Girl with a Broken Smile – Short Story
By: Syeda Samara Mortada
She walks by memories of her past. She has gone through plenty in her twenty something years. Her childhood was pretty perfect, at least it seemed like it at that point. She had it all: a doting dad, a mother to spoil her rotten and a sister to look after all her wants and needs. She smiles at her own image, the image of her when she was seven years old, but it is a broken smile for sixteen years later reality came crashing down on her as she finally realized that the life she had lived was a lie; her parents weren’t the Angelic couple she had imagined them to be, they were just ordinary with limitations and temptations like normal people. And they failed to provide her with the support and care when she needed them the most because they were too busy prioritizing their own needs over hers. The next clip of her is when she is thirteen years old. She, along with her sister and mother has switched countries. Finally she is in her homeland but it doesn’t feel like home for she has never lived here. She cannot fit into this alien terrain. Everyone seems to be busy with something or the other, mostly doing unnecessary deeds, talking ill about everyone, poking their pointy noses in matters that don’t concern them. She stays silent, observing and brooding. Finally, she opens up, handpicks some friends and clings on to them. She tries, and copes. Her family of three has adjusted well into their newly found surroundings. They miss her dad, but reality bites keep them afar. Fast forward another ten years, she finds out that her dad had hurt her sister badly, and also the adolescent girl who worked for them. Her sister had kept this a secret her entire life, didn’t tell a single soul about it, probably not admitting it to herself even, out of guilt or maybe shame. And one fine day as a grown woman, mother of two, when she caught her dad off-guard, the past splashed onto her. She does not know how to cope with this new piece of unsettling information, doesn’t know how to feel, think, let alone live. The world is a lie, she says, where her protector became the perpetrator. The next clip of her is when she is twenty five years old, she has gotten over all of life’s harsh realities and found her knight in shining armour. He is everything her dad isn’t; fun loving, sharp and witty. He dotes on her and fulfills her every wish, never letting a tear drop from her eye. She has found her soul-mate and counts her lucky stars every night. He is the one she wants to marry. This isn’t going to be easy, this hasn’t happened in her family before. Despite what it maybe, her family has a “status” that they need to uphold in front of society. He isn’t rich or famous and hence no matter what, will remain an inadequate match for her, or rather her family. So she thinks and she plans; tells them about him bit by bit. Everyone is accepting although condescending. But she knows he is the only window through which she can find happiness, her only chance at survival, of believing in life again, and maybe even a bit of love. So she fights, fights with her loved ones, fights with society and holds his hand, dreaming of a better tomorrow, someone to walk by her through tough patches and roads narrow. But things change, just like it did when she was thirteen and twenty-three. He hits her once, she is scared, shocked but eventually forgives him. Then he hits her again and again and then starts abusing her and exploiting her body at every opportunity he gets. She chokes back angry tears, for he still can’t stand them on her, and pretends to fall asleep every night. But she wakes up, in the wee hours of dawn, with bruised eyes and bluer emotions to find him entering her and using her like a piece of old rotten cloth. So she runs, runs as far and fast as she can, from him and from her past, like there is a dearth of time, looking back only to make sure she has not left footprints behind. He has destroyed the little bit of self-esteem and confidence that was left in her, dragged away the last breath that barely kept her alive. She feels like she no longer belongs in this world, like she has no one to count on, no shoulder to cry on, for she had left her family behind long ago; the family that disappointed her, yet stood by her in their own farcical ways. Now, as she walks alone and looks at her image, the image of a twenty something girl, there is only one thing left of her, her broken smile, the same unchanged smile of when she was seven, unharmed, unaware and ready to take on the world with open arms.