This post is the sixth in a series which starts HERE.
‘That policeman told me you were only eighteen.’
Samir looks sheepish. ‘I’m sorry. It’s true.’
‘You told me you were twenty-three!’
‘I didn’t think you’d be interested in me if I told you how young I was.’
He’s right; I would have run a mile. An eight-year gap … I am a cougar at twenty-six.
But it is too late. I’ve quit my job in London, rented out my house, and set off for a new life in the sun.
I had needed a change; on the rebound from a six-year relationship that had ended abruptly, my soul being eroded by London life, and fed up with the high-pressure job that left me shaking with stress. I had been looking for an escape, an adventure, a simpler life … maybe a family of my own. Tunisia and Samir offered all that.
Except now, standing outside the police station, he’s telling me he lied about his age.
We went to the police because all foreigners have to inform the police where they are staying (hotels have delegated authority to keep this register) so I’d gone to tell them the address of the apartment I’d rented for a month. It was a decrepit, greasy kind of place but was all I could find.
‘So, Madame,’ the police des etrangers (foreigners’ police officer) had said to me in French. ‘You will be living there on your own?’
‘No, Samir will be staying there too.’
He frowned. ‘You are married?’
He stood up and shouted at Samir in Arabic. Another police officer came running into the office, grabbed Samir and slammed him against the wall. The room was filled with shouting and I had no idea what was going on.
‘What’s happening?’ I pleaded, to nobody in particular.
‘They don’t want me to live with you because we aren’t married,’ replied Samir over his shoulder as one of the officers frog-marched him from the room. ‘They’ll put me in prison if I do, and deport you.’
I was left alone with the original police des etrangers (a ferret-like man I was going to have repetitive contact with over the next two years and who would never once crack a smile at me). ‘This is not Europe, Mademoiselle. Unmarried Tunisians are not permitted to live together. We will be watching you. And him. He is only eighteen – he needs to do his military service, not mess around with older foreign women.’
‘But-’ I began and he held up a hand to silence me.
‘Leave,’ he said, pointing at the door. ‘Or I will arrest your boyfriend. And you.’
I think I know how Dorothy must have felt when she landed over the rainbow. I’ve a feeling I’m not in Kansas anymore.
Photo credit: Phil, Flickr (Click here to view Phil’s photostream)
Next: A surreal wedding
If you enjoy these blog posts, you might want to consider my debut novel, Daughter, Disappeared, a hard-hitting ‘women in jeopardy’ thriller, set in Tunisia. Please read the reviews on Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2eCnZRf. Or to purchase on Amazon.com, for those in USA/Canada: http://amzn.to/2ozbGe8.
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