Monday, August 31, 2015

Whispers from the East Excerpt

Whispers from the East
by Amie Ali
272 Pages
Publisher: Green Garnet Books

Ammi, a pregnant 24-year-old, flees New Delhi with millions of Muslim migrants in the early hours of the 1947 Partition of India, clawing her way through a controversial caste system and into the heart of Lahori society. 
A family broken by betrayal. 
Two of Ammi's beloved sons immigrate to the United States and secretly marry dazzling, contemporary American brides. One bride converts to Islam. The other commits apostasy, the sin of all sins. 
Three women who stand to lose everything. 
The collision of two belief systems—two worlds—come to a head as Ammi, Carolyn, and Ivy fight to keep their own marriages, families, and futures secure. 

1978 - San Francisco Bay Area, California

Carolyn was eight months pregnant when Nazar asked her on their first date. She had a history of dating tall, bulky white men and preferred when they came with a head of light hair and a pair of baby blues, just like her own. She was confident, and her friends frequently confirmed, that the father of the child she was carrying matched this description. She couldn't be certain. The night of conception was barely more than a tequila blur, and the guy was gone before she woke up the next morning without leaving so much as a name, a phone number, or even a thank you. What she was certain of now was that this slight man with the funny accent was definitely, definitely not her type. He was cute in his own way, just not in her way.

Nazar and Carolyn had shared a British Literature class at the community college before she had dropped out and he had moved on to graduate from Cal State Hayward. He hadn't given much notice to her leaving until she turned up at his gas station three years later with her bloated belly, asking if there was more Pepsi in the back. He recognized her instantly.

"Carolyn, yeah?" he asked tentatively, placing the cans on the counter.

She picked at a piece of her hair and twirled it loosely around her finger. "Yeah," she replied, knowing that she was eyeing him with a mixture of mild recognition and heightened suspicion.

"Nazar," he said, adding quickly, "We had a class together at Chabot. You probably don't remember…"

"Oh, yeahhhhh." A classroom. She felt herself smile with relief. That was much better than a dark, dodgy nightclub. "I remember you." Her hand moved to her belly, and his eyes followed.

"When did you get married?"

Poor fool had probably heard of American couples running off to Reno and Las Vegas to wed quickly. No doubt he pictured her in a convertible, white veil flapping in the wind as she approached a drive-through chapel.

"Oh, no." She paused and diverted her eyes from his. "I'm not married." She wasn't ashamed, so she didn't understand why the revelation of this detail to him made her feel strangely embarrassed. "Just me and my peanut." She patted her stomach.

He smiled back at her.

"Can I take you out for dinner sometime?" he blurted.

Carolyn couldn't help but laugh, which clearly made Nazar uncomfortable. Realizing he thought she was laughing at him and not the ridiculousness of being asked out by a man when her baby was due in the less than a month, she swiftly apologized. "I'm sorry. I'm not laughing at you. Really, I'm not. I just can't believe you'd want to take me out. I'm as big as a house!"

"Friday at seven?" he asked, unfazed. “It is a safe night to leave the station. Not a glamorous enterprise, I realize, but with help from my father, I was able to purchase it last year, and I care about it.”

Carolyn picked up a pen and a scrap of receipt paper from the counter and started to scribble. "Friday at seven it is, then." She slid the paper toward him, pressing it forward slowly with a cherry-colored finger nail, which she suddenly realized looked about as ridiculous and out of place as she did. As she turned and walked out, she paused to watch as Nazar picked up the slip of paper and tucked her address away in his shirt pocket.

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