Queen of the night

The story of Zurri 2

At the mention of the name Kazuri, the hairs at the back of Zurri’s head felt like they were on fire and plucking off.  She gathered every ounce of strength to answer the man and walk away without eliciting further inquiries. 

“Ahhh….. no…. no! sorry!”  She said shakily, turning away and sprinting towards the entrance to her building.  By the time she got to the concierge she was shaking so much, the man behind the counter came to her aid. 

“Are you ok Miss Zurri?”  He asked looking around frantically as though he was expecting a group of terrorists to walk in through the glass doors.  From the corner of her eyes, Zurri saw Nathan casually walk towards the entrance.  Her first instinct was to scream but no sound came from her.  Just then Nathan stopped, retreated a few steps back and looked squarely at her before turning around and walking away with hands thrust in his pockets.  He looked maniacal as he walked away.  It was then she noticed he had a slight limp – his left leg didn’t fold at the knee as he walked, making his right leg appear shorter.  Somewhere in her suppressed memory such a person existed in a blurred form: she wondered who he was, how he knew her childhood name, and what he wanted from her.  Something from deep within her told her she didn’t want to know the answers to those questions.

She straightened herself up and walked towards the lifts without saying a word to the people who had gathered around and near her.  The concierge started to say something but Zurri was out of ear shot, charging towards the lifts and breathing like a woman in labour.  There was distinct ringing in her ears as the lift pinged at her floor: nostalgia enveloped her and she could smell the queen of the night, her favourite childhood flower, all around her – or did she imagine it, she couldn’t be sure.

She did not leave her flat for the next few days.  She immersed herself in work, yoga, aerobics, meditation and prayer but nothing could erase Nathan from her mind, yet she couldn’t quite remember him.  She had hoped coming to England and changing her identity would not only put distance between her and her terrible past, but it would also eliminate chances of the Nathans of her past world looking for her. 

She called her best friend, Emily, as soon as she set foot in the flat; she spoke so fast and incoherently that Emily was worried.  She promised to be there soon.  By the time Emily made it to her flat, Zurri was so tense her shoulders were practically fused with her ears.  She had smoked her weekly cigarette allowance in a day.

Emily arrived laden with wine, a feel-good DVD, magazines and an overnight bag. She could tell from bits of their conversation with Zurri that whatever she wanted to discuss needed more than wine – it needed a sleepover.  Zurri’s boyfriend was out of the country although that wouldn’t have changed a thing – the two women believed the power of downloading problems to a girlfriend was more powerful than to any boyfriend.  Most boyfriends’ immediate actions were not congruent with the download. 

“I swear I’ve been seeing that creepy Nathan every turn I make!”  Emily stated as soon as she walked in through the door.  She was very tall and glamorously thin – sometimes Zurri joked about breaking her into two.  She wore one of her trademark knee-length sleeveless black dresses, ballerina rosy pink shoes and carried an oversize marc Jacobs bag. 

“I’m sorry about that.”  Zurri said, genuinely sorry that she had created many monsters based on the many stories she’d told Emily over the years.  Enough monsters to haunt Emily for two lifetimes.  Although her upbringing was starkly different from Zurri’s, Emily offered a shoulder to cry on. Her down-to-earth attitude restored Zurri’s faith in humanity.  While Emily was born white and privileged, and got the best education money could buy, Zurri was born in abject poverty and went to school just so she could eat.  Whenever Zurri told stories from her childhood, Emily listened with an open mouth.  Their stories were as different as day and night. Where for Zurri poverty and misery went hand in hand and sanitation was just a word, Emily basked in luxury and largess. Where Zurri dropped out of school due to parental neglect and lack of resources, Emily studied to the highest possible level. Their friendship, love, beauty and personal character traits were the only things they had in common.

“Are you getting any more creepy calls since Nathan?”  Emily asked as Zurri poured wine into two super long-stemmed glasses she had purchased from Paris.  In the weeks leading up to the Nathan encounter, she’d been receiving silent calls and sometimes the caller would be heard breathing either with difficulties or as a pervert would do, it was never clear to Zurri.  Her social status had changed dramatically in the last year since her first book was heavily promoted as a possible future Hollywood movie.  Luke, her agent, had warned her that that this kind of behaviour might occur, and she had to be careful.  The phone calls were not nearly as bad as she figured that whoever was calling would never find out where she lived – she kept that part of her life very private.  However, she was dating someone who worked closely with high profile footballers, so chances of someone cracking the code to their private lives was very real and dangerous. 

“I got one call last week with the usual heavy breathing.  I have since changed my landline, so fingers crossed, otherwise I will have no choice but to cancel it. I will have to get one of those landlineless Wi-Fi coonections.”

“How’s work?”  she asked Emily in a desperate attempt to change the topic. 

“Same old!”  Emily answered absentmindedly.  Her mind was elsewhere.  Zurri sensed the instant distance but decided not to pursue further.  They had the kind of relationship where one knew when not to press for more.  As much as they were best friends and told each other everything, they were adults and understood the burden they laid on each other.  As much as possible they tried to solve their own problems before burdening one another.  Emily worked as a lawyer in a renowned firm – she could not always talk about work problems because she would be bound by some law or something.  In such instances, Zurri was always understanding.  The only exception was gossip – they called it human therapy – getting pleasure from other people’s misery.  Once, they were gossiping on Emily’s balcony and laughing so hard and loud the neighbours had to call the police to shut them up.  It was embarrassing. 

Emily had been married for just over ten years.  She and her husband had been trying for a child for the last five years.  After several unsuccessful attempts they decided to use IVA, so Zurri understood she was not the only one battling something – although battling demons and trying for a baby were distinctively different: one was fun the other was hell.  The topic of kids and pregnancy was also not Zurri’s cup of tea, it brought terrible memories meant for the abyss of her memory vault.  In her private moments with God, she promised to be a stupendous honorary aunt to Emily’s child whenever s/he decides to make an appearance.

Just then the phone rang, and the two women looked at each other as though an alien ship had landed on the terrace where they sat.

“Are you gonna answer that?”  Emily asked.

“Nope!”

“Are you worried it’s the creep?”

“Yup!”

Emily took a big gulp from her glass and ran into the lounge where the phone was and picked it up before the machine did.

“Listen motherfucker…. asshole….son of ………….”

Zurri watched from the terrace as Emily let it rip.

“Oh hi?”  Suddenly her demeanour changed from threatening to embarrassing. She mouthed to Zurri, ‘it’s fucking Andrew!’

Zurri smiled and literally ran into the lounge, grabbed the phone off Emily, plopped herself on the sofa like a love-struck teenager, and not the 37 years old woman she was, and said in a flirtatious high-pitched feminine voice.

“Hey baby, how are you and how’s Russia?

Emily rolled her eyes, took the last bottle of wine from the fridge, and walked to the terrace.  She refilled both glasses, eased herself on the lounger, and gazed at the starless London sky.  There was a high chance she would be ‘working from home’ the next day because they were on their third bottle and the night was still young.

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