Chapter 1: My Journey Begins
In this first chapter from the novel I tell a little about Mariyah's life as a teenager in Tunisia and her encounter with the romance story 1001 Arabian Nights.
MY JOURNEY BEGINS
My real name is Mariyah, Mariyah El-Abiad, but they have always called me Marie. Marie was a fair compromise—a Muslim name shortened to a French name. Neither a Muslim cleric nor Catholic priest could be offended.
My mother was the daughter of a senior French Embassy official and my father a Tunisian Government minister responsible for purchasing military supplies. I considered myself a fortunate woman to be born in Tunisia to a Tunisian father of Arab and Berber descent and a French mother. Although my Catholic mother embraced Islam within her marriage she never fully adopted all the customs and teachings, and insisted that I, unlike most women, be given that rarest of gifts—an education. It was my mother, by means unknown to me, who enrolled me in the private French Embassy School, although by the rules of admission I was not entitled to attend. I learned to read and write both Arabic and French and received instruction in the arts. My drawing and sketching skills were amateurish, but adequate for illustrating the short stories and poems that I loved to write. It was here that I met Jacqueline, the French Ambassador’s daughter, my best friend and constant companion.
I shall remain forever indebted to my mother for what she gave me.
Two younger brothers, Mamoud and Amenzu, at this time more of a nuisance and of no significance to an older sister, completed my family. I loved them all dearly, my brothers included.
Looking back, I see my mother as a loving sensuous woman. At the time, I did not fully realize or understand the depth of her sensuality or the release she sought. Now, upon reflection it all falls into place. I can see her, now in my minds eye, cooking my father’s favorite meal, Moroccan tajine, singing or humming a song, aware of herself, moving more slowly and gracefully than usual. These were signs that she was moving towards a special evening. Dressed in one of her French gowns, tight fitting at the waist, attractively low cut at the front, my mother would lean over unnecessarily low and close to serve my father, the fragrance of her closeness lingering in the air, suggesting things to come.
Often I peeked through the kitchen window after my father had come home from work, and on more than one occasion I saw him standing behind my mother as she went about her preparations, his hands feeling her through layers of clothing, while he nuzzled her neck and mussed her hair. She sometimes feigned rejection of his advances, pushing him away with a backwards thrust of her bottom, and then, as though forgiving him for his boldness, she would turn her face to his and peck him on his cheek.
He was her little chou-chou and I was encouraged about married life.
I was fifteen years old when I caught a glimpse of the book on the bedside table, open at a colorful illustration showing a turbaned Sultan and a naked woman in a close embrace. It was quickly, yet casually picked up by my mother, closed and placed in a drawer—followed by a slight blush and forced conversation. We went about our bed-making chores, she hoping that I had not seen what I saw, I with my curiosity aroused.
A few weeks after this incident my parents took a short sojourn to the Tell Atlas mountains, and my friend Jacqueline stayed overnight with me. We had been close friends for many years, sharing the bonds of age, the French language, and the same school.
After dinner, we excused ourselves from the watchful eye of the housekeeper, and the bothersome squabbling of my brothers, and went to my bedroom, but only after I retrieved the book from the drawer in my mother’s bedside table. It was an illustrated Guide to Burton’s Tales of the Arabian Nights, 1001 Nights. Since it was written in English, I could not read it; however, Jacqueline could, having lived with her parents in London before her father's promotion to French Ambassador to Tunisia.
We lay side by side on the bed, leafing through the pages, pausing at the pictures, while Jacqueline translated the captions from English to French, and we posed, practiced and re-enacted each romantic scene, taking turns being the man and then the woman.
New awareness and sensations swept through our bodies—newly formed bodies—barely out of puberty. New awareness and sensations we could not control, feelings Jacqueline and I had not yet learned to take further. We were two cats in heat.
And we giggled and danced with each other in that scandalous European way, to imaginary music played in an imaginary crystal ballroom with a make-believe handsome prince in our arms.
Jacqueline showed me how to kiss the French way, with mouth open and tongue searching tongue, she saying beyond her years, “French girls kiss this way to show a man they have desire for him.”
She also taught me to wink at the French boys as we passed by them at school. “If you open your mouth while you wink the power of love will compel them to come to you and kiss you on your lips,” she said.
“Ugh,” I thought at the time, and always winked with my mouth closed.
Next Chapter in the book
THE END OF CHILDHOOD
My father thought I was eligible at fourteen, my mother wanted to wait until I was eighteen, and in a compromise sixteen was agreed on. I was to be married at the age of sixteen, after my schooling was finished.
Next Review Chapter is Chapter 3: Arabia
Free online romance novel 1001 Arabian Nights