Good morning, Julia. I am so glad you stopped by.
[Hands Amy a box of tomatoes, zucchini, and yellow squash and then pulls off gardening gloves] Don’t mind my muddy knees. I needed a little cultivation therapy this morning.
Look at the size of these tomatoes! I just love what you have done with your garden project. It’s brightened up the neighborhood, and the changes I’ve seen in participants dealing with trauma and drug addiction in our community are inspiring.
I am grateful for the healing some of our broken friends have found in nurturing plants, fellowshipping with one another, and enjoying faith-building events we’ve hosted at the garden.
So, tell me, Julia. Could the reason you needed to spend some time caring for veggies this morning have something to do with a certain radio host whose kissing theme has become a huge hit? Because there’s this grapevine…
You’ve been listening too? Who am I kidding? I think the whole nation has been listening. Who would think so many people would want to hear kissing stories.
It’s not just hearing about first kisses, silly. What woman could resist listening to that deep, heart-melty voice. And when Drew Larson told the story of his own first kiss, even though it happened when he was a child, you could tell he still had feelings for that girl. The way his voice broke as he ended the story. Swoooooooooooney!
[Julia blushes and she whispers] Yes, that girl was me.
So the rumors are true! Oh, my goodness. You, Miss Julia Morgan, have been holding out on me. Drew Larson is practically a celebrity, and you were his first crush! Have you seen him since you were kids?
We graduated high school together. He acted as though he was interested in me. Said he loved me. But then he just went off without even saying goodbye. So, you can imagine why I needed to spend some time weeding and digging this morning – after he tracked me down with a ridiculous business proposition. [Shakes head in disgust, yet her eyes are suspiciously watery]
Basically, he wants me to date him as part of a publicity stunt.
What! That’s crazy.
Yeah. I’d never even consider it if he didn’t promise to help with a project that’s important to me. Important to many hurting people. I mean, the way he made promises and then just left town right after high school… Never called. Never wrote. To be honest, it’s something I’ve never gotten over.
But Amy, a young girl with a head covering just snuck in, ducking between the trees lining the café. She’s sitting in the back corner. Do you think she’s in sort of trouble?
Oh dear, it’s probably Fatima. I worry about her so much. Her parents basically sold her to her husband when she was just a child. He has other wives, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them abuse her. You can tell she’s mistreated just the way she walks with her head down. She looks fragile and almost cringes when anyone comes near her.
That’s terrible. poor girl. Does she come into the Café often?
It’s hard for her to get away. Do you mind if I give her some of the produce you brought? That way her husband will think she was just at the market buying groceries.
Of course not. I’m pouring my heart out for these city garden projects to help people who are trapped in terrible circumstances. I wish I could do more.
[Amy places a couple of books in the bottom of a box and covers them tomatoes and squash.] Fatima’s best friend leaves books for me to sneak to her, and sometimes I bring some from my own library. Fatima is very bright, but she wasn’t even able to go to high school because she was forced to marry Omar. Reading brings her so much joy, but she doesn’t dare let her husband know she has books.
It’s hard to fathom that there are still women in these situations in 2023.
We had better go check on her. You carry the produce, and I’m going to grab a pot of caramel vanilla tea I find delicious and calming. And something to eat, just in case Omar has withheld food from her for something one of his other wives did again. This tea is soothing: (https://www.republicoftea.com/caramel-vanilla-cuppa-cake-tea/p/v20143/dpn/40462/?) And here’s a platter of Masabeeb. Those are Arabian pancakes served with honey. Here is the recipe: https://www.quakerarabia.com/cooking-and-recipes/recipe-details/masabeeb
Fatima, are you okay? It looks like you have a bruise below your eye.
[Moves her burka to cover more of her face.] I was clumsy again, that is all.
Oh honey, I’m sure it’s not that you are clumsy. This is Julia. She’s the one who started the community garden. We are going to send you home with some of this produce. Maybe that will placate Omar’s other wives so you can have a peaceful afternoon.
You are so kind. Many thanks.
And look what’s underneath… [Amy tips the box and moves a tomato to the side so Fatima can see the books hidden underneath.]
You cannot know what it means to have something to read. Perhaps Omar will allow me to spend some time in my room resting so I can start reading these even today. He is insisting I wear a new dress tonight and look my best for his guests. Ooooohh. [Fatima overs her eyes with one hand as if she is getting a migraine]
Are you sure you are okay?
It’s going to be such a difficult night. One of Omar’s guests is to be Dr. Zahir Sayeed, my best friend’s brother. He left the country six years ago and hasn’t been back for all this time. But I’m sure my husband remembers how Zahir tried to stop my marriage to Omar, and perhaps he even has an inkling that Zahir and I were, were…
Childhood sweethearts? You and Julia here have something in common. Both of you have your first loves coming back in your lives. And awkward situations. In your case, Fatima, possibly even danger. Why don’t the two of you have tea and these yummy pancakes with honey and forget about the real world for a time, while I make some announcements to our readers…
Well, readers, today is a big day in Character Café because two of my authoring friends have a new release. I am grateful to have Anne Perreault and Tanya Eavenson in my life. Both have been an encouragement to me as a writer, and both are wonderful wordsmiths.
About Dial K for Kiss:
When a simple kiss becomes a media frenzy.
Millionaire Julia Morgan isn’t a fan of the limelight, but when a neighboring city blocks her community garden expansion request, she’s left with few options for moving the project forward, all of them uncomfortable. Especially the one involving the man from her past who just walked back into her life with a proposition.
Radio personality Drew Larsen has spent years waiting for an opening in the top-spot morning show of the hottest radio station in town. When it happens, he throws his hat in the ring with a crazy idea. He didn’t expect it to catch like wildfire, or for the station manager to up the ante. If Drew can find his first kiss and convince her to date him for all the world to see, the job is his.
She wants to help others. He wants his dream job. Can they make their hearts’ desires come true before their untold story is revealed?
Dial K for Kiss is a heartwarming Christian contemporary romance, and part of the You Are on the Air series. All books in the series are standalone and can be read in any order.
Dial K for Kiss drew me in from the very beginning. How dare the guy who tossed Julia Morgan’s heart away use the tale of their first kiss to increase his Radio following! I felt heartbreak for Julia, who never got over her high school love and the fact that he just walked away. All those wasted years. The loneliness of watching her sister and friends find love and have children. When it seemed as though Drew was going to strike a bargain with Julia so he could get his dream job – and possibly just move on again once he reached his goal, I was angry and hurt right along with Julia, this beautiful soul who loves everyone in her life so generously, from giving away her fortune to taking on a heavy workload to reach the less fortunate in her community. Little by little, my heart thawed toward Drew, just as Julia’s guard was dismantled one insight into Drew’s backstory at a time. This book shows the angst many wealthy Americans feel despite all the blessings we have – how family dysfunction, unfair labor practices, and our ambitions can get in the way of relationship. This was a heartwarming story that showed growth in faith of both main characters. You will end the novel with a smile on your face.
About If I Dream
Her destiny is determined by her family.
Her dreams are overshadowed by her duty.
Six years ago, Fatima al-Fatah was married off to a man old enough to be her father. At first, she had hoped to find love and belonging in her husband’s established household. The reality has turned out to be much more grim. Jealous and bitter, her husband’s other three wives despise and constantly berate her. Fatima begins to believe in her worthlessness, as she has been unable to deliver the one thing her husband desperately desires. Things quickly go from bad to worse in the span of a night, leaving her struggling to survive.
When Dr. Zahir Sayeed failed to protect Fatima six years ago, he ran away in shame, never intending to return. He has only come back to his birthplace out of an obligation to his family. Little do they know, he carries a secret that could send him to prison, or worse. When an accident brings Fatima back into his life, he finds himself drawn to her spirit and courage–an attraction that can only bring trouble. As he helps Fatima discover her true worth, he soon realizes that she is on the verge of uncovering a dangerous secret herself . . .
If I Dream is one of those novels you can’t help but devour, even though you are trying to maintain a proper diet of household chores, communication with your family, and SLEEP. From the very beginning, one feels the hopelessness of Fatima’s situation, since she’s been forced into marriage as a child bride. She’s now trapped in a household where she continues to be the victim of abuse and neglect. Then there’s the hero, Zahir, a medical doctor who harbors a secret that puts his own life in danger. He’s strong, kind, swoony – and very careful of the boundaries he must keep as he takes action to protect his childhood friend who has been so changed by her marriage to an egomaniac. There is so much angst from chapter to chapter you won’t want to move until you find out if Fatima will be okay – so choose a comfy chair before you begin reading! This beautifully written novel will leave you feeling so grateful for the freedoms we have and with a greater awareness of the all too many real Fatimas out there who are in need of rescue from oppression – and in need of a Savior.