Oumed gazed into the mirror as he styled his hair. He fingered the gel through his red bangs. Your hair’s on fire, man! He grinned at his reflection. Tonight he was going to have a blowout at the beach. He was going to have a blast. He couldn’t stop grinning as he slipped on his black leather biker’s jacket. He looked at himself in the mirror one more time before he left his room. My red hair and black jacket complement eachother quite nicely! He patted himself on his back and made his way downstairs.
Oumed’s smile was wiped off his face as he saw his dad waiting on the couch. Darn! I should’ve climbed down my ladder! He cursed as he saw that he’d have to get past his father to reach the front door. He heaved a sigh angrily and clenched his jaws as he slowly passed his dad.
“Stop right there, son.” His dad said calmly. Oumed looked up. It seemed his dad was waiting for him all along. That point was made clear when he spotted his brother Salim and his mother standing by the other side, looking serious.
“What now?” He drawled out at no one in particular.
His father braced up. “Son, you can’t bring alcohol into this house.”
Oumed rolled his eyes. “Says who?”
That’s it, his father thought, Oumed keeps getting arrogant by the minute. “Look here, Oumed – this is my home – and I say, you cannot and should never bring this into the house.”
Oumed threw his arms up in the air, “When did I ever bring beer into the house?”
“Don’t get haughty with me, son! You very well know what you did.” He point at a Vodka bottle that Oumed thought he’d hidden fairly well in his room.
“So what? SO WHAT? It’s not like I’m going to tempt anyone, am I?” He sneered and looked at Salim.
Salim had a grave look in his dark eyes. “Oumed, don’t you dare talk to Dad like that,” he said in his usual serene tone.
Oumed grinned nastily, “Stop me!” He challenged as he made his way to the door.
Salim went closer to him and blocked his way. “Come on, Oumed, what are you trying to prove? Can’t you just quit this bad boy mask you’re putting on?! It’s not getting any of us anywhere!”
“What the hell do you want with me anyway?! Just leave me alone!” Oumed barked at his brother.
The two brothers looked at eachother. Each one’s eyes pondering into the other’s. Salim could see a vulnerable fear in Oumed’s eyes. Salim got a shimmer of hope…
But hope and fear go hand in hand.
And Oumed had a fear in him. Several years ago when they had fled their war-struck homeland, Oumed was just a child. His father, a doctor, was tending to the wounded on the battlefield. But time came when he could do that no more. If he was to stay, he’d risk putting his family to death. Within days, they had booked tickets to their new destination, their new home – in the very nation that was tearing apart their land. Oumed’s mother was furious. How can we be like this?! She asked, how can we run away when our people are suffering? Their father only cared for them so much and he was intent on getting his family safe. It’s not safe here anymore, he said, as he looked at his three lighthearted children playing freely. I only want my family to be protected.
Only 6 hours to their flight to safety when the soldiers came charging through the land. The sun was scorching the dry ground cruelly and the air had the heavy feel of death to it. The soldiers were strapped heavily with their grenades and their stone faces were drained of mercy.
Oumed’s father came running to the two boys, who were playing in their sand box in their backyard. Their mother scrambled to pack a few last minute things out of the house. “We have to get out of here!” Their father picked up Oumed and grabbed hold of Salim.
Oumed was only 6 years old but he sensed something was wrong. “Daddy I’m scared.” he remembers saying in a chocked voice. His father looked at his youngest son for a split second. They were all scared.
But one of his children was missing. “Where’s Rahma? Ya Allah! Where’s Rahma?!” his father shouted in alarm. Their mother gave out a weak sound as her eyes widened in terror. The sound of bullets and a shrill shriek of a little girl cut through the air. She had been killed. She was dead. Oumed and Salim’s sister, Rahma, was murdered brutally at the hands of the coldhearted soldiers.
“No. No!” Their mother wailed. “I want my little girl back! I want my baby back!” She ran towards the soldiers. Oumed’s father took hold of her immediately as she struggled to get free. He shouted, “You’re not going anywhere! I don’t want to lose you too!”
Just at that moment, their house was set on fire. Salim and Oumed watched in horror. “Their burning down our house! Do something Daddy!” Salim screamed as Oumed tumbled to his sand bucket and went to try to put out the fire.
“Come on! Everyone get into the car! NOW!” Their father grabbed Oumed and dragged the rest of his surviving family into the car with nothing but the bag containing their passporst and a few cash notes to spare. They didn’t even have time to bury her.
The shrill shriek of his elder sister, Rahma, still rings in Oumed’s ears today. They didn’t even have time to bury her…
Sometimes Oumed would have spasms at night thinking about his long dead sister. Sometimes he’d wish he was the one who died in place of her.
Rahma was only 2 years younger than Salim. Oumed turned through the pages of his mind and recalled the painful memories of the three of them playing as carefree children under the warm and smiling sun. He remembered how she’d pat him kindly on his little head and how he had always trailed behind her like a loyal puppy. He remembered cuddling up near his sister at night when the owls hooted and scared him. She was always so kind to him… and she was the one to die at the hands of cold blooded soldiers.
They didn’t even have time to bury her…
Rahma was the life and soul of their home. She’d lighten up the mood of anyone who was around her. She was only 10 years old but even Salim who was 2 years older, looked up to her. Everyone loved her and cherished her. She was as bright as an angel. Their mother would jokingly say, “She’s too good to last too long!” She just never knew how true what she was saying was.
Sometimes, Oumed would scream in fury, “Why her?! Why Rahma?!” Even at her young age, she had prayed without delaying a minute, when most kids of that age would run around playing without care. She would fast on her own and she could always be heard reading the Quran by day break and night fall. But no, Oumed thought in a fit of anger, she was the one to die! If God was real, He wouldn’t have done this! He thought. If God is supposed to be the Most Kind and the Most Merciful, he wouldn’t have let Rahma die! He would seethe in blind anger whenever he thought of this. My dear big sister Rahma…
They didn’t even have time to bury her…
Salim’s clear voice cut the silence. “Oumed, look here bro, do you understand what I’m saying? You gotta change. You can’t be like this anymore, bro…”
Oumed looked at his brother. He was always the perfect one. He was always the perfect son. He came out of his teenage years as a strong believer with formidable faith. And here I am…
Salim looked expectantly at his younger brother. “Well…?”
Slowly, he broke into a quiet laugh. “Do you think I’m gonna be brainwashed by all your 'sweet' talk?” He smirked.
Salim exhaled with difficulty as if someone had knocked out the air out of his lungs.“I have better things to do!” he lashed out at Salim. He shoved his brother out of the way and walked out the front door, slamming it deafeningly behind him.