Gen 3 Ch 16: A Walk in the Sun


The following day, while Gerald went to the continuing conference, Phoenix excused himself. While he found the topics fascinating the previous day, they were only here for a few days and he really wanted to explore the city.

Besides, he had taken to photography during his previous semester and he really wanted to see if he could capture anything good while in town.


His hunch proved to be good. The city was beautiful, and Eastern culture seeping through in everything, although he could definitely see some Western influences every now and then.

Interestingly enough, he saw many people who either were tourists like him, or otherwise lived here for other reasons, because they definitely weren’t Moroccan. Maybe they were like the Alfarsis, having emigrated here for work reasons.


Eventually, he found himself growing hungry and decided to stop by the marketplace. He wanted to try some of the local dishes and see if he could find some new favorites.

The market was already bustling at this time of day and he was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face leaving the building.


“Hi!” he waved at Anippe, who seemed just as surprised to see him. Nevertheless, she smiled and waved him over.

“Hello. I bet you’re trying to get a taste of all the local foods, aren’t you? Definitely try the dips and the maakouda – they’re these really good potato fritters. Seriously, once you try them, you get addicted.”


“That sounds amazing. Are you busy? Can you maybe help me pick some things out?” Phoenix asked, hoping he wasn’t overstepping any boundaries.

“Sure, I’m free for the day. Come on, I’ll tell you all the best things to get.”

After an interesting excursion through the marketplace filled with the most delicious of smells, Phoenix had a full platter of what, according to Anippe, were the highlights of Moroccan street food.

“Wow, this is a lot. I don’t think I can eat so much. Share?” he offered.

“Alright, I’ll take a bit. So, what have you been up to?” she asked, taking one of the dishes.

“Just exploring the city, taking pictures, seeing everything. Typical tourist stuff, I suppose.”

“And how do you like it so far?” she seemed genuinely curious.

“It’s pretty amazing. I’ve been dreaming of traveling for years now,” Phoenix admitted. “But this was the only chance I got so far.”

“Oh, there will be plenty more, I’m sure. You’re only, how old?” she asked.

“Nineteen. You?” he asked, hoping she didn’t take offense – he knew some women were touchy about that subject.

“I’m seventeen, but only for about another week,” she explained. “Can’t wait, to be honest.”

“I don’t know, I’ve always thought being a legal adult would be more fun. I guess it’s nice that I don’t need my parents’ permission and signatures for stuff, but yeah, doesn’t feel much different to me,” Phoenix thought about it.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll feel the same way?” Anippe mused. Noting his finished dishes, she asked, “So, what are you planning to do now? Are you going back to the conference?”

“No, not today. I was planning to explore a little more.”

“It’s a big city, so you’ll be worn out by the end of the day.”

“Would you like to walk with me for a bit?” Phoenix offered. “It would be nice to get the inside scoop on all the local spots.”

“Ha, ha, sure,” she agreed. “I don’t need to be home until later.”


As they walked, their fingers brushed, sending a jolt of electricity through both of them.

“Ah, sorry about that! It rained last night and will probably rain again,” Anippe explained. “So, now there is a lot of static electricity in the air. It’ll pass.”

“It’s alright. So, how long have you lived here? Your father mentioned you moved here when it became more profitable do run his business from here.”


“That’s how it was. He’s had this textile company since before I was born. Since before Amon was born, to be more precise. But at some point, he realized that, since many of his clients and suppliers were here, he was incurring huge transportation costs for all of his orders. So, a move to Morocco it was.”

The way she said it made Phoenix suspect she wasn’t all too happy about their move.

“You don’t like it here.”

“I don’t hate it. But I was already a teenager when we moved. I had friends there, relatives, places I liked. And so did the others. I’m not even talking about Dad’s employers in Egypt. A couple of the single ones moved here with us. They liked the pay and wanted to see a new place – Al Medina. The others, the ones with families – they all stayed back in Egypt. As a result Dad had to spend almost as much money and time finding new workers for his company here. And all of this I could’ve told him right at the start. But my father isn’t the sort to take others’ opinions seriously – until what they tell him bites him in the…”

She caught herself just in time, before tripping over a rock.

“Careful there!” Phoenix warned.

“It’s alright. Sometimes, I get really riled up about things. Can’t help it, you know. But yes, it’s a very mixed city. That part is pretty cool.”

“I’ve noticed. Many people look like they aren’t local.”

“But they are. At least, to the same extent that my family is local. Live somewhere long enough, and you’re considered a local. And that’s the story of the world, in a nutshell.”


As they walked, they passed neighborhoods, important city buildings, schools. Anippe gave him a full rundown of everything, including fun stories about each place and, sometimes, even local legends. Even though she was only seventeen, Anippe seemed to have nearly encyclopedic knowledge about a large number of subjects and spoke in a manner that made him think she’d give his professors a run for their money. Several times, Phoenix found himself feeling completely lost in her explanations of local history and events, opting to politely nod along.

By this point, the sun had risen and Phoenix was experiencing all the effects of Moroccan heat.

“I bet you didn’t think it would be so hot here, did you?” Anippe noticed how labored his breathing was. “Let’s rest in the shade a bit. There’s a nice park right there.”


Not willing to admit how tired he was in front of the young woman, he quietly nodded and followed her.

Inside, the park was a mini oasis. Fountains and plants created a most welcome shade.

“There, that’s better,” she noted. “I hope you’re not allergic to any of the plants.”

“Not as far as I know. What are those, by the way? I keep seeing them everywhere.”


He was referring to the big blue flowers he noticed growing in many places along his walk.

“Oh, this? That’s the agapanthus. Otherwise known as Lily of the Nile,” she explained. “I’m surprised you don’t have them in your hometown. You can probably take a couple bulbs back home with you and plant them in your own garden, provided you don’t take them to New Zealand. Seriously, they are considered an invasive species over there.”

“Fascinating. Say, doesn’t your name mean, Daughter of Nile?” he asked.


“Oh, yes! It does! I’m surprised you know. My name isn’t even that common in Egypt these days. I think that’s why Mom picked it. Dad got to name the other two, so she got to name me.”

“I like finding out the origin of things,” he explained.

“That’s good. Never stop being curious. People who abandon their natural curiosity are missing out on so much,” she encouraged him.

Getting his camera out once more, Phoenix snapped a shot of the garden. She studied him with curiosity.

“How long have you been practicing photography?”

“Not too long – I only picked it up last semester.”

“Can I see your pictures? Amon’s been into photography for a few years now, so I’m always curious to see how others’ shots look.”

“Sure, but be warned, they’re not very good,” he gave her the camera.

Looking through his photo gallery, she smiled. “And you’ve only been taking pictures since last year? They aren’t bad, they are quite impressive, actually. And I’m not just saying that to be nice.”

“Can I take one of you? If that’s alright with you, of course?”

“Sure, go ahead,” she smiled. “Who knows, maybe one day you’ll become a famous photographer and I’ll be able to say I had my picture taken by a celebrity.”

“I see you like to think ambitiously,” he joked, snapping a picture.

“Who doesn’t?”


She sat down at a table that was well-shaded by the nearby plants. He joined her and instantly knew how much he underestimated his shoes – his legs were killing him by this point. Anippe, however, seemed unperturbed by the long walk

“Not used to this much walking?” she smiled knowingly. “Sorry, I just see it happening to so many tourists. By the time you go home, you end up needing a vacation from your vacation.”

“No kidding. But the wish to see and experience everything is stronger than most people’s need for rest, it seems,” he laughed. “And I’m one of those people.”


“Aren’t we all?” she chuckled quietly. Even though she was smiling, he could tell there was a certain melancholy underneath her demeanor.

“Is everything alright?” he asked. “You seem upset. It’s not something I said, is it?”

“No, don’t worry, it isn’t. It’s just family stuff. More specifically, it’s my Dad. Well, you’ve met him, you know what I mean,” she answered carefully.

“He’s rather set in his ways,” Phoenix nodded, making her snort.

“That’s one way to put it! He won’t see anyone’s viewpoint but his own. Ever. I don’t know if he just doesn’t want to or if he really can’t put himself into anyone else’s shoes, but in any case, as a result, everyone is always walking on eggshells around him.”


“That sucks,” was all he could say. Even though he felt guilty in thinking this, he was glad his parents were always understanding of him and Millie, no matter what they were going through. He tried to imagine a situation like Millie’s teen pregnancy happening in the Alfarsi household and shuddered. Somehow, even with all his talk of family being important, he didn’t see Aharon as the type of guy to accept something like that.

“It does. I think that was why Layla got married so young. I mean, anyone can tell she’s completely not ready for marriage – she just didn’t want to be part of the household anymore,” Anippe continued.

“I was wondering about. She’s married, but she lives with you?”

“Oh, no! She’s just staying with us for a few days. Adam’s on a business trip and their house is getting renovated. My sister isn’t the type to splurge on a hotel the money she would rather spend on herself,” she cracked a smile at that. “She rather likes shopping.”

“What about you? What do you like?” he asked.

“Reading. I like reading,” she admitted. “Everything. Honestly, this is why I spend so much time on the computer.”


“There is so much information on the web and it’s all free!” Phoenix understood.

“Exactly! A simple library registration lets you read journals from databases around the world. How cool is that?”

“I can fully agree with you on that. What kind of databases are your favorites?”

She shrugged. “The scientific ones, usually. I’m always fascinated by how the world works. It’s wild isn’t it? At some point in time, our parents met, decided they liked each other enough to sleep together, their cells combined in one of the myriad of ways in which they could have combined, and now, years later, we are here? Two unique individuals, with thoughts, emotions, wants, ideas… And it could’ve gone so many other ways! Our parents could’ve passed each other on the street and never talked to one another. Or they could’ve hated each other. Or they could’ve been unable to have children. Even if all of those previous checkpoints were passed, even a slight change could have resulted in each one of us being a completely different individual. And when you think about it, it all comes down to science, to those basic molecules and cells that make up everything in our lives.”


“Woah, this is like, the string theory?” Phoenix found himself barely able to follow her thought, even as he enjoyed hearing every word she spoke. “Where multiple universes exist, sort of like branches of our own?”

“Ah, no! You’re thinking of the multiverse theory. String theory is completely different, sorry,” she mused for a moment. “But while we’re on the subject, logically speaking, there is completely no reason for why the multiverse theory is bogus. It could be legit.”

“Do people actually consider it bogus?”

“Some do, in the scientific community, because they can’t prove the existence of multiverses. Which just tells me they are uncreative and should not be involved in any important studies, to begin with,” she huffed. “But of course, that’s just my opinion.”

“They still do their job for the community, though,” Phoenix argued for those hypothetical scientists whose minds were constrained by their limited creativity.

“I suppose. They just don’t get their names into the history books, that’s all.”

“Is that what’s most important, though? Many people don’t end up in the history books. Their lives are no less important than the lives of those who did.”


“I didn’t say that,” Anippe argued. “But I am glad to be living in a world where electricity and vaccines exist. Although, I’m sure there are many out there who would be fine with reverting to candlelight and dying of a simple cold.”

“Oh, come on, they’re not so bad,” he laughed. Although, he knew exactly the sorts of people she was referring to.

“Maybe not. Maybe they’re just the way they are. Set in their ways.”

Like her father, he thought. Unfortunately, problematic family members were usually more difficult to deal with than a simple cold.

He realized the sun was lower than he remembered. Over an hour passed while they talked! She realized it too, shaking her head.


“I should be going. Wow, I can’t believe I got so carried away, huh? My apologies, sometimes I can talk people’s heads off.”

“Don’t apologize, I really enjoyed our conversation. And the excursion through the town was more informative than I could imagine. Thank you.”

“No, thank you. For letting me tell you everything. And just for listening,” she smiled warmly and he felt like he could do anything, as long as she kept smiling at him.

“Could we maybe meet up again? There is still a lot of the city I haven’t seen. We could talk some more,” he asked.

“Really? You want to?” she seemed genuinely surprised. “Why?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why would you want to spend your vacation walking around a super-hot city listening to what’s basically a history lesson?” she clarified.

“Maybe I enjoyed the history lesson? And I loved spending time with you.”

And maybe it was more than that, too. He couldn’t deny the fact that he was extremely attracted to her. If not for the fact that they were in Morocco, he would have already asked her out. As it was, he knew he was already crossing major boundaries by spending an entire day with her, all without her father’s knowledge.


She looked at him strangely. “I enjoyed our conversation as well. But you’re looking at me like there’s something else going through that head of yours.”

“You say that like it’s something bad. I’m only thinking positive things, promise.”

She frowned. “You’ve got that puppy dog look in your eyes. Don’t go there. It’s only the sun and the fact that you’re experiencing a new country – they’re messing with you. That’s why people get into all those vacation romances that fizzle out within a year.”


“You can’t know that,” he argued. “Just because people meet on vacation doesn’t mean they don’t have real feelings for one another. And romances other than vacation ones fizzle out just as well, if we’re going off on that argument.”

“Exactly. It’s not worth it. Oh come on!” she exclaimed, seeing his crestfallen expression. “You know what, here, let’s get this over with.”


Before he knew it, her lips were on his and she was kissing him and every inch of his body felt like it was electrified. Eagerly, he kissed her back and he could swear she was enjoying the kiss as much as he did, but then suddenly, she pulled away and pushed him away.


“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I should not have done that,” she breathed out. “This was a mistake. I’m sorry.”

“But why? Did you not feel anything at all?” he asked in confusion.

“Of course I did. We humans are wired to feel these things. Otherwise, the human race would have died out ages ago.”

So she said, but he could see confusion and something else, something similar to what he was feeling, in her eyes.

“So, what now?”


“Now, I go home and you go back to the hotel,” she stated, walking away. “We’re close by – you won’t get lost.”

“Wait,” he stopped her. “You say it’s all just weird brain chemistry. But what if I disagree?”


“Oh, Phoenix,” she turned back, giving him a hug. “Really, it’s simpler to just accept that it’s weird brain chemistry. Besides, I have a fiancé.”

“Oh… do you love him?”

“What kind of a question is that? Goodbye. Please don’t follow me.”


As he watched her walk away, he felt his entire picture of the world fall apart. Many times, since the breakup with Jeanine, he thought poorly of Eddie. The man knew they were dating, yet he stole his girlfriend away, made her fall for him.

But now, he understood Eddie all too well. When you meet someone you feel that connection with, you would do anything to be with them. But, it didn’t seem like Anippe was the sort to fall headfirst for someone, which was all too bad for him. Because he was already in deep.

Uncle Gerald’s text caught him by surprise.

“Phoenix, did you know there’s a winery here in Al Medina? They have the good stuff!”

This was followed by the winery’s address. It wasn’t like Phoenix had much else to do at this point and it seemed like his uncle already sampled the goods quite a bit.


Arriving there, he found that he wasn’t wrong. His uncle was looking flushed and cheerful and he called Phoenix over to a table, where he was pouring from a fresh bottle.

“Some guys from the conference invited me here. They’ve gone back to their residences now. I was just waiting for you, dear,” Gerald explained cheerfully. “You should really try this one. It’s delicious.”

“Thanks, Uncle Gerald,” he took a sip of the drink – it truly wasn’t bad, he could see why his uncle liked it. “Maybe we should buy a few bottles to take home with us when we go back.”


“Way ahead of you, dear nephew, way ahead of you. Well, how has your day been? You look exhausted. Please tell me you didn’t spend the entire day in the hot sun. Sunstroke is no joke, you know.”

“Don’t worry, Uncle Gerald. I took care of myself.” For the most part. “Besides, I had a great tour guide. You’d never believe who it was.”


“Anippe Alfarsi! She told me so much about the city, I pretty much got a crash course about local history,” he smiled, remembering their day together.

“Oh boy,” his uncle noticed. “You’ve got that goofy grin on your face. Don’t tell me you’ve tried anything with her. I don’t think Aharon would be happy about that.”


“I didn’t try anything, Uncle. What is that even supposed to mean?” he countered. “Besides, she’s got a fiancé, so even if I want to try anything, it’s a moot point.”

“Oh, I see,” Gerald sighed. And how did his nephew even find out about the fiancé, unless he was interested in the young woman? But he wasn’t going to press him. “Well, it’s getting late. I’m afraid I’m going to need some help getting back to the hotel, ha ha. Had too much wine…”


They barely made it to the hotel, before his uncle sprinted towards the bathroom as fast as his legs would carry him. Neither he nor his mother had a good alcohol tolerance.

That night, still tipsy, Gerald fell asleep in seconds, while Phoenix spent hours tossing and turning.


Anippe made it clear she didn’t want anything romantic with him. Or believed in love as anything other than a chemical reaction of the brain, for that matter, he realized. And still, he couldn’t get her out of his head.

And she had a fiancé, which meant she was completely off limits. He would just have to forget her.

Now, if only he could get her face and voice out of his head…screenshot-96

Gen 3 Ch 15: Meet the Alfarsis


The flight to their destination went smoothly and only a couple of hours after landing, the uncle and nephew duo were safely checked into their hotel. The weather was much hotter than either one had expected, which was reflective of the region, but both of them were fine with this. Gerald never minded the heat and after the rainy periods on campus, Phoenix was glad to get some sun.


The very next day, ready and prepared, the two of them joined a number of others gathered at the city’s library, the management of which had graciously agreed to allow the conference to take place within its walls.

For once, Phoenix felt out of place. For starters, most of the attendees were noticeably older than him, with a pronounced air of being experts in their fields. Phoenix wondered if they thought he was only here because his uncle brought him along, which technically was true. He wouldn’t even have heard about the event if not for Uncle Gerald. While he knew he always put great effort into his articles, which were frequently complimented by readers, he didn’t feel like his achievements could compare to people who have spent years in the media, marketing, and business industries, the way most of those gathered did.


Despite that, he paid attention to the things discussed at the conference. He was hearing interesting and useful things, even if he didn’t necessarily agree with all of them.

Like the points the current speaker was making, for one.


The man, who was introduced as one of the leading textile exporters and manufacturers, made several points about how the implementation of social media in every aspect of business was hurting many businesses ran by older owners. He lamented the fact that it was so necessary to keep up an online presence to truly stay in the business.

Phoenix heard his point and understood why someone would be unhappy about the technological integration in everything – technology could be complex to understand at times. But at the same time, what did he want to do about it? Technology had been integrating into the world steadily for many years now and the reason for that was that technology, overall, made running a business easier, not harder. While Phoenix understood that it was often difficult to learn new skills as one got older, knowing them was well worth the effort in the long run.


“Of course, the argument many make is that to fully implement new skills into the business world, we should hire more from the younger generation of professionals. However, my experience with many such ‘professionals’ has been less than wonderful, as many of them tend to have much fewer skills than their initial presentation would have you think and their work ethic is, in many ways, lacking,” Aharon Alfarsi, the speaker, concluded.screenshot-14screenshot-16

“Is this guy for real?” Phoenix whispered to his uncle, who quietly chuckled.

“As real as you and I, my boy. He’s not the only one with such an attitude towards younger professionals, I’m afraid – in our home country, as well.”

“The majority of the young people I know have an amazing work ethic. Look at Millie, look at Jeanne,” Phoenix whispered back.


“I apologize,” a young man next to them smiled sadly. “My father is rather set in his ways and doesn’t always realize his words can rub people the wrong way.”

“He’s your father?” Phoenix gave a closer look to the man, who didn’t look much older than him, now that he thought of it. “I’m sorry you had to hear us speak poorly of him.”

The young man chuckled quietly, trying not to attract his father’s attention, “It’s quite alright – it’s hardly the first time. I’m Amon by the way.”

The two of them also introduced themselves. Around this time, Aharon, who didn’t notice the exchange between his son and the foreigners, finished his speech, after making a few more conservatively-minded statements.

“Thank you, dear listeners. Allow me to pass the mic on to Consuelo, who I know is eager to give her speech on modern communications.”


Phoenix tried hard not to let his cringing show to the other attendees, even as he noticed the man’s own son looking just as uncomfortable. What Aharon did went against everything they taught him in his communications classes. This was not how you welcomed a new speaker to the podium – the right protocol was to step back and stand towards the back as the new speaker took “the stage.” But Aharon practically barreled past the woman as he got off the podium. The second, and worse, offense was referring to her by her first name, without even mentioning her proper titles. Consuelo de Constanzas was one of the leading experts in the field of modern communication and Phoenix was a little star-struck when he saw her among the attendees. To simply call her “Consuelo” during a professional meeting was nothing short of an affront.


Luckily, the woman truly was a master of communication (and obviously, diplomacy), because she only smiled sweetly and took the mic, warmly greeting the crowd. The crowd, Phoenix noticed, had much more excitement to see Mrs. De Constanzas and to hear what she had to say than what they did for Mr. Alfarsi.

De Constanzas went into detail about the improvements that have been achieved through the use of various communication programs, especially the ability to host virtual classes for kids who normally lived too far away from conventional schools. This led to an increase in literacy around the world, as well as an increase in access to information on medicine and other much-needed services for people who were previously at mercy of circumstances.


The crowd was highly interested to hear about subsidies that a recent fund had created for providing internet reach to remote villages, which further increased success of the programs. Overall, the rest of the confidence went in a swimming manner.


As the conference ended, the attendees left the conference breaking off into groups, further discussing the matters they found more interesting.

Phoenix wasn’t sure if he was expected to talk to anyone, but he found Uncle Gerald already deeply involved in conversation with Amon, who was highly interested to hear about Hidden Springs and the media in their country. Before he could join them, he found himself pulled into a conversation with Aharon himself.

“Quite the turnout, wasn’t it?” the man asked. “So many people, I’m kind of surprised they all showed up.”

“Why? Look at them, they’re still talking about everything from the conference,” Phoenix pointed at the other attendees. “I guess professionals enjoy the company of other professionals, even if they have to fly out to another country to enjoy it.”

“That is quite true, young man. And it’s a good change from them loitering in the markets, leaving junk everywhere. I don’t understand, is it so difficult to throw away cans into the nearest trashcan?”

Well, Phoenix thought. It looked like he and Aharon had something in common, at least – they both hated littering.

“It’s not difficult,” he agreed. “They just don’t have the common sense to do it. And because of that behavior, even the nice tourists get bad rep across the world.”

“You are right!” Aharon exclaimed. “So what do you do? There aren’t too many young people at this conference.”

“I write for Uncle Gerald’s newspaper,” Phoenix answered truthfully. “Not as seriously and professionally as some of those present, but one day…”

“That’s a good way of thinking. One must always set personal goals for reaching,” Aharon nodded in approval. “I’m hoping Amon over there would develop some of that mindset, but he’s still getting there.”


Around this time, Uncle Gerald and the young man in question finished their conversation and joined them.

“We were just talking about how, despite this being a multi-national conference, we can all communicate in the same language,” Amon explained.

“Yes, the same foreign language,” Aharon lamented. “But I must admit English does make communication with my overseas partners easier.”

“And you know more than one language, which is lovely,” Gerald complimented. “I tried to learn a bit of Arabic once, but I failed miserably. And you – why there’s barely any detectable Moroccan accent when you speak it.”


“Well, I wouldn’t have a Moroccan accent,” Aharon chuckled. “Egyptian, maybe – that’s where we’re from, you see.”

“We moved here about five years ago,” Amon explained. “Dad was expanding the business and it was better done here.”

“Oh, Egypt!” Gerald smiled. “Lovely country. My wife and I have been thinking about visiting. She just loves Egyptian food, especially falafel. But she says she can never get the consistency right when she cooks it.”

“Our food is quite delicious. You should visit my home and try some,” Aharon invited.

This was a fairly normal thing for an Egyptian person to say to someone, Phoenix knew. This didn’t actually mean they were invited anywhere.


“Oh, I’m sorry, but we can’t really,” Gerald smiled, also knowing local customs. “But thank you for the offer.”

“No, no, I insist,” Aharon reaffirmed. “You two seem like very focused and interesting individuals and I’d love to continue chatting in a more comfortable environment. If you aren’t too busy, how does 5 in the evening sound?”

Phoenix and Gerald exchanged a look. They knew the invitation was real if it was repeated.

“Alright, Mr. Alfarsi. We will be there,” Uncle Gerald accepted.


As the father and son departed, Phoenix and his uncle walked to the park across the street from the library. It had a lovely pool with fountains and must’ve been popular with the tourists. Luckily, there weren’t too many here today.

“So…” Phoenix started.

“So, we’re going to be visiting the man and his family,” Gerald stated.


“I just feel like our acquaintance with him did a total 180. First we’re saying that his statements are wrong, then we’re all buddy-buddy with him? And he just invited us home, after barely meeting us!”

“He’s Egyptian,” Gerald shrugged. “It is fairly common to invite friends home over there, especially foreign friends. A good way to show hospitality, show off their home and family… But you already know all this.”

“I do, it’s just fairly wild to be experiencing it all,” Phoenix explained. “I hope his wife won’t be upset about unexpected visitors.”


“Not unexpected. He’ll tell her we’re coming,” Gerald chuckled. “Don’t worry.”

“Sorry, I just have this weird feeling about this visit,” Phoenix explained. “But also, I’m kind of excited. We’re going to meet a real Egyptian family, in Morocco. I have so many questions about their life both here and there.”

“I know, dear. Well, we should stop by the market and buy some nice pastries to take there with us. It’s the polite thing to do.”


The arrival of the evening found the two of them at the door of the Alfarsi household, a modest abode which Phoenix didn’t quite expect from someone who had a profitable textile business. Then again, some people didn’t like to overspend, even if they could afford to. This was something Phoenix could agree with.


Inside, they were greeted by Aharon and his family: his wife Chione, son Amon, who they’ve met earlier, and his daughter Layla. The family was delighted with the big box of artisan chocolates Gerald had chosen as a housewarming gift and invited both of them to the table.

While Phoenix had tried some Eastern foods before, the foods prepared by Chione Alfarsi were absolutely exquisite and Phoenix knew he’d be craving them once he got home. He made sure to compliment her cooking, which Chione accepted with a knowing smile.


During the dinner, Aharon continued the conversation with them. Topics of travel and education came up.

“Education is important,” Aharon nodded. “I can agree with that statement. I just wish young people wouldn’t let education be the only thing in their heads.”

“It’s hard, though,” Phoenix pointed out. “I just finished my freshman year, but let me tell you, if you don’t keep your head in the game 24/7, there’s a good chance of not passing some of the classes.” He almost mentioned failing his first semester, but figured a person like Aharon would judge him poorly for it. “And many of my classmates, myself included, feel like the subjects have increased in difficulty.”

“That very well may be,” Gerald agreed. “Time passes, people learn more things, and pass on more and more of them to the next generation. As a result, you guys have to learn a lot!”

“And as it goes, the learning takes up the time that could be spent on other things that are no less important. Why, if I had my head in a book 24/7, I probably would never have noticed Chione and wouldn’t have had the family I have now!” Aharon laughed.

His wife smiled and teased him, “Oh, I think you would’ve noticed me anyways, dear. I remember how you were in those days.”

“I was, oh, I was!” Aharon chuckled. “It’s true, I did have a bit of a wild eye in my younger days. Speaking of the young, nice of you to finally join us, Anippe.”


The youngest member of the family, his other daughter, just smiled and nodded, quietly sitting down by her father and getting some food of her own.

“Sorry,” she explained. “I had to turn off the computer and you know how long it takes these days.”

Phoenix thought she had a very pleasant voice, but also that she sounded tired. From the look of her, she was about his age. If she was a student, he understood why she was tired all too well.

“You and that computer,” Aharon shook his head in annoyance, but quickly changed the subject. “How’s the food? Please, have some more. There’s some dessert, too. You know, it was nice to meet you two. I was afraid everyone at that conference will be boring and stuffy, but you aren’t in the slightest. What’s life like in your home country? We see plenty on TV, sure, but we all know movies aren’t always true to reality.”

The rest of the dinner passed with them talking about popular misconceptions about both of their countries. To his surprise, Phoenix found himself warming up to Aharon. Yes, he was old fashioned and set in his ways, but just because he found family and traditions more important that some other things didn’t make him any worse than any of his professors. The guy sure knew how to have a good time.


At the end, Phoenix wanted to help with the dishes, but Chione quickly calmed him down and refused his offer. She and Anippe quickly cleared the table and he was about to head out to where Uncle Gerald was talking with Aharon and Amon, when Layla all but ran into him.

“My apologies, I hope I didn’t step on you,” he quickly apologized.

“None needed. I don’t mind being close to you,” she informed him in a low voice. The way she looked at him left no doubts as to whether she was flirting with him or just being nice. She was definitely flirting.


Somehow, Phoenix got a feeling he wasn’t the first nor the last person to receive attention from her.

“Oh, totally. Well, thanks again for the dinner. It was delicious. I didn’t expect to meet such a welcoming family on my first day here!” he chuckled, making sure to put some distance between them. If there was anyone Layla reminded him of, it was Morgan from high school, and he was hardly eager to repeat that experience, especially in a foreign country.

“I like you too. I could show you and your uncle around town sometime, if you’d like,” she offered, holding eye contact. “Or maybe just you, if he’d rather rest at the hotel.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I doubt we’ll have much time,” he excused himself as politely as possible, almost stumbling out of the dining room and into the kitchen.

Was that his imagination, or did Layla totally try to grab his butt when they bumped into one another? No, definitely not his imagination.

He was wondering how to get to his uncle without bumping into her again when he heard quiet snickering behind him. Turning around, he saw Anippe doing her best to stifle laughter.


“I’m sorry to intrude here like this,” he quickly apologized. From his impression, Anippe didn’t seem like the most sociable person around and he didn’t want to impose.

“It’s alright,” she laughed. “I see you’ve met our Layla.”


“I’m sorry if she made you uncomfortable,” the young woman apologized on her sister’s behalf. “Poor Adam never had a chance when she turned her wiles on him.”



“Her husband. Not that she much cares she has one,” Anippe explained. “I think she likes having him around for the status of being married. Which is all too bad – he’s really quite a nice guy.”

“What about you?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m not married. I just finished school,” she explained. “And no, I don’t think schooling is a waste of time, unlike some people.”


And there it was. Clearly, father and daughter disagreed on this matter.

“What about you?” she asked him. “You’re in college, aren’t you? This is so cool.”

“It’s not bad. Lots of work, but I like it, for the most part. And my friends are there with me.”

“It sounds fun. And you get to learn all this really amazing stuff.” Her tone was wistfulscreenshot-71

Once more, Phoenix found himself admiring the sound of her voice. It sounded like honey to his ears. And something about her eyes was so enchanting…

“Phoenix! Where are you?” Uncle Gerald was calling him from the hallway. Looking at the clock, Phoenix realized the hour was late.

“I guess you should go. Jet lag can be awful for someone your uncle’s age. And you must be tired as well,” she told him. “It was nice meeting you.”

“I can say the same.”


After taking leave of the Alfarsis, the two of them hailed the first cab that would take them back to the hotel. Anippe wasn’t joking about the jet lag. Phoenix found his eyes growing heavy the moment he got into bed, and sleep came to him in moments.

As he fell asleep, all he could think of was the nice young woman with a honey-like voice.