DarbyRiales
I'm a free thinking, animal loving, American pinup girl made of agave nectar and viper venom.
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Written by DarbyRiales in portal Trident Media Group

Chapter 3 - The Merchant (an excerpt from: The Square)

The quartet wandered about through the side streets of the world’s largest bazaar, Khan il Khalili. Colored lanterns gleamed from every angle, and the tables and shelves were crowded with amulets, statues, and handmade wooden boxes. As the group rounded the corner, they came across a line of cafes.

“We must stop here,” Amr said, excitedly.

“What's this?” Grace asked.

“This coffee shop has been around for over 200 years,” Amr said. “Owned by the same family too. You can’t leave without trying it. It’s called El Fishwy.”

Grace and Gia happily agreed, and the group took their seats at an outdoor table. Moments later, an Egyptian man in his late forties came to greet them and take their orders. His name was Khalid, and he spoke no English. He was tall and lanky with a thick, black mustache and glasses. The hair around his head was cut short, and the center of his head was bald. He was all smiles and smelled of Egyptian spice and coffee. He wore a clean, striped button down shirt and brown slacks.

Khalid brought coffee in a beautiful, tall brass pot with a long, curved spout. He set out tiny white coffee cups trimmed in gold.

“Have you ever tried Arabian coffee before?” Omar asked.

“I have,” Grace said.

“I have not,” Gia said.

“You are in for a surprise,” Omar said, chuckling.

“Why? What do you mean?” Gia asked, eyes wide.

“It’s very, very strong,” Grace warned. Gia smiled and took the tiny cup between her thumb and index finger. She drew the cup close to her lips and took a small sip.

“Oh, whoa!” Gia exclaimed. “That will put hair on your chest!” The guys erupted in laughter.

“Why do you think all Arab men have hairy chests?” Omar asked.

“Oh, wait,” Gia said, glancing down at her own chest. “I think I see one coming up.”

“I can check for you,” Omar said, taking a casual sip from his coffee and winking. Amr gave him a twisted look.

“Maybe later,” Gia said, grinning.

“I will check anything for you,” Omar said, casually. “Just ask. I will not say no.”

“What’s so funny?” Ahmed said, strolling up to their table. Amr and Omar immediately lost their smiles.

“Who are you?” Gia asked, looking up at Ahmed.

“My name is Ahmed,” he replied, cooly. “And you?”

“Gia,” she said, extending her hand to shake his. He shook her hand and directed his attention to Grace.

“How are you, Grace?” he asked, ignoring Amr’s glare.

“I am well,” Grace replied, visibly happy to see him, much to Amr’s dismay. “And you?”

“I am much better,” Ahmed said smoothly. “Now that I am seeing you again.” Grace’s face flushed pink. “You are so beautiful.”

“What are you doing here?” Amr interrupted, clearly unamused.

Ahmed shifted his gaze from Grace over to Amr. “Shopping,” he said. “Now, I am thirsty.”

“You should join us,” Gia said. Ahmed smiled and pulled a chair over from another table. Omar and Amr sat up straight with their shoulders tight.

“You should leave,” Omar said, glaring at Ahmed.

“Omar!” Gia said. “Don’t be rude.”

“No,” Omar said. “He needs to leave. Now.”

“Why?” Grace asked.

“Because we do not want him here,” Amr said. Ahmed sat back in his seat casually.

“Why not?” Gia asked. “What is your problem?”

“I am not the one with a problem,” Amr said, angrily. “He has the problem. I do not want him sitting with us. Ahmed, leave.”

“You don’t have to leave, Ahmed,” Grace said, pouring him a cup of coffee. She handed it to him, and he smiled slightly.

“How are you liking Egypt so far?” Ahmed asked, taking a sip from his coffee.

“I love it,” Grace said, eyes bright. “It is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.”

“You are more beautiful than I could have ever imagined,” Ahmed said, not taking his eyes off of her. Gia raised her eyebrows and looked from Grace to Ahmed to Amr and then back to Grace again. “I will go to Alexandria in a few days. You might consider joining me.”

“I don’t know what Amr has planned for us,” Grace said, looking questioningly at Amr. “We’re staying with him. I do not want to be rude.”

“They can come too,” Ahmed said. “If they want.” He did not bother to look anywhere other than at Grace. “You must see the sea. It is so beautiful. It is like the color of your eyes.”

“It’s getting pretty heavy over here,” Gia said, awkwardly. “I feel like I should move. Am I in the way?” Amr pursed his lips. Gia was sitting between Ahmed and Grace, while Omar and Amr sat on the other side of the table. Gia glanced at Omar. “There was a lamp I wanted to buy. Can you come with me?” Gia asked, looking at Omar and Amr.

“A lamp,” Omar repeated. “Like a big lamp?”

“I will show you when we get there,” Gia said, hinting that they should leave Ahmed and Grace alone to talk.

“What are you going to do with a lamp?” Amr asked, visibly perturbed. “How will you get it back to America?”

“I’ll think about that later,” Gia replied. “Right now, I just want to make an irrational decision and go buy a lamp.”

“Okay,” Omar said, standing up. “Yalla! We will go get your lamp.”

“Ahmed just got his coffee,” Gia said. “Someone should stay and keep him company.” She glanced at Grace.

“I will stay too then,” Amr said.

“But I need your help,” Gia said, pleadingly. Amr hesitantly got up. Gia smiled and joined them, walking over to the nearby lighting vendor. Ahmed smiled at Grace. His smile rarely showed teeth. One side of his mouth turned upwards slightly. His eyes were the darkest shade of brown, almost black. Out of the three guys, he had the lightest skin color. His nose was wide and flat, and his lips were full. His jet black hair was incredibly curly, like a head full of tight ringlets that had been twisted into short dreadlocks.

“Do you like the drink?” Ahmed asked.

“Why does Amr hate you so much?” Grace asked, bluntly.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on now,” Grace said. “If we are going to be friends, we can’t start off lying to each other.”

“Maybe some woman left him for me at one point.”

“You stole his girlfriend?”

“I did not steal,” Ahmed said, calmly. “A woman is not a thing. She is free to make her own choices.”

“Did you know they were dating when you made your move?”

“Why do you ask so many personal questions?”

“Why do you avoid them?” she asked.

“Does it matter? It is in the past. We cannot change it. We can only make a better future.”

“Well, it obviously matters to Amr.”

“Maybe he is scared,” Ahmed said.

“Scared of what?”

“Scared that you will choose to be with me instead of him.” Grace stared at Ahmed for a moment before she decided to respond.

“What makes you think I will choose to be with either of you? I am just here visiting.”

“We shall see,” Ahmed said.

Gia, Omar, and Amr walked back over to the table. Omar and Amr were carrying an enormous bronze, hanging lamp with red glass panels and intricate square designs. Grace burst out laughing as soon as she saw it.

“What the hell are you going to do with that?” she asked.

“I am going to save it for when I finally buy a house,” Gia said, confidently.

“So, in about twenty more years,” Grace joked.

“Maybe sooner,” Gia replied. “Maybe I will find some rich Sugar Daddy who can build me a manor. That’s what I’ll do! I’ll hang this in my manor!”

“So, that’s what you want,” Omar said, giving Gia and sideways glance. “You want a rich man? What else do you want? A palace? A crown?”

“That would be a good start,” Gia said, batting her eyes at him.

Grace looked down the market street as she stood up to leave. She saw an old man selling t-shirts. He was screaming something in Arabic that she could not understand.

“Hey,” she said, grabbing the group’s attention. “What’s he saying?” They stopped and turned their attention to the old man.

“He is saying, ‘Down with Mubarak. Down with the Regime.’” Amr said, looking alert and tense.

“What does that mean?” Grace asked.

“Mubarak is our corrupt president,” Ahmed said, disdain in his voice.

“He should not be doing this here,” Omar said.

“Why not?” Gia asked.

“That is why,” Omar replied, nodding in the direction of six armed soldiers heading toward the old T-shirt vendor.

The old man screamed in their faces. One of the soldiers grabbed his arm and twisted it around, shoving him up against his own cart. The old man resisted and struggled against the soldier’s grip. A second soldier hit the man in the back of the head with a baton, knocking the old man unconscious. The first soldier straddled the unconscious man and cuffed hands behind his back. The old man’s face was pressed so firmly into the stone that it was a wonder all the bones in his skull were not crushed.

Two of the soldiers ripped down all of the apparel, shredding it in the process, while the rest stood guard. Their guns were ready to greet any other trouble makers. Ahmed, arms tense, stood up and took a step in their direction. Omar pulled him back by his arm, holding it firmly.

“No,” Omar said.

“Don’t touch me,” Ahmed said, jerking his arm free.

“What are you going to do? You can’t do anything,” Omar yelled, attempting to talk Ahmed out of doing something incredibly stupid.

“I will do something,” Ahmed said. “You watch.” He started off in the direction of the soldiers.

“Ahmed,” Grace yelled. He turned back to look her, her pleading eyes begging him not go through with what was going on in his head. His hesitation gave the soldiers plenty of time to move along, dragging the unconscious old man and all of his merchandise behind them. They threw him into the back of a military van, loaded up, and drove off. The crowd left behind was utterly shocked, but no one was brave enough to make the first move after what had just happened. No one, except Ahmed.

To be continued…

Title: The Square

Genre: Fiction

Age Range: 18-35

Total Word Count: 71,436

Written by Darby Riales

This is an excerpt from my novel about the 2011 Egyptian revolution. There is nothing like this on the market. 

Hook: Two American girls are caught in the middle of a revolution in Egypt.

Synopsis: Grace has wanted to visit Egypt since she was a little girl. Finally able to go with her best friend, Gia, the two are quickly whisked away in the enchantment of Cairo. Their joy is cut short when a revolution against the president breaks out across the country. Grace finds herself torn between her old friend and soldier, Amr, and the rebel she just met, Ahmed. 

Target audience: YA

Short Bio: Darby is a young, diverse writer originally from Arkansas. She has spent the last 4 years in Los Angeles, CA as a writer, producer, and model. She has two cats, Luna and Piper, who travel with her often. She has a large following on social media, particularly Instagram, and runs her own travel blog. 

Education: BA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Arkansas

Experience: Over 7 years of professional writing, former fiction judge for The Vortex Student Literature and Art Magazine, scriptwriting, novel writing, short stories

Personality: Free-thinking, animal loving, American pinup girl made of agave nectar and viper venom.

Hobbies: photography, painting, and travel

Hometown: Searcy, AR

Age: 27

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Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by DarbyRiales in portal Trident Media Group
Chapter 3 - The Merchant (an excerpt from: The Square)
The quartet wandered about through the side streets of the world’s largest bazaar, Khan il Khalili. Colored lanterns gleamed from every angle, and the tables and shelves were crowded with amulets, statues, and handmade wooden boxes. As the group rounded the corner, they came across a line of cafes.

“We must stop here,” Amr said, excitedly.

“What's this?” Grace asked.

“This coffee shop has been around for over 200 years,” Amr said. “Owned by the same family too. You can’t leave without trying it. It’s called El Fishwy.”

Grace and Gia happily agreed, and the group took their seats at an outdoor table. Moments later, an Egyptian man in his late forties came to greet them and take their orders. His name was Khalid, and he spoke no English. He was tall and lanky with a thick, black mustache and glasses. The hair around his head was cut short, and the center of his head was bald. He was all smiles and smelled of Egyptian spice and coffee. He wore a clean, striped button down shirt and brown slacks.

Khalid brought coffee in a beautiful, tall brass pot with a long, curved spout. He set out tiny white coffee cups trimmed in gold.

“Have you ever tried Arabian coffee before?” Omar asked.

“I have,” Grace said.

“I have not,” Gia said.

“You are in for a surprise,” Omar said, chuckling.

“Why? What do you mean?” Gia asked, eyes wide.

“It’s very, very strong,” Grace warned. Gia smiled and took the tiny cup between her thumb and index finger. She drew the cup close to her lips and took a small sip.

“Oh, whoa!” Gia exclaimed. “That will put hair on your chest!” The guys erupted in laughter.

“Why do you think all Arab men have hairy chests?” Omar asked.

“Oh, wait,” Gia said, glancing down at her own chest. “I think I see one coming up.”

“I can check for you,” Omar said, taking a casual sip from his coffee and winking. Amr gave him a twisted look.

“Maybe later,” Gia said, grinning.

“I will check anything for you,” Omar said, casually. “Just ask. I will not say no.”

“What’s so funny?” Ahmed said, strolling up to their table. Amr and Omar immediately lost their smiles.

“Who are you?” Gia asked, looking up at Ahmed.

“My name is Ahmed,” he replied, cooly. “And you?”

“Gia,” she said, extending her hand to shake his. He shook her hand and directed his attention to Grace.

“How are you, Grace?” he asked, ignoring Amr’s glare.

“I am well,” Grace replied, visibly happy to see him, much to Amr’s dismay. “And you?”

“I am much better,” Ahmed said smoothly. “Now that I am seeing you again.” Grace’s face flushed pink. “You are so beautiful.”

“What are you doing here?” Amr interrupted, clearly unamused.

Ahmed shifted his gaze from Grace over to Amr. “Shopping,” he said. “Now, I am thirsty.”

“You should join us,” Gia said. Ahmed smiled and pulled a chair over from another table. Omar and Amr sat up straight with their shoulders tight.

“You should leave,” Omar said, glaring at Ahmed.

“Omar!” Gia said. “Don’t be rude.”

“No,” Omar said. “He needs to leave. Now.”

“Why?” Grace asked.

“Because we do not want him here,” Amr said. Ahmed sat back in his seat casually.

“Why not?” Gia asked. “What is your problem?”

“I am not the one with a problem,” Amr said, angrily. “He has the problem. I do not want him sitting with us. Ahmed, leave.”

“You don’t have to leave, Ahmed,” Grace said, pouring him a cup of coffee. She handed it to him, and he smiled slightly.

“How are you liking Egypt so far?” Ahmed asked, taking a sip from his coffee.

“I love it,” Grace said, eyes bright. “It is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.”

“You are more beautiful than I could have ever imagined,” Ahmed said, not taking his eyes off of her. Gia raised her eyebrows and looked from Grace to Ahmed to Amr and then back to Grace again. “I will go to Alexandria in a few days. You might consider joining me.”

“I don’t know what Amr has planned for us,” Grace said, looking questioningly at Amr. “We’re staying with him. I do not want to be rude.”

“They can come too,” Ahmed said. “If they want.” He did not bother to look anywhere other than at Grace. “You must see the sea. It is so beautiful. It is like the color of your eyes.”

“It’s getting pretty heavy over here,” Gia said, awkwardly. “I feel like I should move. Am I in the way?” Amr pursed his lips. Gia was sitting between Ahmed and Grace, while Omar and Amr sat on the other side of the table. Gia glanced at Omar. “There was a lamp I wanted to buy. Can you come with me?” Gia asked, looking at Omar and Amr.

“A lamp,” Omar repeated. “Like a big lamp?”

“I will show you when we get there,” Gia said, hinting that they should leave Ahmed and Grace alone to talk.

“What are you going to do with a lamp?” Amr asked, visibly perturbed. “How will you get it back to America?”

“I’ll think about that later,” Gia replied. “Right now, I just want to make an irrational decision and go buy a lamp.”

“Okay,” Omar said, standing up. “Yalla! We will go get your lamp.”

“Ahmed just got his coffee,” Gia said. “Someone should stay and keep him company.” She glanced at Grace.

“I will stay too then,” Amr said.

“But I need your help,” Gia said, pleadingly. Amr hesitantly got up. Gia smiled and joined them, walking over to the nearby lighting vendor. Ahmed smiled at Grace. His smile rarely showed teeth. One side of his mouth turned upwards slightly. His eyes were the darkest shade of brown, almost black. Out of the three guys, he had the lightest skin color. His nose was wide and flat, and his lips were full. His jet black hair was incredibly curly, like a head full of tight ringlets that had been twisted into short dreadlocks.

“Do you like the drink?” Ahmed asked.

“Why does Amr hate you so much?” Grace asked, bluntly.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on now,” Grace said. “If we are going to be friends, we can’t start off lying to each other.”

“Maybe some woman left him for me at one point.”

“You stole his girlfriend?”

“I did not steal,” Ahmed said, calmly. “A woman is not a thing. She is free to make her own choices.”

“Did you know they were dating when you made your move?”

“Why do you ask so many personal questions?”

“Why do you avoid them?” she asked.

“Does it matter? It is in the past. We cannot change it. We can only make a better future.”

“Well, it obviously matters to Amr.”

“Maybe he is scared,” Ahmed said.

“Scared of what?”

“Scared that you will choose to be with me instead of him.” Grace stared at Ahmed for a moment before she decided to respond.

“What makes you think I will choose to be with either of you? I am just here visiting.”

“We shall see,” Ahmed said.

Gia, Omar, and Amr walked back over to the table. Omar and Amr were carrying an enormous bronze, hanging lamp with red glass panels and intricate square designs. Grace burst out laughing as soon as she saw it.

“What the hell are you going to do with that?” she asked.

“I am going to save it for when I finally buy a house,” Gia said, confidently.

“So, in about twenty more years,” Grace joked.

“Maybe sooner,” Gia replied. “Maybe I will find some rich Sugar Daddy who can build me a manor. That’s what I’ll do! I’ll hang this in my manor!”

“So, that’s what you want,” Omar said, giving Gia and sideways glance. “You want a rich man? What else do you want? A palace? A crown?”

“That would be a good start,” Gia said, batting her eyes at him.

Grace looked down the market street as she stood up to leave. She saw an old man selling t-shirts. He was screaming something in Arabic that she could not understand.

“Hey,” she said, grabbing the group’s attention. “What’s he saying?” They stopped and turned their attention to the old man.

“He is saying, ‘Down with Mubarak. Down with the Regime.’” Amr said, looking alert and tense.

“What does that mean?” Grace asked.

“Mubarak is our corrupt president,” Ahmed said, disdain in his voice.

“He should not be doing this here,” Omar said.

“Why not?” Gia asked.

“That is why,” Omar replied, nodding in the direction of six armed soldiers heading toward the old T-shirt vendor.

The old man screamed in their faces. One of the soldiers grabbed his arm and twisted it around, shoving him up against his own cart. The old man resisted and struggled against the soldier’s grip. A second soldier hit the man in the back of the head with a baton, knocking the old man unconscious. The first soldier straddled the unconscious man and cuffed hands behind his back. The old man’s face was pressed so firmly into the stone that it was a wonder all the bones in his skull were not crushed.

Two of the soldiers ripped down all of the apparel, shredding it in the process, while the rest stood guard. Their guns were ready to greet any other trouble makers. Ahmed, arms tense, stood up and took a step in their direction. Omar pulled him back by his arm, holding it firmly.

“No,” Omar said.

“Don’t touch me,” Ahmed said, jerking his arm free.

“What are you going to do? You can’t do anything,” Omar yelled, attempting to talk Ahmed out of doing something incredibly stupid.

“I will do something,” Ahmed said. “You watch.” He started off in the direction of the soldiers.

“Ahmed,” Grace yelled. He turned back to look her, her pleading eyes begging him not go through with what was going on in his head. His hesitation gave the soldiers plenty of time to move along, dragging the unconscious old man and all of his merchandise behind them. They threw him into the back of a military van, loaded up, and drove off. The crowd left behind was utterly shocked, but no one was brave enough to make the first move after what had just happened. No one, except Ahmed.

To be continued…

Title: The Square
Genre: Fiction
Age Range: 18-35
Total Word Count: 71,436
Written by Darby Riales
This is an excerpt from my novel about the 2011 Egyptian revolution. There is nothing like this on the market. 
Hook: Two American girls are caught in the middle of a revolution in Egypt.
Synopsis: Grace has wanted to visit Egypt since she was a little girl. Finally able to go with her best friend, Gia, the two are quickly whisked away in the enchantment of Cairo. Their joy is cut short when a revolution against the president breaks out across the country. Grace finds herself torn between her old friend and soldier, Amr, and the rebel she just met, Ahmed. 
Target audience: YA
Short Bio: Darby is a young, diverse writer originally from Arkansas. She has spent the last 4 years in Los Angeles, CA as a writer, producer, and model. She has two cats, Luna and Piper, who travel with her often. She has a large following on social media, particularly Instagram, and runs her own travel blog. 
Education: BA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Arkansas
Experience: Over 7 years of professional writing, former fiction judge for The Vortex Student Literature and Art Magazine, scriptwriting, novel writing, short stories
Personality: Free-thinking, animal loving, American pinup girl made of agave nectar and viper venom.
Hobbies: photography, painting, and travel
Hometown: Searcy, AR
Age: 27
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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by DarbyRiales

Silence

Silence. What a falsity. Even on a hunt, it cannot ring true for each breath the brave hunter takes catches on the wind. Each step he takes is softened, but not silenced. As the dawn breaks across the sky, the song of the robin penetrates the air. The leaves rustle as the critters awaken to a new day. The hunter waits. His fur-covered feet sink deep into the snow. His shoulders shiver under his wolf-skin cloak at the bite of the harsh breeze. He grips his spears tightly between his numb, callous fingers. He steadies his breath as it pours from his nostrils as a vapor. His long, dark hair pools around his neck for warmth.

A large deer of glorious stature steps out of the bushes and into the clearing. He is eager to find food beneath the snow laden ground, but he is nervous. The presence of such a magnificent creature does not go unnoticed. The hunter shifts his weight causing a twig to snap. The buck holds his head high, scanning the tree-line for any threat. Silence. The robin continues to sing as her comrades busy themselves with scavenging. The hunter holds his breath, but that does not stop the sound of his pounding heart. Adrenaline rising, he is aware of nothing but the buck. Not the snow, the critters, nor the wind can distract him.

The deer reluctantly drops his head to the ground, his hunger taking the best of his judgement. He searches in vain. The hunter positions himself and looks to either side nodding to his party. The group swarms from the bushes, converging on their intended meal.

Silence. Such a thing cannot exist in this world. 

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by DarbyRiales
Silence
Silence. What a falsity. Even on a hunt, it cannot ring true for each breath the brave hunter takes catches on the wind. Each step he takes is softened, but not silenced. As the dawn breaks across the sky, the song of the robin penetrates the air. The leaves rustle as the critters awaken to a new day. The hunter waits. His fur-covered feet sink deep into the snow. His shoulders shiver under his wolf-skin cloak at the bite of the harsh breeze. He grips his spears tightly between his numb, callous fingers. He steadies his breath as it pours from his nostrils as a vapor. His long, dark hair pools around his neck for warmth.

A large deer of glorious stature steps out of the bushes and into the clearing. He is eager to find food beneath the snow laden ground, but he is nervous. The presence of such a magnificent creature does not go unnoticed. The hunter shifts his weight causing a twig to snap. The buck holds his head high, scanning the tree-line for any threat. Silence. The robin continues to sing as her comrades busy themselves with scavenging. The hunter holds his breath, but that does not stop the sound of his pounding heart. Adrenaline rising, he is aware of nothing but the buck. Not the snow, the critters, nor the wind can distract him.

The deer reluctantly drops his head to the ground, his hunger taking the best of his judgement. He searches in vain. The hunter positions himself and looks to either side nodding to his party. The group swarms from the bushes, converging on their intended meal.

Silence. Such a thing cannot exist in this world. 
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Yet another "short but sweet" : look around wherever you are and pick out an object. Write something funny about it. entertain yourself in your mundane or strange surroundings. (don't cheat!.. or do. we wouldn't know.) The catch: you only have 15 words to draw your reader in.
Written by DarbyRiales in portal Comedy

The Hunter

Psycho Kitty 

Found your den

Psycho Kitty 

Blood on his chin

Ow!

Don't bite me

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Yet another "short but sweet" : look around wherever you are and pick out an object. Write something funny about it. entertain yourself in your mundane or strange surroundings. (don't cheat!.. or do. we wouldn't know.) The catch: you only have 15 words to draw your reader in.
Written by DarbyRiales in portal Comedy
The Hunter
Psycho Kitty 
Found your den
Psycho Kitty 
Blood on his chin
Ow!
Don't bite me
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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by DarbyRiales in portal Simon & Schuster

Ch. 6 - Lament to Lothar

She sat with his broken body as the sun slithered beneath the horizon. Her face rested on his chest, no longer moving with the breath of life. Her sobs ceased, and she could cry no more for her tears were spent. The blood pooling around her legs was going cool, but she did not notice. As if frozen in time, she could not move.

The moon glistened against the black velvet sky speckled with stars twinkling like flecks of ice, but she did not look up.

“We must return to the safety of our camp,” Adnaan whispered to his brother.

“I will go to her,” Addai replied.

He approached her torpid body silently, walking around Lothar to face her. He knelt next to the fallen warrior.

“Saga,” he whispered. She did respond. “Saga,” he said again. “The night is full of perils, more so than the day. We can mourn the passing of Lothar safely from our encampment.” He gently ran his fingers through her mane of yellow hair. “Please. Let us take him back.”

Addai motioned for Adnaan and the others to come. As they approached Lothar’s lifeless body, panic filled Saga’s eyes. She lashed out at Addai, pushing him backward.

“No!” She yelled, now crouching over Lothar’s body. Adnaan and the others stopped. Addai pulled himself back up to face Saga.

“Let us take him back. We will honor him there, I promise,” he said. He stared into her icy blue eyes as they began to fill again with tears. He touched her chin with his fingertips. Even in the night, the difference was obvious. His dark, cinnamon colored skin stood out against her porcelain complexion. “Do you trust me?”

Saga squeezed her eyes shut.

“Yes,” she whispered.

He pulled her off of Lothar’s body and into his own, pressing her face into the crook of his neck. He motioned for the others to carry Lothar back to their camp. They picked up the body with the utmost care, as if Lothar was a newborn who needn’t be dropped. They moved slowly through the sands as they headed back to the safety of their camp.

Addai removed his cloth head wrap and gently pulled Saga from his shoulder. She stared off into nothingness as he delicately wiped blood and tears from her face.

“Are you hurt?” he asked, checking her for wounds. “You are,” he said, finding a deep gash on her arm, just below her shoulder.

“He asked me to be his,” she said, softly.

“What?” Addai asked.

“Lothar,” she replied. “Before our ship crashed, he asked me to be his. I laughed at him and pushed him overboard. He didn’t know, but I would’ve. My father had already given his permission. I never got the chance to tell him yes. The last thing he remembered of me was me laughing at him.” She choked as the last few words left her lips, breaking into a gut wrenching cry.

“The last thing he remembered was you freeing him from bondage and fighting by his side,” Addai said, holding her in place by her shoulders.

“He never knew,” she wailed. “He never knew.”

“A man does not forfeit his life for a woman whom he does not love,” Addai said. “He knew.”

“He did?” she asked, finally breaking her trance and looking him in the eyes.

“He knew.”

Saga nodded, and they fell silent.

“We really need to get back,”Addai said, abruptly. “It’s dangerous.” He stood and extended his hand. Saga grasped it and pulled herself up. They held hands as they walked back to the camp.

“We are unaware of your burial customs,” Manalia, matron of the tribe, said, as Addai and Saga emerged from the darkness.

“I require a pyre,” Saga said, releasing Addai’s hand.

“A pyre?” Adnaan asked. “What for?”

“To send his spirit to the stars,” Saga replied.

“We cannot build a fire of that size,”Adnaan said. Manalia shook her head at him. “No, mother, we cannot build a fire. We were lucky that the Emperians didn’t locate our grounds during the battle. If we light a fire, they will surely see it.” The group fell silent.

“I will build the pyre,” Saga said. “Far from here. I will clean his body. I will only require assistance in carrying him to the site.”

Adnaan nodded, hesitantly. “Make sure it is far enough away.” Saga nodded. “He is in there.” Adnaan pointed to a smaller tent.

“Shouldn’t you let the men do it?” Dinah asked, approaching Saga. “Don’t you think it inappropriate for a woman to see a naked man to whom she is not married?” Saga ignored her and continued walking toward the tent. “At least allow the mature women to perform the task.” Saga ignored her still. Dinah grabbed Saga’s arm. “You can’t see a naked man...”

Dinah’s words were cut short by a sharp, stinging slap across the face. She yelped and covered the spreading red whelp with her hands.

“She can’t,” Dinah whimpered, looking back at her husband and the family. No one moved to support her.

Saga turned and marched to the entrance of the preparation tent. She paused at the opening, then entered slowly, as if not to disturb Lothar’s sleep. She stood beside his body and slipped her fingers into his. She leaned down and whispered in his ear, “I would have been yours.” She kissed his lips for the first time, then rested her cheek against his for a moment. She lightly kissed his eyelids, and then stood up straight, wiping the tears from her face.

Slowly and gently, she pulled the torn pieces of clothing from his body. What once were tan pieces of cloth were then stained a deep shade of red. Pieces stuck to his flesh and resisted being taken away. Once naked, she stared at him for a moment. His muscles were tense as his lifeless body continued to grow stiff. Seven arrows and one large spear head penetrated his flesh and stuck there. She grasped the arrow embedded in his right thigh. She jerked it out quickly and looked at him to see if he flinched. He did not. Dried trails of blood decorated each wound, but none bled as she pulled the pieces from his body. She removed the arrow from his shoulder, three from his chest, and another from his stomach. The spearhead proved to be more difficult. During the battle, Lothar had snapped the pole of the spear in half once it had penetrated his body. The remainder had been pushed almost entirely through his torso. Saga reached inside Lothar’s abdomen and grasped ahold of the jagged end of wood. It took several minutes before she was able to wriggle the killer free. She tossed the bloodied spear head aside and dampened cloths in a bowl of water. She cleaned the wounds as gently and as best as she could. She brushed his long dark hair and wrapped his waist in white cloth. She knew the sight of a man’s bare chest would offend Dinah, but she cared not. 

She stuck her head out of the tent and nodded for them to help her move him. Addai, Adnaan, Niv, Aharon, Samum, and Shai all helped carry Lothar’s body on a makeshift gurney. As the exited the tent, Dinah gasped at the sight of Lothar’s bare chest. Saga glared at her.

“Should you not cover...his open wounds?” Dinah asked, carefully.

Saga ignored her.

“Wait for me,” Humusi yelled, running toward the men. “I can help!”

“No, cousin,” Shenbar called from the shadows. They don’t want you. You’re a disaster.”

Humusi stood still and looked down at his feet. Saga felt sorry for him, but more sympathy was felt for her fallen warrior. She did not come to the aid of Humusi this time. She walked away, following the men carrying Lothar.

They walked a long distance before finally settling on a place to perform the ceremony. They built the pyre in silence, laid Lothar’s body on top, and lit it. The blaze quickly consumed Lothar’s body, and Saga watched the smoke trails ascend into the sky. 

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Written by DarbyRiales in portal Simon & Schuster
Ch. 6 - Lament to Lothar
She sat with his broken body as the sun slithered beneath the horizon. Her face rested on his chest, no longer moving with the breath of life. Her sobs ceased, and she could cry no more for her tears were spent. The blood pooling around her legs was going cool, but she did not notice. As if frozen in time, she could not move.

The moon glistened against the black velvet sky speckled with stars twinkling like flecks of ice, but she did not look up.

“We must return to the safety of our camp,” Adnaan whispered to his brother.

“I will go to her,” Addai replied.

He approached her torpid body silently, walking around Lothar to face her. He knelt next to the fallen warrior.

“Saga,” he whispered. She did respond. “Saga,” he said again. “The night is full of perils, more so than the day. We can mourn the passing of Lothar safely from our encampment.” He gently ran his fingers through her mane of yellow hair. “Please. Let us take him back.”

Addai motioned for Adnaan and the others to come. As they approached Lothar’s lifeless body, panic filled Saga’s eyes. She lashed out at Addai, pushing him backward.

“No!” She yelled, now crouching over Lothar’s body. Adnaan and the others stopped. Addai pulled himself back up to face Saga.

“Let us take him back. We will honor him there, I promise,” he said. He stared into her icy blue eyes as they began to fill again with tears. He touched her chin with his fingertips. Even in the night, the difference was obvious. His dark, cinnamon colored skin stood out against her porcelain complexion. “Do you trust me?”

Saga squeezed her eyes shut.

“Yes,” she whispered.

He pulled her off of Lothar’s body and into his own, pressing her face into the crook of his neck. He motioned for the others to carry Lothar back to their camp. They picked up the body with the utmost care, as if Lothar was a newborn who needn’t be dropped. They moved slowly through the sands as they headed back to the safety of their camp.

Addai removed his cloth head wrap and gently pulled Saga from his shoulder. She stared off into nothingness as he delicately wiped blood and tears from her face.

“Are you hurt?” he asked, checking her for wounds. “You are,” he said, finding a deep gash on her arm, just below her shoulder.

“He asked me to be his,” she said, softly.

“What?” Addai asked.

“Lothar,” she replied. “Before our ship crashed, he asked me to be his. I laughed at him and pushed him overboard. He didn’t know, but I would’ve. My father had already given his permission. I never got the chance to tell him yes. The last thing he remembered of me was me laughing at him.” She choked as the last few words left her lips, breaking into a gut wrenching cry.

“The last thing he remembered was you freeing him from bondage and fighting by his side,” Addai said, holding her in place by her shoulders.

“He never knew,” she wailed. “He never knew.”

“A man does not forfeit his life for a woman whom he does not love,” Addai said. “He knew.”

“He did?” she asked, finally breaking her trance and looking him in the eyes.

“He knew.”

Saga nodded, and they fell silent.

“We really need to get back,”Addai said, abruptly. “It’s dangerous.” He stood and extended his hand. Saga grasped it and pulled herself up. They held hands as they walked back to the camp.

“We are unaware of your burial customs,” Manalia, matron of the tribe, said, as Addai and Saga emerged from the darkness.

“I require a pyre,” Saga said, releasing Addai’s hand.

“A pyre?” Adnaan asked. “What for?”

“To send his spirit to the stars,” Saga replied.

“We cannot build a fire of that size,”Adnaan said. Manalia shook her head at him. “No, mother, we cannot build a fire. We were lucky that the Emperians didn’t locate our grounds during the battle. If we light a fire, they will surely see it.” The group fell silent.

“I will build the pyre,” Saga said. “Far from here. I will clean his body. I will only require assistance in carrying him to the site.”

Adnaan nodded, hesitantly. “Make sure it is far enough away.” Saga nodded. “He is in there.” Adnaan pointed to a smaller tent.

“Shouldn’t you let the men do it?” Dinah asked, approaching Saga. “Don’t you think it inappropriate for a woman to see a naked man to whom she is not married?” Saga ignored her and continued walking toward the tent. “At least allow the mature women to perform the task.” Saga ignored her still. Dinah grabbed Saga’s arm. “You can’t see a naked man...”
Dinah’s words were cut short by a sharp, stinging slap across the face. She yelped and covered the spreading red whelp with her hands.

“She can’t,” Dinah whimpered, looking back at her husband and the family. No one moved to support her.

Saga turned and marched to the entrance of the preparation tent. She paused at the opening, then entered slowly, as if not to disturb Lothar’s sleep. She stood beside his body and slipped her fingers into his. She leaned down and whispered in his ear, “I would have been yours.” She kissed his lips for the first time, then rested her cheek against his for a moment. She lightly kissed his eyelids, and then stood up straight, wiping the tears from her face.

Slowly and gently, she pulled the torn pieces of clothing from his body. What once were tan pieces of cloth were then stained a deep shade of red. Pieces stuck to his flesh and resisted being taken away. Once naked, she stared at him for a moment. His muscles were tense as his lifeless body continued to grow stiff. Seven arrows and one large spear head penetrated his flesh and stuck there. She grasped the arrow embedded in his right thigh. She jerked it out quickly and looked at him to see if he flinched. He did not. Dried trails of blood decorated each wound, but none bled as she pulled the pieces from his body. She removed the arrow from his shoulder, three from his chest, and another from his stomach. The spearhead proved to be more difficult. During the battle, Lothar had snapped the pole of the spear in half once it had penetrated his body. The remainder had been pushed almost entirely through his torso. Saga reached inside Lothar’s abdomen and grasped ahold of the jagged end of wood. It took several minutes before she was able to wriggle the killer free. She tossed the bloodied spear head aside and dampened cloths in a bowl of water. She cleaned the wounds as gently and as best as she could. She brushed his long dark hair and wrapped his waist in white cloth. She knew the sight of a man’s bare chest would offend Dinah, but she cared not. 

She stuck her head out of the tent and nodded for them to help her move him. Addai, Adnaan, Niv, Aharon, Samum, and Shai all helped carry Lothar’s body on a makeshift gurney. As the exited the tent, Dinah gasped at the sight of Lothar’s bare chest. Saga glared at her.

“Should you not cover...his open wounds?” Dinah asked, carefully.

Saga ignored her.

“Wait for me,” Humusi yelled, running toward the men. “I can help!”

“No, cousin,” Shenbar called from the shadows. They don’t want you. You’re a disaster.”
Humusi stood still and looked down at his feet. Saga felt sorry for him, but more sympathy was felt for her fallen warrior. She did not come to the aid of Humusi this time. She walked away, following the men carrying Lothar.

They walked a long distance before finally settling on a place to perform the ceremony. They built the pyre in silence, laid Lothar’s body on top, and lit it. The blaze quickly consumed Lothar’s body, and Saga watched the smoke trails ascend into the sky. 
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CotW #65: Write a story about infidelity. The most eloquent, elegant, entertaining entry, ascertained by Prose, earns $100 and stays atop the Spotlight shelf for six straight days. Feel free to invite friends, distant family, even strange acquaintances to play this challenge with you anonymously. Please use #ProseChallenge #itslit for sharing online.
Written by DarbyRiales

Unleashed

The stone laden streets of Old Cairo were cracked and dusty. A million pairs of feet must have trotted by that sweltering, summer day. One pair belonged to Gemma Weston. She stood at the entrance to the world’s largest bazaar as if she were waiting for someone to ask for the password. Women wrapped in vibrantly colored hijabs seemed to move effortlessly through the crowd. Children ran about, knocking over anything that stood in their way. Men casually smoked shisha at ornate hookah lounges, while sipping on steaming tea and eating pumpkin seeds. The cafes were full and overflowing. Gemma stood there silently taking it all in when an arm linked with hers. It was her fiancé, Ahmed Kareem. He smiled at her and led the way.

Gemma smiled to herself. Open, says me.

Ahmed pushed through the never-ending crowd and made the way to the first vendor in Khan il Khalili. Gemma had seen this place before on travel shows, but seeing it in person made it take on a whole new meaning. Egypt was a place she had dreamed of visiting since she was a young girl. As a travel writer, she finally made her dream into a reality. She had known Ahmed for a year, and he had proposed to her on a Nile River Cruise a week earlier.

“Remember,” Ahmed said, leaning down to her ear. “This place is huge. Don’t spend all your money in one place, and let me do all the talking. Try not to look too excited.”

Brightly colored dresses with Egyptian style adornments in gold were displayed alongside veils, statues, trinkets, and bellydancer costumes. Gemma’s face lit up with excitement at the sight of so many choices. Ahmed nudged her, and Gemma’s smile dropped. They moved along through the bustling streets, stopping at every vendor to see the wares. It seemed as if the street shops would never end. Row after row of side streets filled with gadgets, clothing, and accessories welcomed them. Red and yellow lanterns glowed in a lighting shop, giving a magical feeling to the place.

Being Egyptian, Ahmed was able to haggle with the vendors on everything Gemma bought. She collected a statue set of the Egyptian gods of the ancient world, several pieces of clothing, a collection of handmade jewelry, and her very own shisha. However, there was one thing that she desperately wanted. She spotted a vendor with only bellydancer costumes and veered towards him. Ahmed hurriedly followed after her.

The vendor was an older, plump man with a strong mustache and heavy accent. He welcomed her warmly and proudly showed off his selection. Gemma looked over the various costumes, but one specific set caught her eye. She reached for an angelic, white bellydancer costume with silver jewels decorating the bra and belt. Ahmed grabbed her hand before she could touch it.

“What are you doing?” He asked, curtly.

“I love this one,” she replied. “It’s so beautiful.”

“You’re not getting dancing clothes.”

“What? Why? I’ve always wanted one.”

“Don’t embarrass me,” he said. “We can talk about this in the car. You’ve got enough. Let’s go.”

He took her by her wrist and pulled her out of the shop. Stomping his way through the crowd, Gemma could hardly keep up. If he hadn’t been holding onto her wrist so tightly, she would’ve fallen behind. Back at the beginning in front of the cafes, he stopped and took the bags from her without a word. He hailed a taxi, and the two left Khan il Khalili in silence.

Arriving back at her apartment, Ahmed took her bags inside and stood next to the door.

“Aren’t you going to stay for a while?” She asked.

“I can’t,” he said.

“We’re engaged,” she said, sauntering to him. She put her hands on his chest and leaned up to kiss him.

“It’s not allowed,” he replied. “I am a Muslim. I don’t want anyone to think bad of you.”

“Bad of me? Who will know that you are here? The doorman?”

“I will go,” he said, aggravated.

“Okay. Do you want to tell me why you stopped me from buying that outfit?”

The silence seemed like an eternity. Ahmed stared at her, debating on whether or not he really wanted to go into this conversation at the moment.

“It’s for whores,” he said. Gemma raised her eyebrows. “It’s for whores, and I don’t want you to have it. You will be my wife. This old man is selling my wife a bellydancer costume? No, I don’t think so.”

Gemma did not respond. She simply looked at him in utter shock.

“Good night,” he said, leaving her alone.

                                                                 *

Ahmed came by the next day and brought lunch with him. There were different types of pita sandwiches. Some were stuffed with french fries, some with egg, and others with falafel. It was a carb overload. They were planning to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza that day. A satisfying meal was crucial. They sat in the living room while they ate. Gemma had placed her new statue set on the coffee table along with her charm bag of good luck stones.

Ahmed finished his meal in record time and went to the restroom. Gemma sat at on the sofa in the living room, eating her falafel sandwich. Ahmed’s phone lit up on the coffee table. She continued to enjoy the last little bit of her sandwich. As she leaned across the coffee table to get a napkin, his phone lit up again.

Several text messages written in Arabic came through from someone called Omneya Amir. Hearts and kiss emojis and two notifications that photos had been sent appeared as well. Confused, Gemma tried to unlock the phone with no success. A noise came from the bathroom, and Gemma put the phone back down. She tried to look as though nothing was wrong when Ahmed entered the living room.

“My parents want us to stop by before we go to the pyramids,” he said. Gemma nodded and went to put on her shoes. She bent down and glanced back at him. He was looking to his phone and smiling. Gemma strapped on her sandal wedge heels and stood up.

“Ready,” she said.

They drove in silence to his parents home, which was about ten minutes from her place. Ahmed held her hand the entire way and even kissed it on occasion. Gemma forced a smile.

They were greeted warmly by his mother and father once they arrived. Gemma was surprised to see the living room was full of guests. Ahmed’s brother was their with his wife and two children, and three of his aunts were there with their husbands too. Gemma noticed that Ahmed slipped into a guest bedroom for a few minutes before coming back out to join them.

“I’m just going to call my mom and tell her what we are doing today,” she said, excusing herself.

She hurried to the room to find his phone was charging on the nightstand. It was unlocked.

She quickly grabbed the phone and tapped the screen before it could go dark. She was in.

She took a deep breath and looked to see if anyone was coming. They were enthralled by a joyous conversation in the other room. She quietly slipped the door closed and looked to his phone.

What am I doing? I should trust him.

A second little voice creeped into her mind. ‘If you trust him, then this will be easy,’ the new voice said. ‘Open the message. Prove to yourself that he’s a good man.’

The second voice won, and Gemma tapped the message from Omneya Amir. First, she saw that they had just had a 40 minute phone call before he came to pick her up. As she scrolled up, heart and kiss emojis filled the screen from both sides. Then she found it. There were the photos of Omneya Amir completely naked in a mirror.

Gemma could feel her pulse pounding through her chest and up into her neck and ears. In the first photo, Omneya was sitting on a bed completely naked with her legs spread. Another photo was of her bare breasts from the view of her mirror. The photos were followed by a text in English from Ahmed that read, “I love you!”

Gemma’s heart stopped. Her face became hot, and she began to hear a pounding noise in her ears. She scrolled up again to see more nude photos, more sappy messages, and even a video of them grinding on each other at what appeared to be a club. She clutched the phone and tried to take a breath. She couldn’t catch it. Keeping the phone in her hand, she walked into the living room. She stood there staring at Ahmed with a trancelike look on her face. Ahmed noticed that she was clutching his phone and jumped up. He pulled her into the bedroom and snatched the phone from her.

“What are you doing looking at my phone?” He snarled.

“Who is Omneya Amir?” Gemma asked in a low voice.

“She’s a friend,” he said angrily.

“A friend? A friend that sends you naked pictures,” Gemma said, raising her voice. Ahmed shook his head and took an aggressive stance. “A friend you said I love you too? A friend? A friend!”

Ahmed stepped forward and aggressively pushed his face into hers. Gemma did not move.

“You are looking at my phone!” He yelled. “Looking at my fucking phone!”

Gemma’s inner voice had gone completely silent. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t move. She had no feeling other than rage. As Ahmed continued to scream in her face in an attempt to scare her, the second little voice came into her head. It showed her visions of violence, blood, and anger.

She stared into Ahmed’s raging eyes and said softly, “You have been preaching at me since I came here. You are a Muslim. You wouldn’t let me buy a costume. You proposed to me, and I find this.”

He stared at her, pacing back and forth. She remained still.

“Die,” she said. Ahmed cocked his head to the side. “Die.”

Ahmed furrowed his brow and a pained look spread across his face.

“Die.”

He clutched his chest and hunched his body over.

“Die.”

He was gasping for air when his mother came into the room. Seeing her youngest son in distress, she ran to him, breaking Gemma’s glare. Ahmed started to catch his breath and tried to stand. Gemma pulled the engagement ring off of her finger and let it fall to the floor. She turned and slowly left the room.

“Gemma,” his mother called out.

She didn’t look back.

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CotW #65: Write a story about infidelity. The most eloquent, elegant, entertaining entry, ascertained by Prose, earns $100 and stays atop the Spotlight shelf for six straight days. Feel free to invite friends, distant family, even strange acquaintances to play this challenge with you anonymously. Please use #ProseChallenge #itslit for sharing online.
Written by DarbyRiales
Unleashed
The stone laden streets of Old Cairo were cracked and dusty. A million pairs of feet must have trotted by that sweltering, summer day. One pair belonged to Gemma Weston. She stood at the entrance to the world’s largest bazaar as if she were waiting for someone to ask for the password. Women wrapped in vibrantly colored hijabs seemed to move effortlessly through the crowd. Children ran about, knocking over anything that stood in their way. Men casually smoked shisha at ornate hookah lounges, while sipping on steaming tea and eating pumpkin seeds. The cafes were full and overflowing. Gemma stood there silently taking it all in when an arm linked with hers. It was her fiancé, Ahmed Kareem. He smiled at her and led the way.

Gemma smiled to herself. Open, says me.

Ahmed pushed through the never-ending crowd and made the way to the first vendor in Khan il Khalili. Gemma had seen this place before on travel shows, but seeing it in person made it take on a whole new meaning. Egypt was a place she had dreamed of visiting since she was a young girl. As a travel writer, she finally made her dream into a reality. She had known Ahmed for a year, and he had proposed to her on a Nile River Cruise a week earlier.

“Remember,” Ahmed said, leaning down to her ear. “This place is huge. Don’t spend all your money in one place, and let me do all the talking. Try not to look too excited.”

Brightly colored dresses with Egyptian style adornments in gold were displayed alongside veils, statues, trinkets, and bellydancer costumes. Gemma’s face lit up with excitement at the sight of so many choices. Ahmed nudged her, and Gemma’s smile dropped. They moved along through the bustling streets, stopping at every vendor to see the wares. It seemed as if the street shops would never end. Row after row of side streets filled with gadgets, clothing, and accessories welcomed them. Red and yellow lanterns glowed in a lighting shop, giving a magical feeling to the place.

Being Egyptian, Ahmed was able to haggle with the vendors on everything Gemma bought. She collected a statue set of the Egyptian gods of the ancient world, several pieces of clothing, a collection of handmade jewelry, and her very own shisha. However, there was one thing that she desperately wanted. She spotted a vendor with only bellydancer costumes and veered towards him. Ahmed hurriedly followed after her.

The vendor was an older, plump man with a strong mustache and heavy accent. He welcomed her warmly and proudly showed off his selection. Gemma looked over the various costumes, but one specific set caught her eye. She reached for an angelic, white bellydancer costume with silver jewels decorating the bra and belt. Ahmed grabbed her hand before she could touch it.

“What are you doing?” He asked, curtly.

“I love this one,” she replied. “It’s so beautiful.”

“You’re not getting dancing clothes.”

“What? Why? I’ve always wanted one.”

“Don’t embarrass me,” he said. “We can talk about this in the car. You’ve got enough. Let’s go.”

He took her by her wrist and pulled her out of the shop. Stomping his way through the crowd, Gemma could hardly keep up. If he hadn’t been holding onto her wrist so tightly, she would’ve fallen behind. Back at the beginning in front of the cafes, he stopped and took the bags from her without a word. He hailed a taxi, and the two left Khan il Khalili in silence.

Arriving back at her apartment, Ahmed took her bags inside and stood next to the door.

“Aren’t you going to stay for a while?” She asked.

“I can’t,” he said.

“We’re engaged,” she said, sauntering to him. She put her hands on his chest and leaned up to kiss him.

“It’s not allowed,” he replied. “I am a Muslim. I don’t want anyone to think bad of you.”

“Bad of me? Who will know that you are here? The doorman?”

“I will go,” he said, aggravated.

“Okay. Do you want to tell me why you stopped me from buying that outfit?”

The silence seemed like an eternity. Ahmed stared at her, debating on whether or not he really wanted to go into this conversation at the moment.

“It’s for whores,” he said. Gemma raised her eyebrows. “It’s for whores, and I don’t want you to have it. You will be my wife. This old man is selling my wife a bellydancer costume? No, I don’t think so.”

Gemma did not respond. She simply looked at him in utter shock.

“Good night,” he said, leaving her alone.

                                                                 *

Ahmed came by the next day and brought lunch with him. There were different types of pita sandwiches. Some were stuffed with french fries, some with egg, and others with falafel. It was a carb overload. They were planning to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza that day. A satisfying meal was crucial. They sat in the living room while they ate. Gemma had placed her new statue set on the coffee table along with her charm bag of good luck stones.

Ahmed finished his meal in record time and went to the restroom. Gemma sat at on the sofa in the living room, eating her falafel sandwich. Ahmed’s phone lit up on the coffee table. She continued to enjoy the last little bit of her sandwich. As she leaned across the coffee table to get a napkin, his phone lit up again.

Several text messages written in Arabic came through from someone called Omneya Amir. Hearts and kiss emojis and two notifications that photos had been sent appeared as well. Confused, Gemma tried to unlock the phone with no success. A noise came from the bathroom, and Gemma put the phone back down. She tried to look as though nothing was wrong when Ahmed entered the living room.

“My parents want us to stop by before we go to the pyramids,” he said. Gemma nodded and went to put on her shoes. She bent down and glanced back at him. He was looking to his phone and smiling. Gemma strapped on her sandal wedge heels and stood up.

“Ready,” she said.

They drove in silence to his parents home, which was about ten minutes from her place. Ahmed held her hand the entire way and even kissed it on occasion. Gemma forced a smile.

They were greeted warmly by his mother and father once they arrived. Gemma was surprised to see the living room was full of guests. Ahmed’s brother was their with his wife and two children, and three of his aunts were there with their husbands too. Gemma noticed that Ahmed slipped into a guest bedroom for a few minutes before coming back out to join them.

“I’m just going to call my mom and tell her what we are doing today,” she said, excusing herself.

She hurried to the room to find his phone was charging on the nightstand. It was unlocked.

She quickly grabbed the phone and tapped the screen before it could go dark. She was in.

She took a deep breath and looked to see if anyone was coming. They were enthralled by a joyous conversation in the other room. She quietly slipped the door closed and looked to his phone.

What am I doing? I should trust him.

A second little voice creeped into her mind. ‘If you trust him, then this will be easy,’ the new voice said. ‘Open the message. Prove to yourself that he’s a good man.’

The second voice won, and Gemma tapped the message from Omneya Amir. First, she saw that they had just had a 40 minute phone call before he came to pick her up. As she scrolled up, heart and kiss emojis filled the screen from both sides. Then she found it. There were the photos of Omneya Amir completely naked in a mirror.

Gemma could feel her pulse pounding through her chest and up into her neck and ears. In the first photo, Omneya was sitting on a bed completely naked with her legs spread. Another photo was of her bare breasts from the view of her mirror. The photos were followed by a text in English from Ahmed that read, “I love you!”

Gemma’s heart stopped. Her face became hot, and she began to hear a pounding noise in her ears. She scrolled up again to see more nude photos, more sappy messages, and even a video of them grinding on each other at what appeared to be a club. She clutched the phone and tried to take a breath. She couldn’t catch it. Keeping the phone in her hand, she walked into the living room. She stood there staring at Ahmed with a trancelike look on her face. Ahmed noticed that she was clutching his phone and jumped up. He pulled her into the bedroom and snatched the phone from her.

“What are you doing looking at my phone?” He snarled.

“Who is Omneya Amir?” Gemma asked in a low voice.

“She’s a friend,” he said angrily.

“A friend? A friend that sends you naked pictures,” Gemma said, raising her voice. Ahmed shook his head and took an aggressive stance. “A friend you said I love you too? A friend? A friend!”

Ahmed stepped forward and aggressively pushed his face into hers. Gemma did not move.

“You are looking at my phone!” He yelled. “Looking at my fucking phone!”

Gemma’s inner voice had gone completely silent. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t move. She had no feeling other than rage. As Ahmed continued to scream in her face in an attempt to scare her, the second little voice came into her head. It showed her visions of violence, blood, and anger.

She stared into Ahmed’s raging eyes and said softly, “You have been preaching at me since I came here. You are a Muslim. You wouldn’t let me buy a costume. You proposed to me, and I find this.”

He stared at her, pacing back and forth. She remained still.

“Die,” she said. Ahmed cocked his head to the side. “Die.”

Ahmed furrowed his brow and a pained look spread across his face.

“Die.”

He clutched his chest and hunched his body over.

“Die.”

He was gasping for air when his mother came into the room. Seeing her youngest son in distress, she ran to him, breaking Gemma’s glare. Ahmed started to catch his breath and tried to stand. Gemma pulled the engagement ring off of her finger and let it fall to the floor. She turned and slowly left the room.

“Gemma,” his mother called out.

She didn’t look back.
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Juice
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