Last Day in Riyadh
by Dave Potter
Exclusively for the ‘Tales of the Veils’ website
Simone lifted up her niqaab and slipped the last forkful of couscous into her waiting mouth. She was sad; this was her last meal on her last day in Riyadh. Tomorrow she would be going back to France, in all likelihood never to return.
She had been overjoyed when her employer, Mobil, had announced that she was to go to Saudi Arabia to attend a conference all about oil production. Most women would have shrunk away, tried to find some way of getting out of it. After all, in Saudi a woman cannot drive, must wear the niqaab at all times outside of her home and should be accompanied by a male when walking in the streets. But little did the others in her office know about her fantasy; of how she had dreamt since the age of ten of living a life enclosed in veils; how she checked up on the website Tales of the Veils everyday in case of a new piece of erotic veiling fiction; how she had a Flickr page in the name of chadrigirl on which hundred of pictures of her dressed in burqas and rubands could be viewed. But not once had she told anyone, not once had she ever gone outside in those veils. Her veiling was only in her bedroom, alone; the exact opposite of when a true niqaabi veils.
But on this trip it was so different. She had ordered a full niqaab from an online store and put in on with trembling fingers in the toilet of the Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Riyadh, and since that day she had seen the world through a slit only a centimetre in height and ten centimetres across. It had been magical, swathed in black at all times, hidden and mysterious, anonymous like all the other women. When she walked she loved how her robes moved sensually and rhythmically, with only the slightest amount of friction, as if she were floating, as one does in a dream. In the mall she’d strolled with Pierre, (her boss), and marvelled at the women with eye veils, (that she dared not wear in case of being seen as too extreme by her colleagues), and those whose veils were so thick that they had to be guided around by their husbands. Were they gagged under there too? And perhaps their arms were restrained somehow, or their ankles linked by a chain, just like in all those stories on the internet…? Riyadh was as close to heaven as Simone had ever been, but in just a few hours she’d be leaving, never to return. After all, a Westerner cannot get a Saudi visa unless they are Muslim or on business and Mobil never sent the same employees twice.
Simone sighed, got up and walked across the dining room and out into the corridor, passing a man guiding his fully veiled wife in the doorway. Would she be the last full niqaabi that Simone would see? She got in the lift and pressed the button for the fourteenth floor. When it arrived and the doors opened with a ping, she got out and glided elegantly down the corridor towards her room. She was about to put her keycard in the slot when the door to the room opposite opened and to Simone’s surprise (and delight!) a fully-veiled woman stepped out. The black ghost moved silently across the corridor and then a gloved hand came out from under her abayah and dropped a small handwritten note at her feet. She bent down, picked it up and read it. To her surprise it was in her native tongue. It said, ‘Would you help me please?’
“You would like me to help you?” she asked in French.
The black ghost nodded.
“Here or in your room?”
The ghost turned and walked back into her room. Simone knew that she shouldn’t really be going into strangers’ rooms – it could be a trap – but she was too excited at having had some contact with a real niqaabi.
“Can’t you speak?” she asked.
The ghost shook her head.
The ghost nodded.
Gagged! This was like one of her wildest fantasies! She couldn’t believe it was happening to her! The ghost went to a desk, picked up a pen and piece of paper and very slowly and carefully wrote, ‘Undress me’ in French.
Simone needed no second invitation. Slowly and carefully she removed the ghost’s niqaab. It was three layers thick and through it she guessed that the lady could see very little. A pair of sparkling blue eyes was revealed, surrounded by white skin.
“You are French?” she asked in surprise.
The figure nodded.
Then Simone removed the heavy, black abayah. Underneath the first of the restraints were visible, chains linking the girl’s wrists to her belt. She was allowed very little hand movement, just enough for them to peep out of holes in her abayah. The hands were covered with stretchy cotton gloves which Simone removed only to find another pair of thick woollen ones underneath. Simone realised that it must have been quite a trial for this girl even to write her notes. This was even better than those flights of fantasy on the internet!
The rest of the girl’s clothing consisted of a khimar and jilbab, all in black, as well as a thick veil over her nose and mouth, and a headscarf. Simone removed the khimar and faceveil to reveal a large gag that completely silenced its wearer. The girl looked longingly at Simone and she realised that she should perhaps have unhooked the hands first so that the girl could undress herself, but so much was she enjoying the experience that she mischievously continued herself, unfastening the gag from behind the girl’s head and taking it out slowly. The girl then moved her jaws about, obviously aching after being gagged so severely for so long and then whispered, “Thank you,” in French. Simone, realising that her play had gone on long enough, unhooked the chains at her belt so that the girl could use her own hands to undress further. She sat on the bed, bent down and removed a pair of high-heeled leather boots and a short chain that linked them together. With a warm feeling down below, Simone realised that she could probably only shuffle along at best.
Once completed and her scarf and jilbab removed to reveal only leggings and a T-shirt, the girl looked up and said, “You are probably wondering who I am and why I am dressed like this?”
“I was rather,” replied Simone, before adding, “and how you speak French.”
“My name is Monique le Bouef, or at least, it once was; now they refer to me as Fatima. I am French, like you I assume. I am sorry to involve you like this but I overheard you and a colleague talking in my language in the lift two days ago and when I found that you were staying opposite me, well, it was almost like fate. But to my story, well I was born in the town of La Rochelle to Sebastian and Raquel le Bouef. My life was happy and normal for a French girl until my mother died in a tragic motor accident when I was aged 12. My father, who had always been a strict Catholic, was thrown into a deep grief because of what had happened, raging against God and his church. That is when he met Ahmed, a Saudi business associate who introduced Islam to him and its message. My father was converted and like so many converts became stricter than most of those who are born into the faith. As the months passed he got more and more serious, growing a beard, expecting me to cover and not associating with non-Muslims. To me it was part piety and part madness but it brought him solace.
When I was fifteen, one night I returned from school to find suitcases packed and him announcing that we were going on hajj to Mecca. Well, that was four years ago and since then we have not left Saudi Arabia and as his daughter, I am essentially his prisoner. After making the hajj he bought an apartment in Riyadh and started a business in import-export. It was successful and so we stayed. Since then I have been expected to live in the very strictest of purdah, veiling at all times when outside of my bedroom, gagged and restrained like this whenever we are out, only allowed the dimmest of views.
But then, last month, it all changed again. He announced that I was to be married and that he had found a suitable candidate. My fiancé, Rashid, is from the south-west of the country, a very religious area where they follow the practices of purdah that are so strict that the husband does not ever see his wife’s face from wedding day to deathbed, she remains covered 24/7. I am to be blinded when outside and inside to wear three veils like these. The gag also will stay even in the house; hearing my voice will only tempt Rashid into evil ways. I am being sentenced to a lifetime as an anonymous black ghost, unseen and unseeing. It is my fate, but how can I bear it?”
Fat tears fell from Monique’s eyes. Simone went over to her and put her arm around her. “Don’t worry, we can sort something out; I can take you to the French Embassy and…”
“No, no, you don’t understand. I am a Saudi now; my father has the final say in all that I do, or at least he does until I am married and then it is my husband. The French can do nothing.”
“But when is the wedding?”
“When? It is now! My father and Rashid, and his father are downstairs in the reception room with the Imam signing the documents and celebrating. Tonight I shall not be sleeping alone but with my husband who will expect to find me fully-veiled and restrained, as indeed I expected also, but chance intervened; my father in his hurry and with his mind occupied by all the details of the marriage, forgot to turn to knob to lock the door, and then you came along. Whoever you are, thank you, I know that you cannot save me, cannot help me but for at least for one last time in my life my face has felt the breeze, my eyes have seen the world without being hampered by veils and my voice has spoken with another in my native tongue. These gifts are the greatest that I can receive; thank you so much.”
Simone stood up and examined the girl in front of her. She had chestnut hair and blue eyes and was of a medium build. In fact, although there was four years between them, they were not dissimilar in looks. Indeed, when one considered it carefully, they were remarkably similar indeed. Monique had mentioned the word ‘fate’ and indeed it seemed that fate had brought them together, but for what reason. Then an idea came into her mind, a crazy, wild, yet powerful idea. Simone tried to hold it back, she knew that it wasn’t realistic, but it was if her mind was a dam and now that it had been breached, the waters could not stop flowing. Slowly she took off her niqaab and abayah and stood in front of Monique.
“Monique, do you wish to return to France?”
“I wish for nothing more.”
“And I wish to spend my life in purdah; exactly the same purdah that you long to escape from. Monique, fate has thrown us together, look how similar we are. You can pass for me and use my passport and I can pass for you; it will be easy as Rashid does not, nor ever will, know what you look like.”
“No buts! Go to France, restart your life and let me restart mine here. Explain to the authorities what happened; they won’t force you back here and maybe they will come for me, maybe not, but do not worry about it either way, this is my choice, my golden opportunity! Dress me Monique!”
Ten minutes later, Simone could not believe how hot and heavy Monique’s clothing was. When she was fully covered and the veils were down she could see virtually nothing. She tried walking around the room but the chain reduced her stride to the tiniest of minces. Her crotch was moist and she longed to touch it but her padded, gloved hands could not reach it, so short were the chains connected her wrists to the belt whilst all the time the gag silenced her completely. She was a prisoner in her own clothing, anonymous to the world.
Monique stood in front of her. “Are you sure?” she asked, her eyes full of concern. Simone nodded. Monique nodded back, came to her and kissed her gagged mouth through the veils. “Thank you,” she said softly, “thank you so very much.” Then she walked to the door, opened it, turned the knob, walked out and closed it softly behind her, the lock clicking into place. Simone sat down on an armchair and waited in silence, a silence that would be her companion from now on. It was to be Simone’s last day in Riyadh after all.
But it was to be the very first in the new life of Fatima.
She could not have been happier.
Copyright © 2009, Dave Potter