The next day Cass met up for the Sunday morning run around Regents Park. She huffed and puffed behind her friends Shaheen, Jens and Alec. They pushed ahead. Shaheen’s light frame aiding her competitive nature, out stripping the boys by several yards. Her headscarf did nothing to slow her down. She reminded Cass of an Arab race horse, then Cass worried that she was being racist.
As Cass plodded behind her more athletic friends, she pondered her options as to the night before. Best to forget and deny anything, if it came up on Monday. She was running out her anxiety about losing her job. “Don’t ask and don’t tell” was her mantra to run to. She had resigned herself to it being an Uber Crap Monday. She tried to convince herself it would not even come up on Monday, he did not see her and she most certainly was not going to mention anything to Julian. She felt a bit sick at the thought of walking through the office door but kept running. She cringed when the ever present voice in the back of her head, told her that this was it, her career was now well and truly over. Promoted and then sacked within a couple of weeks of being in a new job. He could sack her, the promotion was not technically within the company, she was within the notice period of this new job. Caroline won’t take her back. Or if she did, Caroline would make her life as torturous as possible.
Cass suddenly realized that she was bent over, muttering expletives like a mad woman. She looked up and realized her friends were looking back at her.
“Stitch!” Cass smiled and waved back at her friends.
“Stop smoking!” was the chorus from her friends. Cass made a very Anglo Saxon gesture at them and they started running again.
Cass was glad she was a good actress. She did not want any of them to know what had happened. She was concerned Luke might betray her to them. He had not called her, but she had not expected him to. She did not care about them knowing about the sex party. They would not care about the sex parties. Even Shaheen would not care. She had only started wearing the headscarf recently and there was no way that she was going to be one of a suicide bomber’s prize in heaven. Cass knew if this information got out, it would be traced to her and her alone.
Why had she kissed Luke? Fuck it, she felt sorry for him. He looked so terrified of her. She had not done it because she wanted to. She did not like Luke. She would tell herself this until it became the truth. She felt like she had cheated on Jason. She was being stupid, she told herself. She was just freaked out. She could here Jason’s voice in her head. He was laughing, “Your boss likes to be pegged! And you caught him! Come on darling, that is funny! Give me a smile, it is not that bad.” Unfortunately Cass could not see the funny side that Sunday morning.
Her friends were waiting for her at Leon behind the Tate Modern. They had already ordered and were tucking into their well earned brunch. Cass had obviously been more distracted than she would like to admit. She was usually only 10 minutes behind them.
Flopping down next to Shaheen, Cass grinned and asked, “Give us a bite of that! I love bacon.”
Shaheen play glared at Cass, “It is mushroom and I don’t share food. You gross kafirs have all sorts of diseases.” Shaheen had only started wearing the scarf because she thought it was ridiculous to be scared of a bit of cloth. She was not going to be told what she should or should not wear by anyone. Her father had never told her what to wear and she did not see why the World should tell her what was acceptable or not.
Shaheen was what the press called a Moderate Muslim, whatever that means. Cass suspected it was press-code for being Moderately Dangerous, like a pitbull in a mussel. Under control, behaving well and not shitting all over the carpet after pulling your toddler to pieces. Cass thought moderate danger is apparent in all religions. A scarf is not going to blow you up. A fanatic who believes that he belongs to a chosen people and everyone else is cattle, is going to blow you up. This attitude can be seen in all religions, not just in Islam. Cass could empathize with Shaheen’s little rebellion against hypocracy.
There was general discussion about each other’s week and weekend. The usual how much each other hates their job, how they feel either undervalued, overworked or unworthy of their position. The conversation turned to their weekends. Cass kept quiet, and mumbled about a meal and crap TV. Jens butted in,” I thought you were meeting up with Luke?”
“Oh I let him go on his own, I am not too sure if I am that into it,” Cass said mendaciously. “When are you off?”
“After Sam’s wedding. I am looking forward to getting out of here,” Jens said brightly. No one around the table believed him, but made encouraging noises. “I will miss you guys, but I need a new start. I have been trying to get a reputation here. The extra hours, getting the wins, sucking up to clerks just does not seem to help. The old boys get all the good cases. I just can’t afford it anymore. Who would have thought being a moderately successful barrister can not afford to live in London,” he laughed mirthlessly.
Alec piped in, grinning at Shaheen, ”It makes you think about converting to Islam.”
“What do you mean?” Cass interjected. Alec had issues about Shaheen’s new headwear and liked to tease her.
“He means that if you look at the economic reasons for extremism, it makes some sort of perverse sense. All this “down with democracy,” is a result of having worked hard, been told that if you follow the West you will get the dream, but it does not exist anymore,” Shaheen diffused. “If you were with me and Alec last night rather than your decadent western sex party, you would have heard our drunken discussion.” Cass looked sheepish.
“Persians invented sex parties!” Alec interjected.
“Point taken,” Shaheen smiled. “Anyway, if you add a sense of marginalization to a free house, car and good looking jihadist and mix into it Gods blessing, you can see why it is more attractive than working in a call centre, paying some one else’s mortgage and never having your own home.”
“You sound like an apologist,” Jens sounded slightly annoyed.
“No, I think that these people are vile, unkempt Nazis, but they are not stupid or ignorant. They are appealing to young peoples’ fears and the fact that they have done everything which society has asked of them, but they are getting no where. Saudi has an even more extreme problem, they have an even bigger demographic of young highly educated young men, who have no chance of having a job, home or a family. They see the House of Saud in the pockets of the West. When combined with a good dollop of Wahhabism and you have Daesh. It is not rocket science. ”
Cass interrupted facetiously,’ One way to Syria, Guys?”
“I would be thrown off the minaret in minutes of landing,” Alec laughed.
“Cass and I would be stoned within a fortnight,” Shaheen snorted.
“I think I would prefer a good You Tube beheading, something for posterity,” Jens slapped his leg. “Luke would have to be stoned, beheaded and then thrown off the minaret.”
Yummy mummies with silver backs were looking uncomfortably over their chia matcha lattes at the group of young professional would-be suicide bombers. Shaheen could not help herself, as they left to the suspicious looks of the humour – challenged families, “Come on guys, we have a plane to catch!”
Cass and Shaheen arrived at Sam’s flat. Sam’s mother, Joy, was making their dresses. Daniel did not like the idea, lots of his colleagues and clients had been invited to the wedding, but for once Sam was insistent.
Joy opened the door to the women. Her soft face looked slightly flushed with alcohol. Lifting a large pile of bridal magazines off one of the few bits of furniture in the living room, Cass found herself somewhere to perch hawk-like, amused at Joy’s dance around Shaheen. Cass thought that a lifetime’s diet of the Guardian and Radio Four was to blame for the baby boomers obsession with political correctness. Cass had to admit, when she had spent longer than a weekend at her parents the constant barrage of Radio Four, made her envious of black, one legged lesbians with tourettes and transgender issues, but this desire soon passed once she got back to reality.
“I have been looking at the magazines and I have found this,” Joy showed a magazine page, which looked like it came from Muslim Brides monthly. It was fine but not the sort of thing Shaheen would wear.
Cass had not been keen when Shaheen started to wear her headscarf. Shaheen explained that she should be able to wear whatever she wants, headscarf or hot pants without condemnation from either side of the divide. Cass started to like it. The controversy over the headscarf, had never really sat well with Cass. It seemed to be liberally dictating what a woman should wear.
“It looks lovely Mrs. Evans,” smiled Shaheen.
“Good, good,” Joys sense of relief was palpable. “ I did not want anything which looked too haram.”
“No it certainly isn’t haram,” Shaheen took Joy’s hand and smiled gratefully.
Sam came in from the kitchen, “Wine O’Clock?”
“Yes please,” Shaheen said without thinking and tucked into a glass of cheap prosecco.
Joy took the women’s measurements. Cass promised that she would help with invitations, hoping that this meant just stuffing envelopes and not hours with glue guns wrestling with minature voodoo dolls of the “Happy Couple”.
Joy had chosen a tasteful midlength dress for Cass and she was happy. The swatches of green fabric looked lovely. Shaheen had an elegant hijab, full sleeves and to the floor dress in the same material.
They had to arrange the hen party, and thankfully Sam did not want to go on a five star trip abroad, but unfortunately she wanted to invite her horrid friends from school. Sam friends might have explained her need to get married. They were all smug yummy mummies. They enviously tried to out do each other with the latest extravagance in childcare or lifestyle.:-
- “Oh yes I only ever bathe Justin in organic extra extra virgin olive oil and caviar now. “
- “The organic children’s meal delivery service is amazing, work life balance after all!”
- “I am planning a home birth for my next. My doula is allowing me to use her yak hair Himalayan birthing blanket. She has taught me this AMAZING pain relief technique with a candle and a couple of cymbals. I know Hugo grumbles at the cost but she really is worth £200.00 per hour.”
- “I am so exhausted, I have had to arrange five holidays this week. I thought that was what Jim’s PA was for. “
Sam was fed up of being looked upon with pity. The clever one, who could never settle. She tried so hard but got nowhere. Sam was shorter than them but 100 times more intelligent, but that did not seem to matter, so she was admitting defeat.
She consoled herself. She was marrying one richer than all their walking Coutts bank accounts. He was better looking for his age than all their silverback husbands. She knew he was boring and her friends found him difficult but she needed a ticket out.
Daniel would be working most of the time. She could work on his personality during the weekend. If it did not work out, her grounding in family law meant that she would be certain of a good settlement.
Sam knew Jens was the better match but she could not afford to wait around for him to get his act together. If it did not work out with Daniel, hopefully Jens might still be available. It was a calculated risk she was willing to take for security. Everyone would understand in time.
Sam did not really want to be kept, but it seemed to be the only option if she wanted a family. There was no room for kids in the City. In the meantime, she plastered a big smile on her face and pretended that this was exactly what she had always dreamed. If she kept on smiling, people would believe it and then hopefully so would she. She was sure those cute laughter lines were getting more prominent every time she looked in the mirror.