The transition from Sandrine to Rashida was seamless. Harry could care less if she was one or the other. He had made the decision to cross over. They had known each other on a level that had defied words. For two months, submerged in their unbounded desire as a matter of survival. No explanation however damning could interpose itself between as far as he was concerned. Not even the imminence of death. Harry had been to that cliff and had looked over the edge. What fears in this world could there be to intimidate him now? He was just glad somehow that his fingers had not been playing about inadvertently in her brother’s brains after all. What had happened had happened. Life was not a headline plastered to relieve the angst of another day with an even more potent replacement. People got themselves tangled up in gambits that they could not foresee the most obvious of probable conclusions that were evident after the fact life a stone bridge. It might be called destiny? Or its evil twin fate! Harry was wearing those kind of blinders too.
She had been recruited by her stepbrother who had become tired of being considered an unfortunate legacy of a colonial empire of the past. Inconvenient beyond the status of a carhop or eventually the owner of the ‘boutique allimentation’ on some nondescript block in an obscure ‘banlieue’ on the far edge of Paris. He had made the pilgrimage to Benghazi a few years past and had learned how to fire an AK-47 from the expert hands of a professional Jihadist who was a pawn of the CIA. Since then he had carried the family down with his clumsy exploits. This time he had half guilt tripped, half intimidated his half sister who was ‘trop bourgeoisie française’ to put on the hijab as a matter of cultural pride. He expected her to die by not telling her that the bag she was carrying was to be detonated while it was still in her possession. Two birds handled with one stone so to speak. “Mais la vache était si nerveuse qu’elle a laissé tomber et elle courut” He had called her a coward because she had discovered the secret and initially tried to throw it away. Her brother theatened to have her kidnapped tortured and raped if she didn’t go through with it. But she had failed to carry out his instructions. That was why Harry hadn’t died and why her best friend and her brother had. A terrified Raschida had tripped and dropped the bag when she had unexpectedly caught sight of Sandrine and her brother as they sat at the very place that she was to leave her lethal cargo. Had it not been for a tiny Fiat that she had jumped behind and had taken the brunt of the blast, she would have been dead and in little pieces as well. How she wished that she hadn’t made that mistake of diving behind, it but kept standing up instead!
The brother had been looking for her as she knew he would soon would. She had messed up his uninterrupted path to those forty celestial virgins as reward for dispatching Kafirs. She still had a key, one that fit to the door of her best friend’s place in town. Though she was beyond guilt for her act. She figured it was her best place to lay low until things in the press and on the street died down. Then, she would be out of here. Out of Paris and out of France. Away from anything remotely connected with Islam or North Africa or her part in the past. That is why she decided to descend upon Harry. She had run over to him right after the blast and that ‘demi-frère le mal’ had sprinted off running in full retreat. For all his talk and posturing violence, he wasn’t a martyr either. She had picked up Harry from the sidewalk and helped him over to the ambulance before the torn artery in his arm had emptied all his blood out onto the street. She liked him. His eyes appealed to her. And she had taken the risk of riding along with him to the hospital covered all over in his blood. A strange primal bond that she could not quite convince herself to break! No one at the site of the attack would be the wiser. They thought she was his girlfriend, Sandrine. She had staked him out so far as to have been a constant visitor in his hospital room while he was out of it pumped full of painkillers. Life as she had known it had crashed and burned for her.
The two of them had grabbed whatever they could find from Sandrine’s flat and quickly cleared out to another district of the city. They took the Metro following a loose path around the ‘gaufrette” of city districts looking constantly at the crowd about them trying to see any faces that seemed to be tracking them. Their meandering course leading them eventually to a forgettably small tourist hotel lost between two Gare’s. They lay naked, bodies enmeshed in the over-worn crevice of a dilapidated cot crowded within a tiny closet of a room in the tenth district. One that could barely sport a small table and a sink at best but not anything more. They had grabbed some luggage and a couple of rings that had been in Sandrine’s family before they had all been outted and died off. An impromptu ceremony of fidelity conducted by immediate necessity as a further act of survival through camouflage to throw that imagined packs of hounds sniffing out their fading trail from far behind. It was hopeless of course. But like rabbits, their will to survive together as one outdistanced their logic. Sadness and sex, one springing from the other, and the resultant despair! They seemed far beyond the cyclical tedium of coitus. Out of nowhere, Harry remembered that it was the same day as his mother’s birthday. She was dead and gone mislaid from another era that despite his best effort he had mostly lost an ability to recall. Now that door had swung shut he would have no claim to any former identity beyond one as a bookend to the woman whose face he now stared into. He couldn’t turn Rashida into the authorities anymore than he could hope to avoid the blame as a willing accomplice. Of too willingly going off with someone when she was just a stranger. An emotionally desolate strange woman with little more to offer than her pain. What had the two of them left to offer the rest of the world but their fragile mortality? The question was how to cease to exist for that artificial construct of society that stretched over outside world like a thorny bramble and remain together for that simple fact alone?