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It was 6:30, Tuesday morning. Baba and my brothers have gone fishing while my mother, along with the other servants, cooked food. I, however, was getting ready to go to my dance class which occurs next to the Lake Gangal. There we get taught in how to dance and we also make money when people are fascinated by our dancing. I wore my long white dress which has silver star shaped sequins around the border. I wore my anklets which my grandmother gave me to give me good luck in my life. The good luck didn’t work but the present was made by my grandmother and so I loved it very much. I wore my white flip-flops which had a transparent strap. I then wore my long white scarf which I wrapped round me and covered my hair, fastened with two safety pins. Whenever I wore my dance clothes I felt like I was not who I was but someone else with a happier life, who had a freedom of choice. After I got ready I headed towards the Gangal Lake.
My dance teacher, Miss Zufia, only twenty, had taught me dancing since I was four years old. She was more like a sister to me than teacher. When I arrived to the dancing lesson Miss gave me a reassuring smile, hinting that she knows what had happened last night and that I should forget about it. So I did forget about it.
I and my friend Zara had always been good in dancing and today we were nominated to dance in a dancing competition against the other villages. For me, this achievement meant the world to me since this could show Baba that I’m not useless but can do well like my brothers.
I swayed with my hips and twirled around. I covered my face and spread my arms, and made wave movements with my arms and legs; forgetting my problems and the world around me. As I dance with vitality, a group of tourist were interrogating the Gangal Lake. Every year, tourist from other countries came to our village to see the Gangal Lake and make wishes, as it had been said that whoever makes wishes next to the Gangal Lake, their wishes come true. I liked seeing tourists. It gave me a clear image of how others with different religion and traditions did and look like.
As I perceived the group of tourist, I had been alarmed to see a fair complexioned man looking back at me. I turned away, not trying to be nosey; but I couldn’t help it, I wanted to see the man again. As I turned my body to the tourist, I saw the man looking at me again. I admired his facial structure, how he had clear blue eyes which reminded me of the clear blue sky. I loved how his chin came out, not protruding like obese Omar. I loved his box beard, clearly done carefully to produce fine lines which were connected to the sharp side burns he had. As I looked down at him, I saw he wore a white, thin shirt, thin enough to see his upper body underneath. He had a well built body and had muscular arms. He wore cream trousers and with that he wore brown sandals. I forgot I was observing this man and soon came out of my trance and realized the man was right beside me.
“Hello.” the man said.
“Assalaamualaiykum.” I said back.
“What does that mean?” The man said.
“That means greeting and peace be upon you, but in Arabic language.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that you can speak English.”
“I studied the language English here when I was young.”
“Oh. Im John Littlewoods and I’m from London. May I ask what your name is?” He spoke with such a lovely accent, I simply loved his accent.
“Ah! Alisha, might I say what a beautiful name you have.”
“Thank you. So, how comes you’re here then?” Oh no! I just did not say that. I was taught not to speak to strangers, and now im having a conversation with someone I just met. No engaging Alisha for who knows what troubles may arise in my future. Well, that is what my mother would say. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t allowed to talk to any one, other than the girls who were at a similar age as me. I totally forgotten I was in a conversation, so I shut my thoughts.
“Oh I just came with a couple of friends. My mate George mentioned about this place, a beautiful place, with a lake which apparently grants peoples wishes.”
“Oh I see.” I replied.
“I was just walking around and I simply love the blossom trees. When you walk below it, you feel like you’re in an enchanted world. And the way the blossoms fell, I mean wow! It reminded me of butterflies dancing in the air.”
Did he just say that? That’s what I feel about blossom trees as well.
“What else did you like about my village then?”
“Well, I simply loved everything. A minute ago I was walking on this very long path and I loved how the fields stretched for miles and miles. There is so much space here, it is unbelievable.”
“Don’t you have space like this from where you’re from?” What a stupid question. I’m sure he was dying of laughter inside.
“Nah. Most of the spaces are filled with tall buildings, offices, apartments.” He answered my question?
“Offices? Do you work in an office?”
“Alisha! Come on then, aren’t you going to dance?” Miss Zufia shouted from far away.
“I’m coming.” I replied.
As I was about to go, John stopped me by coming in front of me. He looked into my eyes like as if he was in a trance. Like him, I to looked deep into his dazzling eyes, unable to move. I felt unusual inside, in my stomach, like as if my stomach was full of butterflies. To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to go but stay with John and speak more about his country. He came closer to me, so close that I could smell his peppermint breath. He grabbed my hand and gently kissed it with his bright red, soft, tender lips and said,
“It has been an honour meeting you. I hope we meet again.”
“I hope so to…assaalamualaiykum” As I walked towards my dance class, I glanced back to see John still looking at me. He waved at me, and I waved back. Just like that we separated into our individual lives. He went back to his friends, while I went back home.
As I arrived home, Mama stuffed some sweets into my mouth.
“Mama! What are the sweets for?”
“To celebrate something….”
“Oh, and what is that?”
“Your older brother Hassid has found a job in London.”
“Subahanallah!” I exclaimed.
“What is the job he got?”
“He is going to do partnership with his friend Abdul Mutallib in a restaurant. This truly is good news.”
It was good news all right. Although Hassid was the oldest brother, who is twenty three, he was incredibly lazy, unlike my second oldest brother Mahmud, who is twenty, and helps my Baba with his work and works in the Mosque, near the Gangal Lake. Atleast now we know that he would make something of his life. The third youngest brother, but older than me is Tawhid. Currently, he is going to the Mosque to study in becoming a Hafiz, someone who can read the Qur’an off by heart. He is only seventeen, becoming eighteen.
Baba had heard the good news as well, well from his perspective it wasn’t good news.
“What do mean you have found a job in London? There are soo many jobs down here, where you can get a job easily with your capability..”
“Baba listen, I….”
“Don’t say Baba…..”
“If you let me explain to you……”
“Silence! I disagree with this and you will listen to me.”
“Baba I’m not going to forget you lot. I will come back as soon as possible…”
Oh I see now. Baba wasn’t angry on the fact that Hassid got a job in London, but because Hassid would leave us. That is something else I have discovered in Baba. He wants his family close by him, as if he is scared to lose us…except me.
“But why did it have to be in London?”
“Baba, I never done anything to bring respect for my family… I now want to earn money for myself and family, and show the village that we are strong and motivated, that we can make something of ourselves. Please Baba, forgive me. I would call you everyday, and if I don’t I will come back.” I could see tears in Baba’s eyes, but he was forcing them to go back.
“When are you going” I heard Baba speak, but was more like a whisper mixed with a slight growl.
“Within two days.” Dad looked at his old crooked watch.
“Hmmm, it’s 12:00pm now. I guess you have a lot of packing to do, and your Mama to do a lot of cooking. I’m just going to check up on Mrs Ahmed. Did you know that she has a stone in her kidney and because of that…”
And like that Baba’s tears had vanished and everyone started to speak to each other as if nothing had just happened.
The day had gone so quick. It must have been because I was at a state of idle and pleasant contemplation. John had mesmerized me with his dazzling look and his imperturbable voice. I looked at the ancient archaic clock, hanging on the top of the passage wall. The hands of the clock showed it was 8:15pm.
Mama had told me to clean the passage, since all the dust from the cow shed next door had started to make the floor look rather filthy.
I brought a large bucket (mainly used when washing the cows), and Mama passed me a stained towel. Mama told me she was going to her friend’s house and would be back late. Mahmud Bai and Tawhid Bai, at the time, where nowhere to be seen so I guessed they were out in the fields. Hassid Biasab was out with his friends, celebrating about his job. That meant I was the only one at home.
I bend down and started from the top, and made my way down. I moved side-ways while cleaning the floor, not realizing that my bottom stood out. I then crouched so my bottom didn’t stick out, but it was too late; someone had spotted me. It was Omar.
“Assalamualaiykum”, he said while his eyes were fixed not on my eyes, but mostly on my bottom. I turned around and salaamed him back.
“Where…erm…where is your Baba?”
“His gone to work…”
“And where is your Mama?” I knew what was going to happen. If I said that Mama, Baba or my brothers were not here, Omar would take this opportunity to come close to me…Maybe they all went out because they knew he was going to come, so that we could have a time to ourselves.
“Mama is in the kitchen, and my brothers are in their bedrooms…”
“Funny…”, He started. “But I just saw your Mama going to her friend’s house and your brothers in the field.”
“Then why have you come…?” Oh…stupid question…he has come for me.
“Well, I thought we can get to know each other.” He came closer and closer. The hideous man was ruining my beautiful clean floor with his dirtiness. I didn’t know what to do.
“I’m really sorry, but I have other things to do right now…” Suddenly he started to run towards me. I shot upstairs to my bedroom, and climbed out of the window, then I climbed down the blossom, ancient tree near my house and soon was free from the evil man’s clutches. Phew! Omar couldn’t come through the window. Maybe because he was too obese.
I was walking on the elongated path when my brothers saw me.
“Alisha! What are you doing outside at this time?”
“You lot knew didn’t you?” It was a rhetorical question. O f course they knew Omar was going to come to our house!
“Did you have any idea how I felt when he was there? He is one of the dirtiest, hideous and filthy men I have ever met! He tried to….he tried to….touch me….”I sobbed.
“What?!” They exclaimed.
“This is what kind of man he is. And I totally disagree with my marriage with him. Please speak to Baba about this matter.” Tawhid tapped my shoulder.
“Don’t worry sister, we will tell him”, Tawhid said. Mahmud stood their silently.
“Thank you”, I replied. We Went back home.
* * *
By the time Baba arrived home, it was 11:00pm. Mama, I and my three brothers stood silently in my parent’s room. Baba gave us one look and realized that something had happened.
“What’s going on?” He asked.
Mama told Baba everything about how Omar molested me, and how he kept debauching on my body.
“Impossible!! This young girl here is making up any excuse in order to cancel the marriage! I will not tolerate this! I know, in fact the whole village knows that Omar is a good man and has a good character.”
Baba looked at Mama.
“You daughter should be happy that she is going to get married into a good family, who are wealthy as well as having a obedient background.” More I like obese background.
“She will get married to Omar. If not, she will no longer live in this family!!”
“Baba!!” I cried out.
“Don’t call me your Baba. You have humiliated me again.” He walked towards the bathroom.
No one said anything, but the silence said a thousand words. I had to get married to Omar. I had no other choice.