Burn Another One: Part Ten
By Fathima Begum
Adeela shifted the heavy bag from one shoulder to the other. She was sweating heavily and thought she may even collapse. But she needed to get home fast, so that she could give the shopping to her mother and then go out to see her friends.
Her father wasn’t well and her grandfather had gone to visit some relatives. Their little boy had died recently, at only five years old. She had wanted to go to see them but had decided to stay home and help her mother with the chores. She had insisted on going out to fetch some shopping for her mother even though her father hadn’t wanted her to, she had left him lying on the floor, complaining about not knowing his only son’s whereabouts.
Abbas hadn’t been home for three days. Even when he had come home, he’d only stayed for a few hours. He looked a lot thinner, and had a pained look on his face when he ignored his parent’s angry questioning.
The recent airstrikes had stopped, but the destruction remained. Streets were still filled with the rubble from broken buildings, there was dirt everywhere and the mixture of the smells of filth, smoke, and even rotting dead bodies had made breathing almost intolerable.
Adeela walked around a group of people as she walked steadily on, hugging her shoulder bag tightly. They stood in silence, staring at huge pile of rubble, as though mourning. A lot of people’s homes had been destroyed, and a lot of families had allowed their relatives and neighbours to stay in their already over-crowded homes. As she neared her home, she saw her mother running out wildly with her scarf carelessly blowing in the wind instead of being tightly wrapped around her as usual, and she knew something was wrong. Her father followed her mother and a small crowd of men and women had gathered outside.
‘He’s gone, my son, they’ve killed him!’ her mother screamed. Abandoning the bag, Adeela ran to her mother and fell to her knees. Her mother lay on the ground, staring at the sky, screaming, now incoherently. Other women knelt beside her to comfort her, and Adeela squeezed her mother hands. It couldn’t be true. Not her brother, he couldn’t be dead, she thought. Yet her mother’s wailing overwhelmed her own thoughts and she began to weep.
Hours later, her grandfather returned. They had been taken back into their home and Adeela’s father had gone in search of the bodies. A few dead bodies had been discovered a few miles away from their village, and one of their neighbours had received a phone call to let them know that Abbas was one of the dead. As soon as her grandfather walked in, Adeela jumped up and ran over to him, burying her face into his hand.
‘It wasn’t him’ he said out loud. It took a few seconds for her mother to quieten.
‘Abbas wasn’t one of the boys who have died’ he said again. Her mother began questioning him, still sobbing. But he reassured her, he’d gone to see the bodies himself after he had received the news from his friend, and Abbas was not of them.
‘But where is he?’ her father barked, when he returned. Adeela fetched water for them though she knew that it was not safe to drink. It caused them to have diarrhoea, but they had no choice but to drink it.
‘This boy needs discipline! Times are hard enough as it is, we can’t deal with much more of this’ her father continued to rant, while her mother gulped down the water.
‘Not discipline. He needs guidance’ her grandfather offered, rubbing his forehead.
Darkness fell upon them as the day crept away, and they all went to bed hungry, knowing that none of them would sleep soundly.
Two days later, while Adeela was occupied with folding away her clothes, she heard her mother scream again. This time, they had heard news that seven boys had been kidnapped. Adeela sat in a corner, observing the visitor who had come to see them. He reported that he worked within the government, Hamas, and they’d had news that seven boys, including Abbas had been kidnapped while they had been Sderot on their way to Tel Aviv. They’d been taken away by settlers.
This time, Adeel didn’t react. She silently wished for the news to turn out to be untrue, but as the conversation went on, she realized that her wish was just that. She shivered as she imagined what could be happening to her brother, and whether or not she would ever see him again.
Very quickly, several more men came in. Adeela sat quietly so as not to be noticed.
They decided to send some men to Sderot, though this was highly dangerous. There was no other way to get to the boys. The visitor assured them that they’d find the boys and bring them home as soon as they could, but that none of them could go to Sderot. It would a controlled mission.
As they discussed details, Adeela managed to escape from a back door and walked out. Night had fallen, and the village, though quieter than during the day, was still bustling. She wondered what would happen if Abbas never came back. She wondered if she would die too. The thought of dying was not a stranger for her; it had its home in the depths of her mind. But the fear of her brother dying gripped her heart tightly, and she wandered around aimlessly until she fell to the ground in heap, coughing. She saw people around her, but slowly they all seemed to disappear behind her closing eyes.