The Way Home
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Chris and Tracy. There was a Michael before Chris, an Ian before Michael. There was a time long ago when Tracy and Nadia were two little girls with the same Barbie dolls. They watched Blue Peter together. When they spoke, their words were spontaneous and pure. (Your tummy is brown... Why do you have red dots on your nose?) In school they pushed each other into fits of giggles, finding humour in things they would not have found funny if they were alone. A girl's stocking, the janitor's moustache, a deviant white hair that grew right in the centre of Mrs. Hickson's cheek and quivered when she spoke. An exchange of looks and Tracy would start spluttering, covering her mouth with her hand, knees clenched together. Nadia's suppressed laughter would turn to shrill squeaks, a knot of pain in her chest. Then, and it did not happen overnight but gradually, Tracy crossed to another world, entered a dimension that was neither adult nor child. Tracy's code became that of the glitzy magazines, the parameters of her new world boyfriends, dates, parties and first kisses.

Your parents are awful, Nadia. You're not allowed to do this, to do that. They are so inflexible. I mean this is London, people are free here, not some village on the Nile.

Cairo is a city, a big modern city, my father and mother never lived in a village.

Tracy is a broad-minded young girl. She knows people have different 'cultures', which means they dress differently, eat spicy food. No one told her there are different lenses through which you could look at the world. She is a 'tolerant' girl which means that at the whole Nadia issue she rolls her eyes skywards (that particularly British gesture) and sighs.

Don't you like anyone Nadia? How about Ryan, he likes you, when he went cycling in Wales he sent you a letter.

No he doesn't talk, he's too quiet. His handwriting is horrible.

Nadeem then, he's Muslim, your Mummy would approve.

I don't like the way he keeps tossing his hair away from his eyes.



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