Enchantment in Morocco by Madeleine McDonald
A romance set in a magical land at the crossroads of Europe and Africa.
ExcerptRafi danced with her on the day of the wedding, when men and women finally came together under one roof. Emily was surprised at her own popularity. One young man after another drew her into the circle of dancers. Even old Abdullah, almost unrecognizable in a clean djellaba, performed a few steps alongside her before his grandson took his place. Emily did not know any of the steps, but held hands and stamped her feet in time to the drumming. From the corner of her eye, she noted that Samira danced rarely, but sat in a corner drinking tea with a group of older women. The sight lent a spring to her step.
She had barely sat down again before Rafi crossed the room to her and led her onto the dance floor.
“I can see you’re enjoying yourself. I have not had a chance to speak to you yet.”
“At least I can talk to you.” She gladly took her place in the circle beside Rafi. The day had been enjoyable. She felt at ease with herself and with him. “I can only speak a few words to the others, but I haven’t sat down since the dancing started.”
“You know why, don’t you?”
“I found the coin in the cake. Yes, they explained yesterday. But, I don’t understand. Everyone acts like it’s a huge joke.”
“Has anyone shown you disrespect?” Rafi asked sharply.
Emily shook her head. “Not at all. Everyone is friendly, but it’s like I’ve got two heads. I can feel them all talking about me.”
Two heads? Nonsense. A man would have to be blind not to notice that you are a beautiful woman, Emily.”
Her heart turned over. She forgot to concentrate on the dance. Caught off balance, she would have stumbled, but Rafi’s firm grip steadied her. Their eyes locked.No-one had ever said those words to her before. Well, no-one had ever said them in such a silky, caressing voice.
Returning his direct gaze, she asked, “What is the matter with me, then?” She was no longer interested in what the village thought of her. All she wanted was to hear Rafi’s opinion. Would he say those magic words again?
“Nothing. It is the first time a foreigner has found the coin, that’s all.”
“People marry foreigners, don’t they? You did.” In her relaxed mood, Emily felt no shyness about mentioning his wife.
“That was different. I brought Marie-Jeanne here on our marriage. Our women have an expression for outsiders who marry into Taghar. They say it is like sewing a new patch onto an old shirt.”
“That’s not very complimentary.”
“On the contrary, it makes the shirt stronger.” Rafi gave his answer light-heartedly. It seemed the party had made him cheerful.
The rhythm of the drumming changed, and two young men bounded into the centre of the circle. Finding it impossible to mimic their energetic steps, Emily shook her head at Rafi in a gesture of surrender. He led her to a chair, but stood beside her, continuing the conversation. To be heard above the drumming, he turned toward her and she looked up at him, her ears attuned to that caressing voice.
“If a young woman from Taghar finds the coin, her future is mapped out already. If she is betrothed, she will dance with her sweetheart at the wedding feast. But you, Emily, you are a foreigner, you are free as the birds in the air or the fish in the sea.” Rafi gave a mischievous grin. “Sometimes change is not welcome. Freedom such as yours alarms our young men. They do not know what to make of you, so they prefer to make jokes.”
“Do I frighten you as well?” Caught up in the magic of the wedding, Emily dared to tease him.
Rafi gazed down at her. “You have never frightened me, Emily. But I find you unpredictable.”
“I’m sorry. I get carried away sometimes.”
A rueful smile hovered on his lips. “Don’t be sorry. It makes life more interesting.”
Madeleine McDonald, a Scot with a French passport, finds inspiration walking on the beach before the world wakes up.