Charming Taylor Samuels doesn’t expect his sister’s video audition for the reality television show The World Traveler to result in anything. But when they’re chosen to compete, he can do nothing but hope for the best.
On the ground for the next part of the race, we got on an open-air bus to an outdoor market near the city of Islamabad. The traffic was like nothing I had ever experienced, and the streets flying by looked so different to what we were used to. There were people everywhere, many signs of poverty, and the areas all seemed dirty. It was almost unreal to really be here. The smells that lingered were revolting and made me want to retch. And the heat was stifling. Beads of sweat dripped off my forehead, and it was like my skin was melting.
From the bus, we saw the next luggage tag in a specially marked box, that would direct us to what was required next. Once we got off and found the clue, we stood off to the side to read the information.
Find the nine items on the list attached.
They will be located at different stands throughout the market.
You may work as a team. One or more teams may be eliminated.
The market looked to be huge, so this would be quite the feat. It was teeming with people and animals, and there were many aisles and corridors. The sights and sounds were surreal, and the prospect of what we had to accomplish was a bit daunting.
“Hey Adam, want some water?” I asked.
“I’m okay.” He looked a bit rough but I took him at his word. We saw some other teams arriving—that got us moving.
We were going to stay together for this task. Adam had the list of items we had to find. Our best plan would be to keep the list to show the vendors since a lot of the names were foreign to us and we had no idea what we were looking for or how to pronounce them properly.
I was sweating and wanted to take my shirt off. All my clothes, if I were honest, but that wouldn’t be appropriate. Making sure Adam looked normal, I pulled the water out of my backpack and poured it on each of our foreheads.
Running through all the vendors in the gigantic market was a bit hectic. I stopped someone and asked if they spoke English, but no luck. I kept asking and finally found someone to help. He translated the whole list for us, which was so helpful. It meant that if we recognized some stuff, even if not all, we would be ahead of the game. Things we were familiar with, like six apples or a bottle of oil, would be simpler to find with a visual and knowing the words in English.
I didn’t know what their rituals were here about hugging or not, so I didn’t, even though I wanted to. I could have kissed him though. As I jogged, I held Adam beside me.
He slowed down. “Ah Taylor, maybe I’m not feeling as well as I implied?” Smiling weakly at me, he put a sweaty palm on my arm. He had a bit more color in his cheeks, but didn’t look himself. I was planning to do most of the work this time without letting him know. I know he would hate to feel less than useful.
I tried to act positive and upbeat, even though I felt anything but that. We could do this. I gave myself an internal pep talk at that point. Pushing my hair back off my forehead, I studied the list.
The first item to find was a beaded necklace. I told Adam we would look for that first. The vendors were filled with almost anything you could think of: fish, fruit, jewelry, and instruments. It was crazy to think that this is where people who lived here shopped all the time. An entirely different world.
I zigzagged through the narrow aisles of the market, Adam trailing behind me. All of my skin had a layer of grime and dirt now, but I couldn’t stop to think about that. We hadn’t seen any other teams in awhile. We had no idea if they were far ahead of us or far behind us.
Adam squeezed my hand, and I turned around to see him pointing to a stall. The necklace.
“Excellent,” I said and kissed him on his sweaty cheek. “Still feeling decent?”
“Yes, of course,” he said. I wasn’t so sure, but we continued. I made him drink some water, and I had some myself.
I paid for the necklace using the local currency we had been provided with and draped it over his neck. Next was a certain type of flour. We had to get one pound of it. I kept running, but Adam seemed to be slowing down a bit. Hoping he was okay, I assumed he would tell me if he needed to stop.
“Keep going, I’ll catch up,” he said.
“No, I’m not leaving you.”
“I’ll be fine, I just need a break for a few moments.” He was bent over and breathing heavily. I lifted him up to me.
“Here, take some water.”
He shook his head, but I forced it into his mouth. Some of it dripped down the side of his lips, but some went in his mouth. Then he sat back down on the dusty dirt in a corner.
“The race. Go. Need to. Not eliminated. Leave me. Go for us,” he stuttered, his words coming out in broken sentences.
I couldn’t believe he was thinking of the race first at a time like this.
“No, no, no I want to stay here with you. Be here for you.”
He took a huge gulp of water and then looked up at me. His hands came up to my cheeks, and he brought my forehead down to his.
“Taylor, I’m dehydrated, yes, and tired. But we want to continue to be… together… be on the race, I mean, right?”
I nodded reluctantly. Sweat was dripping off my nose and forehead, and it was so, so hot.
“So go. Please. For us. Leave your bag with me. We still have a chance. Get the show medic to come and watch over me while you go find all of the items.” His breathing seemed a bit better, but I didn’t want to leave him. On the other hand, I didn’t want this to be our last day together either.
“Okay. Wait here.”
He laughed and gasped, then said, “Yeah, I don’t plan on going anywhere.”
He couldn’t feel too bad if he was making jokes.
About Claire Castle
Claire Castle grew up surrounded by books. She has loved reading for her whole life. Her true love is romance and HEAs. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found wearing comfortable leggings, drinking mocha and petting her west highland terrier. She loves collecting awesome mugs and paperbacks of her favorite stories.