When The Air Strikes

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Love, Zara


This is the part of my story that will change everything for you like it did for me when Andrew revealed to me a part of my existence on the eve of my thirtieth birthday.

I don’t remember much of what happened in Dubai or my way back to London, because I kept fainting at the slightest pretext of noise. Like a paralyzed person I could not feel the consoling touches of people as they hugged me but I have Ain’s nails still engraved on my calf and a faint memory of her loud cry as people moved her away from me.

It’s been fourteen years since my trip to Aleppo. And I’ve started hating cliffhangers so I will clear all doubts before I leave. Ain could not come with us to Dubai and we just couldn’t leave her to succumb back to the world of broken houses and broken people. The driver told Ashraf he’d be migrating to Germany, like the millions of refugees still waking up each day out of rubble, in a week’s time and could take Ain with her. He said he was going to work in a bakery and she would tag along. He was our first and last resort. Placing all the faith in a stranger that he would keep the other little stranger safe we left. Hoping she’s still in place here’s the end of my story.

Dear Ain,

I don’t at the very least expect you to remember me. You were frightened and fragile and lost and only five years old. Though, very beautiful for such a tiny age. My shrink likes to listen to them even though, I am not very good at stories but I hope you have time for one.

Two young journalists having covered the story that would make them the centre of attention of their little media world were about to leave the war torn city of Aleppo for the comfort of their homes in London. They were out of danger and very close to reattaining the emotion of security and certainty, which was scarce in this country, when their jeep stopped all of a sudden. They young man got out and the woman followed him. In the colourful rubble covered in dust that surrounded them they heard sobbing. Sobbing and hushing and sobbing and hushing. Crouched at awkward angles was a family of five- mother, father, two sons and a baby girl. The father dropped at the feet of the young couple pleading them to take their children to safety. The mother joined too. Deprived of a heart of stone the journalists gave in. ‘We can only arrange place for one child in the plane that takes us home,’ they told the family. The two sons fell to their knees asking them to get their baby sister to safety. The young woman scooped the little life out of the mother’s hand who began crying behind the huge scarf that covered her head. The father pointed his finger at the child’s face saying, ‘Zara’ repeatedly.

The baby girl grew up around the best people in the world. She was loved ferociously, at times so much, she feared people would run out of it. Once the little girl turned 18 the journalists, who had never told Zara anything, raising her away from families that disapproved of her and changing themselves to an extent where even they couldn’t believe it at times that the girl wasn’t their own blood, took it upon themselves to find the family who handed her to them.

But, very horribly Zara was orphaned, twice, by the same war.

Zara always thought she knew enough, but you never know enough, never.

That’s not a very pleasing story I realize. But life loves to come a full circle. Anyway, you should come to London some day. I have a fifty years old radio at home that I listen to everyday, hoping I can hear something on the other end.

Oh also, do you like the bakery?

Zara Battle.

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