Glass Enclave
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When she boiled chicken, froth rose to the surface of the water and she removed it with a spoon. It was granulated dirt the colour of peanuts, scum from the chicken that was better not eaten. Inside Sammar there was froth like that, froth that could rise if she started to speak. Then he would see it and maybe go away, when what she wanted was for him to remove it so that she could be clear. It would be easy for him to make her clear, as easy as untying a ribbon.

Tell him, she told herself, tell him of Mahasen and Tarig and Hanan. Mother, son, daughter. Tell him how you shrugged off your own family and attached yourself to them, the three of them. Made a gift of yourself, a child to be moulded. Their house, where you imagined you would one day live, the empty square in front of it. When it rained, everything stood still and the square took the colour of the moon. Tarig's bike, Tarig's room, Tarig singing with imaginary microphones, imaginary guitars, imaginary drums. An obedient niece, letting Mahasen decide how you should dress, how you should fix your hair. You were happy with that, content, waiting for the day you would take her only son away from her. Take care of Tarig, she whispered in your ear when you said goodbye. And you brought him back to her shrouded in the belly of an airplane.

'My aunt is a strong woman', Sammar said, 'a leader really. She is looking after my son now. I haven't seen them for four years.' She had given the child to Mahasen and it had not meant anything. Nothing, as if he had not been once a piece of her, with her wherever she walked. She was unable to mother the child. The part of her that did the mothering had disappeared. Froth, ugly froth. She had said to her child, I wish it was you instead. I hate you. I hate you. In that same death-carrying airplane he had wanted to play, toddle up and down the aisles, all smiles, his father's ease with strangers. He had wanted food, he was greedy for food. On her lap with the tray precarious before them, he had grabbed rolls of bread, smeared butter, poured the juice on her clothes. Full of life, they said of him, full of life. She pinched him hard when no one was looking. He kicked her back. In the bathroom she cleaned him while he wriggled, his hands reaching for the ash-tray, the button that called the hostess. Stop it, stop it. The child would not let her be, would not let her sink like she wanted to sink, bend double with pain. He demanded her totally.

'Tarig was a student here', she said. We came here after we got married. He was a medical student and we lived near Foresterhill. On the day the car accident happened and he was taken to hospital, some of the doctors on duty there knew him. They were very good to me. They called the Ethnic Minority...' She stopped. 'Worker or Coordinator', she wasn't sure what the woman's title was. Rae shrugged, it didn't matter. He wiped his face with the palm of his hand, down to his chin and up to press his fingers against his temples.

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