He laughed and picked up a cardamom with two fingers. She was being sophistic.
"Well, have it your way, Miss Feminist."
Wanting to show off his French, he asked the owner of the Cafe du Miel seated at the next table how hot it was in the desert. The Moroccans went into the usual exaggerations.
"Vous allez souffrir, vous allez voir. Mais c'i beau, c'i tres beau."
On the walk back to the Salam, he took her hand. The dogs were so loud in the gorge that he couldn't relax; his mind began to turn with a pitiless inertia all its own. Had it been a good idea, he wondered, this extravagance, this sudden departing, this rush to amusement? All for the sake of fun and friendship and three days under a fiercer sun. He knew she hadn't wanted to come. But something in him enjoyed the coercion he was imposing upon her. He liked pissing people off when he thought their irritations sprang from their rigidity and hypocrisy, and hers certainly did. He thought of himself as a cleansing agent, a purifier of other people's prejudice. She would be better off for it in the long run, he was certain, and as he thought this, a delicious pity crept into his calculations, a grim tenderness that had no actual purpose relative to his wife. It was like tending a pasture, clipping the edges with a sharp pair of shears. Keeping order with love and keeping the monsters at bay.
The Spanish Mosque was lit up, the water on the terrace pool flashing as the wind hit it. Two men walked arm in arm down Hassan II, whispering intently. No women on the streets now; it was the hour of men. Their eyes were upon the tall blonde in her worn cotton dress and red sandals, her jewelry and freckles. There was evidently a pleasure simply in tracking such a gazelle (that was the word they liked). Her gait that hoped to conceal itself from sexual curiosity, not quite a woman's sassy walk. They could easily guess that she was a writer, an intellectual, just as they could guess that he was a doctor and a bore.
David and Jo got into the car. He opened the Michelin map and struggled to find the fine red line that was the route they had to follow without fail. She kissed his cheek, and there was sand between her lips, just as there was sand on his face. It was already everywhere, and it irritated him. The granules itched inside his ears.
Excerpted from The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne. Copyright © 2012 by Lawrence Osborne. Excerpted by permission of Hogarth, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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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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