by Paolo Copparoni, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 6 – Reya
Marco knows there will be a big demonstration in the city this evening, so after work he decides to go and see it, hoping that he might see Amir and find out more about his friend’s disappearance.
The main square in the centre of Tripoli, where the demonstration is taking place, is full of people.
Marco tries to find a space for himself, away from the crowd of angry youths chanting slogans against the government, and at a distance from the large numbers of police and soldiers!
After a few minutes, he notices a young woman hurrying away from the crowd. She is coming quickly towards him. As she approaches, all he can see of her partly-covered face are her unusual blue eyes.
She takes hold of his arm and, in English, asks him to help her, because she is being followed by the police.
Marco walks with her to a quiet side street, where she uncovers her face and introduces herself.
Her name is Reya.
She’s 23 years old and was born in Tripoli. She studied political science at the city’s university. She tells Marco proudly that she is an activist, and that she and her friends are hoping to change the government!
During their brief conversation it becomes clear that she is a passionate supporter of the rebels, and very critical of the government. Yet she also seems sweet and gentle, and is very attractive…
Marco asks her if they can see each other again.
Reya is attracted to the young Italian, and is keen to practice her English, so says she will think about it.
Marco offers her his mobile number, which she quickly writes in her phone before saying goodbye and hurrying away.
Returning carefully through the chaos to his apartment, Marco receives a text from Reya, thanking him for his help at the demonstration. He immediately texts her back, suggesting that they meet for a coffee the next evening.
In more relaxed circumstances over the next few weeks, Marco and Reya become friends. Marco finds her easy to talk to, and Reya is enthusiastic to explain to Marco about all the problems of life in Libya.
As Marco spends more and more time with Reya, he misses his friend Amir’s companionship less.
Better still, over the following weeks, it’s clear that the the friendship between Marco and Reya is becoming something much more serious.
They are in love!
Nevertheless, Reya insists on keeping the relationship secret. They meet in places where she will not be seen by anyone who knows her.
At first, this irritates Marco. But one day she reveals to him that her father is a general in the Libyan police. He would strongly disapprove of her seeing any man, but in particular, a foreigner!
Marco is initially shocked by Reya’s father’s job, but he agrees that it is safer for both of them that they continue to meet in secret.
Meanwhile Amir returns to the apartment and to work, seemingly without any problems. He explains to his boss and colleagues that he has been away because of a ‘family crisis’.
As soon as Marco has the chance to speak privately to Amir, he confesses to his discovery of the gun and bullets in Amir’s room. He tells Amir that he knows he is involved in the rebellion.
Amir is extremely angry:
“How could you search through my things? It’s none of your business!”
“I know. I shouldn’t have done it. You’re right, it has nothing to do with me. But don’t worry, I won’t say anything to anyone.”
“You’d better not,” replies Amir.
“If you tell anyone what you know, the consequences could be very serious for me. And for you!”
“But tell me the truth, Amir,” urges Marco.
“Why are you working here at the company? What do you plan to do?”
“I can’t tell you that. But don’t worry. If you keep quiet, nothing will happen.”
Marcco is now deeply in love with Reya and does not want to do anything which would mean that he has to leave Libya.
And anyway, he’s beginning to sympathise with the rebels’ cause, and with their aim of a free Libya under a new government.
So he really means it when he tells Amir he has no intention of revealing his friend’s secret…