Muna left the apartment she shared with her daughter Bilqis just five minutes before the start of curfew. This was not the first time that Muna, in her way, did something to challenge the organism of their government. She had done far worse than break curfew, but Bilqis didn’t know this. An unspoken understanding existed between the mother and daughter, wherein Bilqis wouldn’t ask the difficult probing questions, and Muna wouldn’t lie.
The understanding had been a comfortable one, until this night.
The message came through on Muna’s wrist-com, the blue light blinking like a tiny strobe, and as usual Muna took the message in another room, leaving Bilqis to finish her dinner alone. She hated doing that but it was necessary if Bilqis was going to maintain her precious blissful ignorance. Not that Muna wanted her daughter to be the kind of person who consciously filtered the obvious, the ugly, the tragic realities of the world they inhabited in favor of self-imposed fantasy, but Bilqis wasn’t prepared and Muna couldn’t fight that.
The call was from Sister Mary, abbess of the convent of the Church of the Blessed Maidens. They’d been friends for years, although in disagreement about how to approach the new ordinances that were systematically closing all the houses of worship.
At least until now.
“The sisters are scattered, living wherever they can find a parishioner brave enough to take them in. Three of the sisters slept in the park last night.” Sister Mary’s voice faded into pained sobs. “I don’t know what to do?”
“I do.” Muna lowered her voice an octave, kept her emotions in check. “I can help you find a place for the sisters. I can help you make things right.”
“But I don’t…”
Voice lower still, “Are you prepared to do what you never thought you could?” Jaw clentched, Muna waited for her friend to do what they had all done at some time in the past, resign herself to the truth, that there were more ways to make a point than talking, that only the merciful heeded begging. Expulsion would happen to them all soon enough. The manner of worship, the name of faith was irrelevant. As much as she hated to hear that the sisters were expulsed from their home, their place of worship gutted, twelve fresh and able bodies and minds would soon be added to their numbers, refreshing the resistance.
Muna returned to the kitchen, bag slung across her body and scarf in hand. “I have to go out,” she announced as she as she forked a last bit of potato and onion into her mouth.
“It’s late. It’s nearly time for the curfew,” said Bilqis.
“It can’t be helped,” said Muna wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
“Where are you going?”
Bilqis had never asked before and the question caused Muna to pause in her actions momentarily. “To help a friend,” she said expertly wrapping the scarf around her head and shoulders.
“Can’t you go in the morning after curfew has lifted?” Bilqis stared up at her mother. “I’ve heard that these days the Authority are doing more than fining people for breaking curfew.”
“I know what the Authority is capable of but I am not going to be intimidated into not living my life.” Muna considered her daughter for several seconds. She considered telling her daughter the truth. At twenty-six years old, wasn’t Bilqis now seasoned enough in the ways of the world, their tenuous existence, to finally know the truth. This is what she’d always wanted, for her daughter to join her in the fight, for her daughter to want to fight. “And neither should you.” Muna turned to leave. “Don’t wait up for me.”
Bilqis followed Muna to the door. “Where you’re going, will you be safe?”
Muna frowned. “What does it mean to be safe in fifth ward?” When Bilqis failed to respond, Muna smiled. “Don’t worry, okay? Nothing is going to happen. Besides I know how to take care of myself.”
Muna hoped she was telling the truth.
A short written in connection with my current WIP The Hinterlands: Bilqis for Sunday Scribblings. Todays’s word is Seasoned.