in the lives of sisters Melnin and Jinni was, almost, a daily
expectancy. They were trying to make a good life in a foreign
country. They were political refugees from a country overseas
governed by a cruel tyrant.
present host country was the only country in the world that accepted,
without conditions, from anywhere in the world, all political
refugees, legal and illegal, who intended to return sooner or later
to their home country.
Melnin escaped illegally twenty years ago, the arrival of refugees
from her home country was a weekly event involving numerous escapees
at a time. In the last five-or-so years, that number had gradually
decreased to only a few every more than a month-or-so as the tyranny
overseas increased its efficiency in preventing escapes.
from the beginning, was a volunteer among dozens who helped new
arrivals. Because of the need for anonymity, every volunteer was
known to only one official contact, and by phone only. The only help
accepted was groceries and, or, new clothing purchased the same day.
Delivery was always at a location and time chosen by the volunteer.
the few years immediately prior to Jinni arriving unexpectedly, none
of the escapees had arrived from anywhere near the town where Melnin
had been born and had lived all her life.
official contact had notified Melnin that an escapee, calling herself
Jinni, had arrived who had mentioned Melnin's name as a possibility.
Only the slightest possibility.
shock at the news rendered Melnin utterly discombobulated for minutes
on the phone. She had been allowed to call back in few minutes in
order to calm and compose her feelings and thoughts. On the one hand,
she knew she would need far, far more than minutes to be calm and
composed. On the other hand, she was well aware that new arrivals, in
general, and that one especially, needed to be helped within minutes,
called back within minutes. When she heard the escapee had claimed to
be her sister, Melnin had barely enough strength to end the call
properly, before she fainted at her kitchen table.
had brought Jinni to her third floor apartment. All the way in her
small car from outside the refugee centre, she had failed to
recognize any family resemblance in her and Jinni.
had been about three years ago. She was at a time she had abandoned
about ninety percent of her suspicion Jinni could have been another
of the tyrant's secret agents, who had ever been active, maiming and
killing escapees all over the world.
those three years Melnin had gained confidence, firstly and mainly,
in Jinni's spontaneous and instinctive sisterly living style.
from some astounding family facts that had been unknown to Melnin.
were twins. Fraternal twins. The suspicion in those days was that
fraternal twins were a sign of a fatal curse on the babies and the
parents. Within days the family's traditional Fortune Teller was
consulted. Her readings of the cards, beads, and tea leaves all were
luck. Serious bad luck. If the twins were brought up together, there
would be untimely death in the family. And, even if they were
separated to live unknown to each other, their destinies would sooner
or later have evil consequences on each other. Hence, the only
practical recourse was to kill one of the babies; preferably the
younger. Since both were female, the gods allowed that to be
absolutely guaranteed safety against the curse, both babies be killed
parents could not kill either. They decided to not name the
second-born twin, and to sell it to wealthy strangers in another
town. They never seen or heard of her again.
parents gave their firstborn a name suggested by the Fortune Teller;
a name that would give her extra protection against her doomed
sibling. Jinni. "Jin" meant "spirit of fire";
"ni" meant "on."
Jinni had never met Azra, casually and by accident, she would never
have heard about her nameless twin. Jinni was enrolled in a law
degree at the University in her town. Because of the tyrannical
Government, Government spies, undercover and in the open, were
one of the many incidents of criminal violence on University grounds,
Azra was one of forensic detectives participating in the
investigation. He had to fingerprint some students, which included
found a family link between Jinni's fingerprints and that of a member
of the family of a wealthy official close to the tyrant leader
immediately saw this as an opportunity to gain the favour of the
tyrant himself. He, in violation of official proper procedures,
disclosed to his superior officer, Jinni's family link to the
tyrant's close official. The maneuver succeeded. Azra had been
promoted. He was put in secret charge of uncovering Jinni's family
link to the official's family.
had to get close to Jinni. This was fairly easy since he had been
given more-or-less unlimited access to official resources. At some
step in his sleuthing, he sensed a danger to Jinni, not far from when
he uncovered the fact that the adopted daughter of the tyrant's
official had been Jinni's fraternal twin. He had paused in his
investigation in order to surreptitiously learn from Jinni, the name
of the adopted child. When he had to eventually conclude Jinni was
unaware she had had a fraternal twin sister, Azra was in a dangerous
be loyal to his employer who was showering on him all kinds of
powers, and privileges in order to facilitate his investigation, he
would have to divulge that Jinni was completely ignorant. Azra knew
too well that, under the tyrant, torture was the automatic recourse
against professed ignorance.
would be especially worse for Jinni, since the official did not know
where his adopted daughter had fled.
with the teenager's name, Melnin, Azra learnt she had eloped with a
rival family's son. The official had had that entire family murdered
when they had refused to divulge the whereabouts of the eloped
that official and Azra and Jinni would never know was that Melnin's
fiancée, knowing the danger they were in, had fled the country
with Melnin. And that he had died under suspicious circumstances
within days, before they could get married, as refugees. Melnin, ever
believing he had been murdered by the tyrant's agents, dared never
again to allow herself into a romantic relationship.
had no romantic feelings for Jinni. He was nearly twice her age. In a
way he did not understand, he cared for her safety. He knew her
continued health, if not her life, was at serious risk if the
official was informed there was a direct link between Jinni and his
long-lost disgraced daughter who had brought shame to his name and
his family, and had cost him dangerous loss-of-face, temporarily, in
the eyes of the tyrant himself.
easily, Azra persuaded Jinni that if she did not flee the country
without her family knowing, both she and her family were in danger of
being rounded up and killed by the Secret Police.
did not feel it an important sacrifice to flee in secret inasmuch as
both her parents and all their generation in their family had died of
natural causes years ago.
had helped her flee. He whispered to her that it was not a sure thing
that he would not be following her. Years had passed; he had not
followed her; she had seldomly thought of him.
Melnin received a phone call that a new arrival at the refugee center
was a man mentioning Jinni's name, both of them went on red alert.
only refugee in months. They were afraid. No name was given them.
Jinni, inexplicably to herself, instinctively knew it had to be Azra.
Melnin reasoned Jinni had no reason to believe it was Azra. Jinni
rules allowed them to not get involved in person at the refugee
centre. Melnin pleaded. Most of the times refugees who met with
fatal accidents, had neglected the rules. Every refugee was provided
with only one phone number, and one official contact, and was advised
that when they were accommodated outside the refugee centre, they
were to never return to the centre in person. When these three rules
were not followed, a refugee was at dangerous risk.
was extra insistent on the fact that Azra had informed Jenni that
Jenni probably had a twin fraternal sister alive somewhere, and that
if Azra located Jenni again, he most probably would use Jenni to
continue his search for the sister. Even so, eventually, Jinni
obliged a most reluctant Melnin to agree to Jinni's mere drive-by the
centre, alone in Jinni's own car.
broke the agreement. She rationalized that since she had taken the
precaution to park in a City parking garage, her violation of her
word to her sister was quite pardonable. Anyway, Melnin would never
had not seen Azra in years. She might have had problems recognizing
him. Inside the refugee centre, persons did not go out of their way
to be easily recognizable. Azra had been good to her. He had risked
his career and life to help her escape the tyranny. And he had
neither asked for nor expected anything in return. A pure friend.
he had earned a right to be heard. Surely, she owed him even if the
briefest of glimpses of each other, even in secret. Azra would not be
hard to identify. He was middle-age. Neither Jinni nor Melnin had
heard of a refugee older than about thirty.
was dressed in a manner that would make her unrecognizable to someone
who had last seen her years and years ago.
one, her hairstyle and color were completely different. Two, she now
wore a hat whenever she was out in public; never in her home country.
And---, and, nowadays, she wore lipstick; Melnin still did not.
walked towards the refugee centre. The thought she could be seeing
Azra in the next few minutes caused her heartbeat to accelerate;
brought a smile of pure joy to her face.
turned a corner and stepped in front of a screaming crowd running
towards her. There was some sort of riot in full progress. She turned
to run. A gas tank of sorts behind her, blew up. The flames
incinerated into ashes in seconds every living thing within a radius
of about five miles in the open.
author's name in
of the message we
won't know where to send it.)