An uncomfortable but fascinating ripening journey.
Ahmed has abandoned her. Nadia is gone the way Isabelle did before, her two fallen warriors. But Marie can still hear His voice clearly.
A deep call for justice takes hold in an impressionable teenage girl from a recently broken family during a religious retreat; what happens next will mark her life for years to come.
the Retreat is a story of men playing God, of hurt that doesn’t find its way out.
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Read an Extract:
‘So, mass girl,’ Hélène is calling Marie. ‘We’re planning a night escape from this hell in a couple of days, are you in?’
‘Won’t we get into trouble?’
‘Rules are there to be broken,’ Hélène smiles, ‘at least by me!’ And how she bets other people are breaking them too right then, convinced as Hélène is that Berger employs himself, as they speak, probably more playing (with his willy) than praying.
‘I’m in enough trouble as things are.’ Marie is thinking about her skiing, her skirt and Prudence’s unwelcome mulishness to mend her, as if she had much wrong in her.
‘What do you mean?’ Martine can’t wait to know what trouble Marie is in.
‘We need to get out of here, into the real world,’ Hélène has a dream to sell, ‘down the bar. Buy some drinks. Dance to some music. Meet some boys...’ Martine makes a screaming face.
‘Things any normal girl is expected to do,’ she says reassuringly. ‘It’s not like we will be killing souls.’
Marie knows Hélène is right, but it’s also Marie’s belief, based on her little experience, that Hélène, her sister, Martine, are all there for a reason, that this retreat is full of girls who are either troubled or need attention because they are trouble. Can she trust them?
‘So, what happened at the caravan last year?’ she finally asks. ‘Could it happen again?’
Marie’s friends freeze.
‘The caravan was different.’ Hélène’s face turns sombre. She hadn’t expected the question. ‘We should have never been there.’
‘Fucking bastard,’ adds Martine.
‘We were a bit drunk,’ Hélène hesitates, ‘we were silly, but we should never have been put in that situation in the first place.’
‘The men were nice at first but then they were terrifying.’ Martine’s side of the story.
‘Isabelle had only acted in good faith, you know how she is,’ Hélène’s voice is down to a pensive whisper, ‘she’s such a do-
gooder at heart, nothing like them,’ she points to the door, ‘but a good-meaning person.’
‘And she’s stupid!’
‘Shut up, Martine.’
‘I mean, what world does she live in!’ Martine doesn’t shut up.
‘One where she only sees good in people.’
‘What did she do?’ Marie doesn’t understand. She didn’t expect Isabelle to be the culprit in this story.
‘She insisted on leaving the caravan,’ says Hélène, finally spilling the beans. ‘She had been talking to one of the young immigrants through a window, for over an hour, in Spanish, and claimed he had opened his soul to her and he needed her love, that we could not treat them like animals because they had gone through enough already.’
‘These men had not seen women in months.’ Hélène sighs. ‘We were young, drunk. Probably looked like sluts to them.’
‘When Isabelle opened the door, it had been a trick,’ says Martine. ‘They all tried to push in and we managed to close it again but they took Isabelle.’
‘And you did not call anybody?’
‘How? By the Holy Spirit? We had been abandoned there. All we had been given was a shitty walkie-talkie the nuns never answered. And Isabelle on the other side of the door was not alarmed,’ insists Hélène, ‘not in the slightest, she insisted she would talk to them and disappeared down the camp, into another caravan.’
‘And you didn’t call anyone?’ Marie can’t believe they deserted their friend.
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About the Author:
Mari.Reiza was born in Madrid in 1973. She has worked as an investment research writer and management consultant for twenty years in London. She studied at Oxford University and lives off Portobello Road with her husband and child.
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