Edinburgh : W. P. Nimmo, Hay, & Mitchell, 1917.
Peace and Love and Pomegranates
I dedicate this story to all those caught up in war, terrorism and other atrocities, to whom peace is a distant dream.
Outside was a sun-baked, bright-skied Afghan day, the kind where Hallie itched to be outdoors. She dreamed of driving her beat-up Toyota to the green-folded mountains that surrounded the city of Kabul. From her vantage point overlooking the valley, she wouldn’t see the scars, the emptiness, the bombed-out places.
She smoothed her purple satin bedspread, then dusted the candlesticks in their hand-blown glass containers and placed them beside her bed. Then she knelt, head in hands and prayed. Would her prayers be answered today? It’d been weeks since he left on his clandestine mission of peace in a country that had never really known peace.
She hurried downstairs where the lunch crowd was multi-tasking—gulping espresso from colourful demitasse cups, sipping mint green tea from long glasses, wolfing down Shari’s food, while scanning newspapers for the latest news on those opposing forces, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban.
She despaired of this Islamic republic achieving peace in her lifetime. This was a land of warriors. Warriors needed wars.
She stood at the bottom of the stairs and chewed her thumb, admiring the brown door Bosco had built for her before he went away to investigate the latest bomb blast in Kandahar.
“It has to be at least a foot thick,” he’d said, “or the NGOs will no longer authorise you as a safe restaurant.” He’d hammered in the last nail, then stepped back to admire his handiwork. She knew he wanted her safe, but they both knew the only protection between her café and the treacherous streets of the city was a flimsy wall. Just last week her front windows had been shattered by a random blast at the nearby food markets. The gaping holes mocked her—You’re next, they whispered.
The room hushed. Westerners in suits and jeans and locals in shalwaar kameezes and turbans turned towards the brown door which her security man, Asmaan, pushed open. They studied the new arrival as he ambled towards the counter like he was taking a casual stroll through Central Park. He looked exotic in this setting—tall, blond hair, dressed in black, eyes hidden behind wraparound Ray Bans. A machine gun hung over his shoulder, a sidearm swung from each hip and who knows what was hidden in his boots.
Maybe he’d come for a plate of Shari’s Qabli Pulao, or perhaps some qorma, a platter of melon from Mazar-e-Sharif? No, more likely pomegranates from Kandahar.
Hallie clutched the counter until her legs stilled. “Hey there cowboy!” She held out her arms. “Can we trade? Guns for lunch?”
He was so close he could touch her.
He crushed her in his arms, kissing her breathless…hmm, imagination was a wonderful thing.
He scoped the room, then handed his armoury to Asmaan, who stashed it under the counter. Behind his shades, Hallie felt his eyes daring her to search him for the knife and pistol she knew he had strapped to his thigh.
“Now, what’ll it be, cowboy?” Hallie gestured to the table near the door, where he liked to sit and watch the comings and goings. As they walked, she pressed closer to him until his leg brushed hers. His black shirt strained at buttons her fingers itched to rip; those broad shoulders…she longed to massage away the knots; that bronco belt buckle, oh Lord… She dropped into a chair, breathing in short gasps, pushing her heart back into her chest.
He sat opposite, grinning. He knew her so well. He pushed his shades on top of his head. His black eyes lingered on her freshly-washed hair which fell to her shoulders in a mass of red curls she hadn’t tried to straighten, then moved to her breasts, which pushed impertinently against the bodice of the floaty dress she’d bought at the market.
“I’m not hungry for food, Hallie,” he growled, shuffling his chair closer to hers.
“No? Look at everyone stuffing their faces. Ta da!” She snapped her fingers. “The best food in Kabul. A fresh shipment of pomegranates arrived this morning.”
“I brought you some.” He seemed enthralled by her twitchy hands. He couldn’t touch her here with the local men watching their every move through slitted eyes, but even so, she could feel his fingers closing over hers, the strength of his grip, the warmth of his breath mingled with hers.
“My darling,” he whispered in that sexy tone she loved. “’The heavens set your appetites in motion’, Dante says. My appetites can’t be slaked by Shari’s food.”
“Is that right, cowboy?” Hallie wanted out of here, wanted his hands on her. She pushed away her chair and walked towards the stairs…fast, feeling every male eye boring into her back.
Asmaan stood, gun across his chest, guarding the stairs. “May Allah hear your prayers,” he said. Hallie blinked at him. He winked at her.
As soon as they reached the landing, Bosco scooped her into his arms and ran with her into the bedroom. The sound of his boot kicking the door charged the air with their need.
This was why she stayed. Hallie had followed him to one of the most dangerous countries in the world, terrifying her parents, her friends. But she’d never leave while Bosco was here…
The muezzin’s call to prayer woke her. She could still feel Bosco all over her—the desperation in his kisses, the pressure of his arms wrapped around her, the delicious scent of him.
She clutched the silken sheet around her shivering body. Night was falling, shaking the last light from the dusty air. The cooing of laughing turtledoves in the rooftops clashed with the wop-wop-wop of helicopters overhead.
He was gone. Like the pomegranates they’d fed each other in her bed. She was as empty as the champagne flutes that had overflowed with sparkling stars as they’d toasted those angels of peace and love, while knowing that only death could reconcile the two.
Salaamat! Hallie joined her prayers with thousands across the troubled city. “Be safe, my darling.”
Then, the bomb.
Close. Too close.
Her windows shattered.
The acrid smoke burned her lungs.
She clutched her heart.
Oh, the pleasure and pain.
I hope you enjoyed my story for Poetry Month. Click on the links with a DL (Direct Link) after the name in my sidebar for more entries in the April WEP challenge or go to the WEP website.
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