I rest my head on his shoulder, feeling his heart beating against me. I wish I could gather time around us, slowing the minutes, making them last a lifetime.I was born on the island kingdom of Ghedda, I whisper. This is a story I never told even to you, Habiba. I tell it now only because I cannot bear to leave him without the truth, knowing only half of me. I raise my head and meet his eyes. That was more than four thousand years ago. I was the eldest daughter of a wise and generous king.Aladdin stares at me, his eyes soft and curious, encouraging me to go on.When I was seventeen, I became queen of Ghedda. In those days, the jinn were greater in number and the Shaitan held greater sway over the realms of men. He demanded we offer him twenty maidens and twenty warriors in sacrifice, in return for fair seas and lucrative trade. I was young and proud and desired, above all else, to be a fair ruler. I would not bow to his wishes, so he shook our island until it began to fall into the sea.I shudder and Aladdin draws me closer.I climbed to the alomb at the top of the Mountain of Tongues and there offered myself to the Shaitan, if he would only save my city from the sea. My voice falls to a whisper, little more than a ripple on the water. So he took me and made me jinn and put me in the lamp. And then he caused the Mountain of Tongues to erupt and Ghedda was lost to fire. For he had sworn only to save my people from the sea, not from flame.
Jessica Khoury
What is so rewarding about friendship? my son asked, curling his upper lip into a sour expression. Making friends takes too much time and effort and for what? I sat on the edge of his bed, understanding how it might seem simpler to go at life solo. Friendship has unique rewards, I told him. They can be unpredictable. For instance.... I couldn’t help but pause to smile crookedly at an old memory that was dear to my heart. Then I shared with my son an unforgettable incident from my younger years. True story. When I was about your age, I decided to try out for a school play. Tryouts were to begin after the last class of the day, but first I had to run home to grab a couple props for the monologue I planned to perform during tryouts. Silly me, I had left them at the house that morning. Luckily, I only lived across a long expanse of grassy field that separated the school from the nearest neighborhood. Unluckily, it was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella. Determined to get what I needed, I raced home, grabbed my props and tore back across the field while my friend waited under the dry protection of the school’s wooden eaves. She watched me run in the rain, gesturing for me to go faster while calling out to hurry up or we would be late. The rain was pouring by that time which was added reason for me to move fast. I didn’t want to look like a wet rat on stage in front of dozens of fellow students. Don’t ask me why I didn’t grab an umbrella from home—teenage pride or lack of focus, I’m not sure—but the increasing rain combined with the hollering from my friend as well as my anxious nerves about trying out for the play had me running far too fast in shoes that lacked any tread. About a yard from the sidewalk where the grass was worn from foot traffic and consequently muddied from the downpour of rain, I slipped and fell on my hind end. Me, my props and my dignity slid through the mud and lay there, coated. My things were dripping with mud. I was covered in it. I felt my heart plunge and I wanted to cry. I probably would have if it hadn’t been for the wonderful thing that happened right then. My crazy friend ran over and plopped herself down in the mud beside me. She wiggled in it, making herself as much a mess as I was. Then she took my slimy hand in hers and pulled us both to our feet. We tried out for the play looking like a couple of swine escaped from a pigsty, laughing the whole time. I never did cry, thanks to my friend. So yes, my dear son, friendship has its unique rewards—priceless ones.
Richelle E. Goodrich