Excerpt from The Distance Between Us by Masha Hamilton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Distance Between Us

by Masha Hamilton

The Distance Between Us
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2004, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2005, 304 pages

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"How about your phone number, then?" he jokes, pseudo-husky, leaning in again to smell her cheek. She laughs, shoving him off. He winks, and the color of his eyes makes her think of olives resting in martinis.

Okay, so she’s partial to his blond good looks, his humor, and his consummate skill with a camera. She likes that he’s drawn to her face without make-up and her constantly disheveled short hair. But they aren’t a couple; spare her that conventionality. They are colleagues. Plus lovers, when the mood strikes. Both of them journalists who find the story irresistible and plan to live in it a long time. Discussions about relationships soon bore her. Too much dependency invariably backfires, in her experience.

Usually she thinks Marcus agrees. There are, of course, those other times. Like in the hotel bar last night. She’d been talking about how she didn’t want to sign another year-long lease on her apartment, and he’d said she’d become afraid to commit to anything, too hooked on the ephemeral news story to ever be satisfied with the solidityness of real life. His tone was surprisingly wistful. She refused, though, to give him a serious response. They were in a bar, after all, with colleagues. Screw you, she’d countered, laughing. News stories are real life. And they were—a form of it, anyway, the way bottled perfume was a form of odor. Besides, I’m just talking about a lease. She could tell he wanted to say more, but he took another slug of beer, letting it drop.

The mustachioed militiaman who collected their cards strides out of the hut, shaking his head as though he’s uncovered a plot. He motions. Their driver—what’s his name? Hussein? Mohammed?—glances back without meeting anyone’s eyes. Grains of sweat darken his temples and bead above his lips. He slides from the jeep, taking the keys with him, as if these journalists were inmates, plotting to drive off and leave him behind in the vacuous Lebanese landscape. Christ.

The gunman speaks to the driver in a dull slur that Caddie can’t make out. Their guard is still swaying, his AK-47 balanced delicately in his arms and pointed in their direction. The crickets grow loud, unusual for midday.

The driver shuffles back and passes out press cards. Three.

"Excuse me," Marcus says. "Where’s mine?"

The driver shrugs.

"Brilliant." Marcus swings out of the jeep, the two Nikons around his neck bouncing.

Their pear-belly guard stiffens, aiming his gun at Marcus’s chest. Caddie reaches from the Land Rover to try to grab Marcus’s arm, but he’s too far away.

"Okay, okay." Marcus raises his hands. "I need my card back. Card. Back. Comprenez?"

The guard holds his gun steady.

"Tell him, Catherine." He’s still grinning, still outwardly confident that this adventure is manageable, no more threatening than a Ferris wheel ride. But Caddie knows he drops her nickname only at serious moments,

"My colleague, please, must have his press identification," Caddie says in Arabic, addressing both militiamen, trying for a there-must-be-a-small-mistake smile. "Then we will depart, thank you."

The mustachioed militiaman speaks shotgun-fast to the driver—to Caddie it sounds like "these beans should be fried again in Syria,"—and the driver listens without expression. Caddie’s Arabic isn’t bad, but now she wishes, deeply, for a better grasp of local colloquialisms.

Another man emerges from the hut. Shirtless, skinny and muscular, he appears younger than the others. His face is creased in irritation. His hair sticks up in tufts as though he’s been unwillingly roused from bed. Carrying no weapon, he walks with shoulders high, hands alert, fingers slightly extended. Caddie’s tongue suddenly tastes metallic.

From The Distance Between Us by Masha Hamilton.  Copyright 2004.  All rights reserved.  No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Unbridled Books.

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