Monday, January 17, 2011

Debut Sneak-Peek: Rosie by Mariam Maarouf

Mariam Maarouf, the teen debut author of Rosie (which is out today) has a special treat for everyone! As you all know, Rosie will not be published in the US. It will be published in Egypt. But it will available in Amazon. I know some readers don’t try new authors…so, if you’re a little hesitant to read Rosie or excited to see what Mariam’s writing style is like…feel free to read the Two Chapter Sneak-Peek below.

I enjoyed reading it a lot! And I’m hoping you will too!


Dying -once Alessandra's dream- was now her most dreaded fear; knowing that who you want to be with weren't unreachable as you thought they were would do that to you.

He stood there, his hair drenched in the pouring rain, his usually kind-looking eyes vicious, and his black, shiny gun in his confident hands, waiting for the perfect chance to send her soul to the most unknown place - the afterlife. 

She took a shaky breath as she scanned her surroundings for an escape, but found none. Old thoughts of surrender tempted her like candy did to children; it had been her wish for a while, why not take the chance while she had it?

Life -that complicated thing. One day, it took you to the perfection of happiness, with every meaning it might embrace. The other, it drove you to the limits of despair. The balance, however, was what made life either a paradise on earth, or a living hell.

And a living hell was what they had found themselves tied to with the steel chains of their trap.   

Chapter 1

The sun shone down the magnificent calm blue water of the Mediterranean, watching it as the wind threw gentle white sprinkles of waves on the awaiting shore, completing its journey to the fragile September leaves, forcing them down the clean Korneish road of Alexandria, Egypt.

Somewhere in the classy neighborhood of Kafr Abdou, way inside the beautiful city, stood Damien Theophilus in his apartment·s balcony, enjoying the light breeze that was the leftovers of what used to be wind. He wished it could blow away his worries, but it had always been beyond the simplicity of some fresh air.

His sister, Princess Alessandra, was sleeping in her small room, and to be awoken in a few minutes for their first day of school. For almost seven months, he had to deal with her with great care, like she was a piece of the
most fragile glass ever created. She used to be stronger, like a normal fifteen-year-old little royalty, but the tragic loss of their parents drove her to a place where responding was the greatest gift.

His mind drifted back to the last time he had seen their parents, right before the battle. La Pacifica, their island, was under the threat of invasion, and a battle was what it took to insure its independence, and also all it took
to separate a royal family.

“Take care of her,” his father, Damien Theophilus Sr., had pressed as they left, not knowing where they where heading.

Since that day, he had promised himself to be responsible of her; be her father and brother and everything she needed. But her mind didn’t seem to agree, and four months were spent worrying over the last bits of her sanity.

She had gotten better, more alive, and maybe - just maybe - she was coping with what happened. He never allowed himself to mourn; he knew he wouldn’t be able to get a hold of himself. He had always believed that his parents, even if not on the same earth he was living on, were somewhere else, and he hoped it was a better place.

The rectangular, slick black mobile phone released a quiet melody that was set to wake Sandra up. Normally, after Beethoven played on the background of a sunny day, she would wake up with a grin. Yet today was different-she wasn’t looking forward to school.

She groaned loudly and searched blindly for the snooze button, or maybe she could press ‘stop’ and get back to peaceful sleep. But then Damien would wake her up and ruin that. After a maximum of three seconds of deliberating, she sat up in her bed just in time for Damien to knock on her door.

“Come in,” she murmured sleepily, her tone just loud enough for him to sense it was granting.

He pushed the door open and peeked inside. “You’re awake? Oh, buon giorno, Sandra.”

Italian was Their Highnesses first language, while English was their second for diplomatic reasons. The little island, located just in the middle of the Mediterranean, was a mixture of Greek and Italian origins that formed the best combination-a kind-hearted, Italian-speaking civilization.

“Buon giorno, Dam,” she mumbled, rubbing her aquamarine eyes, the only thing besides skin tone that would make anyone think they were related.

“Come on, get up; we’re going to be late for school,” he pulled his lips upwards in an attempt of an optimistic smile, while deep inside he was waiting for her to relapse once again. This wasn’t a good idea from the very beginning. We should’ve waited longer, he thought. 

She leaned on her back and flipped lightly on her right side, burying her head in her soft pillow. “Do we really have to go?”

Mentally preparing himself for a breakdown, he answered. “Of course; we had been taught responsibility, Alessandra,” he reasoned, “We owe them that much, don’t you think?”

She reluctantly sat up again, messing the delicate pink silk covers that covered the heavy quilt and looked down at her small hands. “I know,” she said and he registered a good start, “I’m just worried, I guess.”

He crossed the room in two easy strides, sitting down beside her and flipping on the lights· switches that were beside her bed. “I miss them, too,” he said, straight to the point, “But that’s how life is.”

She took in the sight of her - mostly decorated in pink, her favorite color, and blue -to distract herself. “Are we going to be here forever?” she asked, cocking her head to one side. “For the rest of our lives?”

It was one of those questions that Damien always found a way around; part of the ‘keep-her-sane’ plan. A sigh escaped his lips. Do you remember our mother’s words for us before we left?” 

Part of her heart stung at the mentioning, but she kept on normally. “Wherever you go, be safe,” she quoted her mother, Queen Cascadia Theophilus.

“I guess that sums it all,” he exhaled, a tad relieved, “As long as we’re safe…”

She pulled her head towards him to kiss his cheek hastily. “And we are, aren’t we?”

Another question he had been avoiding; nothing about their safety was certain. He regretted he ever brought it up. He rose to his feet, looking down at her with a smile like he had never heard her speak. “You’ve got exactly forty-five minutes,” he noted, “Be quick, please.”

One advantage of her room, you could always run out of it quicker than a paper falling on the floor. 
She stared at the closed door, blinking. But, her mind now processing everything simpler than before, just to keep her living with a slight shade of happiness covering her life, she didn’t stop to think twice about how he'd ignored her and walked away; she simply jumped into her fuzzy flip-flops and dragged herself to the bathroom, stopping to stare at her reflection, her hands on the cold, back marble surrounding the sink.

Under other circumstances, Alessandra would·ve looked angelically gorgeous; her light brown hair, bluish green eyes and rosy cheeks used to make the definition of beauty and youth much simpler than anyone would’ve ever thought. Right now, though, with her cheeks pale and her eyes holding faint black bags, she looked ghastly, like something turned her life upside down - which was exactly her case.

She shrugged it off and pulled out her hair ribbon, loosening her pony tail, knowing it would be back up before she walked out of there. It had been a while since she let herself feel pretty, as any other girl her age should be thinking. She could’ve been thinking about make-up, clothes, TV…

If only it never happened.

Across the apartment, in Damien’s room, he stood, checking his wooden drawer. Where were the passports? Where were the passports?

Oh, here they were.

He pulled out two midnight-blue passports that held their fake identities and flipped them in his hands, just feeling their weight. He bent on his knees in front of the drawers and opened his passport, the small document that would dictate his new life for him.

His new name was Daniel Goodwin, just in case Alessandra slipped and called him by his real name. He was eighteen-years-old, as his real self was, and he used to live in the United States of America - New York to be exact. He had the briefest idea of this state; only what he saw on television and on the internet.

Only God knew how the Major got hold of these papers.

 Just before he stood up, he took a quick glance at his sister·s passport. ‘Rosalie Goodwin’, checked. ‘Fifteen-years-old’, checked. Perfect.

Flipping again through the drawer’s contents, he glanced at a formal picture of the four of them standing together, like the perfect family they used to be; the responsible father, King Damien Theophilus, the loving mother, Queen Cascadia, and their teenaged children, a little boy with slight freckles and coal black hair, matching his father·s, and a younger girl with a
smile so broad that you might think her cheeks were going to pop.

He inhaled deeply, memorizing their faces once again like he did every day and pushed the drawer back, standing up and ready to go.

Sandra looked down at her uniform, checked her cell phone and money and went straight to her brother, who was waiting in the living room, staring at the ceiling. 

“I’m ready,” she announced, “Are we going to wait for the Major? Or…”

He turned to her automatically. “Of course we are,” he said, “He’s the one with the driving license.”

“When do you get yours?”

“I don’t know yet,” he replied, “I legally can now - but I don’t know about the law here concerning foreigners.”

“Mm,” she murmured, shifting in her stance. “Is he-?”
She was interrupted by the birds’ twitter-the door bell. Turning to the door’s direction, behind her, she was outrun by her brother, who answered the door immediately.

The wooden door with the golden-colored knob squeaked lightly, revealing a tall, well-built, middle-aged man with dark blond hair and dull blue eyes. His name was Marcello Ricci, the Royal Head of Guard and the current legal guardian of the two once-royalties. His name was also Richard Goodwin, Rosalie and Daniel Goodwin’s 'surviving uncle'. 

Bowing his head ever-so-gently, he greeted his masters that were, in some twisted way, his responsibility, not the opposite. “Good morning, Your Royal Highnesses,” - he paused – “Are you ready for school?”

Damien glimpsed at Alessandra, making sure she was still standing there, before nodding to the Major. “We have half an hour,” he commented, “How far is the school?”

“Fifteen minutes, more or less,” he estimated, “The car is in front of the building, shall we?”

Damien and Alessandra nodded together, both grabbing their almost-empty shoulder bags and getting out of the flat as the Major held the door for them, closing it right after they were standing in front of the silver elevator of the dimly-lit building. 

“Of course,” Marcello started, “You are aware that I will have to call you by your…first names in public, aren’t you?”

Damien was about to speak when Alessandra did. “I don·t see why we should keep the formalities anyway,” she said, “We·re no more the Prince and Princess, Major.”

It was probably the longest sentence her lips had allowed for months now, and it took both men by surprise. They paused a minute, freezing, before they continued the conversation normally. 

Marcello smiled kindly. “You will always be the Prince and Princess,” he whispered, “Maybe even one day, you’ll return back to your kingdom.”

Damien almost scoffed at him, but kept his discipline, while Alessandra suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. Returning back to La Pacifica was officially stated impossible, even admitted once by the Major himself; he was the one who had all the connections with the island, and had insisted he would take charge of everything.

Damien never bothered to check after him; trust was something the Major had gained rightfully back when he really was the Head of Guard; the King had trusted him with his flesh and blood, what more evidence was there to prove?

Alessandra took a minute of silence after his words, recalling the day her parents had to take the most difficult and easiest decision at the same time.

“This island is too precious to be sold,” the King had said, his green eyes glowing with rage, ´La Pacifica will always stand still; no one will ever take my third child away from me.”

“It’s precious to all of us,” Cascadia had breathed, “But this is a battle we can’t afford; you know that.”

“We can keep our kingdom safe. And I don’t care how much it might cost us.”

The little girl winced at the memory, her brother unnoticing. By the time they made it to their Mercedes, she was calm once again, the memory fading bit by bit.
Even at 7:45 a.m., the whole school was under the mercy of the warm sunlight. Students were scattered all over the parking lot and inside the school, the tea rose color of their t-shirts making them seem like huge, tall droplets of strawberry milkshake. Some leaning on expensive cars, others holding their notebooks and socializing with the rest, and some lost in the vast place, wandering around. 

The quiet turning of the Mercedes to the parking lot didn’t prevent it from being the spot every one was looking; other cars were as classy, but this particular one was new to the Modern International School. As it stopped and two, obviously foreign, students stepped out of it, the girl fixing her pony tail nervously and the boy leaning down to whisper something in her ear, it was all explained, and everyone got back to their business, except maybe for the curious thoughts and light murmurs; but those were nothing out of usual.

“Your class is ten-B, okay?” Damien pressed, “Mine is twelve-C. In case you need anything, I have my cell phone.µ It was noticeable in his tone how worried he was; letting her out of his eyesight was new to both of them, especially now that they were practically depending on each other’s presence.
She nodded her head. “When will I see you?”

“During break, at 11:45,” he answered, “Excuse yourself out of class if you need anything.”

She sighed. “Dam-Daniel,” she quickly corrected, “I’m going to be just fine.”

He inhaled irritably. “Just promise me, please.”


“Great. Meet me there,” - he pointed at the entrance of the building – “As soon as the bell rings. Be careful.”

He was being so overprotective, she thought, it wasn’t even reasonable. He had crossed the line of caring long time ago, maybe he would have some friends here - get a social life. It didn’t bother her that he cared for her, really, but sometimes she wished if he could give her some space to breathe. It wasn’t selfish of her, was it?

He took a deep breath, knowing that he had prepared himself for this quite a while ago. He didn’t feel so reluctant about the idea last night, but now that it was real and happening, he couldn’t help but feel like she was his responsibility, and risking such thing was inexcusable. She could take care of herself, couldn’t she?

“Rosalie!” he called after her as she jumped on the stairs. She stopped mid-track, taking in the information.

She knew she was Rosalie, that her fake name was Rosalie. But it wasn’t who she was. That would take some time to get used to.

He was going to tell her to take care again, but thought against it. “Never mind.”

She cracked an amused smile, knowing what he was going to say. This wasn’t as bad as she thought, right?


Jumping, she turned to the short girl who had just tapped her shoulder twice. “Hi,” Short Girl said, her wide chocolate brown eyes the most obvious feature about her. Well, that and her height.

Alessandra coughed away the lump in her throat. “Hello.” 

“You’re new here, right?” 


“Well, can I show you around? You won’t find your class alone,”-she paused-“You don’t know where it is, do you?”
Sandra had to blink to comprehend what was happening, but she didn’t find Short Girl annoying. She blamed herself for acting so surprised. “No, I don’t.” Good; longer answers are good.

“Great!” Short Girl exclaimed. “What’s the - Oh, I·’m Salma by the way. Salma Khaled.”

Alessandra gave her a small smile. “Im Rosalie Goodwin. And my class is ten-B.”
Salma grinned broadly. “Good, you’ll get to meet Deema as well.”

There’s a Deema? Sandra thought, God, I hope this day passes.

“Come on,” Salma encouraged, ´The class is upstairs, third door on the left.”
“…Then the atoms collide together and voila! The reaction happens! Of course, every reaction needs energy to break the bonds of the reactants, which is-” Mr. Harrison was cut off by the bell. “We’ll continue tomorrow. Have a nice day, class.”

Sighs of relief filled 12C as the teacher made his way outside, and Damien collected his stationery and threw it tiredly in the shoulder bag, not really caring if it was thrown on the floor and probably extremely dusty by now. Who would·ve thought school was so boring? Surely the lessons at home weren’t like that. But again, he didn’t have to sit for hours straight receiving information from teachers.

“Dude,” Jimmy put a hand on Damien’s right shoulder as he stood up. “Are you coming? We’re playing football in the playground downstairs.”

“Maybe in a few. Got to see my sister.” 

“Sure, Danny,” he said, “I’m taking Mark and Omar and heading straight there,” Jamal added, “Oh, and it’s not really football; it’s soccer. Sorry; didn’t remember you’re American.”

That was a close one; he knew it was soccer before his colleague said it was; after all, he wasn’t American, was he? His accent disagreed, but he knew the truth.

“Uh, yeah,” he muttered, walking out of the class with the other boy. “See you.”

Stepping on shattered pieces of paper and almost tripping on a backpack someone had dropped beside the stairs, Damien made his way to the entrance where he had left his sister this morning. 

She was standing next to two girls; one was veiled and about her height and the other with long brown hair that was tied up in a messy ponytail. It was obvious they were chatting lively, something that had him confused.
Talking to strangers was a phase he didn’t think she would reach so soon, let alone conversing amiably with two of them.

“Rosalie?” he didn’t mean to make it sound like a question, but his confusion was evident.

“Come here, Daniel,” she gestured to him, satisfied. He approached the three of them slowly, as if his white sneakers weren’t fast enough for a normal-paced march. As soon as he was there, she rested a hand on his back, the nervous knot in her stomach relaxing a little. “Daniel those are my friends; Salma and Deema,” she introduced, her eyes glowing with pride, meeting his for a short millisecond. “Girls, this is my brother, Daniel.”

There was progress.  
Chapter 2

Light gray smoke blew out of the expensive dark brown cigar several times before the man sighed deeply, blurring the dull yellow light of his lamp. Everything was getting out of hand - crossing the red lines. 

For months, he had been able to stay well-hidden, and now, the slightest risk of the unveiling of his true identity was a risk he was not, by any means, willing to take. His job had taught him to have eyes in his back, but this certainly required more. He needed more eyes to get the whole photo.

But where to find them was the biggest bump in the road.

Obstacles had always slowed him down, as they did to anybody, and they varied every time; in reason and shape. This time, however, it wasn’t just an easy, solvable problem. Sure, it was solvable, but the how to the way of solving it held an enormous share of the trouble itself.

He needed someone very close, yet extremely far. Close in distance, and in knowledge, and far regarding suspicion. Very professional, he decided, and discreet to the maximum. He couldn’t have anything less than perfect.

Perhaps working in a small group was my biggest mistake.

Perhaps it was, and perhaps it was the only way he could have achieved what he achieved; he was a single step away from his ultimate goal. But that idiot had to ruin it, didn’t he?

He had to go and be all loyal and faithful, like a dog. Exactly like a dog; seduced by a stranger, following him with its tongue all over its chin, drooling over the bait, but when the bait was its, it would gracefully return back to its owner, with all the pride in the world.

Stupid, drooling animal, the man thought. No, no. He was not as clever as a real dog; at least real dogs followed until they actually got the bait. The bastard ran back even before he could get a taste, or even a glimpse.

Promises were broken, plans were aborted but they were exactly where he wanted them. A few moves wouldn’t hurt, would they? A life-shattering little accident, maybe, or a bullet shot somewhere close, just for the sake of pure, undisturbed fright. 

The though sent a jolt of pleasure through his body.

Yawning loudly, he put the cigar aside, taking in a deep breath, feeling the aroma of tension that surrounded him. A plan was all he needed - a mistake-proof plan. Mistakes could result in his death. Now, he wouldn’t want that, would he? He was born to make a change, and he would make it, and maybe also live an old dream of his - why not?

Pretense was tiresome, and pretending he was someone he wasn’t, maybe had been, but wasn’t now, and would never be, seemed to pull down his already-heavy eye-lids.

“In the morning,” he began, licking his lips before bringing back the cigar to his mouth, “I shall decide.”


“I’m sorry to hear that,” Deema sympathized, her eyes breaking contact with mine. Fresh air filled my lungs as I inhaled sharply; my feelings about my parents· loss were probably the only thing that wasn’t fake in the relationship between me and my school friends.

Little time did my parents spend with me and my brother, yet they managed to occupy a magically huge place in our hearts; the love we held for them was deep and unconditional. Everything they had done for us, we appreciated. Every moral they had taught us, we engraved in our memories. They were the people who deserved gratitude for making us who we were now - responsible young adults. 

Hot, fresh tears formed in my eyes as I remembered how we lost them. Time was unable to heal the wounds their departure from this world had caused to me; it was still incomprehensible that they were completely gone. 

I distracted myself by taking in the relaxing scenery around us. The school playground was as spacious as I would imagine an American Football field. Its design was more than simple; just a football (soccer) field surrounded by a walk-path and six wooden benches, three at each side, that were decorated by different graffiti paints made by probably every student who sat there. The rest of the sports fields were in their own building, but soccer seemed to have its own popularity; students were allowed to play it during break time. All we had to worry about during those forty-five minutes of the day were the random, unprofessional kicks of the dirty ball. Salma had noted that the thrill the possibility of being hit in the head causing us internal bleeding, a concussion or a coma was part of the enjoyment of the never-enough break time.

Making friends here, as I discovered during the last week, is easier than counting to ten; once you're introduced to someone, the whole school miraculously knows who you are. Being the foreigner helped spread the word as well, I was sure, but I could never bring myself to say that everyone here wasn’t pretty welcoming.

Deema Tareq, the veiled girl who was listening to music on our first day of school, was on the top of the list of my friends here, right next to Salma Khaled. Her copper brown eyes were framed by thick, black lashes that rested on her pure white skin whenever she closed her eyes. Deema was Salma’s best friend since birth, and the only one Salma fully trusted with
everything, she had admitted. Yet, to my surprise, her personality was nothing like Salma’s; although she was also relaxing to be around, sometimes she zoned out in another universe, a universe that looked like it brought her more misery than satisfaction. The reason she did that was a complete mystery to me that I wasn’t compelled to know; for a reason, I wasn’t close enough to her and for another, I felt like she wouldn’t like to speak about it. Nobody was fond of expressing the reason their life wasn’t as good as they wished it would be, in my opinion.

Glancing at my left, Hanna’s unnaturally blond hair caught my vision, reminding me of her presence. Her tan complexion and hazel eyes gave her the ability to dye her hair blond, but it was never convincing enough for me. She was looking down with a concentrating frown at the black phone in her wristbands-accessorized hand, texting or networking as usual. Usually, you might glance her way and find her laughing silently, or pouting at the screen - no need to panic, someone was just probably chatting with her. When she was ‘sober·, as Deema had put it, she was a funny and lovable person to be around. 

“Not now,” she muttered to herself - or her phone. “Damn.” 

“What?” Salma asked, snapped out of the trance she fell into after I’d finished my speech about my parents. 

“We’re not going to spend our next summer in Paris as Dad has promised,” she whined.

Salma stared at her before breaking into laughter. “Seriously? Since when do you travel abroad during summer?”

“Since Dad told us we will.”

“Well, they all do,” Deema interrupted, “Wonder if I’m really going to get a car after grad.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” I asked; her family was financially capable.

She smiled and cleared her throat, shifting in her seat.. “You’re a girl,” she thickened her voice, “You’re too young to be driving.”

“You should really stop imitating your dad’s voice. You suck at it,” Salma noted. “Besides, give the man some credit; he’s more open-minded than that.”

Deema shrugged, dropping the subject. “Was it Hussein who told you? Oh, wait, no, he’s with his friends over there. Who told you, then?”

“It was his online status,” she explained, her eyes widening before narrowing into tiny slits. “Why hasn·t he told me?”

“You should talk to him about it,” Salma suggested, “Case closed,” she decided, clapping her hands with a grin. “Now, who wants some milky chocolate? I have a lot.” Salma always had chocolate with her. It was probably the reason she was so hyper.

“Me!” Hanna answered quickly, raising her hand. We laughed as Salma got out her bar and broke a piece for her friend. “Any other volunteers?”

I smiled politely at her. “I just ate my lunch.” 

She then looked at Deema who said, “Oh, no. I’m not falling for those babies again.”

Salma chortled. “Chocolate is not what made you gain weight, Stupid. I mean, look at me!” She pointed at her slim body, “And I have one every day!”

Deema cracked an amused smile. “Honey,” she started, “You move like a busy bee in their honey-sucking season,” she commented. I muffled an amused laugh and Salma rolled her eyes.

“That’s better, you know,” she told her, “I get to eat the rest of it all alone,” she ate a chunk as she finished the sentence. 

One thing that I loved about them that, relaxed, I could joke or just observe their own real sitcom that was on air every single day. But at the same time, they all had this warm, serious side that never ceased to amaze me.
The bell rang, announcing the end of our brief break. Everybody groaned. “I’m so not going up now; it’s still 12:20! We have ten whole minutes,” Salma stated.

“Come on, Rosie. Let’s go.” 

“You’re seriously no fun, Deema,” Hanna muttered, “What would happen if we waited a couple more minutes?”
Deema rolled her eyes and stretched out a hand for me. “I actually want to go home as soon as I can,” she said, “Detention won’t be really…delightful now.”
Salma snorted. “We never have detention,” she announced proudly, “It’s all about your grades - teachers love us.”

Deema looked at me. “Bad influence,” she mumbled, pointing at her friends, “Come on,” she repeated.

I stood up, sensing my pockets to make sure my phone and money were there and joined her as we paced slowly towards the stairs on the farthest left of the playground. After spending about a whole minute just counting the tiles on the ground, I glanced at Deema’s expressionless face, tugging a stray hair behind my ear as I spoke. “You don’t have to do that, you know. Speak English all the time, I mean.”

She smiled gently at me, squeezing her mp3 player every now and then.

“It·s more than okay, Rosie,” she reassured. “It’s like we’re studying English the whole time,” she elaborated. “Much better than speaking in half-Arabic, half-English, believe me,” she finished with a grin.

“Half Arabic, half English? How so?”

Shrugging, she explained. “We’ve been speaking English since we were in kindergarten. So sometimes we just can’t fully express ourselves in Arabic - even though it’s our first language, which makes it kind of a shame - so we use English, or sometimes even French to express ourselves. So it’s really better just to speak one language at a time,” she said, “Plus, why not do it for a friend, right?”

Friendship had more value than anyone would’ve thought. Why wouldn’t you talk in a certain way for a friend? It didn’t make any sense not to, but it still didn’t make any sense to me why they would even bother. After all, they’d known me for about a week - less than a week; just four days. I shouldn’t mean anything to them, why would I? I was nothing special, nothing remarkable. I didn’t deserve it.

I wasn’t even honest with them.

All I could manage right now was to pull one side of my lips upwards in an attempt of an appreciative smile as we strode up the stairs, heading to the class immediately after we were up. 

The smell of dust mixed with chips filled the air, and students were scattered carelessly in the class; some looking out of the window that had a very ‘delightful’ view on the school’s bus parking lot, others finishing off their snacks, while a few girls were splashing expensive perfumes on their clothes, explaining the flowery fragrance that topped over every other scent.

I snatched my pencil case out of my white book bag as Deema walked to her place. Today was the first time I would learn about the Egyptian National Studies, even though I didn’t know I would even learn it, and it was also the first time I would meet that teacher. 

She was here a couple of seconds later. Shorter than Salma, she stood beside the comparatively-large white door, sending a malicious glare towards the boys as she entered. This very glare, I assumed, could make lions go hide. She ran her hand through her long black hair and sat down, greeting us in Arabic. 

We all sat down, the screech of the chairs on the ground the only obvious sound. She cocked her head to her right as she took in my foreign appearance. For a second, I wished I was invisible.  “You’re the American,” she mumbled. I nodded. “You don’t have to attend the class, by the way, you can’t take the tests unless you know how to speak Arabic, which I guess won’t happen until next term, right?” I nodded again; my Arabic classes were going to start next term. “Then, you’re free to go.” I nodded for the third time but didn’t go anywhere; it wasn’t polite to leave the class right now, was it? She rested her head on her hand as she continued looking at me, “And by that I mean go. Now,” she instructed and I blinked twice in surprise as I stood up and rushed out of there, not caring to push back my chair as I did. This woman was surely weird. I could hear the muffled laughter from the class and the loud shouting that followed.

Good thing I didn’t stay there.

I walked through the white hallways that were framed by a single row of dark gray lockers on my right and three windows on my left, letting in the refreshing sunlight, a slim number of students rushing to their classes or simply ditching. I glanced the almost-full classrooms, with students following the lesson, doodling on their notebooks, talking to each other or sleeping - the teachers usually didn’t bother to wake them up; they never did.

Look at them: bored, carefree, very different but happy. I just knew it. I mean, why wouldn't they be? They had everything - the family, the friends, their homes. Absolutely everything.

I was kind of enjoying my new life, especially now that I went to school and met my little group of 'buddies' (as Hanna called us), but the one thing I hated the most about this lifestyle was being so dishonest regarding my identity; they were open to telling me everything, and even if they didn’t, I was certain none of them had another name or a secret life like I did. They would do anything for me, and I wanted to give them something in return, to tell them who I really was.

Alessandra Theophilus, not Rosalie Goodwin.

 I continued scanning the hallway, lost in thought. As the hallway took a slight turn to the left, towards the stairs, the bulletin board in front of me caught my attention with a bright picture in the middle - a picture of a classic piano. 

The piano was the instrument I preferred playing the most back when I was at home. I was taught the piano, the violin and the guitar. Piano was my absolute favorite, though; I loved the sight of the white keys contrasting with the little black ones, the magnificence of the notes…everything. Playing old classics used to be my everyday hobby. 

I walked closer to the little announcement, reading what it said:

‘Can you play the piano? Do you want to practice it in public more?
Well, the school orchestra is what you’re looking for! Grab an application from the head office and come audition on Sunday, September 17th during break!
[Auditions will be held in the grand music room. Third floor, first door on the

The smile that formed automatically on my lips faded as I remembered one of Damien’s rules. I couldn’t participate in anything without getting his approval. But then I wondered for a moment; why would he object? It was something I loved. Besides, what harm would some music - some beautiful music - do?

But he didn·t think about it that way.

“Sandra,” he breathed when I asked him about it at home, licking his bottom lip nervously, sitting on the edge of my bed, his elbows resting on his knees, “Just no, alright?”

I frowned in confusion, crossing my arms over my chest, almost comforted by the feel of my silk pajamas on my arms. “Why?”
He put his hands on both sides of his stubborn head. “Because,” he answered, “I don’t have to tell you any reasons, Sandra. I just know what I’m telling you. No piano and that’s it.” 

“But, Damien-” I tried to object but he cut me off.

“Didn’t we agree before?” he said, not sounding mad at all – the complete opposite; his voice was pleading, “We agreed that whatever I tell you applies.”

My eyes stung with the urge to cry, but I resisted it. “It’s what I love!” I defended, “The only thing I would have from home!”

He winced. “That’s exactly why you shouldn’t - no, you mustn’t do it.” 

My eyes widened at his words; how this being what I love prevented me from participating was beyond my comprehension.
Why would he want to do this to me? Damien and I, unlike most siblings, were always on great terms. Why would he hate seeing me happy? Why on earth would he want me to quit the only thing that would bring me back the memories of home, the memories of Father teaching me how to play, the memories of Mother while composing new notes?

“Sandra,” he whispered once again, wiping away a tear I hadn’t realized had rolled down my cheek as he stood up in front of me, towering over me. “Don’t cry.”

“How could you?” I asked, my eyes narrowing at him, a lump forming in my throat.

My mind tried to put together any memory of Damien trying to tease me for the sake of stubbornness, but couldn’t. Dam, my closest friend, did not act like that with me. What did I do wrong? 

“Damien,” I said sternly before he could speak. “I’m going to join it on Sunday,µ” I decided, trying to act stubborn; maybe it would work.

He closed his eyes for a second and took a lung-filling breath. “You’re saying it as if it’s nothing,” he said, “While it’s-”

I cut him off. “Why don’t you just want me to be happy?” I mused, my tone restrained.

He balled his hands into tight fists, his knuckles whitening from the strength of it. “You make it sound like I hate you,” he accused, “You know how much I care about you, Sandra. You’re all I have left.”
“So what’s ‘left’ is important to you,” I said, “Well, the piano is important to me, too.”

“Even if we brought one right here I wouldn’t let you play it,” he said, “It’s not about the ‘exposing’ issue,” he began to explain, “You- you don’t know yourself as much as I know you-” I was about to object when he put a finger on my lips, hushing me, “-You’re too emotional. I can’t let you do this to yourself.”

I stared at him with almost visible disbelief. “Do what?” I asked, “It’s just the piano.”

He shook his head. “You know it’s not ‘just the piano’ or else you wouldn’t have defended your case so much,” he reasoned, “If I’m ever stupid enough to put you through what you had gone through three months ago, Sandra, I’ll never be able to live with myself. You’re my responsibility, do you get that?” 

I stared at my brother for what seemed like forever before I looked down at my hands, remembering exactly what he meant. 

I couldn’t register anything that had happened during that period of my life; the world may have gone through disasters and I wasn’t aware. Or I was, but it was soon erased. All I could remember was that I was here, in Egypt, with my brother. The details of those months were something I would probably never know. 

I wasn’t sure how bad I looked but I was certain of how I felt: awful. 

“I’m sorry. But it was really-”

“I know,” he mumbled as he stroked my hair, “You’re too young to go through this. I just don’t want to make it worse for you; I know it still hurts - even after all those months. Believe me, I do.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “So, if I promise you I won’t…be like what I was before,” I conditioned, “Would you let me do it?”

He rolled his aquamarine eyes. “You can’t promise me such a thing, Sandra.”

“I promise I’ll do my best, then,” I said excitedly, “Per favore, Damien.”

“Let me think about it,” he compromised, “You still have the weekend - Friday and Saturday.”

I stood on my tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “Grazie, Dam.” He just smiled and got out of my room without another word.

I sighed contently and leaned back on my fluffy bed, staring at the ceiling that had little, colorful stars that lit a little in the dark. My brother had arranged them so they would form the first letter of my name –‘A’. 

Yes, he sometimes treated me like a little kid, but he had always been like that with me; it must have been because he was three years older. Damien was everything I had left, I realized, and the one who knew me best.

Just thinking about the days and nights he had to plan, work and actually bear me while I was depressed - which was because we lost our parents- encouraged me to think of ways to repay him for being the world’s most incredible brother, but it wasn’t an easy task when I was hungry. 

I heard my stomach growl loudly after a couple of minutes of just gazing into pink and blue that was more visible as the sun started setting. I remembered then that I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch which consisted of a cheese sandwich and a small box of juice. I got up and stretched my arms before opening the white door of my room and heading to the living room which I had to pass through in order to get to the small kitchen we had.

The kitchen door squeaked lightly as I opened it, unveiling our kitchen in its green glory. I wasn’t the biggest fan of green, frankly, but it was just the kitchen. Back at home I used to have servants, and since we got here, Damien had been responsible for the food. He wasn’t that great of a cook, but we managed. I was taught the very basics of cooking before, but only tried it for real about five or six times. 

I opened our huge fridge and buried my head inside; looking for anything I could actually convert into something edible, hopefully. Fortunately, I found some leftover boiled macaroni from last night. I remembered that recipe one of the chefs used to always make for me and I loved it. He had told me the ingredients and method once…

Remember, Sandra. 

A couple of seconds later, it clicked. I got out the minced beef, yoghurt, flour, red pepper and eggs from the fridge and grabbed a couple of onions from the yellow basket we had hanging beside the green cupboards. 

This should be easy.

I got out a knife and a plate from the cupboards and began cutting the pepper to tiny squares.

“What are you doing?” Damien asked with curiosity. I jumped in surprise and cut my thumb in the process.

“You startled me!” I squeaked and he raised his eyebrows. I walked out of the kitchen to my bathroom where I washed my finger and searched for a bandage with all my medicine under the sink, in the plastic box. He followed me.

“Sorry about that,” he apologized, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s okay,” I reassured, straightening as I wrapped the plaster around my finger. “It doesn’t hurt that much anyway.”

“So, what were you doing in there?”

“That recipe,” I said lamely, ´The one with the yoghurt sauce on the pasta.”

His mouth formed an ‘O’. “Weird,” he commented, “I just wanted to give you something.”
I frowned and turned to him. “What is it?”
He grinned at me and handed me a transparent file he had been hiding behind his back with one hand. “Your music notes.”


  1. Awesome! Thank you for posting this sneak peek, I had never heard of Rosie before. I really enjoyed reading the chapters, Mariam should be incredibly proud of herself. I love seeing teen authors get out there and give things a go and she's done just that - and succeeded with a publishing deal!

  2. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing the first couple of chapters of Rosie!