Riham El-Ashry: The Golden Chain

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The Golden Chain

Riham El-Ashry 

This is my testimony against time. You destroy us and ruin our dreams. I defy you. You can’t crush me and my love will last forever. 


“Do you have the keys to the outer gate?” Mary asked her brother as they approached the old house. 

“I took all the possible keys from Mom. Don’t worry.” Michael patted his pocket and listened assuredly to the jangling of the keys. 

They walked along the bank of the Nile. It was midday and the heat of the sun helped keep the road empty of passersby. Mary and her brother had faint memories of the old mansion; the family gathering place. And though they hated the big house itself, they had loved spending a part of their vacations there every summer.

The road was crashed and bumpy. Dust flew in their faces whenever a vendor or a cart encountered them. Mary grumbled about her clothes and shoes getting dirty. 

“Why have you parked your car very far from the house? I can’t walk on this path.” 

“Same as my car!!!” 

Mary wiped her face. “How long are we supposed to spend in this village? I have to go back to Cairo. Tonight.” 

“Don’t worry. I think finding some papers in an old house won’t take long. Is that the family palace over there?” 

The chimneys of the great architectural mansion appeared not far from them. A huge facade with pillars on the sides. A Greek style though the building itself was not historical. Their great grandfather had his retiring place built in his own favorite architectural design. It was more than eighty years old, a three-story mansion of a unique style and a spacious garden. All occupied an acre and a half of land. 

“Oh! I’m so excited to see it again, after all those years, nearly twenty,” Mary exclaimed. 

“Yes, BIG sis, twenty for you,” he giggles. “When I visited the place five months ago, you know to take the photos for the advertisement on the marketing website, I was shocked at the miserable state of the building and this terrible unpaved road.” 

They stood in front of the tall, huge, ancient palace amazed and disappointed by its shabby status. The gate was a big pile of brown rusted bars. The spacious garden was only a name for a deserted yard full of weeds, dead trees except for a plumeria tree that bloomed with white flowers. 

“Here we are!!” Michael said cheerfully. “The expected fortune that will grant me an opportunity to study abroad in…” He didn’t complete his word but fell abruptly on the floor face down. 


“You ifrit. Get lost,” a boy said and ran away after picking up his ball that hit Michael straight in the head. 

Mary, trying to assist her brother getting back on his feet, was bewildered. “Ifrit? What does he mean?” 

As Michael stood, feeling dizzy and running his hand on his throbbing head. “Oh! What a shot!….. They believe that the house is haunted.”

“Whatttt? You think I’m going in?” 

“Come on!! They are kids. And I think dad has appointed someone to fix the electricity. Only I hope there are light bulbs to switch on.” He laughed loudly. 

Opening the front door took almost fifteen minutes. The lock was stuck of rust and lack of usage for many years. 

“Finally, we’re in. Welcome back to our childhood memories in the enormous, prestigious mansion of Zaki Pasha.” 

Mary was trapped in a huge, silky, sticky spider web that spoiled her black hair. She looked around, few pieces of furniture were still there, remnants of the glorious past. A large hall and the stairs that led to the second floor to the rooms where they used to stay. 

“Now, where can we find the authentication papers of the house? Let’s split and search.” 

But Mary strongly objected. “We stay together! I hear scratches on the floor.” She jumped when a big rat crossed her feet. 

“Wow! You can jump really high.” 

“Silly joke!” She pointed upstairs. “I think mom said there was a room there that might contain the important papers.” 

The room was the only locked one there. It was once occupied by their great-great-aunt who led a miserable life and suffered a terrible death. Nobody knew anything about her, and nobody dared to open the door. That’s why they thought the lost papers were secured in there. 

The room, when they entered it, was lit by sunlight. Apparently, it was much different from the rest of the house. It seemed CLEAN. There was only a thin layer of dust on everything. A very neat bed in the center of the large room, elegant furniture with golden edges that resembled French furnishing design. On the wall opposite to the door hung a very fine, professional portrait of Maryann, their great-aunt, along with a painting of the Virgin Mary with her peaceful, calm face. Both looked so much alive and unharmed by the years. On Maryann’s portrait, the artist signed his name with love: E. J. Williams. 

Mary, mesmerized, gazed at the perfect work of art, trying to figure out if the painter was famous or belonged to an art group that she studied or read about. The date was also there: 1943.

“Wooh! Have you seen that white bird? Such a beauty!!” 

“What bird?! No.” Mary was so absorbed by the colors and perfection of the painting and the loving calm look in the eyes of the young woman. 

“Let’s find the papers and get out of here.” 

“Michael, there’s something about this room.” Michael felt uncomfortable too. “Look around. It is very clean. Weird!” 

Mary headed to a writing desk in the corner, while her brother searched the nightstands’ drawers but found some old papers that turned into dust when he touched them. He opened the cupboard slowly as if careful what might bounce in his face. 

“Over here,” shouted Mary, holding a black ebony box, decorated with silver lining and jewels. 

Inside the box was an old vintage chain watch, gold lead and ornamented with sophisticated structure and the name: Ramon. However, the chain and lead were stained with a dark substance. Michael held the watch and examined it carefully. 

“This is an original chain watch from the forties. It is worth a great deal of money now. Historical and a real piece of art.” 

“Look here. There is a small book too in the box.” Mary took out a diary book with Maryann’s name on it. 

“Come on! We don’t have time to read that stuff, at least now.” He went back to hunt for the precious papers, but Mary was too curious to wait. 

This is my testimony against time. You destroy us and ruin our dreams. I defy you. You can’t crush me and my love will last forever.

In the year 1942, the war was destroying the world outside, but I had my own peaceful world. I had almost no friends because I spent a great deal of my life in Paris with my mom, and unfortunately, was forced to come back to my dad here when she died. 

I enjoyed my solitude but was able to roam in Cairo’s museums and art galleries whenever I wanted. I loved all sorts of art and practiced many. 

Till that day I met William, a British artist who came to visit Egypt to do some research and study the art of the ancient civilization. His bad luck kept him from going back to Europe. He had to wait till the war ended. 

He was a real artist, so talented, and talked about art in the most fascinating way. I admired him and liked his company. I didn’t feel him as a part of the colonization as my brother Ramon did. He hated William and warned against him. 

I couldn’t agree with either my brother or my dad. And when they objected to our marriage, we agreed to flee together and get married in Alexandria. But, oh! Fate didn’t give us a chance and killed all hope. 

On that day, we were to meet at night. He would wait for me not far from the house. The day was restless. Hundreds of young men demonstrated against the British policies, and violence prevailed. Bullets scattered in the bodies and hearts of young men who only sought freedom of their country. I had no idea my Ramon was one of them till my dad entered the house, his head dangling and tears taking over his face. 

He handed me Ramon’s chain watch, the very one I gave to him on his 19th birthday a few months before. My Ramon was no more and his watch carried a part of him. His blood. 

Years had passed now. I never met or heard about William and I didn’t want to. I will wait till all hatred is abolished and time will never defeat me or my love. 

“Voila,” cheered Michael, raising his hand with some yellowish papers. “Finally, here they are. And you know something? We still can sell this watch and the box and the diary book as well.” 

“Don’t dream too far. Do you think we can get out of the house with them?” 

“Don’t be superstitious. Of course, we will.” 

“Hey! I don’t think she was smiling, the portrait.” 

Without any further word, Michael grabbed his sister’s hand and raced downstairs, out into the garden, along the dusty road. They didn’t stop until they were safely into the car.

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