“Do you hear it?” The voice was almost a
Elsa held her breath, and then she heard it too, a faint
rustling of footsteps over twigs and leaves. Out of the corner of
her eye, she glimpsed several shadowy figures darting through the
trees, and when she turned, she saw a glint of sunlight reflecting
off the barrel of an assault rifle.
There was no denying it --- the Taliban had found them.
Oh, Jesus! she thought. We’ll never
Elsa knew the Taliban’s ruthless hatred; the death and
destruction they wrought was undeniable.
Seized by a sickening wave of fear, she wanted to cry or throw
up, but there was no time. She tried to catch Parween’s eye,
but her friend was looking back, intent on finding the source of
“Run!” someone shouted, and suddenly, the
chase was on.
But not for Elsa. Her legs were tangled in the fabric of her
all-enveloping burqa. She struggled to free herself and
finally threw off the covering and ran, her plastic shoes barely
touching the ground.
She’d never run so fast before, and her heart pounded as
she swallowed air in great gulps.
She heard heavy panting.
Was it her own?
Her chest tightened, and a scream rose in her throat, but there
was no sound. She couldn’t think clearly. She knew only that
she didn’t want to die there in Afghanistan.
Oh, God, let us make it, she prayed.
Just ahead was a small house, and though unprotected by the
walls that surrounded typical Afghani homes, it was their only
If they could reach it in time. But the distance seemed
too great and her sprint too slow. Still, she pushed on, her arms
After what seemed an eternity, Elsa and the others reached the
house. She turned and stopped dead in her tracks. A growing sense
of panic washed over her.
Her eyes swept the horizon, but there was no sign of her
Elsa’s throat burned as she tried to catch her breath, and
she felt as though her heart would explode in her chest.
She buried her face in her hands.
How had it all gone so wrong? What were they doing here?
What was she doing here?
A nurse from Boston in f------ Afghanistan, for
Hot tears stung her eyes. With trembling hands, she tried to
wipe them away.
“Oh, God,” she whispered. “Where are
Excerpted from LIPSTICK IN AFGHANISTAN © Copyright 2011 by
Roberta Gately. Reprinted with permission by Gallery/Pocket Books.
All rights reserved.
Lipstick in Afghanistan