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A Star To Keep



‘Twinkle twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are. Up above

the world so high…’ Mother chimed. Every morning I hear this same

tune with its insistent, unrelenting rhythm and a silent plea to be

remembered. Perhaps mother wants to imprint the song on me, so

that I can teach my children as she has done for me. But I dismiss

such thoughts; work must be done. I remove the blanket from above

me and put on sandals. I scamper to the kitchen to make breakfast

for my father, one of the few household duties I still complete. I no

longer spend hours upon hours of wringing piles of clothes and

scrubbing floors clean. He does not know. And I pray to Allah he

will never find out.

The eggs, tomatoes and bell-peppers shriek at each other in the

frying pan whilst father enters wearing his knee-length shirt and

loose trousers. Mother is out the back soaking garments with her

withered yet skilful hands. It is given knowledge that the women

should do the housework and the men earn the money. I do not

object, because why would anyone listen to an uneducated girl? I

hand over father’s breakfast and prepare to leave. It is only after

father leaves that I am able to go. I head to my room to change and

fold dry clothes to lessen the workload for mother. The door opens

and then swiftly closes. I am free to go.

The burqa shields my body. However, it is not only to cover

myself from men, it hides what I may be carrying underneath. I

tread along the coarse road whilst my neighbour strides alongside

me. The heat is blistering and stifling, the sun burns as if it is trying

to hinder my travels. I am banned to walk the streets without a

male accompanying me, all women are restricted. A traditional

mud-brick house appears into sight, with its non-existent roof and

cream colouring. My heart races, I feel a mix of excitement or fear;

I am not sure. It was mother’s idea. The whisperings only between

women had reached her, and she had grasped the opportunity. It’s

prohibited to venture to school in my area. Mother says even if

there were schools the extremists would burn them down. I reach

the front step, knock twice and enter. The interior is as bare as the

façade but I do not care. More than ten other girls are scattered on

the floor, with books sprawled around them. Pens and papers litter

the ground. As I watch, eager, feverous eyes look back at me. I grab

my supplies from underneath my burqa and add them to the

enticing collection below. Our teacher Fazela was once a proper