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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Then she nods, a gesture intended to display confidence. She sits as he faces forward to lean into the gas pedal. The Land Rover jumps, leaving the woman in the trail of dust the driver had avoided the first time.

Rob speaks first. "Where the hell did that come from, Caddie?"

"This damned pressure-cooker," Marcus says. "Woman, you need a break too."

"As if we all don’t," Sven says.

"Sunday brunch in the Village," Marcus goes on. "Mimosas and eEggs Benedict and a stack of frivolous glossy magazines. We’ll go windsurfing off Long Island. You can browse all the bookshops on the Upper West Side. And buy fresh bagels every day."

For a moment, she does miss New York. She misses blending in, not having to concentrate on the language. And street signs—God, how she misses street signs right now on this dusty, no-name road.

Marcus smiles. "I see it in your eyes. You’re ready. So come out with me, away from this madness."

"The paper wants me here," she says.

"Tell them how dead it is; then they won’t. Point out that everyone in your country is preoccupied by the election right now. About the Middle East, no one gives."

Caddie shakes her head. "It’s never dead here, Marcus. And didn’t you see all those farm-fed American boys in the Intercon bar last night? They didn’t make the trip to get laid. Spooks, for sure."

"She’s got a point," says Rob.

"CIA—so what?" Marcus grimaces in mock despair. "All that means is no photo ops for sure. C’mon, Caddie."

Caddie shakes her head. "If I need a break, I’ll take a couple days off in Jerusalem."

"Why?" he says. "Why do you have to stay?" When she doesn’t answer, he exhales in loud frustration. "Okay, then," he says. "But not me. That’s the joy of being a freelancer." He puts his hands behind his head as though leaning back in an easy chair. "Poof. I’m gone."

The driver slows again to about five miles an hour. Except for scrawny gray bushes hugging the roadside, the area seems forsaken. "Enough delays," Rob calls, bouncing his right leg. "Let’s get the show rolling."

"Don’t worry." Sven half-turns in his seat. "We must be almost there. Isn’t that right?" he asks the driver in loud Arabic. "We are there?"

Their driver doesn’t answer—in fact, Caddie realizes she’s never heard him speak. She has no idea what his voice sounds like, and that suddenly registers as odd.

Before she can ask another question and wait him out until he’s forced to reply, she catches sight of a bush up ahead to the right, jerking in a way it shouldn’t. The air hisses and loses pressure like a deflating balloon. "Hold it," Caddie says, but she doubts anyone hears because right then a passing shrub rises and makes an inexplicable ping. "Hey—" Marcus exclaims, and he half-stands, faces her and raises his hands as though to block her from the bush. Then he leans on her, shoving her down, and Caddie is dimly aware of a crack and grayish smoke as she hears Sven in the front yelling, "Gas, hit the gas you idiot, go, go, go for Christ’s sake!" It occurs to her that their situation must be serious for cordial Sven to call someone an idiot, and Rob sinks to his knees on the floor of the jeep, pulling her toward him, saying, "Oh Jesus oh fuck oh Jesus," so she’s sandwiched between the two of them, Rob and Marcus, and she’s aware of a peppery scent, and then, at last, she feels the jeep plunge forward and she tastes the dust that has settled on the leather seats but she sees nothing since her head is near her knees and Marcus is slumped over, protecting her, and the air becomes too dense to breathe, as though she’s underwater, and they seem to be turning because she falls to her left in slow motion and she realizes she should definitely be afraid right now, very afraid, yet she feels separate from it, in it but apart, like she’s that dirt caked behind the driver’s ear, and they spin to their right and Marcus, who is still covering her body with his own—God, he’s heavy—half falls off and at that same moment she feels something sticky like tree sap on her cheek and she touches it and it’s blood. "I guess I’ve been hit," she says, shifting her body toward Marcus, keeping her voice light because she’s already been flighty today about the woman and her toddler so hysteria now is impermissible, and then she knows, she knows right away and without any doubt. The blood is his and he’s gone.

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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