That certainly stopped her in her tracks. She felt her face flush and her blood run cold as she stood face-to-face with her true likeness. Without really thinking it through, she raised her right arm and ripped the poster off the tent, bunching it up in her fist and walking away. She didn’t dare turn her head right or left, but her eyes slid back and forth involuntarily, and that’s when she saw the other posters.
There were fields and fields of these very same posters as far as the eye could see. Most were tacked to the sides of the tents, many were also waving back and forth on makeshift flagpoles, others were blowing around in unexpected gusts of wind. She tried to grab as many of them as she could, but the wind became fierce and, before she knew it, she found herself standing in the middle of the dusty path, surrounded by flurries of jewel thief posters swirling thick and fast. Jewel thief posters became tangled in her hair, slapped her in the face, and paper cut her hands as she desperately tried to beat them away.
It was around this time that the tent-people started to notice her, and a small circle of curious onlookers gathered around. Soon, as crowds tend to do, the circle got bigger and wider, and then one scrawny little man pointed his scrawny little finger at her and yelled “She is the jewel thief, catch her, catch her, jewel thief.”
Now, she may have been naive and silly in the past, but she had learned many lessons during her months in the camp, so she turned on her heels and ran. She ran as fast as she could to her little tent and grabbed her rucksack, gesturing to her neighbour women to remain silent and hide her, please, have mercy, for heaven’s sake, help her hide. Then she sat, a tiny huddled ball of fear, in the back corner of another woman’s tent, listening to the crowds outside racing and yelling and shrieking as they searched for her – the jewel thief.
As night descended, her husband returned home. He found the tent dark and empty, there was no fire, and no dinner. As he stood there, outside the tent, looking around in anticipation of some sign of life, a neighbour woman peaked out of one of the little tents. “Pssst....you....poor little darling’s husband...come here you....” He looked around, curious, until he finally noticed the faint, white glow of the woman’s face peering out at him. He came closer to her, and suddenly a ghostly white arm joined the face and grabbed his hand, pulling him forcefully into the tent.
As the husband’s eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he saw his wife sitting in the back corner, her arms circling her bent legs, her hair a huge mass of curls, and her eyes the colour of blood. As he leaned towards her in an embrace he noticed the pieces of paper strewn throughout, so he stopped, and picked one up, and took a moment to look at it, and read it. “What? A jewel thief? Who wrote this? Who drew this picture? What, in heaven’s name, is going on?” But his wife was unable to speak, she had been shocked into speechlessness. All she could do was reach into her rucksack, take out her passport, and show it to her husband.
Her husband understood, but he did not agree. “You can’t run away from this. This,” he picked up one of the offending posters and flicked it across the tent, “this is a very stupid prank, and we need to address it and move on. We have come here, the two of us, because we want to help these people. We do not want to steal anything, only give.” His wife looked at him and wondered to whom he was speaking. Was he speaking to the oil-lamp or the rucksack or maybe to the tent-flap. Then she realised that he was speaking to the woman who owned the tent, the neighbour woman. “Oh well,” she thought, “what does it really matter? He isn’t talking to me.” And so she stopped paying him any attention, and before the sun rose that morning she managed to sneak out of the camp, and find a taxi, and travel to the airport. At the airport she bought a ticket for the very next flight home, and while she waited for the boarding call she sent a brief email to her mother explaining what had happened and when she would return.