Glass Enclave
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It had been easy to talk when they were young. Things changed when they outgrew sparklers and bikes. Or even, she sometimes thought, things changed from the time he broke his leg. If Hanan was with them they could talk, the three of them, about films they had seen or who Tarig had met in the petrol queue. But if Hanan left them alone, to make Tang or answer the telephone there would be an awkward silence between them. Silly talk, while they heard her stir the orange powder in the glasses, bang the ice tray in the kitchen sink. How are you? I'm fine, how are you? When his sister came back they would look guilty as if they had done something wrong.

Shyness pestered them for years. It was scratchy like wool. It made them want Hanan to be with them so they could talk and want her away from them so they could be alone. Tarig sent her notes at school with his best-friend's sister, overriding Hanan, although she was in the same class. The treachery dazzled more than the words he wrote. Flimsy papers that weighed in her hand like rocks. She tore them and scattered the tiny pieces in different places, afraid that someone would find them. She liked to talk to him on the phone, it was safe on the phone. On the phone, they swapped recurrent nightmares and happy dreams. He said, I want to tell you something but I'm too shy.

She imagined that what she wanted from life was simple, nothing grand, just to continue and live in the same place, be another Mahasen when she grew up. Have babies, get fat, sit with one leg crossed over the other and complain to life-long friends about the horrific rise in prices, the hours Tarig had to spend at the clinic. But continuity, it seemed, was in itself ambitious. Tarig was plucked from this world without warning, without being ill, like a little facial hair is pulled out by tweezers.

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