Nilufar spotted her through the kitchen window, walking towards the shed in the backyard with her bicycle. Her whole frame was shaking. Nilufar left the spoon in the pan, switched off the stove and ran to the backyard. Maria was about to walk into the shed when Nilufar grabbed her and hugged her close to her chest on her knees. She rocked her back and forth; more for her consolation than Maria’s. All the way through, Maria sobbed “stinking luck” into Nilufar’s bosom.
Nilufar pulled back and smoothed the hair that had pulled out of Maria’s ponytail back. “No, no, no, no, never, never say that again. You are very, very lucky. You just don’t know it. Allah loves you. He loves us. We will be okay. You and me. Just wait darling. Tell me, what happened? Who..what is wrong with your knees?! There is so much blood! Who pushed you? Is it one of those spoiled girls? Did they make my baby bleed? Your Barbie, what happened honey? Tell me! Oh no. There is so much blood. What do I do? We can’t leave. We need this house. Oh you are so innocent and young. I won’t let these people do to you what they did to me. Not anymore. I have had enough. If they kick me out then so be it. I won’t tolerate it – not at your cost. We could built a new life. You and me. We will make everything possible. We could move to smaller town miles away where no one knows me. We could start fresh. I won’t leave without teaching them a lesson. Enough with the patience. I won’t have it, not when it comes to you. It is all my fault, ya Allah. Who did this? Ahmed? No, Nadia? Really, she did?! Syeda taught her daughter nothing! We used to be friends. I didn’t expect this. Come on, Maria!”
Nilufar carried Maria, who had pieces of doll in her hand and blood trickling down her knees, and marched all the way down the street to Syeda’s house. Nilufar had anger running in her veins. Syeda’s daughter of all people?! Blasphemy! Syeda knew all about her situation back then. Every minute detail, yet, she ostracized her from society along with everybody else.
Nilufar stepped on the porch of Syeda’s house. She exhaled deeply, gulped, and inhaled to drink in her anger and then let it roll of her in waves. It visibly calmed her exterior, but on the inside, she was a shaken soda pop waiting to blow up. She knocked the granite door gently. Nadia opened the door, with Syeda running up to her daughter. “Darling! Did I not tell you to not open the door for strangers? It could be a beggar again and god knows how they tire me immensely.” At seeing her old friend and the daughter at her door, she sighed pitifully, “Well, not an absolute beggar yet. Are you training your daughter then? Nadia, dear, go up to your room and play with your doll house, darling. I don’t want her to learn your heritage. How may I be of assistance? You know where to go if you want an audience. An advice for old times’ sake, she is too young to participate. Just make her watch and lea..”
The resounding slap on Syeda’s face left a red mark on her face. Nilufar eyes shone with suppressed rage, reflecting the fear on Syeda’s face. “Don’t you dare say anything else! I am not here to discuss the past. I am here to warn you. Look at my six year old daughter. It is her birthday today. Her knees are scraped, she is still crying and the doll in her hand was her birthday gift. She has been waiting for it for the months. What has she ever done to you or anyone? Nothing. But you haven’t left a single moment to poison Nadia and use her against Maria. Raise your daughter in whatever way you want, I don’t care. But, if Maria is harmed, physically or emotionally, ever again then I also have secrets that could ruin your life. I hope you understand. Allah hafiz.”
This time round Nilufar carried her daughter home. “Guess what time is it? It is time for your bubble bath.” Nilufar claps her hands. “Don’t look at me like that. It is a special occasion. Today is your birthday.”
“I already had one for today, Mommy.”
“You were a very good girl so you get a treat. I have more in store for you. Come on, hurry up!”
That same day Maria realized Nilufar would go to any lengths to provide Maria with all her needs and heart’s desires. Nilufar had run across the street to get a Barbie shaped cake then off to the toy store to purchase a furnished doll house. It had cost them a month without warm water, bread and electricity. Nilufar had to work extra hours stitching clothes. It meant less time for Maria, who had to grow up too soon for her age. “Mommy, you can sell the doll house. It is too big for me to play with alone. I don’t want it.”
“No, it is your birthday gift. What have I said about those?”
“Um, you don’t give them away?”
“Exactly, and you did want this. Don’t worry about the money, jaan. That is my job. Off you go. We will play with your doll house together as soon as I am done.”
Nilufar knew her daughter well and appreciated her concern. She thanked her stars and her god to have Maria in her life. Maria gave her a motive to live for, goals to live towards and love. This was something she lacked in her childhood. Nilufar promised herself that Maria would lead a comfortable, fulfilling and satisfactory life.