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The Protege

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Chapter XIII

How I started alongside her again

 

The desert sunsets were something that couldn't be ignored as their beauty were incomparable. The yellow, orange and pink hues painted the sky and reflected in the bright sand that covered the ground for miles. A few stars were beginning to show, the moon already visible hours ago, and thanks to the fact that the heat was no longer as unbearable as before and the wind helped to cool slightly, all this reminded Fareeha of her childhood.

It reminded her of the afternoons in Egypt; the sunsets in the army with her teammates sharing a drink after a hard day at work. It reminded her of her mother. Five years and she didn't have a single bit of information from Ana Amari. The woman disappeared as if nothing once Fareeha was captured by the government and Hakim, the man behind doing a lot of damage to the cities and towns of her beloved Egypt, the one who she had to leave along with her mother in order to save their lives.

And Gods, she missed her mother so much.

Fareeha was in the verge of crying some other times when thinking of her, of her affectionate way of easing her soul, a void that could only be filled by a mother. This afternoon was one of those, but a hand resting quietly on her chest squeezed gently in a state of unconsciousness and made her turn down. Fareeha was sitting and leaning against the wagon's wall, a tender blonde rested tranquil in her lap, her head leaning on her shoulder and her hand relaxed on her chest. And even when for the poor woman it was more than hot and the sweat made her hair stick to her face, Angela was sleeping peacefully, her breathing quiet, her visage relaxed.

Fareeha had to smile at that, her rarely shown innocence made her heart flutter. And she felt stupid. How could she have abandoned her? Or how could she have even forgotten her? She was grateful to her brain and conscience; she didn’t forget her at all. The doctor refused to leave her head; she remained embedded in her heart and soul, in her mind and thoughts, that much of an impact she had on her. Despite the sound of the train moving on the tracks, she could hear a throat clearing which made her turn to her left.

“That is a cute and uncommon picture of you, let me tell you.” Yuna commented on a low tone, having Hana in her own lap resting her head as the girl slept. She was leaning on the other side of the wall. Her fatigue could be seen quite easily. “Not even Hana was allowed to spend a minute with you like that.” A beat, and Fareeha looked down one more time, tucking a few damp locks behind the doctor’s ear. “She’s that special to you?”

“She’s that special to me. I swore to protect her with my life.”

“How come?”

“She swore that she would protect every soul she could by becoming a doctor and achieving it by reaching her limits and surpassing them. She is an angel, always looking to keep improving and to save as many lives as she can. My mother swore to protect me throughout her life too, as Angela did with her patients and every helpless soul that needs her help. However, no one swore to protect her... When she needed help the most, nobody was there for her. She was abused, mistreated, and yet she wanted to continue. I swore to protect her, and I swore to try and return the many favors she has done by staying by her side… Which I failed.” The train movement paired with the sounds of machinery made a pregnant pause.

“So you knew her.”

“And I forgot her thanks to Vishkar.”

“Talking about Vishkar, what was she doing there by the way? If she claims she’s that angelic being and such.”

“She doesn’t claim it, Yuna. She has worked a large portion of her life without worrying about hers, she neglects herself too many times, it’s impressive…” Fareeha sighed, shifting slightly and cradling the blonde to bring her back to a more comfortable position. “But like many others, she didn’t know what Vishkar was doing. She needed more money for an important research, so she ended up accepting this job that promised her that income.” The sun was set, and only a dark blanket with white speckles covered the sky.

“Isn’t she too nice for your own good?”

“Heh perhaps, but she chose me.” Fareeha started to stroke her hair softly in sweet motions. “She’s too good for me. I don’t deserve her.”

“Perhaps you’re made for each other. You put too much of yourself into other people above you. That’s being selfless.” Yuna smiled in what seemed forever, agreeing that their relationship –even when not mentioned– was more than acceptable and fitting. Fareeha returned the smile, and smiled wider when Hana stirred in Yuna’s lap and opened her eyes, blinking the sleep away as she focused on her surroundings. “Hey, sleepyhead."

“How long have I been gone?” Hana asked, rubbing her eyes and stretching her body as she sat straight, the train still rumbling and swaying as it moved.

“I’m not entirely sure-”

“Three hours. We have approximately four on the road.”

“I’m still baffled at how good you are telling the time without a clock.” Hana commented with eyes wide open and Fareeha stretched her hand towards the open door, placing two fingers horizontally to the front.

“It’s easy, you just have to measure the sun and there you go.” There was a pregnant pause, Fareeha retracting her fingers and returning them to comb Angela’s hair, trying to cool her by tucking more strands or rebel locks due to the flowing wind.

“Aww, aren’t you a cutie?” Hana said with a wide grin as she looked at the doctor and then at Fareeha.

“Stop… I can take Yuna teasing me, but you’re on a whole different level of tease. I won’t comment on you wetting the bed if you don’t tease me.”

“Heh, fair trade.” They both shared a smile, and Hana shifted in place. “So, what’s your plan?”

“We had a plan, but things changed all of a sudden and… Well, there’s no plan. We only have that backpack.”

“Do you have food there? I’m starving.”

“I don’t think so. Knowing her, she must’ve packed medical stuff in there.”

“Doctor stuff, huh…”

“What’s your plan?” Hana hummed and cupped her chin, looking at Yuna and then at Fareeha with a quizzed look.

“I’m not sure. Yuna and I had a plan of going back to streaming if we ever got out of that place.”

“If you have the looks and the skill, it’s a great way to earn money.” Yuna complemented, only earning a strangled look from Fareeha, who cocked her head and arched an eyebrow.

“That’s something I’ll have to see later, to be honest.”

The blonde in her arms started to stir, groaning in discomfort. Fareeha immediately thought of the heat Angela had to endure, tiny droplets of sweat gathering in her forehead and telling her so. Slowly and opening her eyes, Angela focused on her surroundings, her blue eyes landing on both Korean girls with confusion and then up her, to Fareeha, who smiled at her fondly. Fareeha could swear her heart was about to jump from her ribcage when the doctor smiled back at her.

“Hello.” She said softly, separating slightly apart from Fareeha.

“Hey. How was the nap?”

“I would have preferred it in a room with air conditioning. But I cannot complain about the support.”

“Charming.”

“You two are cute.” Hana smiled, instantly making the doctor blush.

“O-oh… My thanks.”

“Humble, unlike Fareeha here.” She pointed with a finger at the taller woman. “We were wondering what your plan was. You know, reaching one place, travelling to another, having a life and all that.”

“Well, I was thinking on going back home.”

“Obviously.”

“But also taking Fareeha right where she belongs.” It irked Fareeha’s curiosity. She had a slight idea of what that meant, nonetheless, she wanted to hear it falling from those rosy lips. “With me.” That. And it made her heart flutter. Happiness in a pure and silly show.

“Makes sense! You two fit somehow.”

“I think we do…” The blonde blushed as she said that, and wiped the sweat off her brow, fanning herself softly with her hand to mitigate the heat. “But me and this weather does not. I can’t wait to get out of here and into some decent temperature. My body demands a cold shower.”

“We all deserve any kind of shower.” Fareeha stepped up, standing and walking towards the door to peek outside. After hours of being on the train with no sign of a town with decent technology to get in touch with someone who could help them, at last on the horizon she could see the city they were waiting to arrive at. “We are close to reach Rajasthan, just a few more minutes.”

“Finally!” Hana squeaked, getting up as well and being followed by Yuna. “I can’t wait to eat anything. I can even eat a rat.”

“Disgusting, Hana.”

“Oh, come on! Don’t think less of me for eating crap for the sake of survival!”

“It’s not survival, is just being disgusting.”

“Whatever.”

Fareeha smiled to herself, the carefreeness of Hana and the seriousness of Yuna were something she’ll definitely get to miss. And right now, thinking about both girls and how they would get away from their lives after a few years of sharing their biggest worries and fears, like illusions and emotions, was something they were afraid to lose. And losing them in their totality was an even greater fear. Fareeha could defend herself outside, knew how to hide and fight back, but these girls were almost helpless in their totality. Maybe, just maybe, if she told Angela anything.

“You know, if you don't have somewhere to go, you are more than welcome to come with us and stay in my house until we find a suitable place for you two. You could get back to study, that would be a good option for you.” Angela said so humbly, and Fareeha’s eyes opened wide given the right comment, as if she had read her mind or understood her intentions without even looking at or listening to her, just feeling her. “There’s not plenty of rooms in my apartment to be quite honest with you, but I can fix you a place near to get you comfortable.”

“That would be…”

“Awesome!”

“Hana, we need to think about it!”

“Think about what?!”

“Uh, going with a stranger rather than home?!”

“We had no home for two whole years and you are questioning the help of someone who Fareeha trusts?!”

“Will you stop yelling?” Fareeha calmed them down, both girls looking at her and stopping immediately. “Good. Now discuss that as the barely adults you are, you have a few more minutes until we arrive at town.”

“Fine. We’ll think about it.” Hana crossed her arms and leaned on the wall, Yuna imitating her. Fareeha sat back next to Angela, taking her hand on her own and squeezing slightly in reassure.

After several minutes of travel, the train stopped at the station and the younger girls jumped at the first opportunity they had, Fareeha following them and extending a hand to help Angela down, who gratefully took it. The station was crowded, several people in a hurry trying to catch on with their lives. After a few more minutes, the four arrived at a somewhat modest bar. Hana, Yuna and Fareeha sat at a table eating their plate of food while Angela was standing at the bar talking on the public telephone.

“So, do you have an answer now?” Fareeha questioned both of them, even more to Yuna.

“I definitely want to go with you, but Yuna has her doubts.” Hana was almost gobbling her bread and rice, Yuna being more modest than her.

“Of course I have my concerns. However… I think the best option is to go with you two. Going back to Busan means risking almost everything: our lives, our family, our future. The government doesn't want us, Vishkar will definitely look for us, and I'm sure we would put everything we created there in danger. Also, a new life opportunity doesn't sound bad at all.”

“Yeah! We can have a job and an apartment where we can stream and stay up late without any adult to tell us otherwise!”

“I’m pretty sure Angela would tell you to not stay late at night.” Fareeha laughed, taking a spoonful of her warm meal. For a couple seconds she turned her head around and looked at the blonde still talking on the phone, her hand made a slight movement every time she had a phone call, and it was adorable. Fareeha propped her elbow on the table and her chin on her hand, looking at her a little longer. Truth is, she couldn’t get her eyes off her, she had this constant need to protect her body, but also her dreams, her aspirations, her heart and soul.

“Hello?” Hana waved a hand in front of her, making Fareeha to snap from her daydream.

“Sorry.”

“You got caught out there, huh?” Hana grinned, making Fareeha blush instantly and dealing with the topic by shoving more spoonful of her meal in her mouth. “Heheh! You’re so cute!”

“Stop. I don’t do cute.”

“But you are! Your overall attraction to the doctor makes you dummy for her and that's cute!”

“Hana, for the love of the Gods…”

“She’s not wrong.”

“Yuna!” Both Korean girls laughed subtly, Hana more scandalously than the other. Fareeha shared that moment with them and just smiled.

“What are you laughing about?” Angela returned faster than expected, scaring the tallest girl in the group. Fareeha scooted to give Angela her seat.

“We were saying that Fareeha looks cu-!” A hand in her mouth cut her off.

“They were saying they wanted to join us but also take time before starting a new life, you know.”

“Oh! That’s magnificent!”

“We were thinking on going back to Busan for a few days and sort everything out there. Our parents, for example.” Yuna said softly, playing with her food. “I don’t know if that will be a problem.”

“Not at all.” The blonde shook her head. “Actually, we have to be some other places before going home. And as to move you, that won’t be a problem.”

“Wait, what do you mean we have to be some other places first?” Angela got up, not touching her food but smirking instead. Fareeha could easily see there was something fishy.

“Very well, ladies, we need to go to the airport. An aircraft would be more than obliged to take you back to Busan whenever you want. When you’re ready to go back with us and start a new life, just call me and I’ll fix everything for you.” From the pocket of her shirt she retracted a business card, handing it to Yuna. “Fareeha?”

“Y-yes?”

She saw a different look on her. Her eyes shone again, her determination filling her iris with unparalleled purpose. Fareeha knew that look. As if under a spell, she got up and left everything aside, getting up and taking the place next to her, straightening her back and checking her backpack and pockets, feeling the gun tucked in her pants. A nod, and she was ready, letting Angela know she was more than prepared to face whatever was going to come next.

“Let’s go.”


During the flight, Angela said nothing. Fareeha wanted to make for a conversation, but the doctor was so caught in her own thoughts that she found it rude to disturb her mental swirl of ideas. Fareeha felt a shiver run down her spine, knowing already she used to do that. Fortunately, the private jet made it easier for both of them to relax and not worry about things for the moment. Fareeha kept dozing off, but soon enough her head was back at her place. She definitely needed a shower and proper rest.

Once landing, Fareeha simply got the backpack in one hand and secured the glock firmly in her pants once again. The doors were opened, and Fareeha was greeted by a warm yet fresh breeze for the first time in more than four years. The sea could be seen extending from one side, several boats and yachts sailing through its blue waters. This was a place she had never visited despite having made a great tour of Europe in her life. Greece definitely looked interesting.

The trip to the hotel was quick, but despite that, Fareeha could see a little more of the city and delight in the architecture, the people and its surroundings, a real gem. The building had a modest surrounding and was painted in white and blue colors, but inside it shouted luxury, something that Angela could easily afford and that Fareeha still thought it absurd to spend such amount of money in an eccentric place like that hotel, but she would give her the benefit of the doubt always.

“And what exactly do we do here, Angela?” Fareeha left the backpack at the foot of one of the two beds once they both got inside of their designated room.

“I can tell you all about this, just wait a little longer. For the moment, my body demands a shower, and so does yours.” She pointed a milky finger at her, up and down, and Fareeha saw herself wearing quite the ragged clothes, plus the dust and sweat gathered in the travel.

“I think I’m fine.”

“For God's sake, Fareeha… Get in the shower.” Laughing to herself, Fareeha obeyed and walked to the bathroom, starting the shower and undressing slowly.

Her clothes even felt hard from the dirt, and the shame was immediate. Quickly the cold water washed away all the dirt from her body and Fareeha moaned with pleasure as she felt her body clean after a while. The sound of falling water was a relaxant in itself, and the smell of the shampoo only added more pleasurable sensations to the mix. Soaping her body with her eyes closed she didn't felt the presence of another person hugging her from behind and placing her cheek on her back, but the warmth and soft touch easily told her who she was.

“I missed you…” Angela said all of a sudden, the falling water making her comment barely audible.

“I’ve been here all the time.”

“No, I missed you. I missed my Fareeha. I missed taking a shower with her, talking to her, sleeping with her without the fear of being caught… I missed a lot, and this.” Fareeha turned around, looking at blue eyes back and closing the gap, kissing her tenderly on her lips that -despite having been tired and needy- tasted as sweet as ever.

“And I missed you, even when I didn’t remember you.”

“Aren’t you charming?”

“It’s the truth.”

“Well, a lot is coming and we have quite the ordeal ahead. As much as I want to stay and spend a decent day with you and only you, we need to get going.”

“It’s nighttime…”

“And perfect for speed shopping.”

“You still haven’t told me what this is all about.” A beat where Angela looked down and then up to her.

“Do you trust me?” There was only one valid answer.

“Always.”

“Then wait just a little longer, okay? I need some coffee to keep going.”

“As you wish, ma’am.” Angela smiled and gave her one last peck in the lips before Fareeha got out of the shower and wrapped herself in a fluffy white towel.

As Angela had said, the night had fallen a couple of hours ago, but the city was bustling with life. The establishments had their lights on and the people didn’t stop walking up and down, music playing in one place or another, and many tourists joined the locals in a vivid coexistence and cultural exchange. Even in the ports where it should be quieter, the laughter and music weren't lacking, brightening the waters illuminated by the light of the moon.

Five years in which for the first time Fareeha saw the sea again.

The breeze from the harbor blew gently on her face, moving her hair lightly as she walked beside Angela, following the blonde and enjoying this peaceful moment between the two. The only thing she regretted wasn’t wearing proper clothes, sports pants and a baggy shirt weren’t exactly an outfit to walk among such elegant avenues. However, Angela wasn’t far behind, and her jeans and shirt made her look different than she usually was seen.

“I know you're wondering where we're headed.” Angela said after a while of walking, a stroll of perhaps twenty minutes from the hotel and into the city’s busiest and wealthiest zone. The extravagance and elegance surrounding both of them. “It's not good to run away with just a change of clothes in your back, don’t you think?” Fareeha looked down at her own clothes, then at Angela when she stopped in front of a store, and nodded sheepishly.

“Yeah…”

“Worry not, dear. I don’t feel comfortable wearing… This, as well.”

And she opened the door, the bell rang when the door closed as well. Fareeha looked at her surroundings, several mannequins filling the store with clothes that seemed worth thousands of euros. Another detail that she had forgotten about Angela and had just remembered right now: the doctor -despite not bragging about it- was addicted to luxury. And as if it were a moth attracted to the flame, Angela walked directly towards the mannequins that wore dresses fitted with fine fabrics.

“Welcome. How may I help you tonight?” A rough yet soft voice called both of them, Angela turning her body at the man wearing a black suit and standing next to several other mannequins, fixing the clothing.

“Good evening. My friend called several hours ago to make an appointment for both of us for a proper tailoring. As you can see, we are not in the best of our looks, so we need your help for a new wardrobe.”

“…Angela?” Fareeha called her softly, but the doctor never diverted her attention from the man, instead standing straighter and lifting her chin with pride.

“You must be Miss Lacroix’s friend, Dr. Angela Ziegler?”

“Yes. And I would like that dress, please.”

“Of course. Miss Lacroix told me about your situation and the need to keep all of this secret. If you excuse me for a moment, you can move into the room behind those doors while I close the store for a couple of hours. The place is reserved for both of you at the request of Miss Lacroix.” The man apologized and went to the front door while both girls crossed the threshold of the door, Angela sitting on one of the lounge sofas in front of a fitting platform with several mirrors stretching to the sides of the wall.

“Is this… Normal for rich people?” Fareeha said shyly, feeling out of place immediately while Angela seemed to thrive and enjoy this part.

“Of course. Privacy is a luxury, and as said luxury, the cost is grand.”

“I-I see…”

“Why are you so apprehensive? Didn’t your wealthy clients take you to places like this?”

“Angela, you are the richest person I have ever worked for.”

“…Oh. And to think about it, this is the first time I bring you for a fitting, isn't it? My apologies, Fareeha. I didn’t think about how uncomfortable you could feel in a place like this.”

“N-no! It’s okay, really! It’s just that it’s all too weird for me right now. I can manage it.”

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“I am.” Angela got up from her place and walked to where Fareeha was, cupping her cheek with a slender hand and tracing the tattoo under her eye with a thumb, feeling the warm skin underneath and smiling fondly at her. Fareeha’s heart felt close to jumping out of her ribcage.

“I would never force you to do something that you don't want to do. But I won't deny that if you are willing to continue, I will be more than grateful to you.”

“This time, I'm willing to go to the end of the world if I’m by your side. I promise you.” Angela blushed at the comment, tucking sheepishly a loose strand of hair behind her ear and earning a grin from Fareeha, who bent down to press her lips to those of the doctor in a chaste kiss, feeling the softness of the plump flesh touching fervently her own. A pair of arms surrounded her waist, bringing her even closer to the doctor. The heat was rapidly spreading from her chest up to her head and down to her groin.

“Sorry for the intrusion.” The man returned and cleared his throat lightly, making both girls separate with a tad of discomfort. “Everything’s been taking care of and now we can begin with the fitting session.”

“That would be ideal, my thanks.” Angela sat down on her place on the sofa and took one of the two flutes filled with sparkling champagne, sipping carefully. “She goes first, if you would be so kind.”

“Absolutely. Ma’am?” He motioned to the fitting platform in front of them.

“Wait, first?”

“Now you can get an idea of why we keep all this secret.” Angela ignored Fareeha’s question, instead she kept talking to the tailor who started measuring Fareeha’s body with a measuring tape. “The world isn’t ready to see that I’m dating someone, in a sort of way. You must keep this secret.”

“I understand, and no word will slip from my lips.”

“Thank you.”

After what seemed like an eternity in standing on the platform while the measurements were taken from head to toe and in which a lot of outfits were fitted, Fareeha was quickly getting tired and bored with such activity, something that Angela seemed to be enjoying and triving herself. At least that she could give her: entertainment. Once her time had passed and she was dispatched to the more casual section of the store to complement her wardrobe, she returned with a modest amount of clothes back to the dressing room, sitting where Angela was and understanding why the doctor was having so much fun.

It was a show itself. Angela was in her underwear, it mattered little that a man was seeing her and measuring at her mercy, but Fareeha was calm given the professionalism of the tailor. What she was uneasy about was the fact of keeping her composure and not being able to take her in her arms with each fitted dress she wore, each and every one of them exquisitely accentuating her figure to the delight of all. She would definitely take revenge for putting her through such a calvary once they went back to the hotel.

“There’s one more thing Miss Lacroix asked me to hand you.”

The man took a briefcase in his hands and opened it in front of them. A glock and several cartridges of ammunition paired with a shoulder holster tucked tightly in the dark foam. Both women were already changed in a more adequate attire: Fareeha wearing a plain black suit with a white shirt underneath, a pair of black shiny shoes dressing her feet. Angela was wearing a pale pink dress nudging tightly her body and nude stilettos to complement her outfit.

“You are my only source of safety, Fareeha.” Angela started saying as she took the holster from the briefcase and Fareeha stripped from her jacket, the doctor helping her secure the leather strap. “I don't trust anyone else with my life as much as I trust you.”

“Your life over mine, my lady.”

“Charming.”

After leaving the place with several bags of the store filled with clothes, shoes and accesories, Angela led both of them to a restaurant near the same avenue, the place filled with live music on a corner, making the place quite the popular place to gather and spend the night with friends. Fareeha almost flopped down in a booth after carrying so many bags, breathing deeply and arching an eyebrow when Angela sat down and giggled, adorably covering her mouth with a hand.

“What’s so funny?”

“You make a great assistant.”

“For carrying your shopping bags?”

Our shopping bags, Fareeha.” The doctor raised a hand, earning the attention of a waitress. “I want a glass of red wine, Carlo Rossi, and she’ll have a malt beer.” Once the waitress scribbled their order in a small server book, she left them alone once again only to return a minute later with both beverages. Angela swirled her glass in her hand before taking a sip, humming in delight at the taste. “I missed this.”

“You’re an alcoholic.”

“Excuse me, who reported late on her first days of duty because she had a hangover and overslept?”

“It was my birthday... I had a freebie.”

"We don't have "freebies" in this life, Amari." Fareeha laughed and took a drink of her beer, tasting the sweet bitterness of the dark liquid.

“And you still remember my preferences regarding alcohol?”

“Oh, I could never forget this smell and taste. I used to take one myself once or twice a week to remember you.”

“That's cute… And needy.” Fareeha jested, earning a soft slap in the arm by the blonde who was caught in a fit of giggles.

“I will take that partly as a compliment. What did you do to remember me?”

For a moment, the younger woman recalled as much as her brain could, closing her eyes briefly and taking a deep breath. She didn’t remember much. “That’s the thing, I didn’t remember you until a couple months…” Fareeha stared down at her own drink, looking at the foam gathering on top of the cold glass. A hand rested on top of hers, warm and soft, making her look up only to be met with a tender smile.

“How are you now?” Be honest with her.

“There are many things that I still don't remember. My mind tries to make me understand some events, even faces... And many things from my past -like my childhood- keep disturbing me… Is that normal?”

“Given the circumstances in which you found yourself, it is very likely that you still have these gaps of unrecalled memories. Unfortunately, that’s something that only you can fill, revisiting old places might help you, but that includes Egypt as wel-”

“Out of question.” Fareeha interrupted, drinking hastily from her glass.

“As I said before, my primary concern is your well-being, and I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want. If you want to go some other time or not at all, I’ll respect your decision.”

“…Thank you.” Angela smiled at her and drank from her glass, retracting her hand from Fareeha’s own and fidgeted with the ring in her middle finger. Now seemed to be time to ask the right questions. “Angela, what exactly are we doing here?” Her sweet face hardened for a couple seconds, straightening in her seat as she placed both her hands in the table, one overlapping the other.

“Fareeha, when we were in India I told you a little about why I sacrificed working for Vishkar in order to achieve an advance that would benefit humanity. I still don’t know how to feel about all this, I failed in my personal goals but I found something that I treasured even more. I found you, and the moment I saw you I wanted to leave everything behind and take you out of there with me. But life is more complicated than that, especially mine.”

“What do you mean?” A sigh and diverted blue eyes.

“My work is everything, it means a lot to me and my main objective has been to never stop improving, never stop looking for ways to benefit humanity. I never relapse into unethical practices; although this time I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but that’s no excuse... I regret a lot, Fareeha. The news are plagued by an 'unfortunate incident at Vishkar’s Headquarters in India’. I fear what they can discover and that they link me with that.”

“You fear for your reputation.”

“I'd be lying if I told you otherwise. Only a few people know exactly where I was going, what I was headed for and what I was doing. Emily is one of them, and I trusted her to keep the secret and cover me in the hospital until I finished my six-month leave. No one in the hospital knew exactly what I was doing or where I was going, but the presence of Vishkar in my own hospital can raise those suspicions if I don’t give a logical and reasonable explanation before and after.”

“I understand…” Even when she didn’t understood at all, she needed to let the doctor vent and explain herself. She owed her that.

“I know it's complicated, and I need your help.”

“Of course, you will always have my help… Although I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

“What you did before.”

“What I…Pardon?”

“I want you to be my bodyguard once again, Fareeha. That way, you can come anywhere with me and you won’t have to leave my side. That’s a mere excuse for you to come with me and not be questioned about it.”

“Your bodyguard?”

“I need to make public appearances but subtle, not to tell the world that I am in such a part to obviously call their attention, but to make an appearance in some hospitals that are linked to mine and my work, I monitor the use of my techniques and procedures to the goals that are established and I think it is a perfect opportunity to make a new revision of those.” Everything was clicking now.

“So that’s why we are in Greece.” A nod.

“That’s right. The main Ilios hospital is linked to my own, and this is where I want to start.”

“Got it.” A soft smile was delivered, and quickly turned into a not so pleasant grimace. It was very obvious, and Fareeha immediately wanted to correct that. “What’s wrong?”

“A selfish wish...” Angela took the glass of wine and started swirling it again. A habit that she had when she thought, finding a soothing source at watching the liquid tint the walls of the glass. “You are that.”

“Am I disturbing you?”

“N-no! Not at all! What I mean is that- Look, I need to really explain myself.” She sighed, and drank the whole content of the glass in one single sitting. “My reputation is the most important thing I have, many things depend on it, such as support for my hospital and therefore, my patients. Several years ago I had the misfortune of being involved in a lot of drama that seriously affected an important support of a photochemotherapy treatment capable of eradicate cancer cells. I lost it completely, that's why I resorted to dragging myself to Vishkar and I failed... I don’t need more drama, I don’t need more gossip. And that's why bringing you with me is a selfish wish...”

“I don’t understand, Angela.”

“By coming with me I am prone to more suspicions and assumptions. I’m a divorced woman, I promised to my ex-husband’s family to protect both our reputations and interests, so having you around means you are more than a friend… It leads to gossiping but still I want to take you with me everywhere knowing that people will ask about you, why suddenly the bodyguard escorting me previously is back with me even when I don’t need her anymore. I am sure that this peace will not last long, and they will look for you, and therefore me too, and they will probably take away another important support but...”

“…But?”

“I-I don’t care… And I’m afraid, Fareeha. I don’t mind losing one more support while you're with me, you're my selfish wish… I’m willing to leave something that might improve and save the lives of many others just to spend more time with you…” It could be the alcohol she kept ordering in the middle of the conversation mixed with the moment of shared intimacy, but Angela started crying softly, covering her face with one hand while trying to soothe the sobs.

“Angela, I don’t need you to hire me as your bodyguard to stay by your side. But if this brings you peace and helps us get out of this together, I am willing to do it without thinking twice.”

“My thanks, Fareeha… My thanks.” She took her hands in her own and squeezed strongly, Fareeha almost fearing the doctor would crack her fingers. Nonetheless, she was more than willing to let her do so, she could see Angela was tipsy and she kept ordering more wine, Fareeha barely finishing her second pint of beer. “And since we’re here, why don’t we celebrate for our successful yet improvised break?” She raised her glass, and Fareeha clinked her glass with her.

“For the reversed roles, and to you, my protégé.”

“For the future awaiting us, and to you, my bodyguard.”

Both glasses collided and the drink ran out in a matter of seconds, Angela raising her hand and ordering a full bottle. Time flew by and soon they were both drunk, Fareeha conscious enough to stop and know it was time to retire to the hotel before something else happened. After more than two years without drinking a drop of alcohol, her body would definitely resent her as soon as she touched the bed.

Walking back through crowded streets as enthusiastic as they were was no easy task, and in the end Fareeha ended up leading Angela by the hand back to the hotel, to her bedroom and to her bed, and despite her drunken state, Angela was clingier than usual, more desperate than usual, more aroused than usual. Between kisses, she pinned the Egyptian to the bed, unzipping her dress from behind as she started to caress the body below her with need and desperation, both forms pressing against each other.

Fareeha felt her body warm with every touch of the doctor's body, until she felt her slender hands not move any more, and only a soft snore alerted her that Angela was still alive but totally unconscious. She had to laugh about it, but she was just as tired that she quickly closed her eyes and succumbed to a heavy sleep with a delicate and delicious body on top of hers, giving her warmth on that cool night.


The night and the desert were a wonderful combination. The small grains of sand shone under the moonlight, and the wind caressed its soft, yellow, brown floors with small dots dyed crimson. Her knees could barely support her weight, and the hand on her eye was soaked with more blood, furiously dripping down her skin and clothes to the sand. That was her mother.

“Fareeha, get away from here!” She howled, begging her own daughter to run and hide, to leave her behind.

“I won’t, mom! Get up, we can make it-!”

“No, we can’t! I can’t drag you down with me!”

“Fuck them! They won’t!”

“Are you that stubborn, Fareeha. They will, and I prefer a thousand times to die now so that you can live a better life before living one of suffering together!” Fareeha’s face was distorted, showing frustration, anger and desperation, tears gathering in her eyes and dripping down her chin as she tried to get her mother to get up, only for that hand to be slapped back. “Fareeha, I can’t leave with you!”

“Why not? You’re injured!”

“Exactly! If I walk I'll leave a trail of blood and guide them to my location, and if I go with you it's the perfect formula to catch us both!”

The time was running out, and both would not last long hidden behind that deteriorated temple. Both Ana and Fareeha knew it, and a mother's love was undoubted, since the older woman was willing to sacrifice herself for her daughter. What she did not know, is that the love her daughter had for her was just as important, just as intangible and sensational. Fareeha had only one solution in her head. Sacrifice.

“May the Gods protect you and help you protect those who need it, mother.” She stroked her hair softly, with endless love and affection. Ana’s healthy eye widened.

“What are you doing-?”

“We will meet again. Take care mom. I love you.”

“Fareeha!”

And she ran away from the temple, away from her mother, away from her past life in order to distract Hakim's men hired by the government to trap and annihilate them. Fareeha was more than willing to save her mother's life, she had already caused many problems and maybe it was time to pay her mother for everything she had done for her.

But she had no idea what they had prepared for her.