After Elena posted her letter to the prison, she was torn. She contemplated what the end of her letter implied. She thought about ending everything. She thought about how she would do it; so many methods poured through her mind. Nobody was there to stop her and nobody would come. And yet, there was something, resonating deep within her that would not let her give up. Something would not allow this to be the end of her story.
She felt detached from herself. She began moving and planning with a strength she didn’t know she had. She felt like she was watching someone else packing her bags and putting in the motions to start a new life.
She now found herself navigating her way through Casablanca. She could hardly recall getting to the airport. The flight was a complete blur in her mind. It felt as if someone or something else was driving her and she had merely been a passenger of the last twenty four hours.
What had made her choose Morocco specifically, she pondered to herself. One thing she could remember with certainty, was contemplating and almost wishing for her destination to be Egypt. It seemed to her that whatever force had been driving her had decided that she wasn’t quite ready for Egypt. Morocco must have been her next thought.
Why the simultaneous desire and hesitancy to reach Egypt, you might wonder. Elena was half Egyptian. Something she had only found out when she was seventeen. Her mum had lied to Elena for seventeen years of her life and would never have told her the truth if not for a fateful slip of the tongue from her aunt. A slip of the tongue which told Elena that her father was Egyptian. There isn’t a word to describe the shock, disbelief and confusion Elena felt as to how or why her mum had harboured such a lie about who she was. Answers that Elena has searched and longed for, locked away in her own mother’s heart the whole time.
Elena had demanded, begged and pleaded for answers. Reluctantly and remorselessly her mother told her the truth. This is what Elena learned: her father was Egyptian and he had been studying in London. Her mother and father met each other through mutual friends. They fell ‘head over heels’ in love. They were inseparable. After his studies were over, her father had to return to Egypt. He had asked for her mother’s hand in marriage and he had begged her to go and live with him in Egypt. Initially, her mother said she was swept along and agreed to go – the flight was booked. According to her mother, since asking for her hand in marriage, he had changed. He had started trying to teach her about his religion. He had become distant; saying that they should refrain from sharing a bed until they get married in Egypt. Elena’s mother said she was 2 months pregnant by this time. She said she got cold feet; she said he had changed. Elena could recall the conversation with such clarity. The moment where it started to go so wrong for her.
“I saved you Elena! I saved you from a life of oppression! Who knows what kind of father he would have been. You probably wouldn’t have been allowed to leave the house.” Her mother had cried.
“Well thanks to you, I never got to find out!” Elena retorted.
“You walk around looking like a prostitute, you think you could do that in Egypt?” Her mother laughed at her.
“Maybe I would have had a better role model there.” Elena scowled.
Then came the slap. Hard and furious across her face. It didn’t deter her.
“Does my father know I exist?” Elena asked with a calm voice, masking the rage inside her. This was an issue her mother had carefully left out of her story.
Something flashed in her mother’s eyes. Guilt? Regret? Shame? She remained silent.
“Did my father know you were pregnant?” Elena reworded her question.
Her mother remained silent for what felt like hours. Elena stared at her, unwavering. Reluctantly, after an age, her mother responded. Her voice barely audible and thick with shame. “No.” She uttered.
With that, Elena got up, packed a small bag and left that house; never to see her mother again.
From there her life had been a rapidly speeding downward spiral. That was where everything had shattered in her life.It had broken her heart. The lie. So big and impacting on the person she had become; on every aspect of her life. It felt so unfair. She felt like a whole life of possibilities had been robbed from her. She was grieving. For a father, out there somewhere, who she had never known and who had never even known about her existence in this world. She wanted to forget. In a way at that point in her life, she wished she had never found out; so fiercely did it break her. That was when she had lost all control of her life. All senses. Perhaps that was what had made her capable of the evil she had done.
As soon as she had landed in Morocco, she felt like a weight had been lifted. As though she had finally found herself on the right path. She never dreamed that it would be possible for her to feel anything again.
Several months after arriving in Morocco, she was sitting on a beach in Casablanca, writing a very detailed and meticulous letter; this time to rectify what she had done. She had no intention of handing herself in, obviously; but her letter included directions to evidence which would undoubtedly clear the man who now found himself in prison.He was far from her mind, even while she was carefully ensuring he would be freed. She wasn’t doing this for him. She was doing it for herself. To try to begin to recognise herself again.
A week later; in the same spot on that same beach, she surfed the news on her phone and found the article she was looking for.
“MAN WRONGFULLY ACCUSED OF BEING SERIAL KILLER WALKS FREE!” The headline stated. She didn’t bother to read further, she merely glimpsed at the featured photo of him, completely bewildered, she could tell.
Elena closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, trying not to see their faces, trying to see only a better and brighter future. She heard the adhan, now such a familiar sound to her, and breathed in peacefully as the beautiful words echoed through her body. She got up and walked towards the mosque, leaving her phone and every trace of her with it.
From that point, it becomes harder to track Elena’s story. She travelled into Algeria, although by what means, I don’t know. She crossed the Sahara with local Touaregh Arabs. She spent time with Berber villagers and she spent time with families in the cities. She learned Arabic. She always found someone who welcomed her in and shared something with her; advice, knowledge, food, a shelter. Years went by with no trace of her at all and then a shadow of her appeared in Egypt. I can’t tell you if she ever found her father, or even if she came close. I can’t tell you if she ever married or had children. I can’t tell you if she ever saw her mother again. I can’t tell you many things but I can tell you that her heart began to heal. It was warm and nourished with a newfound love. She had found her smile again and she shared it beautifully and generously.