THE SCENE---AN UPMARKET CAFÉ IN CENTRAL DAMASCUS.
ASMA---‘Darling--- don’t you just love my shoes---- they were a steal----only $7000 and you know how I love yellow!
P--------‘Yes you bitch--- I was looking for them and I had rung the assistant at the shop and she assured me that they had put aside---‘
ASMA---‘Hehehe--- what can I say----I didn’t mean to tell our glorious leader. How was I to know that he would ring them---well you know how it goes?’
K-----Yes P, there’s always those earrings that you told me about the other day.’
Asma shot a glance at K, bringing an awkward silence to the gathering. The nearby guards, dripping with Kalashnikovs fidgeted nervously while the two men in black suits edged closer to the ladies---close enough to hear, but not impinging on the conversation. The gaudily dressed waiter brought yet another round of coffees.
ASMA-----‘You should really be careful who you call a bitch P----don’t worry---just joking. Perhaps we should ring ahead to that new boutique in the plaza so that they are appropriately prepared for us. You know how jittery these people get when we turn up unexpectedly.’
P------‘Oh--- you are so sensitive Asma---if only the news media reported your kindness---none of this trouble would----‘
ASMA----‘You know that is hardly likely dear. My husband often states that in his quieter moments. I’m so worried about how all this is affecting him.’
K----- Well there is an easy answer Asma--- why doesn’t he simply nationalize all the shoe shops, then he won’t need to worry.’
ASMA---- ‘I think you are right K. I’m sure it is all a distraction that he doesn’t need right now. He has so much on his plate. I mean, the other day he was meeting with officials. They were planning the latest range of homeware--- you know--- he has always been interested in trying to ‘brand’ his own line. I’m so proud of him. What got me that day, he kept getting interrupted by these silly little men--- I didn’t hear it all--- something about Homs or was it Dara--- how rude!’
K----‘Yes, my husband was at that meeting. I can tell you he came home in a foul mood. I hate it when he’s like that. Nothing I can do changes him. The servants kept their distance, I can tell you.’
ASMA----‘See--- like I was telling you a few minutes ago. It always comes back onto the little people-----GIRL! ---How dare you---look! ---- You just spilled coffee on my new dress--- that cost my dear husband $13,000. Bring the manager---- now!!!!’
A very nervous manager appeared. He had not needed to be summoned; he had been listening from behind the curtains separating the kitchen from the dining room. He hated these occasions and now his long suffering wife was the target for the ‘first lady.’ He approached the table. Even the two ladies accompanying the ‘British woman’ looked ill at ease. He was also unsure as to how he should address the angry woman.
MANAGER----‘How may I assist, your Highness?’ He glanced at his wife, who slithered across the floor, returning a few seconds later with a damp cloth.
‘ASMA----‘What on earth are you intending to do with that, you piece of trash!? This is not some peasant dress that you have soiled. I very much doubt that even our best drycleaners at the palace can alleviate the damage you have incurred.’
MANAGER----‘I assure you Madame---- My wife knows exactly what to do. You are not the first---‘
ASMA----‘How dare you to address me as Madame---- you imbecile! It is people like you who are behind the troubles we face!’
She glanced towards the windows. There was a noise like a swarm of bees, coming from somewhere in the distance. At that moment one of the guards who had been standing at the entrance, turning away other customers and ensuring that the party had the establishment to themselves, came into the cafe. He spoke quietly to the anxious head of security, who then advanced towards the First Lady. He whispered in her ear. He alone amongst the guards was able to do this.
Her reaction was immediate. This was not the first time of late that her expeditions had been cut short. It did nothing to change her mood. She rose to her feet, trying her best to maintain her dignity.
ASMA----‘Come ladies--- it seems that the rabble are intent on yet again, spoiling our day.’ She stared at the manager. ‘You can be sure that you have not heard the last of this!’
The guards led the party from the café and climbed unceremoniously into the waiting heavily armoured Mercedes. In less than a minute the café was deserted and the approaching horde of marchers appeared at the end of the street. It was one of top suburbs in Damascus, and had not been affected until now by the discontent spreading throughout Syria.
The manager shut up shop, but he was too late to prevent a rock thrown by an angry middle-aged teacher come flying through the window. His wife screamed as it hit her on the forehead, causing her to collapse in a heap onto the floor, lying still as she slipped into unconsciousness. The First Lady's party sped from the scene.
ASMA----‘Take us to the new Plaza near the palace---- I feel quite faint----oh--- on second thoughts--- back to the palace. I simply cannot be seen like this. I need to change!’
A military convoy suddenly appeared on the road ahead, rushing towards the marchers. It slowed as the commander of the leading vehicle recognized the Mercedes and he ordered the driver to stop. The vehicle behind slammed into his vehicle and it wasn’t long before several following vehicles concertinaed behind. As the First Lady’s entourage continued past the mayhem, she stared out the window, wondering why she had come to this dessert country. Such is love!