His head lay on the hot cement patio as he warily watched us.

ME AND MY BUDDY

I stared at the stray around the corner. “That thing? It’s a goat!”
Amused, my teacher friend leaned in for a closer look. The smallish all-black animal lay curled up in the shade. Completely still except for the wary eyes that followed our movements, it lacked any get-up-and-go. Sprawled out on the outdoor patio away from the faculty smoking area, its head rested on the hot cement.

Bettie-Lou reached over to stroke its head. “It’s not a goat, Amy. It’s a black dog with short legs. See the tail? He’s sweet. Besides, a goat would be prancing all over the place.”

“Hmph! Not in this humidity.” I brushed a lock of sweaty hair out of my eyes.

Situated between the desert and the mountains in Ras Al Khaimah, the campus of the Men’s College sat by itself on the edge of a lonely stretch of dirt road – a perfect place for a goat to wander in.

“The timing of this stray is perfect. You really do need a a dog now that you live alone, and especially after what happened last night,” she reminded.

“I’ll think about it.” I made my way back to the car, unconvinced this creature could  protect me. As for last night, I hated thinking about it!

Sixteen hours earlier, I would have never guessed I’d need the protection of a watch dog.  The night had been calm…

“See ya later.” I waved goodbye to my Scottish friend and followed the streetlights home in the dark to my villa. Locking the gate behind me, I followed the tile walkway to my front door and let myself in.  Almost asleep on the sofa with the cats, I still heard the shrill timbre of the gate bell.

What! Who?!! I sat straight up, my heart pounding. Spooked, I checked my watch.

1:15 am. Who on earth would ring me at this late hour?

The bell rang again. Ominous. Insistent. Again and again.

My  breath came in tiny gasps as my heart thumped against my rib cage.

Someone watched me come home. Actually watched me.

My body strained against the sudden silence. Goosebumps prickled on my arms.

I waited. For what? I didn’t know.

The intruder scaled the brick wall around my villa!

I’d be safe with a seven-foot wall surrounding my villa, wouldn’t I?

Suddenly, I heard pounding on my front door.

I froze. He scaled my wall.  He’s gonna break down my door. Oh. My. Word.

I bolted from the sofa, grabbing the hall phone but I couldn’t yank out the cord since it was attached to the wall. Where’s my cell? Thank God it was plugged in and charging. I ripped it from the socket and curled my fingers around it while I raced to my bedroom. There, I locked my door. Horrified, I tried to think. CID. Call the CID.

I crouched by my bed in panic mode, looking wildly around the room for something–anything–to defend myself with if the intruder broke the door down. I recited numbers in my head until I finally remembered how to reach the CID. I pressed the phone up to my ear as I waited for the police to answer.  My breath came in rasps. I could hear screams  at my front door.

Ring, phone, ring! Answer it. Please answer it! Hurryup, hurryup, HURRY UP!

“Allo…” A smattering of Arabic filled the phone receiver.

“Help me!  Someone’s pounding at my door. He’s gonna kill me!” Where do I tell them to go? We don’t have any street names here! “I’m um… right across the street from the RAK Hotel, the first side street off of Nas Nas. House number #2….”

I waited for an answer, an “We’re on our way, ma’am. Stay calm.” Anything.

I got a lengthy silence and then, “Sorry. No  speak English.”

Sorry, no speak English.”

What?!! I could faintly hear two voices conversing in Arabic on the phone.

I strained to listen for shattering glass from the thin rectangular window next to the front door. Or what if he’d already  broken the door down? I looked across the room at the  window that faced the back of the house. Separated from the outdoor walkway only by the window, more panic set in. “Help me! NOW! Por Favor. ¡Rapidamente! Vivo cerca…” In my desperation, I started to beg for help in Spanish! Certainly helpful in the land of swarthy police officers who spoke only Arabic.

In my desperation, although I was in the Middle East, I started to beg for help … in Spanish!

A heavily-accented Middle Eastern voice came through the phone. “Call  tomorrow.”

He hung up!

My stress level so high I could barely think, I punched more numbers in. A sleepy voice answered. “IHAB! Someone’s trying to get in my house. You have to come! Hurry up!! He’s banging on the front door. Help me! He’s gonna kill me!” I began to cry.

“I’m coming!” Ihab’s  screamed back at me, in shock.

“Get a knife. Get something. ANYTHING! HURRY!”

My ex-husband had moved out at the end of the academic year. He lived just a few blocks on the other side of the hotel. A couple of days into the new semester, and look what happened! How could I ever live alone?!  On high alert,  I strained to hear the sound of breaking glass at the front door, or footsteps running around back. Like a rabbit ready to sprint at the slightest sound, I crouched in terror in the darkness of my room. I couldn’t fit under the bed and my closet held shelves. I bent over double, my head to the ground and prayed with all my heart.

I’m so … not brave.

My phone rang. “Amy, it’s ME. Ihab. I’ve walked around the house twice. I didn’t see anyone. Whoever it was has gone. Can you let me in?”

My voice came out in squeaks. “Do you … (panting)  still …  have …  your key?”

“Yes. Yes.”

“You come in. I’m not leaving this bedroom.”

A few minutes later I heard a tap on my bedroom door. “It’s me, Ihab.”

With trembling fingers, I unlocked it and threw myself at him, sobbing with fear.

After he calmed me down and heard the story of the CID who didn’t speak English and didn’t help me, he called them himself. I heard loud, angry words and an obvious ranting fight about how they handled my call and the danger I’d faced. Ihab paced and shouted some more. SO Egyptian. So needed. So reassuring. So Ihab. I sat on the edge of the bed, shaking all over.

“They’re coming to investigate,” he said after he hung up the phone.

Great. The intruder’s gone now.

When the CID came, they circled the house several times but found nothing.  They promised to keep an eye on the place.

Wide-eyed, I clung to the arm of my ex-husband. The ink on our divorce papers had barely dried. “Stay with me tonight, Ihab!” He owed it to me. He promised to love me forever, and he betrayed that love. That’s why I almost died tonight. He could at least keep me safe now.

Uncertain of what to do, he pacedthe length of the room.

I crossed my arms, obstinate. “I’m NOT staying here alone, that’s for sure.”

He let out a what-can-I-do sigh and slept on the far side of the bed. I didn’t care. I simply wanted a live body near me. That it happened to be Ihab calmed me enough that I could finally sleep.

I recalled the two gentle eyes that peered out at us.

***

“It’s a goat,” I repeated as I buckled my seatbelt. “If the intruder comes back, the most it can do is butt him one.”

“I don’t know. I have a sixth sense about these things. That’s the dog for you.”

“That passive thing?” I recalled how the gentle eyes had peered out at us. “I don’t think so.”

***

You’ve just read “My First Glimpse.” © Amy Bovaird, October 2013.  If this story resonated with you, be sure to LIKE or SHARE it. Have you ever needed to get a dog to protect you from danger?  What about being  so frightened you switched to a completely different language? Looking forward to your comments.

 

My First Glimpse
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