Her mind flashed back to a party game they played as children: blindly they had pinned the tail to the donkey. Mistakes were laughed at and the consequences for errors minimal.
Now the consequences were fraught with danger. Going in blindly to complete the task meant the loss of their company and possibly their lives. What they were planning was no game and had to be done correctly!
Planning and thinking of solutions for all scenarios led to success. The result was not perfect but they had a man in and the transmitter was set and in place.
Her mantra for the last few months echoing in her head, Sandra padded softly to the edge of the pool. She wanted to slice her way through the water but could not allow herself to sink into the contaminated liquid. Her last attempt to fight her allergy had landed her in hospital for a few days.
The sound of women’s chatter and the splash of water roused her from her reverie.
“Morning everyone, welcome to your Aqua Fitness class. My name is Sandra and I will be your instructor today.”
The bleak, arid land stretched out before them. Her search for shelter seemed hopeless but she would not give up! Shifting the weight of the sleeping child in her arms, Lily strode forward determinedly. The car had broken down but surely there had to be a homestead somewhere in this godforsaken land. Over the hill, she saw it in the distance. Help. Water. Refuge from the blazing sun.
“Mama, are we nearly there?”
They were welcomed with generosity. The homestead came to be the perfect place to change an identity and to hide from a killer.
Hidden among the modern edifices of the sprawling city, the building suggested religious observance, a strict adherence to rules, and practices steeped in history. Instead it housed a rising Phoenix, the spirit of those that revolted against the oppression of the Romans. Centuries later, the small group planned to fight against the oppression of the current rulers.
“This time we need to get leaders in government and business on our side. Let’s be smart so that we can prevail. Think French Revolution!”
The embers stirred as one of the most powerful men of the country walked into the age-old synagogue.
The view under the iron-rusted beam was breathtaking. None of the stories had prepared them for the sight. The air felt fresh; the sun warm on their backs. Born in the bowels of the earth, they felt a freedom their generation had never experienced: the chance to move unhindered along the sandy beach, to shout out with the joy for life.
“Dare we go?”
“If it weren’t safe, surely we would be dead by now?”
The rebels stepped hesitantly onto the textured sand. Bliss! Even if they were to suffer from radiation exposure, this moment in time was worth it.
We entered the noisy and dim-lit restaurant. The hum of chatter enveloped us as the server showed us to our table. I was not keen on meeting with the others, the ‘friends’ from high school. I recalled hurtful comments and intentional slights that had battered my self-esteem. Ethan and the others had seen it as fun, gentle teasing but many of their comments had cut to the bone. Ten years later, I still could not believe that I was with Ethan. Back then, he had been my crush and I had been a source for his amusement. Now we spent every moment that we could together.
The group welcomed my boyfriend to the table with cheers and plenty of backslapping. The girls ignored our linked hands and draped themselves over the alpha male. As the moments passed, I felt myself shrinking back into my high school persona. Ethan did not notice the moment my hand slipped away to reside in my jacket pocket. Hunched over at the end of the group, I tried to make myself as small as possible in order to avoid notice and the malicious ribbing that will surely follow.
Once the enthusiastic greetings were over, Ethan’s hand found mine and linked our fingers. He pulled me in to sit next to him, dislodging the ex-cheerleader who had always clung to him in the corridors of our high school. I noticed her disgruntled look and braced myself for the acerbic comment that would follow.
“You all remember Mayah?” Ethan put his arm around my shoulders and tucked me in closer. “Can you believe this beautiful creature has forgiven me and has agreed to be my wife?”
Silence greeted Ethan’s announcement. Years may have passed, but certain facts do not change. I am still of a different race and culture. I am still an oddity with my lisping accent and my dreams of a united world. But some things do change. I am now a well-known figure in the fight for the rights of immigrants. My name is bandied about in courtrooms and on social media. And I am now the love of the alpha male of our teenage group.
I look at Ethan and he winks at me. I realise then that he knew how hard this meeting was for me and, in his own way, he has tried to set things right. As the evening continues, I notice the ‘team’ treating me with a deference that they had not before; especially when Ethan proudly tells them of my work. I see a different side to my love, a side that makes me adore him even more.
Ethan was right. The ribs were good. And as I left the restaurant with my fiance, I knew we would never see our old high school friends again.
The streets were deathly quiet as people fearfully hid in their homes. The prolonged cold snap kept them huddled under blankets as power stations struggled to warm homes. The city did not know how to cope with the snow and had rigged makeshift ploughs to clear the empty streets. Another onslaught of precipitation was forecast and the government was gearing up for the predicted chaos that would ensue. Warning signs of Earth’s response to the misuse of its natural resources had been evident, but ignored. The Earth chose to re-balance itself with another Ice Age. It was finally beginning.
Katie wanted to show her support but hesitated to step into the church to watch her sister marry a man she loathed. From the beginning, he’d aimed to win Amelia – like a prize at a fair. Now papa depended on him. And mama? His charming ways had pleased her and words spoken against him brought down her wrath. Katie feared for her wraith-like sister whose shining light had already begun to flicker and would certainly dim under his possession. She forced herself to enter the building. She needed to be there when Brandon grew bored and discarded her loved ones.
I chose my top 5 romances by looking on the bookshelf that holds all my read books. My fingers moved towards books that I had read in the past year – or even further back. There is even one in my stack that I read a number of years ago and which may need to be reread soon. 🙂
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
I picked up The Hating Game from the library and I loved it so much I had to get my own copy. Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman, the two main characters of the story, begin by hating each other and show it through a set of rituals that they perform each day. Slowly different feelings start to seep through and their relationship begins to change. The novel is definitely an original story that I had never read before and is told with a sense of humour. I laughed often while I was reading – and even now I am smiling as I think of it.
Confessions of a Tinderella by Rosy Edwards
I read this book after listening to many stories of Tinder dates told by our son at the dinner table. The story centres around a character named Rosy Edwards (yes, the author 🙂 ) and her experiences dating via the app Tinder. Hilarious! And totally believable. I finished the book thinking that I am glad I am not on the dating scene!
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
This novel was sold to me as soon as I learned that it was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. Jalaluddin does justice to my favourite Austin story as well as adds her own flavour to it. The story is set in Toronto and centres on the Muslim community.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
I read this romance in December last year along with a group of readers who are in the bookstagram community. The novel is a beautiful, heartbreaking story that spans ten years of Laurie and Jack, and all their missed opportunities to find love together. Will they eventually be together? You will have to read the story to find out. 🙂
Sofia Khan is not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
This novel was the first one I had read centred around Muslim dating a number of years back. Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents for her liking. Then her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene and, with the encouragement of her friends, begins her research. Not only did I find this novel interesting from a cultural point of view, but also funny to read.
Which Romance novel would currently be among your top 5?