A Life, Wasted (Short story)

“Why is pimple-face here?” said Maryam screwing up her delicate features and playing with her long black hair. She was looking towards Aliya who had just come into the house clutching a small purse and looking out of place.

“I called her” Rabia answered, “She’s always doing our homework assignments for us and anyway she’s harmless.” Rabia was a tall girl with dark features and looked quite beautiful with make-up.

“Whatever. But what is she wearing?”

Aliya made her way towards Rabia. “Thanks for having me over, Rabia.” She smiled revealing shiny metallic braces and nervously brushed away her frizzy hair from her thick rimmed glasses. She wished she had worn a dress like everyone else instead of her traditional shalwar kameez. Her mother had bought it for her just a few days ago and told her she looked beautiful in it. Somehow she didn’t think so now. She looked at Maryam in her slinky black dress and felt even worse.

“Hi Maryam.”

Maryam made a face and without answering got up and went into the dining room.

Amber giggled. She was a plump girl with brown curly hair who hung around with Maryam and the others and didn’t have much of a personality of her own. They had made friends with her because her father was well connected and they could get favors out of her.

Maryam came back with a glass of juice in her hand. She whispered something to Amber. Amber giggled.

As Aliya was standing and talking to another girl of their class, Maryam passed by her and spilled her glass on her.

“Oh, sorry.” Amber giggled some more.

Aliya’s new clothes were ruined. The cranberry juice would leave a permanent stain. More than that, she felt humiliated standing in the middle of the room drenched, with everyone staring at her.

Rabia looked at Maryam. Their eyes met across the room and Rabia shook her head.

“Aliya you can wash that off, I’m sure it will come off…” Rabia started to say as she came towards Aliya.

“Yes Aliya, why don’t you go up, I’ll show you the way” finished Maryam. Rabia was surprised at Maryam’s offer for help.

Aliya was fighting back tears and she rushed up before anyone could see she was almost crying, with Maryam following her behind.

“It’s here, this door…” Aliya opened the door and went inside. The door banged shut and she heard the lock click. It was only a moment before she realized she was locked in the store.

“Maryam, Maryam open the door, I’m claustrophobic” she screamed. But the loud music downstairs was drowning out her screams.

Aliya was already panicking. She looked around for the light switch but there was none. The walls began to close in on her. She felt the tightness in her chest getting stronger. She had left her purse downstairs with her inhaler. She couldn’t breathe; it was getting darker and darker.

Maryam had already joined the others downstairs. Rabia came up to her. “Where is Aliya?”

“Don’t worry about your friend. She’s fine. She won’t bother us for a while. Her clothes were so obscene; they were giving me a headache.”

Rabia hesitated. She didn’t want to appear overly concerned for Aliya but when ten minutes passed and she hadn’t come down she ran up the stairs to look for her. The bathroom was empty. She looked in the other rooms. She tried the door of the store. It was locked. She opened it and Aliya fell out. She was unconscious.

Just then Maryam came running up the stairs followed by Amber.

“Maryam what have you done?” Rabia could hardly say the words. “You’ve killed her!”

Maryam panicked. Behind her Amber stood pale and shaken.

“I just locked her in the store. I didn’t think she would die!”

“We have to call the police.”

“Rabia, this is your house and you’re equally to blame. I can say it was your idea. Listen to me…” Maryam held Rabia with both hands and shook her, “Don’t tell them anything. Just say she collapsed in the bathroom.” Yes, she thought, that would do, no one could ever know what happened here.

Aliya may not have been a looker, but she always did well in her studies and was a considerate person. She had the potential to become a successful young woman. She may have reached for the stars. But that we will never know.

When the paramedics arrived that evening, it was already too late.

Word count: 750

This story has been written for the Speakeasy #148 where the sentence  “No one could ever know what happened here.” had to be used somewhere in the post and some reference given to the video of the song “Counting Stars”.

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40 thoughts on “A Life, Wasted (Short story)

  1. I love the sober ending. Your writing is so engaging. I love the world you create, it feels safe enough to get lost in but there is always the unexpected around the corner. I am thrilled to have found your stories here.

  2. What a group of mean girls! Well, Maryam, the ring-leader is the worst, but the ones who couldn’t’ stand up to her aren’t much better. I had hoped that Rabia would’ve bucked peer pressure and found Aliya. Sad ending for Aliya…

    • Hey Janna, great job at remembering all the names! I know it must be a bit confusing but I always like to give local flavor to my stories.
      Thanks for reading and the comment.

  3. The hundred or so words surrounding the scene where Aliya was locked in the store (is this like a pantry, or food storage area to those of us in the West?) were absolutely fantastic. I could tell (as you alluded) that part of this might be autobiographical. Nicely done.

    • It’s where you store boxes and other stuff you’re not using but don’t want to throw away.
      I’m glad you liked my writing, thank you for taking the time to comment.

    • Yes Aisha it’s partly true, I was bullied in school. My story was an extreme case where a life was lost but some sort of bullying is quite common. I hope my son never has to go through that.

  4. I, too, can identify with how Aliyah was made to feel, though obviously not to such a horrific extent. This is so well-written, it really makes her suffering palpable. I wanted to yell out to Rabia and tell her to stand up for what was right…not that I yell at my computer 🙂 Well done!

    • Thank you, yes Rabia really disappointed in the end though she had the potential to stand up to the others but she chose not to. I’m sure she’ll regret it for the rest of her life.
      Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

  5. Oh,what a ” pretty” girl Maryam is-and that Amber-gah!Wonder if they ever looked into their own souls!And that Rabia needed to take a stand-as they say someone who allows a crime is equally guilty!She should have seen it coming-instead she quietly acquiesced to Maryam’s horrific plan of pretending they knew nothing about Aliya’s death-that poor innocent soul!

    A tragic tale of misdirected young blood who think that looks,money,status and other superficial/material possessions are more important and makes one superior than inner qualities-so sad!An amazingly well told told tale Zainab 🙂

    • Yes girls can be really cruel sometimes. I wonder what happens when they grow up and have children of their own. What do they teach them?
      Thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment.

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