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9-Only a test…..

Days and nights on the compound returned to normal after my parents left. Temperatures dipped down to 60 degrees but were often in the 70’s as January continued. The boys left each morning with Ushruf and were dropped off at their Westernized school. They continued to receive certificates of appreciation for their good behavior and efforts. The three little ones stayed at home having fun, playing and just being kids. He traveled back and forth to Riyadh and went on the “Sheik’s’” private jet to Jeddah to visit friends. His new manager did not see his potential and he was again displeased and frustrated with his position in the company. My pregnancy had entered the 8th month, I had yet to find a doctor or make a plan.

Living on the compound made life much easier in Saudi but it came with challenges as well. Many expats did not like life in the Kingdom and the restrictions that they faced. Residing on a compound with only 20 houses meant that people started to quarrel and most rules were made to be broken. The shopping bus had a daily schedule that several residents decided to alter and they determined where the group would go each day.  The two compound managers were of little help and attended loud drunken parties held on roof tops where screaming at the Muethen  (person who calls the prayer) during call to prayer was common. Being part of the compound “group’ was imperative if one wanted to have a social life and have the benefits that went along with it. Gloria, Guadalupe and I continued to live our lives, oblivious to our “group” obligations. We walked, sat at the park and rode the bus. We kept our distance and tried to keep peace while living within such close proximity to other expats.  At times compound life was tense, living next door to the same people who shared the shopping bus, tiny playground and limited outside area behind isolating walls.

I woke up each day at 5 a.m. and my routine began, washing, cleaning, cooking and caring for children as most stay at home mothers do.  I had always been a worker, this was instilled in me since childhood. My mother was the daughter of Adolph, his father had not allowed him to go past 8th grade and took him to chop wood in the forest instead, he was employed at the brick yard for many years until he retired.  Elva (mother’s mom) spent her days baking, cleaning and making a lovely home on a shoestring budget.  Mom had moved away from their small rural town to attend nursing school, she eventually worked her way up to being a Vice President and spent her nights studying for her Master’s degree. Dad was a teacher who loved the profession he had chosen and did all he could to be successful. They made a nice life but I heard many times that it was not handed to them!  I worked from the time I was young, baby sitting, odds jobs and when I turned 16 steadily at a variety of fast food restaurants. During the summers of University break I worked nights at the race track  and Bingo in the mornings. I was to save money for my own personal spending during the school year. I was fortunate, mom and dad paid for my University schooling and all I had to do was supply “fun” money. I met him during one of those sweet summer breaks. I still remember seeing him drive up the dusty dirt road that led to the house on the hill. I was shocked that he made good on his promise and actually showed up. He stayed that first night with mom and dad while I went off to work.  He spent that summer traveling 2 hours to my parent’s home each weekend, running errands with dad, helping him with numerous projects around the 6 acres of land and sitting at the track all night waiting for me to finish.  It was a quick romance that blossomed as summer flowers do. I felt lucky to have this handsome, dreamy man following me around. We spent the summer in true love’s grip and could not bear to be apart.

I was attending a school that had a renowned jazz program, on my way to my dream of being a jazz singer, he was 3 hours away studying engineering. At the end of summer I made the decision to transfer to a school that was close to him. I started making many decisions that were not in my best interest. My parents raised an eye brow, but I was determined. We sat in the Vega as we often did, in the parking lot outside the apartment I had moved into with my sister. The warmth of love, loyalty and youth encompassed the heart of a young woman who did not yet know her true value or worth. He spoke in a thick accent which made communication a challenge. He explained in his deep but kind voice that while my sister was nice she was surely taking advantage of hard work. Spending the summer working at a menial job well beneath me and then being free and loose with my money was not a good plan. He pulled a little book out of his jacket, it was an ordinary notebook not unlike one that could be purchased at any grocery store. But in his hands it seemed to be so valuable and the next step to a life of financial freedom. The first step was to take my money out of the bank and deliver it to him, he would count it in front of me, and we would sign a paper stating how much was there. He would deposit it into his account and I could ask for it any time I wanted. If the plan was not working it was my money and I could have it back.  I would then ask for what I needed each week and subtract it in this book.  He was doing me a service keeping my money safe and helping me to make it last. He loved my sister, but he had noticed a trend that he considered  disturbing. I purchased gifts for her and since she had been taking classes that summer and unable to work,  I was willing to share if needed.  The plan made no sense but I did not care in those moments. I retrieved the money from my account and he made good on all that he said even giving me a little extra along the way. Each week I asked for my allowance and thus started years of financial dependency and control.