• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 07


I glance at her from under my eyelashes; the curls escaping from her scarf gleaming golden in the sun, honest sweat on her brow. I can see why people adore her so. She is the embodiment of all that is perfect and virtuous. Generous hearted, sweet-tempered; the fair haired child of our family. It was not easy to grow up in her shadow to be the sallow-skinned, dark haired, black sheep of the family with an anger always raging inside of me, willing me to bang doors and spit fire. What is it you ask? Did I hate her? No. Can anyone hate an angel? Besides, she was the most doting sister. No, I never hated her when we were little. And now, I only pity her.

The doors flung open and in a storm of glimmering gold she swept herself into my too big arms. “Shayma! Shayma!”
“Amira, what in god’s name!” I giggle, her delight infectious. My sister, always so even-tempered, what could have happened to excite her so? Even in this heat she looks beautiful. Cheeks flushed pink, eyes bright and blue with happiness. I tug at my own greasy locks and pull at the dress that sits awkwardly on my square frame.
“He asked me Shayma! He asked me! And I said yes!” She sank down onto one of the wooden chairs as I wiped the oil off my hands with an already blackened napkin.

We take betrothals very seriously here in Kiswe. A cojoining not of two people, but two families. A betrothal means your daughter is their daughter. His family becomes her family. It always irks me how the burden seems to lie more upon the girl, expected to serve two families, but of course, these things cannot be stated. I was happy to see Amira happy. Even if that meant that while Joram travelled for work, travelled to study, travelled to see the world, my sister stood knee deep in muck milking cows and taking care of his invalid father.



“What is it Amira?” She looks up. In the burning glare of the sun I can see the weariness that has grown on her face. The sunken bags under her eyes. The crow’s feet budding at the edges of her earnest blue eyes. She lifts her hand to press her shoulder and yet, her cupid’s bow lips ever form that serene smile that belies the ache in her arms. What can I say? He’s not coming back Amira. He’s married already. His family disowns him. He is not coming back.

Your eyes flutter when you lie, she always teased me. My eyes flutter behind the netted veil I wear, that all girls of marriageable age wear, that Amira is past the age of wearing, and I unclasp my hands around the checkered bundle. I throw the veil back and smile back at her, “Nothing. You’ve been working all morning. I thought we could have ourselves a picnic.”