to have children with me would be very lucky for you!’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006