Sofia, a young woman from a sheltered upbringing, is in for an unexpected ride when she marries Earl. As their stable union twists unnervingly through health issues, betrayal and shattered hearts, Sofia sheds layers of naiveté, deepening her perspective of life. Beautiful life lessons learned from preschool children may heal her scars; but can they help her to endure the greatest tragedy of all? This story offers a powerful and inspiring journey into the soul.
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. -Anonymous
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.54(d)|
Read an Excerpt
From My Heart to Yours
Based on a True Story
By Michelle Zarrin
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Michelle Zarrin
All rights reserved.
SOFIA HURRIEDLY ENTERED the café where she was meeting her best friend, Harlow. It was a gloomy, rainy April day in Paris. As soon as Sofia entered the brasserie, she was reminded of the city she was temporarily a resident of. The warm light from the small crystal chandeliers, the soft pistachio paint on the walls, the deep espresso-colored wood crown molding framing the ceiling – expressions of luxurious decadence – caught her eye. The fleur de lis details gently painted on the walls and engraved in the wood molding were the quintessential décor representing the city that was home to the Eiffel Tower. Over the noise of the Parisians conversing while eating their lunch, the raspy voice of Louis Armstrong could be heard singing C'est Ci Bon, contributing a coziness to the ambience. The toasty smell of baked baguettes pulled out of the oven, of vanilla, butter and sugar from the pastries, resonated in the air. The décor, the music and the fragrance of warm food instantly engulfed Sofia, swirling her senses into overload.
Taking a deep breath of the mouth-watering aroma, Sofia walked straight to the counter where the sandwiches, pastries and array of breads were displayed behind glass. She ordered a smoked salmon, tomato and cheese sandwich on a half baguette. Before taking out her wallet to pay, she quickly added a small praline macaroon for dessert, anticipating satisfaction that her body would soon be feeding upon the various scents that had tempted her from the moment she walked into the small restaurant. She took her order and looked around to find her friend.
Harlow was seated in the corner table, right next to the large window, facing the street. She could spot the golden blonde hair of her friend from a mile away, always perfectly straight, with hints of crimson streaks, falling to the middle of her back. Sofia envied her friend for walking out of the shower and never having to blow dry her hair to achieve the salon perfect style. And Harlow always wished she had Sofia's brown chestnut hair, with natural waves, resting on her shoulders, adding a hint of softness to her naturally tanned skin. Their eyes met, and their mouths instantly stretched into smiles.
"Great table you were able to get!" Sofia said, placing her food on the small round table before them.
"I know! This older man and woman were leaving just as I was looking for a place to sit! How are you?"
"I'm great, now that I'm out of the rain! What a great day to be indoor and work on our paper! Are you ready to get started?"
"As soon as I finish my lunch," Harlow had a mouth full of spinach and mushroom quiche she was nibbling on.
"So, which painting are you going to describe?" Sofia inquired, taking a bite of her own sandwich.
The girls were on a semester abroad program, from their university in California. It was their last semester before graduating and they were almost done with two months of the three-month program. Their first term paper required them to visit the Musee d'Orsay, find a painting or a sculpture that appealed to them, and write a one-page description of it, using a minimum of twenty adjectives.
"I'm going to write about Repetition D'un Ballet Sur La Scene by Degas," Harlow answered. "I was very moved when I saw it in person. I've always thought his ballerinas were pretty, but this painting in real life tells a beautiful, naïve story of the young dancers prancing around. Being so monochromatic, it shows all the ballerinas with the same vision, the same desire, the same goals."
"I liked his use of colors. There was grayish-brown to his work that stood out from the other Impressionists."
"So, what about you?" Harlow was done with her quiche and was piercing the custard flan with her fork.
"Renoir, my favorite painter from that era," Sofia replied, her brown eyes gazing out the window, observing the pedestrians walking briskly, under their umbrellas.
Harlow smiled. "I guess we were both moved by the fifth floor of the museum."
"Yes, well Impressionism is my favorite era for historical art. And although, I saw a lot of Monet's work up there, but I've always been struck by Renoir's work as just absolutely beautiful."
Smiling, Sofia dreamily described her perception of her favorite artist's work, "He has a romantic softness with each brushstroke. I imagine him dabbing his paintbrush into various colors, while calmly transferring the paint to the canvas. When I look at his work, it seems to be just soft lines, but many lines on top of each other to portray silhouettes, faces and objects. His paintings have so much color to them. I think he used every color imaginable. So then all of these layers of colors also add depth to the work, in my eyes. And with the gentle strokes, the depth, he is able to conjure emotion as well."
"Yes, it seems that either people who posed for paintings back then did not show emotion, or the artists did not capture the emotion very well," Harlow chimed in.
"Except for Renoir. I can sense his emotion coming out of his paintings more than other artists'. You also see his subjects with faint smiles on their faces, rosiness to their cheeks, looking like they're having a good time."
"Not all his paintings."
"But enough for me to prefer his work over the other artists."
"I'll say, Sofia, I didn't know you like him so much! You basically described your term paper to me!"
Laughing, she said "The problem is describing it all in French!"
"Oui. Which painting are you going to talk about in your paper?"
"Bal du Moulin de la Galette. Jolly people dancing in the streets of Paris!"
Harlow's eyes lit up. "Well it seems that time has not changed much in some aspects for this culture. They are still jolly and dancing in the streets!"
The friends looked at each other, brimming with smiles. Neither of them had to say anything, for they had said it at least one hundred times before – that they were so happy to have embarked on such an experience. With the unspoken, smiling sentiment between them, the girls quietly took out their laptops and began working.
An hour later, sunlight pierced through the window, warmth from outside lighting up the already warm café.
"It has been raining nonstop since yesterday," Sofia said
"I am very aware of that," her friend responded.
Rolling her eyes, Sofia continued, "My point is we have a break from the rain! The sun is out! Let's go walk the streets and enjoy this moment!"
Smiling sarcastically, Harlow said, "I thought we were being so responsible, I didn't want to deviate our attentions from our school duties!"
Knowing her friend's sarcasm too well, Sofia put away her dictionary and began to close her laptop.
"Before we go, let me check to see if I have any emails from Earl." Her boyfriend of the last two years had been very sad to see Sofia leave for France. But they had promised to write each other several times a day, explaining their journeys on the different continents. The power of technology allowed the couple to live apart from each other, with a time difference of nine hours, while receiving up-to-the-minute accounts of each other's days through social media.
Harlow sat back watching her friend, reading with huge, eager eyes and clapping her hands with delight, and waited for Earl's email to be relayed back to her.
"Was he able to take time off of work to come here?"
"Yes!" Sofia squealed. "He gets here in ten days, and will stay for six days! We get to show him all the places we've discovered and have been hanging out at!"
"Oh good!" Harlow said. "You guys can be like the hopeless romantic Parisians holding hands, walking the streets, enjoying each moment of this city together." She was happy for her friend but also aware that their girlfriend experience would be transformed upon Earl's arrival. Gone would be the careless comments about the cute boys on the streets. Sofia would be enamored with her boyfriend, leaving Harlow to make the most of her solo journey.
The weather outside was crisp and clean. Absent were the hovering gloomy grey rain clouds. The bright yellowness of the sun had finally made its appearance, bringing with it warmth and a lustrous glow to the streetside cafes. All of a sudden, the seats outside the restaurants were full of people ordering food, chatting and sipping wine while smoking cigarettes. Some restaurants had seats lined up right next to each other and in rows, like a movie theatre. This way, each person had an equally good seat for people watching. Usually, the tables were small and round, fitting two to four chairs around each one. So when a person sat down to eat, they were very close to the stranger sitting by them. It was easy to strike up a conversation with the person sitting in the neighboring chair.
The people sitting around the cafes were a big part of the ambiance of the Parisian streets. Sitting under awnings of bright colors, the cafes were usually on the ground floor to a big building. So when a person looked up from the awnings, there was usually a building with quintessential French architecture, windows with metal railings of intricate or simple design. And adding an extra touch of detail to the window or railing, it was common to see flowers placed before the window. That was something about the French that Sofia quickly came to admire: they had an eye and an appreciation for detail. Whether it was for the presentation of a dish in a restaurant, the intricate exterior that outlined the buildings, the attractive flowers and trees lining the streets, the use of accessories adorning both the men and women, or the décor inside the restaurants and shops, nothing was overlooked. Even some of the lampposts lining the streets told a story of antiquity and beauty. It was common to see tourists standing next to the posts while posing for pictures.
The one thing that was not appealing to Sofia about Paris was how much the Parisians smoked. When she hung out at night with friends from the city, cigarettes were smoked endlessly. No one went anywhere without their tobacco. To breathe in smoke while at a party or sitting in a restaurant was as common as to breathe in pine while in the mountains. She would wonder to herself if they did not care about long-term lung health. Or was smoking a cultural representation of living for the moment?
So it went without saying that once the rain stopped, the streets were bustling with people enjoying their moment. Grabbing her friend's hand, Sofia beamed, "Harlow, I am so happy that Earl is coming here to visit! I had thought how it would be once I go home and want to talk nonstop about this amazing city. It would be nice to hear in the beginning, but I'm sure it would have gotten boring for him after a while. But now we can talk about the city together and make our own memories here as well!"
Harlow was feeling uncomfortable. She was already getting tired of the sappy romance she was going to have to endure. As they stopped at an outside vendor, Sofia asked, "Why are you getting ice cream? It's not hot enough for ice cream!"
"You know me, I can never pass up ice cream."
She smiled as she handed her Euros to the man who traded the money for the cone with the frozen, swirled vanilla treat. As they walked off, she said, "Besides, did you see how cute that ice cream guy was? He looked like he belonged in a rock band, not selling ice cream on the corner of the street."
Sofia had not noticed the shaggy long hair, bright blue eyes and lanky build of the man until she turned her head to sneak a peek at him. He noticed and gave a smile full of charm in return. "Yup, he did look good," she agreed. "And he had style! I love that the French take care of themselves. Did you notice the scarf? I've never seen men who know how to wear accessories so well."
Laughing, Harlow nodded her head in agreement.
"Maybe we'll get Earl to accessorize and dress like the French men while he is here," Sofia began dreaming about her boyfriend's visit again. His Persian features could pass for a Parisian. His fair skin, hair so dark, it was borderline black, deep warm light brown eyes and tall and lanky build; he would fit right in.
She and Earl had met in the university where they both studied. He was one year older. Although they did not share any classes, they ran into each other repeatedly in the study halls and cafes. A casual friendship had begun between the two, for they shared a common background. Both were Persian, raised in the United States. Although they were both fluent in Farsi and shared a common culture inside their homes with their families, they shared even more strongly a sense of having evolved from two cultures colliding together.
The Persian heritage was rich in tradition, with strong roots in the past. A nation that carried the glory of its former times with such fervor and zest, it resonated within each of its members through the decades and centuries. When the name of the country was changed to Iran, the proud population refused to lose acknowledgement of its rich history and strong empire that had occupied majority of Asia in its time.
No matter if the people lived in the country itself or on various other continents, like Sofia and Earl's families; they connected together, sharing commonalities. So when Sofia and Earl met, their union had a shared foundation that was unspoken but endemic. At first their casual rapport was a natural back and forth about school and life. But through time, a genuine interest in each other's lives developed between the two and they began spending more time together. Moments they spent hanging out, getting to know one another, led to fluttering of the hearts and constant smiles on the lips. They became inseparable. And they had even talked about turning the friendship into something more intimate. Yet, they both liked their friendship so much that they did not want to jeopardize it.
Then one night, a group of friends were having a party by the beach. Sofia and Earl had arrived together and were warming up around the bonfire with their friends, talking, laughing and listening to music under the starry California skies. Earl pulled Sofia aside. "Can we go for a walk?" he asked.
"Of course." She grabbed a warm jacket, for stepping even four feet away from the fire meant the cold, balmy beach air was going to penetrate through her skin. As soon as they were away from their friends, she asked, "Is everything okay?"
"Yes, everything's fine. I have been thinking about us for a long time now and want to talk to you."
She looked intently at him, pulling a strand of hair behind her ear as the breeze was blowing it in her eyes. "We have the most amazing friendship," he began. "It is natural, it flows. We just get each other as if we've known each other our whole lives."
She instantly smiled for she felt so blessed to have such a relationship. In her mind, the two truly were an effortless match. "The thing is, Sofia, we know we love each other. And I know in the past we talked about turning our love into something more and decided we did not want to risk our friendship." She nodded in agreement. "But I really want us to explore a relationship and see if this love we have for each other turns out to be more than just friendship love." He held her hands in his and looked warmly in her eyes. "I want to see if we will fall in love with each other. I think I can fall in love with you. You are such an amazing person. I am tired of daydreaming about kissing you and holding you next to me at all times. I want my dreams to become a reality. I want to brush my skin against yours and kiss you softly on the lips whenever I feel, instead of restraining myself and trying to hold back." She tightened the grip around his hands and tried to swallow her rapidly beating heart. But she was speechless and could not say anything. So he continued, "You mean the world to me. I want to be with you. I want to protect you. I want to brush my lips against yours right now." He leaned in, but she leaned back, not sure if she wanted to take the step forward.
He pulled himself away. "Sofia, we are practically a couple. We came to this gathering together. And we will leave together, just as we always do. And I can't talk to other girls, not because I don't want to but because I don't care to. I am so happy just being around you. Please tell me you'll give us a chance."
In her heart she wanted to. She felt the exact same way about Earl as he did for her. She wanted to kiss him passionately at that moment, under the stars, with the rolling of the waves back and forth on the sand. Yet, she was scared to make the leap. She hadn't had a real boyfriend before. She went on dates and had guys who were interested in her, but she was not the boy-crazy type, like most of her teenage girlfriends. Boys did not take over her life. She just enjoyed being with her friends and guys in groups.
Excerpted from From My Heart to Yours by Michelle Zarrin. Copyright © 2013 by Michelle Zarrin. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My Review: It was an interesting story about Sofia's struggles and triumphs in her adult life. I think many people can connect with her struggles and emotions (though maybe not all the exact same situations). I enjoyed Zarrin's writing style, it was very descriptive and flowed beautifully, it really kept the pages turning and made me envy the beauty Sofia found in the world around her. While I did enjoy how she handled the struggles in her marriage, and sought out the good in each day, I felt like the last two chapters really rushed through her healing process and then started to really suddenly push a particular meditation method and ideology. I don't want to give away too much and spoil the book for anyone else who might read it. The writing and the story are wonderful stories, I just would have preferred not to have included the last two chapters. My Rating: I am having a hard time rating this book because it really was beautifully written and had some strong subject matter, but then it really rushed through a couple important events and then spent the entire last chapter on a meditation method. So I am going to have to give it a rating of Three Paws.
From My Heart To Yours is an inspirational story that follows Sofia's journey of self-discovery and learning difficult life lessons about love, loss, life and death. Sophia is an innocent young woman who had a sheltered upbringing. When her friendship with Earl develops into a romantic relationship, their love deepens and they get married. Like any marriage, there are ups and drowns, but when Earl's secret addiction is revealed, Sophia's world is turned upside down. Sophia embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she learns to cope with the betrayal and a shattered heart. Through the power of meditation, she overcomes life's hardships and tragedies, developing an inner strength and ability to rebuild her life. This is an emotionally powerful tale that is inspired by author Michelle Zarrin's life. Through Sophia's journey, the author thoughtfully teaches the reader that we are all connected in this web of life through how we deal with hardship, joy, sorrow, and valuable life lessons. Written with intense raw feelings and emotions, this touching story tugs at your heartstrings, and provides a inspirational message that through channeling your inner strength and having an optimistic outlook on life, you can overcome any emotional turmoil, hardship, and tragedy that life may throw your way, by uplifting your spirit and learning to live a life of joy. From My Heart To Yours is a beautifully written story of learning the art of life through the power of meditation. It is an inspirational and educational story that provides the reader with valuable life lessons that will resonate with you throughout your life's journey.