As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow Read Online Zoulfa Katouh

Categories Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Tags Authors:

Total pages in book: 116
Estimated words: 110383 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 552(@200wpm)___ 442(@250wpm)___ 368(@300wpm)

Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.
Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.
But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.


Every lemon will bring forth a child and the lemons will never die out

—Nizar Qabbani

THREE SHRIVELED LEMONS AND A PLASTIC BAG OF pita bread that’s more dry than moldy sit next to one another.

That’s all this supermarket has to offer.

I stare with tired eyes before picking them up, my bones aching with every movement. I stroll around the dusty, empty aisles once more, hoping maybe I missed something. But all I’m met with is a strong sense of nostalgia. The days when my brother and I would rush into this supermarket after school and fill our arms with bags of chips and gummy bears. This makes me think of Mama and the way she would shake her head, trying not to smile at her red-faced, starry-eyed children trying their best to hide the spoils of war in their backpacks. She’d brush our hair—

I shake my head.


When the aisles prove to be truly empty, I trudge to the counter to pay for the lemons and bread with Baba’s savings. From whatever he was able to withdraw before that fateful day. The owner, a bald old man in his sixties, gives me a sympathetic smile before returning my change.

Outside the supermarket a desolate picture greets me. I don’t recoil, used to the horror, but it amplifies the anguish in my heart.

Cracked road, the asphalt reduced to rubble. Gray buildings hollowed and decaying as the elements try to finish what the military’s bombs started. Utter and absolute destruction.

The sun has been slowly melting away the remains of winter, but the cold is still here. Spring, the symbol of new life, does not extend to worn-out Syria. Least of all my city, Homs. Misery reigns strong in the dead, heavy branches and rubble, thwarted only by the hope in people’s hearts.

The sun hangs low in the sky, beginning the process of bidding us farewell, the colors slowly changing from orange to a heavy blue.

I murmur, “Daisies. Daisies. Daisies. Sweet-smelling daisies.”

Several men stand outside the supermarket, their faces gaunt and marked with malnourishment but their eyes sparkling with light. When I pass by, I hear bits of their conversation, but I don’t linger. I know what they’re talking about. It’s what everyone has been talking about for the past nine months.

I walk quickly, not wanting to listen. I know that the military siege inflicted on us is a death sentence. That our food supplies are diminishing and we’re starving. I know the hospital is about to reach a point any day now at which medications will become a myth. I know this because I performed surgeries without anesthesia today: People are dying from hemorrhages and infections and there’s no way for me to help them. And I know we’ll all succumb to a fate worse than death if the Free Syrian Army isn’t able to stop the military’s advances on Old Homs.

As I head home, the breeze turns cold and I pull my hijab tight around my neck. I’m acutely aware of the dried spots of blood that have managed to creep under my lab coat’s sleeves. For every life I can’t save during my shift, one more drop of blood becomes a part of me. No matter how many times I wash my hands, our martyrs’ blood seeps beneath my skin, into my cells. By now it’s probably encoded in my DNA.

And today, the echo of the oscillating saw from the amputation Dr. Ziad made me stand in for is stuck in my mind on a loop.

For seventeen years, Homs raised me and cultivated my dreams: Graduate from university with a high GPA, secure a great position at the Zaytouna Hospital as their pharmacist, and finally be able to travel outside of Syria and see the world.