"Better than I was. I don't know what I'm going to do, though. Between that video and the doctored picture, it won't really matter if any of it is true or not. All three of us will be slandered, and my sister won't even have any warning."
"Can't you contact her?"
"Not right now. She's out doing field work. But maybe we can defuse this before she returns."
Rahila retrieved the tiny bell that sat on the right end of her cot, and held it in her palm. "After I was turned away by the women's shelter, one of the women I met there handed me this. I put it in the southwest corner of my room to attract the help I needed. That was you, Samir. I trust you. But I don't see how we can stop someone we don't know from spreading lies about us. What did you have in mind?"
"Sit," he said, indicating the cot. "I'll get the chair." Once they were settled, he pointed at the photo. "You said that was a place you'd never been. But if you've dreamed about it, you have visited it, in a way."
"I suppose, but what does that have to do with--?"
"We've both been handed a moral challenge. A man appeared out of nowhere and acted to ruin our reputations. But he did more than that. He also threatened to bring down the single women's support network you found me through. If he does that, a lot of other women will be hurt as well. The thing is, when I joined the network I never imagined that I was putting myself at risk, much less my sister. I doubt the other men in the network did either. But this man can hurt all of them as well. We have to do something."
"And my picture"?"
"A place you've never been. We're both in a situation we couldn't even imagine a short while ago. I'm terrified of putting myself up as some kind of leader, and yet somehow we've got to convince an awful lot of people to risk their own reputations as well, because that's what could happen to anyone who doesn't distance themselves from the organization. Dreamed about it? More like a nightmare."
She closed her hand around the bell. "Then I'll do it. Mrs. Kahn was the last straw. I'm not going to put up with the kind of treatment I've been getting any longer. She can throw me out tonight for all I care. When's the next meeting?"
He cupped his hands around hers. "It doesn't matter. We'll call one. This can't wait. And maybe we'll find the help we need together."
Copyright 2012 by P. Orin Zack
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