A man of mysteryMature

Selma is a child like any other. Innocent, happy, and gullible. Her mother is a housewife, who often cries and breaks down in front of her children. Being more of a friend to them than a mother, young Selma and her somewhat older brother, Max, look to their father for parental guidance, but he's rarely home, and even then, they struggle to make a bond with him. Will a mysterious visitor, a colleague of their father's, have more affect on this family than anyone could've ever anticipated?..

It was a warm evening, like so many before it, but somehow, this one was different. As Selma was ushered into her shared bedroom by her mother, she listened curiously for the voices in the living room. There were two. One belonged to the stranger she had managed to catch a glimpse of as he came in the door, and the other belonged to her father, almost as much of a stranger to the young girl as the well-groomed mystery guest sitting at the dining table. After her mother had told both Selma and her brother Max to stay in their room and play quietly, she went to her own bedroom and hurriedly fixed her head-scarf in the mirror before going back down the hallway into the living room, to serve the guest and her husband some tea. In a Muslim family, it was only natural that the women wear a scarf in the presence of a strange man, and Selma's mother never complained either, but in this case, the handsome young man at the table seemed to almost demand the respect of all those around him, and suddenly, as Selma peeked around her door and watched her mother serve the tea, she realised that her mother was making more of an effort to keep herself covered than she had ever done before. It was almost as if she wanted the guest to notice her, but without breaking the sacred code of her religion. The cheerful stranger discussed business with his colleague, and as the two young siblings tip-toed out of their room, they could hear the confidence in his voice. This was exiting for them. They rarely had visitors, and even then, none of them had ever been this compelling before. They found themselves craving his attention, just like their mother had, and being children, they soon figured out a way to get it. It was her brother who came up with the idea, but Selma, being three years his junior, followed his lead as usual, and before their father could break eye contact with the mystery man across the table, the floor around them was filled with cards. Selma and Max had laid them out neatly one by one, all over the tiles. And right behind the confident young man's chair, Selma smoothed out the creases of a big poster, spreading it over the beige tile as if it was right where it belonged. She smiled shyly as the man petted her head and pushed his chair back to greet her. She looked up at his face and stared right into the mysterious eyes of her greeter. He had a handsome face, very soft features, and yet manly. His nose had a bump in it from where it had once been broken, but it only added more definition to his confident expression. He patted his knee and lifted young Selma up, seating her on his leg and asking her about herself playfully. Max looked at her jealously and tried to seem uninterested, but Selma reveled in the sudden attention. Her father watched the young man converse with his daughter, and her mother quietly yet with frustration instructed Max to tidy up the cards. Their first conversation was not a memorable one, but for a young child who has so little contact with the outside world, it was more exciting than talking to Santa himself. On the dining table, her brother's math book lay beside the stranger's tea, and, pointing to the cover, the man asked Selma:

"What colour is this?"

"It's red!" she replied happily, being proud of her 5 year old knowledge of colours.

"Oh is it now? So, it's like strawberries, isn't it?" Selma nodded at the mysterious guest with a proud smile.

As her mother ushered her off his knee and back into her room nervously, the innocent little girl took one last, long look at the man she was sure she would never see again. She took in the strong smell of expensive cologne that surrounded him, his well-groomed business suit and gelled, curly hair. His professional glasses and confident smile. His build was strangely bulky for a business man, but that was part of why his aura seemed to demand so much respect. He looked strong, but gentle. Serious, but kind. And it was only as the door was closing behind him that she learned his name. The mysterious young man with an other worldly confidence and a smile that held more secrets than Pandora's box.... Known to all as.. Ahmed.

The End

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