You’re nine years old. Your Sister calls you little Sis, she has become kinder since Father’s last journey. Your Mother says, ‘He will come home soon,’ whenever you ask about Father. You last saw him a year ago, but recently you’ve been losing hope of his return. What happened to him? You don’t know. At school you’ve overheard stories about Alia’s father and Nasiba’s father which, for a moment, forces you consider the possibility of similar incidents that might have happened to Father. You aren’t sure if mom is hiding the truth, but one thing is certain: your friends are never going to see their fathers. They say their mothers promise their Father will return soon.
You’re not too young to not notice the changes since Father left: your family have changed three neighborhoods since, and your mother has grown her head gray; your sister has left the school to sew clothes with the sewing machine your Mom bought her months after father left, you’ve seen frequent arguments between your mother and your sister over matters that didn’t matter before, and you’ve spotted them sobbing afterwards, your mother didn’t take you shopping on Eid-ul-Fitri despite the promises she had made; she also changed your school reasoning a government school would do you good (but you liked the private one better).
You dream of your father coming back so that everything would go back to normal. You miss him so much. It’s been so long.
So it’s Saturday and the special occasion is on Monday – Eid Al Adha. Because you love animals so much – you remember The Sheep – you’re yet to understand what people celebrate by killing them. You don’t get it how elders bear the sight of an animal dying while you can’t. Perhaps you’re too young for it, you think. Though you’ve seen Abraham, his son Ismail and the Sheep in a portrait that hangs on the wall of the largest room, just next to your grandparents photo frames, at uncle Raza’s, you think the sheep is as much adorable as the one your family used to feed for a while before Father introduced its throat to a huge knife. He had warned you not to get attached to the Animal, but you had spent much time with the sheep so you couldn’t stop the streams of tears for days. You weren’t used to losing friends.
So You, your sister and your mother are strolling down the Main Road stuffed with people, children of your own age carrying shopping bags walking next to their mothers and sisters and Father. Yes Father, you think of the word, and you stare at one of the Fathers holding a child’s hand, showing her something inside the shop. You notice the cheerful faces, notice the smiles. You remember your mother’s face before Father left for the long journey.
You’re holding your mother’s hand, your eyes framing the faces pacing in the opposite direction. All of a Sudden a darker complexion in the crowd strikes you as odd. Your stare at it. The Face stops walking in the middle of the street. You find your attention move from the dark complexion to the right hand where you see the thumb raised slowly, and then pressed back hard to complete the fist.
In a split second, a tiny ball of light explodes to…but it’s already dark.