As the mourners left, Basheera became aware of the sound of crying. She looked around at the other members of her family, there was no one else left except the three of them. Her husband and sister stood silently by her side, lost deep in thought. She felt a bit confused, where was the sound coming from? As they all stood behind the little wall that looked into the graveyard, she heard it again. It sounded like a cat, or a young child crying. She looked at the shrinking figure of her niece's back, as hand in hand she walked away with her father, Basheera's brother Benaris. Basheera called out to him, 'Is Shahin okay?'
He turned and nodded as he shouted back, 'Yes, she is. She's fine.' He paused and then just before he turned away, he shouted, 'We'll see you back at home in a bit? Make sure you leave on time, or you'll get stuck in the city centre. Make sure you take the Old-heath route.'
Basheera nodded and was calmed by the face of her niece as she too looked back towards her. She seemed quiet but didn't look to be crying or overly upset. Then she turned her face away and both father and daughter walked to their car. Basheera turned to look back at the grave again.
It was a sad occasion but it felt peaceful. Though they were upset that their beloved aunt would never again be present at their family gatherings, her death was actually a relief. It had been a bitter experience
to watch her wilt before their very eyes- suddenly her thoughts were interrupted,
there it was again, that sound.
She turned to look at her husband and sister who stood alongside her,
'Did you hear that?' She asked them both, feeling irritated, she felt she was imaging it but they both stared back at her and nodded.
'I thought it was Shahin...' she started and let the words hang, as the sound was heard again.
'I just heard it now,' replied her sister Laila, 'it sounds like an injured animal or something, maybe it's a cat?'
'Yes, it probably is,' her husband said in a quiet voice, 'Come on,
we'd better get going, we don't want to get stuck in traffic, they'll all be waiting for us at the house.'
'No, let's just see what it is first Raheem,' she said as she started
to walk around the graveyard, towards a group of trees behind it. 'Maybe we
could help it? I hate the idea of walking away from an injured animal.'
'You're just wasting time Basheera, even if it is hurt, what can we
do about it? There will be people waiting for us to return...' His voice trailed off and he didn't finish the sentence but he didn't walk away
Basheera felt a stab of pain, as she started walking towards the
trees, scanning the ground as she did so. His aunt had been the
closest thing that he'd ever had to a mother. She felt that familiar pang as her own pain resurfaced. Eighteen years of marriage and
endless bouts of expensive treatments and still no child to show for
it. It felt like her heart was being eaten by little maggots from
within because she knew that being an only child, he had been desperate
to start a family, right from the beginning of their marriage. She felt
like such a flawed and useless woman. Though it had felt like she'd
been slicing her own heart up, she had encouraged him to get remarried.
It was allowed. She didn't want to share him with anyone but she
couldn't live with the idea that her inadequacy was stopping him from having the one thing that he'd always wanted, a family of his own.
'He's right Sheera- come on, you're just wasting time- they'll all be
waiting!' Laila said, not bothering to conceal the irritation in her
voice. This was just typical, she could just never understand why it
was so hard for Sheera to turn away from a needy situation. Other
people would run a mile but Sheera was such a sucker, she could never say
no, or walk away. No wonder her husband was potty about her. Though they'd had their share of heartache, Laila often wondered if Shira knew just how lucky she was to have a man like that. She wished her husband was like. She often thought that it was perhaps because Raheem didn't have any family of his own that he was so good to Sheera and all her relatives.
Basheera was lost in her own thoughts as she made he way to the clump of trees. She had made her mind up. Even though he had resisted it so
much, she was adamant, today she was going to go back to the house and
insist that he find someone else to marry. If need be, she would help
him to find the new co-wife. She had made up her mind about it but that didn't
stop her from wanting to go and hide somewhere and cry for a long time.
As she moved towards the back of one of the trees, she suddenly jumped
back, startled at the sight of a stray dog eating something from the
ground. Her husband and sister had both been watching her and started
to walk towards her,
'What is it?' Raheem asked her.
'Nothing, it's just a dog, it was eating something from the ground, I didn't expect to see it.' She answered him.
'What kind of dog is it?' Asked Laila.
'I don't know, a big skinny dog but it's run off now.' Replied Basheera.
'Okay, lets go then, that's all it probably was then.' Her sister
said, as she began to walk away, 'Come on, let's go, they'll be loads of people waiting for us!'
'Yes, come on.' Said Raheem quietly, as he turned to walk away too.
'No, let me just see what it was eating,' Basheera said, 'then I'll come.'
They both stopped and watched he walk out of sight behind the tree.
She thought she saw movement on the ground, there was rubbish mixed
in between the dead leaves and the mud. An old crisp packet, a plastic
bag and tawdry coloured packaging. She used her foot to move the debris
Suddenly, she screamed and fell to ground, sobbing, 'Oh my God! Oh dear God!'
Raheem and Laila both dashed frantically the few yards towards her and skidded to a
halt behind her. she was crouching on the ground and trying to lift
something, as they both peered over her head to get a better look, she
said, 'Oh dear God! It's a baby! A baby! The dog was eating it's hand!'
Incredulous and shocked, they stood and watched in horror as she picked up the child. They watched in silence but then Laila started to sob and then Raheem too, as they saw her lift a naked, bruised and barely breathing baby. It
was hard to tell if he was a few hours, or a few days old. His skin was
peeling and his body bruised and grey. His hand was bleeding and the skin shredded and
pulped, from where the dog had been eating him, he half opened his big eyes.
'Quickly! Quickly! We must get him to a hospital!' Her husband
shouted, 'Ya Allah! What kind of people can do this?!' His voice broke with anguish. So many years, they had cried just to be able to hold a child like this and yet someone had thrown this brand new life away as if it was garbage.
Dazed and sobbing, Basheera held the child to her chest, she could
hear his rasping breath and as she held him close, she once again heard
the whimpering cry she had heard before. She felt herself overwhelmed in a way that she had never experienced before. She could not think straight but she knew that she never let go of this child.