1. Be Careful What You Wish For
Today was like any other normal day. Repetitive. Hot. Boring. And many other words I haven’t learned yet. I sat in my bed, which was very tightly fitted in the corner of the room. Looking through the last book my father brought me. Reading about love, adventure and everything I only ever dreamed of experiencing.
“Aria!” My mother yells from the kitchen, her face probably red from the heat of cooking, “Come help me set the table!”
I roll my eyes as I force myself off the bed. Neatly putting my book down on the bed before dragging my feet out of the room.
“Why that gloomy face?” She asks as I make my way to the sink.
I hesitate for a moment, wondering if it is even worth it, “Can’t I please just meet up with father at the market? Just today. Just once. Please?”
“Aria. This is not a conversation we are having. Wash your hands and set the table.”
“It’s not fair. I’m so bored. Father can go out. And so can you. Why can’t I?”
“It’s different for us.” She raised her eyebrow at me. Her eyes wandered away from my eyes and to my long black hair. I was always thrown off by this. My hair was dark, thick and heavy while both of my parents had thin, wispy, golden blonde hair. With one look at her face, I knew I had to let the conversation go.
I was always guarded. Hidden from the world. I’ve only ever stepped outside our home a couple of times, for my birthday usually. My world was so small. My mother and father were the only people I knew. I was never told why I had to remain hidden. To be honest, it never bothered me. I liked my quiet life.
Until I started to read.
Father brought me books filled with stories of romance and adventure. I only started to read two years ago, on my seventeenth birthday. Now, my place seemed, what was the word I just learned today? Insignificant. I craved more.
“Mother?” I broke the silence as I dried my hands and moved to pick up the plates.
“Mm?” She didn’t look up from what she was doing.
“This might sound like a weird question, but why is my hair so different from yours?” I just realized I had never asked her that.
Her eyes shot up at me. Almost in anger, and i could see her jaw clench. “Why would you ask a stupid question like that?”
I didn’t know how to react. She’s never spoken to me like that, “I didn’t mean to... it’s just that it’s so different from yours.”
She let out a heavy sigh, she walked up to me and held my face in her hands, “I’m sorry my love. Just please don’t ask that again.” She maintained eye contact until I nodded. We continued setting the table.
I just finished setting the last plate when I heard the chirps of birds get louder and louder. Father’s here! I run to the door, maybe I can catch a glimpse of the sun today. Father’s about halfway through the door when I get there.
“Hi father!” I squeal.
He jumps, weirdly surprised to hear my voice, “Aria, step back. Why are you so close to the door?”
Mother steps into the room, “Nazim, I’ve scolded her enough today. Let her catch a glimpse of the sky.”
Father turns and faces her. He has a sadness all over his face and a seriousness that weighs heavy on his brow. He shakes his head at her. Mother instantly becomes worried and they both walk into the other room, closing the door behind them. I don’t hear anything clearly but they are obviously arguing about something. When they finally come out of the room, they look about ten years older. We all quietly walk to the table and sit down in deafening silence.
“Ahem..” I clear my throat, almost sounding like a scream in this quiet home, “Father?” I look up from my plate and see his worried face, “What’s wrong?”
He shakes his head, “Nothing for you to worry about, darling. There’s just a lot of soldier activity in the town. Nothing concerning you.”
Mother shoots him a warning look.
“How was your day?” Father asks, trying to bring this night some type of normalcy.
I give up trying to figure out anything and go along with him. We spend the night talking about the book I was reading. Father kept describing plants and animals and I had to guess their names. It was one way that I could step into the world without actually being out.
It was my turn to wash the dishes. As I was washing them, mother comes up behind me and starts brushing my hair.
Once I finish the dishes, I head into the washroom. I take off my dress, ignoring the loud chirps of the birds outside, and stand in my underwear by the tub. I move to take my bra off when I hear the loud crack of our front door being forced open. There’s chaotic yelling and grunts echoing through the house. A shiver runs down my spine.
I quickly grab a robe and wrap myself tightly. Before I can move, both of my parents come running in, closing the door behind them.
Father comes up to me and grabs my face harshly in his hands, “Aria, I love you more than the stars and the moon. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep you safe.” He kisses my forehead before turning to my mother.
“My love, I’m sorry. They probably followed me here from the market. It’s my fault. I will do what I can.” He kisses her and leaves the room, leaving my mother and I in a paralyzed shock.
Mother breaks the silence, “Aria. Cover your hair. Whatever happens, if they kill me, if they catch you, do not let them see your hair.” Confusion engulfs my face. I’m still in shock and can’t move. Mother grabs a long piece of cloth from a drawer and wraps it tightly around my head. She finishes before holding my face in her hands, “Don’t let them see.” She then takes out the dye that she uses on my eyebrows and quickly smears it on them. It makes my eyebrows lighter, not blonde necessarily, but lighter. I never understood why she did that.
Suddenly, the door behind her slams open. I see nothing, but a blade piercing through her chest and blood spilling from her to the ground.
My eyes widen in shock, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” I cry so loud, I would not be surprised if i was never able to speak again. The man behind her, slides the blade out of her and her body makes a loud thump when it hits the ground. I fall with her, trying to hold her body. My heart caves in, tears blur my vision and my throat closes in pain, my sobs filling the room. The man is still standing in the doorway as I hold my mothers face in my hand, watching her take her last breath.
“Hey, idiot! Why did you kill her!?” A second man walks up next to the first. Pushing him back, “You’ll have to answer for this. You know he hates unecessary bloodshed.”
“Fuck.” A third guy comes up, “James, you’re insufferable. Go back to the palace. We’ll deal with you there.”
The man that killed my mother runs out of the house.
I look up at the two mean in the doorway, tears still streaming down my face. My breathing was raspy and difficult.
“What do we do with her?” One of them says.
The second one points a sword at my neck, forcing me to stand up.
“Don’t kill her!” The first one yells. “She’s young, he might like her.”
“What!?” The man with the sword tries to speak while holding in a laugh, “He doesn’t like anyone. Honestly you should give up on him. She is fucking beautiful though.” He looks me up and down before landing on my dull, green eyes, “I wonder why they’ve kept you hidden here.”
He plays with the sword around my face before he stops at my hairline. My eyes widen with fear as I remember how much mother wanted me to hide my hair. He sees my panic and he smirks oh so proudly. He moves the sword back, pushing off the cloth my mother had tightly placed on my head.
My hair falls over my shoulders.
Both of them stand there wide eyed.
“Fuck.” Says the first guy, the one without the sword. We all stood there in silence for what seemed like hours, “Dammit Jake! Put the sword away. He will definitely want to see her now. And you,” He turns to face me, “Cover your hair.”
He throws the cloth at me. Jake still hadn’t said a word and he just walks out of the room. I start to wrap my hair and as soon as I’m finished, the other guy starts to tie my wrists together.
I haven’t said a word. There’s a lump in my throat and an empty feeling in my chest, my heart was ripped out of me. I took a last look at my mother, sobbing, as he led me out of the room.
“NOOOOOOO, FATHER! NO!” I scream again, as I’m led into the hallway. He was at the end, standing up against the wall. Until I saw that he was held up by multiple knives stabbed through his body and into the wall. His eyes open but lifeless. I tried to pull myself toward him, but I was yanked in the other direction.
It was dark out now. The air fresh and dewy. It was quiet. Nature being deceiving. It was beautiful and calm. Not at all like the experience I just survived.
I was lifted up onto a horse. My mind went a million miles an hour. I didn’t scream. I didn’t hit him. I didn’t try to run away. What was the point? I had no life to fight for. No home to go back to. I was ready to die. As I sat on the horse, the wind blowing in my face, I couldn’t help but think back to what my mother had told me.
Be careful what you wish for, Aria.