Sunrise in Alex
On an impulse, you get out of bed, and decide it’s now or never. You slip into your jeans and T-shirt without a sound—a skill you picked up from your commitment-phobia years. Those years taught you how to leave behind those who trusted you. You sneak a peek at Noha’s snoring frame, fighting the urge to caress her face. You are ready, but the tears gathering in the corner of your eye startle you. You just hate it, don’t you? Not being enough.
When you first met Noha, she was studying in the Goethe Institute where you taught German. You loved her eccentricity, her dreams and her Egyptian loud voice. When she said yes, and married you, you thought you had it all, but you didn’t.
You watch the spectacular sunrise over Alexandria’s Mediterranean from the living-room window. You tune in to the city’s noises, breathe in its inhabitants’ strife. You’re not proud of what you’re about to do.
You walk into the girls’ room and shake them gently. You smile at their sleepy faces while they wonder why their step-dad is waking them up so early. Maybe, they’ll be off for a swim? Breakfast treat with Mama? Areej and Rawan jump on their beds like circus monkeys as the possibilities fire them up. You put a finger to your lips; tell them to get dressed quickly. That’s when the monkeying stops and the girls stare at you. They never leave the house without their Mama, and she’s still asleep. Surprise, you tell them, we’re getting a surprise gift for Mama.
You hail a taxi, and push the girls in. You ignore the baker’s good morning, and the grocer’s waving. You curse under your breath. You should’ve left earlier. Drive us to the airport, you instruct the driver. You feel your pockets for your cellphone and for a moment you skip a beat when you don’t find it. You look around and find it, but you also see dread in the girls’ eyes. They watch you make the call. They know what you’re doing. The driver is also watching you in the review mirror. You lower your voice and turn your back to them only to feel the slap of the northern wind as the taxi passes by the building where Noha took the girls for Ballet lessons near Ramleh Station.
Did she have to fight with everything she’s got to win the custody battle with her ex-husband?
The taxi pulls over when you reach the Borg Al Arab terminal. You just don’t know what to feel right now. The father shows up and opens the back door where you’re sitting next to them. The girls scream and call out for their mother. They cling to you, beg you, the force of their grief almost suffocating you. You hug them and tell them it’s just a vacation with dad, a good opportunity to get Mama something nice.
Riham Adly’s fiction has appeared in over forty online journals such as Litro Magazine, Lost Balloon, The Flash Flood, The Citron Review, The Sunlight Press, Flash Frontier, Flash Back, Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, and New Flash Fiction Review among others. Her stories have been nominated in 2019 for “Best of the NET” and the Pushcart Prize. Riham’s work is included in the “ Best Micro-fiction 2020” anthology. Riham lives with her family in Giza, Egypt.