Chapter 2

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Yousef, my husband, was a tall man. He had a beautiful smile. He was a really good looking guy. His eyes weren't the usual black. They were honey-like. You could've lost yourself in them. He had the kindest heart and was the most patient person I've ever met. He was also compassionate. If this life ever taught me something, it was that compassion isn't a common gift.

The first time I left Mauritania was the night of our wedding, 10th April 1986. I was amongst the rare girls who had a honeymoon. We went to Paris, la ville de la lumière. I slept during the whole trip. The trip was during the night and I was exhausted but it was mostly because I wanted to avoid talking to my new husband. Just because I was forced to get married, I vowed to myself to never give him a chance. Even though in other circumstances, I might have fallen for him. I was 16, young and stupid. Maybe, just maybe if I let him in, my life would've been a whole better. Or that's what I always told myself.

April 1986

When we arrived, he asked me many questions but I answered with nods or I don't know. After he checked us in the hotel, he decided to start a real conversation. "So Em, I heard you're a book lover. Who's your favourite writer ?" Em was the nickname my father gave me. Only Emal, my dad and Lilly, my best friend, use it. Emal must have told him. I like Em better than my actual boring name Mariam. He also knew I read. He actually asked about me and I didn't know a thing about him. Yes but he also knows you've been forced to be with him, my subconscious answered. "Yes I do. And it depends," I didn't want to talk with him. All I wanted to do was look around the more-like-house-than-a-hotel-room. At that time, I haven't seen more than my house, school, my sister's house and Lilly's ... Plus, I lived in a country where hotels were close to zero.

As I looked around the suite, I started to relax. It was breath taking. Paris was so beautiful. The lights, the streets, the cars and I had only seen it at dusk. Everything was breathtaking. As I turned around, I saw him standing few feet away from me, smiling. I had a rebellious spirit, I didn't want to show him I had any interest so I stopped grinning and walked straight past him. He walked behind me, not taking his eyes off of me. "Do you want to go outside and see the city ? If you are not tired of course. Or we could rest and later in the day, we can go anywhere you want." He seemed nice and I really wanted to see Paris. I wasn't tired and I had more energy than the time my father got me a first edition of Jane Austen's pride and prejudice. And being the selfish girl I was, I didn't care about him. "I am not. Where would we go first ? I've read lots of books and saw pictures of Paris." He had laughed a genuine laugh, "I will take you anywhere you want. We can even leave Paris for other cities too. I'm your husband and my role is to make sure you get whatever you want." He took my hand and kissed it. At that time all that really mattered was to continue studying so I had tried my luck and asked him. "Really ? Then ... If we go back to Nouakchott, I can continue studying ?" It wasn't really a question. His face fell. He wants you to be stupid the bastard. He doesn't want you to get a chance without him!  I was boiling inside and my subconscious wasn't helping. But I knew I had to calm myself to get what I really wanted. "But you don't need to. I will provide for our family. I'm a wealthy man and I get paid more than anyone in Mauritania. I mean why ..." I didn't let him finish. "You said you'll get me whatever I want and all I want is knowledge. I want to study and attend university. Here in Europe, girls go to school and attend college. And that's what I want." He turned his back to me and went into the bedroom. After a moment, he answered. "I see" and he smiled. "If it's going to make you happy than of course you can." I was more than happy. He even said we could live together in Paris until I graduate from university. Of course after finishing high school back in Mauritania. He said he'd go, from time to time, and check on his business back home. After a week in Paris and one in Rome, we went back home. He made sure to give me the best of everything. From shopping to visit places and going to luxurious events.

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