Having escaped over the rooftops to his hide out, the former house of the poet Chaiir el Hamra, Radouan lay drunk under the lemon tree with Mokhtar, who had removed his wet clothes, covered him with a towel and stroking his forehead, pressed his arms and legs. Through a champagne haze Radouan sensed that during his absence something had changed between them. Suddenly Mokhtar was a young man, not a boy, now his touch, carried a new message, a message of commitment, which scared Radouan and found him resisting the temptation to yield. They bathed, had mint tea and majoun that Mokhtar had prepared, and made love.  Radouan was tripping on the majoun thinking of Nick who had been exactly his age when he was Mokhtar’s.  Forbidden!  No problem between men and youths but between two grown men, especially if one was married, serious problems, but… Forbidden by whom?

          From a great distance he heard Mohktar’s voice, deeper now than before, swearing eternal love. Never had a guy had said anything like that to him before, not even Nick. Eternal love… what did that mean?  Gazing up he brought Mokhtar’s face into focus, watched his lips as he spoke, kissed them many times, and remembered vividly how many nights he had lain awake in his solitary prison cell imagining this moment. Then he panicked. If he continued on this way with Mokhtar, his life could become HELL!  Young men longed to be protected by older men, and would be faithful unto death, yes, but security and money were the real issue, not love. Or were they? Suddenly he was confused, wanted to stop the clock and lock up Mokhtar like before, which was absolutely impossible...  Or was it?  In the morning, he would explain their relationship had to be different; that he would set Mokhtar up in his own place, create a job for him and find him a wife - maybe Fatima the maid who had been with him in the closet that night.  And he would tell him that never, Inch Allah, would they see each other again like this… It would be hard for both of them, Radouan thought, and maybe he should seek his father’s advice; crazy as thece; crazy as the old man now was, he knew that he had made love many times with Chaiir el Hamra under this same lemon tree.

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©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006