I am struck with a horrifying thought. Kareem has been told of the book!
Imagining suffocating confinement in a subterranean dungeon, deprived of my beloved children, I surrender to my agitation for a moment, and in a thin, high voice that bears no similarity to my own, I implore, "What has happened?"
Kareem shrugs his shoulders, answering, "Who can know?" His nostrils flare with irritation when he remembers, "I informed your father that I have an important appointment in Zurich tomorrow, that you and I could see him when I return, but he was adamant that I cancel my plans and escort you to his home this evening."
Like a windswept figure, Kareem charges into his office, exclaiming, "Three meetings have to be canceled!"
Weak-kneed, I collapse on the sofa with relief, thinking that all conclusions are premature. Kareem's anger has nothing to do with me! My courage flickers hopefully.
Still, the threat of discovery persists, and I have many long hours before the unexpected family meeting.
Feigning a gaiety I do not feel, I smile and chat as Kareem and I walk through the wide entrance hall, over the thick Persian carpets, into an enormous and grand sitting room in my father's newly constructed palace. Father has not yet arrived, but I see that Kareem and I are the last of the family to make an appearance. The other ten living children of my mother, without their spouses, have also been summoned to my father's home. I know that three of my sisters had to fly into Riyadh from Jeddah, while another two sisters flew in from Taif. Looking around the room, I verify that Kareem is the only outside member of the family present. Even Father's head wife and her children are nowhere to be seen. I surmise that they have been dismissed from the premises.
The urgency of the meeting leads me back to the book, and my chest tightens from fear. My sister Sara and I exchange worried glances. As the only member of my family aware of the book's publication, her thoughts seem the same as mine. Each of my siblings greets me warmly except my only brother, Ali, and I catch a glimpse of his sly eyes following me.