Maddie & Sayara

Maddie & Sayara

by Sanjyot P Dunung

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943967889
Publisher: Full Circle Media, Inc.
Publication date: 07/23/2017
Pages: 190
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

This is Sanjyot's first activist fiction title, although she has published more than twelve non-fiction global business titles.

Through Maddie & Sayara, she hopes to convey her belief that we're all equal regardless of gender, race, religion, or any other personal characteristics. She believes that no matter where you live, everyone should have equality of opportunity, although not necessarily equality of outcomes. She works in a number of ways to help people understand more about different people, other cultures, and the world at large. She's lived in many places and considers herself a curious resident of planet Earth.

Sanjyot is president and founder of Atma Global, a leading-edge developer of innovative global learning content and solutions, focusing on countries, cultures, and global business topics. Sanjyot is a recognized leader in the field of cross-cultural learning and has extensive experience in developing innovative multimedia learning and content solutions. Sanjyot also periodically authors articles on doing business internationally and entrepreneurship. Further, she has appeared on CNBC-TV, CNN International, Bloomberg TV, and various radio programs and is often a guest speaker at conferences and seminars addressing international business, global cultures, and entrepreneurship.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

I first met Sayara in the Bahamas when we were both thirteen. We had been sent there to "vacation" by parents involved in their own busy lives. Vacation was my mom's way of getting personal time for herself, although Dad always joked that every day was her personal time as she didn't really do anything. Sayara and I were both there with our nannies, who were really our mothers-in-spirit. Not only that, but Sayara wanted to be an only child just like I did, since we each had an annoying younger brother. Well, I don't always want to be an only child, but don't tell Jason that. He still annoys me sometimes, but not as much as he did back then.

That day, I was floating along in the lazy river pool. I was peacefully content staring at the little bugs in the water flowing alongside my inner tube. I wondered about the tiny bugs — did the river feel like the ocean to them? I don't really mind bugs; reptiles are my only intense fear, but that's another story. My sunglasses kept getting splattered by the occasional spurt of water as I rounded bends. It was mellow, I was chill, and all was okay until I glanced to the side and saw a girl about my age sitting all princess-like on a sun chair, covered with a white towel. Was she cold? Who sits in the hot sun under a towel? And then I felt her eyes laser in on me — more like on my head — and my head of hair.

Why is that girl so rudely staring at me? I wondered. Hasn't she ever seen red hair? I hate it when my hair gets extra light from the sun — it becomes almost orange! Everyone looks at me like I'm a freak clown. Aunt AK always tells me that it's my oh-so-distinguishing feature and I will come to love it. Maybe someday. My mom always rubs it in with that sugary-sweet sarcastic voice, pretending that her suggestion is for my benefit, when it's really about her preferences: "Why don't you dye your hair a pretty chestnut brown like mine or Angie's?"

My older sister Angie has always gotten all the praise. You just know when you're not the favorite child. And with Mom and Angie, I've known that since I was a baby. Angie's "so pretty, so graceful, so smart ... all the boys like her." Whatever. My mom has always loved her so much better, probably just because she looks like my mom and acts like her, too. Mini-mom.

I used to wish that Aunt AK was my mom ... well, I guess that would have been pretty creepy since she's my dad's sister. But still. Adrienne Kate's her real name, but everyone calls her AK. She's always been so much nicer to me. She loves me as I am — wild red hair, goofy freckles, skinny legs too long for my growing body, and all. I've always wanted to be like her. She's not only pretty on the outside, but really kind on the inside. She always tells me that "the insides of a person are the only thing that matters," especially when I get frustrated that my body has grown taller than the rest of me has developed. I look like a boring matchstick, tall with no shape and a mop of red hair! I hate it, but I trust her and try to believe that she's right ... insides, insides, insides. That's what I tell myself. It sounds really sappy and corny, but what do I have to lose? Besides, she's so much fun. I can tell her anything, and she loves to play basketball and go on the fastest roller coasters like me.

Mom has always said it would be terrible if I grow up to be a loud tomboy like AK. Okay, so Aunt AK does have a really loud, weird laugh. But she loves me as is, and I have come to now realize in my brief years of life how much that really means.

Aunt AK used to hang around with me even more a few years ago after she sold her real business, something about helping companies hire people. Whatever, something like that. Anyhow, she made a gazillion dollars when she sold it. She now has a jewelry business and gets to wear jeans to work and travel to really cool places like Iceland whenever she wants. That's what I want, to be Aunt AK when I grow up ... okay, maybe without the weird, loud laugh.

That day in the Bahamas, I really wished Aunt AK had come on vacation with us. I remember thinking that Aunt AK would at least hang out with me and not spend the week at a spa and yoga retreat.

All my mom ever does is nap, and when she's awake, she's usually in her "silent meditation mood," the "don't bother me" kind. Or she goes to the spa, plays tennis, or, worst of all, nags me about what to do or how to look. All my mom wants me to be is a nice, pretty girl who marries a nice, rich boy. Lame and totally outdated. I don't even have a boyfriend! Geez. And my mom is worried that I'll never be able to get a husband. Maybe that's why she obsesses about my freakish hair.

On that day when I first saw Sayara, I remember thinking that her jet-black hair was really pretty and my mom would definitely like it. She also looked delicate and dainty, just like my mom keeps wishing I would be.

But she wouldn't stop staring at me.

I just wanted to chill and read — alone. I loved the lazy river ride, although it wasn't really a ride since all you did was float. Why did they even call it a ride? Why not just call it a lazy river float? The name made me giggle as it did sound funny, even if it was true. Luckily most everyone was somewhere else in the resort. The river was almost empty except for Jason, my annoying kid brother, and me.

Linda, our nanny, was half asleep on her pool chair. We didn't need to be watched constantly anymore so she could relax. Linda's taken care of me since I was born and feels more like my real mom than just the nanny. What makes a mom, anyhow? Just 'cause she birthed me? As my mother likes to always remind me, I don't think that makes her a real mom. What about really loving and caring for your kids and spending fun time with them? Shouldn't that count for more? And truth be told, Aunt AK and Linda take much more care of us than our birth mom. Can I call her that? My birth mom? Makes me sound adopted, doesn't it? Well, I wish that Aunt AK would adopt me! But my dad. I love my dad and he loves me as is. I guess it's a package deal — for now.

Linda has way more patience than me, especially with my mom. I get so mad at Mom and Linda tells me, "It's okay, Maddie-girl, just be brushin' it off." Linda's cool. She thinks Mom is mean too, but she's just really polite to her because she has to be. Mom's her boss. And Jason — well, Mom doesn't really pay any attention to him. She says he's "his father's son" and his father's responsibility. If he weren't my brother, I'd feel sorry for him for being neglected by Mom. But at least Jason has Dad, Linda, and me. Angie is too focused on herself to think about anyone else. And when she started university, she became way too cool for any of us.

That girl, she was still staring. Time to tell her off.

"Hey, you —" I called out.

But a giant splash interrupted me. "Jason! You're a jerk!" I know I was in the water already, but the brat made me wetter and drenched my book.

Quit grinning, Jason.

"You're a freak, Maddie! Your hair was on 'fire' so I had to put it out." He made that stupid face that he always does and rolled his eyes. "Freak, freak."

"Shut up." I really hate it when he calls me a freak because of my red hair. I know I'm not supposed to let it bother me, but it does. "You're an idiot." Oh, why did I have to have a nine-year-old brother? Why, oh why? A puppy would have been so much better!

"Freak, freak, freak," he chanted as he ran from the flowing river back to the big pool where he had been playing Nerf pool volleyball with a bunch of other boys.

"I don't think you're a freak," said a calm, soft voice. Who said that? I looked up to see that girl with the staring big brown eyes looking at me.

"Thanks, but my brother is a jerk, and I hate my hair. My mom wants me to color it, and my brother hears her nagging me," I told her.

"I like your red hair. It must be nice to have something different from everyone else. I'm tired of my black hair. Everyone at home has black hair," the girl informed me. "Actually, yours isn't quite red, it's kind of red-brown-blond. It's a mix of colors."

"Yeah, it's a mix of shades, 'mutt hair' as my mom calls it. My mom says it was all a pretty shade of blond when I was born, but somehow I messed it all up like I do everything and now it's this weird mix. She can't wait to get me to color it all blond or brown, but I don't want to. Seems like it wouldn't be me then," I told her defiantly. In truth, it wasn't just my hair that was mutt-like. It was me, too. I didn't fit neatly into one category. I wasn't completely a girly girl. I wasn't completely a tomboy, either. I was a little bit of both. I wasn't completely an athlete or a nerd, maybe halfway in between. I certainly wasn't one of the cool girls and definitely not a mean girl, either. At least I hoped not. Why did everyone want you to be one label or another? I saw myself as a little bit of everything, all mixed together. I was a girl, plus I loved sports and being strong. I loved fixing things. I was smart at school, but I loved vacation, too. I had a few really good friends, both girls and boys. Mila and Mikey were my besties, but I also liked hanging out with some people in my family, like my dad and Aunt AK. I was a mix of all shades, just like my hair.

"Well then, you should keep it just as it is, reddish brown. I like it — it's very charming," she informed me in a most serious, grown-up tone.

She was quick with her opinions, but kinder than my mom with them, too. Suddenly, I realized I liked this new hair coach of mine.

"Thanks, but my mom won't like that. She wants to make me look like a girl," I replied.

"What does that mean? You already look like a girl, don't you?" she snickered curiously.

"Not according to my mother!" I sighed. "She wants me to be all prim and proper and delicate." My face must have looked very contorted and frustrated because the new girl just burst out laughing.

"You're so funny, and you're not a freak! My name is Sayara." With that, she grabbed an inner tube and got into the lazy river next to me.

"My name is Maddie." This girl might be okay. She didn't think I was a freak like everyone else.

"How come everyone where you live has black hair?" I was curious. Everyone back home had all kinds of hair, different styles, colors, and shades — blond, brown, red, black, pink, purple, green. I had seen people dye their hair all sorts of colors.

"Pretty much everyone has the same black hair color in the kingdom where I live, all long and straight. It feels like a uniform sometimes. I want to cut mine really short, but my mom won't let me," my new hair coach Sayara told me. "My mom wants me to look like a girl too, just like your mom, I guess."

"Moms are funny that way. I'll be a different kind of mom when I grow up," I announced. I really hadn't thought about it much, but at that moment I suddenly realized that I didn't want to be like my mom.

"Wow, that's really bold to say, Maddie. At home, all respectful girls grow up the same way."

"Respectful? Respectful of what?" I was respectful ... most of the time, I think.

Sayara smiled. "I mean that we must listen and obey our parents and family. It is expected of us." Drawn into what was in my hands, she changed the topic. "What are you reading? The pages got wet when your brother jumped on you."

"I know. Jason annoys me! But it's okay, they'll dry, and it's an old copy. The Secret Garden. I really love the older stories."

"I've never heard of it. Is it good?" she asked, only half interested.

"Totally. You can read mine if you want. I've read it before, and I saw the movie and the play. I love it — it's about a funky girl whose parents die in India, and she has to go live with her uncle in England in a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere. There are all these scary noises at night, but she doesn't listen to the house rules and stay in her room. And she finds her handicapped, spoiled cousin whining in a room 'cause he thinks he can't walk. The doctors and the housekeeper have all these rules to supposedly protect his health, but they really end up forcing him to be stuck in bed. But the girl tells him to stop being bratty and then secretly teaches him how to walk again in this really pretty secret garden in the back of the house. If she had listened to the housekeeper and doctors, her cousin would never have even walked! I hate when grown-ups tell you that you have to do something just because that's the way it's always been. I love that she secretly disobeys the rules, which are stupid to begin with."

"I know," noted Sayara, "I hear that all the time at home, too. My dad always says 'It's the way of our beliefs, so we must do the same.'" Her voice had deepened to mimic her father. "So what if the belief is wrong? I always tell him that two thousand years ago, people used to believe the world was flat. Can you imagine some poor guy walking and walking, thinking he's going to fall off the edge of the earth, then just walking in a really big loop and coming back to where he started? Sometimes a belief is wrong. That's why I wanna be an astronaut, explore the unknowns and question what we think we know. Like, what if there really are UFOs? I hate when adults think they know it all and we kids don't. What's wrong with asking questions or wondering if there's something we don't know about science or life or whatever?"

"I so get it. My dad and Aunt AK are more chill, but my mom always expects me to obey her annoying rules even when they make no sense or are outdated by like a hundred years!"

The annoying rules piqued her interest. "Same here!" Sayara exclaimed with excitement. "There are so many rules at home and I secretly try to break them, but sometimes I get caught! Last week I was playing soccer with our watchman, and my mom saw me and I got in huge trouble."

"Really, you got in trouble for playing soccer?" I asked. Where did this girl live? Her rules suddenly seemed much sillier than the ones I was stuck with.

"Yeah, girls aren't allowed to play sports, especially not in public and with boys. But Rajiv, one of our watchmen, has been teaching me soccer since I was a little girl. I love playing soccer and I'm pretty good, or at least I think I am. But there's no team for me and no one to really play with. Even Rajiv told me that we have to be careful now that I'm growing up. Pretty soon, I won't even be able to talk to him without wearing a tent."

"What's that? You have to wear a tent, like in camping?" I know, I know. I was totally clueless.

"No, not like camping. But it's like a total body tent that covers all of you, even your face. I don't like it. When you're inside of it, no one can see your face, and I feel invisible. I can't run around in one, and I feel like I'm constantly tripping on the edges. I really don't want to wear it, but my mom says all respectful girls have to when they grow up."

"I don't have to wear one and I'm respectful ... I think." Who makes all these rules? I wondered.

"I know, it doesn't seem fair. My cousin Themi hates to wear one too, and she tells everyone it's wrong to force girls and women. She says it should be a choice to wear one or not to wear one. Each person should be able to decide for herself. Themi is so cool and has so much courage. She tells me that one day, girls at home will be able to play soccer and will get to choose what they want to wear." Sayara had a smile on her face, but it was the kind of smile you make when you don't know what else to do. I didn't think it was a happy smile.

"Don't you get to decide if you want to wear it or not?"

"Nope, it doesn't work that way. If you want to keep honor with your family, you have to obey all these rules. There's no choice."

"That's not right. Linda, my nanny, always tells me that we have the freedom to make choices, good ones and dumb ones, but it's always our choice."

Speaking of Linda, I saw her waving me in from the poolside. "Maddie, time for lunch."

"Hey, gotta go to lunch. Meet you back here later?" I liked this new girl even though she came from a place with really strict and weird rules.

"Sure, I have to go find my ayah, too."

"Text me when you're back." I climbed out of the pool and gave Sayara my number.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Maddie & Sayara"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Sanjyot P. Dunung.
Excerpted by permission of Full Circle Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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