She sat under the shade of a very old tree. Its branches stretched out overhead like a network of broken fingers. She let the strange music wash over her. The tree stood to the left of the dry, dusty square. To the side of her sat trestle tables decked with exotic fruits and pastries. A goat kid was being roasted on a spit, the carcass continually turned by a boy enveloped in a traditional white gown. He had a small white hat atop his head and was obviously concentrating on his task as the smoke stung his eyes.
On the other side of the square, a group of boys, also in traditional dress, were running around after a half deflated football. The square was surrounded on all sides by dilapidated mud brick dwellings. They were crumbling at the edges but were the homes for large extended families. As she looked up on to the surrounding hills, she could see herds of goats being cared for by more small children. She knew if the music hadn’t been there, that she would be able to hear their distant bells as the animals searched for their sporadic feed.
Fatima was with Ali. In traditional bridal wear, face covered to protect the men from her beauty, she danced with joy. The women warbled their joyous cries and the men slapped each other on the back as the great day began to turn into night. She watched her friend. She didn’t really quite understand how she could go from an educated woman to this subservient bride but she was happy for her. Ali was a good man and most of all, they loved each other.
She had always intended to come here, even though she knew that at some point she would become melancholic. This was her friends’ day after all. But things like this were a constant reminder of what she had lost.
Her mind wandered as the dancers moved in faster and faster circles, whirling around at fever pitch. She was hiding here. She knew it. Hiding from the world that had caused her so much pain. There was danger here for sure but that gave her a thrill. She felt alive here.
After the funeral, she had gone home completely devastated. Jimmy had told her that Tray was married. How could he? She had always assumed that Tray would wait for her. But in reality, how could he?
She had been away from him for three years. He wasn’t able to talk to her. It was too dangerous for him, her and her Dad. She had always believed that one day they would be together but Tray had read the situation different.
She knew that Sam had come back a supposed cripple. Word was that he would never walk again. Poor Betty. Her family had been decimated because of Tray’s mistake and he knew it would haunt her until her dying days.
Jo had not got in contact with the family. She couldn’t put Tray in that sort of danger. They couldn’t have anyone make the connection. That had hurt her but they had their own problems. Apparently it had taken a good couple of years for Sam to come good. In that time he had met a nurse who had cared for him. He worked in the family business so that Jimmy could keep an eye on him.
She never heard anything much about him. He didn’t go out. He didn’t mix in any of the old circles. She had driven past the shop a couple of times and saw him seated next to the washing machines and ovens outside. How she wished she had the guts to rush out of the car and ask him what had happened to Tray.
But she kept her word. She hadn’t seen Jimmy and Sam again until that day at the cemetery. Sam had looked embarrassed when he saw her. There was genuine grief in both the men’s hearts and there was something else. She didn’t see it then but after, in the confines of her little flat, she recognised it as guilt.
That evening, as she had sat all alone with just a bottle of merlot for company, she went through the old job offers she had received. She poured over them, concentrating on the ones that were furthest away. The next day she would see if they had anything for her. It was time that Jo Flint took control of her life.
But she hadn’t really. Everywhere she went, every man she met, reminded her of him. She just hadn’t found anyone who matched his heart. It was causing her some concern. She hoped she wasn’t going to end up an old maid. She wondered what he was doing now. If he had kids. What kind of man he had become? Was he still the best man she had ever known?
She sipped the grape juice in her hand and closed her eyes. A stiff evening breeze coming down from the mountains was replacing the dwindling sun. She shivered a little and began to doze off.
She woke with a start as a hand grabbed her shoulder. It was Fatima. Her eyes the only visible part of her face that Jo could see.
“So Jo Flint! You like Afghanistan now?”
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Genre – Thriller, Action, Suspense, Gangster, Crime, Music
Rating – PG-18
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.