Rebecca O’Connor-Smith is married to the love of her life at twenty-six, but her office career leaves a lot to be desired. A former anthropology major, she secretly misses her university years.
When she decides to volunteer for an archaeological dig in Ashkelon, Israel, she doesn’t realize how much it will change her. Rebecca finds herself in a beautiful city surrounded by people who share her infatuation with the ancient world and develops a crush on a handsome Ph.D. student.
Soon enough, political tensions strike the southern region, and her team is forced to seek safer alternatives. Rebecca ends up spending a week at the Albright Institute, a prominent research center in Jerusalem, translating a complicated article. The difficult task makes her feel accomplished for the first time in the longest while. Rebecca realizes she has always wanted to pursue archaeology professionally.
However, following her dream won’t be easy. When she reunites with her husband, Jason, after the dig, nothing is the same anymore. As tensions increase in her marriage, she begins to wonder if she can have the best of both worlds—or if she’ll have to give up everything she’s ever known to have what she’s always wanted.
$2.99 〉 $0.99 (Feb 11-12)
CLICK TO EXPAND EXCERPT FROM “MY JOURNEY”
I told myself not to fret. After all, it was just a misplaced invoice and nothing more. “It will probably turn up at someone’s desk on Monday,” I kept repeating to myself like a mantra while going through the filing cabinet for the hundredth time.
“Did you find it?” Dave, my manager, asked.
“Not yet. I’m sure it’s somewhere.” I started going through the files faster.
“Rebecca, you need to stop being reckless,” he muttered. “It was a very important order for a client in Vancouver.”
“I’m not being reckless, you idiot!” I wanted to yell. There was at least one other person responsible for filing, so it could’ve been her.
“Rebecca, can I see you for a moment?” Rosa asked.
“So, yesterday, I asked you to bring my docket to the shipping department,” she began.
“Yes, I remember that.” I vaguely recalled carrying a large envelope with files on the latest client order.
“Why did it end up in the embroidery department?”
“What?” My memory must’ve been betraying me, for I clearly remembered handing it to Diego, the manager of the shipping and receiving department.
Sensing my shock, Rosa softened. “All right, next time, please remember to put it in the right place.”
“Sure. No problem.”
I started packing for the day as soon as I returned to my desk. Since it was already four twenty-five, there was no point in staying longer. Surely this Friday didn’t end the way I had imagined it. However, I was still feeling excited. Tonight, Jason and I would go out and possibly discuss our summer plans. I smiled at the thought of escaping together to some tropical resort. Before anyone could catch me, I quickly grabbed my purse and left the building.
On the subway, I took out my iPod and drowned in my favorite music, which was mostly made of the latest Israeli hits. I closed my eyes and tried imagining what it would be like to return to the land of our honeymoon. The desert, the sea, and a myriad of unexplored places came into my mind.
I reached home in less than fifty minutes. Except for the times I was taking night classes, I usually came home earlier than Jason. His work hours ran until five, while mine were until four-thirty. It was amazing that even after four years of marriage and nearly five years of being together, I was still thrilled to see him every day after work. I ran to the door as soon as I heard the key in the lock.
“Hi, honey! How was your day?” he asked.
“Not too bad, thanks,” I replied. “How was yours?”
“Well, I’ve got some exciting news you might like.”
“Bring it on.” I wrapped my arms around him.
“Our company is expanding, which means that new servers will be built. I will be working more hours and making a better salary.”
“That’s great,” I said, secretly feeling a bit upset. Jason always looked for opportunities to work more, even if it meant compromising our time for each other.
“But don’t worry. I promise not to work on nights or weekends.”
“I hope not. Well, I’m really happy for you.” And I truly was.
“At last, we can afford to take a vacation we’ve always dreamed about.”
We both loved travelling. We had never been to Europe but believed there was still enough time. Nevertheless, we had visited a lot of places in the United States and stopped by a few Caribbean resorts. Throughout the year, however, we were so busy with our jobs that vacations felt more like a necessity rather than a luxury.
“So, shall we get going?” he asked.
“Do you mind if I change first?”
“Sure! I’ll wait for you here.”
He plopped on a couch and took out his new Blackberry, while I went to our bedroom and opened the closet doors. Feeling weary of the boring office clothes, which were mostly black and gray, I quickly found a pair of blue jeans and a pink denim shirt. Although I wasn’t a high maintenance type, I loved wearing bright colors. Having fixed my makeup, I emerged from the bedroom ready to go.
“What do you think?” I asked, making a twirl.
“You look great as always.” He got up from the couch and quickly retrieved jackets from our closet. “Here you go.” He offered me mine.
Soon we were walking towards the Firkin Pub, inhaling the smell of grill mixed with odors of spicy food. The weather was quite cold for early May, and most trees were still bare of new growth. That year, we had had the longest winter in history, and everyone was fed up with ruthless wind, rain, and snow. Just a few weeks ago, there was the worst spring storm I could ever remember. (An exception would probably be one ice rain that had happened in April when I was still in high school.) Weary of the endless winter, many already started ditching winter coats for shorts and sandals.
Two years ago, Jason and I had finally moved out from our ragged one-bedroom apartment on Jane and Finch and bought a two-bedroom condo on Yonge Street. Our place was not as upscale as other condos in the area, but we still loved our new place and the sense of freedom that came from living in uptown Toronto. In spite of our busy schedules, we would always find time to go out for a walk on a Friday night, watch a new 3D movie at Cineplex, or check out a new Chinese restaurant. It was our way of keeping romance alive.
We quickly reached the pub, where a waitress escorted us to a table for two and asked if we would like something to drink. Jason ordered two light beers. As soon as the lady reappeared with our drinks, I requested a shepherd’s pie, while Jason asked for smoked salmon with baked potatoes. Soon we were left alone with nothing to do but to sip our beers and stare at each other.
“So, where do you want to go this summer?” I asked after prolonged silence.
“Hmm, I was thinking about California.”
“Sounds nice. I’d love to see Sequoia National Park.”
“We could drive there from San Francisco and stay in a lodge overnight.”
“We could also try parasailing over the ocean.”
“No way, Jason! Just thinking about it gives me chills.” I playfully slapped his hand.
“That comes from someone who wanted to go to Syria.” He gave me a wicked grin.
“Why are you using past tense? I still want to go there.”
“Here is your order,” a waitress said, passing two sizable plates. Judging from the look on her face, she overheard parts of our conversation.
“Thank you,” Jason said, taking the plates from her.
“I mean, someday,” I added.
“Yeah, of course!” He rolled his eyes.
“I just want to be sure I’m not going to Israel this summer,” I said halfway through our meal.
“When will you get an answer?”
“I don’t know yet. But even if I win the scholarship, I still can’t be gone for three weeks. I only booked off one this year.”
Earlier that spring, I had applied for a scholarship through my favorite magazine (BAR short for Biblical Archaeology Review). I had also sent an application to the Leon Levy Expedition to volunteer for a dig in Ashkelon, positive that both applications would be turned down. Seriously, what chance did an average university graduate like me have at winning an international competition? Students from across the North American continent routinely applied for such programs and scholarships in hopes of winning a summer adventure.
“But if for some reason, you end up going,” he added, “I’m thinking about spending a week together in Tel Aviv after the dig is over.”
“Ah, that would be so nice.” I sighed. “I miss that city so much!”
“Then we should go for it.” He smiled.
“I’m sure my boss will fire me if he finds out.”
“Well, I’m just making a suggestion.”
We spent the rest of the evening fantasizing about other places we could visit this summer. I suggested visiting Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Colorado or Canyonlands National Park in Utah as alternatives to California. Jason, in turn, told me he really wanted to visit Florida, which wasn’t very surprising to me considering how much he loved beaches and swimming. Soon enough, the dinner was over, and we were headed back home. With the night approaching, the temperature was getting close to zero.
“I’m so done with this stupid winter!” I exclaimed, my hands shivering from cold.
“I’m sure the summer will be nice,” Jason said while trying to warm up my hands with his.
When we got home, something prompted me to check my email, even though I wasn’t expecting anything on a Friday night. When I discovered the letter, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feel thrilled or terrified.
Dear Rebecca O’Connor-Smith,
Congratulations! You have been selected for the Annual Archaeological Dig Scholarship by the Biblical Archaeological Society. We will fund your proposed project with a grant of $1,500. In order to receive funds for this fellowship, we require you to fill out the attached acceptance form and liability waiver, and return both to our office as soon as possible.
By accepting this award, you are agreeing to submit a report by the end of the season. The report should be 250–350 words in length and include an appropriate photo that illustrates your participation in the project for which you received funding.
Biblical Archaeology Review Team
“Jason, I won it!” I burst out of our mini office.
“What?” he asked.
“I won the scholarship. I’m going to Israel this summer.”
He moved towards me. “Does it mean we get to spend a week in Tel Aviv?”
“Well, I still have to talk to my boss.”
“I’m sure he’ll be cool about that. Haven’t you accumulated four weeks already?”
“Yes, but we were booking off vacations a long time ago. I don’t think he’ll be happy to hear about our summer plans.”
“Let’s not think about the bad stuff. I think we need to celebrate.” With these words, he strode to the kitchen and opened a bottle of champagne.
“If only we could go there this year!” I exclaimed. “Then we could revisit all the sites again.”
“Or just lie on the beach. We hadn’t done too much of it last time.”
“OK, let’s deal with one thing at a time. I’m going to try getting clearance at work.”
“Please do so as soon as you can. I really want to find a good flight and a hotel.”
“In the meantime, I want to spend some quality time with my wife.” He smirked.
“Let’s do that!” We put down our glasses of wine and went straight to our bedroom.
I loved being close to him, especially after such a busy week. Even after so many years, he could still ignite passion in me like no one else.
“I’ve missed you so much!” I whispered between the kisses.
“Me too, Becky.”
Afterward, we took a long, lazy shower, allowing water to wash away all the stress and uncertainties of daily life. Once we were dressed in comfortable clothes meant to be worn only at home, he looked at me and smiled.
“What?” I asked, brushing my hair in front of the mirror.
“Becky, I’m not sure about you, but I’m tired.”
“Do you mind if I read a little bit?” I was feeling too jittery from the news to sleep.
“Sure. I’m going to bed then.”
“Goodnight. I’ll join you soon.”
I walked back to the living room, where I sat on a couch, sipping my glass of wine and browsing through the latest issue of the BAR magazine. It featured a long article about the true location of the Mt. Sinai. Some claim the actual site is located in Saudi Arabia, which seems a bit hard to believe. Unable to concentrate on the text, I flipped through the pages, which contained lists of newly released books, images of antique jewelry, and ads of products for elderly people. Then I tiptoed to our bedroom and lay beside Jason, who was already soundly asleep.