Dilemma (Review by Hilary Hawkes)

5star-flat-web

Dilemma by Baheya Zeitoun is a short work of fiction that explores the dilemmas and emotional struggles of a young woman stuck in a love triangle and unable, at first, to determine the right way forward for herself. This contemporary story is told from first person perspective, the heroine telling her own story in journal style. No names of the characters are given – they are referred to as “I”, “she” or “he”. The heroine experiences confusion, hopes, disappointments and finally resolves to leave her unsatisfactory relationship behind her and begin to develop herself and a life of her own. This has interesting and unexpected consequences for her.

Baheya Zeitoun has an attractive and appealing writing style. Her unusual decision not to give names to her characters has an interesting effect in that it doesn’t detract from the story at all. “We are all the same in being different” states the book’s main character at the start – names can give rise to false expectations or prejudices. I love the way the heroine finds her way through her relationship dilemmas and works to resolve her financial difficulties, so she can develop her talents as a writer.

The book has a message about not settling for pleasing others when this has a detrimental effect on ourselves. It’s when the young woman lets go of unfulfilling situations and people, and concentrates on developing herself, friendships, and her abilities that life starts to unfold in a natural, exciting and good way. Dilemma is a very readable, carefully plotted, entertaining story with believable characters and dilemmas with which many readers may identify.

Hilary Hawkes

Reader’s Favorite

Dilemma – Published Version

Dilemma (cover)Table of Contents:

  • Dilemma 1: How It All Began
    • Dilemma 2: Why Guys Drive Me Crazy
      • Dilemma 3: The Meeting
        • Dilemma 4: Middle of the Night
          • Dilemma 5: The Mirror
            • Dilemma 6: The Confusion
            • Dilemma 7: The Fight
            • Dilemma 8: What Am I Doing Here?
            • Dilemma 9: After a Long Wait
            • Dilemma 10: Other Plans
            • Dilemma 11: The Blackout
            • Dilemma 12: Lost and Confused
            • Dilemma 13: Just Another Day
            • Dilemma 14: Change
            • Dilemma 15: Vacuum
            • Dilemma 16: More Stress Than I Can Handle
            • Dilemma 17: Packing-up the Past
            • Dilemma 18: A New Chapter in My Life
            • Dilemma 19: As If No Time Had Passed
            • Dilemma 20: Changing Choices in Transitional Phases
            • Dilemma 21: The Old City
            • Dilemma 22: In the Pouring Rain
            • Dilemma 23: A New Year
            • Dilemma 24: Club X
            • Dilemma 25: An Odd Perspective
            • Dilemma 26: All Night
            • Dilemma 27: The Final Chapter

Available on Smashwords for free!

For rating or reviewing: Goodreads

Dilemma 33 (The Final Move)

For the past few months, she’d been working on a novel. Since college, she’d been writing mostly short stories and articles. They’d been fairly successful. She was published in a few small publications and blogs. However her dream was to publish a long solid piece of fiction. She knew that it was quite difficult, but she felt that she had already paid her dues. For several years now, she’d struggled. Through those struggles she grew into a stronger person, learned a lot about the publishing industry and established a network of contacts.

For the past three years, she’d been free-lancing on and off for a local magazine. During a party thrown by this magazine, one of the editors introduced her to another young editor. The young editor was newly hired at a fairly well-known publishing house and in search of fresh talent. As the two got to talking, she explained to her that she had been writing a novel for some time now. The editor requested two or three chapters of the manuscript to look over.

The editor lived on the coast at the opposite end of the country. She was in the city for a few days on business and was leaving right away. The two emailed one another regularly for almost a month, until she asked her to fly over there to meet with her supervisor to talk about publishing her book. She was in awe. There were no words that could describe how ecstatic she was.

Her friends were excited for her and decided to join her for a vacation. The publishing house provided her with accommodation. So she packed her life and prepared herself for this move. This was second time she moves to another city. The first time she was seventeen and moving over 8000 kilometers away from her home. This time the distance was significantly less, and the move would certainly be easier. There was a more stable future lined up for her.

Her best friend helped her unpack and settle into her new place. It was a small apartment by the beach, which all she could ask for. They arrived six days before her meeting. The editor agreed to give her the keys to the apartment earlier than scheduled.  Her and her friends planned on enjoying every moment of the next few days.

dilemma

She walked on the beach with her friend. He had one hand around her shoulder as they walked through the water. The waves crashed at their feet, and the wind blew their hair. She wore his jacket over her bikini; it was cozy and long enough to cover the entire swimsuit.  The sun was starting to set over the ocean. With the exception of their friends, the beach was empty. The group had their fair share of beer and cocktails, thus they were all tipsy by the time the sun began to set.

He wrapped his arms around her waist as they both faced the ocean.
“I’m really gonna miss you,” he said.
“Me too.”
He ran his hand up and down her waist, close enough to tough her breast but not close enough to grab it. She didn’t pay any attention to him. She enjoyed the motion of his fingers across her body. She allowed him to touch her as much as he pleased, without any engagement on her part. His phone rang in the midst of all this.

As he spoke on the phone she joined the rest of their friends. It wasn’t until she felt that his absence had taken longer than anticipated, that she went to him. He was sitting a few meters away, to give himself some privacy.
“Important phone call?”
“No just a friend.”

She sat next to him; he placed her leg over his knee as they talked. The conversation was random and unimportant; however the motion of their hands was what’s intriguing. He worked his way from her thigh up to her breasts, as she ran her hand up his spine to his neck. Mimicking her action he placed one hand on her neck; he kissed her collar-bone as his hand moved back down the jacket and cupped her right breast. She started breathing heavily; his hands were cold, as her nipples grew harder against his hand, his heart rate accelerated. She ran her fingers through his hair, her thumb moved up and down the back of his ear. Their conversation continued naturally, as if nothing was happening. He lightly swiped his thumb across her lower lip. For her the entire endeavor was friendly, playful and not leading to anything.

They laughed and joked; he took her into his arms and kissed her on the cheek. In an attempt to return the kiss, it accidentally landed on his lips when he moved his head. He smiled and said “do that again”.

The second she pecked him on the lips again, he bit her lower lip and stuck his tongue into her mouth. She was shocked for a moment, before realizing that was the nature progression of their actions. He tasted of cigarettes and peppermint. She laid her back on the beach chair, bending one knee. She felt vulnerable and noticed that he was more excited than she had thought. He leaned forward; they never unlocked their lips, as he ran his hand up her thigh grabbed her ass cheek firmly. “You have a great ass,” he whispered in her ear. They never really gave themselves a chance to catch their breath. Their hearts raced, she was getting wet, his body was tight. The moment was incredibly intense.

“Guys we’re leaving!” they heard her best friend say. The two sat up straight, she pressed her lips against one another and took a deep breath. The two adjusted their clothes and got up.

“You’re a very good kisser,” she said.
“Thanks.”

They all changed and head to a club. As her friends were on the dance-floor she stayed behind; sipping her cocktail and staring blankly at them. They almost appeared as nothing more than moving shapes to her.

“Why aren’t you dancing?” he asked. “It’s unlike you.”
“I don’t feel like dancing.”
“You look depressed. You’re about to get everything you’ve dreamed of and worked for, so why are you down?”
“Cause you guys are leaving in the morning. And I don’t want you to leave.”
“Me or everyone else? You know she’ll probably move out here with you right?”
“Yeah she said she might. She might actually find more work here. But you won’t be here.”
He hugged her and said “sweetie I’ll visit, so will you and we’ll Skype all the time. What are you really worried about?”
“Starting over. Alone. Again.”
“Even though you don’t really know anyone here, you won’t be alone. And you’ve done this before, so it won’t be hard for you. You’re a very strong girl. Even if you don’t believe that, it’s the truth.”
“You always know how to make me feel better.” She smiled.
“Come on let’s dance.”
He took her by the hand and led her to the dance-floor.

After her friends left, she started preparing for her interview. It was still a day, but she was growing restless and anxious. Her best friend promised her that she would visit soon or even move all together. She had wanted to move there for years, but there was never a right time. She read her novel, tweaking it along the way. After, she found herself in an empty apartment with nothing to do. She spent the day at home with her beloved dog, watching movies and reading.

The meeting went better than she had hoped. With the exception of a few minor details the editor loved her novel. “It’s fresh and original”, were her words. Her book was going to be in stores in two months. She was filled with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that filled her eyes with tears. She stared at the ocean from her balcony and imagined being surrounded by her friends again. She wrapped her arms around her dog, which sat on the ledge. Her laptop was hissing inside, she paid no attention to it until one particular song started playing; “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good.” 

Dilemma 32 (All Night)

The girls were getting ready to go to a concert with their friends. The concert wasn’t going to start for another two to three hours, but they knew it would be packed so they needed to arrive a couple of hours early. The band had been touring all over the world and was finally going to perform in the city. The girls were very excited. She took a final look at herself in the mirror, satisfied; she patted her dog and walked out.

It was getting more crowded as they got closer to the venue. Seeing the people storming through the gates, she got the feeling that that night was one that she would never forget. They stood close to the stage and waited anxiously for the band.  After two opening acts, a distinct male voice echoed across the auditorium. The crowd screamed, cheered and sang along. She was absorbed by the crowd and the music. With the sound of the bass vibrating in her ear and the lyrics dancing in her brain, it felt almost religious. She was surrounded by thousands of people, yet it seemed there was no one but her and the music.

The show ended at around 2:25 am. They were all famished after the concert. Near the venue was a diner. The place was small and very low-key; the kind of place that would be easily overlooked in the day-time. It emitted a dim light from a distance, but they could spot it since it stood out in the darkness. The diner was completely empty, with the exception of the waitress, the cashier and the cook who were talking by the counter.

“Excuse me, may we please order?” asked one of her friends.

The waitress gave him a dirty look, sighed heavily in irritation and said “kitchen’s closed.”

“Do you have any cold sandwiches or cake maybe?” she asked.

“They’re in the fridge over there, help yourselves. I’m done for the night,” replied the waitress with a yawn as she returned back to her conversation.

Each of them picked an item from the fridge, be it a sandwich or a dessert and returned to the booth. They didn’t care much about the waitress’s attitude or that the two men she was standing with almost didn’t acknowledge their presence. They laughed and chatted about the concert, trying to relive the experience they had just been through.

“It’s 3:00,” said the waitress, who was now standing other their booth. “We’re closing.”

“How much do we owe you?”

They paid and walked out. It didn’t feel as late as it actually was. They walked aimlessly down the street for a while, until they finally decided to part their separate ways.

She didn’t feel like going home; she felt the night wasn’t over yet. She took the subway south of the city. There was a family-owned book store with a tiny café, which was open at all hours of the day. She discovered it by chance, when she used to freelance for a magazine in that neighborhood. She was friendly with the store owner’s son, who always stayed at the store at night. The only reason why the store was always open is because, he would be there.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hey, it’s been a long time,” he replied. The two casually chatted for a while over coffee, before she sat herself in an armchair in the far end corner of the store. It was quiet and cozy; the perfect atmosphere to relax and write. She took her tablet out of her bag and let her inspiration flow on to the page.

She rubbed her eyes and yawned in exhaustion. It was 5:02 am at the clock by the cashier desk, yet she didn’t want to go home. She watched him tune his guitar. Not wanting to disturb him, she went to the coffee machine, made herself a cup and walked around the store. She wasn’t searching for anything in particular, but as she scanned the shelves there was one book that stood out. That’s it, she thought removing it from the shelf. She returned to her corner and began reading as she sipped her latte.

At 5:53 am she paid for the book and left the store, he refused the money for the coffee. She walked purposefully towards the highest building in the city. She hadn’t planned on being in that place at that time, but since it was a five minute walk away she felt it was worth being there. She snuck in and took the elevator to the roof, where she had a spectacular view of the entire city from the top. At 6:06 am she watched the beautiful shades of orange and yellow being painted across the sky.

Dilemma 31 (Gambling)

She was never one of those people who were good at pretty much anything they do, nor did she ever claim that she could do anything and everything. However she was good at what she did and what she was passionate about. Some people called her a workaholic, other say that she’s a lazy slob. She believes that she is neither. She is proud when people refer to her as a workaholic, because her job is the most important thing in her life; closely after come her friends. But she was not certain of who she really is or where her life was headed.

She believed that all of life is a game of luck, in other words a gamble, and that people can only play the cards they were given. She hated gambling. There were things in a person’s life that, even though they are based on luck, should be looked at strategically; more specifically relationships and work. She didn’t mind taking calculated risks, but she wasn’t willing gamble her emotions and certainly not her future.

In both cases she believed that when an opportunity presents itself you should always take it, or else one might regret not taking it. Relationships are based on trial and error, no one ever gets them right the first time. That is in addition to timing, timing is crucial in relationships. It’s a long and sometimes painful road, which is supposed to be worth it. She has never been in a serious relationship, so she was a poor judge when it came to such matters.

Work on the other hand it slightly different because it is based on skill as well as sheer luck. She didn’t like relaying on luck and chance. She liked to plan and know what her next step will be; however the road to success is even longer and more painful and not always rewarding, because not many people reach the end of that road. Combining the two is almost every person’s dream, but that is only a dream. She believed that no one can be 100% happy in their long-term relationship as well as maintain a successful career; one will come at the expense of the other at one point in time. She knew that there were people, who managed to balance both their careers and their relationships, but it doesn’t last; even if it does there will always be obstacles along the road and the end will always be different from expected. All of that she understood too well, however the question remains does one sacrifice one for the other? Or does one relay on luck? Or is a balance achievable or even possible?

All these questions floated around in her head as she lay in bed, unable to sleep. It was hard to sleep, when one doesn’t know where they’re going. The mystery of the future often terrifies her, because it doesn’t leave any traces or clues behind. It just leaves you wondering what will come next.

Dilemma 30 (Out with a Friend and a Camera)

Her friend invited her over to his apartment, which he’d locked himself in for the past two weeks. She let herself in and walked into an overly cluttered home; between take-out containers, empty bottles and an overflowing garbage bin. She head to the studio straight away, because she knew that’s where he’ll be and where he’d been for the past fortnight. Eleven canvases stood side-by-side in a semi-circle, while he focused his attention on only one. Music played in the background as he worked.

“Hey,” she said to make him aware of her presence.

He put down his brush, turned around abruptly and gave her a hug. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too. What’s with the mess outside?”

“Sorry I’ve too distracted to clean up. I haven’t stopped working since Valentine’s. I was so inspired by what happened that day.”

“I can see that, the work looks spectacular. I can’t believe you’ve done eleven paintings in two weeks!”

“Well I started eleven, only finished four. Anyway I called ‘cause I wanted to hangout. Outside, after being cooped-up in here for so long I need fresh air.”

“Sure, I was planning on taking some photos today would you like to join me? Or did you have something else in mind?”

“That sounds perfect.”

“Great! I’ll clean up some of the mess outside, while you shower.”

He smiled. “You really don’t have to.”

“It’s bothering me.”

The two walked around the city in search of suitable subjects for her to photograph. They varied between the city’s architecture, the park, interesting store displays, the rushing cars, graffiti, street vendors and artists and even prostitutes. She could always find something or someone that’s willing to serve as a subject.

“Are you planning a show, or are these just for you?”

“I’ve been commissioned by a website called The World at your Fingertips to take a series of pictures of different parts and different aspects of the city. It’s a new travel website. They feature one city every month and have artists, writers and photographers who live there present work about that city. All you have to do is send them a portfolio and if they think you’re good enough you’re hired for the month. So I’ll send them the best pictures and keep the rest.”

“That sounds good. How’s your writing going?”

“Not bad. I’m doing some freelance work and I’m almost done with my novel.”

“That’s impressive. I always admired how you’re able to balance two or three jobs at the same time.”

“Multi-tasking is in my blood,” she said with a smile.

Famished after a long day, they finally ended up in a Chinese restaurant enjoying spring rolls and noodles.

Dilemma 29 (In a Bottle)

She had always had a hard time expressing emotion to anyone but herself. She kept her emotions bottled up and was a phenomenally competent liar, when it came to them. She was in the habit of plastering a fake smile on her face, whenever she was upset or depressed or at times when she was angry (however that was harder to master). Her inability to express emotion stems from her lack of trust. For most of her life people were either cruel or dishonest, making it impossible for her to trust almost anyone. Even her closest friends didn’t know her as much as they thought they did. Some of her friends believed she was an open book that they could easily read, when in reality she lived in an impenetrable fortress within herself that no one can reach no matter how hard they tried.

This protective force was to keep her safe and free from hurt. She refused to show her true vulnerability to anyone, in fear that they would one day use it against her. This state made any real emotional relationship impossible, because she would not let anyone in. She watches her friends fall in and out of love on a regular basis, while she has never once allowed herself to fall in love. Her friendships were true, but she believed that even friendships need boundaries however loose these boundaries might be. Her friends were closest thing she had to an emotional relationship; any other relationships she had were brief and purely physical. She didn’t believe that there was any sanctity to the human body; however the mind and the soul are worth protecting with one’s life. At least that was her philosophical explanation for the way she is.

She wished she could talk to someone; open up, but that was much more than she could possible handle. Showing her true colors to anyone was something she couldn’t bear. She would always justify these feelings by saying ‘I would rather strip naked, than be naked.’ She was filled with inexplicable fear, which is the real reason why expressing emotion for her was torturous. She was afraid of failing, afraid or being alone, afraid of being with someone, afraid of being with the wrong person, afraid of too much regret; simply afraid. There have been only very few moments in her life when she was truly happy and at peace. For the most part she is anxious for no reason, which is what pains her the most; that she really doesn’t know why she feels the way she feels.