Safia - Chapter II
The academic year starts in September; Safia arrived in Constantine at the beginning of the month to enrol at the
. institute of Micro-Biology
Constantine is an ancient Roman City east of Algeria, considered the capital of the east and boasts many universities and a very ancient and rich culture, is famous for its suspended bridges as the city was built over a gorge carved naturally over time by the river Oued Rhumel and took its name from the Roman emperor Constantine the Great and Safia felt so proud of having the opportunity to live in Constantine, she already knew Algiers after all she thought
Safia registers for a room in the notorious girls living quarters of Nahas Nabil,
She gets a twin assigned room number 78 in building G, there are nine buildings named alphabetically from A to I, well tended gardens with grass, shrubs and flowers Safia notices the pink Defla flowers, her mother kept the same shrubs at home, it makes her remember her mother fondly but she doesn’t feel home, she reassures herself it was too early to feel home sick, Even at 17 she thinks priding herself in her independence; She notices a hamam(1), an all in one Basketball/volleyball/tennis court which she marks mentally for later use, a canteen with a reputation, she hears from the girls that the Cité’s administration adds chemicals to the food to subdue the girls sexual appetite and keep them under control, she shrugs this off, sex was the last thing she had on her mind.
The administration office is a small maisonette built on higher grounds with many steps leading to its doors like reaching up to the forbidden monastery, the security guards lodges are at the front and to the left of the large gate leading into the residency, a small cabin that holds about 5 men at a time, barbed-wired high walls all around the notorious ‘Girls Cité’ to keep the girls from running out and the boys from coming in.
G78 is a mid size rectangular room, with a single bed on each side, a sink on the far left corner and a bare window on the right, some alcoves at the far wall that look like a makeshift wardrobe. She proceeds to clean the room and making it a habitable place, putting up cut out magazine pictures of models on the walls , hanging up the window curtains her mother gave her, making the bed with the new bed sheets she was given by the administration after an hour long queue she spent eying up the girls in the queue, guessing their stories, where they’re from, how old, what they’re here to study. A whole new world.
She leaves the door open whilst she’s getting comfortable in her room, music playing loud. A couple of girls on their fourth year of medicine walking down the corridor stop and grin ‘so you’re mew, ahla ahla (2)’ Safia looks up and smiles faintly, the girls take that as a sign of welcome and offer; “cigarette?”, Safia declines politely, they notice her accent with great surprise “so you come from Algiers”, she nods and continues to unpack her suitcase onto the makeshift wardrobe that consisted of shelves, the previous room occupant must have fashioned from planks of wood inserted into the built in alcoves.
The two girls enter the room uninvited, sit on the second bed and light their cigarettes, visibly intrigued by this new girl who does not seem the least bit intimated by them and decide they liked her, she acknowledges their presence and makes small talk whilst warily continuing with her chores.
“don’t you have universities in
?” one of them asks, “wanted to see the snow, I hear it snows here every year” Safia responds half smiling; Algiers
Seemingly satisfied with her answer though knowing she’s taking the piss, the girls reveal their names, Meriem and Sara both 24 one was from Skikda and one from Annaba, Meriem was very pale skinned with shiny curls flowing over her oval face with full pink lips and a generous bust, Sara was short, had dark features with dark skin and blond dyed hair that veered orange and she had a mischievous look about her, Safia was olive skinned with brown eyes, light brown shoulder length hair and an athletic body.
Someone is standing at the open door, Safia guessed it must be her new roommate, a girl of the same age, first year in Islamic studies she guesses; she eyes her up with the corner of her eye “ah you’re supposed to live here…with me?”
The two intruders laugh aloud, the girl in her Islamic full dress shifts nervously, does not dare look up at the girls smoking and laughing and nods “Yes I was given the same room G78”, Safia trying to empress the intruders quips: “I am sure you were, that’s your bed over there” pointing at the bed where the intruders sat, the new girl stands still for a second, looks at Safia, then looks at the bed and decides to run for it. The two girls burst out laughing ‘you are going to really fit in here mademoiselle’ said the one who wasn’t Sara, too early to know tell them apart. Safia who joined them laughing at the poor girl running away in fright but couldn’t help feeling guilty for the young timid girl they chased out. She’ll come back later Safia hoped.
Safia remembers when she used to get bullied at school by a group of boys, they would often wait for her after school and chase her home, call her names and make up silly songs about her, until one day she had enough and turned around to scream at them, they decided to take it to the next level and they beat her up so badly, she had to be taken to Hospital and paid a visit to the kids parents to report the incident which reoccurred over and over again.
The girl never came back and Safia never got another room mate, she enjoyed the rare luxury of having a room to herself with a spare bed, by early evening she had finished with her room and decided it was habitable and cosy enough, closed her door behind her and enjoyed having her own key to her own space like an adult. She took a stroll through the gardens of the Cité, the air was cold and crisp, sky was clear and as she walked, she snuggled her warm cardigan but enjoying the cold air on her face, she couldn’t help but compare the place with a retirement home, girls scattered on bunches in the courtyard, some sitting on the grass, some huddled on benches and some dolled up, walking at a fast pace heading out to meet their boyfriends she assumed, from the gardens you can see the Great Mosque Amir Abd-el-Kader towering over it in a grandiose stance and tall trees surround the walls making it look like a safe haven. Safia decided she was going to be happy here.
Safias’ boyfriend was her school sweetheart, she met him at high school but she knew it was not going anywhere and that she had to concentrate on her studies, so she ended it with him shortly before her Bac exams ‘I am off to Uni in a few months and I have to focus on my studies and we won’t be able to meet anyway’ he was very sad and secretly hoped she doesn’t pass her Bac, he asked if he could come visit her, she agreed but thought what’s the point, kissed him on his cheek and walked away. His name was Yassine.
Safia had a maturity and realism about her that was not for her age, she often made statements that stunned her parents or made them laugh, her parents had high hopes for her and she couldn't help but feel the pressure, she often wonders what else she can do to make her daddy proud.
The academic year starts, Safia attends her lectures in the large amphitheatres of the Central Faculty, she walks around the campus proud of being there, proud of her new wardrobe and the new skinny figure she acquired thanks to the lack of resources and low quality canteen food she refused to eat, she would often buy her 10 dinars subsidised canteen ticket and queue up to pick up her portion of oranges and bread or boiled eggs they served but nothing else, not even when they make her favourite, lentil soup.
At the Campus, Safia meets people, students and staff, plays the star and quickly becomes popular, they call her l’Algéroise, there are no students from Algiers in Constantine, so she found she was a rarity and thus exploited it to her advantage, making new friends from all over Algeria, listening to their different accents and the way they pronounced words, exchanging words, laughing at eachother.
Safia’s reputation precedes her for being fun and beautiful, Meriem and Sara become regular visitors to G78 which has become her boudoir and their HQ, the girls smuggle in wine and beer past the guards who turn a blind eye if they get a bottle or two themselves, the girls got Safia acquainted with the guards should she need to duck the curfew which was set for nine on weeknights and ten on weekends.
Safia learnt to smoke, she was told it’s the best way to keep hanger at bay and keep your figure but she drew the line there, she partied most nights and studied all day trying to create a balance in her new life, being so young helped her body recover very quickly, she continued to excel in her Micro biology lessons and managed to attend every compulsory class.
Meriem has become a mentor for Safia and took her under her wing, Safia couldn’t help but think it was the wing of a fallen angel for she secretly knew her life is taking unexpected turns but she was having too much fun and was far too young and frivolous to consider the ramifications.
L’Algéroise L’Algéroise…Safia turns around when she hears this, knowing she is the only Algéroise here. He was a vision, a beautiful man, his name was Amine, he was tall, had full pink lips, his hair was soft but thinning for his young years, he had grey eyes the colour of a stormy sky, he introduces himself;
‘I was told you can help me with something, my name is Amine’ Safia stares at him mystified ‘me? Help you? how can I do that and why?‘ he smiles cheekily and says ‘I need to know something about Algiers….by letting me buy you dinner’ oh my god oh my god he’s beautiful what to do what to do ok breath Safia and fucking relax ‘and I would do that because….’
He smiles seemingly enjoying the challenge and says ‘because I guarantee you a good time or your money back’ Safia laughs ‘ Ok I am free only on Wednesday evening, wait for me at the Nahas Nabil gate at 7pm’ Amine smiles ‘Ok zina(3) I will be there’ and walks away as she stood there rigid and happy, she checks out his derriere, it was full and athletic and he walked like a Greek God I am sure they fly but if they walked then Amine walks like a God, she was in love.
Oh my god I can’t wait to tell Meriem and Sara
Back at the girls quarters..
‘Oh my god, Amine Kara asked me out’
‘really? God how did you manage that?’ screeches Sara, followed by Meriem ‘you really know how to speak to men, you’re so lucky Safia’
‘no such thing as luck, it helps to watch Animal Planet TV’
They laughed together and became fast friends.
Amine studies Political Science in his 3rd year, he is 23 and from one of the big
families, he drives a blue Honda Civic and wears a lot of grey which accentuates the grey of his eyes. Safia and Amine started seeing each other, he was in awe of her, she made him laugh and he found her different from the girls around the campus, she loved him. Constantine
They’d sit in his car between classes kissing for hours and hours until theirs lips became raw.
Talk to me in algérois he would ask and looks at her with melted eyes, she always obliged and he would laugh and mimic her accent then hold her so close to him she feels her lungs crumpling and her heart beating so fast against his and often wondered whether her heart would start beating at the rhythm of his heart because they were so close but discounted it as sappy romantic crap.
On her Eighteenth birthday, Safia took the advice of Meriem and Sara and decided to give her virginity to Amine, it was time for her to become a women and join the group she was told and even though she was shocked at the proposition of her mentors, she knew she wouldn’t do it for them but only when she was ready.
So when she meets Amine for what has become their daily rendezvous at seven just after dark, she tells him she wants him as her birthday gift, Amine couldn’t help but smile but his smile quickly turned into a frown and lines appeared on his forehead when he had a minute to think,
‘are you sure Safia, will you not regret it?’ Safia watching his reaction carefully wrapped her lips around his, applying very little pressure then pulling away slowly holding his gaze with as a seductive smile as she could muster and softly said ‘am sure bébé, I want to be yours’.
(1) Turkish bath
(2) welcome welcome
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