Her back ached, but it was nothing, she told herself. The children were playing outside, and they had to be fed. You must never let your children starve, no matter what else is happening around you. She stirred in the large pot and monitored the oven. It would be soup tonight, with freshly baked bread. The bones danced in the boiling water as the bubbles escaped from the bottom. She added a few herbs to improve the flavour. The bread was simple. Flour she had managed to get at the market, a little salt, water and an egg. It was all she needed. All she had.
Her husband would be home soon. It was hard to say when, it depended on his work. He did well for himself and his family, helping international organisations and making reasonable pay. They got by and that was all you could ask for. After witnessing people suffering, their oldest daughter was determined to become a doctor. How proud could a mother be? The two younger kids looked up to her and said they wanted to become doctors too, or firefighters, because that was really important. Maybe nurses to help the wounded or maybe politicians to stop the suffering.
They were darlings, and they would be fine. She hoped.
The soup was ready. She went to the door and called the children. Smiling, they came inside, one after the other. Where is daddy, they asked? He will be home soon, she told them.
The youngest ran to his room to get a toy, returned to the kitchen. Where are my bedsheets, he asked? You will all be sleeping with us, she replied. They asked why, and she just smiled. Didn’t want to tell them that if they died, they would die together so that no one would have to mourn the others. They would live together or die together.
The woman filled bowls with soup and put the bread on the table. Leave one for your daddy, she told the kids. He will be hungry when he gets home. She sat down at the table, smiling at her three children. Hoped desperately that their dreams would come true. That they would live to see their dreams realised.
They spoke of the day. A building collapsed a few blocks away. They say old Mustafa was dead. He was attending his vegetable garden when a bomb hit. Why would anyone want him dead? He never harmed anyone. He never made any money off his produce because he kept giving his vegetables away. No matter how life treated him, someone else had it worse and he couldn’t bare to see others starve. His death didn’t make any sense.
The oldest daughter had visited the hospital earlier in the day, seen people covered in blood. She hadn’t cried or fainted. They had told her this was no place for kids but she was twelve and she could handle it and insisted on helping. And she did. After spending a couple of hours there and helping the medical staff, she left. But only after being told she was a very brave girl and that they would love to help her with her study and that she would become a fine doctor some day.
Her mother smiled, and they ate in silence.
It was almost six, and he always tried to be home by six. He rushed down the street and crossed an intersection. He passed a building, the side collapsed, the structure barely standing. It was too common. Too many buildings were damaged or turned to rubble. He held a small box in his hand, made sure not to drop it. A precious thing he’d acquired from the news reporters. It would be a gift to his wife. He was almost running. Turning a corner, he entered their street. Smiling, he felt his heart beating. He wished for this whole thing to be over, for them to have a normal life. The gift was a token of a better future. She would love it.
Something flew over him. He looked up. A black object moving faster than anything. The flash blinded him. The noise was deafening. He was thrown onto the street, dust and rubble raining on him. Every bone in his body hurt, and it was hard to stand up, but he had no choice. He put his hand on his face, looked at the red palm of his hand, knew he was bleeding, but it didn’t matter. He rushed towards the collapsed ruins of a house. Cried her name. Threw stones to one side. Called for her again. Only silence.
It took them two days to recover the bodies.
His family was gone. His life was gone. Only revenge remained.
This is the twentieth installment in the Moments series