My brother Samir and his wife Hana were due to visit me in Cyprus for a few days with their 15-year old youngest daughter, Sara. A few days before they arrived they called asking if it was okay for Sara to bring her best friend, Jude who was the daughter of their lovely neighbours in the same building so naturally, I said she was welcome.
With three daughters of their own to match my three daughters Samir, Hana and I were very familiar with teenage girls and how to deal with them; or so we thought!
Their eldest daughter, Mais had graduated and was working while based at home; the middle daughter, Samar was at university in Australia. So, the party of four flew in to Cyprus with everyone looking forward to a nice mini break. The two girls were typical 15 / 16 year old girls, cheeky, funny, giggly, conspiratorial and generally full of life with strange ideas as to what constitutes a good time.
From the minute they landed they wondered what they would do and appeared to be plotting to get up to stuff without the ancient adults cramping their style. Back at the apartment, they enquired about what they can and cannot take advantage of; the private compound, the swimming pool, the grocery shop downstairs, the nightclub at the hotel next door, the beach just across the road and so on. They were clearly testing and negotiating their limitations of freedom. Hana however, being familiar with teenage antics was negotiating just as hard in the opposite direction. First night, not much happened, second night we went to a nice restaurant with friends and in between they were allowed to go to the shop in the building and buy bikinis then go to the beach across the road for a limited period of time. Third night we went out again and treated them to Haagen Dasz ice cream and returned to the apartment.
When we approached the building they were clearly plotting something as I heard references to the nightclub next door and skinny-dipping, confident that the adults within earshot had no idea what skinny-dipping was. I noted their conversation and put it down to too much sugar in the ice cream and that nothing would come of their bravado plans.
We watched television while the girls pottered around the apartment and kept themselves to themselves. Finally, all five of us retired to our respective bedrooms.
I woke up early the following morning expecting to see no one up and headed for the kitchen. Hana was sitting in one of the armchairs in the lounge looking like thunder and a body language that spelled out “BIG TROUBLE!”
Hana: did you hear what happened last night?
Me: When last night?
Hana: After we went to bed
Me: No, I heard nothing, what’s wrong?
Hana: There is a lot wrong
Me: What, tell me?
Hana: after we went to bed, they left the apartment and locked themselves out all night
Me: Who did?
Hana: The two stupid girls, who else?
Me: Where are they now?
Hana: In their bedroom ashamed to come out
Me: Ashamed of what?
Hana: Are you kidding me? They left the apartment in the middle of the night without permission!
Me: But where did they go?
Hana: Nowhere! They just stood outside the apartment door unable to get in for more than an hour
Me: Why didn’t they ring the bell then?
Hana: Because they were very naughty and were afraid to wake us up
Me: What happens now?
Hana: I am waiting for your brother to finish his shower so he can talk to them. I am so angry with them, my hands are shaking; my blood pressure is up; and I cannot bear to even look at them
Me: But you just said they didn’t go anywhere, just stood outside the door, so where is the harm?
Hana: We don’t do things like that; we don’t go out in the middle of the night without permission, what if they were attacked by nasty men?
Me: That would not be good but this is a private compound and we generally don’t have nasty men waiting to attack young girls
Hana: You are not helping here!
Samir finally emerged and called the girls in a stern and angry headmasterly tone. The girls slithered in to the lounge with an exaggerated cartoonish look of guilt on their faces. And there followed a long lecture on safety, manners, disrespect, causing worry and concern, breaking a bunch of laws, and being ungrateful to parents and hosts alike. The girls said nothing. Finally, a verdict was pronounced: You will stay in your room for the rest of the visit; Jude’s parents will be contacted and told what happened; and finally, arrangements will be made for Jude to be deported on the next available flight.
The girls were returned to their room and they made their exit in the same skulking manner they entered a few minutes earlier.
So, the three of us sat down and began to discuss the matter. First, I needed to know what exactly had happened. Hana took up the story, which was played out with me fast asleep and unaware of the events that brought us to the lounge that morning.
After we all went to bed, the girls left their room in their pyjamas to get a midnight snack in the kitchen. Shortly after that, they decided to step outside the apartment block to lie down on the grass and watch the evening stars on that balmy summer night. As they stepped out, the door slammed shut behind them. Before descending the 3 floors to the ground, they thought they heard funny noises in the empty hallway, spooked themselves, and ran back to the apartment door, which was now slammed shut and they had no means of re-entering. In order not to alert the would be attacker, they tapped at the apartment door gently hoping to wake one of us up, to no avail.
Realising they were in trouble, they considered ringing the bell for a fraction of a second before discounting the move as asking for trouble on a massive scale. As I was considered a softer target, they attempted to alert me to let them in without letting their parents know but they couldn’t work out how to do so safely since the parents’ bedroom was between the front door and my own bedroom. Luckily, Jude had her mobile phone with her but unluckily; she didn’t have my number on the phone.
They thought and deliberated for a while before finally hitting on the brilliant idea of calling Samar in Australia to give them advice on how to gain safe and undiscovered access to their bedroom. They found Samar who was more than happy to help by dragging Mais in Jordan into the discussion forum. The four girls in three different countries exchanged texts, phones calls and more texts and the only solution open to them was for Mais to call Hana on their behalf.
Mais: Mum, wake up!
Hana: What’s the matter are you okay?
Mais: I am okay, but you need to wake up
Hana: Why, what happened? Are you sure everything is okay?
Mais: No, you need to let Sara and Jude in
Hana: What do you mean? They are in the bedroom next door fast asleep
Mais: No they are not, they are outside the apartment locked out
Hana: Don’t be silly, how can they be, it is 2 in the morning and everyone is fast asleep
Mais: I am exchanging text messages with them right now and I am telling you, they are outside in their pyjamas frightened half to death; please go and let them in
Hana: I don’t believe you; you are playing a practical joke on me
Mais: Mum, please get up and check their bedroom if you don’t believe me!
By that time, Samir was wide-awake and listening to this weird conversation thinking he was having an out of body experience. Hana got up and walked the few steps to the other bedroom and sure enough, the beds were empty. Very concerned and angry, she walked to the front door, called out their names and from the other side of the door came a whimpering: Sorry Mum!
She let them in gave them a few choice words and when Sara protested that they had been tapping at the door for the last hour or so, Hana reached a new high on the anger scale and frog-marched the two of them to their bedroom. Her system was so disturbed and her mind disorientated, she couldn’t go back to sleep again.
So when I walked out of my bedroom that morning and saw her in the lounge, Hana had not moved since she banished them to their bedroom. Further, the intervening sleepless hours had further soured her attitude towards the two youngsters.
Me: Surely you are not seriously going through with the punishment, are you?
Hana: They need to be punished and taught a lesson
Me: I agree but what did they do exactly?
Hana: They worried me half to death, that’s not enough?
Me: Yes, but apart from that, they haven’t done anything so bad
Samir: Yes but they tried to do something bad
Me: But they failed miserably!
Hana: They are naughty girls and should be punished
Me: Looking at their faces this morning, they look like they have been punished already
Samir: Well, I wasn’t going to deport Jude anyway, I just wanted them to realise the seriousness of their action and learn a lesson
Me: Okay, let them sweat it out for a while and then let’s all have breakfast before you give them another lecture with “Don’t do it again” conclusion.
We had breakfast, second lecture was delivered, more guilt was demonstrated and we finally closed the subject. As Hana and Samir went to the bedroom to get ready for all of us to go out shopping, I found myself with the two girls alone in the kitchen and we exchanged smiles. They began to apologise to me but I stopped them and said:
“Do me a favour, next time you want to be naughty, take some keys with you.”
In spite of my advice to the girls, for the remainder of their stay, every night I locked the front door and took the keys to the bedroom with me.