iCandidate: 20th Installment  cover

iCandidate: 20th Installment

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To begin with Installment 1, please click here.
The iCandidate is a guilty pleasure - a unique interactive thriller about a political reality show to choose a potential President of the United States - in which the reader has a key say in how the plot unfolds.
In The iCandidate, eight finalists from all walks of life face the kind of challenges they might have to deal with in the Oval Office:
• Will they use the nuclear button?
• What will they do about ISIS?
• How will they cope in a crisis?
At the end of each round the reader gets to cast an iVote to help determine who stays and who goes home. It is democracy in its purest form, free from party loyalties, donor obligations and antiquated electoral practices - and it keeps the authors on their toes!
In the novel, serialized weekly only on NoteStream, the eventual people’s champion goes on to challenge the political establishment in an iCampaign for the presidency climaxing in an explosive finale in Washington on November 8.
But The iCandidate has even greater aspirations to trigger a revolution in the way America selects the most powerful man or woman on the planet, and really, would it be any crazier than what we've got now?
Change America one iVote at a time - and cheer on your iCandidate! Be sure to cast your in-app iVotes to save your favorite iCandidates!


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars on 2 reviews

"On the edge of my seat!" 5 stars by




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iCandidate: 20th Installment

Chapter 55 - Patched Up

In her room, Grace could finally let it out.

She took off her clothes and stepped in the shower. Her attacker’s hooded face flashed in her mind and her hands trembled as she opened the shampoo bottle, mechanically washing and rinsing. She stood for a long time, her sobs masked by the sound of the water.

Wrapping herself in a towel, she heard a soft knocking on her door. She didn’t answer, but Gillian let herself in anyway and found Grace sitting on the edge of the bed, the cut on her forehead still dripping blood.

“Oh my God! What happened to you?” she gasped.

“Can you just patch me up, doc?”

Natural Healing

Natural Healing

Gillian ran back to her room, returning seconds letter with a bag filled with ointments, homeopathic remedies and first aid supplies. As Gillian worked, Grace told her briefly about the attack, emphasizing what she told Todd: no one could know.

Trust

“Okay, okay, we can hide this one with your hair, and I have a wonderful concealer to cover the bruise on your face.”

Gillian also worked on the deep grazes on Grace’s ribs and sternum. “Grace, you should tell the police, what if…”

“NO!”

Gillian noticed the slightest tremor in Grace’s lip, and knew better than to pursue this. She worked in silence for a few moments. “So, Todd the hero? That’s a new one. I always figured he was only out for himself. Bet he’d like to see that in the headlines.”

“No, he promised. I trust him totally,” Grace said.

Secrets

They looked at each other for a long moment, and finally Gillian nodded and said “Ok.”

“I don’t want you to leave the show, Gillian.” Grace’s voice cracked.

“Well, don’t you worry, the producers have some ideas for us rejects!” Gillian smiled as Grace looked puzzled.

“What do you mean?”

“Never you mind, you just concentrate on winning this show and then I’ll let you in on a little secret.”

Gillian smiled as she left the room.

Chapter 56 – Between Two Worlds

Ayesha was glad to have Emily with her. The thought of leaving America with nobody to mark the fact that she’d been there at all would have been even more depressing.

She’d said an awkward goodbye to Alma and ignored the two boys as she walked out with her bags, sad to be leaving the serenity of her campus for the last time.

She’d heard the boys saying some things in Urdu that made her feel uncomfortable. She got the impression they hated being there more than she did.

All Arranged

All Arranged

Emily had taken care of everything; the college, the tickets, and she’d even arranged for a messenger to tell Ayesha’s parents she was on her way home. She’d tried to persuade her to stay, of course, but she empathized with Ayesha, and understood it was time to go.

Disappear

“You must think me terribly shallow.” Ayesha felt guilty for all the trouble she’d put Emily to; but the chaperone had insisted on going with her to the airport.

Ayesha checked her bag, and as she watched her suitcase land with a thump on the assembly line and glide off towards her plane back to Karachi, it hit her that she had allowed all her hopes and dreams to disappear.

And for what?

A man - a man she barely knew.

Emily saw the color drain from her face, and she gently guided her over to a small cafe between the check-in desks and the departure gates.

Crazy Things

She sat the shocked girl down in a booth and ordered them both a sandwich and some iced tea. “It’s okay, we’re early for your flight. You need to eat.”

Ayesha said nothing, but smiled weakly. Emily held her hand, waiting.

Finally Ayesha turned to look at Emily. “I’m throwing everything away that I have worked so hard for,” she said quietly. “I did it all for nothing. I just don’t have the strength or the courage to stay and I don’t understand why.”

“You fell in love. Love makes us do crazy things,” Emily squeezed her hand.

Needing Time

“Yes, but he doesn’t care about me. Why have I been such a fool? I had this wonderful opportunity and look what I did. I didn’t think I was the type of girl who falls apart after one date. One stupid date.”

Ayesha started to cry and Emily wanted to take that pain from her; make her see that she wasn’t alone.

“Ayesha, listen to me. I understand, more than you know.” Emily handed her a tissue, and the young girl looked up at her with sorrowful eyes.

“Ayesha, you are sensitive and trusting, and you got hurt. You just need time to heal, to regain your confidence, that’s all.”

For Nothing

For Nothing

“I’m sure you never gave everything up for a boy, you’re too smart for that,” Ayesha said wiping her eyes. “I’m such an idiot.”

Emily sat back in her chair and took a deep breath. “That’s where you’re wrong.

Furthest Away

I was probably the furthest from smart on the smart spectrum that anyone can ever get, believe me.” Emily placed her hands over her flushed face, her fingers cool on her eyes.

But Ayesha looked puzzled while Emily tried to speak. A lump rose in her throat and the words just wouldn’t form.

This time, Ayesha took her hand and stroked Emily’s hair. Suddenly, Emily was back in her dorm, a college kid again, madly in love with not a care in the world. Emily couldn’t stop the memories, as they came flooding back…..

Chapter - 57 - Flashback

Emily. Manhattan - 1980

Her arm was draped across Tariq’s bony chest in their closet apartment in the East Village. Her dry mouth tasted stale from cigarettes, and her head pounded from the cheap vodka of the night before. She felt his hand stroking her bare stomach and looked up to see him staring at her.

Tariq leaned up on one elbow to check the alarm clock just as it exploded with Blondie’s ‘Call Me.’ He squinted at the digital display, lost without his glasses. The time was 11:30 a.m. The date blinked: October 24. He had a class at 8:00 a.m.

Chill

Jolted awake, Emily drifted into the bathroom holding her head. “I made the alarm for later,” she said, leaving the door open. “You need to chill out.”

He scrabbled around for his clothes and was dressed by the time she climbed back into bed, her mop of pink-streaked, dirty blonde hair pulled up into a loose bun.

“You’ve missed class now. You might as well get back into bed.” She was wearing the unbuttoned dress shirt he’d worn the previous night and pouted up at him like a naughty schoolgirl.

Make-up Assignment

Make-up Assignment

“I’m going to see the T.A.,” he mumbled. “Try and get a make-up assignment.” They attended the same Stern Business School at NYU, but he knew she didn’t care about missing classes. She missed more than she attended.

Foggy

Emily called after Tariq, but she used a different name for him, his American name; the one all his friends used. “Pick me up some aspirin. It must be something I ate last night. My head is killing me.”

Tariq barreled down the four sets of stairs from their tiny three-room walk-up without answering her.

They’d made love in a drunken frenzy after the cold air outside the bar had virtually poleaxed Emily; she certainly had no clue whether or not he’d used a condom.

Unexpected

She was a trust fund kid from the Netherlands and had only been in the city a few months. She had few ties there and just a few friends from their classes.

Tariq was the last person Emily ever thought she’d hook up with; he was way too straight-laced for being so gorgeous. He pursued her relentlessly, and in the end, she thought, why not?

He’d relaxed in the time they’d been together, with Emily trying her best to lead him astray. She still found it endearing that Tariq was adamant about keeping up his grades and attending classes.

News

The news that changed their lives came about five weeks later, the morning after Tariq told Emily, with absolute sincerity, that he wished they could go on living like this together, forever.

She was suffering from the usual hangover but had pushed him away the previous night and closed the bathroom door the next morning. She came out 30 minutes later in tears.

“I think I’m pregnant.”

Positive

Positive

Emily looked up at Tariq but this time her eyes were full of tears. “I’m so sorry. I should have gone on the pill. It’s all my fault.” She barely finished the sentence, folding into his arms and sobbing on his shoulder.

Persuasion

Tariq hugged her tightly and kissed her gently.

“We can do it.” She looked up at him again in deadly earnest. “I have money. You can stay at Stern and I’ll care for our baby. We’ll be happy, I know it.”

But he wouldn’t let her tell her parents. This was America. This was 1980.

They could do what they wanted. They didn’t have to feel ashamed about having a child out of wedlock, but they would tell her parents in their own good time. He was persuasive and unyielding.

Alone and vulnerable, Emily relented.

Ready

By the time she called him a little less than nine months later in the middle of an accounting class to tell him her water had broken, Emily was ready to become a mom.

They rushed to NYU Medical Center, full of excitement and foreboding. She clutched his hand as she was pushed on a gurney from one room to another. He stood by her side to ensure there were no complications.

Strands of blond hair were pasted to her face with sweat, she grunted and groaned like an animal, her body was torn and bloody; she called him a bastard more than once. “You have never looked more beautiful,” Tariq told her.

Something Wrong

The doctor, a gruff, monosyllabic woman, demanded one last push from Emily, who was now close to exhaustion. Quickly cutting the umbilical cord, the doctor ran from the room with one hand across the child’s crumpled face.

Emily scarcely noticed but squeezed Tariq’s hand and wearily opened one eye with a weak smile. “We did it!”

Then Emily looked up to see his Tariq’s mother standing in the doorway, unsmiling.

The smile froze on Emily’s face. Something was wrong. She backed away in the bed as Tariq’s mother walked slowly towards her.

Nothing To Be Done

“I’m so sorry.”

Emily screamed, yanking her hand from Tariq.

No! My baby!”

“There was nothing to be done. He was already dead.” The older lady didn’t move from the bedside.

Emily tried to get up but Tariq had hold of her hand again and his mother blocked the door.

“I need to see my baby!” Emily was screaming. “Let me see him.”

Tariq leaned over and hugged Emily, feeling the sobs wracking her frail frame. “He didn’t even have a name,” she cried.

Can't Happen

Can't Happen

“Don’t worry,” he answered. “You’ll get through this.”

She clutched him tighter. “As long as I have you.”

“I’m sorry, but that can’t happen.”

Fade To Black

She stiffened against him. “But I thought…”

“I have to go.” Tariq pulled away, and the sour-faced doctor moved in with a muscly male nurse holding Emily down on her bed. “You need something to help with the shock.”

Emily reached out again for Tariq just as the doctor plunged a syringe containing 5 grams of sodium thiopental into her arm, and everything went dark.

Chapter 58 - On Firmer Ground

The two women sat in silence in the bustling airport, one locked in the past, the other fearful for the future.

“So, what happened next?” Ayesha was still tightly clutching Emily’s hand. The older woman looked drained.

Emily closed her eyes for a moment. “I went back to the dorm. His things were gone. He just vanished. I couldn’t stay after that happened. I boarded a flight three days later and was back in Holland. This is my first time back.” Her words tailed off.

Just A Hiccup

“You see, Ayesha,” Emily took Ayesha’s other hand. “I felt the same way as you. I couldn’t stay here, not after what happened. I needed to be back home in a place where I felt safe and protected.”

They walked slowly to the departure gate.

“Ayesha, when you want to come back - and I know you will - I will help you. I promise.”

They were at the TSA departure security. Emily couldn’t go any further. They hugged tightly. “This is just a hiccup,” she said. “You will go on to do some great things, I know it.”

Last Look

Last Look

“Thank you for everything you have done for me Ms. Emily. I will never forget your kindness.”

Emily felt a strong maternal tug, but quickly composed herself and smiled at the young girl, her eyes shiny with tears.

She walked away, her heart heavy, taking one last look at Ayesha as she turned the corner towards the exit.

Collision

The woman walking in front of Emily collided with a young man hurtling at breakneck speed towards the gates. Emily rushed to help the woman, who was now shouting at the man’s back.

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going?”

“Sorry…so sorry!” He sprinted off and all Emily saw was the back of his head.

“Handsome, but STUPID! ” grumbled the woman.

Emily picked up the lady’s newspaper and tucked in under her arm, squeezing her affectionately.

The man kept running.

First Step

Ayesha smiled thinly and showed her ticket and passport to security. She thought she heard someone shout her name. But nobody knew her name here.

She heard it again and glanced over her shoulder. That’s when she saw him.

“Wait, Ayesha!”

She stood confused for a minute, still clutching her documents, stuck between her old life and the new. She could put her head down and carry on back to the Karachi docks, or she could risk everything and stay...

Ayesha hesitated a second longer. Then she took the first tentative step back to Zia.