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Enjoy today's chapter of "Good Works" a serialized novella from Lynda Simmons:
“A driver was supposed to meet me in the alley,” Aisha said. “Give me a new phone and take me to the first stop.”
What I wouldn’t give to have my own phone right now. And my purse, or even just my wallet. Something with I.D. and money. And perhaps a sledgehammer to get us through this gate.
“The first stop of what?” I asked, taking another stab at the latch.
“My escape. I’m flying to England tomorrow. I have a cousin in London who’ll take me in and the authorities there won’t send me back for a forced wedding. But the driver was in a car accident and I only had a little window of time with just Hassan and Zara in the house. Finn needed a way for me to get to the first stop quickly.”
“He could have sent a cab.”
“Finn says no cabs or subways because of the video cameras. We can’t give anyone a way to track my movements.”
“So he grabbed my bike instead.”
She shrugged. “It was handy.”
Only an arm’s length away. And unlocked. A mistake I would never make again.
“I don’t think he expected you to follow him,” Aisha said. “I know I nearly fainted when you showed up.”
I had to smile. “I like to be a surprise.” I pushed the flappy thing up and the bolt down and suddenly the latch made sense. “So Hassan is your brother and Zara is his wife,” I said, swinging the gate back and motioning Aisha to follow me into the narrow walkway between the houses. “She seems like a barrel of fun.”
“She was until they got married. Now she’s this uber-Muslim. Even changed her name.” She sighed as we crept under the neighbour’s window. “It’s like I don’t even know her anymore.”
“Understandable.” When we reached the end of the walkway, I motioned her to stand back and peeked out at the street, making sure no one would see us making our exit. The last thing we needed was to be stopped for trespassing.
Fortunately, things were hopping out there. Kids playing ball hockey a few doors down, people walking dogs and pushing strollers. No one giving our dark and narrow hidey-hole a first, let alone a second glance. Yet I still pulled back into the shadows when a silver sedan came down the street.
“What kind of car does your brother drive?”
“A silver Corolla.”
Perfect. All we had to do was avoid a silver car in a city overrun with silver cars. But I’d worry about that later. Right now, all that mattered was getting us out to the street and on our way. “Okay what’s the address of the first stop?”
“Some banquet hall nearby.” She withdrew a slip of paper from her pocket and handed it to me. “Finn knows a guy who works there. He has a new burner phone waiting for me. Once I have it, I’ll let Finn know and he’ll tell me where we go next.”
“How very cloak and dagger.”
“Not really. Finn just likes to be cautious.”
“He’s an interesting guy,” I said, opening the note, scanning the page.
“Finn’s the best,” she said matter-of-factly. “Helps a lot of girls like me.”
“You mean girls being forced in marriages they don’t want?”
“And other stuff. I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing right now if I hadn’t met him. Probably thinking about jumping in front of a train.”
“Hopefully you’d have been more inventive.” I handed her back the note, certain I knew roughly where we were heading. “How did you meet him?”
She smiled. “It’s not like he has a website or a Facebook page or anything. You can’t just Google Help Me Escape and up he comes. It’s all word of mouth. A friend of a friend of a friend, that kind of thing. But once he agrees to help, you find out he has this underground railroad for girls.”
Simply talking about Finn and the escape plan had relaxed her. Made her shoulders less hunched, her eyes less wary. She clearly believed in the man and his underground railroad for girls, and as much as I wanted to hold judgement in reserve, the concept was undeniably appealing.
“But why not just go to the police?” I said, moving her back deeper into the shadows as another silver car went slowly past. “Or a guidance counsellor. There are plenty of agencies to help you.”
She looked down at her hands. “If I call the police, they’ll start investigating my family. Then Social Services might take away my little brother and sisters and I don’t want that. My parents aren’t bad people. They just have old ways of thinking.” She lifted her eyes to mine. “Moving in with my cousin will hurt them enough. A police investigation will destroy any chance I have of mending fences later.”
“And Finn. Why do you trust him?”
“Because he’s done everything he said he would. What more do I need?”
I studied her a moment longer, searching for doubt or lies and finding none. She believed what she was saying, and the longer we stood there, the more likely we were to have someone spot us.
“We should go,” I said, checking the street once more. The ball hockey game was attracting a crowd, keeping the focus away from us. “I don’t know banquet halls,” I said to her over my shoulder. “But I do know the street we’re looking for. So lose the hijab and we’ll get going. I just need to make a quick stop along the way. Grab my purse and my phone. Shouldn’t take more than five minutes –”
“You’re joking right?”
I glanced back at her. “No, I’m serious. I need to make a stop, but I promise it won’t –”
“I don’t care about the stop.” She motioned to her head. “But I cannot take this off.”
Fast-paced, funny and incurably romantic
Rachel Banks has never believed in magic or moonlight, but if she’d thought that putting a piece of wedding cake under her pillow would conjure up a nightmare in the form of blue-eyed charmer Mark Robison, she’d have stuffed that cake into her mouth instead! Mark is only in Madeira Beach for some much needed R&R and his new neighbour is not the kind of woman made for vacation memories. But there’s something about the incurable romantic that just keeps drawing him back.
Jennifer Crusie. Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Lynda Simmons? Oh, yeah!
About the Author:
With two daughters to raise, Lynda and her husband moved into a lovely two storey mortgage in Burlington, a small city on the water just outside Toronto. While the girls are grown and gone, Lynda and her husband are still there. And yes, there is a cat – a beautiful, if spoiled, Birman.
When she’s not writing or teaching, Lynda gives serious thought to using the treadmill in her basement. Fortunately, she’s found that if she waits long enough, something urgent will pop up and save her - like a phone call or an e-mail or a whistling kettle. Or even that cat just looking for a little more attention!
Buy the book at Amazon.
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