Claire stared in shock at Aminah. The dear woman’s skin was so alarmingly cold. Aminah must not die. Rage morphed into panic. Aminah would be impossible to replace as headmistress, but as a trusted friend…her passing would blow a crater in Claire’s world. She stared out of a Plexiglas pane at the late afternoon sky which was reddening as the storm clouds receded. To save Aminah, she’d picked up a gun and shot at people. The motor whump-whumped with such roaring force it threatened to overpower the timing of her racing heartbeat. She could not stop the images of blood spurting onto the white clothing of the rioting man as she’d fired at his legs. To erase the chaotic mental movie she leaned closer to the pane and peered down at rain rivers running through the city below, the green hills of Chittagong speckled with shanties—teeming with rabid fanatics. She turned back to Aminah and fresh anger sent hot blood to her cheeks—God, she shouldn’t think of them in that way, and with such hatred. But they’d forced her to use the very thing she was publicly and very visibly dedicated to stopping. Violence. She had studied and prepared to practice the power of standing outside her anger before it turned to hate, but sometimes that was just inhumanly hard to do. Their stupid fatwahs, their overwhelming fear of change, of loosing control of their women or of empowering them in any way. Allah forbid that they should be able to accept women as equals. Still, she should have been strong enough to stay calm inside. She felt like a fraud. How could she ask her supporters to go on taking brave stands in the face of such blind hostility? At the beginning she’d felt in her soul that she’d chosen the right path, but maybe she’d gone too far. When leukemia killed David her world shattered. Her husband, her best friend, her love. Seventeen years of happiness gone in three months. Then in a very real sense, she’d lost John, too. Because David wanted it, she and David had deceived their beloved son. Because of the illness, John had discovered the deception. Her fifteen year old had renounced her. All because of what her mother had called “Claire’s need to control the truth.” John had moved in with his grandmother, and Claire had felt as abandoned as a castaway on the moon. What was the point of anything? Then Rachel’s e-mail had arrived. “Come stay with me. I’m living in the highlands of Sumatra below blue volcanic mountains that poke up into the clouds. Palm trees and pines. My little bungalow overlooks black rooftops that point up at the ends like water buffalo horns. I’m studying their women-centered culture. The Minangkabau.” Rachel Wexler, her dearest friend from college and still her closest companion was an anthropologist. “A family here has sort of adopted me. It’s a small village. A thousand souls. You will be so welcome. Come. It’ll be just like our time at Brandeis. We’ll be roommates again.” Claire had already walked away from the TV cooking show and stepped down at EClaire, one of the most profitable business conglomerates in the world. Leaving was easy. She packed one bag and left within the hour. For several months in the Minang village she simply went through the motions of being alive. But one evening a teenaged boy who should have been on watch went off gambling—with a cousin’s money. This allowed his clan’s water buffalo to stray into a neighbor’s patch of rice seedlings, seedlings that would have been painstakingly dug up and used to plant an entire paddy, a clan’s lifeline. The buffalo had devoured the entire patch. Word spread like flooding water, a crowd gathered, and everyone argued. Gambling some said, was a huge temptation to young people who were drawn to the cities. This was destroying their way of life. Clan loyalties tore one way and demands to set things right tore another. Tempers were raging. Clearly a fight was imminent. Suddenly, with the unmistakable bearing of a leader, a proud fat woman named Teejop stepped forward. She’d irritated Claire, strutting around and bossing people. Now she and the chief solemnly announced a meeting. People nodded and dispersed, heading to the village center. Surprised, Claire had turned to Rachel. “What’s going on?” “You’re going to see a demonstration of how wrongs are righted here. There will be no violence. It’s simply not acceptable.” Claire sat in on a long public session. Rachel explained that the young man had been on the verge of leaving his people for city life. His mother’s clan barely had enough rice. They would be unable to make amends. Some called out that the boy should be strongly punished by shunning. Claire watched the youth’s face harden. A shunning would surely make him more determined to leave. Others still cared for him, and his family. They argued for a different solution: a small apportionment of rice from several of the clans if he agreed to personally re-cultivate new seedlings. For some time there was arguing mediated by Teejop. Finally the boy’s father promised a water buffalo calf to the cousin. And if the young man worked hard to make restitution, a certain betrothal awaited him. The boy brightened. The male chief had the final word, but the women of the clans owned the land and controlled the rice, and their input had been vital to finding a solution that delivered an acceptable sense of fairness. A reconciliation ceremony followed. Cakes and drink, proverbs and song. Rachel translated the rites, and Claire especially loved the Minang concept of the union of complimentary male and female forces. The Minang had a saying. The hard and unfeeling nail protects the soft but sensate fingertip; and logs that lean against each other build the best fire. Claire had felt a warmth, a hope, a vision growing deep inside. Humanity was not hopelessly aggressive. All present laid hands on top of hands and then touched hearts. Claire joined in, returning their shy smiles again and again, touching hands, touching hearts, and she fell in love with nonviolence as a way of life. These people were neither more nor less fully human than anyone else, but they had found a nonviolent way to manage the folly and darker impulses of individual members. According to Rachel, this remarkable culture had lasted for centuries, and four million Minang still followed this peaceful way. Claire had never heard or seen anything like it. “When the Muslim religion swept through” Rachel said, “the Minang simply adopted aspects of Islam that are in harmony with their own reverence for nature, their male and female balance, and peaceful ways. They essentially overlook those aspects that do not fit.” The more Claire thought about this, the more extraordinary and reasonable it seemed. “You have time on your hands,” Rachel added. “The world has more than eighty nonviolent cultures. Why not visit a few?” Claire had set off on her travels. Her journals written in those peaceful places became the basis of her book, Creating the Future, and the inspiration for AFWW. Work became her solace. Building the academies had led her to Bangladesh. And now Aminah was paying the price for change. Dear friend. I am so sorry you’ve been hurt. Again Claire became aware of the dreadful coldness of Aminah’s hand. Was the price too high? Dusk settled in. Claire studied her own reflection in the window. She looked much the same as before David died. Inside, though, she was so different from the light-hearted yet determined career woman she’d been. She’d rejected when she was twenty the career in diplomacy her ambassador father envisioned for her, believing the world such a chaotic mess that her contribution couldn’t possibly make a difference. After Sumatra, she knew better. She had changed. People could change. The difference between a village and the globe was vision, will, and power. If she could make a TV cooking show into a global enterprise, she decided, she could do the same with an idea for positive change that mattered profoundly. She had money and influence and she would make them count. Today’s rioters weren’t the first to test her resolve. She warmed to the thought of Sumidar, the fighting and then the treaty. Four years ago she’d been with an AFWW team in the small Indonesian country when violence erupted. The U.S. Ambassador, a friend of her father’s, asked her to help negotiate a settlement. She’d worked harder than she ever had and helped achieve an accord. Two years ago, for her schools, the book, and the Sumidar Accord, the committee for the Nobel Peace Prize had seen fit to make the former TV cooking maven a Nobel Laureate. During Rachel’s last field study before returning to Brandeis she’d written to Claire, “Seems like everywhere I go in the world, I see your picture on walls, from apartments to grass huts. My favorite was you alongside JFK, John Lenon, and Princess Kate, each in a hand-carved frame in a tiny hut in Peru.” Yes, there had been great progress, but now Aminah was suffering. What if Aminah didn’t make it? God forbid! A medic suddenly moved Claire aside as the other one cut through Aminah’s bright blue silk shell and bra. He bared her chest and slapped on some kind of clear goo. The other applied paddles in a frantic effort to jumpstart Aminah’s heart.