Seasoned

Standard

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.