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Singing in Babylon

By Ann Gaylia O'Barr

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One
April, 1991
Kate did not understand why her father’s collection of National Geographics unhinged her when it was her mother she had buried last week. She sat on the living room floor and cried as she tossed the magazines, beautiful photographs and all, into the black garbage bag.
Did a different kind of death call for a different kind of grieving?
She and her mother wept together in a storm of sorrow after her father’s sudden death two years ago, but the mourning for her father seemed easier than the slow draining of emotion while she watched her mother die an inch at a time from cancer.
She threw a jungle-colored issue about the Amazon River into the sack. It thudded against the others while Kate swiped her wet cheeks with her fists.
A lot of good tears would do. Tears wouldn’t sell the house or pay the hospital bills. Forget crying.
She straightened and reached for another glossy-covered magazine about the volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens a decade or so ago.
Kate smacked that magazine on top of others, and the black bag tipped over. She jerked it upright.
Was it too much to ask why God didn’t allow her parents to see their only child graduate from college? Given that they, not even able to finish high school, found such joy in her education?
Her mother said as much before she squeezed Kate’s hand in a final benediction. “Katie, your father and I are so proud of you.”
“Are proud of you,” her mother said. Was she confused and forgot that her husband was dead?
Kate shook her head. Enough of her tattered faith remained to believe that her mother’s spirit, in those last minutes with her daughter, hovered within seeing distance of Kate’s father. She sorrowed for her parents’
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absence but not for them. They were home.
She picked up an issue about the Great Wall of China and sent it to join its brothers within the black plastic folds of the bag.
“One day, Katie, I have hopes you’ll get to see some of these countries,” her father used to say, his words wrapped in the Appalachian twang of his childhood. Kate had inherited her mother’s cinnamon-colored hair and serene brown eyes, but her father bequeathed her his spirit.
Kate scooted to pull another stack of Geographics off the shelf and studied the top magazine about Saudi Arabia. Some white-robed desert chieftain watched a falcon lift against a brittle sky, oblivious to oil rigs behind him.
The magazine was years old, but it reminded her of the Gulf War just ended. The United States and the allies, including even their Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union, had run Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Some said they should take the war all the way to Baghdad in Iraq and topple the Iraqi leader, but the allies had halted after freeing Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait—she had seen something else recently about them—not about the war—what was it?
Kate threw the magazine in the bag and reached for an issue that featured the waterways of Europe.
“You’ll have opportunities your mother and I never had,” her father promised her.
Rage washed over her. Kate jumped up and pulled over the shelves. Books cascaded onto the bare floor: atlases her father had pored over, history and geography books and literature classics that he found in the used bookstores of Nashville’s colleges. They fed his thirst for learning, for schooling he could never have.
What did it matter? What did anything matter anymore? All of it was gone, or would be, as soon as Kate and her aunt could sell, give away, or throw away everything except a few papers and photographs.
If she got the asking price for the house, she could pay off the mortgage and the hospital bills. It wouldn’t touch what she owed Aunt Margie, though, and forget about her college loan, and don’t even think about graduate school.
Kate stared at the jumble of pictures and printed words. If Aunt Margie could lend her a little, she would have enough with her checking
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account to finish her senior year—surely she could manage two more months—graduate, then find whatever job she could.
An English major boasting no more than an undergraduate degree wasn’t exactly a hot item in the job market. Probably she would settle into a dull, boring job, eight hours a day, five days a week, like her father’s job, with two weeks of vacation a year. For this, she and her parents had saved and sacrificed?
Kate turned to leave, her stomach churning, and almost stumbled over her purse. She stooped to pick it up, then halted, her hand in midair. That advertisement—the one she had cut from the classified ads of a castoff newspaper in the hospital waiting room—she still had it, didn’t she? That’s what nagged her.
She sat again and found the advertisement and read it.
Hanford Language Systems. Teaching eager students English as a second language in exciting locations. Actively seeking English teachers for expanding language schools in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Advanced degree preferred but not required.
Saudi Arabia? Kuwait? Why not try for it? A long shot, but wasn’t everything these days?
Hope renewed her energy. She sorted through the mess on the floor, finished the bookcase, and started on a cabinet in the dining room.
Kate placed the good china on dish towels laid on the dining room table and thought about the holiday meals they had eaten on it, with Aunt Margie and Uncle Ike to join them, other families from church. She fingered the flowered-edged dinner plates. Her aunt and uncle had given the set to her parents as a wedding present.
She thought of Stanley for the first time since his phone call to her from school after the funeral.
“Really sorry about your mother, Kate,” he said. The words indicated civility and little else.
He hadn’t come to the funeral. Maybe she shouldn’t have expected his presence, though her roommate had traveled down from Adair. She brought a sympathy card that Kate’s friends had signed. Stanley’s name was scrawled in the bottom corner, with no other message.
Kate laid the silverware on the table. She’d have to sell the china, but
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maybe she could find room in Aunt Margie’s condo to stash the silver.
She and Stanley had started going together after her father died. He exuded safety and certainty, a dependable Christian. With him, she could ignore the dissatisfaction forming around her life, push aside the questions that nagged her. Stanley knew where he was going, never admitted to doubts.
At the time, she didn’t understand her mother’s halfhearted acceptance of Stanley.
“He’s very nice,” her mother had murmured, and Kate caught the lack of enthusiasm. When she pressed her mother, she said, “He just doesn’t seem to suit you, somehow. He doesn’t have your spirit of adventure.” Her mother paused. Perhaps she already knew something wasn’t right inside her. She continued. “You’re so like your father.”
Kate had brushed aside the aha moment that told her how exactly the words pegged Stanley. With him life was certain, and certainty seemed important then. Still, she evaded Stanley’s desire to be engaged.
And now? With her mother’s death, a crack split Stanley’s world from her own. The differences her mother noticed had widened into an unbridgeable chasm.
She glanced at her purse with the language school advertisement in it. She had to decide about Stanley.

Kate forced another bite of the campus meatloaf into her mouth, ignored the vinegary tomato taste, and tried not to think about her unfinished paper that had to be turned in before Wednesday.
“Kate, you’re not paying attention. Didn’t you hear what I said?” Had Stanley’s voice taken on a whine?
“Sorry. I’m listening now.”
Stanley cleared his throat. “I got the phone call yesterday afternoon. Went to the library to find you, but you weren’t there.”
Kate remembered. She had purposely avoided the table where they usually met, close to periodicals, and hidden herself on the third floor behind the language books. She had skipped supper and gone back to her room late in the evening. “Phone call?”
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His look oozed hurt. “You know, from Coca-Cola.”
“Oh, sure. You interviewed with them over spring break.”
Back in March, just before Aunt Margie’s urgent phone call, Stanley had been so excited about his interview with the soft drink giant.
“Look, I’ve got it. The job.”
“Stanley, that is just so cool.” Her words sounded too cheery, even to herself, like play acting. When you don’t feel anything, you have to act, go through the motions.
He started to take her hand, but somebody dropped a tray on the other side of the room. The moment shattered with the dishes.
“Look,” Stanley said. Was he angry at her or at the broken moment? “I know it’s been hard on you, but we’re graduating in a month. It’s like you don’t care about me anymore.”
He moved his hand toward hers again, but she had put both her hands in her lap. He sighed and dropped his to the table. “Don’t you see? The salary Coke’s offered me is terrific. I can pay for whatever school you want to go to. Atlanta’s got lots of schools. You can pay back your loan—”
“Stanley—“
“Kate, what is it? Don’t you see how things are working out? It’s perfect. God has to be in it.”
She searched his earnest, decent face and wondered how to tell him that whatever she had felt for him hadn’t been love after all. Because if it was, it wouldn’t have vanished like this, would it? Leaving her stranded on a black sea?
“Stanley, we need to—think about things. I need time to pull myself together. Answer questions.”
“Questions?”
“Everything seems so irrelevant. I even feel out of place in church. I want to know why I’m here and why all this happened to me.”
Stanley licked his lips. “Look, I know things have been tough for you. You have to trust Jesus.”
“I never said I didn’t trust Jesus. I just want to know why sometimes. Considering that my father died in a useless accident and my mother wasted away with cancer, I don’t think it’s so wrong for me to ask that. Even Jesus asked once why God had forsaken him, didn’t he?”
Stanley looked scared, like he was somewhere he had never been before and wished he wasn’t. “I guess so.”
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“Look—I think maybe we should back off. I’ve still got an awful lot of catching up to do, and I’m going to be busy. Maybe we should…call it off…for right now. See what we feel like after we graduate.”
Kate overcame his weak protests, his insistence that they must write and keep in touch after graduation; maybe things would work out. He thought the world of her.
The relief on his face probably mirrored her own.

The real-estate agent called two weeks later. The house had sold for the asking price. Could Kate possibly be at the agent’s office on Monday to sign the papers? Kate took the bus to Nashville on Friday night, bringing schoolwork with her. The large packet from Hanford Language Systems lay on her bed in Aunt Margie’s condo with other mail.
When she traveled back on Monday night, she took it with her, hardly breathing while she scanned the pages held under the Greyhound seat light.
She signed the contract and mailed it back the next day.

Except for Aunt Margie, Kate would have skipped the graduation ceremony. Afterward, though, looking at her aunt, a whisper of joy teased her. If Kate were awarded a doctorate from Harvard, her aunt’s face couldn’t have shone any brighter. Her eyes beamed through her fuchsia-rimmed glasses under her fluffed white hair.
“Jon and Mellyn. And your Uncle Ike, too. So proud of you. I’m sure they must know about it. The first one of us to do it. I am plain overcome.” She wiped her eyes, and Kate hugged her.
On the way home, they lingered in the Cracker Barrel Restaurant at the Crossville exit, right before descending from the Cumberland Plateau into Nashville. Kate finished the last of her pork barbecue sandwich and remembered what the Hanford instructions said about not bringing pork products into Saudi Arabia.
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Her aunt provided her the opportunity. “Will you be starting Peabody this summer, Katie? I’ve still got one more CD your Uncle Ike left me if you need money.”
Kate pushed her iced-tea glass to the edge of the table for the waitress to refill.
“Aunt Margie, you’re the sweetest aunt anybody ever had. I’ve still got a few hundred dollars in the checking account, though half of that is yours. I think it’ll last me until I leave.”
“Leave? Are you thinking of marrying that Stanley boy?”
Kate smiled her thanks at the waitress for the refill. It would refresh her throat gone arid. “No, Stanley and I have decided we’re not for each other. I’ve decided to take a job teaching English overseas.”
Aunt Margie’s own iced-tea glass, from which she had been about to drink, thudded to the table. “Overseas?”
“Yes. A lot of people want to learn English now. Companies are setting up language schools all over the place to teach English as a second language. I’ll be teaching in one of them.”
“Kate, what about your learning? You were going to Peabody. You have a grant from the school.” She repeated it—“Peabody”—as though it held the path to Eden.
Kate leaned over. “Only a partial one. The tuition’s still out of sight, even with the aid. I can’t let myself take on any more debt. I’ve got to get a job that makes money and pay it back before I do anything else.”
“Kate, your mother and father meant for you to make something of yourself, get as much schooling as you could, like they never did. That should be first.”
“I bet I owe more money than Bill Gates makes in a year.”
“You said you wouldn’t have to pay back your college loan until you finished school.”
“Fine, but I owe you for Mom’s nurse before she went into the hospital.”
“You don’t have to pay me for the nurse. I’ve settled that and was glad to do it. And you can stay with me as long as you need to. You don’t have to worry about paying for a place.”
Kate couldn’t tell her generous aunt, sharing with her niece like the widow gave her mite in the temple, that she felt like screaming every time she thought of a year and more of scrimping and saving. Of sharing Aunt
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Margie’s bird-cage-size condo with her. Of attending her aunt’s church, where she knew in advance what lessons the pastor would draw just by looking at the Scripture text.
“I’ve already signed the contract. I’m going to teach English at a language school in Saudi Arabia.”
“Saudi Arabia?” Aunt Margie blinked through the fuchsia rims of her glasses.
Kate tried to explain. “Don’t you see? I can earn money, pay off my debts, save, come back, and do what I want. Go to graduate school.”
Aunt Margie found her voice. “What if that Saddam attacks again?”
“He’s not going to attack. The Gulf War’s all over.”
“You going to wear one of those black robes like the women have to wear over there?”
“The instructions from the school only mentioned dressing conservatively.”
“I guess if you’ve got your heart set on it, I won’t be able to change your mind. I’m kinda glad your mom and dad aren’t here now, though. They’d be worried sick.”

The prepaid tickets arrived, and Kate danced around. I’m going to ride in an airplane. I’m going to travel. I’m going to see places I’ve never been before. She read the itinerary: Nashville, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
As the time shortened before Kate left, she felt like she was walking through mud that deepened as she moved, sucking and imprisoning her feet. She obtained important documents: birth certificate, the marriage certificate of her parents, and her first U.S. passport. Hanford handled needed travel visas for her passport through the mail. She talked with her bank manager about the deposit of her salary from Saudi Arabia.
“Honey,” Aunt Margie said in the final minutes before her boarding, “you be careful of that Saddam Hussein.”
The effort not to giggle returned Kate’s sanity. Her guilt over leaving Aunt Margie lessened once she was alone in her airplane seat. The attendant explained about seat belts and oxygen masks. Kate read the
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emergency procedures on the little card like the attendant requested.
The takeoff thrilled her more than the amusement rides at the state fair. The Cumberland River flowed below her like a silken band, then disappeared into the distance, overtaken by bumpy hills. She wished her parents could see the way it looked from up here. Well, maybe they could, now.
Kate had three hours between flights at the Atlanta airport, enough time to lose her way several times, check her luggage for the international flight to Frankfurt, and find her gate.
Weariness claimed her by the time she sank into the dab of space allotted her for the nine-hour flight across the Atlantic. The woman next to her was about the age of Aunt Margie but wider in girth.
“Hello, honey,” the woman said once they stowed totes and found a place for purses beneath seats. “I’m Stella. I’m going to see my son in Germany. He’s in the army and just got back to Germany from Saudi Arabia. He was there during the war.”
She leaned back, no doubt sure that Kate, in true Southern fashion, would reciprocate. Kate introduced herself and explained her destination.
Stella rivaled Aunt Margie in her shocked expression. “My stars. A young woman like you alone over there? I didn’t know they allowed single females in. Not ones your age, anyway.”
“I guess they do, or the school wouldn’t have hired me. Tell me about your son. Was he there during the war?”
The exploits of Stella’s son, Lanny, occupied them until the plane roared down the runway and into the air like a winged chariot. She wished she could see the ground, but she was in the middle section wedged between Stella and a gentleman who did not say anything to her but spoke accented English to the attendant. The announcements were in German as well as English, which Kate thought was cool.
Once aloft, she sipped cranberry lemonade brought by the attendant, read the airline magazine, and learned all about the different music available through her earphones, trying each channel. She studied a review of the in-flight movie and salivated over the choice of chicken tetrazzini or braised beef tips.
She realized how cramped the space was when she dropped her napkin on the floor during the meal and couldn’t retrieve it. Stella tore hers in two to share with her.
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Stella asked what Kate was carrying into Saudi Arabia.
“Carrying in? Well, my clothes, of course. Some books. Things like that. Why?”
“Lanny said the Saudis don’t allow booze, pornography, pork, or Bibles into the country.”
“I don’t think I’ll have a problem.” Then she brought her hands to her chin. “Oh—you said a Bible?” She remembered now—a vague reference to religious literature in the Hanford instructions. She had supposed they meant something like pamphlets on becoming a Christian, not a personal Bible. “What do they do if they find out you’ve got one?”
Stella shrugged. “Beats me. Maybe they put you in jail. You got a Bible?”
“Yes.”
“Hmm. Well, better hope they don’t see it.”
Kate poked at her brownie dessert, trying to remember what the instructions said. She had read the prohibitions hurriedly because most of them didn’t seem to apply to her—she didn’t have any guns, alcohol, drugs, or pornographic literature. She relished pork barbecue but wasn’t likely to bring any with her.
She should have kept all that material where she could read it on the trip instead of stashing it in her suitcase.
The movie, something about people from New York suffering angst over relationships, was too remote to interest her. Trans-Atlantic travel lost its allure as Kate tried to find a comfortable sleeping position between the overweight Stella and the man on her other side, small but prone to snoring. It was worse than sleeping in a tent on a camping trip.
Kate had never suffered a hangover but was pretty sure it must be something like what she felt as the lights came on for breakfast. Had she slept any? Maybe an hour.
The breakfast entrée, an egg, shuddered like glue as she cut into it and didn’t taste much better. Maybe she’d get something in Frankfurt. Then she remembered she had only American dollars and not many of those.
The plane swayed as it banked for landing. Around her, people spoke in different languages. The German and English announcements had excited her when they first left Atlanta. Now they reminded her that for the first time in her life, she was among people whose first language wasn’t English.
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Kate parted with Stella and spent the next hours ambling around a dull transient lounge. The luxury items in the shops were beyond her means, even when she found out she could use American dollars. She entered the departure hall for her flight to Jeddah on the first call.
The majority of the passengers were men. Two of the women wore those black robes, though most of the women were in Western dress. Kate thought she had dressed conservatively as the Hanford literature suggested but questioned that now. She had chosen a full skirt that reached below her knees and a long-sleeved blouse, high-necked. Kate observed the black-garbed women. Would anyone mind her colors, bright green and sunshine yellow?
And what about the Bible? She couldn’t remember exactly where she had packed it.
Father, she prayed, I’m scared. Tired, too. I do hope my Bible makes it through. Please.
Kate looked up and met the gaze of a sandy-haired man studying her. Give him longer hair and a beard and he could have been a Viking explorer, Leif Erikson or Eric the Red. He looked puzzled, like he wondered if he recognized her from another place.
The call for business-class passengers blared from the speaker. The man grabbed his tote and queued at the gate. She must remember that most of the people around her weren’t Americans. Maybe he was Scandinavian or German.
After the business passengers disappeared through the door, the announcer called her row in the economy class section. She followed the column of passengers walking into the deadened hollowness of the airplane to find her place by the window. A white-haired gentleman in a business suit rushed in and claimed the aisle seat.
They exchanged greetings. He was American, a businessman, working for an American company in Jeddah, he said, but offered nothing more about his work.
“I know about Hanford,” he said when Kate told him her destination. “Good school. We’ve sent a few of our people there for advanced courses. Ours have to know some English before we hire them, of course.”
“They’re not Americans?”
“Goodness, no. That would be too expensive. Filipinos and Indians are a lot cheaper.”
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He pulled out his briefcase and began studying papers. He continued to do so even during the meal.
Kate managed to sleep afterward, bracing her pillow against the window. She jerked awake when the lights flashed on. The plane would land in an hour, the announcer over the loudspeaker informed them. The announcements in Arabic preceded the English, her native language attached like a footnote.
An attendant wandered the aisle and handed out the cards all passengers must complete before landing. Kate took one and glanced at it, rummaging in her purse for a pen and her passport. The symbol printed on the form caught her attention.
She peered at it, mocking her like a pirate flag. “A skull and crossbones?” Kate mumbled to the white-haired gentleman. “And look at the warning: ‘death for drug trafficker.’ Sure gets your attention, doesn’t it?”
The man raised his eyes from his own entry form and frowned at her. “They’re trying to make the point that drugs are absolutely forbidden in Saudi Arabia. Hope you know that.”
Was it her age that caused the cautionary note? “No problem,” she said.
Kate poised her pen above the form. It was written in Arabic as well as English, and the layout confused her. Right to left. Wasn’t that the way Arabic was written? Maybe that’s why the form seemed backward to her. She copied data from the passport opened on her lap and studied another question, tightening her eyebrows.
“Religion? They ask for that?”
The man looked up again. “I always feel like writing ‘none of your business.’ ’Course you can’t do that, so I put down ‘Mormon.’ Figure they’re like Muslims in believing you can have more than one wife.”
Kate hesitated, swallowed, and printed “Christian.” She placed the completed form in her purse with her passport.
“Is someone meeting you?” the man asked.
“They said somebody from the school would be there.”
“My wife’s meeting me with the company driver, and we could take you to your place if you needed us to.”
“I wouldn’t know where to tell you to take me. Thanks, though.” She took a last sip from her water bottle.
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“Women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia. I guess you know that?”
Was he expecting her to commandeer a car and drive off? “They talked about it on news reports during the war,” she said.
“Oh, sure. I stayed in Jeddah, but I sent my wife home to Kansas for three months while it was going on. She taped all the briefings from CNN. Practically fell in love with General Schwarzkopf.”
Aunt Margie had done that, too, Kate remembered. She watched CNN during the war like she watched her daytime serial programs and went into raptures over Schwarzkopf, the U.S. general who led the allies in the liberation of Kuwait.
An attendant came by with a garbage bag, and Kate leaned over to drop the water bottle into it. “Was it exciting being in Jeddah when the war was going on?”
“More like exhausting. We sent everybody out except the essential staff.” He stared past her toward the dark void beyond the window. “You know, everybody back home thinks we won this great victory—that it’s all over. They don’t have an iota of understanding about how it is over here. It’s not the end of anything. Only the beginning.”
Kate nodded, although he might as well have spoken in Arabic. She didn’t care about philosophic musings just now. Could she possibly be homesick?
A partial scholarship to Peabody she had turned down. Maybe she should have thought it over a bit more before rushing off over here. The money, though—she had to have the money.
The women passengers not wearing black robes snapped open overhead compartments and took black coverings from bags. They hustled back and forth to the bathroom and returned with them pulled over their clothes, including one who had worn shorts and a halter. After returning to her seat, the woman fluffed her hair and covered her head with a scarf, also black. She prodded her hair until it disappeared under the covering.
Loose panels vibrated with the throbbing of the engines. Kate jumped when the public address system pinged, then came alive. Feeling her linguistic inadequacy, she waited for the English.
“We will shortly begin our descent into Jeddah. Place your seats in the upright position, trays stowed. Make sure your seat belts are securely fastened. The local time is 11:25 p.m.” Kate set her watch.
The plane shuddered into the descent, and Kate wished she hadn’t
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chosen the creamy pasta for supper. Should she pull out the barf bag? The plane touched down and bumped. She closed her eyes and kept them shut until it whined to a taxiing speed and left the runway, its lights piercing the dark night.
Her seat mate helped her with the tote bag, wished her good luck, and stepped aside for her to enter the aisle. People came between them as they left the airplane, and she lost sight of him.
In the lines of exhausted passengers stacked before the immigration counters, Kate searched the queues, hoping to spot her seat mate, as though his presence were a talisman to protect her. Instead she saw the tall man she had seen in Frankfurt, the one with the unruly sandy hair. He stood to one side and seemed to be searching for someone.
He didn’t see her, and she studied him, guessing his age. Older than she was, but still young. His light coloring contrasted with the people around him. A man much darker than he came and said something to him. They walked to a counter with no line. Kate read the Western letters over it: DIPLOMATIC.
The man behind Kate nudged her to move forward to the immigration official. The official alternated between glaring at her and stamping things in her passport and entry form. He said nothing as he returned the passport. Maybe he only spoke Arabic.
She found her overstuffed suitcase on the carousel, but when Kate opened the bag for the customs agent, he hardly glanced at the plain-covered Bible, half hidden by a pair of shoes. Instead, he examined her paperback mystery with the picture of a woman on the cover. Mystified, she watched him take a black pen and mark the bare arms of the woman, blocking out any view of her skin, although the rest of her was quite modestly clothed.
Once he released her, Kate exhaled as though she had held her breath for hours. She hoisted her tote bag to one shoulder and her purse to the other. The wheels on her suitcase, an old one, shifted back and forth behind her like they might be coming loose.
She followed others into the arrivals section and looked for the person from Hanford who was supposed to meet her. Someone with a sign, the instructions said.
People crowded each side of the passage as though awaiting a celebrity. Many of the men wore white robes, and most of the women
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wore black ones. Men held signs in English announcing people they apparently were meeting: MR. AL-RIJANI, GULF SYSTEMS; JOSEPH TAYLOR, BECHTEL; MR. ELMER, CONSOLIDATED CONSTRUCTION, LTD.
Kate reached the end of the roped-off area and stood out of the way to search the signs once more. Nothing resembling KATE MCCORMACK, HANFORD. She looked again. Families greeted relatives and friends. A young man in Western dress presented a bouquet of flowers to a petite, blond woman with her black robe not quite fastened, revealing jeans and a tee shirt.
Kate checked the signs one more time for evidence that someone waited for her. No one. People stared at her. She gripped the handle of her suitcase and fled from the crowd, turning down a narrow passageway between planters of lush flowers.
Stopping by a bench next to one of the planters, Kate sat down to think. When her hands didn’t tremble, she would open the suitcase and search for a telephone number.
Telephone? How did you use a telephone in this place, provided you could find one?
Two men in thin white robes came around one of the planters. They smiled at each other, then at Kate. One of them sat close to her. She shifted until the hard concrete of the planter pressed her arm.
They gawked at her ankles. What creeps. Her outfit wouldn’t have bothered a Trappist monk back in Nashville. Why did she feel like she had wandered into a medieval cathedral in her bathing suit?
Kate got up and almost fell when the luggage wheels balked at moving. The men grinned. Anger fed her courage. She righted the suitcase and marched into the open area.
If she stood, no one could sit by her. Announcements squawked from the public address system in Arabic followed by English, although the heavily accented English was almost as indecipherable as the Arabic. Kate closed her eyes against the chaos.
Father, do you suppose you could send somebody to help me?
She stood next to another concrete planter and positioned her suitcase between herself and the jostling crowd. Lifting her chin and ignoring the stares, she waited.

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