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White locks, p.27

White Locks, page 27

 

White Locks
 


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  “I love you more than I can express with words. And I know that a life without you would be a living Hell,” I said. “I’m sorry for being this way; I’m messed up in the head.”

  Mazen shook his head. “I love you just the way you are.” His smile was heartwarming and soul-soothing. I wanted to hug him and never let go.

  My heartache was easing with every passing second I spent in Mazen’s arms. But my mind couldn’t rest, and my thoughts didn’t settle down or leave. Not all of them, anyway.

  I was overwhelmed to learn yet again how strong our love was. How it could break all laws and cross all lines. That day was the last proof I’d needed to know that our love was unbreakable, untouchable.

  That day I didn’t worry about something that could break our bond someday. I knew that whatever stepped in our way, we would eventually get past it. But I was still anxious and worried about the kingdom’s future.

  Mazen was right, I’d been expecting the worst. But I was sure that my mind wouldn’t stop working until I knew that the kingdom would be safe – even if it wasn’t Mazen and I who were ruling it. But that was just me.

  We came to believe that I probably wouldn’t get pregnant before one full year of treatment, give or take. And our first child could be a girl, not a boy. We knew that, and Mazen helped me to accept it.

  But my only fear was what if Prince Fahd didn’t have a son by that time either? Jasem would eventually become the king. And that was my worst fear.

  Mazen was very calm about it. I guess it was due to the months he’d spent thinking about all of the possibilities and trying to figure it out without me even knowing what was going on.

  I still wished he had spoken to me about it, but I understood why he hadn’t wanted me to know. He’d been trying to keep me away from all of the gut-wrenching and terrible thoughts I’d had before we figured it out together. He was protecting my heart.

  But being me – I knew I wouldn’t ever stop thinking about it until I found a solution where I could be completely positive that the kingdom would be in capable hands if we happened to let go of our titles.

  I knew that I wouldn’t stop thinking about it until I found a way to get rid of Jasem. For good.

  When I was little, things had been simpler. Much simpler. There was trust and purity. Things were easy and clear. But I guess that’s what we’ve learned over the years: that trust should be earned, and that our acts must be careful.

  Life was never simple for grown-ups. In school, you learn your lessons and then take tests. But in life, you go through tests so you can learn your lessons. But life lessons were always more memorable than those you had at school.

  I had vivid memories of my grandfather carrying me on his shoulders when I was barely six years old. Just the mere thought of him dropping me had never crossed my mind once. I trusted him, and I had faith that no matter what, everything would be okay.

  One time Mazen wanted to do the same– to carry me on his shoulders when we were on our honeymoon, just a couple of lovebirds lost in the chaos of noises and people, without guards and cameras following each of our steps.

  I never let him do it.

  My trust for Mazen was unlimited; he’d earned it long ago, way before we got married. But in my mind – I couldn’t trust my surroundings, the circumstances … I couldn’t trust what the future held for me.

  In my head, I saw myself falling off of Mazen’s shoulders, him losing his balance, or even an earthquake that would knock us both to the floor. In my head, I injured myself badly, and just thinking about it made my breath hitch.

  That was how my brain worked; I was forever anxious about what the future held. Mazen had tried hard to get me to think differently. It worked sometimes, but not always.

  Mazen was a firm believer in living the day as it was present. He told me that dwelling over the past lead to depression, and fearing the future lead to unending anxiety. To him, there was only now. He was right, but I really couldn’t help the way my mind worked things.

  That was exactly the case with Jasem. I couldn’t get him out of my head—couldn’t stop thinking about what a future with him in the throne would mean.

  I knew it was too early to think about it. I knew it was wrong to expect the worst, but I needed some peace of mind, and I was absolutely certain that I wouldn’t get that until I was sure Jasem wouldn’t be king one day. Not in two years, not ever.

  So, I lay there in Mazen’s arms in the bed where we’d made love for the first time, enjoying that one day break we’d stolen away for ourselves unexpectedly before we had to go back to the kingdom in a few hours. But my thoughts were far, far away.

  My thoughts revolved around a certain awful man, and all of the things I would do to get him out of the picture, to get rid of him. But I didn’t want to be unfair, so I had to find something that was legit. I couldn’t just kick him out of the kingdom, though I very much could with just a mere order.

  Mazen’s uncle – Jasem and Talia’s father – was younger than my father-in-law, and he was healthy enough to rule for years to come if – God forbid – things came to it. But even that man I couldn’t trust.

  How could I trust someone who’d abandoned his own child – Rosanna – and left her to be raised away from the warmth of a loving father, not to abandon the whole kingdom itself?

  And for his wife – the same one Rosanna had called a snake – to be the queen? Oh, dear lord. There was no way I could let that happen. That whole family was dangerous for the kingdom, and I needed them all out of the way. Or at least, I could try.

  My train of thought led me to think of something that somehow had escaped my brain, and I sat up to ask Mazen about it.

  “Hey, does Jasem even have an heir? I don’t think so – that would solve everything.” I asked my question, following it with the answer I thought was right. That made Mazen chuckle softly.

  He moved a lock of hair out of my face. “You won’t drop it until you come up with something, will you?”

  I pursed my lips, then shook my head; he already knew the answer to that.

  “Figured.” He smiled, though he looked drained. Given everything that had happened this morning, I didn’t blame him for looking exhausted. I was pretty much the same, but the wheels in my head didn’t know anything about taking a rest.

  “So, why have we never thought about this before?”

  “About what? Him having an heir?”

  I nodded.

  “He has twin boys and a girl, Princess.”

  “What?” I frowned. “You’re serious?”

  Mazen nodded, his thumb touching my jawline softly.

  “Darn it,” I said, disappointed. “I had hopes. I guess he’s bi, then.”

  “He’s what?” Mazen laughed lightly.

  “Bisexual. I thought he was gay, but that wouldn’t explain the kids, so…”

  Mazen’s thumb over my jaw stopped moving, and he stared into my eyes for a long time. “Marie, what are you saying? Why would you think that?”

  “Uh-oh! You didn’t know? He’s not out of the closet yet?”

  “What the hell are you even talking about?” Mazen looked completely confused.

  “Mazen, Jasem is gay, or so I thought. But given he has kids – it means he’s bisexual, or it’s all just a cover or something, I guess,” I explained.

  “He’s not gay, that’s impossible. Why would you say that?” he asked as he sat up on the bed, looking at me with disbelief.

  I rolled my eyes, then got up. I didn’t know why he wasn’t believing me on this – I was 99% sure of what I was saying. My legs took me to the closet and I picked up the newest shoes I could find, then came back to stand in front of him.

  Mazen looked even more confused as he stared at me while I held the shoes up for him to see. “Can you tell me what these are?”

  “What?”

  I shook the heels in front of him. “These.”

  “Um… Black shoes?” he answered.

  “Exact
ly what I mean. These are Grace sandals, 2016. If I asked Jasem the same question, he’d tell me just that. No straight guy can tell the difference between women’s footwear!”

  “Why would you think Jasem would know that?”

  “Because that’s exactly what he did that awful day when I met him. His words were, ‘I’m only interested in knowing what you are doing here with those last year’s Jimmy Choos of yours,’” I told him. “He knew exactly what kind I was wearing, and which year they were made. He only spoke to me in English after gazing down at my feet. Those were same shoes I’d worn in the wedding only four days earlier; that’s how he knew it was me, not Janna. Trust me, Mazen, straight guys don’t think that way or even care about those things.”

  Mazen gaped at me for a few long moments before he swallowed. “Wow!” was all he said before pausing again, letting everything settle in. “Why did you never tell me about that before?”

  I shrugged my shoulders, dropping the sandals to the floor. “I didn’t think it was such a big deal.”

  “Dear God!” Mazen moved both of his hands through his hair. “He is gay!” he said, more likely to himself than to me, seeming to have thought it through or remembered something I didn’t know about Jasem that made him sure I was right with my guess.

  A sigh left my mouth. “But he has an heir, so I guess it doesn’t change a thing.” I shook my head in disappointment, my mind all ready to start thinking about another way to get rid of Jasem. But Mazen didn’t give me the chance.

  “This changes everything.” He got out of bed and reached for his phone, calling a number he had on Speed Dial, and after a moment he started talking. “Prince Jasem Alfaidy’s second guard, I need him in a meeting room as soon as I’m back at the palace … No, his second guard, not the first. Yes. Good.” And then he hung up.

  “Mazen, what’s going on?” I asked because I was confused. Why was Mazen calling to arrange a meeting with Jasem’s second guard? The second, not the first, he’d said. And as soon as we got to the palace? I couldn’t understand.

  “I’ve told you before, Princess. Royalty is a dirty game. I’m just about to play it.”

  All the way back home, I couldn’t figure out why Mazen wanted to meet with that guard or why he’d said he was going to get his hands dirty. But later on, Mazen explained everything to me.

  I was beyond shocked to learn that homosexuality was illegal in the kingdom; not only that – it actually was punishable with jail time. It was unbelievable. I mean, that was ancient. Hadn’t the world already gotten over that? Long ago? Apparently not. I found out that it was the same thing in all Arab countries, and some other Western countries as well.

  I had my own view on the topic, but it was nothing of importance. I’d just never really thought about it. My frame of mind was stuck on what I’d seen growing up in America – how people had fought for their right to love anyone, and how they’d eventually gotten that. I simply didn’t think about whether or not it was the same or different in other countries.

  This thing made me realize what Mazen had actually done with that royal guard who’d failed to protect me – when I was going to escape the palace. I’d thought he was humiliating him by dressing him like a woman, but the thing was – he was humiliating him by making him do something as gay as dressing in women’s clothes. Because in the kingdom, that was the most humiliating thing you could do to a man, let alone a royal guard – to have people question their sexuality or masculinity.

  I think it was all the same all over the world, though. Straight guys took offence to being called gay.

  Mazen was determined to prove that Jasem was gay first, before accusing him of it based only on what I thought. And once he could prove that, Jasem would be judged as unfit to rule. And that was all we’d ever wanted.

  It turned out that Jasem had had a first guard for over ten years. Mazen had always wondered why Jasem would hire him for such a sensitive job that required strength and power, when apparently he had a small, skinny body – which was not recommended when choosing a guard whose job was to protect your life.

  Mazen said that if it turned out that my suspicions were true, then it would explain why Jasem had kept that man as his first guard when much stronger guards were available for the position.

  When we landed, Mazen went straight to his main office, not bothering to take a one-minute break after the long trip.

  The meeting took hours, but when Mazen came back to our wing, I knew he’d realized that I was right. The guard had admitted seeing the first guard spend many nights inside Jasem’s bedroom. It appeared to anyone with a brain that there was much more going on between them than just a guard and the one he was working for.

  Mazen told me that the guard had been too scared to out Jasem directly. Mazen had had to pressure him and use his powers over him as his king to make him speak. It wasn’t easy, he said.

  “What are we going to do now?” I asked Mazen.

  “Well, at least now we know a way to get him away from the throne,” Mazen grinned, seeming to be enjoying this more than I’d thought he would. Of course, I understood why the happy face was there; we were getting Jasem out of the picture, and it meant a better life for – well, everyone, since he’d be in jail. “He’s already coming for a meeting next week. I’ll take care of everything then.”

  “Next week? That’s too long!”

  “Why the hurry, are you expecting the worst again?”

  “Mazen, he’s still ruling a princedom as we speak. This is not only about the kingdom; he needs to stop ruling all together. Right now.”

  Mazen looked at me for a second. “So eager to get rid of him, eh?” he smiled.

  “Do you blame me? Mazen, I do care for our people. I want to have peace of mind knowing that they won’t be ruled by someone who’s been stealing their money, even though he doesn’t really need it in the first place!”

  I was already working with Rosanna on funding a school and a hospital in that princedom. All expenses would be on me, from my own money. I wanted them to have free education and free healthcare. Anything that would make life better for them, giving them something that he couldn’t steal. And I knew that once the projects started working, I’d be the happiest woman on earth. But that wasn’t enough. I wanted more. For Jasem to drop everything and be put behind bars where he belonged.

  Mazen took me in his arms, hugging me with no words said. Moments passed before he spoke into my hair. “All right, Princess. I’ll request to see him in the morning.”

  “I want to be there.”

  It wasn’t like I was seeking revenge when I wanted to see Jasem’s face as Mazen told him how he would charge him himself and have judges work on finding him guilty. No, that wasn’t the case.

  It was only that I wanted to see it with my own eyes in order to believe that it had actually happened. That he’d no longer be in charge of anything related to ruling or controlling the kingdom or any part of it. I knew that then, I would feel the sweetest relief.

  We were in one of the meetings rooms when Jasem stepped in. He knew better than to give me a look that I might not like. He kept his manners – if he had any – and greeted us with respect. I guessed that Mazen’s fists had hurt him long enough for him to remember his lesson.

  And then, then it happened. Mazen told him everything, and the look on his face was enough confirmation. Not like we’d needed that, anyway.

  Of course he denied it, but Mazen reminded him of all of the ways the law could take to prove one guilty. Forensic science was one of them. And when he mentioned that, Jasem knew that there was no way out.

  I took pleasure in telling him exactly how we’d found out about it. I loved that the stupid woman he’d thought I was had managed to get his ugly world crumbling down around his feet. And that earned me the most hateful look anyone had ever given me in my entire life. I couldn’t care less.

  “It’s all over, Jasem. Until the judge speaks, you won’t be working on anything related to ru
ling Al-A’merya or managing it. Though, I’m sure it’ll be permanent.”

  Jasem didn’t speak for a long time, and I wondered if he’d gone into some kind of shock and was no longer here with us. His head was probably somewhere else. But eventually he spoke; his voice was low and to a point – there was fright in it.

  “Your majesty, I’m begging your kindness not to let this get out. I swear I will leave the kingdom and will never set foot in it again. But please, don’t expose me.” He sounded like he was on the verge of crying.

  True to Mazen’s words, to be found guilty of homosexuality appeared to be the worst thing that you could ever be accused of. Jasem was willing to leave everything just for Mazen not to speak of it. He was giving up the power to save his reputation. It was something else.

  “I’m afraid that won’t be the case, cousin. You’re going down anyway.”

  “What if– … what if I know something you don’t know? Something very important to you,” he said, his eyes hopeful but terrified at the same time.

  My confusion appeared between my eyebrows when I heard his words. What could it be that he knew and Mazen didn’t? I didn’t think it could be of any importance, anyway. It could be that he was just stalling.

  “You believe you know of something that I don’t?” Mazen made himself comfortable in his chair, looking all confident and unfazed. But since I could read him like an open book, I knew that he was considering whether Jasem had something to say, or was just playing games.

  “Yes, your majesty.”

  “Let’s hear it.”

  “Not before you give me your word first, that you will never speak of– … that matter.” His eyes lowered to the floor before rising again, desperate to read something in Mazen’s that would give him the answer even before Mazen could speak.

  “What if it’s not as important as you claim?”

  “It is. It’s about your family.” His eyes looked up at me for a mere second before moving to Mazen again.

 
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