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The visitor

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The pavement was impossibly cold under her. Her deep, brown eyes entwined in emotion; surprised more than scared. The scarlet stain challenged the red of her rose printed Lawn jora, and continued to grow despite her hand’s feeble attempt to contain it. But Body cannot contain Life once it has found an outlet. And so she waited as she lay on the road, surrounded by a wreath of household necessities, which had exploded from the plastic bag almost simultaneously as the bullet from the gun. She lay in wait.


Kainat sat in front of the massive plasma screen, her little face alight with the shinning, moving cartoons; her frame moving with every character. Her father came in.
She looked up at him as he paced round the lounge. The phone rang; he answered it immediately, as if he’d been waiting for it to ring. Then he said some things that Kainat didn’t understand,
“How did it happen?”
“How bad is she?”
“Where is she now?”
By the end of it he sat down with his hand on his head. In the dark corner of the room, her father’s worried face looked so very sad, like he’d given up before reaching the finish line. She went up to him, “Baba?” she said with the innocence of an infant looking up from it’s cradle, “what’s wrong?” the beaten father looked at his tiny Kainat, his little world. Her angelic face and unadulterated youth shone through the grave dark like the sun. But that was all his child could do; shine, yet alter nothing. “Nothing, princess,” he said taking the five year old into a deep cuddle, “but we’re going to have a visitor in a little while, okay?” “Like a guest?” he watched her face light up; she liked guests. “Yes, darling,” he faked a smile. “Like a guest.”


Kainat stood at the head of the three-step stairs in her snowy frock, her glossy ringlets dropping down to the frilly bodice; Mummy had said that we should present ourselves nicely to our guests. But she wished that Mummy had been home to tie her hair, Baba could never get it right! “Why isn’t she back with the sauda yet?” she pondered as her cherry-cheeks dropped themselves into a frown. She sat down, and waited.

The doorbell rang through the empty apartment. Kainat ran to the door, squealing with glee. But it wasn’t Mummy. Instead, she opened the door to a big, white man with a fluffy white mustache. He had a face like the old “makai lala”, who sold charcoal roasted corn at her school, what was his name again? She couldn’t remember, or maybe she never knew, but it couldn’t be “Makai”, or was he really named after corn? Except this man was really big, much bigger than the little lala and his corn. He wore a policeman’s uniform; but he’d forgotten his hat.
“Can I speak to your father?” the white man said abruptly, without a “hello” or a “may I come in” he didn’t even say his “please” and “thank you.” She didn’t like this guest. But Mummy had said that we should be polite to our guests, so she let him in.
Baba came out of the T.V room, where he’d been talking to someone on the phone, and the white man with the white mustache went up to him and introduced himself as “Inspector Salman Mirza”. Kainat stared at the big man, Salman, like Salmon? That fish that Mummy always forced her to eat? She decided that his name was as bad as him, and she didn’t like it. Just like she didn’t like him.
“Kainat,” Baba knelt down in front of her, “Can you go to your room? I have to talk to our guest about some things.” Not guest, Kainat decided, guests were nice; this man was just a visitor, and he was not nice. But Baba looked very sad, so she didn’t say this, she just nodded.
At the head of the stairs, she turned. Why did they always treat her like a baby? She was a full five years now; grown-up enough to hear what the visitor had to say.
She tiptoed down the three-step stairs and knelt close to the open T.V room door, again there were things she didn’t understand, the fish-man was saying, “You need to come with us, sir. We need you to identify her.” What was that supposed to mean? Why couldn’t they just ask her whoever she was? Why did they have to take her father for that? “So you’re not sure?” her father said, he sounded like he was hoping the white man wasn’t sure.
Usually, whenever Baba asked her a question, he wanted her to be absolutely a hundred percent sure, ‘Kainat, are you sure? You’re absolutely a hundred percent sure? I want you to be sure.’ Then why did Baba not want the big man to be sure?
The fishy police officer said, “Not a hundred percent sure, sir.”
The door creaked, and her father’s head snapped to her hiding place. She shuddered away, “Kainat,” her father’s voice was unexpectedly gentle, so she came to him, naively. “Sweetheart,” he continued, “I’m going to drop you off at puphoo Roshan’s house, okay? You’ll have to stay there for a little while.” She looked up at him with deep, brown, confused eyes, “why?”
He didn’t answer.


Baba kissed her forehead and got back into his car as Kainat held puphoo Roshan’s hand. He was driving away when she called out, “Baba,” he turned to her through the car window, “why isn’t Mummy home yet?” His face turned away and he drove off.
Kainat’s brow frowned, “that was so rude!” she thought, “Just wait till Mummy comes home! I’ll tell her how badly he’s treated me today. She’ll be so angry with Baba, she probably won’t ever talk to him again.” Satisfied with her decision, she went into the house with her aunt, and waited for Mummy to come home.



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