The Way Home
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Do you have change for the phone?

Tracy takes twenty pence and gets up slowly from the bed, shuffling her feet around in search for her slippers. When she walks to the door she holds her lower stomach with one hand and Nadia flinches when she sees the dark stains on her friend's nightgown.

Nadia lied to her parents to be here. Of course. What could she have told them? Long ago Lateefa unwittingly bestowed glamour on Tracy, making her friendship even more desirable. Lateefa said, 'That girl Tracy is no good. Don't be her friend any more'. Perhaps she saw warning signs in the streak of colour on Tracy's lips, the awareness in her eyes. When Tracy wore a short skirt, she no longer crossed her bare legs carelessly like a child but did it deliberately with all the calm knowledge of an adult. 'She'll have a bad end', Lateefa said and Nadia knew that her mother's mind held images of the fallen women of the Egyptian cinema screen. The wrathful uncle from the south of Egypt stalking his niece with a loaded gun. Only blood could wash his family's dishonour. And off the screen, in urban Cairo where there were no guns, there would be shame. Lateefa could imagine the shame. Mothers get divorced for this kind of thing, sisters remain unwed. Grandmothers go to their graves before their time, crushed by sorrow. A girl's honour is like a match stick, break it and it can never be fixed. Not an Arab saying any more, a cliche.

Tracy has no gun-wielding uncle from the south. Her father will not divorce her mother because he already did so years ago. He went to Australia and Tracy's dream is that she will visit him there one day. She watches Neighbours with obsessive love, she has three stuffed koala bears in her bedroom.


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