Saturday 11 May 2024

Saturday Sample: The House of Clementine by Gill James, clementine juice,



"It's definitely a miracle," said Rozia. "I really hadn't dared to hope for this much."

Kaleem had to agree. Petri was sitting in the shade. Full sunshine might be a bit much for her, yet, even with the magic of the medicine on Zandra. She was weaving a daisy chain. Seven months ago, when they'd first come to Zandra, she could hardly stand the gentle light of a low-level electric bulb.

"She's doing well," said Kaleem. "It's nice to see her looking happy." He remembered the first time he met her. The poor child had been in constant pain. Now she seemed like almost any other child.

Rozia touched his arm. "I really am grateful. You know that, don't you? To you. And the Zandrians."

Kaleem shrugged. "There have to be some perks about being the Peace Child." He cringed inwardly at his own words. He never liked to admit to this role. He wasn't really doing much at the moment in any case. He felt a bit guilty that he had such a generous allowance from both Zandra and Terrestra and that even Zenoto invited him back frequently. He wasn't actually doing any work for anyone at the moment. Sure, he had to keep his languages and his knowledge of other cultures up but this was so much of his nature now that he would do this even if he wasn't paid.

"This has been lovely," said Rozia. "But we shouldn't push our luck." She turned to her stepdaughter. "Come on little missy. Time to go." 

Petri grimaced. "Oh. Do we have to?" 

It looked as if there was going to be an argument. It was good to see Petri behaving like any other kid.

"Yes, we do," said Rozia. She shook her head and glanced up at Kaleem. "I don't want to take any risks. This is the longest she's been out in daylight."

"I'm sure she'll be fine."

Rozia bit her lip and frowned. 

Kaleem touched her arm. "They are good, you know, the medics here."

"I know. I can't help worrying, though." Rozia started gathering up her things. "Come on then, Petri."

"Oh." The little girl began to pout . "I like it out here with Kaleem."

"Kaleem has to go as well. He's got work to do."

 He didn't want to go. He just wanted to stay here forever and stare at her. The woman who would be the love of his life forever, no matter what happened. Even if she eventually found herself another man. She was some sort of angel or saint. He remembered how good she'd been with the Adulkis. She'd been so patient with these difficult, both physically strong and strong-willed adults who'd behaved like children and they'd loved her. She'd forgiven him for the really horrid way he'd treated her and she'd understood that he'd only left her because he thought he was a danger to her. Now she was taking so much care of a child that wasn't her own.  On top of all that she was as beautiful as ever. The accident hadn't left any permanent scars –not any that showed, in any case. It was a surprise – and a relief – to him that she was on her own. 

"Come on then," said Rozia, grabbing Petri's hand.

"I'll walk with you to the transporter station."

Rozia nodded. "That will be nice."

Petri took Kaleem's hand. "Now you two are joined together, through me."

If only.

Rozia blushed deep red and looked away. "Don't be silly, Petri."   


As they walked Kaleem couldn't swallow. He couldn't think what to say to Rozia either. Whatever he said would be a lie; there was only one thing on his mind – how much he still loved her. He ought to get that out of the way first but suppose she totally rejected him? If he didn't confront her with this he could remain hopeful in his ignorance. Rozia just seemed embarrassed. He hated as well that he'd made her feel awkward. Perhaps he should keep his distance from her, pretend to be busy, put the whole problem on hold.

Petri had seemed oblivious to it all and had skipped along the pleasant pathway that was surrounded by artificial trees and bathed in late spring-light. She was singing to herself despite the brightness. Bringing her to Zandra had been the right thing to do. That was something at least. She would never have made this much progress on Terrestra.

A transporter came very quickly and Rozia and Petri clambered aboard. Something sank in him as they waved goodbye. Petri was enthusiastic. Rozia just looked sad. Was that a good sign? Was she sad that they were parting again? Or was it because she regretted seeing him today?

Oh, it was all too difficult.

He decided not to wait for a transporter himself. He'd do what he often did when he felt stressed. He began to jog, though he couldn't help chanting to himself as he ran "She loves me, she loves me not."  Well, whatever. Of one fact he was sure: he loved her and always would.          

It would have been three stops on the transporter, so a fair distance in fact. Yet it would only take him about twenty minutes to jog there. He began to pound along the pavements. They were crowded today and even the newly introduced channelling was not keeping people apart. At one point he almost bumped into a Zandrian droid.

"Oy, watch it snazzy boy," commented the machine.

Odd. That went against the normal robot code, didn't it? Though perhaps calling a Terrestran a "snazzy boy" was harmless enough. The machine was actually not hurting human life. But why would it bother? There must be some wrong programming there.

It didn't improve his temper. Nor did the jog have the normal mood-enhancing effect. It just made him feel tired, drained and aware that he wasn't quite as fit as he used to be.

He carried on pushing himself, even though his legs were beginning to ache and he was getting so out of breath that his lungs hurt.  At least when he finally got home he could be pleased that he'd kept going. So he arrived at his apartment block out of breath, sweating and with hardly the strength to command the door to open.    

He leant against the wall whilst he tried to recover. A few seconds later his breathing and heart rate slowed to something more normal. He still felt a bit weak. He decided to leave it a little while longer before attempting to get into the building.

One of the campaign holoposters caught his eye. His iris activated it. He watched with a mixture of disbelief and nausea as a fair-skinned, blond-haired Zandrian, who was so perfectly Zandrian that he was sure she was really a droid, described how Zandrians should stop offering so much medical help to people from other One World Community planets.

"We must put other Zandrians first," she said. "Whilst we feel duty-bound to offer help to the needy from elsewhere, are we actually helping them if all they do is drain our resources? Wouldn't it be better if we educated them to look after themselves more efficiently? Zandra's resources are not infinite."

"Stop," said Kaleem quietly. He should get the holoposter reported.

Now the strength returned to his limbs and his heart rate quickened again. He ran up to the apartment block door. 

The monitor recognised his iris before he'd even said his name. The door opened immediately. He felt a level of fitness returning. The poster had fired him up.

He remembered living in the old cave system on Terrestra. He could still see the Z Zone there as well. That place where people lived outside of the system because of their sincere beliefs. Everything was improving now and that was down to people working together. How dare anyone try to stop that?     

He decided to walk up the twenty flights. Half way up he started running again.

Find your copy here 


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