She could tell my mind was elsewhere.
"Still thinking about your aunt, aren't you?"
"Is it that obvious?"
She shrugged and smiled. "It's okay," she said, setting her guitar aside. "My grandma was really important to me like that. I went through a lot when she died."
"But the thing is, it's not just that she died... it's that I had something to do with it." I didn't even realize I'd said it until I was almost finished with the sentence.
Rachel looked at me, puzzled, folds appearing along her forehead.
"What happened?" she asked.
"You don't know me very well... I mean, of course you don't. It's just... I don't think you realize how I grew up."
"I'm not following you, Hayat."
"You're Jewish, right?"
"You may not like me very much if I tell you what happened..."
She shifted in her place, her back straightening. She looked away.
You barely know her, I thought. What are you trying to prove?
"Maybe I should leave," I said.
She didn't reply.
I didn't move. The fact was, I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay. I wanted to tell her.
We sat in silence for a long moment, and then Rachel reached out to touch my hand.
"Tell me," she said.
This excerpt is used with the permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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