About the Author
Shaundra Hughes is an aspiring young writer with a background in dramatic theater. She is currently attending the Detroit School of Performing Arts, where she hopes to become a polished and experienced actress.
In her spare time, Shaundra entertains the daydreams of whimsy, often putting her stories into words. “A Love Forbidden” is just one of many novels in her mental collection. One day, she hopes this metaphorical library will be filled with best-selling books from all genres. She believes there’s no better way to express yourself, than fictionally pouring your heart on paper.
To Samson, my beloved Schnauzer.
The following is a dramatic reading from Shaundra Hughes, author of “A Love Forbidden,” with continual interruptions from her sixteen-year old brother, Marcus.
Chapter 1: The Hands of Fate
The Tahitian market air was hot and thick. There was a constant buzz from haggling residents bartering discounted coconuts and palm leaves. For an outsider like Tiffany Summers, the commotion made everything confusing. It shouldn’t have been a problem for the upstate New Yorker, given that she was accustomed to bustling city life, but she didn’t speak Tahitian and was clearly a tourist.
“Why did I come here anyway?” she thought. “I could’ve flown anywhere. Hawaii, maybe. But no, I chose Tahiti.”
It’s true, she wasn’t sure what provoked the vacation. A small part of her wondered whether or not it was fate.
“Booo! This story sucks!”
A small part of her wondered whether or not it was fate.
The breeze from the oceanfront sent gentle ripples across Tiffany’s floral dress and carried wafts of delicious aromas.
It guided her towards a stand filled with plump watermelons. She’d been so interested in exploring the resort town, she’d completely forgotten about lunch. As she headed for the fruits, a tall, hooded figure brushed against her left shoulder. It seemed odd that he was wearing heavy clothes on such a hot day.
She couldn’t see the man, but he was headed somewhere in a hurry. Moments later, Tiffany heard shouting. She couldn’t understand the native’s words, but he was cradling the body of a pale, young woman. Immediately, a crowd formed and rushed closer to the scene. Tiffany edged around the gathering, but could only get a glimpse of the victim’s glazed expression. She was a tourist, not much unlike Tiffany, with graceful features and long, blonde hair.
“It’s a case of mistaken identity! The readers will never see it coming!”
“Shut up, Marcus!”
Their stare was broken by men in dark uniforms, barreling into the mob of market goers and headed in the hooded man’s direction.
As people flung themselves out of the way, a body slammed itself hard into Tiffany. Inches from the dock, she slipped and fell. The grip on her belongings loosed, and everything was lofted skyward. Her head descended on a sturdy post, knocking her unconscious.
“Let me guess, she gets amnesia.”
Chapter 2: Hopes & Dreams
Tiffany’s head still ached when she finally awoke. She cringed slightly at the pain, and it took a minute for her vision to clear. When it did, she noticed a man sitting at her bedside. He was handsome, well-built and had playful curls in his jet black hair. His eyes sparkled an alluring emerald green, and his strong arms looked as if they could move mountains. Yet, as he gingerly touched Tiffany’s hand, she felt soothed.
“Oh my gawd, I want to vomit.”
She couldn’t explain how she felt in that simple touch. It was a warm electricity that allowed their fingers to intertwine.
“Seriously, I’m gonna toss some cookies!”
It was brief though, as the man pulled back and said “You’re awake.”
His voice had a charming depth to it and was very direct. In fact, Tiffany was surprised the stranger’s English was so clearly spoken. Other than those amazing green eyes, he did not look American. His skin was a natural bronze, as if he were native to some tropical island.
“I am,” she replied, hoarsely.
“You had quite a fall. Luckily, the medical crew who arrived on scene were able to take a look at you. No concussion or permanent damage. Just be careful of those stitches.”
Tiffany felt tiny grooves above her left temple. The cut stung slightly, but she was happy the damage wasn’t more severe. Still, Tiffany felt something was very wrong.
“What’s your name?” asked the green-eyed man. “We couldn’t find your passport or any identification. Your things must’ve washed out with the waves.”
“How conveniently unfortunate!”
That was it. That was the question she couldn’t answer. “What’s my name?” she asked herself.
A look of confusion rushed over her face. “I… I can’t remember.”
“Oh, amnesia! I DID NOT see that coming!”
“You can’t remember? Do you remember anything?”
Tiffany fought with the aching skull to dig up a memory. Any memory. Why was she there? Where did she live? Her parents? Nothing. She could remember absolutely nothing.
“You hit your head pretty good, but I’m sure it’s only temporary. If it helps, my name is Anui Swanson.”
“Anui Swanson? What kind of name is that?!”
“You’re on the island of Tahiti, in French Polynesia. You know, a lot of honeymooners come here to these north shore resorts. Maybe you are checked in at one of them. Maybe you just got married. Does that ring any bells?”
She knew it was terrible to think, if it were true, but she suddenly wished she were unmarried and freely available to this handsome stranger. The thought, however, spiraled into terrifying, unanswered questions. What if my husband is desperately searching for me now? What if I never remember him, or anyone? What if I am doomed to live my life as a shell of who I once was- in a haze of empty visions, eternally alone? It was chilling to think such thoughts.
Anui, noticing her distress, brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. Tiffany snapped back into those emerald eyes and was calm again.
“Ugh, one more line of romantic crap and I literally puke.”
“Listen. Don’t worry too much. I work as a ferryman at the hotels. We can ride up there tomorrow and see if anyone recognizes you. Oh! And we did find this.”
Anui pulled a letter from the nightstand and handed it to her.
“We didn’t open it, but it fell out of your dress pocket on the way over.”
Tiffany took the letter eagerly.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Aita fifi,” replied Anui. That’s Tahitian for ‘you’re welcome.'” His charming smile was magnetic, luring Tiffany into his gaze.
That’s when another set of arms reached around Anui’s neck. A flirtatious and scantily clad woman appeared over Anui’s shoulders.
“Swan, baby. Come back to bed. She’s fine.”
“Okay, I didn’t predict that at least.”
Tiffany quickly laid her head back on the pillow, detaching from the magnetic pull. It should be no business of hers how this man spends his free time, but for some reason, she felt betrayed. Her head, of course, hurt too much to protest.
“Ah Reva, you cat,” Anui said coaxingly.
He turned his head to the side for a kiss. Reva teased him with a purring sound and pulled his arm toward the bedroom.
Before getting up, he turned to Tiffany.
“Look, I’m sorry. We put you here because it’s near the market, and I always have a spare bed.”
Tiffany was disgusted.
“But I meant what I said about tomorrow.”
Without any memory or alternative plans, she nodded in acceptance of the situation.
Anui got up and followed Reva to the bedroom. Another woman, draped in sheets, stood in the doorway, eagerly awaiting Anui’s return.
The three of them tumbled into the master bedroom and closed the door.
“What kind of name is Swanson anyway?! What a scum bag!” Tiffany fumed.
“He ain’t a scum bag. That man is straight pimpin’!”
And then she remembered the letter. Tiffany examined it carefully, hoping it would spur a memory. It was elegantly constructed, with a wax seal that read “F.S.” When nothing in particular stood out, she broke the seal and unfolded the paper.
“Tiffany, do you remember me?”
That was all it said. It wasn’t much, but it was everything she needed right now. The first word of the letter revealed her name.
“Tiffany,” she beamed. “My name is Tiffany!”
With that success, coupled by her body’s exhaustion, Tiffany fell soundly asleep.
“And while she slept, Tiffany had a really bad dream where she wanted to kiss Mr. Mega-Handsome, but got hit in the face with a bag of salami. And then she exploded. The end.”
Chapter 3: The Beast Within
Tiffany’s eyes opened at the sound of a clattering door. It was dark outside, but a cool breeze came through the open windows. She couldn’t see much of the room, but one lamp outlined Anui’s figure. Quietly, she called out to him.
“I know it now.” she said.
Anui put something inside his light jacket and turned around.
“You remember something?”
“No,” she frowned. “It was in the letter. My name is Tiffany.”
Anui walked toward her slowly.
Even now, after knowing his womanizing ways, part of her still wanted to reach out and caress his chiseled features.
“Hey mom, do we still have that mop and bucket?! Shaundra’s story is causing regurgitations!”
“Marcus! You’re the one listening through the wall! Maybe you kind of like the my mushy romance novel, hmm?”
“No way! I’m only listening because your loud voice can be heard from China!”
But she didn’t. She knows all too well what his kind of men were like- cheaters and philanderers. She’d have nothing to do with him once her memory returned… if it returned.
A moment passed before Anui spoke again.
“Look, I’m sorry about earlier. Those ladies-”
“Don’t bother,” she retorted. Tiffany sat up, feeling stronger. “It’s not my business. I know.”
“Well, they left hours ago, and I have to head out for a bit. I have a couple things to take care of.”
“Women,” thought Tiffany.
“And I wouldn’t advise you to wander around in unfamiliar territory.”
“That’s everywhere,” Tiffany laughed. It surprised Anui that she could joke about her memory loss. He grinned.
“But feel free to make yourself at home here. At least, until tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” Tiffany replied.
Anui walked out the front door, looking back once, tentatively. Then, he drifted out of sight.
“Great. Now what do I do?” Tiffany asked herself.
She walked around the living space, turning on lamps and examining Anui’s house. No, not house. Hut, or rather a bungalow. The bedroom was probably a mess, but the rest of it was very neat. His living space was very open with a tropical kitchen, a digital clock reading “4:00 am,” bamboo-themed furniture and thatched roofing. Tiffany examined one of the straw floor mats and began to spell her name.
“Tiffany.” she said again. Her first and only fact known about herself.
She stood up and caught her reflection in one of the decorative mirrors. Tiffany stopped and examined herself carefully. Ignoring her stitches, she stared at her own blue eyes and fair features. She guessed her height was about 5’6.” Her eyes moved down to her reflection’s body, analyzing the slender figure that complemented her curves. It made Tiffany wonder what others must have thought about her growing up.
The question sparked her curiosity with the letter.
“‘Do you remember me?’ What an awfully vague message, and if I ever did, I don’t anymore.” she laughed again, nervously.
Feeling starved, Tiffany helped herself to some food in the refrigerator. She’d just finished the last bite of a sandwich when the door opened again.
Anui was standing in the entrance. He wasn’t wearing his jacket and his facial hair seemed a bit unruly, but it was definitely him.
“Okay, it’s definitely NOT him, obviously.”
It was definitely him.
He approached Tiffany with determination and a feral look in his eyes. He seemed to know exactly what he wanted, and it was her.
She began speaking frantically, not sure what caused the change in his demeanor. “I’m sorry about the sandwich. You said-”
“Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany,” he smirked. “There’s been a slight adjustment in tonight’s schedule. I’ve changed my mind about the plans.”
Anui gently tugged Tiffany closer, at the hip.
“Is this girl stupid? Hit him with a frying pan, biatch!”
He wrapped his left arm around her waist while the right one slowly crept up the hem of her dress.
For a moment, Tiffany closed her eyes and imagined the ‘what if,’ but she came to her senses and-
“Hit him with a frying pan! A MOTHER FLIPPIN’ HOT FRYING PAN!”
pushed herself away.
“Aw, you gotta be kidding me.”
“I- I can’t do this,” she stammered.
“Why not?” he asked slyly.
“It’s just- I don’t know. I’m not sure if I’ve ever-”
Anui ginned at her innocence, as if it delighted him to know her intimate secrets.
“Aw, c’mon. You don’t want to have a little fun?” he mocked.
She took another step back.
“Look, I hardly know myself. You can’t expect me to be so- so-”
“So wild and reckless!”
Anui chuckled darkly.
“Then, we’ll just have to think of other things to do,” he smirked. “Why don’t we explore the market? It’s thrilling to be out this time of night.”
“But, I thought you said-”
“I changed my mind, remember? This will be much more exciting.”
His eyes squinted at her for a second, and then he turned on heel toward the door. Tiffany barely had time to put on her sandals before they were striding through the night air.
Anui’s bungalow was erected in shallow waters, along with several others like it. The market was visible from his stairs, and was maybe a five minute walk through docks. Tiffany couldn’t understand why he wanted to go back. It was desolate at this hour. Nothing but empty stands.
“This is my favorite spot to see the stars,” he said, as they made their way past the shops.
At the heart of the market, they stopped. At Tiffany’s feet was a small envelope, very similar to her own. She picked it up and, as she examined her surroundings, noticed how the bricks of the market floor were laid. Their contrasting color and circular shape almost resembled a bullseye, and Tiffany was standing directly in the center.
“Here comes the predictability train, making it’s routine stop. Choo! Choo!”
She found the idea strange, but couldn’t play out her notion. Anui, who had been looking upward, directed her attention to the stars. It was a cloudy night, and she could barely discern the moon behind the atmospheric haze.
“It’s no constellation, but the moon is my favorite part of the night sky, especially when it’s full.” Anui said.
“I see the train still hasn’t left the station.”
The clouds parted, and just as the lunar sphere came into view, lights brighter than Tiffany could imagine illuminated the market.
* * *