Warda entered the dimly lit room and smiled, her teeth gleamed, and crinkles formed at the corners of her eyes. She wandered the perimeter of the small home. It wasn’t much, but it was all she’d ever known. She skipped towards the center and jumped, softly landing on the middle of the intricately detailed carpet that covered the cracked cement floor. Grabbing the scarf that wrapped around one shoulder, she tied a knot on her backside and hopped to the imaginary beat in her head. Opening her mouth, a soft delicate tune filled the dusty air.
Warda, the name meant ‘rose’ in Arabic. She was known to be more beautiful than the flower itself; at least the very one who had loved her dearly swore to that statement. The door swiftly opened, and the sound of it banging against the wall broke the enchanting spell Warda was momentarily in.
“Warda!” the harsh voice caused her to lose balance. She stumbled, but gracefully regained her composure, standing tall to face the owner of the voice.
“Haa habaryar.” she answered without hesitation, her voice not sounding as brave as she desired, and instead came out as a squeak. Her aunt’s presence never failed to shake her.
“Stop playing around like a child and help me put away the food.”
“Haye.” Warda mumbled, following her aunt. She walked toward the basket that contained only a few items her habaryar bought from the market. She picked it up and set it on a small table. As she put each item in its proper place, Warda glanced up and observed the woman in front of her. Her habaryar took off her garbasaar and tightened the masar on her head. A masar is usually worn by newly-wedded women, as a symbol of their marriage. It had been long since her aunt had been married, and she certainly wasn’t a new bride.
“Her husband ran off with another woman.” was the story that circulated around the neighborhood. Despite the irony of the masar, her aunt could pass as a new bride. She had beautiful dark, copper skin and lines that carved softly into her face – almost unnoticeable. She would have been absolutely gorgeous, if it wasn’t for her cold, dark eyes. Thick eyebrows framed them, almost menacingly, and her lips were set in a permanent line. At least when she would be facing Warda, she never once smiled.
Her mother’s sister was Warda’s guardian since she was six years old. She shared the small home with her cousins and was treated like a slave. Warda had never felt loved by her so-called family, and she only dreamed of it. All she had ever known was doing what she was told without question, and as quickly as she possibly could before a punishment came her way.
“Kac! Who do you think you are, sitting down? I told you to put the food away and now you’re being lazy?” a shriek broke her thoughts. Warda didn’t notice that she was leaning against the table. She could make the argument that she wasn’t exactly sitting and correct her aunt, but she didn’t.
“I-I-I’m sorry! I was just-”
“Naa naga aamus! Before I beat you until you cry blood!”
Warda pushed herself far from the table, her back facing her aunt. She swiftly completed the task at hand. She knew she couldn’t get beat again, her arms and legs still had deep cuts which hadn’t completely healed yet. As soon as she put the items in their place, she heard a series of footsteps outside, approaching the wooden door. She glanced in that direction and her ears were filled with sounds of laughter and shrills. She could make out young children yelling, “Hooyo! Hooyo!” at the top of their lungs.
Her cousins pushed the door open and ran into the house, dropping their book bags aimlessly onto the ground. The four of them jumped onto the chair their mother was seated in, and pulled at her dirac.
“Hooyo! School was so much fun!” they took turns filling their mother in on the details of their first day of school and how they looked forward to the rest of the school year. Warda’s eyes followed her aunt’s arms as they encircled the young children one by one. A wide smile plastered her habaryar’s face, and with a beaming face, she laughed at her precious children’s excitement. Warda gazed longingly at the scene, and her mouth opened slightly. It felt as though the thick atmosphere of happiness rushed into her body and she suddenly let out a small choke. The emotion was too foreign, it didn’t belong there. She coughed and tears formed at her eyes, daring to fall.
“What are you coughing for? Are you trying to make us sick?” her aunt turned her head towards Warda and snarled. Warda squeezed her eyes shut to prevent the tears from leaving their place. She wasn’t allowed to cry; wasn’t allowed to feel any emotion.
“Do I have to remind you of what you’re supposed to do? Do I pay you to stand there like a statue? Clean the children up and make them food!” she spit out disgustingly.
You don’t pay me. Warda thought, wishing she was brave enough to talk back to her aunt. But she wasn’t, so she did as she was told and as quickly as she could.
Habaryar: aunt (mother’s side)
Garbasaar: a big colorful shawl mainly worn by married women
Masar: a small scarf/headpiece made from a rectangle or triangle material mainly worn by married women
Kac: get up
Naa naga aamus: oh shut up
Dirac: a long, light dress made of cotton or thin fabric