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Harriet and Helga have agreed to spend more time with each other after Harriet outs herself to Helga, but because Helga’s husband has been spying on her for his masters, Harriet suggests they exchange private information about each other. Helga is hesitant at first but she is anxious to please her new found friend and is angry that the Nazis have been spying on her. Thus, she is only too willing to don the disguise Harriet brings around for their first date but she becomes alarmed when Harriet tells her where they are going on their date.


Helmut left for work at 8:30 for a nine o’clock start. It was a routine he had stuck to and Helga could set a watch to it. He kissed his wife on the cheek and closed the door behind him, leaving her with just the maid and a housekeeper. Sometimes she could actually feel relief when he left, most of the times she felt lonely and ill at ease, but this morning she felt a new emotion, excitement. In an hour and a half she would meet Harriet and as yet she didn’t know what her Anglo-American friend would show her.

What to wear today? She stood in front of the wardrobe and stared at the outfits as she tried to decide what to wear. There had been no hints. Would they be indoors or outdoors? The ten o’clock appointment suggested the former but she was still dithering and eventually she chose a white dress with a buttoned bodice and a peach-coloured jacket. She was still applying makeup however when the doorbell rang and the housekeeper hurried to answer it. A few minutes later there was a knock on the door and the maid entered.

“Mrs Harriet Michaels is here to see you.”

“Oh, send her in,” she replied.

The maid eyed her doubtfully but then shrugged and withdrew to fetch Harriet. By the time she entered the room, Helga was almost ready to meet her new friend. Harriet was wearing a pale beige blouse with a wide collar and a dark tan skirt with matching jacket. She ran an approving eye over Helga’s outfit and perched on the edge of the bed.

“You look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” Helga looked at her in the mirror, “where are we going?”

“You will find out soon,” she perched on the bed, “but you will have to wear a disguise.”

“A disguise?” Helga stared at her in the mirror, “why?”

The answer came soon enough as she sat in the passenger seat of Harriet’s car. The burqa was black and even the eye slit had netting over it. Harriet took out some brown foundation to cover the part of her face that could be seen, as well as her hands.

“To disguise your nationality and identity,” Harriet told her, “put it over your dress and I will tell them you are a deaf mute. We are going to the Ben Ezra synagogue in Old Cairo.”

“A synagogue?” Helga swallowed. “Why?”

“To show you something you have never seen and I need to speak with a man there who is helping me with a story I am writing. The disguise is important in case you are recognised by your own people or someone working for them. Last night you took a step into the unknown and today the journey continues.”

“Then let us go forward,” Helga blew out a cloud of smoke, “you surprised me.”

“That was my intention,” Harriet started the car.

“Is that always your intention?”

Harriet merely smiled at that as she accelerated and Helga felt something she’d not felt in a long time, the thrill of anticipation. It was forbidden, her husband would be outraged if he knew his wife was setting foot in a synagogue, let alone in the company of a self-confessed lesbian.


The Ben Ezra Synagogue was the oldest synagogue in Cairo. For centuries it had been the repository for Jewish texts, both religious and political but they had recently been moved by wealthy Jews. Harriet’s concern however was not the texts, she was there to meet an old Jew by the name of Jacob and he had information on the activities of the Irgun.

“There has been a split in the Zionist leadership,” he told her, “there are those who favour continued collaboration with the British government and those who want to continue the fight for a Jewish state. The Irgun are the ones responsible for the recent bombings in Palestine.”

“Are there any more meetings planned with Eichmann?”

“Adolf Eichmann?” Jacob rolled his eyes, “it was a foolish attempt to side with the Nazi regime, the Zionists were convinced they could make a deal with the new Germany but it fell through because more Jews in Palestine might lead to an independent Jewish state, which is contrary to the ideals of the Nazi party.”

There was more information to come. The White Paper issued by the British government under Chamberlain had severely limited Jewish immigration to Palestine and it had angered Ben Gurion and his peers. The Zionist dream of an independent Jewish state looked as if it had been kicked into the weeds for now. Thus, the Irgun had stepped into the breach with a determination to rid the land of British and Arab residents. It looked as if the stage was set for an uprising but bahçeşehir escort Jacob assured her that the current unease in Britain over Germany’s intentions might put the rebellion on hold for now but that was only a temporary situation.

Helga kept her silence through the conversation although it was hard to play the part of a deaf mute and not respond to clinking spoons against tea cups and the occasional disturbances when visitors came to see Jacob. It was the forced silence that prompted her rush of questions the moment she was able to discard her disguise.

“Why are you asking about Herr Eichmann? Why are you asking about the Irgun? Who are you really working for? Why did you take me there in the first place?”

“I am writing a story on the Irgun and Haganah, and Eichmann and his superior Herr Hagen are an important part of the story,” she extinguished the cigarette.

“But as to who I am really working for?” Harriet’s eyes shifted.

“I am working for the New York Times but there are those at the British embassy who wish to use me for their own purposes but that would compromise me. I am my own woman, owned by no man or woman for that matter. As to why I took you there in the first place?” Harriet’s eyes shifted as she changed gear.

“I wanted to see how you would react. Your husband is an ardent Nazi, you seem to be almost living in his shadow but this morning you stepped out of his shadow and into forbidden territory. You did very well as a deaf mute by the way, I thought that you would jump when someone knocked over a stool but you didn’t move a muscle.”

“I was trying hard,” she conceded, “and it was interesting.”

She stared straight ahead.

“Where are we going now?”

“For coffee,” she smirked, “and to smoke the hashish, it helps me to think and we still have one more thing to do.”


“An exchange of information,” she flicked ash into the ashtray, “I’ll tell you something about me that no one else knows and you will do the same,” she pulled a wry grin.

“Have you ever smoked hashish?”

“Never,” she winced.

“You do not have to smoke it, but it helps to relax you.”

“What if someone sees us?”

“It is a risk we shall take, unless you would prefer some other place?”

“I am ready for it,” Helga eventually replied, “but first I must take off this make up, my face is so brown I could pass for an Arab.”

“That was the intention,” Harriet remarked, “there is a powder room where we are going, you can wash your face there.”

“Good,” Helga stared straight ahead.

Harriet seemed to know the city like the back of her hand, negotiating the crowded streets with all the intuitive dexterity of a local resident. It was so unlike travelling with Helmut, who had his set route to and from the embassy. They passed through several neighbourhoods before finally reaching an area he had warned her about. You could sense it in the atmosphere, the Westerners here looked different to those in other neighbourhoods. There was almost an air of flamboyant rebellion, the heady sounds of jazz bands could be heard as they passed certain clubs and cafés. Finally Harriet pulled up not far from what looked to be just another café and she registered the French sounding name and recalled Harriet’s comment a couple of weeks previously of her favourite café being owned by a Frenchman.

Except in this case the café was owned by a woman who greeted Harriet with a wave and a nod. Danielle looked to be in her late thirties or early forties.

“The usual,” Harriet slipped her some money.

“Enjoy yourself,” Danielle gave Helga the once over as if trying to place her.

“My friend needs to use the powder room, she has been in disguise.”

“Ah, but of course,” Danielle’s eyes softened,

“Danielle is like me,” Harriet explained a few minutes later as Helga washed the brown pigment from her face, “she and I were involved for a few weeks.”

“She will be jealous?”

“Danielle?” Harriet turned to the door as it opened, two women came into the room, “I should think not, it is the way she is. This coffee house is a beacon for our kind, she has had several, friends, since then,” she glanced at Helga.

Helga’s eyes however were on the two women who seemed to be on very intimate terms. The older woman was dressed conservatively in a brown skirt suit and tan blouse. The younger woman was the more fashionable of the two in a white dress with a buttoned bodice and wide, flared skirt. She undid the first few buttons of the blouse and fluffed at the other woman’s hair. A moment later she leaned forward to kiss her but her companion stopped her and looked straight at Helga. The body language was unmistakeable and Harriet moved swiftly to come between them. She was aware that the two women kissed and when Helga changed position once again the older woman was playing with the younger woman’s hair. The two women left before Helga had finished reapplying her bakırköy escort make up and Harriet pulled a wry grimace.

“The older woman is the wife of a British diplomat but I have never seen the younger woman, perhaps she is a typist or someone she knew in Britain.”

“She stared at me.”

“She was worried perhaps that she could be blackmailed. It is the way of things in our world, there are those who do and say the right things but they are actually working for the other side, seeking to gain information,” she moved behind Helga and fluffed at her hair.

“But that is more the case for the men. With women it is a little different and for that we can thank the advantage of belonging to the weaker sex. They do not think two women can achieve sexual satisfaction unless a man is involved and we are quite content to let them believe it.”

“But it is still wrong.”

“In whose eyes?” Harriet stared at her in the mirror, “God’s, society, or are ethics something that evolve with the ages. Not so long ago a woman’s place was in the home and it still is to a greater extent but during the Great War women started doing jobs only men had done. When the men came home many women gave up their jobs but society had changed. Now we have women typists, teachers and even politicians. I believe society is in a constant state of evolution, sometimes we take two steps forward and one step back but always we are moving forward.”

Helga’s eyes shifted as she realised that not only were Harriet’s hands resting on her shoulders but more disturbingly, she felt no threat nor desire to break the contact. It actually felt comforting, almost like the touch of a lover. She stared at herself in the mirror as she undid the brooch and the top button of her blouse, Harriet’s eyes remained locked on her but she moved forward ever so slightly until her breasts rested against the back of her head. Helga reciprocated, pushing her head back into her breasts. She almost hoped Harriet would do to her what the younger woman had done to the diplomat’s wife.

Instead it was left to Helga to undo the top button of her blouse, Harriet’s hands slipped through her hair and she pulled out the hairpins. Her hair fell forward partly obscuring her face and Helga felt a sudden surge of desire that was tamped down by the protocols of decent society and marriage vows but even so, she undid a second button and Harriet adjusted the collar for her, folding it up at the back for a more sensual look.

“You could be a blonde Jane Russell.”

“I do not have the cleavage for it,” Helga winced.

“Big breasts are a male obsession,” Harriet murmured, “the smaller the breasts, the easier they are to stimulate.”

Helga smiled at that and then felt instantly guilty as Harriet stepped back. She fluffed out her hair and looked at Harriet in the mirror.

“Let us do this thing.”

“After you,” Harriet indicated.


The opium den was located in the basement and Helga was relieved to discover that there were other Westerners there, a couple of Belgians, some Frenchmen and four Americans. Granted, the only other women present were the diplomat’s wife and her friend but Harriet assured her that by the afternoon there would be more women here than men.

The den was designed to look like an extension of the coffee house above, complete with booths, benches and even some movie posters. An Indian waiter served them coffee and then brought them the hashish in a bowl with two pipes. Harriet thanked him in Hindi and proceeded to pack the bowl with hashish. Helga looked on with fascination as Harriet lit the bowl and inhaled deeply. Her eyes closed and when she opened them again she had a dreamy look in her eyes.

“Better,” she took another drag, “this stuff is from Afghanistan.”

“You can tell the difference?”

“I’m a reporter, it’s part of my job to ask questions,” she studied her for a moment and then smiled, “your eyes look even sexier now.”

“Like Jane Russell?”

“Better than Jane Russell,” Harriet purred.

Helga reached for her pipe and Harriet watched as she packed the bowl. The first toke caused her to break out into a violent fit of coughing, much to Harriet’s amusement but by the time she was able to take a second draw from the pipe the effects had started kicking in. She felt disconnected from the world around her, almost as if she was an invisible observer and along with that came a lightness that was similar to the headiness of alcohol intoxication but without the slurred speech. There was a light tinge on the periphery of her vision and then she noticed Harriet’s eyes, which seemed to draw her in like some kind of human magnet.

“Feeling good?”

“Ja,” she reverted to her native German.

“Sich gut zu fühlen ist genug,” Harriet replied.

The translation, feeling good is enough seemed to reverberate through her being and she grinned and burst out laughing. It was a laughter such as she hadn’t experienced başakşehir escort in years, almost childlike and yet in this place it seemed so appropriate. She noticed that the diplomat’s wife looked over and raised her eyebrows, a slight smirk seemed to tug at the corners of her mouth and then Harriet was leaning forward to study her.

“Too much and you will feel nauseous and trust me, you do not want to be on your knees in front of the toilet, in the end you are bringing up bile, but a little is good. It helps me to think,” she looked past her for a few moments.

“And so we come to our agreement. I tell you something I have kept secret and you do the same for me, yes?”

“Ja,” she took another small toke and put the pipe down, “you will go first?”

“Under the circumstances that is probably a good idea,” Harriet leaned back and slid a hand beneath the collar of her dress.

“When I was a freshman at university I seduced one of my lecturers.”

“A man or a woman?”

“Male,” she replied, “he was cute and clumsy, I wanted to find out if I could be intimate with a man and although it was fun I realised that while I could be with a man, it was not the same as being with a woman.”

“You did this to get good grades?” Helga raised an eyebrow.

“Not so much,” she shrugged, “this was after my end of year exams, he was transferred after the semester break and I never replied to his letters.”

“You broke his heart?”

“I probably did,” she smiled crookedly, “but now you know that my lesbianism was not always so well defined. When I was younger I experimented.”

“What about now?” Helga propped on her palm.

“Now it is different, I am older and hopefully wiser,” she nudged Helga’s elbow playfully.

“And now it is your turn.”

Helga felt a slight tingling at the back of her head as she thought about the man she’d met an hour or so ago and an incident from a few years ago.

“I have something my husband does not know, but I think my sister knows. Does that count?”

“I will make an exception, but only for you,” Harriet smiled.

“A few years ago I helped out a Jewish family, it was not long after I was married,” she lowered her voice a little.

“His business had been closed down by the authorities. He was a watchmaker and when I went to get my watch mended I saw it was closed. There was a sign on the door but just as I was reading it a child pulled at my arm. It was the watchmaker’s daughter. She had been walking past when she saw me and when I asked where her father was she took me to him,” Helga’s eyes shifted.

“It was shameful, they had also been evicted from their apartment. They were staying with friends and so I decided to help them. I gave him my watch to mend but told him I would pay him five times over because the shop had been closed for five days. My husband thought I was crazy but I just lied and told him it belonged to my great grandmother. I was afraid he would investigate, he is always the curious one but perhaps because we were newly married he did not think to inquire as to the name of the watchmaker.”

“It must have cost a lot of money,” Harriet answered.

“The money came from my father, it was a wedding present. Afterwards I heard they fled Germany and sailed to New York. I do not know if they were able to stay because the American government were turning people away.”

“And you never told Helmut?”

“Never,” she winced, “he would go crazy if he thought I helped Jews. He did notice the Jewish watchmaker had closed his shop a few days later and thought it was a good thing. Not long after that I fell pregnant and we know what happened next.”

“I know,” Harriet touched her elbow again, “but it was a good thing you did. It is something you should be proud of.”

“Danke,” she murmured, “when Hitler first became chancellor I thought it was a good thing but lately I am not so sure but we dare not raise our voices in dissent,” she stopped talking, almost as if the Gestapo were sitting in the next booth but then Harriet nudged her leg under the table with her foot and smiled.

“I too thought so, he brought some order to a country torn between the old guard and the Reds but there was always something odd about the little man with the funny moustache.”

For a moment Helga hesitated and perhaps because of the effects of the hashish she felt as if her mind had been laid bare for all the world to see and then she started talking. She told of her early support for the NDSLP, her husband’s membership of the, now disbanded, Thule Society and then Helga aired her doubts to a woman she barely knew. It was as if some kind of internal tap had been turned on and there was no way to shut it off. When she finally stopped talking, the two women had gone, along with the Frenchmen. Three women had taken their place, one sounded English and the other two were Scottish.

“I am sorry, you must think I have become hysterical.”

“On the contrary,” Harriet stretched, “you have finally started talking,” she eyed the dead pipe on the table, “they say it brings out the truth in people.”

She chanced a glance at one of the women and then nodded at her.

“Dorothea, my love, have you come down to see what the peasants are doing?”

“Something like that,” Dorothea gave Helga the eye, “and who is your new friend?”

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