I could hear everything happening downstairs. Mother knocked on my door, grabbed my hand and together we scurried past the tiny corridor in our townhome and into the master bedroom. I walked across the carpet stained with soda marks and over to my siblings who were already cowering in the corner of the room. Mother locked the door behind me. It was a push button lock and she kept her thumb pressed against the button to prevent him from breaking in.
I suddenly heard a shrill cry coming up from beneath the floor. Amidst all the chaos I didn’t realize one sibling was missing. I can count the number of times I really wanted to access that forest green living room couch. This was one of them. I pleaded with my mother to let me go downstairs and rescue my sister, but she wouldn’t allow it, screeching that if he saw me, we would all be in trouble. My little brother had his palms pressed to his ears to mute the deafening mesh of our voices. He removed them momentarily and said in his small, raspy voice, “She was reading the Qur’an and Papa was calling her fat and ugly! He was pinching her thighs and tummy.” Our father had provoked my little sister and she had snapped back at him, retorting that she wasn’t fat and that he was instead. He had quickly gotten up and with clenched fists and a vicious glare, hovered menacing over her. That’s when my mother ushered everyone up the stairs.
After the storm passed, I made my way down the steps to the living room. It was as if our toys had fought a brutal rebellion. Casualties of dinosaurs and action figures lay sprawled across the room. Books and papers were strewn everywhere. I saw the thrown Qur’an resting open-faced on our forest green couch and I picked it up to see which page it was opened to. I silently mouthed the verse before me. “Verily, with every hardship there comes ease” (94:6). I closed it and traced the golden embossed calligraphy on the cover with my trembling fingers. The ornate, gilded cover belied the wisdom this precious book held within its verses. I pressed the Qur’an against my forehead and kissed it gently before placing it on the third shelf from the top, the highest one I could comfortably reach at that age.
My little sister sat slumped against the wall. She was hiccupping, working hard to slow down her furious breathing. I collapsed on the ground in front of her. I studied her glassy doe eyes with their long lashes, wet with tears. She looked hauntingly ethereal. I tucked her tear-soaked hair behind her georgette hijab. He would never break her no matter how long this vile sequence ensued. He would not break any of us.
Samara Yusuf is a law student.