A Different World! (Chapter 2, Page 4)

She walked into the main lobby of the recreation center, it was spacious, beautiful and glimmering with the same marble floors Olivia had in her new home. She noticed out of the corner of her eye a group of kids her age playing foosball and some others hanging out on the numerous couches reading and talking. Olivia walked as fast as she could through the lobby without looking too obvious. She tried so hard to remain confident and cool.

She made her way through another set of doors and outside to the pool area. It was surrounded by a cement wall and bushes almost as tall as Olivia, it’s purpose was to hide the residence lounging in swimsuits from the outside world and protecting the innocent passerby that might have accidentally wandered into the compound. Overtime, Olivia found that many of the local men made a habit of driving by the pool in hopes of catching a glimpse of the half-naked bodies inside the walls. 

Finally locating a vacant lounge chair Olivia carefully laid out her towel and sat down, lubed herself with coconut scented oil and opened up the book she brought and began to read. Trying to pass the time until she was lucky enough to meet someone she could relate too. Olivia sat back in the lounge chair and became engrossed in the story she was reading and before she realized it an hour had passed.

“Hi, is anyone sitting here” a girl about Olivia’s age, maybe a year younger, asked as she gestured to the empty chair next to where she was sitting. “No, it’s free” Olivia replied shyly. “I’m Sophie” introducing herself as she draped her towel over the lounge chair. “I’m Olivia” replying while slowly raising her hand.

“Your new here aren’t you?” Sophie continued as she sat down and began the same sunscreen ritual Olivia had just performed earlier. “Yes, we arrived yesterday” Olivia replied keeping her answer short. “Where are you from Olivia?” Sophie asked. “I’m from Arizona, where are you from?” asked Olivia. “I’m from Florida, we moved here almost two years ago. My Dad is a mechanic for the airlines. How about your dad, what does he do?” she asked. “He’s a pilot, he’s leaving on his first flight tomorrow” Olivia replied.

Olivia continued, “Sophie can I ask you something? Do you live here all summer and leave for boarding school in the fall?”. Sophie replied “Yeah, my bother and sister and I go to boarding school in Florida, not too far from where we grew up. It’s not so bad. During the school year we spend most weekends with my grandparents. Gives me a chance to use my driver’s license, if you know what I mean. What about you, where are you going to school?”

Pool with kids

A Different World! (Chapter 2, Page 3)

Mrs. Mayweather was excited at the thought of making new friends, before they left Arizona and in the midst of packing for their move, she would daydream of vacation getaway’s with the girls. Olivia and her father would be away much of the time, so Mrs. Mayweather decided this would be her time for adventure. She spent the last thirty plus years taking care of a family and she envisioned some much-needed independence. The compound they now call home houses over two thousand other employees from the airlines. A mixture of Americans and Brits with a few other nationality’s thrown in, their own little melting pot in the Middle East.

One saving grace for Olivia was the recreation complex just across the street from their condo. Brand new with an Olympic size swimming pool, game room and snack bar. The man who gave them a ride home from the airport told them it was the regular gathering place for most of the residence. Olivia was just hoping to find someone her own age to hang out with, someone who could relate to her suffering.

Since her father would be leaving tomorrow Olivia decided to step out of the house for a while and give her parents some much-needed alone time. Plus it would give her an opportunity to scope out any hot guys by the pool without her mother tagging along. Olivia finished breakfast, cleaned up and made her way out the door. “Olivia, don’t go anywhere but the pool, this is an unfamiliar place so please be careful, it’s not Tucson you know” her mother’s voice bellowed from the kitchen “I won’t and I know this is NOTHING like Tucson” Olivia snidely replied, as she closed the door behind her.

She pressed the button and waited for the elevator as it slowly made its way up to the fifth floor. Stepping into the small, closet like mode of transportation, she studied the Arabic numbers on the keypad as it made it’s way down, each lighted floor whisking pass the glass panel on the elevator door. For a moment, Olivia panicked, quickly reminding herself which button would take her back home when she was ready to go. Just another reminder she was in a foreign place and had to learn a new numerical system before she got stranded between floors. When the elevator came to a stop, she snapped out of her maze of thoughts and oncoming emotions, knowing she couldn’t change what was happening, and deciding to make the best of it.

Olivia stepped out of the elevator and walked towards the main entrance of their building, the sun grew brighter as she approached the front doors, so bright that even her sunglasses didn’t seem to help much. Upon opening the double glass doors to the outside, she was met with a blast of hot air, like a hard slap in the face. It was only ten o’clock in the morning and already one hundred degrees, Olivia mumbled to herself “I just hope the pool water is cold.” It was a short walk to the recreation center that had just opened a few weeks prior to their arrival and still under some last-minute touch-ups. Olivia thought it was humorous that the sidewalk led to a big gathering area in front of the center, humorous because the sidewalk had a large design which looked like the star of David, she chuckled, realizing the locals hadn’t noticed it yet.

The pool in Saudi City, Jeddah Saudi Arabia

The pool in Saudi City, Jeddah Saudi Arabia

A Different World! (Chapter 2, Page 2)

Olivia pulled herself up from the comfort of her bed to inspect the balcony that would become her solace. She stepped into the heat of the afternoon and stared out across the vast desert, noticing mountains in the far distance. The sky was slowly turning pink, dotted with tiny hints of blue. A soft breeze began cooling the heat of the day. Olivia gazed out over the vastness wanting to scream in pain but she was too exhausted from the long trip. Stepping back inside to the buzzing coolness of her bedroom she kicked off her shoes, enjoying the instant relief from the cold marble floor. Olivia threw herself onto the bed and fell fast asleep. The constant, gentle buzz of the air conditioner was like a sedative adding to her already tired body.

Olivia awoke the next morning to the sound of clanging dishes, she knew her mother was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. She sat up in her small bed, looked around in a moment of confusion and reached up to turn off the air conditioner still buzzing above her head. A relaxing chill had set into the room. Olivia crawled out of bed threw on her robe and slowly opened the door. The smell of bacon rushed down the hall from the kitchen. “Bacon?” Olivia thought to herself. “Wait this must be a dream,? I must be somewhere else? Pork isn’t allowed in Saudi Arabia” Olivia mumbled to herself as she stepped into the bathroom.

Eventually, Olivia made her way to the kitchen. She noticed the table full of all the family favorites. It was her mother’s way of trying to make everyone feel at home. “Mom, is that bacon I smell?” Olivia asked with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. “It’s turkey bacon, I hear it’s as good as the real thing” Mrs. Mayweather replied. “Leave it to you to find a way to serve something resembling pork in country that doesn’t allow it” Olivia replied. Mrs. Mayweather was born and raised in the south and taught that everything was made with either bacon or butter or both.

A few minutes later Olivia’s father walked in clutching a piece of paper in his hand, half-asleep, slippers dragging the marble floor with every step. He sat down and looked up from the half crumbled sheets he held in his hand. “What’s that John?” Olivia’s mother asked “It’s my flight schedule for the next month, I hate to break this to you, but I’ll be gone for the next week beginning tomorrow” Mr. Mayweather announced with a disappointing frown. “Don’t worry, we have plenty to keep us busy. I have unpacking to finish, plus it will give us girls a chance to meet the neighbors” Mrs Mayweather replied in an assuring tone, trying to relive her husband of any feelings of guilt.

Pink sky’s of Jeddah

A Different World (Chapter 2, page 1)

After unloading the suitcases from the car, Olivia and her parents made their way through the main entrance of the building and towards the elevator. Lying down on a soft bed and falling asleep controlled Olivia’s every thought. “I believe we are all suffering from jet lag” Mr. Mayweather announced as he noticed Olivia’s eyes struggling to stay open.

When the elevator came to a stop they stepped out onto the fifth floor in front of their new home. Mr. Mayweather turned the key and pushed opened the heavy wooden door, exposing sparkling white marble floors glimmering in the sunlight, shining so brightly it was blinding. The home provided by the airlines was brand new, freshly painted in soft tan, accented with beautiful furnishings.

Olivia threw off her shoes, walked across the cool stone, opened the sliding doors and stepped onto the front balcony. The views were stunning, to her right, the Red Sea shimmering in the glistening sun as tiny waves beckoned wet relief, in the other direction, Jeddah, bustling with traffic. Olivia made her way back inside, into the cool air and sounds of numerous air conditioning units churning away. She decided to go in search of her bedroom, a place of refuge from all the chaos and change.

Making her way down the hallway, inspecting each room as she passed, Olivia stopped abruptly when she reached the bathroom. Starring in confusion, she noticed two toilets, Olivia yelled out to her mother, “Mom, the bathroom has two toilets”.  Mrs. Mayweather peeked around the corner, when her eyes made contact with the confused expression on her daughters face, she chuckled and explained “One is called a bidet”. “What’s it used for?” Olivia asked, Mrs. Mayweather explained its purpose as Olivia offered up the normal teenage reaction.

Deciding to move on, Olivia found her room at the end of the hallway. She opened the door, it was large, same marble flooring and twelve-foot ceilings as the rest of the home, twin beds and a dresser. Olivia threw herself on one of the beds and mumbled, “my new sanctuary”. There was one special feature Olivia was happy to find, her own private balcony.


The News Arrives! (Chapter 1, page 7)

Olivia lifted her head, looking through the blond strains of hair blowing against her flawless young face she noticed men everywhere, pointing and talking in Arabic. Olivia asked her mother “Why are they staring at me? What are they saying?” Mrs. Mayweather replied “Olivia darling, your tight jeans and long blonde hair, it’s a rare sight to see here”.

Olivia tried hard to hide behind her mother and father as they walked towards the terminal “I should have covered up like the women on the plane” Olivia said to them both. “Your not Muslim, it’s not required” her mother replied. Growing up, Olivia loved attention, after all she had to share her parents with four other siblings. It became second nature to her, but this was awful, she felt naked. “When we get home and settled in we’ll buy you something less revealing” her father suggested.

Olivia was your typical defiant teenager, before leaving Tucson, she decided to travel in blue jeans and a t-shirt, even at the constant objections coming from her mother, as always, Mrs. Mayweather grew tired of arguing with Olivia and finally gave up. “You’ll wish you had more coverage when we get to Saudi Arabia” her mother’s final words on the subject, Olivia wished at this point, she had dressed in an Abaya.

Everyone collected their bags and went through customs without much hassle. Eventually, they made their way outside where a co-worker of Mr. Mayweather’s was waiting to give the family a ride to their new home.

A tall slender man in a pilots uniform walked towards them, he was very friendly and happy to give a guided tour through the city on their way to the compound. Jeddah was an interesting place, Olivia noticed on one corner there would be a magnificent palace and on the other, full of cardboard houses. They turned into the compound which housed all the expats from the airlines. A mixture of townhouses and tall condominiums, all brand new. The car came to a stop and parked in front of an eight story building covered in white marble, glistening from the suns reflection off the crystal clear windows.

saudi city (2)

The News Arrives! (Chapter 1, page 6)

Olivia drifted off to sleep an hour into the flight. First stop, New York, then onto London where they would catch a final plane to Jeddah. Everyone was exhausted but before they knew it, they were on the last flight and three hours from Mr. and Mrs. Mayweather’s home for the next ten years.

Starring blankly out the window towards the desert floor thirty-five thousand feet below, Olivia was distracted by Arab women on the plane dressing themselves in Abaya’s, long black robes that covered them from head to toe, in preparation for landing. The plane finally touched ground and slowly made its way towards the terminal, Olivia sat in shock looking out at a place that was nothing like the desert she grew up in. There were no cactus adorning bright yellow blooms or mountain peaks covered in fresh white snow. All Olivia saw was sand, sand as far as the eye could see and crowds of men dressed in Thobes. She felt lost and more alone than ever before.

Olivia stood up from her seat and grabbed the carry on bags from above. She began making her way down the aisle with her mother tightly attached. As the flight attendant pushed open the heavy door, Olivia felt warm air make its way towards her. Slowly inching down the aisle, closer to the exit, the heat grew more intense every step of the way. It felt as though she was slowly baking in a hot oven. Stepping out of the plane, into the blistering sun, onto the stairs that took them to the hot tarmac below, Olivia found it hard to breath. “Tucson never felt this hot” she declared. The temperature on arrival day at their new home was a balmy one hundred eleven degrees and it was only ten a.m.. “Welcome to Saudi Arabia” Olivia snidely announced. It was at that moment she had an overwhelming feeling of a hundred eyes staring right at her.

sands of saudi

The News Arrives! (Chapter 1, page 5)

Olivia placed her bags by the front door and walked into the kitchen where her mother was preparing breakfast. Mrs. Mayweather wanted to make sure everyone had full belly’s before starting out on their long journey. The plane flight from Tucson, Arizona to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia would take about eighteen hours or longer, depending on lay-overs. “All packed and ready to go?” Olivia’s mother asked as she sat down at the table . “Yes, I’m packed, but I don’t want to go” Olivia replied sarcastically. “Now listen young lady, your father has enough on his plate and doesn’t need any sarcasm from you today. We have a long trip ahead of us, so I suggest you make the best of it” Mrs. Mayweather responded in her no non-sense tone.

Before long, Olivia heard the doorbell ring and it was time to leave. She handed her bags to the driver and plopped down into the back seat, sitting with a sour look on her face, arms crossed in dissatisfaction, but she did as her mother asked and kept her mouth quiet.

As the taxi drove away, Olivia stared out the window, each neighborhood they passed brought back old memories, summers spent riding bikes with friends or cruising around in cars when they were old enough, walking in the cool night air with Daniel, holding hands, trick or treating when she was a child even came to mind. Olivia felt the temptation to throw open the door and run away at the next stop, but instead, remand frozen in her seat.

Eventually, the taxi was parked in front of the airport and the driver was unloading their suitcases. Reluctantly, Olivia grabbed hers and started walking slowly towards the terminal when Mr. Mayweather yelled out from ahead, “Olivia, hurry along or we’ll miss our flight”. She tried everything to make this moment last longer, so missing the flight would simply be the answer to her prayers.

She put her bags on the scale, the ticket agent checked them through to London where Olivia and her family would go through customs before their final flight to Jeddah. Boarding the plane, they found it completely full, not one empty seat to be found. No room to stretch out, which meant an even longer flight then anticipated. The airplane door slammed closed and the final passenger took his seat. Olivia could feel her breath shorten, almost stop, as if gasping for air in a closed jar. Closterfobic and not happy with the fact she didn’t get a window seat, Olivia found herself crammed between her mother and an over cologned man speaking in a language she didn’t understand.


airplane charcoal