As the doors of the palace opened, a line of black SUV cars made its way up to the inauguration. The cars, complete with black bodies and windows, moved in accordance to one another. She had only been here once, only once. She sat comfortably upright staring straight ahead. Her auburn hair pulled back in a simple loosened pony tail. Her grey beret was tilted to the side and pinned so rigidly that cement was looser. Her hands clenched together on top of her lap as she exhaled deeply. The car made a turn and the sun shot through her window like a bullet aimed at a bullseye. The inside of the car was suddenly covered in red laser circles. Her heart froze for a glimpse of a second as her posture began to harden creating an armor for her protection. The laser circles had alarmed her causing her adrenalin to shoot through the roof creating a fight or flight response. In her case, it was definitely going to be a fight response.
Like any soldier, she had been trained to conquer a state of mind called hysterical strength: a state that allows the body to be given an incredible amount of strength to survive times of danger. In a matter of seconds, she was ready to fight. She was ready to give it her all.
The sun proceeded to move away and the car’s interior returned to its original peacefulness. She lowered her gaze to find the cause of her panic placed elegantly on her finger. As the sun embraced her hands, her ruby ring had caused an outrage. The moment the light shot through her ring, she could see a line of red light reflected on to the back of the driver’s seat. She sighed briefly smiling underneath her cold solid facial expression. You couldn’t see her face smile. You couldn’t see her face do anything. Her eyebrows perfectly plucked withheld from all forms of dancing.
The car pulled over in perfect symmetry with the black and white pavement. She breathed in deeply and closed her eyes for a second. She turned her head to the window facing the doors of the ballroom. The man next to the driver rushed out of the car to open the door for her. In a matter of seconds her door was open and a line of guards huddled together to form a tunnel for her to move. She clenched the door of the car as she stood up. Like a preserved flamenco (dancer), her body swayed gracefully with each step yet her steps were strong, hard and fast. There was something about her that had died. Something about the way she moved that resembled lost beauty.
Her black Chanel suit glistened and gleamed with badges and medals. Her suit reflected her history, her loss and her success. She had refused to wear the suit they offered to construct for her. She said she didn’t want to be bulletproof on her inauguration day. For once, she didn’t want to be a soldier. She didn’t want to present herself to the world as indestructible. She wanted to stand up in front of the world and prove that her fancy weapons and her assumed masculine physique played no role in her success; rather it was courage and bravery that held her body upright in times of danger. Her suit hugged her feminine body, molding each curve in perfect form.
She had only been here once, only once, but she will never forget that day. The day she vowed to protect her country no matter the cost; the day she disobeyed her commander.
Two years ago she was in the same exact place. As she got out of the car flashing images of guards yelling, “Al A’qida Latifa El Masry (The brigadier Latifa El Masry)” colored her memory. You could tell back then there was a sense of urgency in their tone as they announced her arrival. She remembers that day like it was yesterday. She remembers what it was like getting out of the car, how she felt when she heard the guards yelling, what she was wearing and what they were wearing.
On that day, she rushed through the palace’s doors running her thoughts through her head consistently without a second of rest. She had no time to rest when Egypt was in danger. She kept thinking of what to say when she saw him. She might have been a Brigadier but she had caught the biggest lead on a case the Egyptian Military Intelligence had pondered over for years; a case her commander ordered her to stay away from.
The giant wooden doors opened and she rushed into the room through the announcement of her name. Her adrenalin caused her to forget her courtesy and thus, she stopped to let the soldier finish announcing her name.
She walked up to his chair as he stood up to greet her. His beige suit glistened and gleamed the most. Strong and withheld from emotion, his body carried power she had never seen on anyone except her father. You could tell that he wasn’t just any man. He was the man. The one, the one she feared, but respected. He was the powerful one. He was Egypt’s leader. She saluted him and turned to salute the other him, the other man in power: the man she thought about walking through the door, her commanding General.
She turned around to see the whole room full of men that also withheld from emotion. Men that protected her country for years, they were the same men she had admired and looked up to her whole life. They were also her father’s friends and colleagues, well most of them. Those were the highest ranking military leaders of her country and she was among them. However, unlike them, she knew the truth. She knew what was about to happen.
Her tardiness alarmed the room. She already had a hard time gaining their respect because of her gender. None of them believed in her. None of them supported the decision to have her here.
She turned her head back to him, the powerful one. He gave her one look and proceeded to finish the meeting. The moment he looked at her nothing else mattered. No one else mattered. She knew she could do this because he believed she could do this. He believed in her. She gathered her thoughts and stood up from her chair. Embarrassment colored her face as she took a breath to justify her tardiness. She cleaned her throat and pulled her figure upright.
“Al Mushir (Field Marshal) Moustafa Al Azizi,” she announced as she locked eyes with the powerful one. “Fareeq (Lieutenant General) Ahmed El Sabil,” her body shivered in fear as she said his name aloud. He was the other man in power, the man that left her sleepless for nights.
“and my fellow colleagues, I apologize for keeping you waiting, but I’m not apologetic I’m late.”
Her commanding General, El-Sabil, raised his eyebrows in disbelief. He was outraged at her boldness. She had not only insisted to attend a meeting concerning a case she had been removed from but she was late and not sorry for it.
She glanced at his reaction and quickly continued before he managed to interrupt her, “because I found him.”
Silence drenched the room and for a second you could feel their hearts stop together. “When I was assigned the case number #9001295, I had the biggest case in the history of Egypt’s terroristic missions. I worked with my team day and night until we finally came to a strong lead on where he was. I approached General El-Sabil and he immediately took me off the case. I continued to work on similar cases and each time I would have the same results. Their leader would find out and would change their plans to accommodate to the actions we were prepared to take. This is why I consistently failed each and every assignment I was given this past year. I finally came to the conclusion that…” She paused and turned her head to General El-Sabil. “I had a fraud on my team.”
By that time, the room was soaking with a different kind of silence. You could see the soldiers at the back suddenly all begin to change their body language. Young and inexperienced, you could see the urgency and panic they were feeling through their eyes. Their bodies remained still but their hearts screamed with nerves. Yet, the men gathered on that round wooden table with shiny badges and medals, medals earned through blood and sweat, did not waver even a little. It took years to perfect such a skill.
She continued with a stronger firmer tone, “Their leader had insight on our bases more than we understood.”
He, the powerful one, turned his head to where General El-Sabil was sitting. The General looked back at him with anticipation. You could see his hard rough façade crumbling to the floor like crumbs separating as you cut through a slice of bread. The General finally understood.
“His insight extended to cases that some of you did not even know. He wasn’t any ordinary leader.” She finally paused and held her breath. This was it. This was her moment. Flashing images of her family’s house burning down rushed through her eyes. She saw their caskets being lifted as the soldiers carried them through the cemetery. Her fathers covered with the military’s flag. She saw him, the powerful one, but he was much younger. Pictures of newspaper headlines flashed in front of her eyes. Headlines from their accident that read ‘Brigadier Tarek El Masry and his family killed in house fire’ placed itself in the center of her sight. She continued to remember the articles written about her ‘the daughter of the former Brigadier Tarek El Masry is announced to be Egypt’s next Brigadier’. Endless thoughts and emotions sprinted through her head with each emotion granting her strength and power.
It was finally time to get her revenge. It was finally time to bring justice to what has been done to her family. She had figured out who was behind her family’s house fire and who was behind the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians. She has found the one man that haunted Egypt for years with his vile murderous acts. She was ready to finish what her father started. She was ready to expose him to the world.
She raised her gaze and directed it towards the General. She locked eye contact with him and began to read his eyes. He was in a puddle of helplessness, but she wasn’t going to soften or weaken towards him. Her thirst for his life grew each time his eyes screamed for surrender. She had no sympathy for a man that would betray Egypt.
Her brown fiery eyes penetrated his very existence. You could see the power she had over him. You could feel her presence in the room had suddenly changed.
“He is my General.”
The room drowned in silence.
“A’qida Latifa?” Her guard whispered in agitation. She snapped back into reality realizing that her PTSD medication wasn’t strong enough to keep her focused on a day like today. She stood halfway through the tunnel the guards had formed for her unable to move a muscle. Her guard hugged her body and led her into the palace for her inauguration, something that had never happened before. Until that moment, she had never had anyone lead her. She was her only leader.