Hello Readers! I’m pleased to be part of blog tour for In The Company Of Strangers by Awais Khan, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources. Please check out the book details and excerpt in this post. I hope you enjoy it.
In The Company Of Strangers by Awais Khan
Publication Date: 28th July 2019
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Mona has almost everything: money, friends, social status… everything except for freedom. Languishing in her golden cage, she craves a sense of belonging…
Desperate for emotional release, she turns to a friend who introduces her to a world of glitter, glamour, covert affairs and drugs. There she meets Ali, a physically and emotionally wounded man, years younger than her.
Heady with love, she begins a delicate game of deceit that spirals out of control and threatens to shatter the deceptive facade of conservatism erected by Lahori society, and potentially destroy everything that Mona has ever held dear.
Intro: Mona meets her best friend after twenty years at a fashion show in Lahore.
It took Mona a few seconds to sift through the barrage of insults to realise what Shahida had said. Her heart began to pound in her throat. Plastering a big smile on her face, she spun around. Her eyes recognised Meera at once.
It was her!
Meera’s languid gaze found hers. She cocked her head to one side, and the full force of those amber eyes hit Mona. She even grinned in the same mischievous way she used to back in college. The other women around her faded into the background like a bunch of pallid vegetables. Memories of decades past rushed through her like a flood, destroying her carefully constructed dams of indifference, obliterating any semblance of the present. It was Meera. After all these years, they had finally come face to face again. Two friends torn apart and put together again. She thought back to the strolls through Liberty market, the late nights of Amitabh Bachchan movies. She remembered the intense arguments over the good-looking guys in college, followed by hushed confessions of what they’d like to do to them. Even now, the memory of those lurid tales caused a blush to creep up her neck.
Each recollection hit her in a physical way. She almost staggered from the impact of the final memory – their quarrel. It had always cast a grim shadow on the happy ones, but today, she was surprised to find that she didn’t care. Looking at Meera now, it ceased to hold its dominance over Mona, and she realised that she had forgiven her long ago.
So much time had passed, and yet it seemed as if they had met just yesterday. Meera still retained overwhelmingly youthful looks, and her smile today was still like that of the lively girl of nineteen Mona had known. The women surrounding Meera in a semi-circle looked haggard, their tired and wrinkled faces lending a more pronounced resplendence to Meera.
She wore a sequined midnight blue wrap dress, one tanned leg exposed by a slit that reached her thigh. Raising her eyebrows at Mona, she smiled again, revealing rows of brilliant white teeth. She extended her hands toward Mona, and Mona saw that her eyes were shining.
‘After all these years… Mona.’ Even her voice held the same vitality she remembered so well. ‘Oh, I’ve missed you.’
Mona was struck dumb; she didn’t know what to say. Blood rushed through her ears, making her dizzy, and she was afraid she might cry. It had been so long since they had done this, since she had seen her. Still, she only returned the pressure of Meera’s hands and smiled; afraid to say anything that may sound too sentimental. She wasn’t sure how Meera would react.
‘Meera,’ was all she said.
‘Ladies,’ Meera said to the ladies around them. ‘You know Mona, right? She’s married to Bilal Ahmed. Ahmed Constructions? The biggest builders in Lahore.’
A few women nodded in approval. Meera smiled as she let go of Mona’s hands. It was somewhat gratifying to discover the extent of Meera’s knowledge about her, although she didn’t like how she was known by who her husband was. She never had. Meera must have kept track of her over the years, the same way Mona had been keeping track of her, with subtle enquiries into the life of her friend, enough to give her an idea of her whereabouts, but not enough to instil suspicion in anyone’s mind. Except for Bilal and her friends, nobody knew she had ever known Meera – until now.
Meera was beaming at the women. ‘Did you know we used to be best friends, Mona and me?’ She turned to Mona. ‘Gosh, how many years has it been since we met, Mona? Eighteen?’
‘More than twenty,’ Mona replied. ‘Gosh,’ Meera repeated.
AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2HkyWHn
Awais Khan is a graduate of Western University and Durham University. Having been an avid reader and writer all his life, he decided to take the plunge and study Novel Writing and Editing at Faber Academy in London. His work has appeared in the Missing Slate Magazine, Daily Times and MODE, and he has been interviewed by leading television channels like PTV, Voice of America, Samaa TV and City 42, to name a few. He is also the Founder of The Writing Institute, one of the largest institutions for Creative Writing in Pakistan. He lives in Lahore and frequently visits London for business.
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