Fiction

The Gift – Short Story

“In the name of Allah.
I ask Allah for forgiveness.
I ask Allah for forgiveness.
I seek Allah’s protection from the rejected, Satan.” Abdel Nasser chanted with a heavy breath after he suddenly woke up from a terrible dream.

“In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”
I ask Allah for forgiveness.
I ask Allah for forgiveness.”
He chanted again after he took a long sip of water while he is still on his bed.

It’s been years since the last time he saw this same dream. He couldn’t go back to sleep, the call for Fajer prayer had started and it was too loud to force himself to sleep again.

It was the coldest winter since he left Baghdad, ten years ago. Yet, he woke up drenched in sweat. He hates it when he dreams. Nothing good comes out of dreaming, he believes. He daydreams most of the day though, but it is these night dreams that he hates. He knows exactly what he wants to dream about during the day.

Abdel Nasser left Iraq, hoping he could forget the past and starts a new life in Amman. To his dismay, he found that his past is part of who he became. He is now who he is because of his past. Abdel Nasser believes he is not the person who he used to be. He doesn’t like his new self. He grins whenever he hears somebody says ”What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.“ He doesn’t believe in these sugar-coated quotes. He is still alive after what happened to him, but definitely not stronger. No one knows about his weakness though, he never show it.

After he drank water, he looked at his phone to check the time. It was 5:30 am – February 27th. He felt a sudden sense of sadness after he woke up terrified. It is most probably because of the date. February 27th 2000 was the happiest day of his life.

He went to the kitchen to refill the glass of water. He then went to the living room and sat on the sofa. He laid back and looked at the small wooden box he placed between the books on the bookshelf. The wooden box was the most valuable item to him. He was too afraid to smuggle it through the Jordanian custom when he left Iraq. After he settled in Amman, he asked his cousin in Baghdad to pay someone to smuggle it for him.

When he arrived Amman, he hated it. “It is just not like Baghdad” he used to say. Unknown to him, he found that Jordanians were very welcoming to the Iraqis. He heard from some Iraqis in Jordan that most Jordanians love Saddam Hussein and many consider him an Arab hero.

In the past ten years, Abdel Nasser didn’t take any action to change the course of his life. He didn’t fall in love or seek a wife neither did he visit his hometown again. “I will let destiny take its course,” he convinced himself.

He grabbed the remote control and turned on the television. The TV became his companion on his solo life. He kept the channel where it was on mute. “She would have been 17 today,” he thought. February 27th 2000 he remembers this day crystal clear. He remembers every detail of that day. A shy grin started to appear on his face. His mother and the in-lows were with him in the hospital. After five years of marriage and trying to conceive, he couldn’t find a better name for his daughter other than Hiba (a gift from Allah).

To be continued …

Fiction

IV – Who Killed Jameeleh?

I – Who Killed Jameeleh?
II – Who Killed Jameeleh?
III – Who Killed Jameeleh?

“Go stay with your cousin in Aqaba and don’t come back until we figure out what we will do. Her relatives will kill you if they found out what you did.” Um Jehad shouted at the end of a long intense argument with her son.

Jehad was a 19-year-old high school dropout. He sometimes works in the city loading and unloading vegetable trucks. Because of his negative attitudes and bad behaviors, he is forced to jump from one job to another. Between jobs he stays in the village doing nothing other than bullying the residents of the village.

Before he raped Jameeleh, he planned his crime carefully. He spied on her for a week. He figured out where she goes, what time she goes there and most important when she would be alone.

Jameeleh was not supposed to be in the barn that misfortune Thursday, her mother found her lying down on a haystack. El-Turk taught her not to enter his farm while he is not there fearing for her safety. She was playing with her doll somewhere else. But it wasn’t hard for Jehad to lure her into the barn. He snatched her doll and told her to follow him to take it back. Unfortunately, she did. He knew El-Turk will not be in his farm and that the farm would be the perfect place to commit his crime.

After Um Jameeleh bathed her daughter and put her to bed beside her doll, she went to her bedroom and started crying. She didn’t know how she managed to keep calm and quiet until this moment. She was sure no one in the village should know about this. It would be a disaster. This incident is going to ruin everybody’s life in this family. She wasn’t sure whether her husband’s absent was good or bad. What would he have done if he was here? She wondered. Between her crying and weeping periods questions would pop up in her mind. What her husband’s family will think of her and her daughter now? Will they blame me? Maybe they will kill Jameeleh. A sudden thought came up that she tried to ignore as much as she could. The fear on her daughter’s life and the fear of the shame that such incident would bring to the family was so intense that she cried herself to sleep.

But without being aware, Um Jameeleh’s cry was loud enough for her neighbor, Seham, to hear it; the one person who should have not heard her. If it is for another person they may ignore it but not Seham. Some people in the village nickname her El-Mukhabarat (the intelligence agency) because she knows everything that happens in the village. Nothing goes under her radar. Knowing Abu Jameeleh wasn’t home she wondered for the reason that made Um Jameeleh cries that loud. It was the longest night for her. She was so eager for the morning to come so she can go knock on Um Jameeleh’s door and satisfy her craving for a new gossip.

Fiction

III – Who Killed Jameeleh?

I – Who Killed Jameeleh?

II – Who Killed Jameeleh?

Jameeleh’s only school was out in the nature. She liked animals, especially the cows and chickens at El-Turk’s farm. Unlike the other kids, they acknowledged her kindness to them and they never hurt her. Back in the sixties, there was no special school for kids like Jameeleh. While all the other kids her age are at school, she goes to El-Turk’s barn. El-Turk was the farm owner’s nickname. He got his nickname since no one knows his real name, Bahjat, except for only a few old people who forgot it by the years. There were many stories about how he ended up living in the village. But there were two most common ones. Some say he was a fugitive after fleeing from Lebanon, where he was serving in the Ottoman military as a Nefer (private). Others say he killed his superior in the military, over a dispute about how they treated the Arabs, and fled. Although, the latter story is not true most people believed it more. Either case he fled the Ottoman military and this was enough for the people of the village to welcome him to live among them, but maybe not to marry one of them. He lived single his entire life.

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Jameeleh’s Autism affected her brain’s normal development which led to her lack of social and communication skills. Unfortunately, the absence of awareness of Autism, among the people of the village, made Jameeleh’s situation hard on her and her family. The other kids constantly bullied and teased her. Sometimes they would call her names such as “Jameeleh elmajnooneh” (retard) or “Jameeleh elhablah” (crazy.)

Jameeleh was taught to return home when she hears the Thuhur Athan (call for prayer), to eat her lunch and to shorten the time she is outside alone as much as possible. But one day she didn’t return home when she was supposed to. When Um Jameeleh found her daughter lying down on a haystack, inside El-Turk’s barn, she sensed something bad happened to her daughter. She woke her up and they went to their house.

“Why were you sleeping?” “Why didn’t you come home when you got tired?” “Was anybody with you?” “Did anyone hurt you?” After a series of questions the mother figured out a man lured her daughter to the barn.

On Monday and Thursday, El-Turk goes to Irbid to buy supplies. When he is not on his farm, Jameeleh knows she should not enter the barn. She wanders somewhere else on these two days. But that Thursday, when her mother found her lying down, she was on the farm.

Jameeleh gets a new dress every time her father returns from his travel. Almost all her dresses look the same; ankle length and long sleeves, usually a white floral dress. When Jameeleh became a teen her mother made sure all her daughter’s dresses were loose or at least one size bigger. Um Jameeleh knows how to hem a dress. Knowing her daughter likes to play outside she wanted to dress her daughter something unflattering to make sure a moment like this never happen. But it did.

Um Jameeleh never anticipated sick men’s lust for an easy prey. She didn’t know also that Jameeleh can’t parts away from her only friend, her doll. Jameeleh had to follow her doll when it was snatched from her and used as a bait to lure her to El-Turk’s barn.

To be continued …