The sun rays peaked through the slits of the curtains falling over Aayun’s lonesome face. Hopeless and helpless endeavors surrounded the base of her fragile existence. Tears slowly made their way from her hazel eyes to her broadly visible cheekbones and finally fell from her jaw line on the pale skin of her lower neck. Lying in that dimly lighted room she could feel her life crashing into minute pieces. Her monstrous fears had appeared after all this time haunting her just as she lay between countless failures breaking her apart into a mere pile of bitterness. In that moment, she was at the epitome of her vulnerability. One single hug, one single tap on the shoulder could make her break into endless hours of crying with horrendous screams, that reflected her inner pain in the most crystal clear manner.
All the colors nobody ever saw in her emptiness, the orange skies and the amber autumn leaves, elevated her miseries a lot more than any other thing could in that moment. The house of dreams she had built with care, joining every little brick of hope to another with sparkling eyes and sincere skill had fallen to the floor. Her rainbows and butterflies story had reached its end after falling off from the same bridge that led her to its completion and she had been bitten by bitter poisonous realities of a single parent’s life.
As tears slowly made their way out of her eyes, the sky changed its color from blue to yellow ochre and eventually to pale indigo. The room darkened yet the air of gloominess did not move an inch. Closing her eye lids in a painful manner, she recalled that plight full sight once again.
Sitting on the floor of her dimly lighted room, unlike her mother, Ayla held a very straight face. Her gaze was fixed. Her reflexes strong. Her body stiff. Her legs trembling. Her face shocked.
Lined with painful streaks, it told a story unlike any other. No matter how much she tried, that night, that moment couldn’t escape her glance. She loved him; the holding hands and running on the jogging track type, the sitting all through the night and playing board games type, the imitating their mother while telling childhood stories type. So emotional yet so innocent and pure; just as any sister would love her brother, she loved Musa as well. All this love and yet he had failed to protect her, failed to let her cherish her existence by her will.
Her eyes went wet. Even then no tears were seen on her pale white face.
After she had lost her father to death in an attack on the company of journalists visiting Afghanistan at the hands of the Talibanisation, Ayla had always seen her voice of truth and her hand of protection in the face of Musa. Aayun and Musa had been her whole world in a shell, a beautifully carved and precious shell. Aayun’s job as a teacher in a renowned private school of Lahore fed her beautifully carved and precious shell and made them earn for themselves the little wonders that enhanced the happiness captured inside it. From Ayla’s favorite Kinder Joy eggs to Musa’s favorite ice cream, Aayun, being a thoughtful mother, saved enough to fulfill their little joys every once in a while.
It had been eight years.
Eight years of living without their father when Musa started his university at a renowned business institution of Lahore, after receiving single parent financial aid. Like every other Asian son, he was the basis of his mother’s dreams and plans. With his strikingly beautiful brown eyes from birth along with his appearance fitting the universal standards of tall, dark and handsome and those of beauty with brains for a young man, Musa in himself held a complete world of desirable beauty and foreseen success. Standing alongside the white swings with scraped off paint, Aayun silently moved her faintly pink wrinkled lips reading a prayer on her fingers one by one just as Musa obediently stood in front of her in his black shalwar kameez. The leaves sparkled with the dew drops. The black crows koww-ed and the blue sky stood above them all witnessing a mother showering endless love over her son with tears slowly making their way through her small nut-brown eyes.
As Musa stepped out of the black faintly carved metal gate of the old house to start his university life, so did the luck from their book of life. Even when Musa progressed brilliantly from the start of his academic year and managed to grab a minor job at an academic consultancy, his behavior deteriorated day after day.
His silence started to pinch Ayla. Whenever she complained, Aayun would brush her off by saying:
“Ayla, Bhai has to manage job and studies together. Not everybody has a share of childhood left in them like you do even when you’re sixteen. Grow up!”
Only after six months into university life, Musa brought his friend, Mahd, to spend the weekend at their house and that was when Ayla’s little mind saw some part of the broad painful image. Mahd, with his charming ways, soon made his way into the house as Aayun’s second son and it was his entrance into Musa’s life that changed the latter’s life perspectives. Rather than cherishing his little house and all the blessings granted to them despite being raised by a single parent, Musa started complaining for all he had not been given, all the money, all the luxuries he had seen at Mahd’s landlord family’s house. To him and to even Aayun, Mahd came as a blessing. He spread laughter in their little house whenever he came and often brought gifts despite Aayun’s insistence not to. His famous dialogue: “Aunty, you are just like my mother to me.” soon earned him Aayun’s complete favor.
Mahd was still not welcome into Ayla’s shell, a beautifully carved and precious shell. why would he be anyway?
His saccharine personality and lustful glance disturbed her from the moment he had stepped into their house. To her, he was an unwelcomed guest turned into an unwanted member of the house. Like an old television that with some of its channels entertains some but always remains a source of nuisance for someone at least.
Sitting on the floor of her dimly lighted room, Ayla opened her diary lying at an arm’s length. Flipping through pages blankly, her fingers stopped on a page and her controlled tears uncontrollably made their way to her pale cheeks turning scarlet.
With blurred eyes, she started reading:
September 3rd 2015:
“I am just utterly disgusted. How dare he? Ugh. We were sitting on the dining table today for Dinner. After a whole year, Bhai and I were talking just like old times. He was patting my head and he looked so relaxed after so long. It seemed as if he was escaping his inferiority complex slowly and the thought of it made me so happy when the bell rang and guess who came? Yes, he did. Mahd did. I don’t even know what is wrong with him. He just keeps disturbing our family life with his existence; Bhai and Amma don’t even complain. It is like I am an outsider and adopted whenever I complain. They always think I am being unthankful because it is HIM apparently who has lightened the mood of our house. Ugh. Anyways, he came and sat next to me as usual and Amma as usual did not object.
“He is family, how would he feel if he comes to know that you think like this about him? Have you ever thought of his reputation and Musa’s respect in his circle. Don’t you dare say anything about Mahd again.” She firmly said the first time, I had complained.
So today “He is family” slowly placed his hand over my thighs and moved his fingers all over them, from under the table while I was eating while he kept talking to Amma. When I, disturbed, looked at him and shrunk away, he gave me THE SAME GLANCE. His eyes, his ways creep me out. They run a disgusted chill throughout my body. Remember how he held my hand last week and Amma thought it was normal. How will I tell her this?
Oh God, please help me.”
Ayla slowly placed both her hands over her face. She tightened her grasp over her face as she folded her legs and the diary fell to the floor beside her. The pages started to flip as the fan’s warm air fell on them.
“But, Amma…”. Ayla’s voice echoed through Aayun’s mind.
“What had she done?” She wanted to ask herself but words failed to make their way through her throat. So many times Ayla had tried to tell me and but I had always swept her stories under the rug using a broom of what will the society say. How could I be so near yet so distant from my own children? Am I the same woman who taught other people’s children to keep safe and run to their elders every time somebody made them feel uncomfortable?
So many questions flooded her mind just like tears had flooded her eyes.
In the room, across the wall, the story started to repeat itself in Ayla’s mind.
It was 23rd September 2015. Twenty days after Mahd had placed his hands over Ayla’s thighs for the first time when he came to spend the weekend at their place. Ayla had her first monthly test on the next day. She was busy burning the midnight oil to outstand this semester as well when she went to the kitchen to get some water. Surprised, on her way back to her room, unlike other times, nor could she hear Mahd and Musa talking neither was the light switched on.
“Surprising how ‘He is family’ let Bhai go to bed early today considering the latter works all day long”. Giddy with surprise, as she entered her room and took a step back to close the door, the door had already been closed. Standing at a five feet distance was the man she had never wanted to see in her house let alone her room. He had his famous lustful smile over his face as his lustrous eyes absorbed her shock.
“Till what point will you run away, till what point will I catch you”, he mumbled sensuously as his hand rested itself on her arm, “Ayla”. The glass of water in her hand fell to the floor as she ran away towards the window but before the window came the bed and that was where Mahd pushed her with all his effort.
“Bhai” She mumbled as her throat went dry. Mahd broke into a fit of laughter. “Musa won’t disturb us tonight. He is fast asleep”, He emphasized on the word fast just as his hand approached her yet again but this time it was not her arm. It was her face. He slowly rubbed one of his hands against her cheeks while his other hand rested itself on her mouth. No voice came out. Just ample tears and enough resistance. He touched her and kissed her just as she moved him away with her hands until he mumbled:
“It is just me and you, dear. Don’t do this at least. Enjoy!” The sensuality in his voice disgusted her just as he swiftly tied her hands to the back of the bed frame with her own dupatta. Then he took a napkin out of his pocket and with a lustful smile on his face stuffed it in her mouth. There. He had it all to himself. No resistance. Just Ayla’s painful tears and his lustful smiles were witnessed by the moon, that night. Every time his fingers touched her here and there, the phrase, “He is family”, echoed throughout her mind. His hands, his lips moved all over her and inside her. He took so much more than the eyes could see and the ears could hear. She was battered and bruised. All through the night, he kept saying: “You were made for me, Ayla and good girls don’t resist pleasure. Aren’t you a good girl?” Each time he laughed, she cried some more tears just as he licked them away. She moved her head in disgust but she was as helpless as a newborn baby. Just when he had his face right over hers, his fingers moving themselves over her bare waist line, he pulled out the napkin. “Now tell me how much you enjoyed”. He said while washing off her tears with his hands.
The room’s door opened before Ayla could utter another word. In came less of Aayun and more of her screams and that was when Musa entered the room. By then Mahd had moved aside but Ayla was lying, helpless and naked on the bed. Her ripped clothes were spread all around the room. Mahd, much to Musa’s surprise, released himself from the latter’s grasp by pushing him away and ran towards his car outside.
He, who was ‘family’ never came back. Musa couldn’t do anything against him, against his landlord father. He closed his face just as his painful glance fell on Ayla’s tear stained face and ran out of the room.
In a matter of seconds, Aayun heard a gunshot. She had lost both her children. She had lost both her children, Musa to a guilty death but Ayla to her dialogue: “He is family”.
Writer’s note: I sent this one for a competition recently; although this did not win me anything but it still stays a lot close to my heart considering the time it took me to touch upon a topic so less talked about in our society. Looking forward to feedback always. :’)