I knew, with all my heart and every cell in my brain, I knew that after that night he would pretend he didn't know me. I knew but I didn't care. For one night he did want to be with me. For one night he looked at me as he looked at all those other girls. For one night, I could know what it felt like to not be different.
So I took that step. I plunged actually- full on- head first- no thinking. The next day my friend's mother took a photo of my friend and I together. Two 15 year old girls in jeans and sneakers and matching pink t-shirts. I looked so different- so changed. It was quite striking actually and i felt my face redden as I imagined that everybody else could see what I could see. I imagined that strangers were looking at me and seeing this change and knowing what I had done.
As I write this now it sounds so silly and immature-embarrassing almost. I keep telling myself "what were you thinking" and I have to remind myself that I am not writing this as I am now- but as I was then- as a 15 year old girl, not as a grown woman with the clarity of hindsight who has learnt to love herself and who, for a long time now, has found her place and embraced her difference.
I told only one person. I told my sister. It only felt natural that I should- we shared everything- our hopes, our dreams, our secret crushes, our mad passionate love for the members of KISS. Her reaction was neither here nor there- or perhaps I just didn't see it. She did not judge, she only asked "why?" and I said "because he wanted me". That was it- nothing more was said of it. She wasn't curious as to what happened, what it felt like, how it happened, if it hurt- nothing. She only wanted to know why and then she walked away.
Then he arrived. The stranger. The son of one of my mother's friends from Egypt. A doctor, no less. My mother made it clear that she hoped one of us would please him enough that he would approach my father and seek marraige. For months I put up with his obnoxious presence. I hated him- he was rude and arrogant. Once he asked me to make him a cup of coffee and I told him that I hadn't noticed that he did not have legs and arms to do it himself. Perhaps, I suggested, he was a doctor who did not know how to make a simple cup of coffee? My mother took me aside and scolded me like she had never before- it was like I had insulted her.
My sister and I would lock ourselves away in her bedroom whenever he was around and make fun of him, laughing all the while at the ridiculous thought of either of us marrying Dr Dickhead.
Despite my obvious distaste for the man, he approached my father and requested his permission to marry me. Was he mad? Did he honestly think I would willingly marry him and submit myself to a life of depravation and oppression- a life of making endless cups of coffee at his beck and call. I protested loud and clear but I didn't need to because my parents weren't interested in forcing me into marraige. Besides that, I had just turned 17 and was entering my final year of school with plans to become Sydney's top criminal lawyer.
One night, my mother was looking especially pleased with herself. Dr Dickhead had decided that my sister was agreeable enough to be his wife. And she had said yes.
Then it happened. Why wouldn't it? I had been kidding myself all along thinking that my actions did not have consequences- thinking that I could control my own destiny. The path was winding its way along and there was no stopping now.
My parents were visiting my sister at her new home. For some reason I was restless and sleep did not come easily that night. I couldn't explain why but I was overcome by an uneasy feeling- a feeling of impending doom or sorrow or something ugly and dark.
When my parents arrived with my sister and her husband that night they headed straight for my bedroom- my mother screaming like a woman in the throes of childbirth:
"Where is she? Where is the girl? She's not a virgin. She's not a virgin."
I looked to my sister for some kind of explanation, without any emotion she looked straight at me and said "I told them everything".
Why? Why? Why would she do that? Why would she betray me like that?
The moments that followed are hard to express- there was a lot of noise, a lot of commotion, a lot of screaming. I could not take in what was going on around me- the tears, the yelling, the occassional fist in my stomach and kicks to my side, the frequent slaps, the insults, the degradation- it all seemed a million miles away, like it was happening to someone else in some alternate universe and yet it was happening, it was happening to me.
All the while I just stood there- not moving, not flinching- my eyes fixed only on one thing, one person, my sister. I tried to speak but my voice made no sound so I looked at her and mouthed the word that was consuming every thought in my mind: 'why?'. She never answered.
I can imagine now how the conversation might have gone that night. My sister had just received notification of her high school leaving score- she hadn't passed. I can imagine my parents sitting there, facing my sister and her new husband across the table and saying something like "Thank Allah she got married because she's failed high school- she's not like her sister you know- her sister is the smart one- her sister...her sister...her sister".
The screams grew louder. My mother was inconsolable. She was hysterical. And my father?My father kept his head down afraid to look at me. Perhaps he wanted to keep that image of his little girl for as long as he could- even if it was just a few moments longer.
Having rid themselves of their initial reactions of rage, my parents took me into their bedroom, locked the door and began the inquisition. Who was I with? What was his name? When did it happen? How many times had I done it? What else had I been hiding? A million, zillion, trillion questions.
Then a period of calm. Like the eye of a storm.
Then the storm raged again.
"She has dishonoured us."
"She does not deserve to live"
"She needs to die"
"We must kill her"
And my father's hands- those hands that once had gently caressed me, those hands that had introduced me to the joy of art, the wonders of Gaugin and Chagall and had nurtured my love of painting.
My father's hands gripped my throat.
I'm sorry. I have to stop now. I promise I will write Part 3 soon.