I, myself, have no fear of the old woman. She was an anomaly in her time. I understand her frisky character better than the others. My intimate knowledge has come from past conversations when she whispered in my ear that she supported me in my quest for small female freedoms. This auntie had bragged to me that she was the world's first feminist, long before the European women thought of such matters. She said that on the night of her marriage, she had insisted to her startled husband that she handle the money from the sale of the sheep, since she could figure numbers in her head and he had to use a stick in the sand. Not only that, her husband had never even thought of taking another wife, saying often that my auntie was too much woman for him.
With a toothless laugh, my auntie had confided in me that the secret to controlling a man was in a woman's ability to keep her husband's "leather stick" rigid and ready. I was a young girl at that time and had no idea what a "leather stick" might be. Later, in my adult years, I often smiled, thinking of the lusty activities that must have shaken their tent.
After her husband's early death, my auntie confessed that she missed his tender caresses and that it was his memory that kept her from accepting another mate.
Over the years I have jealously guarded her happy secret, fearing that such a confession would nibble at my auntie's soul.
For several hours my family pore over the translated pages and satisfy themselves that no one else alive, or traceable outside of our immediate family, is aware of the family dramas and squabbles divulged in the book.
I can see that my family feels a keen sense of relief. In addition, I catch a trace of mild admiration that I had so cleverly altered the pertinent information that would have led the authorities directly to my door.
The evening closes with Father and Ali warning my sisters not to tell their husbands of the night's business. Who knows which husband might feel compelled to confide in a sister or mother? My sisters are instructed to say that the meeting involved nothing more than personal female matters not worthy of their husbands' attention.
Father sternly ordered me not to "come out" in public and announce my "crime." The fact that the book is the story of my life must remain a well-kept secret within our family. My father reminds me that not only would I suffer dire consequences, house arrest, or possibly imprisonment, but that the men of the family, including my own son, Abdullah, would be scorned and shut out by Saudi Arabia's patriarchal society, which values nothing more highly than a man's ability to control his women.