“And what might that be?”
She looked up and cocked her head to one side, as if considering how to phrase her question.
“What is it you seek, Amir?”
“What do I seek? How do you mean? I’m not sure I understand the question.”
“It was just a general question. Never mind.”
She picked up the rose and waved it in the air between them. Amir tried to lock eyes with her, but she wasn’t having it. More elusiveness. He was on alert now.
“I take things as they come. I try to live in the moment. However, you said you had something to ask me, and I can’t help feeling it was more than general.”
“Alright then. Let me ask you this: If you could attain anything your heart desired, what would it be that you would have?”
Amir sat back in his seat and looked off into the middle distance. This was not what he had expected to happen today. He considered the question carefully without looking at her. Was this a test? He grew irritated that he was back to wondering if she was in fact of the Djinn, and was offering to grant him a wish in a roundabout way. The whole thing struck him as unfair.
“I would have…more time to think.”
She smiled at him and shook her head.
“Amir, you are a very interesting man. If you need time to think then so be it.”
She got up and excused herself and went to the restroom. Amir took it that she was still expecting an answer to her question so he took the time to consider his next move. When she returned she looked at him expectantly. He smiled.
“If I could attain what my heart desires, then I would have certainty.”
“Certainty? What is it you would be certain of, Amir?”
He took a deep breath. He didn’t want to get this wrong. If she was simply a beautiful woman who seemed to find him attractive should he answer differently than if she were, in fact, a djinni? That would depend on what type of djinni she was. He decided discretion would be the better part of valour.
“I would be certain of what course I should take, Zahira.”
“Being certain of one’s course at all times would lead to boredom, don’t you think?”
She raised her eyebrows and grinned. This woman could be maddening, he decided.
“Perhaps you’re right. Would you do me the honour of letting me cook you dinner tonight? Perhaps by then I will have a better answer to your question.”
She picked up the rose again and brushed it against her cheek.
“Perhaps you had best sleep on it, Amir. Will you meet me here again tomorrow?”
He sensed no expectation in her voice. It put him further on the defensive, but he kept control of himself.
“As you wish, Zahira.”
He got up and bowed and walked to the door without looking back. He felt calmer having taken the initiative and leaving before she did. Perhaps it would give her something to think about.
All the way back to his apartment his mind swirled with uncertainty. The flirtation between them was growing, but he was deeply disturbed that he couldn’t shake off the possibility of who she might be, and the implications for his newfound freedom from faith. By the time he got home he decided perhaps she was right. Her question was valid after all, and he would give her his answer when next they met.