Sample Saturday: “His Beloved Infidel”

Hi, everyone. Just an update on the injury I mentioned in an earlier blog post; it turns out that I have bursitis. The next steps involve 10 days of high-dose NSAIDs, ice packs, and rest. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never bet my walking program back on track! Still, it’s at least something that can be easily resolved, and no fractures were found on x-ray.

And that brings me to today. It’s time for another sample from my work. This the opening of His Beloved Infidel.

December 1978

Farukh Aria scratched his chin through the hated beard as his brother, Dadash, pulled the tiny Fiat Cinquecento into Paris traffic. The thick black mass obscured his jaw and reached to his buttoned shirt collar; Farukh loathed it. He watched the World Language Institute in the rearview mirror, growing ever smaller as Dadash drove them to the Ayatollah’s compound at Neauphle-le-Chateau. While his fellow teachers celebrated the end of winter term with weekend parties, Farukh would spend it surrounded by religious men, saying prayers he was no longer sure he believed in. It would be a relief when the weekend was over and Dadash dropped him off at the train.

“Your thoughts are elsewhere, brother,” Dadash remarked as he pulled the car on to the peripherique. He was shorter, rounder and swarthier than Farukh; most people would be hard-pressed to believe they were brothers.

“I am sorry, Dadash. I do not feel well.”

Farukh hoped that this would quiet his brother. Dadash had spent the week in Paris, at Farukh’s flat in the 11th arrondissement, and had much to say about the evils of the West and the infidels there. He had come from their home village of Qom, on fire with the ideas of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Dadash repeated Khomeini’s ideas obsessively; he was especially enamored with promises of great success and wealth without effort or cost.

“How will these great promises be kept? Who will finance them?” Farukh had asked once. Dadash had scoffed that Allah would provide for the faithful. Dadash was not fond of work.

For his part, Farukh loved being away from Iran. Educated at Oxford, he spoke English and French in addition to his native tongue. When the opportunity arose to teach Farsi at the World Language Institute in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, he had leaped for it.

Dadash, on the other hand, held to the Ayatollah’s idea that formal education was unimportant. He grew out his beard and wore his shirts tieless, but completely buttoned, to show that he was not “Western-stricken.” As more and more Persian men followed the style, Farukh had joined in — not because he agreed, but because the rumors of people being killed by the Ayatollah’s men for not being sufficiently Islamic in appearance were far too believable.

Despite Farukh’s best hopes, Dadash droned on, first about their youngest brother, Kourosh, and his studies at the Tehran School of Social Work. And then, something that got Farukh’s attention.

“ … time you were married,” Dadash was saying. “You are thirty years old. We must get you back to Iran and find a good, modest Muslim woman for you. An appropriate match.”

“I have someone in mind,” Farukh said quietly.

“Good,” Dadash replied. “Now, let us listen to the Agha speak.” He switched the radio on and dialed in BBC Maks, the Persian-language station; the Ayatollah was making his weekly address. Dadash always referred to the cleric as “Agha,” which meant leader.

Farukh closed his eyes. Dadash could never know about the woman he loved. Not only was she not Muslim, she was an American. And she did not seem to know that Farukh was alive.

Like Farukh, Catherine Ellis was a teacher at the World Language Institute. She had blonde-streaked brown hair that reached just to her shoulders, and blue eyes that always seemed to be smiling. She dressed fashionably without being outrageous, and was well-liked by both students and faculty. So far as Farukh could tell, she was not seeing anyone.

By now, he thought, she must have found her Christmas present.

Back cover copy:

Farukh and Catherine are colleagues at Paris’ World Language Institute. He is Persian; she is American. Can their newly-discovered love survive the strain of Iran’s Islamic Revolution?

Author Sharon E. Cathcart (In The Eye of The Beholder, Through the Opera Glass) presents her first tale of inter-ethnic romance. Set against the backdrop of real-world events, Cathcart tells the story of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events.

His Beloved Infidel is available free of charge on Smashwords through May 31, 2020, as part of the Authors Give Back promotion. Click here to get your copy today.

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