Episode Two

The Adventure

The woman leaned in close, her breath smelling strong of moringa and garlic. “The numbers, my girl,” she said. “They talk to you, right? But listen well, if you can’t control this special thing you carry, it could be bad. Find someone to help you, before it takes over your life.”

The woman’s words stuck in Clarisse’s head, a weird message that made her shiver. Before she could ask anything, the woman laughed again, the sound fading away like everything else in the noisy city.

Years flew by with rumors following Clarisse everywhere and her nose always stuck in books. She became the best in her class, and even the people who used to whisper started to kind of respect her. But deep down, there was still a part of her that worried about what her aunt would think and what her “gift” might do to her.

Despite Clarisse’s brilliant nature, landing a good job after graduating from the university seemed impossible. Her impatient aunty Mami who wanted to work and repay all she had ever spent on her found a means to send her to Dubai, so she could work and all the money be sent to her back in Douala. Clarisse was not happy with the intention but she was happy about the development because she knew leaving would take her away from aunty Mami and her troubles. She took off on her adventure.

Dubai was a whole new world. The hot sun, the tall buildings reflecting the heat, the mix of languages everywhere – it was nothing like the familiar mess of Douala. Clarisee was received by an acquaintance of aunty Mami and taken to a small room and shown her own bed space where she could pack her belongings. Clarisse made acquaintances with her roommates all chasing their own dreams.. She was surprised at the environment but she was happy because she knew she would have some peace and quiet, far from aunty Mami’s sharp tongue and the suspecting eyes of the people in their neighborhood in Douala. One of her roommates was Fatima, a friendly Emirati who loved Bollywood music. Her laugh could fill any room, even the boring ones. Fatima became Clarisse’s best friend in the new city, helping her understand the culture with jokes and a good attitude.

Even though Clarisse had a good degree, finding a job wasn’t easy. It felt like there were a million rules and expectations no one told her about. Job interviews were stressful. One particularly demoralizing interview ended with the potential employer, a man with a perpetually furrowed brow that seemed to mock her every dream, uttering, “Perhaps accounting isn’t for a young woman like you. Have you considered… hospitality?”

Clarisse clenched her fists, her nails digging into the soft leather of her purse.  “Hospitality?” she repeated, the word tasting sour on her tongue.

The man leaned back in his chair, a smirk playing on his lips. “We have many hotels here, Miss… Clarisse, was it? Many opportunities for a charming young woman like yourself.”

Clarisse stood up, her voice surprisingly steady. “Thank you for your time,” she said, her eyes flashing with a quiet defiance. “But I believe my skills lie elsewhere.”

She stormed out of the office, the Dubai sun beating down on her anger. Back in the shared space, Fatima found Clarisse lying on the couch. With a knowing smile, Fatima pulled out a bowl of noodles.

“Rough day, eh?” she said, her voice filled with sympathy.

Clarisse nodded. “Maybe this whole Dubai thing was a mistake,” she confessed, tears welling up in her eyes.

Fatima sat down beside her, her eyes twinkling. “Dubai’s a tricky beast, my friend. It promises a lot, but delivering is a whole other story. But hey,” she continued, her voice taking on a singsong lilt, “where there’s a will, there’s a way, as the poet – or was it a fortune cookie? – once said.”

Fatima’s words brought a small smile to Clarisse’s lips. Maybe Dubai wasn’t the paradise it appeared to be, but giving up wasn’t an option. The numbers still sang their confusing song in her head, and her determination to build a life for herself, free from whispers and rumors, burned brighter than ever.

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