Gui woke up next morning in bed, attended by a nurse who said that he passed out on the kitchen floor. He could not remember a thing. As he tried to recall the night events, first thing that came to his mind was that girl in a grey sweater. And she looked like a replica of the dancing girl on the stage. Gui tried to flip it off but it kept returning. Gui asked the nurse about this girl from the orient and it seemed nobody could miss her. Nurse told him that she was born illegitimate to a Chinese envoy in Hodon back in the days.
As Gui tried to recall the sightings of the girl in grey sweater, he failed to arrange them in any particular order or the number of times he saw her image. However, he remembered this one occurrence on the ferry crossing Hangzhou Bay. That was 1970 – a long time ago – and the girl called Safira would be two years old. He was amazed and shocked to realise he was seeing an identical figure and a face that only exist now.
Gui concluded his vacation and returned to Italy. He even had chance to watch Italy vs USA Group A match at Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Siad Barre’s government collapsed in 1991 and the country entered into a full-blown civil war that lasted decades. Several rebel factions and terror groups found base in Somalia. UN peacekeepers led by the USA entered the battle scene. Among them the ‘Battle of Mogadishu’ took place in 1993. Peacekeeping forces withdrew.
Notorious terror organisations such as Al-Qaeda carried out worldwide attacks using this hotbed. Another more radical element called Al-Shabaab scored military victories against TFG – Transitional Federal Government – and the presence of Ethiopian Army under AMISOM – the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Somali pirates attacked hundreds of vessels in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Large cargo ships were hijacked and huge ransoms collected successfully. Some sailors lost their lives regrettably as organisations failed to meet their ransom.
By the end of 2010 Mogadishu lay in ruins. Hotel Uruba, the glory of the eighties, stood bare to its skeleton and heavily shelled during the war when African forces sheltered here against Al-Shabaab. This beautiful city of whitewashed walls could hardly be recognised. The entire city was levelled to pearl dust.
Peace talks brokered by the UN finally managed to place a new technocratic government by November of 2010. Al-Shabaab made a strategic withdrawal to return to hit-and-run tactics. It gave a slim opportunity to focus on stabilizing and reconstruction of the city with various donors showing interest, among them Turkey – a historic ally.
In July 2015, thirteen people were killed when a suicide bomber hit an explosives-rigged truck to blast the wall of Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu. A Chinese security official at the embassy died. China reopened its embassy based inside this hotel less than a year ago.
Guiren Gui retired to his hometown of Gulin – a historic and a picturesque place where springs prevail all year round. He listened to voices nobody uttered and the hallow wind making sounds in bamboo. He sat on a bench in a deserted park reading news of the hotel blast. He felt pain in his heart that made him smile often.
He dropped the newspaper and looked up. On a bench, few yards from him, sat the mysterious girl in grey sweater. He watched astonished. He never mentioned to anyone that he had a daughter in a faraway land. He knew her name. This time he could not take away his eyes. She was eyeballing at him, nervous and disturbed. She never grew old, nor young. She always appeared the same.
The girl pulled up from the bench and began to walk across the park. She disappeared behind a tree. Gui continued to stare but she never showed up again. Sweet Osmanthus perfumed the air.
That was the last time he saw her face or rather – this double image that haunted him solemnly through the years. Gui approached a psychiatric who visualised a gift box with a ballerina figurine twirling on its top.
Guiren Gui died afterwards at his age of eighty-three in peaceful sleep.
Safira survived the dark days of Mogadishu and tried few businesses on her own after the travel agency flopped. She married twice and came out without a child. In 2015, she made contact with Lian through a dating site called Perdate – some words like ‘Facebook’ and emails got rejected here. Soon Safira placed an order for textiles from Lian’s shop. It sold well in Somalia and that made her enter this new trade.
Lian at that time had her own textile factory in Fujian and she was seeking markets abroad. This was her first contact from Africa. And in the generation gap it did not matter where and with whom; rest is obscure.
In 2016, Safira paid a visit to Shanghai and met Lian, a thin and fair girl in a tiny skirt with a resemblance. Though they never mentioned origins. After all, Chinese looked different and distinctive at close observation. Lian was strictly business-minded and resilient but helped her out on shopping.
Chinese enjoyed a great deal of shopping and beauty practices for their monthly earnings. Lian was a shopaholic. She even had her eyes surgically widened.
This business continued to stream. In 2017, Lian and Safira boarded a flight from Hong Kong and flew to South Africa together. Lian was broadening her business. Safira was just a client. They never knew they were blood-related, half-sisters; one drop.
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