Stuck in Islamabad
Amanda talks without pause, the topics alternating between her adorable nephew and the kids she nannies. Luke is too polite to interrupt. He’s been listening to Amanda talk for fifteen minutes, without pause, and he’s thirsty. But Luke is a gentleman, Georgia-born, and will not stem the flow of conversation to soothe his parched throat.
Jack and his wife Molly are Luke’s oldest friends; they are throwing a backyard cookout. The yard is filled with the clamor of screaming children, the scent of the overheated grill, and the murmur of varied conversations. The noise hinders Luke’s ability to concentrate on Amanda’s enthusiasm.
She is Molly’s friend, no doubt invited as a sly foil to Luke’s continued bachelorhood. Molly adores Luke and wants the whole of her gender to be acquainted with his impeccable manners, dry sense of humor, and quick mind. Over the past several years, Luke has managed to curtail Molly’s parade of single women.
And then there is Amanda, with her dyed red hair, seven visible tattoos, and arresting sea-green eyes. She pauses and asks, “What did you say you do?”
Luke reluctantly wipes a hand across his sweaty neck. “I work with the State Department.”
Amanda’s eyebrows arch. “Really, like a diplomat?”
Luke grins in spite of his discomfort. “Yes, like a diplomat. I’m just back from Egypt and home for the summer to wait for my next assignment.”
He is recently home from Cairo, and before that, Baghdad. His time abroad was deceptively simple, contrary to the belief of friends and family back home. When stationed in an embassy the size of a shopping mall, there is little to do but eat, sleep, and work.
Not surprisingly, the sea green eyes widen in excitement, and the conversation blooms once again, but not before Luke insists on fetching two glasses of lemonade.
By summer’s end, Molly delights in her victory, as Luke and Amanda are almost constantly together. Their time together is carefree, sweet, and necessary. Luke is a contemplative young man, and Amanda’s consistent joyfulness is the perfect balance to his serious nature.
Any day now his new posting will arrive. During every moment with Amanda, he feels the pressure of its impending arrival. While on leave, it’s simple to enjoy a summer romance and play at falling in love, but when he receives his new assignment, he is surprisingly devastated.
They spend the evening together, and it hovers above their otherwise pleasant conversation. Luke can’t decide on his entrée. He drops his napkin and can’t look Amanda in the eyes.
She finally asks.
“You’ve heard, haven’t you?”
He nods uncomfortably. “I received my posting.”
Amanda’s lips tighten, her chin wobbles, but she bears it. She must know. “Where?”
The assignment of a lifetime; the one he had hoped to receive, before he met her.
She tries to cover her gasp, but how can she? “How long?”
He finally meets her eyes. “A year.”
The questions linger there, unasked. Can he change his assignment and request somewhere safer? Do they know each other well enough to warrant such action? Is their relationship going anywhere worth the effort to stretch it across the world?
Amanda is brave. A grin escapes her trembling lips. “I’ve always wanted to visit Islamabad.”
Luke is not brave. His chin quivers. “You can’t. It’s too unstable. Even if I was…” he pauses for a beat, “…married, I would have to leave my wife and family behind.”
She slides her hand into his. “You never really considered what would happen if…”
“No, I didn’t.”
Gloom attempts to settle on the fledgling couple, but Amanda’s optimistic spirit holds it at bay. “So what can we do?”
Luke squeezes her small hand, sniffs away his fears, and shrugs, “Skype. Email. Talk. Do you have international calling on your phone plan?”
The sea green eyes are solemn. “No, I don’t think so.”
“I’ll buy you a World Phone.”
The diplomat and the nanny make a promise to carry on.
Luke never predicted that being stuck in Islamabad would be a bad thing. He commits to his job and does it well. He likewise commits to the brand new relationship he left behind.
Amanda studies a map of Pakistan, and commits her path to the Lord.
The World Phone is put to good use.
* Inspired by a real-life Luke, our amazing friend who has spent the last 4 years in Iraq and Egypt. Pakistan is his next post. I am his Molly.
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