The cloudy morning, on that day, was greeted by the sound of gunshot and rapid firing, congruently followed by the tumult howl of the rabble proclaiming the victory of revolution. The doors and windows of the houses and shutters of the shops remained tightly shut; the crowded market seemed a deserted street, as if abandoned by the inhabitants in the fear of an invincibly infectious disease; the walls displayed the writings of Revolution, Pablo’s writing whose blood boiling message inspired the whole nation; the red patches on the road recited the bewailing story of anguish of losing a loved one to be entrapped in the heart of those kin and kith of the befallen forever as a memory of horror to be suffered, to be writhed and to be scribbled in their tears. The sky, on that day, witnessed the human tragedy with a grim face, and finally showered down on earth reminding the civilization of its melancholy past and troubled future.
Alasdair, the so called dictator, along with his children and beloved wife, had been executed in one of the most brutal way the history could have described, as the red flag of revolution now flapped and flagged over the dictator’s palace. While the nation saw the formation of a new government by those few leading the revolution from the front with a promise of a state which would be devoid of the tyranny the country had suffered so long, the country, turning her eyes on the other side, watched the agony and affliction, imposed and inflicted on the ordinary innocents and she wept, silently, sheepishly, looking at the fate of those she had cared and nurtured so graciously.
Amid the loud cry of pain and pangs, Osman occupied himself in the medical care of those wounded and injured in the open ground almost three miles away from the palace where the family members of the officials of the previous government were being tried and mostly being sent to gallows. Osman was no real doctor, but at a time like this anyone with even little first aid knowledge become important and necessary. He was currently involved in bandaging a man who had lost his right limb held tight by his wife, greeting her teeth, holding her breath.
When he finished, he looked around, finding himself amid the chaos and loud cry, drew a deep breath; being informed of his necessity to attend another victim, he walked, a little too fast, towards his tent, to wash off his hands and tools in hot water. When he reached his tent, he found things a bit scattered, maybe he had left it like that in hurry, he thought. Putting it to rest, he began gathering things, picking them one by one from the ground and put them on the table. But then suddenly, from the corner of his eyes, he noticed a movement, a slight but certain movement, as if a life under the curtain he had piled up and kept on one corner. It could be some animals, some dog, or, a cat, maybe, came here wandering, in search of food, or, water. But when he removed the pile of large curtain, he was almost shocked.
A teenage girl was sitting there, quivering, shaking, gathering herself into a bit. She looked above, scared, being exposed; she could only hope not being exposed of her true identity. But alas, Osman knew immediately, his eyes fell on her, who she was. And he knew very well why she was hiding there.
A few months had elapsed; the turmoil that had raised its head was showing no sign to be subdued; the revolution that was initiated with a promise so dear to the people, was now failing the same very people; the leaders, however, had kept the flame alive and burning, even amid the curse and howl of the disgruntled many. The Loyalists – the loyal member of the previous government, were still being pursued, hunted and being executed. Many, irrespective of their true allegiance, had lost their lives, so unjustly and unceremoniously, being accused, or, doubted to be loyalist; the new government had hardly bothered to check the authenticity of the accusation. And the true loyalists, hiding behind walls, harboring behind false names, remained low, for a time being, keeping the urge alive in their hurt to inflict massive defeat on the revolution; they kept patience, now was not the proper time, but not long left either; the ground had began to be built and the seed had been sown in the womb of revolution by the very revolutionist themselves, in their heartless act of animosity in and against the society.
Osman knew they were behind her, Fiona, the only daughter and last heir of Alasdair, although it was believed largely the whole family had been eliminated, Osman had a clear idea that secretly she was being hunted; he knew it from the very day he had found her in his tent and gave her shelter in his camp, always keeping her in disguise of a teenage boy and his assistant; he knew the consequences of being found out giving her shelter, but that was not exactly he was worried about, he was more concerned about Fiona being exposed, what would they do with her if they found her, death no doubt, but there was some mind in this world who had design so brutal that even death would shiver before them, this was what that used to give Osman shudder time to time.
Fiona, on the other hand, ever suspicious of Osman’s generous intention, had attempted, several times in the past, to escape, but every time to return and find his shelter to be the safest. In time she had built a certain trust, but even then she could not forget how her family had been betrayed by their closest ally Mayvin, also the secretary in previous government to be captured by the revolutionist while escaping and how closely she had survived with the help of her uncle sacrificing his own life. “Don’t trust anyone,” was his last words; it kept echoing in her ears every time her suspicious mind ringed a bell.
However, the time passed, the days dissolved into weeks, and the months merged into years. Mayvin now along with the other leader of revolution, Rabzar, had grabbed power, declaring themselves the face and savior of revolution, dictated every decisions in the name of Republic, imposing all kinds of punishment to anyone they declared the ‘Saboteur of the State’. Osman had returned to his old business, now having extra two hands of assistance he hoped to do better, but people had lost too much in the mayhem, his business saw a steady decline, just like any other businessmen in the country.
One morning, Fiona, now named as Ken, was busy in helping Osman filling up the cart, when suddenly they heard a noise on the street. Looking over they saw a frail man running, dressed in dirty rugged shirt, being chased by three police; and be beaten down within a while as his health failed him in outrunning the chasers. Osman came running where the man began to be beaten and the crowd gathered and stood silently as mute spectator. After a while, the three policemen carried him and put him in a van standing at a distance when the man was left half-dead.
“A loyalist,” Osman heard someone from the crowd to whisper.
“Or a revolutionist, or neither, does it matter anymore?” a second man said.
“Yes,” a third man said, a trace of contempt was clear in voice. “What an irony of fate? Revolution is recoiled into the cocoon of human lust of power and valor. Could it have been more laughable, I wonder.”
“I have heard a strange rumor by the way, the other day when I went to the butcher’s shop,” the first person said, more whisperingly, as if trying hard to keep his voice confined within a limit. Others around him looked at him.
“Well,” he continued, “The Dual King is scared.”
“And why is that?” a fourth man with deep lines in his forehead asked.
“An heir of Alasdair lives,” he said, a bit convincingly, though it was difficult to conclude how much did he believe on the rumor.
“Absurd, impossible, they were all hanged and burned, and were kept hanging in the ground in front of the palace for a week, everybody saw it,” the fourth man refuted.
“The bodies were not recognizable though, were they? They were burnt and hanged, remember? Did anybody bother to ask about that?” a woman standing nearby whispered. She sounded like she had tremendous faith on the rumor and perhaps was happy about it.
The first man was going to open his mouth, but kept it closed as he saw two police approaching the crowd to disperse it. Osman left and returned to his house, where he saw Fiona stood, white faced. Osman understood immediately.
“You know him, don’t you? The poor man,” he asked.
Fiona nodded stiffly. “He was the head chef in the palace.”
“I see. They are not leaving anything to chance. But they won’t get what they are after.” Osman left; Fiona could not move her eyes as she watched him to leave. She remembered the day she was found hiding by him. She had suspected his true heart since then so many times, had spoken foul to him in so many instances, but he had never, not even in a single instance, hit back. She had wondered even in the past, and kept wondering now, why would anyone do this much for her, or, for anyone at all; consequences of being found out was not unknown to him, then why? And why for her, when she had no relation at all with him, had never seen him, or, meet him in the past? Her chain of thought got broken with the sound of broken glass in a neighbor’s yard. She came inside.
Osman was having dinner, Fiona was sitting beside him; she used to have her dinner after him, she had developed such a ritual since when she had learned to take care of the house. For outsiders she was a working boy, Osman’s assistant, but inside, she had her true position of authority. Initial days of her with Osman was no easy one; she used to look at everything with suspicion, listen everything with doubt, found in everything conspiracy; to hand her over, or, poison her, or, sell her in prostitution, or, so many she didn’t have any idea of; she knew how much filthy a male mind could be, his desire had no bound, his lust knew no limit, his greed had no end. But she was helpless; her family once had been betrayed by the one they trusted most; ‘Trust’ had become an illusion in her mind, which had no real existence, could only be found in stories and tales. She was clueless about what Osman’s plan was; she had felt like a puppet, in the hand of big players, to be played with for enjoyment. Sometimes she used to get desperate, she wanted to cry, to shout, to howl, but every time she felt the cruel travesty of fate over her. As if the Almighty was laughing at her, laughing at her arrogance she once had, at her wealth she once possessed, at her beauty she once was proud of; as if the Almighty was showing her how insignificant and trivial those things were, by depriving her all worldly precious possessions with a single stroke of lightning.
“Did you complete reading the book I gave you last week?” Osman asked. He, for past few months, had started teaching her, with whatever little knowledge he had, in various subjects like History, Mathematics, Politics, Society, Geography etc. Fiona had protested several times, but eventually she kept going with him; she found an unexplainable simplicity in his teaching, as if the world was very simply, unnecessarily the mankind kept making it complex. Recently the intensity had increased a bit, but Fiona’s intelligent mind did not find it even a bit challenging.
“I would, in two days. By the way, you never told me why did you want me to study so much, you promised me you would tell me later,” Fiona said.
“And I will, but at a proper time, when you are ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“Ready to understand. Now, do you remember what I told you the other day?” Fiona realized the teacher in Osman was back, it was very rare to find the teacher Osman in other times when he was like a modest employer.
“Remember about what?” Fiona asked playfully, having no intention to be taught again while having dinner. She had realized the playful young Fiona was too intoxicating, even for the teacher Osman, to resist. Past years had certainly built an invisible bond between them; what it was they had no idea, but both of them had felt the growing concern for each other, especially when they don’t get to see each other for a certain time. Maybe because it was natural to be concerned about the risk they were carrying with them, they had thought. But, perhaps, they would have been surprised what was buried deep in their heart, had they dived deep to have a look at it.
“About hiding. When you are hiding in the public, you ought to behave the way you are playing the role for them, in which case you are boy, an assistant. Act like one. You would make people grow suspicious the way you are actually behaving right now,” Osman said seriously, not joining into the game she had the mood to initiate.
The stiff face of Osman made Fiona scared, and a little hurt. “I am behaving like what?” she asked slowly, afraid what she might hear.
“Like a…” Osman stopped suddenly, kept looking at her and then removed his eyes from her, her eyes were bewitching for him, as if she throws spell through her eyes; he must get rid of that.
“Like a….like a, what?”
“Like a…housewife.” Osman said, faintly, looking down, at the floor.
A silence followed. And then, losing all bounds, Fiona laughed out loud. Osman kept watching in surprise. “What’s there to laugh?” he asked; but Fiona was still busy in her amusement.
“Stop it,” Osman said finally.
When Fiona could stop laughing, she saw an angry face of Osman in front of her. “Are you afraid?” she said finally.
“Well…yes, are you not?”
Fiona smiled. “Not at all.” She knew Osman had no idea what she was talking about, maybe he would never know, but perhaps that was for the best that he remained oblivious for she would always be a threat for him.
“Well, you should be. Mayvin and Rabzar are getting mad everyday to get their hands on you.”
“But why? They have got what they wanted, didn’t they? Why can’t they just leave me alone?” she asked, surprised.
“Because they know what’s at stake. People have started talking against them. The last heir of Alasdair lives, it’s no more a secret. Already a group has emerged who wants to dethrone them to crown you. They can’t live in peace until…..until you are dead.” Osman’s face became darkened as he spoke the last few words.
Fiona remained silent, kept playing with the corner of her own shirt.
“But don’t you worry, I won’t let that happen. I have figured everything out. We shall leave tomorrow, we would find a safe place,” Osman said finally when Fiona didn’t speak.
“And you would help me becoming the queen?” Fiona glanced at him.
“I would, if I can.”
“And if I refuse?” Fiona said, got Osman surprised. Both of their eyes remained locked for a while, then Osman removed his. Fiona continued playing with the corner her shirt.
“You know…,” Fiona continued, slowly, “I was thinking about Pablo the whole time.”
“Pablo….who?” Osman asked surprisingly.
“Yes, the Great Pablo, you know who I am talking about. What do you know of him?” Fiona’s eyes penetrated Osman.
Osman remained silent for few seconds. “Well, nobody knows who he is. It’s obvious that the name Pablo is symbolic, a pseudonym, under which he used to write, got the whole country inspired to revolt, to resist against tyranny. It became a battle of Pablo’s pen against Alasdair’s sword. But now, I guess, everything has got mingled and confused and now it is the ghost of Pablo’s sword which is out there to suffocate every bit of life left among us. But why do you ask, so suddenly?”
“No, not suddenly, it’s been running amok in my mind for a while. I remember my days in the palace, used to get a glimpse sometimes of the political game being played out there. The Head of Intelligence, Mr. Azidi used to visit frequently, the whole department was looking for him, in every corner, he used to give a sleepless night to my father. I used to wonder what he was like, what he have been thinking, or, doing right now, what he looked like? Now looking at myself, I experience the same life, a life of fugitive, hiding in shadows, veiling in dark. Waiting, just like Pablo waited, to be vindicated, to be victorious. I had always hated him, thinking why was he doing this, I have always blamed him for the death of my family. My family might have lost their lives in the hand of mob fury, but it was him who had provoked them, drove them crazy to do the unthinkable. But now, when I think about it, there isn’t much difference between us.” Fiona’s eyes looked ablaze in the rage of the memory of past.
No one said anything for long, kept seated as they were, as the memory kept floating, whispering in the air; they let the wave to pass, to wash over. Both of them immersed in that wave, feeling it in their own heart.
The next morning, when Fiona woke up, she saw Osman already awake and occupied. For the past few months it was always her who used to wake up earlier, broom in hand, sweeping clean the yard in front of their house. She remembered their conversation the day before and was certain Osman was packing to move out.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
Osman looked over, and then concentrated again in his work. “Further south, I have a friend there; you would not have any inconvenience.”
“It’s not me I am worried about. Anyway, what am I going to play this time? Have you thought of it yet?”
Osman did not expect this question, could not figure out why was she asking it. “Same as now…do you have any problem with that?”
“No, But…I was just wondering, how long do you think you would be able to disguise me as a teenage boy?” she said slowly.
It had not appeared in his mind, she was growing, and as she grows it would eventually be increasingly difficult to hide her under the clothes. And to think of it, this was an opportune moment to change her identity, they were going to a place completely new, where nobody knew them, maybe he should give her a new identity, but this time in the skin a lady, not a lad.
“You are right. What do you propose?”
Fiona stared at him. “I don’t know, your servant – maid, maybe?”
“I am young and single. Presence of a young maid like you with me would draw more attention of the neighbors, if not suspicions, which eventually would lead to suspicions.”
“Ok…all right…I can be your sister…” Fiona proposed again, with a smirk in the corner of her mouth.
“No…we don’t look like brother and sister.”
“Really? Well then,” Fiona paused, looked down and murmured something that Osman could not quite grab.
“Come again..,” Osman asked, drawing her cheek with his right hand to hear properly, but removed his hand suddenly realizing his mistake. He saw a pink face of Fiona.
“I said,” she continued, very slowly and shyly, “If not your maid, or, sister, or, anything, then maybe…maybe…as your wife.” She could not look at his eyes anymore, as she suddenly opened her heart before him, in disguise, of course, but could not hide her mind as her eyes spelt the whole truth out. She removed her eyes in her meek attempt to avoid it.
Osman did not have an immediate reply to that. He felt as if he had entered into a dream, Fiona’s voice kept echoing in his ears; she might be a victim of merciless fate, had been forced to fall under the protection of his shelter, but, she still was a princess, the blood of royalty flowing thorough her vein; and he was just a merchant; a nameless, fameless, ordinary merchant. He might have loved her whole heartedly, but she was like a shining star in the sky, beyond his reach. But those words from her came like lightning bolt, before which he would put his heart open graciously; but he didn’t deserve it. Not after what had happened, maybe it was time to speak the whole truth; she must know, she deserved to know, what truth lies there, buried deep inside his heart. For a second he felt like he would spell it out, but somehow stopped himself, as if he saved himself from a fall from the verge, from the edge.
“You will be my brother’s widow,” he said finally.
“Is it too necessary to leave?” Fiona asked.
Osman let out a sigh. “My business leads me to many places across, and, leave me with the privilege with acquaintance of many inside information. If my calculations are correct, they would end up here in this city within few days. I cannot take that risk,” Osman replied determinedly.
Fiona raised her head to say something, but, went stiff as she saw a bearded man to look directly at them hiding behind a wall. He was not hiding from them, as he did not vanish when his eyes locked with Fiona’s, but he, certainly, was trying to hide from something else. Maybe he was trying to draw their attention. Osman noticed Fiona and turned around to see his friend Rasul. He walked towards him. Fiona waited; saw both of them to speak in inaudible voice. When Osman returned, his face looked darkened in concern.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Mayvin has been assassinated. Rabzar is on run, rumor is he has crossed the boundary. A second revolution,” he said with grim face.
“Who is running the government now?”
“Your father’s friend, General Jamal, and he is determined to bring you back. But my concern right now is something else.” Osman kept looking around, as if expecting to find someone, or, something.
“Rabzar. I know him. I don’t think he is out of the country; it might be one of his ploys to keep everyone occupied by spreading rumor. Even if he is out, he will return, soon enough, to take revenge.”
“General Jamal can handle him, now that he is in power I don’t think Rabzar would be much of a problem,” Fiona assured him.
“What do you think, Rabzar would attack Jamal directly? He is not that foolish, you know. His first and foremost target would be you. His plan would be to play foul with Jamal’s plan to revive the old dynasty.”
“How do you know all these?” Fiona could not help but be astonished. But Osman gave no reply to Fiona. He seemed to be immersed in thought. Another thought had suddenly stricken in his mind.
“Can we trust Jamal?” he asked Fiona suddenly.
“I have met him in palace, talked to him several times in the past, he seems a loyal person. Why do you ask?” Fiona knew something was in his mind, she sought to know desperately.
“I smell a conspiracy in Jamal’s determination to crown you. He knows he cannot be the Head of State as long as the heir of Alasdair survives. There would be repercussion, people would not accept him, and, he may end up like Mayvin.” Osman stopped.
But Fiona completed the rest. “So, first he wants to get his hand on me with the promise and then eliminate me to grab power.”
“Yeah, that sounds logical.” Osman concluded.
“So either way it’s me who is going to pay the price,” Fiona’s voice began failing her, it shook in the end.
“No, I won’t let happen anything to you, not when we are so close.”
Fiona looked over. “Close to what? What are you talking about?”
“I have arranged a political asylum for you in a far away country from here. There you would be kept in unknown location and be provided necessary security, I think it’s already time to move you out. I must admit the moment arrived little earlier than I anticipated,” Osman assured her.
“Are you really an ordinary merchant as I think you are?” Fioan asked, surprised. “And what’s the point? I don’t want to die, but I don’t see any other way to end this too. Maybe peace would return with my death.”
“You are mistaken. Our country would slip down to more depth with your death. You have to live, if not for yourself, for your country. Revolution is not the answer, you must be the face of peace and prosperity in your country,” Osman argued.
“Even then, why should I care?”
“Because it’s your responsibility, and, there is no one else.”
The old car was moving towards west with a steady speed, followed by its own elongated shadow. The evening sun had tilted in the west, as if exhausted after the whole day’s shining, turning into an orange globe from its yellowing ambulation. Inside the car, a lady and a gentleman, immersed in their own thoughts, moved towards their unknown destiny. They seemed exhausted too, like the sun, but option-less, as the dark was approaching they could not afford the luxury of leisure.
As instructed to Rasul, Osman was determined to get Fiona cross the boundary to reach the neighboring state, from where she would be picked up by the members of the asylum giving state. They had travelled for two days, very cautiously, without raising any suspicion and reached the last check point in the noon from where there was six hours journey to reach their final point. They were almost at the end of their recent journey; they would reach there within a short moment where Rasul was waiting. But then suddenly Fiona’s gaze fell on something.
The past hours journey after the last check point was too tiring for them; no one lived there in this land, no sign of life, wherever the eye goes, there lies the limitless horizon before them; the nature stood bare, with stark nudity, exposed in this sandy land. Fiona was sitting inside the car beside Osman, gazing out through the window, as if drinking the dry land with her eyes. Then she saw it, where the yellow horizon had mingled with the orange sky, the dust rising, like a storm, but through that haze of dust someone was moving, very fast. No, not one, several, and they were in horse.
Osman had noticed it too; looking trough the binoculars, he made a sound which seemed like they were in trouble.
“Rabzar, and his followers. Finally, they have found what they were looking for so long,” he said. “Hold on,” he increased his speed too, but the dust was approaching too fast, nearing significantly in every second.
The next few minutes passed through an electric moment of chasing and being chased. Rabzar’s eyes shined like a predator in the sight of his prey, Osman’s chin stiffened, determined to defy this ferocious predator. But, after a while, a moment arrived when it became a matter of time the predator would get his prey in his grab. The shot fired trough the gun of Rabzar punctured a hole in the tire of Osman’s car and it toppled, injuring its rider and passenger heavily. All the six horses came to sudden halt where the car lied still, smoking, relinquishing before its assassinator.
Osman could not feel his hand, neither could he hold anything, everything looked blurred before his eyes, the distant sound of shout of Rabzar and his men reached him. He felt he was being seized, by an arrogant hand, and carried. He found himself on his knees, his mind was still blank, but could realize Fiona, sitting in same posture as him beside himself. In front of him, stood a tall and dark figure, holding a gun in his hand. Behind him few men celebrated, the weeping sound of Fiona added an extra flavor in their recipe, exposing the cruelty of their heart.
“Traitor,” Rabzar, the tall dark figure, shouted. “You will get what you deserve.”
Osman’s body failed him, but his mind, suddenly got alert with Rabzar’s voice. He opened his mouth, spoke softly, but got lost among the tumultuous howl of the others. He kept calm, waited and then spoke again.
“You promised a just state, devoid of all tyranny. What happened to your promises? To all those vanity talk? Who is the real traitor?” Osman said.
“I did, what I did, for the sake of the Revolution, what was necessary.”
“Really? According to whom? You? The country thinks otherwise. Although, I hardly reckon that would matter much to you.”
“We are not going to play this game. You have given shelter to a loyalist. You know what this is? Treason, and you will pay the price.” He held his gun at Osman’s temple.
“No…,” Fiona shouted, sobbing; “Please, leave him, you’ve got what you wanted, didn’t you? Please let him go. He did everything for me.”
“And that is his crime. He did everything for an enemy of the state, that makes him an enemy too,” Rabzar’s cruel voice echoed.
“No, wait…wait, please. Take me, kill me, I won’t come on your way. Please leave him…please,” Fiona kept pleading.
“Your time will come, soon enough, but not yet. You think I am fool enough to give Jamal the chance to grab power. I have another game to play, and you will be my bait,” Rabzar said, laughing.
The evil design in his mind left Fiona stunned. Made her forget everything, but she returned, kept pleading; but her cry made no difference on Rabzar, who had, once again held his gun on Osman’s temple, ready to fire. Fiona could not bear it any longer; she closed her eyes.
The shot was fired, the sound reverberated in the whole place, a body fell on the ground with a thud.
Fiona kept sobbing, eyes closed. The sudden event had left the whole crew startled, having no clue at all what had happened. A shot was fired, but the bullet did not come from Rabzar’s gun, instead a bullet entered his chest arriving from a direction they could not intercept.
When Fiona opened her eyes she was being comforted by Osman, being saved by Rasul and his men who had noticed from a distance what was going on, waiting in the border and took things in his own hand, although it was never easy, for he had no permission to cross the border. Rabzar and five more corpses lied nearby.
“Hurry up, we cannot stay here for long,” Rasul could be heard giving orders.
A few yards apart, Osman was speaking to Fiona, the gentleness of his touch brought her senses back.
“Listen,” Osman said, “You have to go with them, they will protect you. You can trust Rasul.”
“Wait…what? I have to go? Are you not coming?” Fiona asked. Did she hear correct?
“No. I have so many tasks left. You will be all right, trust me.”
“What’s more important for you? I won’t go anywhere, not without you. Rabzar might be dead, but there are still many dangers out there in this land,” Fiona tried to argue.
“Nothing’s more important than you,” Osman said.
“Then come with me, or, we stay here.” She held Osman’s right arm tightly, as if afraid of losing him forever.
“Listen,” Osman went on, “it’s for your sake you stay away from me. You don’t know yet.” Osman let his tongue slip in a moment of weakness, which perhaps he had never let happen, or, since he had embraced this life.
“What are you talking about?” Fiona asked, holding his arm in hers.
Osman remained silent.
“Tell me.” Fiona’s firm voice drummed in Osman’s ear.
“All right….it’s time, anyway, you know the whole truth, you deserve to know,” he continued, “Remember you asked me about Pablo once?”
Fiona nodded uncertainly, Osman’s question seemed completely out of context.
“Well, very few people in this world know, only three…and now four…I..I am Pablo.”
“What?” Fiona felt her mind getting blocked, getting blank, unable to arrange her thoughts. The unexpected admission of Osman left her more perplexed.
“Yes, I am Pablo, the killer of your family. That’s what you believe, don’t you? I am right in front of you, Fiona. Want to take revenge? It’s time.” Osman took out a knife from his pocket and put in her hand. “Take your revenge, Fiona. Take your revenge.”
“You are lying…. You are a liar.”
A sarcastic smile crossed Osman’s face. “Am I? Think about it. You think I am an ordinary merchant. But how did an ordinary merchant keep you away from those hawkish eyes of Rabzar and Mayvin for so long when they were hounding you in every streets and gullies? How did an ordinary merchant get so many inside information in time? How did and ordinary merchant arranged political asylum for you in faraway country? How did an ordinary merchant travel two days and brought you this far without failure? I did, because I know how to do it, I have done it so many times, in so many ways, in so many places before.”
It all made sense. She had always felt his protection over her, she had no idea how did he do all these, maybe she thought that he was a merchant with big contacts, which was not unnatural given the time they were living in. But, it had, not even in her darkest dream, appeared to her that whom she believed to be the killer of her family, the reason of all her agony, was standing right in front of her. Had she known his true identity, it would have been something else, she could have taken extreme step, but what now? She could take revenge, of course; she could stab Osman with the knife, tear apart his heart, but was it so simple.
“Why are you telling me now?” She wondered, what difference would it have made if he kept it hidden, it was so simple for Osman to give her the knife to take her revenge, but what about her? Had she not loved him with her whole heart? Had she not trusted him with her life? There was a time, when she would not have hesitated a bit to take Osman’s life had she known everything, but now, everything was changed. What cruel game the almighty was playing with her? She thought, was it not enough, what had already happened?
“Because you deserve to know,” Osman said, softly, bringing his face near Fiona. “I have lived a life of lies and deception for so long, I even might continue to do so, but not to you, not to the only person I have loved. I have tried to tell you so many times, believe me, I have. But I could not risk your life. Now that I know you are safe, I can tell you.”
Osman waited for Fiona to speak. But she was lost in thought, immersed in her own imagination. What was she thinking, even she didn’t know. The knife that she was holding in her hand, dropped on the sandy ground. She raised her eyes, looked at Osman, there was no rage, no revenge in her gaze. Her lips moved, but she could not tell anything.
“Come on, we have to leave now. The patrolling police would arrive here at any moment,” Rasul reminded Osman once again.
Osman gazed at Fiona, held her hand into his, and put a pen. Fiona looked at it uncertainly.
“What is it?”
“The pen which brought revolution…Pablo’s Pen. It belonged to me these years, now it’s yours.”
“Why are you giving it to me? It’s yours, you should keep it.”
“No, not any more. Once it inspired the whole country, made them revolt against tyranny. But now, it has a new destiny.” Osman paused; looked at Fiona dreamily. “I have realized through my journey, Revolution is not the answer, it never was. Peace cannot come through violence, for one violent event breeds the ground for several others, which in turn creates ground for others more, like a chain reaction. The revolution always had a motive of retribution, inflicting injuries to those who had done the same, giving it a name of “Justice”. But under the veil, it was always “Revenge” that had inspired the humanity. Revenge is like a poison, you know, taking the life out of everything, converting the whole world into a corrupt society. One day, in my hand, the pen had brought the violence, the disorder, chaos and inhuman act of relentless animosity over the nation. But now, in your hand, it will bring peace, it will bring back the sanity back among those who had lost it, bring the humanity back without which we are the darkest devil on this planet. Use your knowledge, that I have taught you so far, and write. If Pablo was the face of Revolution, Fiona will be the face of Restoration.”
“I can’t, not without you.” Fiona’s voice began to shake.
“Yes you can, and you have to. I know it’s too much to ask from you after what happened, but no peaceful society was ever built without sacrifices. You will the new face of Democracy in this land. Democracy is not something of a political instrument, it’s a way of life. A true democratic mind needs the strength to tolerate, to forgive, even those whose senseless act boils the blood. Without true democratic mind, democracy cannot survive. You have to be the one to teach them, educate your own people, for the sake of your own country.”
Osman took a last look at Fiona and turned back and began walking.
“Wait,” Fiona came running behind him. “Please come with me. I need you, please..” Fiona’s voice was chocked.
“I will come back to you, I promise. But now I have many things in my hand, and I cannot ignore them. Taking care of Jamal is one of them.” Osman assured her.
Fiona kept looking at him, keeping her hands on his shoulder. They kept gazing at each other, how long they didn’t have any idea. Fiona felt she was losing him forever, Osman felt the same for her. They asked farewell to each other through their eyes. Osman didn’t know what there lied in future, neither did he want to think of it, he was immersed in present. He slowly brought his face near Fiona, and kissed her on her lips.
Fiona was walking, surrounded by Rasul and his men, towards her new destiny. She looked back, beyond the boundary, over the fence; and she felt Osman’s presence over there, waiting for her. She would wait for him too.
Nandan Dutta is a teacher of History and Political Science for Civil service. Many of his short stories have been published in many other literary magazines like eFiction India, Muse India.