Time is of the Essence
I got a desk in the FBI headquarters.
I have a desk.
My eyes are staring at the fine wooden finish of the desk in the spacey and furnished office.
I wasn’t an “FBI agent”, but I was still “working” with the FBI (and an Agent). Specifically it’s director.
“Ms.Shriki, are you ok?” Someone at the door asks. I look up to see a much more older woman with some files, standing at the doorway.
“Uhh, yeah. I’m just getting adjusted.” I sit up straight in my chair and give the woman a smile, “And you are?”
“I’m Mallory Begoni. Director Madison asked me to give you these files to review while he’s at the press conference.” As she hands me the files she stares at me with some sort of pitiful expression,“You know, Director Madison didn’t inform us of a new assistant. You’re a new surprise.”
“Because I didn’t go through Quantico?” Mallroy shakes her head. That’s when I realize why she was surprised.
Because i’m muslim. And I never got properly introduced to the team.
“I see. I do hope that we can get along very well Ms.Begoni.” I get up to shake her hand. Mallory grins at me and reuturns the handshake.
“I hope so as well. Maybe when your on your lunch break we can go to Sami’s. It’s popular for Agents and it’d be a nice way to meet some.”
“Sure. See you later then.” I wave at her as she leaves the room.
“See you.” And the door closes.
I sit back down and start to rummage through the files. All of them are stamped with the word “Confidential”.
I’m guessing these are the files on the mission. I pick one up an open it.
February 19, 2002
President Stanley has issued an emergency meeting regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. An unknown group has stolen all the known files retaining information on the attack. Agent Marjorie and Agent Sam have both gone on a mission to retrieve the files. Their location is unknown. All we can do now is wait.
It was a very short report but it struck out to me. The two agents in the files were my teachers back in Werin.
My knee went went up and down, feeling anxious. I had a feeling that these files contained more information than I intended to know.
I spent the rest of the afternoon alphabetizing all the files. Madison or anyone else hadn’t contacted me so I assumed I had no work today. Or more work.
After filing everything up neatly and placing the files I would take home to the side, I got a call from an known number.
I suspicously take up the phone to answer it.
“Hello, i’m Michael Lewinski. I was hoping you’d answer some questions.”
“Uhh-” What the hell?
“Dont’!” I look up see Marie marching towards me and snatch the phone out of my hands, “She’s not up for questions asshole. Go back to whatever small trashy paper you came from.” And ends the call.
Marie looks me dead in the eye, “Don’t ever answer any questions these people have. They will take it and twist and use it against you. I’ll answer your questions from now on. Now come on, we have a date.”
“What’s going on?” I ask as she gathers my stuff for me.
“Shopping. Then dinner with the President. Do you need these?” She points to the files, I nod hazily.
She picks the files up and starts to leave.
“Move it girl. These clothes don’t pick them selves.”
I literally have no idea what’s going.
Did she say dinner with the president? As I follow her she starts to speak again.
“The press will be there. They’ll want some questions about the incident and what your opinions are on certain political topics. I’ve laid out a script for you in the car to memorize. Follow the script!” She turns to me, “If you don’t I’ll drag you all the way to Chesapeake Bay and drown you until you realize that saying what you mean isn’t meaning what you say. It doesn’t matter if you have good intentions, one wrong word and it’ll ruin you. Especially since you are a woman. They can forgive men, but women have to work twice as hard to be half as good as them. Read the goddamn script.” She turns back around and walks straight ahead.
Again...what the hell just happened?
I’m reading the script and not liking it.
“Umm, I do not support President Hunt nor will I ever. If people know me they know I’m a Democratic-Liberal. This says nothing about me.” I complain as we are riding to whatever shop Marie chooses.
“I don’t either but you have to go with the flow. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, you saved the President’s daughter. You can’t be best friends with the daughter and hate the father, at least not in the public’s eyes. It say’s there that you believe he is a good man. It doesn’t say anything about his views. That’ll be left for open debate and will be resolved the next time you are asked about it.”
I sigh and look over the script again. After going through DC traffic we arrive at a posh looking shop that looks way out of my budget.
Like serving champagne at the door with actual crystal chandeliers above me.
Marie forces me in to try some clothes she had already picked out.
“I asked your mother to give me some of your clothes so I could see what your sizes were. However I realized you wore clothes twice your size. So don’t murder me if they are a little snug.” She pulls out a long wavy, black skirt with a white turtleneck and a pair of expensive looking vans.
I didn’t feel really comfortable as long skirt’s weren’t my thing. The turtleneck was soft and the vans were alright.
Marie shakes her head as I walk out.
“No. You look too soccer momish.” She then hands me two pantsuits. One was dark, blue silk and the other was dark, red velvet (I think. I”m not experienced with clothes.)
I got matching heels for the both of them.
The blue pantsuit was beyond comfortable and in my opinion looked great on me. It gave me this care-free feeling that I could rock anything (which was not true.)
“We can work with this. It seems that blue is your color. Now the red.”
The red was even more comfortable. It gave me this sophisticated look as it didn’t latch onto my skin nor did it sag. It made me look great without it being too tight or loose.
“If you loose a few pounds you’ll look like a literal model.” She motions to my stomach that is now poking out of the suit.
I had let myself become so loose that I gained a few pounds after leaving the Navy.
“A corset will do now. Let’s move onto the rest of the clothes.”
I tried on a plain black suit for work.
That’s when she brought out the big guns.
“Isn’t that from Ellia’s new fashion that hasn’t even come out yet?” I squeak. I wasn’t much up onto the fashio world but Ellia was an icon to everyone minority wise.
“Yes. I’m friends with Ellia and she sent me a few of her designs for you to try on. Be grateful.” She hands me a white laced pant with a matching top. I stare at Mellie.
She knew Ellia?
What was I getting myself into?
I try on about 15 more outfits and shoes with Marie criticizing my body.
“Ok...I want all of these outfits.” She hands a black card to the helper.
I’m about to get into my clothes when she stops me.
“No. Give those to me.” I hand her my clothes unwillingly, “Wear the purple dress with the black heels.” I do as she says and follow her to the cash register.
My eyes light up when I see the total amount.
I grab onto the desk to make sure I don’t fall.
That’s more than what my Mother makes in a year! More than our home rent!
For all these clothes?
“Just letting you know this doesn’t include the Ellia line.”
SO fucking 3 pantsuits cost 100,000 DOLLARS?
“What kind of world do I live where 3 pieces of clothing costs more than my mother’s salary?”
“Don’t worry about it. I said I would take of everything. Now come along, the day isn’t over yet.”
I learned that no matter what you said, Marie would always make you do what she wanted.
Laser body hair? Done.
Getting a facial? Done.
Wearing a corset that made you look like a Victoria Secrets Angel? Done.
Blue eye contacts? Done.
Hijab stylist (I didn’t complan at that one. I didn’t know they existed.)? Done.
Even getting my hair done which I saw no point in because it wasn’t going to shown.
By the end of the day I literally couldn’t recognize myself.
“Oh my! You look fabulous!” She makes me twirl around in the mirror.
With the corset which initially brought in my stomach and posture it looked like I had grown a few inches, more with the black heels strapped to my ankles.
The dress was multi layered with the silk swooping down and stopping right at my ankles. The lace had stopped mid-way in the front and dragged onto the back. The sleeves were loose and looped around my middle fingers, creating an elegant finish. ( I even wore black stocking that surprisingly hid my legs well and matched with the dress. )
My hijab was black with a purple gem pinning it together.
The make-up I forced to get was surprisingly amazing. It was done so well it looked natural and not all 4-hours worth of facials and black-head popping and other horrendous shit.
With a simple nude lipstick and eyeliner, I looked great.
Like actually great.
And for some reason she made me wear blue eye contacts that somehow accentuated the outfit all together.
Marie was good.
“I love it. I do. But it’s dinner. Why the hell do I have to be so fancy?” I ask as I admire myself.
Marie winces, “Did I say dinner? Woops! It’s a Gala. To which every powerful person in North America will attend. And the public outing of the Presidents daughter. You will be giving a speech, end of the script by the way.”
I glare at Marie.
So that’s what the odd thank you was for! Here I was thinking the press would drag me on too long I had to make a speech WHEN IN REALITY I WAS ATTEN-
“A Gala?” Gala?
As in, rich people come together about some less important shit and act like they care about it all while drinking fancy wine and dressing up?
“Yes. A Gala. I knew you wouldn’t want to go so that’s why I initially told you it was a dinner. ”
“You suck. You know that?” I grumble as I get off the stand.
Marie grins, “So i’ve been told.”
I’m halfway about to jump out of this car right now.
The sound of reporters outside is making my insides tremble.
“Act like they don’t exist. The guards will be by your side. IF you ignore them it’ll exhilarate confidence.”
How the fuck does ignorin...oh ok.
Mean Girls style.
“Well uh, tell my mother I loved her. If those crazy reporters start going all ‘Islam is Cancer’ shit.”
I pray as I get out of the car.
I don’t even remember. The next thing I know is that i’m seated at a nice, round table with a few other women and men.
I blink as I take in my surroundings. How did I even get here?
“You’ll be getting called on in 5 minutes. You memorized the script?” Marie whispers in my ear. I jump and look at her.
“Good.” She taps my shoulder and points to the front of the room.
Presidet Hunt is giving a speech.
“Now, I would like to welcome the young woman who saved my daughters life, and the lives of those other girls. Please welcome, Agent Fatima Shriki.” President Hunt looks at me as he claps.
“Go!” Marie pushes me upward.
I walk slowly towards the stage, praying to God I would not mess up.
Honestly my brain was messed up right now. I didn’t have a clear perception of what exactly has happened over the past week.
“Hello, everyone, lovely day today. I mean the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the weather is out to get me. I mean, it’s the end of summer and we are still in the high 80′s. Can’t a girl walk without getting sunburned?” Laughter and clapping rippled throughout the audience.
“So anyways, I am not here to be making anymore ludicrous jokes or try to talk about myself. I’m here to talk about the growing problem of Human and Sex trafficking.” I went off script.
She’ll murder me.
“Only a few days ago did I discover a man holding a few girl against their will, threatening one of them...with unwanted advances.” I used her speech as an outline.
“In our world, for a long time, humans have been taking advantage of the weak. They have looked down upon women because they bore children. Men have implanted a seed into the human mind, that whoever carries the child is weak.” I avoid Marie’s eyes, looking at the audience.
“What Men didn’t know, was that giving birth to a child is in fact the most painful thing anyone could experience. They demote women because they are the ones who carry children, but really, women have been stronger than men in many ways. Because men don’t carry children, their strength is usually in their upper bodies. This arrogance, it has lead to many people suffering today. Even other women using women to their own advantage. You know it goes on. That due to this arrogance, women are kidnapped and abused. They are raped because they have been forced to grow up thinking, I am weak. That their only use is to give birth. That they constantly need a man to protect them. This is why they are “weak”, because they have been thinking that way.This is why many people hate on feminists who speak against the system. Go home, do the laundry, do the dishes. Excuse me? Was it written in a book that whoever carries a child must carry out household duties? The bible?The torah? The quran? Or even non religious people, you think that the people who go through so much torture must also be placed with a burden? This exact thinking, is what leads to Trafficking. That one human is more powerful than the other. That they are allowed to take advantage of that person because they are a women, or a child. This exact reason, is why millions of innocent women and children are feeling alone and useless. That because that person has power over them, that what has happened to them is their fault.” I take a small breath.
“It isn’t. It never will be. When I heard that man speaking to the young girl that way, my hear tore up. Imagine, a 9 year old being taken away form her home and forced to things so disgusting that she’s too scared to even talk about it. As people, and as citizens not of the United States, but of the world, we need to take a stand against trafficking. Whoever tries to justify sexual acts upon a child, needs to be punished. Whoever thinks using people to do manual labor and treating them like garbage, needs to be punished. It isn’t right, and it never will be.” I messed up.
I should have stuck to the script.
“Uh, Ms.Shriki, you can speak now.” I blink and find myself still standing.
“You can talk now. ”
My jaw drops.
Did I just....IMAGINE THAT ENTIRE SCENARIO?
“Uh well...Good Evening everyone.” The speech was basic. I still couldn’t believe I actually blanked out.
I thanked the President, I wished Mary and the other girls well, and ended it with a wish to want some privacy.
“Good job. You followed the script and no one hated you. Obviously someone will try to publish a storm piece on you, but don’t let it bother you.” She pats my back as she hands me a champagne looking glass, “This is ginger ale. Don’t worry, i’m not that much of a monster.”
I could breathe again. I took a sip of the Ginger Ale as the people in my table tried to start a conversation with me.
“So, you’re the new assistant to Director Madison?” Lady A with hoop earrings asks.
“Yes, I am. You are?”
“Ah, I’m Alice Hurine, my husband is the CEO of -”
“Upton Corps.” The words tumble right out of my mouth. This woman was the wife to one of the most powerful men in North America.
She laughs, “Yes. You see dear, I told you young people still kept up.” She turns to a slightly older man.
“Well it’s relieving to know that some do.”
" So, what brings you down here from Montreal? Did the President invite you?”
“He actually did. We were business partners when he still lived in Quebec City.”
“I see.” It was no surprise that before his political career Mason Hunt was a business man up in Canada. What brought him back to the US I have no idea.
“And you two? You seem like lovely people.” Marie asks the other couple sitting at this table.
“I’m Helen Jarowski and this is my brother George. We knew President from his days as a Senator for Maine.” She had a warm smile that her brother copied.
“So normal townfolk?”
She laughs, “Well if being Mayor is normal, than it would seem so.”
Wow, so many people here all of a sudden.
Maybe this was my time to figure out exactly what the hell was going on.
“So, this Gala, what makes you do of it?” I take another sip of the Ale.
Alice answers my question,“Ah well, raising awareness for Sex and Human Trafficking is something that should have been a long time ago but it’s a start.”
So it’s an awareness Gala. Wow these things are for everything.
“Exactly my point. The US has been lacking in training their officers to see this kind of stuff. The TSA has already overlooked so many young people it’s kind of disgusting.” George speaks up.
“The problem is that we aren’t promoting it enough. Sadly, that’s how this world works. If you don’t talk about something, no one will. Look at the studies, when the Canadian government decided to start talking about smoking and it’s risks, the sales in cigarette’s have dropped in the 3 largest provinces. Same with the US. If we start to promote Trafficking, then the solution will find it’s way to the surface.” It seemed more and more that Alice was the CEO and not her husband who was pre-occupied with his drink.
“Well I’ll be damned. Some one gets it. I ready a study done by some Professor in the Netherlands. His theory was that the more universal a truth is, the more weight it holds to something of a smaller degree. Short term being, when something is known world-wide, everyone can feel it’s pain. But when something is more local, like a death for instance, not everyone can feel the pain the family does.” I blurt out, “Take bombings for an example. When a terrorist attack happens everyone is suddenly sending prayers and talking about. But when someone dies of a car accident in the middle of Kentucky, the only talk is that of the pastor.”
“I can see why Director Madison chose you. Not only do you have great knowledge of the world but you can deliver quite the speech.” Helen smiles at me and I feel a sense of pride.
“The girl has potential. I can tell you that.” Marie tells them.
“What University did you attend?” Alice asks.
“Georgetown. Got a bachelor’s in computer science.”
“Impressive. Did you not want to finish your education?” CEO Hurine asks.
“Ah well, my mother fell ill around the same time. So I had to join the military in order to finish my education. I just left this year. ”
“Wait...so this means you’re 24?”
“How’s that possible?” They all gasped, leaning forward.
“I went to Werin Prep. They have this thing with Georgetown that if we do great in high school we could finish it two year and go on to Georgetown to complete our education. I finished University by 19. Got in the navy when I was 20. ”
“Fascinating how the world just evolves.” Helen shakes her head, “It makes sense though. You look very young. It must feel like a large stepping stone for someone your age to be...did you say Werin?”
I could feel her tense up.
“I didn’t think they still accepted students.”
Marie laughs, “It’s a hard process. But this girl got in somehow.”
“Is there a problem?” I look at carefully, realizing she looked way too familiar.
“Not really, it’s just that I also went to Werin. Class of ’00.”
The mayor of a city in Maine was also a graduate from Werin.
“I lived in Philly. Up until 6th grade I could barely even stand up straight much less speak. That’s when Werin came in.” Helen took me outside to speak. The two of us enjoyed a nice stroll with the Secret Service breathing down our necks.
“They offered me a place in Werin. My entire family was wasted so I took it, hoping for the best. Worst mistake. As you already know, Werin destroyed what little innocence I had left in me. Though it did bring me to where I am, it took parts away from me I can never take back. ”
“What did they do to keep you quiet?”
She laughs, “Nothing. Because already they taught me that I had nothing to loose if I died. I’m infertile. My husband doesn’t want to adopt. My parents are dead. I have no siblings. My family is basically gone. ”
I feel a pang of guilt. This woman lived all her life alone, while I complained about my company.
“How did they find you?” It’s my turn now.
“Through a test they administered back when I was in the 4th grade. Apparently I scored higher than any kid they ever saw. Born me and my brother.”
“You poor things. Being dragged in there so young.”
“Once you get over the trauma it isn’t so bad. I learned a lot of helpful tools that actually are helpful.”
“That is true. You have to applaud them for that. No matter how bad they are, they always find a way to be useful to you.It’s like coffee, even though it destroys your mind, it helps you stay up for those late night assignments you have.”
“You mean those mission reports?”
“Oh...those! I don’t miss them one bit.” Funny how much I was relating to a woman in her mid 30′s.
“Anyways, we should be heading back in. Dinner should be served already.” Helen looks at her watch.
“Yeah, you go in, i’m not that hungry.” I stand as Helen starts to walk back.
“I guess I’ll see you later Agent.” She waves and goes back inside.
Suddenly I’m alone again.
I thought it would be nice to walk and try to recollect my thoughts over the past few days.
I saved some girls from being used and living their poor lives in fear.
My cousin was alive and the entire cruise was some part of a conspiracy.
I was working with the FBI.
I’m wearing a thousand dollar dress.
I met the President.
One of my cousins was the grandson of the Israeli Prime Minister.
So much in so little time.
I could only wish that I was never born into this family. My mother always said the Shriki’s were bound for trouble.
Who know’s what else we have under our skin?
“Figured I’d find you here.” I turn to see Madison walking towards me.
“Well, I guess you can never really be alone at the White House. ” I sigh.
“It comes with the job.” As Madison starts to walk beside me he speaks up again, “So, what’s got your mind captivated?”
“At this point it could be anything. ”
“I would try to come up with something to make you feel better but i’m on the same boat.”
“Shouldn’t you be knickering with the President?” I mean hell, he’s the Director of the FBI.
" I should, but I would rather stay away when he puts on a mask. His inconsistent ramblings make my head grow weary.”
“You know, how did you do it?”
“Become Director at such a young age?”
“You mean how you already graduated college and was in the military for years by 21?”
“Why must everyone bring that up?”
“It’s astounding. But if you must anything about it’s that I was raised by a single-mother in Puerto Rico in the extremely poor part. Considering i’m talking about Puerto Rico, I grew up really ....shitty. I always wanted to achieve great things, not for me, but for my mother. I hated how my Father left her.”
As I closely listened, I could feel his story blur with mine.
Both of us grew up with single mothers.
Both of us has runaway fathers.
“Was he American?” I could only assume with his name.
“No, he was from Argentina.”
“Wait, what? But...your name?”
Another great laugh, “Madison Henley is my pen name for when I used to be an amateur writer. It kind of stuck when I came to DC, though I wish I could change it.”
“How has no one figured out your real name?”
“Because no one wants to.”
“So if I may...”
“It’s Matias Sebastian Garcia-Lopez. I took my mother and father’s last name.”
“That is no where near your pen name.”
“It isn’t. That’s the beauty of it.”
I didn’t say more.
“Your full name. It’s only fair that I know it as well.” Are you one of the most powerful people in the US? Shouldn’t you know it?
“Fatima Amina Noullion Shriki. I also took on my mother last name.”
“Noullion isn’t Arabic.”
“It isn’t. My mother is technically french. Her parents migrated from France to Morocco as children.”
“Makes total sense actually considering Morocco at one point was over-taken by the french.”
“Don’t ever say that.”
“Also makes sense.”
An awkward silence fell between us. At that point I couldn't really decipher whether or not I was talking to just a normal worker or someone who ...did important stuff.
"Do you know if we have any leads on...the item?" I suddenly ask.
"Ah, the item." he nods, " We have one. We were going to tell you tomorrow but since you asked, we do have a lead. It's a pretty mild one too."
"Well we were tracking down one of the protectors of the item, and we found him to now be in Vancouver."
He nods again as if to verify the city, "Yes. Vancouver. The city in Canada right above Washington, on the West Coast.""
"Yeah no, it's just that I have an uncle and an aunt who live in Vancouver."
Madison raises his eyebrows, "I want to say it's a good thing but there are outliers in this equation."
"Think about it. I'm looking for a job, I just came back from a horrendous period of my life, going with my uncle to Vancouver would be a perfect opportunity to leave without my mother suspecting anything." Truth was, I was actually planning on going to Vancouver after leaving the Navy , before this came up.
I didn't want to stay here and it seemed like the perfect getaway.
"You seem to have been thinking about this."
"I have. Maybe I made plans to move to Canada. I have a ton of family up there actually."
"Well, it's an ideal situation. I'll bring it to the table tomorrow. In the meanwhile, let's go enjoy politicians from 3 different countries make fools of them selves." He extends his arm.
I take it.
Ew. I mean I love this chapter but I have a love-hate relationship with it. I don't know why though.