It was their night and finally it had arrived. He wished Hassen was there with him, after all they had done this together but as usual he was off on some adventure, ‘testing his spirit’ as he liked to call it. Sometimes it takes years to fulfil your dreams, sometimes they all come rushing at you on the edge of fulfilment all at once.
Their reports had been accepted by the UN forum on minority issues. The years of research had finally paid off. The plight of the Romani would be heard. Well not entirely but this recognition and the funding to begin the project was a good start.
The children would no longer be forced into ‘special schools’, so that the other children wouldn’t have to mix with them. They would begin with a community centre and they would house 500 families in their own suburb. It was out of the way, but the conditions were miles better than the derelict farmhouses and broken down apartment blocks where they had been forced to take refuge in the past.
Tonight was the formal celebration and the handing over of the title deeds to the land and the cheques with which work could begin. It had taken 3 years to get these proposals looked at and another 5 to get them approved. This was their life’s work and it was finally moving of the papers and into reality.
Their family were convinced that they were insane. Who would buy this bullshit? Funding and recognition were reserved for countries and peoples who lived in the vicinity of natural resources wanted by the first world. Who would notice those that hadn’t been given a second glance after the Second World War -when serving survivors had become a bourgeoisie hobby-?
He thought back to the first time they had heard about the Romani. His grandfather had left them his diary in his will when he passed. Perhaps the old man had realised that this was the only way to give his beloved a living memorial.
Their meeting had been fleeting and fraught with danger. Her family was escaping across the border, his regiment was on watch, the place was remote and freezing. He was the only one on duty for the next 3 nights. Her pleading eyes, her desperation, passionate exchanges in the darkness with the constant fear of being discovered by her family but mostly her strength, yes it was definitely her strength! – of course her wild mysterious beauty helped a bit, his grandfather had added as an after thought –.
How could he possibly have refused her? Her image was burnt into his heart forever and the memory of those eyes haunted him always. His ‘foray into love at first sight’, he often called it. He became her disciple for life.
The phone rang; he thought it was his brother checking whether he was running late as usual and adding some points to his speech but mostly just the usual pep talk. Hassen was their spokesperson and he hoped he would do him proud in his absence.
He picked up the phone. It was his mother. She was crying. Where are you she asked him. Her voice was shaky. ‘On my way ma’, he replied, ‘there’s no need to be emotional ma, this is only the start, and there is much work to be done’. ‘Pull over; I have to tell you something.’ Her voice was urgent, robotic, Pained. He did as he was told. ‘Ok ma , I’m on the side of the road, what is it?’
‘There’s been a train accident she said, Hassen didn’t make it’.
Her voice trailed off…
His mind was racing, this was a nightmare, he would wake up and he would be at the gala dinner, they would be calling him up for the presentation…All that played over and over in his mind, was Hassen’s victorious smile, the day they had made it passed all the aunts and under the garden tap – they had been three years old then - and since birth they had been inseparable.