I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour run by Lynsey Adams of Reading Between the Lines for the new novel by Maressa Mortimer, Beyond the Hills. The novel is published by Good Hope Publishing.
Macia Durus, daughter of the well know Brutus Durus AMP, works hard to achieve a life of honour and prestige in her beloved Elabi. When a so-called “friend” challenges her priorities, Macia’s confusion threatens her carefully constructed plans. And her decision to investigate a forbidden book could have serious consequences for Macia as well as her family, turning their lives upside down.
Chapter 1 Part 2
“...for you to come to know God and His forgiveness, His love and salvation...” Macia hesitates. Why is she even reading this? Is she sitting in her bedroom, in Elabi, reading...this? “...I know it won’t mean anything to you now, but I hope you will come to understand these words. It must sound like a foreign language to you...” Yeah, no kidding, Macia rolls her eyes, and mutters, “Guessed it in one go, girl.” She stops, a thought forming in the back of her mind. Has Caecilia been exposed to Hillixer? That would explain her mood change and this garbage. Macia knows deep down though that this is not Hillixer speaking. Something else has gotten to her friend. Something more serious.
Her eyes travel the last few lines, “...what I am doing will hurt. Please forgive me but I have to go. I will pray for you every day. I’m sorry about leaving you behind, but I can’t stay any longer. Goodbye, my friend. Love, Caecilia.” Macia sits up with a wild gasp, sucking in air until she thinks her lungs might explode. Leave? Has she left Elabi? Is that what she is saying? Macia stares wildly at the last few lines. Yes, it says she is leaving! But how and where? Macia jumps up, ready to spring into action, then sits down again. What action? She looks at the clock on her wall. If Caecilia is trying to escape Elabi, Macia is duty-bound to report her. Immediately. Her thumbnail bleeds, but Macia doesn’t notice. Her eyes are wide open, staring off into the distance. She will need to report Caecilia straight away, but the implications make her cringe.
Until she reminds herself that either way Caecilia is gone. By betraying her, nothing changes for Macia, apart from having scored extra points towards her Amplissimos status. Those points could just secure her application. What should she do? Should she give Caecilia fair warnings? Should she pop in to see her on her way to the gymnasium, and tell her that she will have to pass on the letter to the council? Or should she inform the automated servant of Caecilia’s flight plans? Macia fears she is too late. If Caecilia is already gone, Macia will be one of the first people to be investigated. The fact that Caecilia wrote to her is not good news at all. Might she redeem herself a little by reporting the letter? Macia swallows. What if somebody saw Caecilia deliver the letter? If she doesn’t report it and the council finds out she’s been keeping something from them, the fallout would be disastrous! Macia can feel the anger, fear and resentment growing with each hammering heartbeat. Blow Caecilia! Why did she have to go all weird and drag Macia into it deliberately! What should she do?
Macia finds herself gasping for breath, fury streaming through her until the anger and betrayal seem to have taken over completely. She drops the letter and bundle of thin papers on the bed, clenching her fists, grinding her teeth, fighting against the roar that wants to force its way out of her throat. She manages to lower it to a growl, her jaws aching from the effort. Suddenly she jumps up, breathing hard, still grinding her teeth, grabs the papers and envelope and stuffs it under her stack with jumpers, gets her snow boots on, pulling on the leather with a vengeance. She forces herself to be quiet on the stairs, hands still clenched, her surviving nails digging into the palms of her hands. Grabbing her winter cloak and gymnasium bag, Macia is outside in the cold air, the snow crunching under her feet. She stomps as hard as she can, her feet tingling with the impact, but Macia welcomes the feeling.
She passes Caecilia’s house, but all is dark. She hesitates a moment, wondering about going up to the door. Maybe Caecilia was joking? Perhaps it’s done to her as a way to check her loyalties and people forced Caecilia to write the letter. Could it be a test designed by the council, to check if she will put Elabi above her friends and acquaintances? Macia looks at the house, turning towards the driveway leading to Caecilia’s front door. Her heart knows though, her heart knows that the letter is genuine, that Caecilia is speaking the truth. She has gone, left Elabi behind, and more importantly, left Macia behind. “So much for ‘dearest friend’,” Macia spits the words out, the cold air steaming up in little puffs of smoke with each syllable. “Not that dear then obviously, happy to just walk out.” For a moment she wonders what upset her most, the fact that her friend, her only friend, has just walked out of her life forever or that she showed an involuntary emotional response to that fact. She spins back towards the main road and stamping hard again, makes her way to the gymnasium. The cold air and tiredness are making her eyes itch.
The gymnasium is deserted apart from another young woman running on a treadmill in the corner. Macia grabs a pair of gloves, tugging fiercely to get them on. She turns towards the big bag suspended from a rack. Her eyes still sting and her breathing is odd, and Macia almost feels tempted to allow her body its little reaction, until she remembers the ever-present cameras. They will be watching her, as there’s not much else going on in the gymnasium. If they see the daughter of Brutus Durus being emotional and volatile, well, that would create a stir. No, she has to be in control.
She concentrates on the large punch bag, then hits out, punch after punch after punch. Her breathing is becoming harder and louder, the punches precise and deadly. Soon she can feel her hands getting damp inside the gloves, making her wrinkle her nose. Her thumb suddenly hurts where she chewed her nail too much this morning. Her eyes still sting, her head has started throbbing. Soon her arm muscles start to vibrate, telling her they’ve had enough. But Macia carries on hitting the bag, although now and then a punch begins to almost miss the mark. Once she nearly loses her balance as her hit just scuffs the bag. She recovers herself just in time, furious with her mistake. She snorts with every punch, tears clouding her vision. Not tears, sweat, she corrects, as if arguing with whoever is watching through the cameras. Sweat, because she is doing her best to be a strong, competent young woman, who looks after her body well, to serve her city and its people. Just sweat.
When Macia finally has to give up, she makes her way to the cooling down room. The room is empty, and she tries to look as peaceful as she can, her breath still shuddering with pent up emotions. Caecilia has betrayed her. A tiny voice inside her head reminds her of the plan to check out why Caecilia had changed so much lately by reporting her to the Council. But Macia feels that doesn’t count. After all, she hadn’t acted upon her suspicions, had she? She had not betrayed Caecilia and she now wonders if she will regret that fact for a very long time to come. If she had reported the change in her friend, Caecilia wouldn’t have left Elabi, although, it seems she would have been out of Macia’s life either way.
I grew up in the Netherlands, and moved to England soon after finishing my teaching training college. Married to Pastor Richard Mortimer we live in a Cotswold village with our four children. I'm a homeschool mum, enjoying the time spent with the family, travelling, reading and turning life into stories. I want to use my stories to show practical Christian living in a fallen world.
Website - http://www.vicarioushome.com/
Instagram - @vicarioush.ome
Facebook - @vicarioush.ome
Book - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Hills-2-Elabi-Chronicles/dp/1838313451/