The only house with a light on at 2am is Amna’s home. Rigid in bed, she’s listening to the sound of her mother’s sobs in tahajjud. Laying in bed is a progression from sitting on the stairs listening to her parents fighting, knowing the sudden silence means to run for help. Her father has sent the divorce papers. Everyone will blame her mother, even though it’s him who’s decided to start over with someone else….
Across town somewhere, the glow from the street light fights its way through the branches by the window. Kalpana is standing in the doorway of her daughters’ bedroom, watching their content cherub faces glowing in the light. She loves them dearly, but it has been five years into marriage and she still hasn’t given him a son. She’s educated enough to know the fault lies in the male chromosome, yet that doesn’t stop the community from cursing her womb…
Elsewhere, Pooja sleeps soundly just this one night. She is exhausted from the day’s labor: her mother in law’s list of chores are relentless. Most nights she sleeps dreamlessly, allowing a deathlike darkness to numb her aching joints. Tonight, she dreams of her old life and her ambitions to study further. When she wakes up at dawn, her ambitions will fizzle away with the night…
Shehryaal cries silently into her comforter. He won’t stop following her to and from school. He won’t back off. He is almost double her age and afraid of no-one, not even the police. She trembles at the thought of confiding in her parents – she knows they will never understand, nor support her. Everyone will say it must be something she’s done. She has no one to turn to.
Next door, almost the same story is playing out in Rachael’s room. Except her narrative is much closer to home: she cannot simply escape her predator once she has stepped foot into her home. Her home is his home too. She can hear the clinking of bottles in the living room below her bedroom; she can already smell the bitter taste of alcohol on his breath.
She opens her journal to the page she left abruptly before: It’s like some unspoken law, they seem to look for any excuse to punish their women.
Read more from the October writing challenge.