I'm sharing an excerpt from my novel - Where The Heart Is. It is based on a true story and my character, Navid, is based on my friend, Robert, who passed away much too soon.
Looking at him, she knew she should mind her own business, but could not help from asking, “Is your father still in Iran?”
He was silent for a moment. “My parents are dead,” he replied.
“Navid, I’m sorry,” she said, guiltily. ‘I should have kept quiet,’ she realised.
“It is not your fault. Khomeini brought in oppressive laws and many of our freedoms were outlawed. Even popular music was banned.”
“Really?” she asked in astonishment.
He nodded and continued, “Curfews were put in place and those of our faith were persecuted or killed. My father realised we were in danger and arranged for me to leave the country,” he answered.
“How did you get out?” Dani asked, hoping she had not overstepped the mark.
Navid sighed and pulled out a chair. “I need to sit,” he remarked.
Dani nodded and did the same, waiting for him to speak.
“I was hidden in a basket and carried to the border by donkey,” he said. “There were others and when we climbed out of the baskets we had to run. There were people shooting at us and...,” he paused and looked down. “Some never made it. I ran as fast as I could and got over the border into Pakistan. There was a bus waiting for us and we were taken to the Australian Embassy.”
“A bus?” Dani asked, and Navid nodded.
“It took a lot of money to get us out,” he replied. “It was...the last thing my father did for me. Later, I heard both my parents and my sister were killed.”
Dani felt a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach and she thought of Antonio whose parents had also died. “It must be awful to lose your family,” she stated.
“I was lucky to have an uncle in Australia and was allowed to come and live with him, and now I have a new family, here, at the restaurant,” he declared with a grin.
Dani looked at him, wondering how he could smile. “Navid, I’m happy to be part of your family,” she told him, earnestly.
Navid put a hand to his chest and nodded. “Now, I go to work,” he said, and Dani watched him leave the room.