Sorry about the overly-long wait. I've been working on doing a comprehensive edit of the past 20 chapters, and I only got around to putting up a new one this weekend.
Khalida Maalouf leaned back in her chair, sipping coffee slowly. She remained silent for a few moments.
“Congratulations, Samira,” she said finally. “That's quite an opportunity. What are you writing about?”
Samira twisted her lips as she searched for an answer. “That's the problem, ustaaza. I don't know yet. I think the editor assumed I'd hit the ground running, you know? Have contacts, have a story. I don't have anything. There are kiosk vendors who are more connected than I am.”
“And so you're here, is that right?”
Samira nodded ruefully. “I'd sort of hoped that you could put me onto a lead.”
Khalida rose from her chair, her measured movements betraying some frailty of age. She pottered about the room for a moment, searching through yellowing papers and clippings. Samira watched her in silence.
“You were here, what...eight, nine years ago?”
“Eleven this winter.”
Khalida grunted. “Well, things may different than you remember. In fact, they will be – I assume you're not living in that rambling old thing on Zamalek?”
“No, I have a hotel room.”
“Well, that's no good. You need to get out into the city, staying up in some old palace like the Hilton isn't worth a damn.” Khalida settled back into her seat and placed a stack of articles by Samira, shoving some others aside and causing a small avalanche of rustling paper across the desk. “I'm going to be honest with you, Samira. This city might not have been the best place for you. You have the wrong instincts here – your mother, your father, that history – it's not going to help you as a reporter. You have to start fresh.”
Samira felt an unexpected wave of indignation at the professor's words. “What are you talking about?”
“I'm trying to say that you were very sheltered.”
“That doesn't mean...”
“It means you might have a perspective that makes it hard to see what's really going on sometimes. You went to university in England, yes?”
“Yes. Oxford, Trinity College.” Samira felt flushed, frustrated. “But I went to work at newspaper in Manchester, straight afterwards. Court reporting, digging in the gutters, all that kind of thing.”
“The worst street in Manchester is still a bit more posh than almost any block here. Remember that. Look, Samira. I'm not saying that you're a bad reporter. If I remember, you were always a dedicated writer.”
“Then what's the problem?” demanded Samira.
“The problem is that you might be the wrong kind of reporter.”
Samira rose, snatching the articles off of the professor's desk. “You're the first person I visit after 10 years, and you meet me with this?”
“Never mind. I can see what you think of me – spoiled little rich girl playing reporter? Is that about it?” She swiveled on her heel, stumbled slightly and stalked out the door, trying to wrap what remained of her dignity around her.