Rashida halted momentarily before descending the steps of the aeroplane. “Another border to cross, Inshallah this is the final one”, she thought, unaware that there were more borders to cross - culture, language and most importantly that of a heart walled within the emotional toughness of a man of the Australian Outback.
Loneliness and heartache shadow Steven West, the owner of a prosperous cattle station in outback Queensland. Steven buries his emotions in the rough and tumble lifestyle of an Australian stockman by working alongside his station-hands. His manner is courteous and thoughtful, behaviour which might be mistaken by city women as indicative of a romantic interest, but those familiar with the outback culture recognise it as typical of an outback man, “comfortable in his own skin”.
His two small sons grieving for their mother are a handful for any governess he employs.
Waiting with his sons behind the security fence for the passengers to disembark from the plane, Steven is thinking “Hope this one will stay – a refugee, she has had a tough time of it.”
The vulnerable beauty of the slightly built girl momentarily pausing at the top of the aeroplane steps caused a sudden quickening of his pulse which he immediately stilled, hauling the emotion back behind the shield that closed the border to his heart.
Excerpt From Rashida's Story: " Rashida fled the massacre, hand in hand with her brother. “Inshallah!” - the very last word from her parents’ lips. Mindful of their father’s command to get to Australia they enter the dangerous world of the people smugglers. "
Author's Background Knowledge:
Being of Afghan heritage I have some knowledge of Afghanistan and its people in the pre-Taliban era. The Afghani characters are based on real people that I knew. Rashida’s grandparents reflect the nature of my own relatives. Rashida and Rafi have them to thank for the liberal education and life that they (and I) enjoyed.
Taking on a position as a governess in Outback Queensland, I, like Rashida had much to learn of life in the outback, the native animals and the general environment. Rashida’s initial experiences of the outback plants and wildlife echo those of my own. The welcoming, altruist, tolerant, open and accepting temperament of the varied people of the outback and the courteous, thoughtful nature of the typical Australian bushman are fundamentals of the culture of the Australian Outback as I (and thus Rashida) experienced it.
The photo of Rashida on the cover is that of my cousin – a true Afghan beauty.