Friday, February 12, 2010
Tasha has a sister, her mother thought as she watched, her eyes rimmed with dampened kohl.
Earlier, Tasha had returned home from an afternoon of studying at her best friend's house. She was introduced to an older cousin who was visiting for the weekend. He helped them with their studies and, several hours later, they walked Tasha home after stopping for a drink at the coffee shop. She waved goodbye and turned to see her parents and grandfather standing in the hall. “I'm late, I know, sorry but---”
“You were out all day with a boy?” Her father's spittle landed on her face and she stepped back.
“Not like that. We were studying!”
Her grandfather spoke. “You were told you will marry the young man we chose for you, with ties to our village. His relatives here saw you.”
Tasha did not want to talk about this. She was born in this suburban house 16 years ago, not a dusty village. Yes, her mother and father were very strict, overly protective, and infuriating at times, but is that not the way of all parents?
“You know I don't want to get married,” she said. “Especially to some guy I don't even know. I want to study and get a job and not be tied down to your old-fashioned...”
Her mother's slap to her face sent Tasha running upstairs to her room. She sat on her bed and held her old stuffed bunny to her chest. It was her comfort in the night since she was four years old. A few minutes later she heard someone walk up the wooden steps to her room. Her father came in without knocking. He carried a cup of tea.
“You acted in a way that has brought shame to our family!” he said and closed the door. He held out the hot drink. “Your grandfather and I will give you the chance to do what you must to preserve the honor of our family members.”
He pointed to the cup in his hand. “It has rat poison.”
“Abba?” Tasha pushed one of Bunny's ears into her mouth to stifle the scream and bile and moved closer to the window.
“No one will marry your sister until our name is pure again.” Her father placed the cup on her desk and left without another word.
Tasha's tears obscured the familiar. What was her father talking about? Those traditions had no place here. Oh, she grew up hearing about these honor killings, but they were stories - they belonged to the old country, to the villages, to the old ways. This is the United States, for goodness sake. Her father could not mean this. He was just trying to scare her. She needed to find her mother.
She knocked the cup to the floor and left her room, running down the stairs. Her grandfather stepped from the study and stood before her.
“Oh, Dada, Dada!” she wept as he held out his arms.
Tasha expected them to take away her phone, or ground her for a month, or any other loss of privileges as punishment. She did not imagine this.
“I am justified,” her father whispered as he pulled out the knife. “Allah Haafiz.”