Across the row of seats that separated them Toni embraced Radouan. ‘It’s over darling, it’s over!’ she repeated many times, patting him on the back. ‘Oh habibi... habibi Radouan, thank God.’
‘Thanks to God... Hamdou' Allah,’ Radouan said his voice husky with emotion.
‘He doesn’t have to go back to Boulmaraz, does he?’ she asked as Radouan drew Prospero into their embrace, took both his hands and covered them with kisses.
‘No... No, of course he doesn’t,’ Pero replied, ‘you heard the Cadi, he’s free to go... let’s get out of here.’
A short distance away, the angry looking Youssef – now Moulay - was led away by the Marrakech police.
‘They’d better guard him well,’ Radouan muttered, ‘cause if they release him I swear I’m gonna get him. On the head of my mother, I will.’
‘Speaking of your mother,’ Toni said, ‘I think she may be here, and your father too.’
Radouan turned to see his mother in a green jallaba, her mouth hidden by a scarlet chiffon n’gab, advancing down the isle with his father in a wheelchair pushed by Radouan’s sister Fouzia, grim but never more beautiful. One by one he embraced them and then apologized to Fouzia:
‘I’m sorry you had to go to jail for me, my sister, don’t worry, I’ll make it up to you.’
Then he bent down and whispered in his mother’s ear. ‘My mother... now you must go ahead with preparations for my wedding. Do you think Hafida knows about all this... the trial... the money?’
‘Some gossips,’ his mother replied, ‘I am sure they have heard and have told her, but she doesn’t read and her father won’t allow TV in the house so don’t worry... I will go and set a date with them.’
‘My son, my son...’ his father growled, pulling Radouan’s head down and covering it with kisses, ‘How favored you are to have all these mighty friends and Prospero here working so hard for you... favored by the All Mighty... This evening you must go to the Mosque and pray for the soul of the Baroness... give thanks to God for His blessings on you and ask Him to forgive your sins. Look here is your poor orphan Mokhtar come to say hello... he’s been to see me a few times, crazy with worry over you.’
Mokhtar approached humbly, embraced Radouan’s father, got down his knees and was about to kiss Radouan’s feet when Radouan, embarrassed, lifted him up and spoke rapidly to him in Chleuh, one of the major dialects of the Berber language. ‘It’s me who should be kissin’ your feet for what you did,’ he whispered, ‘...Without you we would never have known what happened... This evening very late I will visit you,’ he whispered ‘... manchou faq a zeen...’ he said. ‘Ahtajouka...’ Mokhtar nodded and disappeared in the crowd.
Radouan turned to Toni. ‘Where are the great Francesco Monte and his protegee... your co-wife?’
Toni laughed. ‘We didn’t think it wise for her to been seen here, habibi... the press, they haven’t a clue about you two… we’ll see them this evening. I’ve planned a little buffet supper. Invited all the people who’ve helped us and some of the enemy too.’
Suddenly Radouan felt far away. Everything seemed so changed. He didn’t need to party, he needed close human contact. ‘Enemy!’ he growled, ‘what enemy? I won’t see them.’
‘Saadi and her family of course... our legal team... the Avocats representing the companies you’re going to inherit who’ve been trying to push Moulay’s case...’
Radouan glared at her. ‘And you expect me to speak with these people? Are you crazy?’
‘Listen to me, my darling,’ Toni insisted. ‘I am not crazy! I want them to see that you are not the wild-eyed gigolo the press has made you out to be...’
A wicked light flashed in his eyes, ‘Ha! But that’s me... tha’s exactly what I am.’
Toni smiled and shook her head gently, ‘Darling, really, do not be difficult! We’ve won a great victory... you’ve had a life changing experience, we all have, and I can see you’ve... really these men are going to be very important to you... to us... no matter what you think, you must charm them... pretend to accept their excuses... appear to like them. You must learn to control you instinct for revenge. They expect you to hate them... you must confuse them. In a few years you can do without them if you like... right now we need them.’
‘She’s right,’ Pero agreed... ‘You must become trickier now than you have ever been before ... enjoy your victory, quit being so sarcastic with people and learn to flatter them.’
‘You need a good adviser,’ Toni said. ‘May I suggest that right now you hire Prospero before someone else gets him? I noticed the Cadi gazing fondly at him... absolutely besotted!’ she laughed and turned to Pero, ‘You’d better watch out, the legal establishment here is going to want you, you’re much too clever for them and they know it.’
‘Yes, why not,’ Radouan grinned, ‘Prospero, Le Grand Wazzier! On one condition though... that you take Fouzia, here, as your wife.’ Everyone but Fouzia laughed. ‘I’m serious... very serious. Look how beautiful she is and hard working too.’ She’ll make you a fine wife. Do you agree?’
‘Of course,’ Pero laughed loudly trying to conceal his embarrassment, wondering wildly what his family, especially his mother, would say.
Fouzia lowered her eyes
‘May you have many fine children, Prospero,’ Radouan’s mother said as if to seal the bargain.
‘And where’s Nicholas?’ Radouan asked and looked around the chamber, ‘Is he all right?’
‘Improved’ Toni replied. ‘Now he’s legal his mind is becoming clearer. He’s back at Pero’s riad supervising some work. He’ll be with us this evening. Delphine and Francesco will pick him up... come, let the driver take your parents and Fouzia back to the Medina and you and I and Pero will walk slowly to my place. You need some exercise but not too much at one time. So do I...’
‘But the paparazzi,’ Pero protested.
Toni shrugged her shoulders, ‘Let them follow us...’
‘Tut tut,’ Toni raised her hand, ‘the time has come for you both to learn how to deal with them... to your advantage of course. Come... I’m a pro … this will be the first lesson. Just keep in mind that we’ve won, and you’re going to be very rich. Don’t make them jealous... be humble... keep saying it’s God’s will. Make them love you. Make love to their cameras as though they were the eyes of beautiful women. Relax and smile... joke with them... be your own inimitable selves! Do you think you can do that?’
‘I feel weak,’ Radouan complained, ‘And during my confinement I’ve become more serious.’
Toni smiled brightly and took his arm. ‘We’ll walk slowly then... give the photographers a chance to take all the pictures they need. It’s their job... Come!’
Radouan held back: ‘I look terrible... I don’t want to be photographed; you know how I dislike cameras...’
She laughed. ‘You’re so vain... you don’t look terrible at all, you look fantastic... you’ve lost twenty pounds... really you look ten years younger. And you must remember what a great story this is... you’re going to be a hero for millions... Mansour, the winner... you’d better get used to it...’
Radouan gazed at her suspiciously. ‘Why?’
‘Oh darling... why, why, why ? Sometimes you’re like a huge baby... really... do not be so obstinate! Come along and be tender, live up to your good looks... nobody has a clue about you. We want the world to love you...’
Lurking near the entrance to the building they encountered Madame Saadi and her entourage. Radouan paused, smiled warmly at his enemy and Toni reminded Saadi that she and her family were invited to supper later on that evening. Then, along with Radouan’s old friend Houcein and several bodyguard friends, they walked slowly from the court to Toni’s apartment building.
Along the way Prospero tried to identify the sadness he felt, when really he should be feeling joyous. Working all this time with Toni, being constantly near her, he suddenly realized how fond of her he’d become. Was it love..? He hoped not, but it was going to be hard giving her back to Radouan whom he resented sometimes for the way he treated her. As Radouan’s adviser, however, wouldn’t he still have many opportunities to be with her? Yes. And, of course, Radouan would be very busy with his other wives.
On his part, Radouan rose to the occasion peppering his responses to the reporters’ questions with ribald prison jokes and by the time they arrived at Toni’s place, he had them kissing his hands.
‘See,’ Toni said breezily as they ascended in the lift, ‘that wasn’t as hard as you thought it would be. Francesco is right, you’re a natural actor. Just keep thinking positively and project a forgiving and compassionate image.’
Pero agreed, ‘I’m your official adviser now and I’m telling you it will make things much easier for us...’
‘If I think too much that’s when I lose it...’ Radouan observed, ‘it’s when I don’t think that I’m happy and can act.’
Toni stared at him and cocked her head, ‘You don’t think, my love, you brood!’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006