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”.

The Menace of Advancement

There was a time when things were different. Samina wondered where that time went. When there were no mobile phones and social networking services and people just sat face to face to talk to each other. Nowadays these young people didn’t have time for anything. Just rushing about everywhere glued to their mobile phones. Texting had replaced real conversations. And the children were even worse. Instead of playing outside they were playing those dastardly games on their iPads.

Samina adjusted the chair in front of her and put her legs up so that the sunshine would warm them. Her doctor had told her that she needed Vitamin D and the sun helped produce it in the body. She put the newspaper to one side and looked around. The gardener was completely useless and the garden looked a mess. How she wished she had more energy to do it herself. She would show him how to look after a garden. She remembered how she had won first prize in the “Best Garden” competition and she had been too shy to collect the prize. Instead Ahmed had collected in on her behalf. What a wonderful time that was. When husbands would come home from work much before night fell. And these young ones today; they seemed to spend half the night at work. They didn’t know how unhealthy it was for them and their families.

Samina wondered what Ahmed would have thought of this new lifestyle. It probably was good that he didn’t live to see this day. She remembered how he would make sure that all the children sat together at meal times and recounted their day. Nowadays everyone had their own timings and nobody sat together. There was one eating in front of the TV, another one in her room and the youngest just ate like a bird.

Just then her oldest granddaughter came sobbing into the porch “Oh Grandma, my life is over!”

Drama, there was too much of it these days.

“What happened, dear?”

“It’s Imran, I’ve had it with him. I never want to see him again.” Imran was her fiancé of ten days.

“What did he do? He’s such a nice young man.”

“He told me that my new hair style doesn’t suit me. If he’s not going to support me in my decisions what kind of life will we have?”

There was too much contact these days between the couple before their wedding. Samina remembered how she had seen Ahmed for the first time on their engagement and the second time on their wedding. Still they had spent a wonderful 52 years together.

“I’m sure he didn’t say it like that. And please dear, don’t jump to conclusions over such a small matter”.

“Oh Grandma, you don’t understand!” wailed the distraught young girl and went back inside the house.

Yes it was true, thought Samina, she didn’t understand this young lot at all. They didn’t have the resilience and tolerance that she had as a young wife. Of course there were going to be problems but you were supposed to stick together and solve them, not just quit on each other.

With the sun shining on her and a breeze blowing across the garden, Samina had begun to feel sleepy. “I’ll just have a quick nap before afternoon tea” she thought to herself.

She dreamed she was sitting on a boat in a lake full of lotus flowers. She was drifting without any paddles when she saw Ahmed on the shore. Her heart skipped a beat. She wanted to row towards him but she didn’t have any paddles. He was waving and smiling from the shore. She used her hands to steer the boat towards the shore. Ahmed held out his hand to her.

“Grandma isn’t waking up!” shouted the little boy clutching an iPad in one hand. “Mummy, come quickly”.


This story has been written for the Speakeasy #147 in which the first line was given as “There was a time when things were different.” and reference was to be given to the photo prompt (two parrots).

Fateful Friday (Short Story)

The pale thin man with glasses sat on the table near the road reading a newspaper. As I brought him his tea I glanced at the headlines “Bomb kills 40, injures 85”. “Another bomb” I thought, “Another bomb taking lives, ripping families apart.”

I must have lingered there longer than usual because the man put down the paper and looked at me. “What’s your name?” he asked. He had a kind voice.

“Sher Khan” I told him.

“Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“I study in the evening shift and work in the morning” I answered him.

“Good, study hard and do something worthwhile for your country.” I smiled weakly. That’s what my father used to tell me.

I cleaned up the empty tables and waited for more customers. After I finished my work I asked my boss for some money as I wanted to call home. My boss liked to act tough but he was actually a big man with a soft heart.

I remember when I came to him for a job he had only managed to ask one question “Where is your father?” When he had heard my answer he didn’t ask any more questions, instead he told me to come the next day sharp at 8am. I had been working with him ever since.

He gave me the money to call home but told me he was noting it down and would cut it from my pay. In the six months I had been with him he had always paid my salary in full.

I called home and my younger sister picked up the phone. Whenever I would phone she would scream in excitement “It’s Sheru Bhai, it’s Sheru Bhai” and hand the phone to my mother. My mother asked me her usual questions about whether I was eating well and looking after myself. I asked if Bano and Umer Khan were doing well in their studies. Satisfied that all was well, I hung up.

I arrived at my aunt’s house for lunch before going for my classes. She was talking to her youngest daughter and was laughing. She looked so much like my father especially when she laughed.

I remember my father laughing like that when I came first in an English speech contest in school. Some parents used to say it was favoritism because my father was the principal of the school but he knew how hard I had worked. My father used to play a game with me to improve my English. He would look up a difficult word from the dictionary and explain to me the meaning, then ask me to use it in a sentence.

“Sher Khan, have your food, what are you thinking?” My aunt’s voice shook me out of my reverie.

“It’s getting late, it’s Friday today, you have to go for prayers.” Her voice quivered as she said the last word.

I had forgotten it was Friday and this surprised me, because how could I forget the consequences a certain Friday had on my life 5 years ago?

I had fever and a bad cough and my mother had refused to send me with my father for prayers. “Please, Ammi let me go, I’m OK” I insisted. I loved going with my father everywhere especially for prayers. I would hang around with him afterwards when he talked with the others. Lately the talk had become very serious about the worsening law and order situation.

“You can wait for your father here but you can’t go” my mother had told me sternly.

I sat there and waited, but he never came back.


This story has been written for The Speakeasy #146 where the last line had to be “I sat there and waited, but he never came back.” and some reference was to be given to the video clip C is for Contrafibularity.


Fair and Lovely (short story)

I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness. I used to spend all my pocket money on beauty creams promising to lighten my skin tone. But unlike those girls I saw on TV in “Fair and Lovely” ads I would not transform into a white beauty in 14 days. Not even in a month.

I was the only sister of 4 brothers. My brothers would tease me calling me a “Kali Bhutni” (black demon) and tell me that no man would ever love me. I would tease them back by telling them that their wives would refuse to cook their food in fear of spoiling their white hands.

I would often hear my mother talking to my father about me in the courtyard at night. “What will we do? Who will marry her?” she would say to which my father would reply “Why? She’s educated and talented, any man would be lucky to have her.” I loved my father more than anyone in the world but my mother was right. Many women from nearby villages who were hoping to find a daughter in law would come to our house since my father was well known and respected in the village. But when they would see me they would leave in a hurry giving some excuse or the other. Soon I stopped coming in front of these women even though my mother kept harassing me.

My father used to play cards with his friends every Friday afternoon after prayers. My mother thought it was all a waste of time, but my father saw no harm in it. They played without money and it was just a chance to sit together and gossip about the village happenings. My brothers would watch them in the courtyard and I would peek out of my room much to my mother’s annoyance.

It was one such afternoon that I saw him for the first time. He had come with his father and was watching them play and listening to their gossip. His smiling face lit up my heart and when he said something to his father I strained my ears to hear his voice. When someone made a joke and everyone laughed, he laughed with them and my heart skipped a beat. I think it was when I was trying to compose myself when my younger brother noticed me staring at the stranger.

“Apa Bhutni what’s going on?” smirked my brother. “Shut up Abrar” I said and quickly went inside my room, shutting the door. That evening I wrote my first poem. I had tried many times before but I think I had lacked inspiration. Now my feelings flowed into words and my words took flight like butterflies in the wind.

A few days later I caught my younger brother stealing from my mother’s jar of change. I didn’t rat on him, instead I asked him for a favor. “Do you remember that young man who came with Chacha Rashid? Just give him something and I won’t tell Ammi what you were doing”.

The next Friday afternoon as I was peeking out of my room I was sure Haider (for that was his name) glanced towards me. I darted inside and prayed that he had not seen me for I was sure that if he would see me he would never want to talk to me. That evening Abrar brought me a message from him. My hands shook as I opened the piece of paper.

It simply said: “You are as beautiful as your words.”


This short story has been written for The Speakeasy #145 where the first line had to be “I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.” and some reference was to be given to the art prompt, a painting entitled The Card Players.

A Shoulder to Cry On (Short Story)

It has always been Mom for me out there. Whenever I needed comfort or encouragement it was her I turned to. When she held me in her soft hands and looked at me with her kind, gentle eyes, I knew everything would be alright.

Sure Dad was there but he was too busy working and I didn’t see much of him. Even when he retired he would be immersed in his books and we didn’t really connect much.

When I topped in my class in high school it was my Mom I first came to with the news. When my girlfriend told me she was moving away I wept on my Mom’s shoulder like a baby. She always had words to comfort me and to make me feel hopeful again. When I was stuck in some writing assignment I would look to her for inspiration.

I got my first job and moved into an apartment nearby. I don’t know who needed who more but I had to stay close to her. I would see her every day on my way home from work or call her if I got late.

I started to notice small changes in her. We would be talking about someone who lived in our neighborhood and was moving away and she couldn’t remember her name even though she had been a good friend. Or we would be remembering the holidays we took together and she couldn’t recall where it was that we were in a boat on a river.  I talked to Dad about it but he just told me it happens with age. But I was worried. I took her to a doctor and they did some tests. They told me what I had dreaded all along, that it was Alzheimer’s and it was just going to get worse.

The pace with which she deteriorated frightened me. She would have mood swings and not recognize people who would call her. She had trouble writing and reading. Dad was there with her but he had his own health problems. I was scared that she would soon not be able to look after herself. I knew how frustrating it was for her. She had always been a strongly independent woman.

One day I was getting late at office and she called me. “Is everything OK?” I asked her. I quickly wound up my work and headed for home. She was sitting in the lounge with the excited look of a child. The place was decorated with a banner and balloons and my favorite chocolate and mocha cake was sitting on the table. I couldn’t believe she had remembered my birthday when she was forgetting so many important things. “Some things can’t be forgotten” she told me in reply to the surprised look on my face. We ate cake and she badgered me about getting married and giving her grandchildren and for a while everything was like normal again.

She died a few days later quietly in her sleep. She didn’t wait to be dependent on anyone. I wished she had waited for her grandchildren. I’ll always regret that I couldn’t give her that.


This story is in response to The Speakeasy #144. The challenge was to write fiction or poetry and include the sentence “Some things can’t be forgotten” and a reference to the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I referred to the lyrics of the song “Picture yourself in a boat on a river” in my story.

Beauty and the Beast (Short Story)


There was a crash in the hallway. The little boy went running out of the house shouting “It was an accident, it was an accident!” He ran through the gate without looking back.

His aunt was the strictest woman he had ever encountered and Ali had never been more scared of anyone in his life. He hated coming to visit her but his father had insisted that the beauty of the place she lived in, more than made up for any sternness on his sister’s part.

When at last he was too tired to run anymore, he stopped and looked around.

This place was more beautiful than any he had ever seen. There were slopes of green grass with bright flowers and fruit trees as far as the eye could see. Red and purple spotted butterflies danced over the flowers. Each slope had a stream of sparking clear water with orange and yellow fish swimming in it and occasionally jumping up as if to admire the scenery. The air was fresh with a lingering fragrance of fruit and flowers.

The serenity of the place did not betray the dangers lurking within.

Ali picked a juicy red apple from a tree nearby and began to devour it.

Meanwhile a search party consisting of his parents, his aunt and her driver had already begun to look for him. “There are wolves out there at night” his aunt had warned his father, “We have to find him before dark”.

It was some time before Ali realized that he was completely lost. He had done some exploring before on his previous visit but he had never ventured this far before. “Never mind” he thought to himself, “I’ll live here forever. There’s enough fruit and water. I won’t go hungry”.

When the search party found him a few hours later, he was lying fast asleep in thick green grass with a pile of apple cores and orange peels next to him.

“Oh Ali, you gave us a scare!” said his mother hugging him.

“Never do that again, young man” said his father.

“I’m sorry” said Ali with sleepy eyes. “And I’m sorry Aunt Wajiha for breaking your vase.”

“It was just a cheap copy I bought in a sale Ali, do you know there are wolves in these parts at night?”

On their way back home Ali couldn’t help but thinking about what his aunt had told him. Is that where he had seen her sneaking off to one night? Is that why she lived here far away from civilization? And is that why she was so mean? Ali wondered if he had inherited any of her werewolf blood. Suddenly he felt excited about the rest of his holidays.