Come Home by Pat Gussin
Nicole Nelson and Ahmed Masud are a dynamic, highly successful Philadelphia couple. They are partners in a thriving plastic surgery practice, are very much in love, and they adore their young son, Alex. But cracks are beginning to appear in their fairy-tale life: lingering post-9/11 prejudice against Arab men, accumulating malpractice lawsuits for Ahmed, and most recently, pressure from Ahmed’s wealthy family in Cairo for him to return to Egypt—permanently—with his son.
The Masud family pressure becomes a demand as the Hosni Mubarak regime is seriously threatened by protestors in Egypt. Ahmed’s family owes their control of the Egyptian cotton empire directly to Mubarak cronyism. If Mubarak goes down, the Masuds will surely lose their wealth, maybe even their lives. They need Ahmed back in Egypt to implement their plan to move their fortune and family out of Egypt and into South America.
Ahmed must make a decision—stay with Nicole in America—or obey his father. And what about their son?
Tragic consequences, which Ahmed could have never foreseen, propel both the Masud family and Nelson family on a path toward unspeakable tragedy.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Today, at one p.m., as he did every Sunday, Ahmed Masud called his family at their home in Giza—Egypt’s third largest city—yet mapped as part of metropolitan Cairo. This ritual had not changed since his arrival in the United States fifteen years ago as a surgical resident. His parents, now in their seventies, his older sister, older brother and his younger sister would be sitting around the travertine marble table in the library. Each was a distinctive voice on the speaker phone. His kid brother also could be clearly heard, conferenced in from his Brussels mansion, the European strategic outpost for Masud interests.
The call did not include any spouses of the five Masud siblings. The agenda, almost always strictly business—the family’s textile mega conglomerate. Rarely would they digress to include a family milestone or accomplishment. Ahmed contributed little to these calls, and over the years, considered them an annoying intrusion into his thriving all-American life. But after the twin towers fell and Americans’ casual curiosity about Arab men became noticeably hostile, he began to appreciate the weekly family connection. But he had no interest in Egyptian politics—today’s main topic—nor the dreary financial details of the fabric industry. For him, the cushy niche of a prosperous Philadelphia plastic surgeon had been everything he’d dreamed— until recently.
Ahmed rolled his chair farther back from his custom-designed home-office desk, distancing the loud, angry voice of his elder brother, Jafari, their father’s successor in all Masud business affairs— patriarch-to-be. Jafari’s abrupt directive came in Arabic—“With or without your American wife—book your flight home. We need to consolidate family resources. We need you to help move assets out of Egypt before it’s too late.”
“Ahmed—” his older sister Merit broke in—gutsy for an Egyptian woman, even an upper class one—“How can you ignore what’s going on! Forces are building against us. A full-on Mubarak rebellion is in play—”
His father interrupted, “If Mubarak goes down, we go with him.”
“Father, you’re being melodramatic,” said Neema, Ahmed’s younger sister.
“You shut up.” Jafari shouted. “What do you know about what’s going on in Egypt! All you do all day is read poetry. Do you even know what’s happening in Tunisia? That bullshit story of the kid there who set himself on fire.”
Ahmed had heard about Bouaziza, the twenty-six-year-old street vendor who’d set himself on fire to protest police brutality. Today’s New York Times had a followup. Something about a major strike, demanding an end to police brutality—good luck with that. Followed by mass arrests of activists, bloggers, copy-cat protesters . . . but that’s Tunisia.
“That street vendor story is playing big in Europe,” Ahmed’s brother Seth put in from his Brussels vantage point. “International Federation for Human Rights in Paris—major pressure on Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Word here is, he’ll resign.”
Who —? Ben Ali must be the Tunisian President, Ahmed figured. He’d only skimmed the article.
“I understand about Mubarak, how tied-in the family is to him, but—”
“Ahmed,” his father’s voice sounded much smaller than usual, “you said yourself you face discrimination in America. Now is the time. We need you back here, now. Bring your son. Leave your wife. Or bring her—” “If you can keep her under control,” Jafari added. “We have no time to waste on her. The climate in Egypt is getting ugly, and—” “Ahmed, my dear child,” his mother inserted, “please, bring little Wati to me soon. I want to see for myself that he’s learning the Quran. And fluent in Arabic. Last time I talked to him, he understood so little—”
“What about Seth?” Ahmed objected. “Does he have to come home too?”
“No,” said Seth, from his Brussels home, “I need to be here to make our investment moves and manage our European markets. The International Cotton Association is even more important now.”
“So you’re telling me to give up everything I’ve created? Is this right, Father?”
“Get back to Egypt,” his father repeated, his voice stronger now. “With your son.” The call disconnected.
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Patricia Gussin has practiced medicine and has worked in medical research as worldwide vice president for a leading healthcare products company. She is a graduate of Aquinas College, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Columbia University Business School, and has an honorary degree from Duquesne University.
She is the author of seven novels including four in the Laura Nelson series. Her first novel was a Thriller Award nominee for Best First Novel, and she has won the Florida Book Award and the USA National Book Award.
She lives in Longboat Key, Florida, and in Amagansett, New York, with her husband, Dr. Robert Gussin, and together they co-authored What’s Next…For You?
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