For the next few weeks, I’m reviving an old favourite – Flash Fiction Friday.
Every Friday between now and February 1 (the launch date) I’ll be sharing with you a taste of Arranged to Love, to whet your appetite
So here it is – introducing Madhuri ‘Maddie’ Singh, Jack Faulkner and their love story.
SEVEN YEARS AGO
Madhuri Singh slammed her purse down on her desk and looked around. Spying the top of a golden-haired head over by the windows, she marched over. The newspaper she clutched in her hand crinkled and fluttered.
When she arrived at the desk the occupant looked up at her and smiled and despite her anger, Maddie had to take a deep breath to calm her reaction to him.
Jack Faulkner was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen – blonde haired, blue eyes, tanned skin, the quintessential Australian male. She’d tried to convince herself that she shouldn’t be attracted to him – she was Indian, she should be thinking of dark skin and deep brown eyes – but she’d given up.
From time to time, the gods created an object of such beauty that regardless of your cultural background, you gazed upon it with wonder. Such a one was Jack.
She shook the thought from her mind. Jack was her mentor in her internship, her first job at a big city newspaper. She had to focus on her career.
“Hey, Maddie.” He nodded at the paper in her hand. “Is that today’s?”
“It is.” She leant her hip against his desk. “Would you like to guess what I found in here?”
The smile died. “They didn’t misattribute the story again?”
In reply, Maddie opened the paper and laid it on his desk, smoothing out the folds and creases. Then she stabbed a finger at a line that was already smudged and fading because she’d repeated the action so many times today. “By Cynthia Hart.”
Jack shook his head. “Shit, Maddie. I’m sorry. Listen, I’ll speak to the subs and make sure they don’t get it wrong again.”
“Can you explain how they got it wrong this time? The second time? Once, I can understand. But how did they twice miss that the file was downloaded from my folder, not Cynthia’s? And I even wrote By Madhuri Singh at the top of the story this time. They had to delete that, Jack. How is this a mistake?”
“I’ll find out.” He reached forward and put his hand on hers. “Maddie, this really, really sucks.”
She stilled, allowing herself the moment of enjoying the heat, the weight of his hand on hers. Then she pulled her hand away.
“That’s twice I should have had my maiden by-line and it’s been taken from me.” She could feel the tears building in her eyes and she blinked, forcing them back. She wasn’t going to be known as someone who cried the moment things went wrong. She wasn’t.
“I know.” Jack’s smile was soft sympathy. “I’ll tell the boss, see what we can do about correcting it in tomorrow’s paper. And in the meantime, we’ll make sure the next Madhuri Singh story gets properly attributed.”
Maddie went back to her desk, sat down and fired up the computer. She had a couple of stories she was working on, and if she fought she might get one ready for today’s deadline and tomorrow she’d get the long sort-after by-line.
The first time you saw your name in a newspaper was a big deal in a journalist’s career. That it should happen in a major like the Sydney Star and while she was only nineteen, still at university, would say a great deal about Maddie’s future in the industry.
Maddie closed her eyes and took a deep breath to settle her nerves. She was about to open the first file on when the phone rang.
“Madhuri Singh, Sydney Star. How can I help you?”
“Madhuri.” Her father’s deep, happy voice pulled on the tears again. “You were supposed to call us this morning and tell us about your first story.”
“Sorry, Papa.” Was her voice starting to shake? Krishna, she hoped not. “There was a problem. Tomorrow, I’ll be able to tell you.”
“Is something wrong, Madhuri? Is the journalism not working out for you?”
Maddie shook her head and sternly told her hurt feelings to quieten down. “No, everything’s fine, Papa. Journalism is wonderful, everything I’ve ever wanted.”
And it was. From the moment she’d done some work experience with the local paper in Queanbeyan as a fifteen-year-old, she’d wanted to be a journalist. She’d been so adamant, she’d managed to convince her parents to use her dowry to pay for university.
That was another reason she wanted to be a success – so she could pay her parents back and they’d be able to arrange a good marriage for her.
She might be a career woman, but she was also Indian and believed in the power and beauty of her culture.
“Are you sure? I would hate after all your sacrifice that you have now decided you want to get married,” Mandurat Singh said. “Because we can’t do that quickly, you know. There’s paperwork. Matchmakers to find. I think you should stick it out and see how it goes.”
Maddie frowned at the blank wall of her cubicle. It didn’t make sense, that her father would suddenly call and be so insistent she remain in journalism.
Neither of her parents had shown any concern when she chose a career over marriage, for now. They’d thought it a good idea, to ensure she had independence so she could make a more equal match. Neither had tried to talk her into or out of any way of thinking.
Why was her father doing so now?
“I can assure you, Papa, that I’m loving journalism and while there’s been a couple of hiccups lately, I’m still committed to having a career.”
“I’m so pleased to hear that.” Her father’s voice rang with relief. “I just want you to be happy, Madhuri.”
“Now, I have to go. I’ve got work to do. Love to you and Mama. Bye, Papa.”
Maddie hung up the phone and pulled a face at it. Her father was an emotional man and could easily get himself into a twist over things that just didn’t warrant it. She hoped that whatever had caused that little moment would be quickly dealt with.
Then she got to work.
Arranged to Love will be available from Escape Publishing, February 1. In the meantime, why not purchase one of their other fab books?
In particular, my bestie Donna Maree Hanson’s debut – Rayessa and the Space Pirates. A fun young adult SF romp that you’ll really enjoy. And most booksellers have it on special at the moment for just 99c!