FREEDOM RIDER

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Saudi Princess has a dream. Jason Hetherington aids and abets. King Saud opposes.
Fulfillment wins out, at a price.

Submitted: July 26, 2017

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Submitted: July 26, 2017

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FREEDOM RIDER

  A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

 

Loud voices were beginning to unfasten the rigid features of the Crown Prince’s retinue. Security, housekeeping, food and delicacies—even the falconers, fought to maintain an acceptable royal mien. Most were failing.

Sara  bin El-Awah was having it out with grandpa in her usual bellowing belligerent manner, something she easily acquired from her mother, Princess Aleemah bint Saud.

“You run a bloody suppression factory, granddad, a bloody female suppression factory.”

“Now, Sara, control yourself. This is not worthy of you. You have been given every exception to the otherwise restrictive lives of even your brothers and sisters. You are the experimenter, the risk taker, and I love you all the more for that.” 

The Crown Prince looked uncomfortable while yet another dispute with his Granddaughter was occurring in the public privacy of his extravagant dwelling, inside his vast compound.

“You have been skiing all over Europe, shopping all over the world. You have gone swimming everywhere and wearing only bikinis.” His voice was beginning to rise along with his blood pressure. His mouth tucked in and threatened to devour his graying black beard. He came closer  to his Granddaughter. 

“You have done things that I have not approved of. You have disobeyed my daughter, your mother, on innumerable occasions. You have been an embarrassment to the entire Saud family. And I won’t let it go on.” He stopped near the fountain of the immense reception area.

Sara was edging toward the door, but not giving an inch in the disagreement with her Grandfather.

“Oh, for . . .” She almost said ‘for Christ’s sake’, an expression that was used in her circle whenever they gathered away from the confines of Riyadh.

“Oh, Grandfather; why do you have to always obstruct everything I want to do? I know you eventually agree to most things, but why do you have to oppose this silly request in the first place?”

The Crown Prince stopped, drew himself up, and inhaled.

“Because this is the ultimate symbol of disobedience.”

“You mean it’s the ultimate symbol of freedom; yes, freedom. If all women could do it then your repressive culture would fracture and dissolve, right grandpa?” 

Sara came away from the door and jumped into her Grandfather’s startled face. “It’s because you would lose us; lose track of us; lose control of us, right?”  She shoved her mildly cleft chin into her Grandfather’s beard.

The King recoiled. His head snapped back to the point where it appeared that he might pitch over backwards. Several servants rushed to catch him. However, the King barely maintained his balance while he lost his temper.

His wrath contained the fourteen hundred years of male denigration of women. He knew that his Granddaughter was absolutely right in her suspicions for the ban. He and his Council, along with several of his associates had conducted dozens of discussions about the problem. And the conclusion was always the same. The ban stays.

“The ban stays, Sara and that’s that. This is a warning. If you defy me; your mother; your culture; your religion, on this matter, I will personally see you exiled,” pausing, “possibly worse.”

He clamped his teeth together with a loud clacking sound, turned, and strode with fury toward the nearest exit.

* **

“Hello, Jason?”

“Yes.” I thought I recognized the voice although something—well, a lot of things, were telling me I should rephrase my answer to a ‘No’ and disconnect. In the few nanoseconds of silence while my iPhone hummed and flashed, I slipped my eyes to the caller id and both my suspicions and my fears were confirmed. PrincessSara bin El-Awah bint Saud.

Christ.

“Jason; are you there?” My mind slipped into warp speed in a frantic attempt to immediately find a relevant excuse for ditching this call.

“Well, this is Jason’s phone,” I gruffed, in an attempt to disguise my otherwise distinctive baritone. Perhaps I should have hit soprano because the gruff didn’t work worth a crap.

“It is you, Jason,” rolling over my obvious attempts to avoid Sara’s clutches—even through the ether, “Oh, am I glad I got you, Jason.”

I thought about the "got” part and sighed a sigh of realization: that when it came to Sara Saud, I was a limp sponge of accommodation—even a willing co-conspirator.

“Oh,” I lilted as best I could, “Sara! I thought you were someone else I didn’t want to talk to.”

I hoped that Sara would pick up on the phrase and put two and two together but that didn’t work worth a crap, either.

And so I just resigned myself to being the recipient of still more requests for favors from a Saudi Princess worth billions.

I never took the time to explore that irony. I, who lived on the edge of destitution in a walkup in Trastevere, able to do favors for a Saudi billionairess.

“It’s really you, Sara, and you’re calling me why?” I figured I’d get to the point as quickly as possible and maybe skate away form this call to a lunch at the Il Ponentino by one.

Over the last five years Sara Saud had crossed my paths from St. Moritz to Deauville to Juan les Pins. When we met up on those several occasions, I often found myself suddenly jetting to Miami for a week followed by Bondi Beach for the next.  

Sometimes the theme was swimming and sailing, others, skiing and snowboarding. Of course, there were shopping jags, smoking jags, drinking bouts, pub-crawling, strip club stops. All these adventures were arranged by me for which I was paid very handsomely.

Despite the occasional funnels of extreme wealth into my bank account, I managed to gamble away most of my fees in Monte Carlo.

I told myself that perhaps this was a good point in my financial life for the Princess to be calling. I was tiring of the walkup and the noise of the tourists. But I could never grow weary of the most interesting district of Rome.

Nevertheless, I had my eye on a penthouse condominium overlooking the Parco del Colle Oppio with a straight on view of the Colosseum.
“What have you got for me this time, my darling?”I’m thirty-two and the Princess is twenty-six—a well-seasoned twenty-six, steeped in the ways of the world.

Although she has more or less offered herself to me on every occasion, I have valued my life more that her charms—not a lot more, though, because the Princess is an Arabian beauty, a glowing gem of the desert, a truly magnificent face and body surrounding a daredevil mind. It hasn’t been easy with the Princess.

Our first meeting was arranged by a friend of a friend of mine from Oxford who had been dabbling in Saudi affairs while his father was stationed in the Kingdom as an Ambassador, and later as an oil advisor to Aramco on behalf of the Kingdom.

Rudyard had married a Danish Princess and recommended me to Sara’s intermediary before Sara’s first escape into the real world.

I met her and her sisters in Vienna. After formal introductions, I suggested we repair to St. Moritz, the skiing season just beginning.

There I eventually formed a bond with the twenty-one year-old granddaughter of the King after waiting for her to calm down after declining her invitation for sex.

Especially on that first meeting with the Princess, I was thinking very strong thoughts about staying alive. The very fact that I was with her among all the temptations and vices condemned by the Prophet, was enough to keep me awake with a loaded Berretta in hand while I listened for mysterious footfalls outside my door. Of course, they never arrived but I had a clear understanding that the King could have me dispatched at any moment for no particular reason.

The only ballast of hope that sustained my nerves and my optimism was the fact that the King himself had—reluctantly—agreed with his daughter that his granddaughter was sufficiently wise to experience the outside world without falling under the hammer of the devil. 

King Saud agreed with his daughter that Sara was extraordinarily bright and adventuresome, characteristics lacking in his daughter’s other children.

I only found out how proud the King was of Sara in so many respects much later.

I could have added a lot more hours of sleep during those first contacts and probably a few years onto my life. But alas, not to be; and here I am waiting for the latest harebrained proposal from Sara to give her another perspective on the world as well as good kick in the arse by way of a mega-rush of adrenaline.

“Oh, Jason, how are you?”

“Extremely well and extremely broke. What have you got for me?” I liked to be direct at this stage in our relationship.

“Why, Jason, I thought you’d be glad to see me again.”

“I would be. But it will cost you. What’s up?”

She told me, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

* **

“And don’t forget the twenty million to bribe the owner—and another fifteen million for the driver; wow, Sara, this is really adding up,” sighed Abdul bin Aziz bint Medina.

* *  *

“I’m not letting you one meter from this door for less than ten million dollars—not a sou less, Princess or not—my life is in play here,” groused Salman bin Nayef.

***

“Princess, we have been along this camel trail before. I cannot let you fly over even one sand dune in my plane for less than thirty-million dollars—and that has to be deposited in a Swiss bank for my family, for I fear I will be killed if this ever gets back to your Grandfather.” Rashid bin Rhaman set his jaw.

* **

“Princess, eh? Hah,” Jake laughed, “well, your highness, nobody gets near car 22—no one; except Darrell, of course.”

“How about fifty million dollars for the afternoon?” purred Princess Sara bin El-Awah bint Saud.

* **

“Holy Spadina, and creeping crapola, them there’s some speedy lady.” Jasper Knuckles erupted in an uncontrollable explosion of unbridled appreciation. He banged his fist on the counter of the main press box.

Driving the Chevy SS along the backstretch of the Daytona International Speedway was a young woman of twenty-six, dark haired, with a determined chin. Car number 22 with a red stripe down the center of a black body fairly levitated off the banking of turn three.

“I love it when you talk that horseshit way of talkin’, Jas,” laughed Tex Dofinger, “reminds me of my little bitty days when my Mama would read me fairy tales, like the Grimm boys and stories of wierdos living on some islands off the coast. Yeah, you ripple those waters on the back roads of my memory, brother; really,” sucking in his mammoth gut along with an acre of Green E-15-infused air, “and ain’t she some batshit crazy dame in a car?”

The Chevy filled the lenses of their binoculars.

“How the hell’d she get in here, anyway?” asked Tex.
“Money, brother, money. Hear it was some figure—well I won’t even say how much I heard, Tex, ‘ cause you’d lock me up in a loony bin and throw away the key, man. But I mean real money.”

‘How long’s she out here for?”
“The afternoon. Got a pit crew, new tires—Christ, the whole goddamned issue, Tex. She’s about bought it all.

* **

After three hours of running flat out, Sara found the grooves and the correct lines for increasing her speed.

Despite pleas from her pit crew, she insisted on staying in the car and driving on the edge, raising the speed per lap at an astonishing rate, easily passing the lap record for female drivers on the circuit, and cracking the top ten lap speeds achieved by the men.

***

I never saw the crash.

I was in the pits talking with HarryLangstrom about how we could get Sara out of the car other than simply letting her run out of fuel.

A cone of silence formed between airborne number 22 and all of us in the pits. The vacuum was immediacy filled with cries of alarm and groans of foreboding. 

There was little sound at all. 

The car simply vaulted the mesh netting and sailed into the upper seats at the beginning of turn four. When it landed, it flamed and bounced over and over before resting upside-down, amidst falling pieces and burning parts. 

By the time any of us could reach her, she was dead.

Her only injury was a broken neck. Otherwise, she appeared to be sleeping.

Her skin was a glowing tawny color. Her makeup was intact. Her deep black hair, although damp, was barely disarranged. Her eyelids were closed. Her lips were parted—and smiling. I had never seen her looking so beautiful.

I gently brushed her lips with mine while I quietly cried.

*  *  *

Despite his deep displeasure, King Saud arranged a Royal funeral for Sara. I made all the arrangements stateside.

When the King summoned me, I felt a peculiar calm. I knew I had done nothing wrong in the real world. In fact, I had facilitated the achievement of a dream for another human being.

The King took me aside.

“Was she happy, Mr. Hetherington?” His rheumy grey eyes were more filmy than usual. I think there may have been some tears.

“Your Highness, I saw her laughing, I heard her joy over the intercom, I felt the freedom she was feeling. Yes, sir, she was extremely happy.” I paused. “There’s no doubt that she died full of happiness.”

I turned away to hide my own tears. The King followed me and tugged at my sleeve. I turned.

“Thank you, Jason.” He hugged me for a moment and I heard a sob. Then he quickly released me, turned away, and was gone.


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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