Room 168 

“In our latest news, a twenty-four-year-old woman was found dead, inside her chalet. Reports show that the husband might be involved in this murder as he was taken for further investigations. Neighbors affirmed that the couple was on bad terms, which led to their separation earlier that year, and that the woman (aka Lara) had been beaten several times by her so-called husband. A true tragedy…”
Another murder story on the news… It’s the third one this month and all of them involved women mistreated by their husbands. I started hating this patriarchal, misogynous country I live in. But this story affected me the most. It took place in the same resort my family and I stay at. During the next few days, reporters and investigators constantly visited the crime scene in search of evidence, although the court had enough proof to consider the husband guilty. The night of the murder, he had signed himself in the resort at 10:07 PM, an hour before the victim was found dead. The security measures of the residence made it mandatory to track visits and a surveillance footage confirmed the suspicions, showing the musclebound husband walking through the gate, carrying a Samsonite briefcase and a bottle of wine.

That night I was riding my longboard across the chalets. The sound of the wheels gripping the concrete beneath it absorbed all the tension and stress accumulated in my temporal vein. Longboarding was my way to neutralize the negative vibes. As I was pedaling, a flickering white light pierced my eyesight, leaving me blind for fractions of a second until I finally accommodated my vision to the changes. It was the backdoor light of room 168; the chalet belonging to Lara, the woman presumingly found lying on her bed, bruises covering her face and body, bathing in her own viscous blood. Looking through the window, I identified a feminine figure, moving in trimmed and sequenced pictures – an illusion created by the strobe light and assimilated together by my brain. I stepped down from my longboard and carried it under my arm to halt the noises I was producing. Through the dark silence of the night, glass and wood breaking echoed from room 168, and the shadowed silhouette seemed responsible of this rumpus. Something bad was happening inside and I wanted to get a clearer view of the scene out of both curiosity and concern. Even being six feet tall, I had to change the purpose of my longboard to a stool in order to reach the window. My oxygen intakes decreased, though the frequency of my respiration hastened. I was unable to rationalize my fear, since my body was only responding to the adrenaline flows, produced by my own consciousness of doing something bad. Every heartbeat against my chest generated seismic waves through my nerves, weakening my arms and legs. I tracked the woman’s movements in the room. She was traveling from one corner to another as if she was searching for something. After a while, she stopped and while she kneeled to the ground, I tiptoed on my longboard to get a better view… a view that stimulated a stronger tachycardia, transferring the wave straight to the wheels, dropping me to the concrete.

A body… she was dragging a body!

When I heard the news, the flashbacks haunted me again. I was a strong witness to this case… maybe a suspect as well. When I fell down from shock, I left my longboard at the crime scene and ran as fast as I could to my chalet. Blood drops from my elbow wound could possibly be found and if investigators asked the neighbors about the owner of that longboard, I could be dragged to court right now.

“Updates about the murder of the twenty-four-year-old woman named Lara: An autopsy confirmed that Lara died from a clean deep cut in her neck using a sharp piece of wine bottle glass, slicing the carotid artery which usually leads the oxygenated blood to the neck and brain. This murder is similar to the two previous ones, the cases of Alia and Julie, who were also mistreated by their husbands and finally killed by a sharp slice in the neck. Investigators believe that the three homicides might be linked to a secret sect pushing men to kill their wives.”

I spent my whole day watching TV, expecting to hear about a found longboard which could be linked to the assassination. My eyes were getting red and itchy due to the long hours focused on the screen. The news anchor appeared again turning my paranoia into a justified fear. She was talking about a new suspect, that might be involved in the murder. I was losing sense of my surroundings; the sounds were deeper and slower as I was anticipating what could happen to me during the investigation, court and even jail. My expectations were confounded when I understood that the suspect was a woman, alleged to be the husband’s mistress. They had met on a dating website called “Hook’d” and she invited him over that night to her chalet for their first live meeting, the resort his ex-wife stays at. The conversation they had together on the website shows that she had asked him to bring a bottle of Bordeaux, the same bottle that was used as a weapon to kill Lara.

The murders gave rise to mass protests and awareness campaigns about women’s rights. Carol Malek, the founder of an NGO called “I’m Fam” for abused and battered women, gave an emotional speech about gender equality. Lara visited the NGO several times because she was fragile and needed help. The main objective of “I’m Fam” is to offer a Family – as the name suggests – to women like Lara, as well as a moral and legal support.

My strong curiosity led to my further investigation. The mistress was nowhere to be found, so I created a fake account on “Hook’d” hopeful to track her IP address thanks to my limited IT skills. Her account had been apparently deleted right after the incident.

In his testimony, Lara’s husband declared that he got stood up by the girl from the dating website, so he left the bottle of wine in front of the door of her chalet and went back home.

A couple of weeks later, the verdict considered the husband guilty of the murder of his wife. He was sentenced lifetime imprisonment. His fingerprints were tainting the whole crime scene, and no DNA belonging to the other suspects was found.

“I’m Fam” inspired more women to break the wall of silence and to talk about their despairs. It even attracted young volunteers like myself, to support their cause. After the tragedies, I emailed Carol Malek, the founder of the NGO, to apply for a volunteering position during the month of August. She rapidly called me for an interview at her office.

I got up the next morning, two hours before the meeting. I put my blue suit on, shaved my aspiring beard and tied my hair in a bun, adding some wax on the sides to fix the small stubborn hair. The secretary welcomed me to Ms. Malek’s office. I entered through the door, holding my resume in my hand, and while waiting for my interviewer to come in the room, I tried to familiarize myself with the space. Her wooden desk was decorated with souvenirs from all kinds: little snow globes from around the world, some pictures of herself, files, papers and other professional objects…

I turned around the desk, to sit on the chair again but my pointy shoe got stuck into something, propelling my weight forward. I balanced my mass to save myself from falling, then I got to my knees to look for the cause of my drop. The blood flow pressured my tympanum again, inwards and outwards consecutively, similar to a drum roll. My respiration quickened as well, and holographic images from the night of the murder surfaced once more in my mind.

What was my longboard doing inside Carol Malek’s office???

The door opened, and here she was entering the premises. Shocked, I banged my head against the desk.

“Excuse… Excuse me Ms. Malek… I tripped over this longboard and I… I was trying to get up again.” I stuttered, still in a state of trauma.

I stood up, fixed my suit and extended my arm to shake her hand.

“Mr. Farhat” said Carol “You and I, know exactly what brought you here today. I would be smart if I were you.” She continued.

Still confused, I couldn’t grasp what she was insinuating: “I’m sorry Ms Malek, I’m just here to learn more about the volunteering opportunities offered by your NGO.”

“Cut the bullshit Mr. Farhat. When Lara died, you were at the crime scene. I found this longboard in front of the door of her chalet. It didn’t take me long enough to discover who its owner was. If it wasn’t for me, you could’ve been a suspect by now and dragged to jail. When I received your email, I knew you were up to something. Don’t you dare do anything dumb, or I will make sure to sink you with me.”

It was her… The woman dragging the body! And I just made sense of it.

“But why?” I asked. “Why did you do it? You’re a founder of “I’m Fam”, the most feminist NGO in the country. And you end up killing the women that come to you asking for help?? You’re an animal!”

“You don’t get it, don’t you? I did a favor to those women. Do you know how many times they have wished to commit suicide? Their lives do not matter to them anymore. The only thing they cared about was the security of their children. Not only did I grant them their wish to become free, I made sure to pin it on these bastards. Driven by testosterone, they thought they could get away with beating their wives until their noses bleed and their eyes get swollen, raping them day after day, just because the law allows these acts under the roof of marriage. I saved them; I saved their children. I created a fake account on a dating site, knowing that men only care about getting laid. As soon as they fall into the trap, I make sure to cover the crime scene with their fingerprints and DNA samples, from objects I ask them to bring. The women are relieved, the men receive the judgements they deserve, the kids are safe and the world becomes a better place”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She was crazy. I gathered my strength and said: “Ma’am you’re a psycho. I can’t leave you wandering in the streets, knowing that you might kill another innocent person. I’m calling the police.”

She stabbed me with her look and grinned.

“Call them and I will frame you, just like I did to the other men. It’s very easy for me to do it. I built my whole NGO on framing other people. Let’s play a game… Look closely at the name “I’m Fam”. Why is there a dot in the middle of the name? think… play with the letters… change their order.”

I squeezed my eyes to concentrate on the logo and to find the secret message.

“I’m Fam … Fame rhim? … Fear himm? …” I couldn’t see it.


“wait I do…










Unfinished Business

I stopped talking to him for nearly two years. I cut all kind of social interaction with him: live meetings, phone calls… everything. The only time I would see him would be during court, and on that battlefield I was dominating. I’ve won every single battle, gained full custody of my two sons and earned half of his properties.

It all goes back to that Sunday morning, when he woke up in bed next to me, tired of going back to his mediocre job the next day. He got hit by this common Sunday feeling of anxiousness mixed with a nostalgia of turning back young again, to that time where ambition was only limited by one’s own creativity. Excitement boosted him out of bed, striking me in shock, out of my sleep. With his eyes wide open as if he were having a “Eureka moment”, he eagerly described his plan with some hand gestures. He wanted to quit his engineering career and run for the parliamentary elections. Apparently it was his lifetime goal to serve his country. Not taking him seriously at first, I ended up organizing his campaign, knocking on people’s doors, hosting events and attending political receptions to promote him as a serious candidate. The awaited day had finally come… and he had succeeded!

That night we went out to celebrate on a rooftop club downtown. I had forgotten how fun it was to party. Ever since I got pregnant, we got busy acting like parents, we forgot that we were a young couple after all. The glass of Mai Tai acted up fast in my veins straight to my brain, and suddenly I was hugged by euphoria. Looking down at the view of the illuminated skyscrapers gave me strength, and the victory stimulated a sense of pride in my chest. I turned around to search for my husband in the middle of the crowd and it took me some time to finally distinguish his blonde hair, gelled to the back. He was talking to a young female, whose head did not even reach his shoulder. Both of them were wearing formal attires, but what was happening between them definitely wasn’t.  I kept watching them closely because I knew he had something for petite women. She reached her left pocket and removed what it seemed to be an envelope or a piece of paper – I couldn’t tell since some guy blocked the view at that moment – and passed it to my husband. They hugged and went in separate ways.

During the next few months, my husband got a lot of TV coverage. He was discussing political and social issues and his views attracted new supporters. He endorsed environmental and economical projects which as he explained in one of his interviews, would not only boost the economy but also appeal investments from all over the world. However, what boosted were the zeros on his paychecks rather than the economy of the country. He showered me with unexpected gifts and the people with anesthetic lies. He disgusted me. Even more than the smell of feminine perfume and alcohol stained on his shirt. That’s when I decided to file for divorce because I could not live with this hypocrite anymore. I also went down on the streets with a group of protestors to fight corruption. I was the woman behind his success and I wanted to make sure that I would be the one to sink him down.

That’s the full story Mr. Officer. I had nothing to do with his death. The doctor’s report showed that he passed away from natural circumstances due to his unhealthy lifestyle.

“Thank you ma’am” said the officer “you’re free to go”. I got up from my chair and as I was passing through the door, the officer started speaking again: “Excuse me ma’am. You mentioned a young woman giving a piece of paper to your husband on that rooftop. How is she related to the story?”

“Well…” I hesitated “We went back home that night, and while the alcohol had extended his REM sleep, I looked in his pocket and found the piece of paper. The woman had signed her name Lila at the end of the message that said:


“So this was nothing more than a business meeting” supposed the officer.

“Yes. Some unfinished business.” I replied, and then left the building.

I woke up the next morning, not being able to concentrate as usual before taking my coffee so I made myself a cup. I sat on the kitchen table and opened my mac to check my emails. Among the spam emails and advertisements that snuck out from the junk folder, I opened one specific message that looked intriguing:


Ms. Deputy sounded so beautiful. I’ve been working for so long to hear this word. I tilt my head to the back, took a gulp of coffee and savored the taste of victory.

The Girl with the Greener Eyes

It was a Friday night and like every other night I was preparing myself for my shift. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and as I was putting my mascara on, I noticed that my iris was slightly pigmented with a greenish color -I usually have hazel eyes- that did not seem to be originated from the bad lighting. I brought my head closer to the mirror to focus even more but my breath kept on tainting the glass with steam that I continuously swiped with some paper towels. I could see my pupil dilating, like a black hole engulfing parts of its galaxy. Even my consciousness was getting sucked inside this whirlpool, as I was feeling my head being pulled down by the gravitational force. Suddenly, I woke up from my wondering and continued my make-up. Done with the contouring and the foundation, I ended up my routine by applying my favorite red colored lipstick, and there I was, ready to go to work. I got out of the bathroom and walked towards my bedroom to unplug my phone from the charger. I got frustrated to discover that it was only 13% charged but I couldn’t wait any longer because I was getting late for work. I had received an imessage from my boss a couple of minutes ago that said:

“Hurry up Kelly! Customers are getting hungry, and few are serving. We need your help asap”. 

This text brought shivers to my spine, because it wasn’t the first time that I get a warning for being late and I was afraid to lose my job.
Ever since I failed to maintain my scholarship, I had to find a way to pay my tuition. I remember the day I entered the dean’s office to beg Mr. Stone not to take my scholarship away, but he refused to listen to me and with a demeaning look he told me:

“Miss Kelly, there are plenty of other institutions that can welcome you. We have rules here. You weren’t between the top of your classmates therefore you lose your scholarship”.

I always had been on the honor’s list, but the death of my parents in a car crash at the beginning of that semester undermined all my efforts and hard work. My parents never wanted me to major in political sciences. They believed that I was able to go to med school and become a surgeon. However, following my dream meant taking a huge leap of faith, and losing my scholarship was the wind that slapped me to the ground.
The dean’s words dragged me through the mud even more and I found myself vulnerable to failure. I hated him… So bad… That every time I see him in the hallways, all the muscles in my body contract. I can even hear my heart pumping in my chest, this thick, crimson liquid against my arteries. Soon enough, my stomach starts to ache as if it was receiving electrical shocks.
But I couldn’t do anything about it because as he said “We have rules here”.

I took the keys of the old, silver colored Honda, and drove to work. The seats were dusty and smelled like rotten food. Even one of its loosed rims was constantly cracking along the way.
I finally reached my destination, got out of the car and ran as fast as I could with those heels towards the Club I work at. There, I saw my boss, who I assumed to be extremely mad since his eyebrows crossed roads just above his concave nasal bone.
“Go wear your uniform and serve tables 4 to 8” he said firmly.

Holding the tray in one hand, I placed a short glass of scotch -on the rocks of course- on table number 5. I was carefully watching my steps, because the place was too dark, only lightened by strobes, switching on and off to the rhythm of the loud music. I rapidly sense a presence behind my back, coming closer towards my ear, whispering: “I’ll give you what you want, if you give me what I want!”.
I recognized this voice immediately. I turned around to confirm my assumption, and here he was, Dean Stone!

He broke my comfort zone by sternly gazing into my eyes. I was trying to preserve a slight portion of my privacy, but he managed to strip the last bits of it by simply saying: “Your emerald-green eyes are mesmerizing!”.
At that moment, I couldn’t refuse his offer, because on one side, it was part of my job to satisfy every potential client, and on the other hand his offer was definitely tempting.

Two years have passed, and I was still sleeping with the enemy. It was my graduation day and also the day I was going to be set free from all the torture I had suffered. Looking at myself in the mirror, my iris looked greener than usual. I gazed deeper into my reflexion and suddenly a deja vu throws me off to when it all started. The first time I let myself being manipulated, succumbing to the trap, I felt unworthy and disgusted of the person I turned into. My identity was altered by circumstances I had no control of, or thought I didn’t. Each time I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t recognize myself. I’ve played too many roles in my life that I forgot to play myself. But today, I’m breaking this never-ending vicious cycle… I’m going on that graduation stage and instead of throwing my valedictorian speech, I’m sharing my story!
Reality hit me, and I found myself looking at my bathroom mirror again. My eyes gained their original brownish color, and for a long time, I finally looked like Kelly.

Black Umbrella

I was walking back to my house in a hurry because it was already 10:30pm and I had nothing to eat yet. The night had already set but the streets weren’t illuminated since it was a Monday night in Beirut -The electricity only comes every other day- along the museum’s street. I had a tough day and I was ready to give up on the whole week, maybe even the whole year… I had plans and ambitions that fell apart after some rejection letters, or even worse… Deferral ones. I knew my capabilities, my strength but I felt unappreciated, undiscovered or maybe on the contrary overrated until the cursing eye got me – at least that’s what my mom thinks.

I stopped next to a construction site to tie my shoes. I placed my foot on those small black polls on the side of the road and while inserting one “bunny ear” under the other, an old man across the street intercepted my sight. He was originally 167 centimeters but the weight of the years had curved his back and stole at least 5 centimeters from his height. He was all dressed up in a black suit that seemed a bit tight on the hips and around the belly. He loosened his pink tie and exhaled a long breath simultaneously. In his hand was an umbrella that he used to balance his walk with, since it was definitely not a rainy weather. He stared at me, and without him saying a word, I could sense his need to call me. This feeling I got might be due to his constant staring or maybe from an innate compassion that suddenly awoke in me. I put my foot down on the ground, walked towards the old man and grabbed his arm to lead him to his destination. Suddenly, the old man removes my arm, and as I was going to apologize for the possibility of offending him, he stopped, raised his head and said: ” Life is full of choices, but sometimes the ones you pick are not the right ones for you.” Trying to grasp everything he was saying, he went on talking: “Don’t lose your confidence it’s the key to your success. Just know that some things are out of your control… But keep on trying until one day you see how everything makes sense. It all makes sense for me now. Unfortunately, it’s too late. I spent all my life wondering how things could be different, blaming others… It all makes sense now.” He handed me his umbrella and continued his walk.
Weeks after this strange encounter, I was invited to my girlfriend’s house. It was starting to rain unexpectedly, so I took the umbrella the old man had gave me. My girlfriend introduced me to her parents, and as I was greeting her mother, I noticed her eyes shifting towards the umbrella. She was wearing a black dress garnished with white pearls on her neck. She smiled at me and then commented on how smart it was to take an umbrella during such weather. Apparently, her daughter never listened to her when she advised her to take an umbrella.
After a while, my girlfriend’s mom told me: “JP. I love how you had your initials engraved on the handle of your umbrella. Where did you have it carved?” It was actually the first time that I notice this detail and went on by narrating the story of this umbrella. As I was describing the event, her facial expressions were evolving from shock, to sadness, to excitement…
When I was done, her mom burst into tears. It took her awhile until words could come out of her mouth. In fact, her father had passed away after having a heart attack a couple of months ago. He had lived his whole life miserable, blaming his parents for refraining him from marrying the love of his life due to religious differences. This umbrella was the last memory of her with his initials on it “J.P”. She gave it to him on their last date during the summer of 1961. They both ended up marrying different people and never saw each other again. “It all makes sense now” said the old man after seeing me. He could never have married the love of his life because 14 years later happened the civil war of 1975, and the museum street was actually the border line between the two religious camps. However, 40 years later, on that same street, the old man met me, the grandson of the love of his life, madly in love with his granddaughter. “It all makes sense now”: Their love did not fall at the right moment, but it gave hope to a better one decades later… And his umbrella… Well… It might be the sign of the reconciliation with the past.