Three months have passed since Preen learned that her husband, Rama, was captured and killed by a rival militia. Now the pieces of her shattered life are falling back into place. It’s getting easier to breathe again. Preen finds herself smiling over her daughter’s antics. She’s engaged to her wealthy, handsome cousin, who loved her long before Rama stole her heart. Then, late one night, Rama calls. He asks Preen to come back to the dangerous city of Dor, back to the life she thought she’d left behind forever…
Targeted Age Group:: 18-25
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Final Chance is the second book in the Shards of Sevia series, a Christian Romantic Suspense series for young adults. The books are set in the war-torn (and fortunately fictional) country of Sevia.
I was inspired to write the series in part by my own experiences in some of our world's more challenging places, but mainly because I want to share messages of love, hope, and forgiveness with everyone who decides to read my stories.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I came up with the idea for the heroine of this particular story fairly easily. While she isn't based on any person I know in real life, once I started writing about her, it was easy to develop her character. Preen is stubborn, a bit reckless, determined to "fix things" for herself and her family, and before she knows it she's in way over her head.
July 4, 2017
Preen reached the clump of junipers only a minute before Rama, the boy she loved came racing up the path. He stopped in the shade beside her, panting.
Preen put her hands on his chest to feel his pounding heart. Little spots of sweat soaked through his shirt where her fingers rested. They kissed twice and then Preen pushed his mouth away. "What did your dad decide?"
"He picked me," Rama said. "I'm the one who has to go."
Her hands dropped limp to her sides. "But…but you said…"
"I'm going to join Rayad," Rama said, excitement in his voice. "Since I have to go to Dor, I might as well make it count for something. Everyone says the big war is coming, and I can fight for our people if I belong to Rayad."
"But what about me?" Preen pressed her hand to her stomach. It was already growing; she wouldn't be able to hide it under loose dresses much longer. "What about our plan?"
Rama picked up the end of Preen's long braid and twirled the green ribbons around his fingers. "I can't let my dad go to jail just because he couldn't pay off some stupid debt. He's sure I'll get a better job in Dor than I would if I stayed here. I can't just tell him I won't go." He sighed. "It's only for two years."
"Well, you always said you wanted to be part of Rayad. Now you get to." Preen backed away from him. "But what happens when my family finds out about this?" She slid her hand up and down her stomach, wrinkling her black velvet dress. "We can't get married if you're leaving for Dor tomorrow."
Rama tugged at his wispy beard. "I don't know." He turned away to stare up at a hawk wheeling in the bright sky. "I'll think of something."
"Someone's coming," Preen whispered, catching his arm.Together, they crouched and peered through the tangle of juniper branches.
Preen's cousin, Kiva, and her older brother, Arjun, were walking up the path from the farmhouse. Arjun had a bottle of vodka tucked under his arm, which was strange, because he didn't usually drink. As they neared the junipers, Kiva stopped on the path, turned to face him and spread his arms. "Why can't you get a dentist to do it?" he asked, screwing up his face as if he were in pain.
Arjun took the bottle from under his arm and examined the picture on the label. He shrugged. "They're not big fans of our tooth-pulling tradition at that new clinic in Duna. The receptionist hung up on me when she realized what I wanted. Oh, well. I was hoping for the painkiller." He laughed. He was always laughing, but this time it sounded forced.
"So then you decided I'd jump at the chance to torture you?"
"Come on, where's your Tur pride? Our firstborn boys have been getting their incisors yanked since the beginning of time."
"But isn't Idil older, anyway?"
"Yes, by exactly seventeen minutes."
Kiva had his back to Preen now, but she could tell his was angry by the way his shoulders had gone rigid. He jammed his hands into his jacket pockets. "This is between you and Idil, then. I'm not getting involved."
"I love Idil, but you know how he is…" Arjun tapped the side of his head. "He's never going to be able to take Dad's place."
"So? He's still the oldest. The farm belongs to him."
Arjun grabbed his arm. "Don't you understand, man? This isn't about who inherits the farm. This is about Preen."
A twig scraped across Preen's cheek as she leaned forward, trying to breathe quietly.
"Tayar came over yesterday to remind us that Dad had agreed to ten cows and a bull for her," Arjun said. "And Idil just sat there staring at him with his mouth hanging open. Finally, he asked Tayar if he'd be willing to wait until she was sixteen."
Kiva snorted. "Your dad never promised Tayar anything."
"But he did," said Arjun slowly. His chest rose and fell in a long breath. "That's the bad part. Right before the brain tumor took everything, he did."
Kiva turned to look down toward the barn, pushing out the sides of his jacket with his clenched fists.
Preen glanced toward Rama who was crouched, hands spread out before him on the new grass.
Tayar was an old man, as fat as a corn-fed steer, and everyone said he'd been cruel to his first wife. Rama had told Preen if Tayar ever touched her, he would stick a knife in him. He'd also said that Preen's brothers were cowards because they hadn't done it already. Now that Preen was carrying Rama's baby, her family was sure to let him marry her, even without a dowry payment. Then she'd be safe from Tayar for good. At least that was what Rama said.
Arjun tugged Kiva's arm again. "Idil doesn't want to start a feud with Tayar's family, and he's right. But Preen's future is more important. I don't care if the guy's a saint out of the Bible. Preen is not going to get married before she's eighteen."
"So if Tayar has a problem with that, he can talk to me. Idil will have nothing to do with it. From now on, I'm officially the oldest son. And just to make sure nobody gets confused because of that little birth order issue…" He ran his tongue across his upper teeth. "I lose my incisors."
"You're absolutely sure Idil came out first?"
Arjun's round face relaxed into a smile. "If you don't believe me, ask my mom. But really—don't think about me. Think about Preen."
Kiva groaned. His shoulders sagged. "All right. I'll do it."
Arjun stood for a moment, thinking. "We've got a couple of pairs of pliers in the barn."
"Come, we need to talk to them. We need to explain," Preen scrambled to her feet, shaking dust off the skirt of her dress.
Rama grabbed her wrist. "Wait!"
"Wait for what? I'm not letting my brother get his teeth pulled for no reason. That's not part of your plan, is it?"
Rama's dark eyes widened. "No, of course not. Only—" He didn't move.
Preen shook her hand free and raced after Kiva and Arjun. One standal strap broke as she ran. With a gasp of frustration, she kicked the cheap, glittery things off and went faster. "Arjun," she called, "Arjun!"
He looked back over his shoulder at her. "Go back up to the house and help Mom."
"What are you and Kiva doing?" Preen didn't move. She wanted to explain everything, but the words stuck in her throat. Why isn't Rama coming?
Kiva walked out of the barn through the big double doors. "These are the cleanest pliers you have." He held up a pair with cracked rubber grips.
"It will be over soon and I'll be fine, I promise," said Arjun. "Go help Momwith the bread." He unscrewed the cap on the bottle of vodka and put it to his mouth, tipping his head back.
Preen started slowly up the dirt path toward the house, but as soon as Arjun and Kiva weren't looking, she doubled back and ran behind the barn. She peeked around the edge of the open door just as Kiva wrenched Arjun's first tooth out. He lunged forward with a yell of pain.
Kiva threw an arm across his chest. "Easy! Don't make this worse than it has to be."
Arjun drank again, choked, and spat bloody vodka into the dirt.
Kiva stuck the pliers inside his mouth again.
"No, no, no, please," whispered Preen, beating her fists together in anguish.
When it was over, Kiva lifted his shirt and wiped sweat off his face. "I can't believe I just did that," he said.
Arjun handed him the vodka bottle, and he took a long swallow himself.
Now, finally, when it was too late, Rama came jogging up the path from the clump of juniper trees. When he got close, he stopped. "Hey, Kiva—there's something I need to tell you. You should know—" Rama paused and bit his lip. "You should know Preen is pregnant. But I'm going to marry her, I promise."
Preen clenched her fists. Why didn't you come before? Was it because you were scared?
They stared at Rama in silence. A breeze lifted the twists of his dark hair.
"What? You—no!" Kiva yelled, slinging the pliers at Rama's head. He ducked, but before he could run, Kiva tackled him. They rolled together in the dust for a few seconds, kicking and punching, until Preen ran out from behind the barn and screamed at them to stop.
"I swear I'll marry her," Rama gasped.
Kiva let go of Rama and got to his feet.
Rama stood, too, dusting off his clothes and picking wisps of hay out of his hair.
"Preen, is that true about the baby?" Arjun asked.
Her throat was still too tight to let words pass, so she nodded.
Arjun got to his feet unsteadily. He swilled vodka around in his mouth, spat, and drank again. He held the nearly-empty bottle out toward Rama. "Congratulations," he slurred. "Sorry to…disappoint you. No. Not happening." He wiped his mouth again.
Rama took the bottle from him and set it on the ground.
Kiva picked up the bloody pliers and carried them back to the barn. Preen turned away so she wouldn't have to see his face as he went by.
Arjun started back to their house, weaving a little as he went up the path. Preen took his arm to steady him.
Their mother was in the doorway with a jar of salt and a handful of clean cotton.
Arjun grinned to show her the bloody gaps where his incisors used to be. "I…am…so…drunk," he giggled. He staggered into his bedroom and collapsed face down on his bed.
Preen followed him in. "You shouldn't have ruined your face for me," she whispered. "Do you really think it makes any difference to Tayar? He couldn't care less what you do."
She waited for him to yell at her; she wanted him to be angry, but he wasn't.
"You're still not going to marry Rama," Arjun murmured into his pillow after a long silence. "He's not…he has nothing to give you." He rolled over onto his side and began to snore.
Preen knelt and eased the muddy boots off his feet. She unfolded the quilt at the end of the bed and draped it over him. He didn't stir.
April 3, 2020 (afternoon)
Preen blew away the strand of hair that had fallen across her lips. As she guided the buzzing clippers across her head, more strands caught on her eyelashes, tickled behind her ears, and drifted to the dusty ground. Tears began to trickle down her cheeks as she squeezed her eyes shut.
"Hair, Mommy!" squealed her daughter, Sitabi, scooping up a handful and tossing it up into the low-hanging branches of the juniper tree they sat under.
The April breeze brought a whiff of manure as it blew across Preen's bare scalp, making her shiver. She leaned back against the tree trunk and closed her eyes.
A cow lowed from inside the big barn that her family and relatives shared. The dark sound was both sad and soothing. Another answered from the hill pasture. The cow in the barn began bumping around in her stall. Since she'd just given birth to twins, Arjun wanted her nearby where he could keep an eye on her.
"No hair!" Sitabi giggled again, her almond eyes sparkling. She grabbed a handful of her own silky hair and tugged.
Preen brushed black wisps from her chest and shoulders. "Yes, love. Mommy cut her hair. Do I look funny?"
Sitabi wobbled to her feet, stretching to her full two-year-old height. "Funny."
The sound of footsteps on the other side of the clump of junipers made Preen turn around. She leaned sideways to peer through the tangle of branches.
Her cousin, Kiva, was coming up the path, leading one of his cows by a rope looped through the ring in her nose. Her heavy udder almost brushed the ground as it swung in time to her steps. Behind her came a tiny calf, still shiny new. He must be taking them down to the barn.
Kiva was tall and handsome; light brown hair and green eyes. His father owned the barn as well as most of the family pasturelands that lay in the shadow of the snow-streaked Tur Kej mountains.
Preen and Kiva would be getting married at Christmas. Kiva had wanted it to be sooner, but Preen asked him to wait until Christmas. He'd agreed without asking why, because he knew why. Everybody did. Preen pressed her hands to her eyes as memories flooded her mind.
"Mommy!" Sitabi's shrill voice brought Preen back to the present. "My turn!" Sitabi shook the clippers.
"No! Give them to me." She snatched them from Sitabi before the little girl could cut a stripe through her own hair. Stooping, she picked her up and swung her onto her hip. "Let's go."
Kiva caught up with her on the path halfway to the house. "You shaved your head," he said softly. "You didn't have to do that."
Preen tensed. "Yes, I did. I was really married. Now I'm really a widow."
"Then you should have got your mother to help you."
She shrugged. Prickly bits of hair had sprinkled down inside her dress and stuck to her skin. "Why would I need help?"
"You've…missed some spots," Kiva said. "Can I tidy it up for you? Please?"
Preen handed him the clippers and bowed her head. The feel of his fingertips on her scalp sent a shiver down her spine. She couldn't decide if it was a good feeling or not.
He guided the clippers past her left ear, then twice down the nape of her neck. "That's better." He switched them off, blew the hair off the blade, and wiped it on his jeans.
They started back toward the house together.
"I didn't think you were ready to tell Rama goodbye," Kiva said after a little silence.
She glanced at him. The hope in his eyes was painful. "He's dead. What else can I do?"
"But he's been dead for months. I wasn't sure if you would ever…" he stopped.
Ever be brave enough to accept it, she silently finished for him.
Sitabi kicked her dusty bare feet. The bells on her ankle bracelets jingled as she bounced. Her little tailbone was digging into Preen's hip. For a two year old, she was heavy.
"Are you going home for lunch?" Preen asked, burying her nose in the soft place between Sitabi's neck and shoulder so she wouldn't have to look at Kiva.
"Actually, my family's at your house," Kiva said. "Our TV hasn't been working, so we came to watch the news on yours. Haven't you heard what's happening in Dor?"
Preen rubbed her free hand across her shaved head. It was as soft as her best black velvet dress. "No. I've been out all morning. And I don't want…" I don't want everyone to see me like this. Not yet. But "this" is what I am now. A widow. No more "What if…?" No more "Maybe he escaped somehow…"
Kiva put a hand on her elbow and guided her in through the low door of her family's red-painted wooden farmhouse.
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E.B. Roshan has enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle for several years, spending time in the Middle East and Asia. Now she is temporarily settled in Missouri with her husband and two sons, where she serves the local refugee community. When she's not cooking, cleaning, or chasing the boys, she's working on Shards of Sevia, an ongoing Christian romantic suspense series.