The skinny little girl had finished her drawing. She got up from the bedroom floor and scrambled to where her parents were taking their afternoon nap on the bed behind her. She excitedly shook her father so she could hear him tell her how proud he was of her.
Her smile fell away as her father shoved her halfway across the room with his strong arm. He growled at her with a face frighteningly bloated with rage, what a horrible child she was to have woken him up.
Her insides rattled as she tried to balance herself from the force of the sudden shove, staring in dumb shock at her father's bulbous eyes, her drawing tightly clutched in her hand. She saw her mother wake up beside her father to glance at the humiliated child in the middle of the room. The child stood there, paralysed by shame, and watched her mother go back to sleep. Her father angrily turned on his side, away from the embarassed child. She stood there with her startled eyes and slightly-open mouth, too stupid to move. A few moments passed before she began to gather her drawing things in guilty silence.
Her father had been humiliating the high school student in front of the Eid guests all day, shouting at her in the kitchen the way he usually did to make sure she hurried up with the right order of food and drinks. Tea with sugar, tea with fake sugar, tea with no sugar, water, juice but mango, Mountain Dew not Pepsi. Guests were constantly streaming in and out of the house, and she was having a hard time keeping up. Her mother was taking a shower. Her father had been ready since the morning prayer. He always picked at her loudly whenever guests were over, but things got worse during the Eid rush. The guests, all well-known family friends, looked at her awkwardly as her father expressed his disbelief at her incompetence as she brought tea with sugar instead of without. One person tried to intervene but was quickly silenced by her father's insistence that his daughter know how to do things right.
She was crouched on the floor, playing with her young cousins that night in the house they shared with another family. That family's little daughter was also with them. The young ones were like her little brothers and sisters, and they all looked up to her in admiration. She loved the way they wanted to be like her. She was still sore from the daylong humiliation at the hands of her father, so when he suddenly entered the room to lovingly pat her head, she ignored him and stubbornly shrugged his hand from her head.
What felt like a thick piece of board hit the right side of her face. It was her father's hand. She fell to the ground and heard her father roaring between kicks and shoves about what a hateful inconsiderate creature she was. He took off his new Eid sandals and began to beat her as she lay curled on the floor with her arms around her face. The sandals made a sharp slapping sound, unlike the hard opaque sound his hand had made on her face. She decided to not cry out because she knew he wouldn't stop. It would only make him angrier, and there was no point anyway. He was shouting louder than any scream she could ever muster up.
In a few minutes her uncle and aunt came rushing into the room and made him stop. Her head was still covered by her arms. She could hear him heaving as he angrily explained to her aunt, his favourite, that his daughter had asked for it when she disrespected his show of affection. Her aunt was repeating over and over again that no one ever hits their grown children, especially their daughters. The young girl decided it was safe to open her eyes. She peeked through her arms and saw that the children had run away.
At home that night her mother tried to calm down her distraught daughter. She also lashed out at her husband, demanding an explanation to his behaviour that would push away all his children. He apologised but his daughter wouldn't stop crying. She hated him for humiliating her all day long in front of adults and then treating her like an animal in front of children who looked up to her. She became delirious, promising her mother that she'd never come back once she'd left home for college. Her father had calmed down and began madly apologising to her that he'd never hit her again, never criticise her again. The young girl didn't believe him and she cried herself to sleep.
Her friend visited her for Eid the next day. She noticed the father hovering about them with a sickly apologetic smile, bringing them Pepsi, offering to take their picture. She noticed the girl not looking at her father and asked her what was going on. The girl did not respond. The friend panicked and insisted that she tell her what was wrong. The girl brushed it away. It was too humiliating. It was so embarassing. What would her friend think? She just wanted to forget.
She heard the front door bang shut and knew her father was home. He sped to her room and pushed her off the bed onto the floor. She didn't see his face, she'd already shut her eyes. He shoved her head towards the ground and beat her with his shoe like a man possessed. He hit her in quick blows, on her back, on her arms, on her legs. It made a dusty flat sound every time. He screamed his throat raw, how dare she have a boyfriend that too a Hindu, if they were in India, he'd have dragged her like a dirty animal through the streets for all to see. Her mother entered the room and closed the door. She didn't want the cleaning man to hear.
The young woman on the floor didn't made a sound. It'd be over, it'd be over. He picked her up and threw her against the wall. He picked up a wooden hanger from the bed and hit her with it until it broke. He screamed at her that she was cursed, that she was the cause of all his problems, and that she would make him lose his job. Something inside her hurt, and she inhaled sharply as her heart broke. She shut her eyes more tightly and pretended like she was far away. Pretty soon the blows stopped hurting. She felt nothing. He kicked her repeatedly like a punching bag and beat her with his shoes again. She waited for him to stop. He cursed the day she was born. He just knew that this ungrateful woman-in-heat would be the cause of her parents' death. They had weak hearts already. She stole a look at him as he brought down yet another blow. She would remember the look on his face long after she had forgotten his words.
Her mother then pleaded with him to stop. He sat down on the floor, his head in his hands, thinking he was going mad, why was she doing this to the family, why was she making life so hard for everyone? Are you chemically unbalanced, he asked the crumpled girl who had always over-achieved. She grabbed her stuffed toy, the lamb her mother had given her when she was little, and hugged it. She began to cry into it, rocking back and forth, laughing and wailing by turns. Her mother tried to hold her but she wouldn't let anyone touch her. She kept laughing and crying and talking to herself. Her mother ran to the bathroom and threw up in the toilet.