Safia - Chapter IV

In September of that year, Safia started her second year at university, as the civil war raged on, on TV she often saw reports of villages burnt and of hundreds of people killed in the dead of night, reports of newborns baked in ovens and of pregnant women’s bellies sliced open and killed along with their unborn babies, villages burning, of heads hanging on sticks and of massacres and disappearances, so many disappearances and blood spilled across the country, journalists and artists were kidnapped and killed and fear was airborne.

It was the militia, Les terrorists, El Irhab, people lived in fear and their nerves on edge. It’s only been a couple of years since the curfew was lifted and life has slowed down, some people still not dare to venture out after a certain hour and those who could afford it, left the country or seeked refuge in neighbouring or other European courtiers, but Safia always wondered why it was that she did not whiteness anything herself but only heard about it on TV. Little did she know.

When her plane landed in Mohamed Boudiaf Airport, she foud Amine waiting in the car park, leaning back on his Honda, he helped her with her suitcase, gave her a friendly kiss on each cheek and signalled for her to get into the car with a nod, Safia did as she was told with a sunken heart at his coldness, but as soon as Amine got in the car, he leaned across and swallowed her lips into his and caressed her face tenderly
“I missed you zina”
Safia feels all the muscles in her body relax as she melts into his arms with relief and happiness
“I missed you too hanouni”
Safia understood he was being discreet and not cold, he loved her too much.
Amine drives (one hand on the wheel and one in her hand) to the nearest Salon de The in Sidi Mabrook, a chic quartier of Constantine, It took a while for her vision to adapt to the dark room, a cloud of smoke hangs above their heads and she could make out some silhouettes in each corner, couples holding hands, kissing or acting suspicious, Safia felt out of place but they didn’t have a choice, it’s this or sit in the car exposed to peoples stares.

They sit so close to each other, if they pushed more one of them would fall off the chair, feeling the chemistry that was almost airborne, they kiss a lot but try not to make it too obvious, I have more class than these hussies she thought to herself with a smirk, they ordered coffees and some cakes, which remained untouched, until the waiter came around again to take the second order
“we haven’t really finished” said Safia,
Amine looked at her as if to tell her to let him deal with this and spoke directly to the waiter
“we’ll have the same again”  then he turned to Safia and explained

“that ought to give us another couple of hours hassle free, and you have to reorder or they’ll ask you to vacate the table”
Safia looked annoyed and immediately started eating the cake and drinking her coffee “well if we’re paying for it…” Amine followed her and grabbed the lemon tart, took a bite and with the meringue on his top lip, kissed her and smeared some on her cheeks, they burst out laughing causing the other couples of shift in their corners nervously, Amine and Safia felt out of place and decided to leave, cancelling their next order as they walked out into the bright light, muffling laughs like naughty children.
“That was special” Safia declares.  Amine laughs and with that, his gaze softens and his eyes smile, he holds her hand and says lovingly “God, I missed you”
2nd Year of Micro-Biology was the hardest thus far, Meriem told her that the 2nd year of anything is always the hardest, elementary, middle or high school; they design it that way, she said to weed out the weak from the weaker.

As Safia resumed her student life in Nahas Nabil and managed to obtain the same room from the previous academic year, her beloved G78, she manages to remain room-mate-free which was very funny since most rooms were over crowded.

At the Micro-Biology institute, she attends only compulsory classes and ducks all lectures, she spends her time hanging out with the girls in one of their rooms, Meriem and Sara share a very large room in building A, number 101, and Safia spends a lot of time there when not in her own, sitting at their window chain smoking, reading her text books but not really holding anything in, waiting for Amine to show up after his classes/family business.
He would drive around and park on the opposite side of the road facing her room window, beep his car horn to notify her, she’ll pop her head out, wave and by the time he’s driven around to the front gate, Safia would be ready and waiting for him to pick her up avoiding any waiting around at the front gate and getting noticed by the Islamists if there were any from across the road on the Emir Abdel Kader Mosque. It was a trick all the girls were familiar with and they all requested street facing rooms for easy communication with their boyfriends since mobile phones are as rare as the times the radiators were turned on in there.

Always at their usual time of seven in the evening, they would drive around town, share a pizza, smoke some cigarettes or just park the car near the university walls where several other couples would be sitting in their parked cars, they would talk, kiss and laugh, the fact that passers-by could see them did not bother them after dark, it was better than drive somewhere dangerous where they could get kidnapped by terrorists or get caught in an ambuscade they thought.

One evening, whilst sitting in his Honda under the bridge near the University, a police patrol came around and started searching the cars, asking for identifications and embarrassing the couples by humiliating the young men in front of their female companions and treating the girls as though they were soliciting.

A number of cars scurried away but Amine and Safia’s car was parked near the pillars of the bridge and wedged between other cars, they couldn’t drive off when the first patrol car showed up and were held up for questioning
“Car documents and identifications…hers too” the Gendarme barked, his face stern
Amine shuffled in his seat nervously, and handed him the car documents, and without looking at her, grabbed Safia’s from her hand, he squeezed her fingers into his and whispered under his breath “don’t worry”
Safia sat still as a statue until the gendarme addressed her…
“Where are you from Anissa (1)?
Safia leaned forward to face him with a weak smile “from the capital, I study here”
The Gendarme officer gave a cold stare and told them to wait here.

“Don’t worry Safia, it’s just a document control” says Amine to Safia now they have a moment alone
“I am not scared only a little confused; I am supposed to be scared of terrorists not of the Gendarmes, I thought they were here to protect us”
Amine’s face was turned to the window, he was watching the gendarme talking to his colleagues, gesticulating with their documents in his hand, when what Safia said sunk in, he suddenly turned to face her but his mouth stayed open for a few seconds as if his words were suspended mid-air, he gave her a puzzled look, closed his lips and turned back to the window.
“he’s coming back” Amine says,
The gendarme approached the driver’s window and leaned in closer to speak to both of them;
“you cannot park around here do you understand?, it’s dangerous, do you get me?” he handed them back the documents and said “go home”
Amine nodded and thanked the Gendarme, fastened his seat belt, started his car…
“And take the Anissa home, she’s not supposed to be out after seven” his lip stretched sideways in a sly smile, Safia smiled, feeling like a hypocrite and said thank you.

Amine and Safia were not in the mood anymore, they sat in silence feeling oppressed and annoyed, Safia broke the silence
“why can’t they get busy stopping the real threat out there, instead of coming to us”
 she continued …
“I am sick of this fucking country, the terrorist want to kill us and the government wants to imprison us”
 and adds, her frustration visible now….
“not supposed to be out after seven, what does he know? Bastard, does he know me? He just assumed I live in Nahas and therefore I am whore” 
as Safia ranted on, Amine drove around the Great mosque, in front of her lodgings, on the way to a find somewhere else they can park safely but the siren of a police van went off behind them, signalling to them to pull over.
It was the first time Safia had heard him swear and he pulled to the side
The police man walked over to the driver’s side and demanded the car documents.
Amine tried to speak but Safia pinched his arm, so he sat passively waiting for the policeman’s verdict on their being out on the streets at this time of night.
“Who is she”
Amine was tempted to lie and say his sister but he thought she didn’t exactly look like him and if the policeman checked her identification he would be in the shit, so he just said
“my fiancée”, he hoped this would sound less indecent to the policeman than girlfriend
“where does she live?”
“Over there”
Amine pointed to the gate of Nahas Nabil”on the other side of the road,
“I was just about to drop her”
The policeman considers this for a bit, then hands him the documents;
“you have five minutes to drop her and go home”

Amine and Safia look at each other with no words said, Amine drives on, when they reach the roundabout at the top of the road, about to drop her, he says nothing and she felt her complaints would achieve nothing but aggravate him, there was nothing either of them could do, so he stops the car, both lean in for a kiss but Safia kisses him on both cheeks to avoid the lips and slams the door in his face, he sits in his car until she’s inside the gate.
Safia walked with determined and noisy steps, without stopping or turning, she headed his wheels screech in fury of rubber against tarmac as he drove off, angry and frustrated; she went straight to A101 to purge her frustrations at this horrible evening where they were chased by the authorities and stopped for questioning because they were a young couple in a car driving around at night.
“it’s not safe to be out in the streets, they all want to get us, police, gendarme, terros, parents” Meriem said in solidarity with Safia who was sucking on a cigarette with visible anguish
Sarah serves her some coffee and “if you want to be with your man, you have to wait for weekends and go away to his parent’s beach cabin or something”
“What ‘cos that’s safe?” Safia asks sarcastically
“well in skikda it is yes, just don’t venture out too far from the beach or the cabin” Meriem explains, “the terros punish the government, and the government punishes us, I hate this fucking country” Sarah said nothing, she was sitting on her bed, studying her first module of the year Endocrinology and she looked up from time to time shaking her head as if to say “been there, done –that”.

The girls spend the evening discussing ways to see their boyfriends and go out in the evenings like normal young people do without getting caught between the nail and the hammer as Sarah had put it in the rare occasions she spoke.
And in a way to lift up their spirits they decide to spend next weekend in Annaba,
“let’s go clubbing on Thursday, we’ll go to Annaba, it’ll be cool” Meriem decided
“yeah, let’s, I am fucking young, the day I stat worrying about safety I would have to give back my student discount card”  she takes a big drag out of her Marlboro light and blurts out along with her smoke …“fucking geriatrics”.

Amine was distant when he bumped into Safia in the faculty’s many corridors, he was running to a class “Principles of Macro-eco” he said, “I will see you later” he promised, Safia forced a smile and said “riveting” but her heart tightened and her smile disappeared I can’t take this again, why is he so cold, it’s not my fucking fault we live in Kabul, it’s his fucking city not mine! Fucking terrorists ruining my life!

Safia attended her classes that week in full, she even woke up early to go to the lectures she never attended, she had an unsettled feeling she couldn’t explain as though am in trouble she thought and so in an attempt to occupy her mind, she busied herself with her studies, called home twice that week from a local taxi phone, spoke to her mum who told her all about Selma’s project to open her own pharmacy in El Biar, a residential quarter of Algiers and how proud they were of her,  she told her, she dreamt of her “I dreamt you were pregnant” Safia’s eyes widened in horror and stood there speechless
can she know I had sex? Fuck…I have a marabout for a mother
Taos continues, “but guess what? It’s Leila who’s pregnant, strange how dreams work lala (3)?”
Safia felt a wave of relief over her and tried to joke “already!! like rabbits!!” but her mother ignores her crude comment and told her that Leila and Youcef were very happy.

She enquired about Anis; “he’s rarely home, he stumbles in very late most nights, under the influence of something that I cannot smell”
Safia worried about her brother “what’s papa doing about it” she asked,
“he grounded him but you know what your brother is like, he disappeared and made things worse, so I told him not to get involved” she said,
“we stopped giving him money, so he can’t buy whatever it is he’s under the influence of”
but Safia reacted angrily at this
“you don’t think he can get it anyway, whatever it is, he’ll manage to get it, with or without your money”,
Safia’s statement worried Taos so much, she refused to believe it and screamed
“my son is not a junky, he drinks sometimes that’s all”
Safia realising this was not appeasing her uneasiness, tried to calm her mother down by agreeing and promised she’d speak to Anis herself, with that she had to go
“say HI to Papa then”

After the phone call, Safia went straight to the cantine to pick up whatever fruit they were serving, she found them serving Oranges and some Dates probably full of worms she thought, so she took her part and retreated to her room, she’s been avoiding Room A101 since that night, Amine visited her only three times that week for a quick drive around, which gave them just enough time to talk about their days, their upcoming weekend in Annaba and smoke a cigarette before he dropped her off before night fall “I have things to do” he said, but she never believed him, she knew he was avoiding the situation with the police and gendarmes, and Safia thought …3rd time lucky, it would have to be the Terrorist next.

By the weeks end, Safia had recovered from her feelings of guilt, and Amine picked her up and her two girlfriends from the front gate on the Thursday just before the gate closes at 9pm, somebody was sitting in the front passenger seat, his friend, Karim, when he saw Safia, he took a seat in the back with the girls so that Safia can sit next to her man, Karim was tall, had big brown eyes, beautiful shiny hair that he had the habit to always sweep away from his eyes and a strong square jaw that earned him the Brad Pitt reputation, Meriem and Sara were happy to share their back seats with him and they all set off to Annaba, a seaside City, eats of Algeria near the Tunisian borders, the drive took about two hours, when they arrived in downtown Annaba, and drove by the busy streets, past el Cour and the main placette, Safia was surprised at how many people were out in the streets looking happy and busy, terraces filled with men, wearing berets and smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, laughing out loud as if they lived in a peaceful haven.

They drove to a nearby Rotisserie where they enjoyed some BBQ sticks “chwa” which they enjoyed with Harrissa and baguette, and washed it down with cold “Hamoud Boualem” lemonade, by midnight they started their way to Seraidi, a small mountain village on the outskirt of the City, where a few night clubs and cabarets were still open despite the terrorists’ threats to destroy all that is considered debauchery promiscuous.

The drive to Seraidi was windy and uphill with a single very narrow lane for both oncoming traffic, the road was carved through the mountain and dense fog, it was reputed to be very dangerous, Karim told them that the terrorists were ever present here and sometimes they’d set-up fake police checks and kill whoever was in the vehicle they stopped, so as Amine drove, meticulously turning his wheel to stay in his lane, they sat up and quietly their eyes transfixed on the road expecting to see a police check and with every bend and every car they met on its way down the mountain, they stopped breathing until that car was gone and they were sure it wasn’t a terrorists or police car, the suspense carried on until they finally broke over the fog cloud and reached the mountain top where the village was, the club was called Galaxy, 200 dinars for the boys and the girls go in for free.

Galaxy was a large open space with round booth tables that surround the dance floor, a large disco globe hung from the ceiling, the bar was at the far end of the room with couples sipping their drinks, sitting on the stools facing the dance floor, Safia noticed a number of girls who looked like working girls, each looking uncomfortable in the arms of her moustachioed, pot bellied customer, smiling and moving as gracefully as she can manage despite the obvious state of drunkenness she was in.

The music varied between top chart hits, Rai and some other dance tunes from Egypt and Spain, Meriem, Sara and Karim got a bottle of Vodka and set about destroying it with shots, chain smoking their way through the night, Safia and Amine not drinking, danced all night, regardless of the tune, their bodies were stuck together, they remained lovingly in a lip lock until 5am when they decided their lips were chafed enough and their companions drunk enough, they all got into the Honda and started their way down the mountain, light sifted through the fog and Safia finally had a look at Seraidi, it was a beautiful, serene village, dense trees surrounded it and there was a crisp breeze that brought the fresh smell of pine, she asked Amine to wait for sun-rise, and they stopped, and all stood near the car watching the sun grow behind the horizon and the breams of light hit their cold faces, Safia snuggled up to Amine, and as he put his arm around her shoulder, she felt him closer than ever and closed her eyes.

“Let’s go eat, am hungry” Sarah broke the silence, “enough of this watching the sun rise Romeo”
Safia smiled before opening her eyes and said “come on then”

They drove back down to Annaba for breakfast, Sarah ducking every time she thought she saw someone who could recognise her even at this very early hour, they drove past her parents house “I just want to see it” she said, so they parked in the street opposite a run down building, the paint was grey and peeled in places, it looked like a colonial building that once was well maintained, she said they lived on the 4th floor, so they all looked up and watched the window of the 4th floor apartment, there was a couple of plants on the window sill of the kitchen and some bedding being aired from the second window,
 “mama is up, lets all go up for breakfast, she makes some mean Bradj (2)”
Meriem muffles a laugh, then Sarah explodes with laughter and they all joined her, they knew it was a joke and that her father, brother and probably mother and some far away cousins would take turns in punishing her for being out all night with strange men, drinking, and for everything else they could come up with.

So they hit the road back to Constantine, where they slept the whole Friday.
(1)   miss
(2) semolina based cakes with date filling.
(3) no


Meriem tries to go home to Annaba every other weekend, she can’t always afford it, the university bourse is just not enough and her family are very modest, her mother works as a seamstress and helps with the family income to pay for the bills and give Meriem some cash for her transport back and from Constantine.

She hates the journey there, the shared taxi with all the other men who smoke and cough, who stare at her. She always makes sure she goes to the Taxi station early, gets into the first taxi heading to Annaba, sits in the front seat and waits for it to fill up with more passengers. If the front passenger seat is taken she will wait for the next taxi heading to Annaba, there’ll be more very quickly and they’ll soon be on their way.

She sits quietly in her seat, checking her cleavage again, making sure she’s descent and not showing any flesh, she stares at the other yellow taxis parked and their drivers standing outside their cars, shouting out their destination, people hurry over, pay for their seats, load their bags and take their seats. She watched as other girls like her always head early to grab the front seat to avoid sitting with the men at the back.

Two hours later, the taxi stops at the Annaba taxi station, Meriem breathes a sigh of relief and she feels her fingers aching from gripping her seat so tight. She gets off the taxi, looking at the driver with angry slity eyes and mutters a maniac.

She catches a bus to her parents’. She meets her little brother Rahim playing in the street with his friends, he runs to greet her, she kisses him and pats his hair and they climb the steps together to the fourth floor apartment where the smell of Bradj was coming from. Before going in she checks her cleavage again and pulls her jacket down again to hide her curves and goes in. her mother greets her warmly with kisses and asks if she’s was hungry. Her father looks her up and down, clearly disapproving of her outfit again, nods a hello and walks to the living room where he waits for lunch to be served. Meriem immediately puts down her weekend bag and starts immediately helping her mother to lay down the table for lunch as if trying to gain brownie points or get forgiven for something she is supposed to have done or said. Coming home always carried a feeling of guilt and a heavy sense of duty that strangled Meriem and made her look sad and pensive.

They eat a lunch of couscous with lamb from a large sharing plate sat in the middle of the round table which they wash down with mint tea Meriem had prepared as it was her specialty, they ate in silence, apart from when the mother said something...


  1. I like where this story is going....multi-dimentional i think!
    Bring on the rest Dzchick...

  2. Soon Anonymous! Soon
    The plot thickens and more work is involved for me! But you have to remember I have a full time job as well!

  3. It's really good I'm teeling you! I had knots in my stomach when they drove to the night club cuz I know how dangerous it was. You really should think of publishing.

  4. Thanks Blue, the story is faar from being over or ready to be published, it needs a lot of editing, and done parts will have to be re-written but one day I will publish it Inchallah

  5. You mesmerize and bewitch me with your story.
    Ah Annaba, with its beatiful beaches ( st clou, la caroupe, toche, chappie, seraidi ...)a european panamora city in an islamic country ... what a contrast.

    -Amine, not Amine of the novel :)

  6. Beykar says (very very belatedly):

    Just happened to read this chapter and... How on earth do you remember (or make up?) so many details about Galaxy? I half expected you to describe a table of cherub-faced adolescent wannabes drinking J&B (with the little money they had), whilst trying to look cool in their Green or Purple turtle neck jumpers (yeah you remeber those? the smiley craze too), waist coats and hightops. They would then drive back to town to grab a hot bowl of Homs (double zit) with some crusty freshly made french bread, before heading home and getting into their beds with stealth that would put a ninja to shame. A ninja, but not their long suffering mothers who could then relax and breathe again.
    Ah those were the days... Thanks for the trip down memory lane... Now I notice you've taken a sabbatical, so Sabbat no-more lady! (sounds like I'm telling you to desist from wearing shoes, but I'm not).To your quill and parchment... what happened next? did she witness a suicide from Gantrat lehwa? (aka suicide bridge in Highgate). Didn't HBO commission a second series of Safia? let us know!

  7. I spent the last two days reading all your entries !
    one thing to say : WOW !!
    please update this intersting story ASAP :)

  8. Amine OZ when I read my own stories I think damn I am good! I wish I could just get the inspiration to keep writing this book!

    El Bayker from a Anabi that's a massive compliment. Thank you
    I have done my research and travelled places and I will do some as the story unravels... If I star writing again, the plot is already drawn out but undoubtedly will change and take on a life of its own!

    Yasmine Thank youuuu :)
    I promise to start writing again! I miss Safia and Amine

  9. just finished chapter four, skipped the previous ones because of annaba :D, I can't tell about the story but the general atmosphere of the 90's in here, and it's very fluid, "ça se laisse lire", Bravo DZC!

  10. Thanks El Aswed ! Seraid and Shtaibi baby!

  11. Hi, is there any more to come?it's so good, this story is sooo real God, remerbers me of that damned black period that we went through:
    Bravo Miss DZ !


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