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I woke up. It was 2:30 in the morning and I had yet another dream about . There were becoming more frequent now and no matter how hard I tried, I still kept dreaming those same dreams. I kept seeing her terrified face and her small green eyes fill with tears while the Taliban officials snatched her up with gleeful looks on their faces. The pain was too much now. Pain. Would she feel it? Would she even be alive? Those thoughts kept running through my mind, day and night. I saw a sudden flashback, to the time we first met, outside our house.
We had just finished unpacking and I went outside for fresh air. I was still taking in Kabul’s beauty from its houses to its markets and gardens. It was our first day in Kabul and when we moved into our house was the first time I saw Layla. I still remember it. She was fully covered in a burqa, a veil that covered their body and I could see her small green eyes through it. We first met at school, where she was one of my classmates. I remember that, too. Another classmate, Ahmad, was bullying her before I decided to stepped in. From then, we became fast friends. It was almost as if we shared that special connection, both of us being outside. We had so many good memories like riding through Kabul’s markets on bicycles and sitting underneath the big tree in the back of Layla’s house. I remember a time where we were sitting underneath the tree, drinking tea from her mother’s best china. Although we were both sixteen, we still found great pleasure in imitating neighbors, teachers, or anyone else we could think of.
“What does your name, Kelsey, mean?” she asked me once.
“I don’t really know,” I replied. Truthfully, this was the first time that someone asked me that so I didn;t have an answer to that. Then I asked her the same question.
“My name means “Night Beauty” in Arabic,” she told me. “My mother named me that because she said that when I was born, it was dark at night, and when she saw me, she thought that I was the most beautiful baby that she had seen.” She was certainly very pretty with her short, dark brown hair, tan skin, and her green eyes. There was just something about her eyes that were so powerful and exotic that you could feel her glare at you, even if you couldn’t see it.. She was the top of our class but often got teased because of it. Layla had high ambitions because she was determined not to end up like her mother.
“My parents said that soon, I will have to get married.” she said glumly. “My mother says that I am too young, and that I have a chance to make something of myself to get married. She said that I can make our family proud but my father disagrees. They tell me ‘study hard, Layla. Do well in school’ but yet they want to marry me off before I get a chance to prove myself? I don’t get it.”
In my opinion, Afghanistan wasn’t the best place to start. Women couldn’t wear nail polish or jewelry, or walk alone in the streets; a husband or male relative had to accompany them. There were so many restrictions that Layla couldn’t get around. I hated thinking like this, but it was true.
We had so many good times together, me and Layla, until the Taliban regime began. They showed no mercy, and no man, woman, or child was safe. Many families often sent their children to orphanages where they might be safe, but little did they know that that was where the Talib men like to strike the most. Sometimes they take a child, and in return, the orphanage director receives a small payment that is used to keep the orphanage running. That is exactly what happened to Layla. I still remember the tearful good-byes we said to each other before her parents sent her to the nearest orphanage, where they thought she would be safe. I still remember that look in her eyes that we may never see each other again. When she left, I was devastated. I hoped that the orphanage would somehow be lucky and a Talib official would not come and take her, but that did no good.
“My parents are sending me away,” she said, terrified. “They said that it is not safe for me here. And that if I stay, they mi--” she started crying softly. I cried with her. I cried because I was losing my best friend, and I wouldn’t know if I would ever see her again.
Once, I visited Layla at the orphanage. I was accompanied by my father, who looked very worried as he saw a group of bearded men, who looked like they were Talib officials. They drove an open green Jeep and stopped right in front of the orphanage that we were going to. My father stopped walking and I did too. My heart started racing. We both walked in at the same time, with the Talib men right behind us.
“Are you the man who runs this place?” one of them said in a gruff voice.
“Yes.” The man behind the desk replied. “Can I help you with something, brother?”
“Yes, actually.” he said. “You see, I am looking for a child. A girl. Maybe you have seen her?”
“Would you mind describing her, brother?”
“Medium height, brown hair, shoulder length. And green eyes.” My heart stopped. He was describing Layla.
“Actually, we have someone that fits your description. Come, I will take you to her.”
They both disappeared into a small room, where I saw a glimpse of Layla. She was thin and pale, and when I saw her eyes, they looked gaunt and solemn. I suddenly heard a scream. I raced down the door and I could hear my father telling me to come back, but I couldn’t leave her. Not now. I barged into the room and I saw the orphanage director and the Talib man whip their heads around to stare at me. Then I saw Layla. Her hands were tied behind her back with a rope and a rope tied around her mouth. She was crying, with a panicked look in her eyes. Suddenly, the Talib saw me staring at Layla and he dragged her out of the room, and then, out of the orphanage. I could still hear Layla’s screams as she pled for the Talib to take her back, to leave her alone. That was the last time I saw her. I still hear her haunting screams when I dream that night. I desperately want to forget that last time I saw Layla, but I do not want to forget her.