I just finished my first round of edits for The Tithe. Squee! Having just reread this, I have to be honest with you all: This book rocks. It does. It's the rawest, most honest book I've ever written. It tackles themes ranging from social inequalities to religious dogma to the consequences of utopias. It's a heavy, contemplative novel, but it also features one of the purest loves I've ever penned. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried a little at the end, and heck, I wrote the sucker and knew what to expect!
"Okay, sure. But might you not be just the teensiest bit biased?" you may ponder. This is why, my friends, I'm including an excerpt below for your reading and judging pleasure. I welcome all comments.
She shook her head. “It sounds so sad.”
“It wasn’t. You can’t have sadness unless you know happiness. I knew neither.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes.
Finally, in a voice mere decibels from a whisper, Josh asked, “What about now?” Shameless, she knew, but maybe voicing the question would exorcise it.
“Why are you asking a question you already know the answer to?” he asked in his inflectionless voice.
“I don’t,” she insisted.
“Everything changed when you touched me.”
After a confused moment, and with many darting glances, she asked in a low tone, “In bed?”
“In the hallway. You touched me, and my life cleaved into a before and a now. Before, I existed, and it was fine. I was content. And then, you. Everything cracked open, and I felt as if I’d just reminded my senses to function. Now, it all feels so raw. Sometimes just the passing of time abrades my skin. Being with you is exquisite and real. And painful.”
Very carefully, Josh put her hands on her knees and leaned forward. She stared at the wall opposite them, against which Taro no longer pressed himself. In she breathed, and out. In and out.
No, she didn’t understand. Or, maybe a little. When she was a young girl, maybe six or seven, a new imrabi had made it her goal to befriend her. Josh hadn’t known what to think of this tall, strong young woman, her right cheek and half her brow stained with a wine-red birthmark. Her name was . . . well, honestly, Josh didn’t remember her name. The imrabi hadn’t stayed long. Another town had needed her.
The woman must have pitied her, this plain, sassy little girl who dressed herself in the morning and braided her own long brown hair. She made it a point to sit with her during services, to sneak her chocolate milk and extra biscuits, to ask her about herself. Josh had responded cautiously, although she’d never refused a single buttered roll.
Then, one time, the imrabi decided to tickle her. It was what adults did with children, but Josh had no way of knowing that. She only knew few of the imrabi spoke with her, let alone showed her physical affection. When the woman’s fingers brushed against the sensitive undersides of Josh’s arms, she shrieked. The imrabi, mistaking Josh’s reaction for laughter, persisted.
Unsure what to think, only knowing the strange, almost painfully tender feeling of the woman’s fingers on her own untouched skin, Josh began screaming. The woman rocked back in alarm, overbalanced, and fell on her bottom. Josh’s screams bounced off the stone walls, rebounded, scratched at her own ears. The imrabi stared hard at her before rising to her grand height and quitting the room without a word.
The woman never spoke to her again, and a few months later, she left their rab’ri.
Twenty-year-old Josh straightened her posture and rubbed her calf with her other foot. “What can I do to make it hurt less?” she asked him.
Blue’s lips thinned into a smile. “I don’t want it to hurt less. Every second that scrapes my skin is another one I spend with you.”