I Love Him! by Kenza Salmi

"Forgive me!" Ahmed cried out in pain while clinching into Aisha's hands begging her to stay.

Aisha’s skin had changed from beautiful light brown color into a complete tenebrous shade of darkness. Her brown almond eyes along with her long eyelashes had all withered away; that special piece of life within them was gone. Aisha had always been special, very tall, 
I Love Him!
I Love Him! by Kenza Salmi

very slim, but today, after seeing her today, she looked like a flattened bag of bones. It was months ago; my mom had called me worried that Aisha “started cutting off her hair!”. And since then her soft attractive feminine facial features began to change. She was still beautiful with her little full lips and perfect shaped nose. She was always gorgeous in a natural way; rarely relying on makeup. She was a woman with a big heart, kind spirit, and a sharp mind, she had an unbelievable passion for learning; she was it, my younger sister, an educated beautiful woman.

Now we were watching her dying. For a moment everybody ceased making any kind of sound. Her eyes were closed and her mouth gradually commenced to be opened. She looked cold like the snow that unexpectedly devoured a little flower. Aisha stopped moving and when I listened to what I thought was her last breath, I quickly glanced away from the direction my tears would fall, while my mom had now approached her, hugging her dead body and screaming in agony.

Mohammed our brother stood up and walked outside to the balcony, like an auditory impaired pillar, he stood still, looking back at her, until, he opened his mouth to an unstoppable cry of the loudest tears I had ever heard; my father placed his hands over his face; crying and praying over her. Everything was disoriented, bitter and cold. Everything had changed; no one could comprehend what was going anymore, why did she have to die? Abdullah, Aisha’s husband, was also in agony holding the arms of his mother Amal.

It was also a few months ago that I had heard that Amal, Abdullah's mother, started taking care of their son, Youcef, for more than eight months when Aisha's situation was beginning to get worse…





All at once her chest spammed as she coughed rising and falling, then again, before slightly grabbing our mother; with the last of her breath she said;

"There is no god but God; Mohammad is the messenger of God!” and with that, she died.

And never again did she move. Nor would I ever hear her voice again!

Yet the only thing I could remember was, how she kept saying, "I love him, mama!” but I never understood what she meant.

My mom would begin to cry loudly whenever Aisha admitted that; I never understood why.

No one knew who that guy was; the guy Aisha loved. Maybe it was her husband Abdullah, but why didn’t she say his name?

Days had passed after Aisha’s death, and mom began accusing Ahmed for what had happened; “she is right he was the one who ruined her”. But something was not right; I knew there was more to Aisha’s story. A few days before she died, she asked for me, while under critical condition, she wanted to tell me something in private; something important.

“What is this, Aisha?”

"Sarah; keep this book, my diary, don't show it to anyone!''; she said hardly.

It took me five years to read Aisha's diary as at first I was hesitant that she may not like me when I read it, but then I remembered that she gave it deliberately to me. This meant that she trusted me, even when I read it; her story would remain a secret forever. Honestly, I was really eager to know the reasons that led her to stop eating and to start crying every single day. If I remember correctly it was all after returning back from New York; refusing to marry Abdullah, losing hope in everything after marriage, and deciding not to consult a doctor when she got sick even her son was not a strong impulse for her to survive.

I was kneeling in front of Aisha's grave; this time I persistently stared at the grave, every single second I shared with her passed across my mind; I genuinely couldn't make the tears stop, and my regrets about when I didn’t help her and stay with her the time she needed me the most started hurting me. I was replaying every memory and every event we had together. I was fragile; breaking at the simple touch my hand made with the ground. I was reading her name on the grave again and again because till now I don’t believe that she is my sister who's lying down calmly without making noise; without calling me,

"Hey; fat lady!"

I was crying and sobbing; gulping for breath. Unintentionally, I found myself hugging the grave like if it was a dear person that I needed their hug for so long. The tears ran down my face and fell into the dust of her grave. Everything seemed dark, frighteningly eerie, and dreadful, but the time I hugged her grave I felt a sense of serenity and tranquility that I had not felt for ages. I was telling her about everything that had happened after her death;





"Youcef is studying now; our dad said that he has the same passion for learning as you had; his eyes are magnificent bright and round…Your husband Abdullah hasn't known any woman as far as I know… but I myself got a baby girl; I named her Aisha…Ahmed our brother has gotten married, mostly because our parents wanted that; he has suffered a lot after your death as he took all the blame on himself…Mohammed traveled to France since he found a good job there''; my voice trembled; I was still in pain.





Suddenly, I stopped talking; wishing she wouldn’t ask about our parents who entered a gloomy space to live in after her death. They are living in deep sadness, day and night, also feeling guilt for her death; praying constantly for her.





I was holding her diary; contemplating again and again whether I should read it, and looking at its cover on which the name; "Alex" was written hundred times; the eagerness and curiosity had finally killed me.





"I need to know what happened to you, Aisha"; I said seriously.





After a while, I opened her red book quickly; and started reading it with the soft voice I use when I read stories for my daughter before she sleeps at night;





April 22, 2012

…I am holding my photo album; my memories are playing before my eyes as though those events occurred only a few days ago. I really want to get back those days again; I would reorder many things the way I want. The only thing that made me cry was when I didn't find my cat that I had for a pet. My family gave me whatever I wanted when I was a kid, but they deprived me of the thing that I really desired when I grew up; they don't know that I really wish they had given me nothing except the one I wanted five years ago.





Here is my picture when I was six years old with my family in a garden; I thought that life is a heaven, but when I got older I discovered that it is not. This garden is located in a city we used to visit every summer; it is a city full of magic and wonder; it is full of my childhood memories. On the picture; my parents, my sister, Sarah, and my brothers, Ahmed and Mohammed, look tidy and organized; they were smiling as though they were enjoying sitting on the paradise's rivers. But I was crying; tears are crystal clear on my rosy cheeks. I had never cried that hard before till I reached my twenties.





"Forget about her; now! I promise I will take you wherever you want and allow you to be with anyone you want to be with!" Daddy promised me kindly.





I was crying because of a little girl I knew there; her parents visited that garden too, we played together for long hours; I liked her a lot. Since she was the only little kid I played with, I didn’t want her to go. So when her parents decided to get back home, I cried for hours till I received my dad's promise which turned me into a happy, peaceful and a relaxed little butterfly. My father didn't tell me that this promise won't last forever.





I am looking at another picture of myself; the first day I started studying. I was seven years old when my father got me admitted in a local school; back then I loved my school, my teacher, and I had a special love and incredible passion for learning. After thirteen years, I got my Baccalaureate exam with a high degree. After a long discussion, my family accepted and decided to send me to New York to continue studying there.





I was twenty years old when I left my family; moving to another country for the sake of learning, and getting a high grade. I was an ambitious girl who dreamt of being a social activist, and to take high positions in society. I cared a lot about under-privileged people so that I was always writing about their problems; seeking the change.





April 04, 2012

These first days in New York are very difficult for me, I have felt anxious and what my school counselor considers culture shock, the idea of not having my family here; tortures me every second of the day. I feel all alone. But I always wanted to go to college on my own and live on campus. But everything was so different; people, the weather, religion, the mentality, traditions, customs, even the buildings didn’t seem like ours. At first, everything was black and white; but I didn’t care, only except for learning. I won't lie to you; I used to wear very simple black Hijabs and white scarves; I didn’t care a lot about my appearance which revealed how I saw things; black and white. For months, I forgot how to laugh, relax, and enjoy the moment.



Entry.. 06/12/2012

I was the only Muslim girl in my class, but, honestly, most of my classmates respected me and I did so in return. But it was that guy, named Alex, this American guy who respected me a lot; I noticed him writing poems and short stories. He is a very kind, caring and ambitious guy who believes in god and in himself. But it turns out he is a Catholic guy!!!





Special Entry 07/12/2012

There was just something different about this boy. He was an enigma, whom I willed to understand, intricate as a riddled poem, ominous as the roaring sea. His own ocular perceivers told a tale more preponderant than any story teller had written before, behind his dark cinnamon eyes was an entire macrocosm, a dimension of unknown ideas waiting to be discovered.

His face looks youthful, in addition to the beard he had over his face, his lips were chapped, his arms seem to be darker from the hours of labor, he had every instinctive interesting thing about a human being. He looked broken and would sometimes hunch his back, in a humbling way veiling the massive size of his frame. He was wise, smart, creative, funny; the only thing keeping me up at night. And I stood there pretending not to look at him, be like a bright light from the stars, he cascaded his face, and I was mesmerized, for a moment I had never optically discerned anything so ethereal like this before.





Entry Unknown





At first, I did not think we would ever talk. But we have been doing so lately! And I discovered that we have many things in common, like our personal wishes and dreams for helping people. He has been helping me a lot in improving my writing skills and in preparing presentations, but we are colleagues and writing partners; nothing more. Not one of us has said anything about the energy that surrounds us every time I’m with him.





Who knew that common thoughts, dreams, hopes, and the same passion for writing could create a long-term pain for both of us? A month later, the relationship between Alex and I grew glamorously. Meantime, I didn't know that I was drowning in a forbidden sea that I should have never entered.





We supported each other; both of us were kind and caring. After few days, we started meeting each other; we used our pieces of writing as an excuse to stay together for hours. But respect and estimation were the core components of our relationship. But it seemed that something was going to happen inevitably; something like getting used of each other or, what I didn't expect, falling in LOVE.





I couldn't change the clothes I used to wear; all throughout my life I would wear my black Hijabs and white scarves, even at this time, when I wanted to impress him. But it never bothered Alex, and with him, I felt at home again. I remembered how to laugh from the bottom of my heart; better than any other time, I’ve discovered that life was heaven just like I use to think about it as a child; I figured at that moment, that I was the luckiest girl in the world, but I had never forgotten who I am; a Muslim girl, till that day…





We have different religions, different cultures, and different ways of thinking. I lived in a conservative society that has specific Islamic rules to follow; no mixed beer parties, no love relationships are allowed and many other things are forbidden for us, but to Alex's society those behaviors are all considered daily habits for most people; if not all. Therefore, I was always convincing myself that I must not think of loving that man. However, Alex strongly believed that I was a blessing from god.





I had heard a lot about Muslim girls, who study in foreign countries, committing mistakes; forgetting about their religion and their families' reputation. They get rid of their Hijabs and scarves; do unacceptable things that are forbidden in Islam.





"I am not like them!";I used to say sincerely.





Everything was seductive; all the people seemed to enjoy the freedom of doing anything they wanted, but I did not want to make such mistakes besides being raised in a respectful family with a good reputation, I knew this lifestyle was only a facade. By the way, Alex and I exchanged phone numbers and started texting each other every single day. I really got used to his presence throughout the day, and at night with his short lovely messages.





One fascinating night, I became so weak; truthfully I couldn't help blushing whenever I remember what I did. At that very moment, I was listening to very emotional music while interchanging messages with him, the lights of my room were off, hearing nothing but the lyrics that were uttered by the song I was hearing and I felt nothing but my heart's tempting words; I completely neglected what my mind was saying; I could smell nothing but his strong cologne; I was flying in a breezeless sky; breathing hardly and moving dizzily. Suddenly, I wrote the following words rapidly without even thinking of the results of my craziness;

"I love you, Alex", I said frankly.

"And I love you more, Aisha", Alex replied instantly.





I don't know whether you will believe me if I tell you that I heard his soft voice while he was admitting this; but I heard his voice and breath, it was strong like a tidal wave that had fallen on me, I could feel him, closer, as he leaned down to my ear while I was lying down in my bed; I smelled his fresh sweet lemon perfume; he was there with me. I felt safe and protective in his presence as always, but as soon as he got bothered by the burdensome sound of my pounding heart inside my chest, he swiftly faded away. I tried to call him, but I couldn't because it seemed I had received a love stroke that kept me speechless.





When he had gone away; I switched off my mobile and closed my eyes wishing that I could forget what I had done. I couldn't hide the fact that I was falling head over heels for that guy, Alex was my happiness; my passion and my everything. He meant the world to me.





It was the worst night I have ever lived as I was sure that I will never be with him because female Muslims are not allowed to get married with Christians, Catholics or with a man of any other religion except male Muslims. But I was no longer that rational girl as it was too late to keep myself safe from the coming killing love waves; I had already fallen in love.





Day in and day out, we were more sensitive and romantic. We were falling in love every single day; I knew that we'll never be together. But Alex kept on saying;





"I believe that you'll be mine!"





To be honest I believed the opposite… By the way, my intuition always says what's right.





I was falling deeply in love with him; however, he was trying to be logical, so he thought that we should be friends till a year passes, in a way, he wanted to prove himself;





"Just think of me as a friend!” he would say"





I didn't expect such a message, but I was stronger than to fall onto my knees so I respected what he wanted. What hurt me at that time is that he was all “chill”; he seemed careless and that would push me to make him feel jealous a bit. I was able to change his mood and it worked, as he wanted to visit and spend time with me that whole afternoon.





"I am talking to my Algerian friend, he's passing you his greetings!"; I said intentionally.





When I started talking about my friend, who's a married man that has four children, I didn’t tell him about this; I lied to him saying he was a single man who loves me a lot;





"I'm blanking out…Aisha stop it; I'm dying… I'm really feeling jealous", he responded callously.





At that day, I imagined that he was the one who told me that he was talking to a girl;





"Ohh…I would surely hold my bags and go where he is right now and take his soul away; kill him!", I said jealously.





One day, we were in class concentrating while the teacher was explaining the lesson; unexpectedly, Alex said while gazing deeply into my eyes;





"I love you!"





I was surprised, but I couldn’t keep silent;





"I love you too!", I replied rapidly.





The teacher continued with his lecture, and our colleagues were focused on him; taking notes and asking him questions while others raised their hands for their own questions. But I couldn’t focus anymore; Alex had opened the door for a different experience inside of me. I know I can't explain what I felt towards him exactly because the words that are at my disposal are utterly unsuited for this; it's like my stomach was filled with butterflies, I felt excited and happy whenever I would see him, I seemed to have lost my appetite; I felt I was full even when I ate nothing. I can't get him out of my mind; I have never cared about anybody as I cared about him...





I was afraid that he or one of our classmates would hear me, but I murmured silently;





"I love everything about you!"





Alex was looking at me and wondering about the reasons that led me to talk to myself.





"You're making me crazy", he whispered with a big smile.





"Excuse me!'', I responded cheerfully.





"You have a gorgeous smile!'', he said calmly.





" Te amo", Alex added with bright eyes.





After a while, I replied bashfully; “Te amo mas!!!"





Neither the teacher nor our classmates noticed us; we were speaking like crazy people; we neither wrote nor understood anything that was going on, but to me, at that time, it was the most important lesson I had ever learned.





By the way; Alex is originally from Spain. He taught me many Spanish words that I will never forget, and I taught him some words in Arabic in return. Alex was so eager to learn my dialect, and he did overtime!





We would spend the whole day together, in school studying or outside roaming. I could think of nothing else but only about the things that related to him; even in class he would sit next to me. He was the first thing I would think of when I would wake up and the last thing I would think of when I would go to sleep. He was the air I needed to breath; Alex was one of my biological needs; I couldn’t imagine my days without him. He used to show me so much tenderness and kindness like my parents would give me. I was a fool for him.





The only picture I have with Alex is one we took after our first school year together, one I still have with me, even to this day. After passing our first year of school together, we were invited to a party with many of our teachers, colleagues, and other dignitaries who attended as well. We took this picture at that party; sadness is clear on our faces!





"I love him; I love him; I love him. Is it a fault to love this man", I would repeat it every night.





But then unexpected thoughts would come into my mind;





"Your religion, your family…Stop all of what you're thinking of".





Every time I looked into his eyes, I experienced real happiness; the type of happiness I never knew was possible. He is my happiness, and his happiness meant the world to me. Unfortunately, my family couldn't understand this.





I loved him a lot because of that I was afraid I would forget that I am a Muslim girl who shouldn't shake hands, shouldn't think of hugging, kissing or doing anything bigger than that. But I broke a rule that says; I shouldn't gaze into his eyes. My heart was pushing me to do crazy forbidden things…





We were alone after the party; Alex and I. We were sitting together in a garden near a lake; there were many types of trees in this garden including flower bushes and trees. It was a calm night; we were sitting on the green fresh grass; under the full moon and thousand stars that lighted our night; the flowers were dancing a particular rhythm made by the soft blowing of the wind. Both of us were quiet; my big deadly eyes were killing him and his calmness and silence were the things I loved the most about him. I couldn't say anything. I was just staring at the green grass and tall trees; I was trying to forget that I was leaving and going back home the coming day; while, Alex was looking at me deeply without trying to close his eyes.

"Alex! Let's have a walk!"I asked him randomly.





"Yes, sure!" Alex agreed while still staring at me.





It was 1:00a.m; the tree branches were slowly growing; the birds were sleeping; the sky looked like an attractive dark blue carpet which is decorated by hundred stars that appeared closer that night; the moon was bright, sparking, and gleaming. Everything seemed entrancing, peaceful, serene and tranquil. I was looking at his hand's veins silently pumping blood; trying to say a word to break up the silence. We walked for an hour without getting tired, I could feel nothing but something deep down inside of me was getting hurt, being ruined; I may say I was dying every single second. I knew it very well; I felt it deeply; it was obvious that I will never see him again; I knew it! While I was sinking in an unlimited number of thoughts, Alex said quietly;





''You look so beautiful, tonight!"





I looked at him sadly and whispered;





"Thank you!"





After a moment, I said crazily;





"Alex! Let's run!"





What a crazy request I had asked; I didn't think before asking this question. I usually make decisions so quickly; decisions that I regret at last. But, I was living different quarrels inside; my heart was saying something and my rational mind kept of reminding me of who I am because of that I asked to run; hoping that I could forget my hurting thoughts.





Alex was crazier when he accepted to run with me. The real enjoyment like that of romantic series started the moment Alex caught my hand and said bravely;





"I love you, Aisha… I really do!"





His eyes were like a knife that wounded my pure heart and convinced me that I was really in love with him.





"Stop it, Alex!"I replied seriously then turned my back to him.





I was crying inside all the previous hours, but I didn't want to show him that I was dying; I didn't want him to feel my pain, but now I could no longer hide my tears and my soreness;





"Everything I did is Haram! I'm dying slowly!"I said with teary eyes.





"Don't cry. I beg you''; he said gentlemanly.





Alex turned me and rapidly brought me to his warm embrace. Every broken piece in me was sunk into his chest; His muscles had hidden my face and took my tears away. I hoped I could ask him to not let me go; I wanted to put my arms around him, but I couldn’t. His strong arms were so protective when wrapped around my fragile body. It was the first time he pulled me so close to him. I couldn't resist what my heart was saying; I looked at him with twinkling tears falling from my eyes; wishing he could read my every want. All I wanted was for him to never stop hugging me ever. Then he pulled me softly and whispered into my ear;





"I love you!"





I could feel the life in him; the real meaning of being alive. I awkwardly remained silent, knowing that if I spoke he might stop hugging me. I was like a dead body that could not move.





After some minutes he touched my face and pull it up saying;





"I don't want you to cry. I will do anything that makes you happy. I'll always be with you".





I still like a druggie; still within this euphoria of happiness. I cried. Continuously I cried because I knew that I was not doing the right thing…





No-one of us had recognized how this could have happened. It was my first kiss. He took me out of a world where I was a dead queen who needed that kiss to get back alive, and he took me out. My heart was beating right next to his; our breaths were mixed together, his eyes sent billion arrows that shattered every single thought my mind stated, and my eyes were sending different messages sometimes they begged him to stop doing what he was doing, other times they supported him not to stop it ever.





"It's enough, Alex!"I pushed him aside.





I felt several mixed feelings; sinful, happy, regretful, guilty, confused and much more I could not understand. However, Alex looked straight into my eyes as if he wanted to say;





"I want you, girl!''





At that moment; he told me those exact words.





"I'm sorry for everything, Aisha!"





Honestly, I regretted what I had done. With a goodbye, I left him alone and I ran inside the campus building. I ran passed the garden; not looking back, passed the people that were still around, who were looking at me, but I just kept going. I kept running away from him.





I cried whenever I thought of what I had done; I couldn't even pray that night because I was so ashamed of Allah; I shouldn't have done it; till now I blame myself whenever I remember that moment.





"Why is that happening to me", I said regretfully.





I couldn't sleep the whole night; I was thinking of him every single second…





"You are unlike any girl I have ever met", were the words that would continually echoed through my head





I had to stretch my back; breathing heavily, feeling guilty, blaming myself within every pulse, I began crying whenever I thought of my family and of becoming one of those Muslim girls, who changed their personalities drastically all while studying in foreign countries. I didn't know whether the oxygen disappeared or the guilt had taken my breath away; I was thinking of the same man, but sorrowfully; thinking of my faults, of that kiss, his warm hug, and his breaths I swallowed lovingly while I was kissing him. While I hugged the pillow I remained weeping long tears just before someone who kept making repeating taps at my door.





"Who is it?" I said with a calm voice

.

"Open the door, Aisha! It's me, Alex", a lovely voice replied.





I had passed all the red limits following the instructions of my heart, but my mind decided to take action now.





"Alex! I can't…I can't open it up!"I responded to him.

Alex seemed really drunk when he called for my name but his voice remained calm;





"Aisha, Aisha…"





I stood by the door; I couldn't shed a single tear, and whispered;





"I love you, man! I love you…"





I think I felt him sitting down outside my room’s door. I could hear nothing but the sound of his voice calling my name.





After very few minutes, the sounds stopped. He couldn't say my name anymore; maybe he fainted or felt asleep or something bad happened to him. I hurried up to put on my scarf to see what had happened to him. When I opened the door I found nothing; no one was there; the lights were off; it seemed as though all people had disappeared. I forgot that I was on campus and that he couldn’t get in. Everyone inside the building had already gone to sleep. Yet I was going mad. Indeed, I was crazy for thinking of making such sins; forgetting about my religion. May Allah forgive me for what I had done!





I spent the night thinking and weeping furiously; I had never cried this hard before; preparing my luggage for the trip home, with my love made into ashes hoping for it to be taken by the wind, unknowingly that it had permanently stained my soul, my memories of Alex were memories that could not be erased, with his unique hug and sensational kiss, his witty remarks, his contagious laughter, his innocent wide yet striking eyes, his unforgettable fresh masculine perfume, and his breathtaking smile.





"I should tell him goodbye", I said sadly.





It was 6:00am when I took a shower. I wore a dark blue large Hijab and put a red scarf. It was the first time on which I change the colors of my Hijab and scarf after one long year. I wanted to show my family that I lived an exciting and happy year and that I was all right even though I felt the opposite. But the exhaustion marks were clear on my face; puffy eyes with dark grays under them, pale face, and a fragile body. I carried my bag and with a bitter smile I closed my room's door; wishing I could leave every single memory I had with Alex behind.





The first person I saw when I left campus was Alex. I don’t think he slept the whole night, his whole appearance looked exhausted and heartbroken; I never saw him this way and hated doing so. Alex still had the same clothes from the previous night, he was mumbling, not organized as he sat cornered in the party; his tie was not tightened; some of his shirt’s buttons were opened, and I noticed some dust on his trouser. Alex's hair was messy; his eyes' color changed into a red color, his face was obviously pale; he looked as fragile as autumn brown leaves. I wish I had died before I saw him this way. I was standing in front of him; looking at him miserably without saying a word;





"I don't want you to go", he finally spoke.





I couldn't look at his eyes, but now I really wish I had done so, and without gazing at him; I started walking away slowly. Unexpectedly, He held my arms saying;





"I said I don't want you to go!"





With teary eyes, I said heartbrokenly

"Do you think I want to go? Do you think I'm happy going back home? Do you think I'm not dying every single second of my life because of this?"

Then I walked away;

I was taking short steps; I really wanted him to stop me and hug me for the last time. At that particular moment; something had taken my innocence away, burning it deep inside his chest; his heart's beats were pronouncing incomprehensible words, his warm body was holding me back and forth; I could do nothing; at that very moment, I turned to a vegetable that had no will power to move; my mind stopped thinking and giving me any logical advice, we kept hugging for few minutes then I looked at him and desperately said;





"I want to go now!"





I'm sure that they were hurtful words for him, as he lowered his gaze and tried to put his hands around me, but I placed my hand between us, took my bag, and with teary eyes I ran straight inside the taxi to leave this country forever. While doing so, deep down, I wanted to stop and ask him to take me away;





''Kidnap me!"; I wanted to tell him.





Within the deepness of the pain originating inside my heart; I was really tired of all the tears and of the pain that covered every single beautiful piece inside of me…I was wrong to think that he could let me go alone because he had followed me too, so we took the same taxi to the airport.





He was dying slowly, and I was bleeding swiftly. Nothing could be heard but his long sad sighs and me; breathing with difficulty.





"I love you, Aisha!", he repeated kindly.





"Stop loving me, I beg you!'', I replied sorely.





"It's too late to say this… I beg you back to let me love you'', he added with teary eyes.





It was the time for my flight. I swear that I wanted to stay with him, and forget every single person I knew in my life. But I had to think twice; think of my religion, my family, and our reputation. I had to stop taking quick decisions, and be logical again!





"Don't go!" Alex said sorrowfully.

I tried to hold on, so I looked at him deeply for the last time and said;





"I wish you all the best, Alex!"





Alex couldn't say anything; he was gazing at me sadly then said judiciously;

"But we will meet next year, Aisha! ...I will be here waiting for you!''





I couldn’t reply to him; the shadow of sadness was obvious in my eyes, I felt no wisp of relief, I don’t know why felt that I would not see him again even though I had another opportunity to go back to New York; to finish my second year. I told you before that my intuition was always right…I knew that my happiness would be left there and that I won't love any man as I did to Alex. I couldn’t tell my family that I love a Catholic man who is convinced by his religion. I know they won't accept this! They aren’t willing to accept such things…





We talked before about religions; Alex and I, for hours at a time.





"Alex; I can't be your wife if you don't convert to Islam! “I said kindly.





At that time, he told me of his great faith in God but he also said he would think of converting if it was the only way to be together. This meant he might convert to Islam just to be with me and not because he liked being a Muslim or was convinced by Islamic principles. So I refused this; and right from that time I knew that we will never be together. I can't oblige him to convert as he must have deep intention first.





I thought of all the days I spent with Alex. How at first, as classmates we never talked with each other, but how in the end our relationship ended up flourishing like magical beanstalks. I started to silently cry, and then I began to smile, but I kept blaming myself for everything that happened, all the way home I blamed myself… I really need my Allah's mercy and forgiveness.

I will never forget the moment I went back to Algeria, where I met my family already waiting for me at the airport. We took this picture together with big smiles on our faces, but mine was secretly a fake smile. Sarah became fat while getting pregnant; I attended her wedding party then traveled to New York, last year. Ahmed seemed so strict and controlling as usual. Mohammed looked handsome and pretty as always. I love them so much! My angels; daddy still the same tall caring man; hadn’t changed, and my mom looked really slimmer than ever!

I hugged them warmly one by one. They were so happy seeing me again. I thought I could forget Alex when I got to see my family, but I was wrong because the memory of him was more vivid and alive than before.





I told my family about everything I saw and of the wonderful things I experienced, all the different social customs and how people lived there in harmony.





"Do you have friends there!"; my sister, Sarah, asked lovingly.





When I looked at her; a tear trickled down my cheek but I wiped it off, fiercely away; all of my family gazed at me shockingly except for my elder brother, Ahmed, who didn’t seem to be paying any attention to me at all. I knew he was preparing something bug, and I knew it was going to be something bad. No one asked why I was crying, but just stood there in salience, and in that moment I remained silent; thinking, again, of Alex.





By the way, Ahmed didn’t accept the idea of me continuing to study in a foreign country.





"Algeria is full of universities!"; he said seriously





But my father wanted me to get a high degree and to fulfill my dreams, so he supported me with every fiber in his body.





I spent the first-day sleeping because I was so tired; physically and mentally. I was exhausted for everything that had happened in my life. I was tired of blaming myself and for leaving Alex, fatigued for disobeying Allah's rules and for betraying my family. My mom begged me to eat something, but I choose not.





I woke up early, the next day. Washed my face, but I was surprised as I found no one home except my mom who didn’t seem to be fine. I was scared that something bad had happened like if one of my family members had died. I asked her what was going on; she was hesitant at first to tell me anything. And I was frightened for the first time in my life. I was really scared.





"Is everything ok, mama!''I asked this time, with a more serious tone.





"Look; Aisha! Ahmed has asked his friend's; Abdullah, family to visit us today"; she replied sorrowfully.





"Why?'' I asked while warm tears started rolling down my cheeks because I knew the reason behind their coming.





Mum couldn’t say anything; she was looking at me and crying.





"Mama! Tell me, why?"; I shouted out nervously.





After a while, my mom explained to me what was happening. I knew it, I knew that he was planning for something.





"But don't worry, Aisha! Abdullah says that you can continue studying after your wedding!", my mom said tenderly.





"What about Alex; mama!"; I cried out in pain.





My mom was stunned; breathing with difficulty, gazing at me shockingly, and couldn’t say a word.





"I love him; mama! I love, Alex! Tell them this, mama!", I shouted sadly.





My mom didn't even ask me who Alex was because it was obvious his name is a foreigner name. She was sure that I met Alex in New York; it was clear. I laid on the floor weeping tears, screaming out in agony as if I needed this opportunity for so long to cry in my mom's chest. She cried with me, hugged and kissed me constantly. I was depressed; my mom couldn’t hear anything except my sighs that were echoing between my lips; tormenting me. Then I started repeating the same words that mum barely heard;

"I love him, mama!"; I breathed heavily.





My eyes began to flutter closer when I remembered that no one can break a men's decisions in my city concerning serious issues and because of that I obeyed the rules; I remained silent in order not to give people a chance to talk badly about me or my family; for our reputation must not be tarnished.





Abdullah's family visited us to ask for my hand, and like that, I was their daughter in law without my acceptance; I was obliged to not let people talk badly about us at the expense of my happiness…





Girls usually put on makeup and dress well when people come to ask for their hands. But this is what I did, I was sitting in front of my room's window looking at the trees, thinking of Alex and how I could tell him that I was getting married. Suddenly, my mom knocked on the door saying that they want to see me. My hair was pulled up, my face was as yellow as a lemon, my eyes were red and puffy from crying, and my lips were as white as those of someone who sees a ghost in the middle of night. I looked so slim while wearing my black pajamas. I was walking slowly; head down, feeling nothing as I was already a dead person who felt, heard, or said nothing. When I entered the sitting room, I didn’t greet them, just went right through next to the guest's room without making any contact with them. I felt the world crushing down on me; noticing their looks. They were looking at me dreadfully as if they seen a torn pale ugly doll.





Everything was great; he liked me, the groom I mean, and his family as well while my mother was giving them a bunch of excuses for why I looked like that; she was studying, was sick, and couldn’t cope with the new place and so on. They fixed the date for the wedding and it was going to be in three weeks.





I didn’t do anything but stay in my room all day. I didn’t call or message Alex for a long time; almost for two weeks. And then; I did it. I deleted his number and broke my sim card from my phone because I knew there was no hope for us to be together. I miss him a lot but I am now married, so I shouldn’t try to message or contact him ever again. I hate being a cheater or a liar that goes behind someone’s back! I really wish he could find the right girl who deserves to be with him. I want him to be happy and safe.





I spent the previous five years praying for his protection and happiness; I will never stop doing that till my last days. I never cheated on Abdullah and I won't do it now; I don't like to call him my husband; even after five years of marriage. And after being the father to my son.





"Give me one reason to refuse Abdullah!''; Ahmed told me seriously.





I was looking through the window; at the endless blue cloudless sky, the sun was streaming through the leaves of trees; the air was crisp, yet I seemed like a person who was being treated in a sanatorium of lunatics; having no reactions, no feelings, and no thoughts to say. I actually was hearing the birds chirping and scarcely heard his words;





"You will live like a princess; he'll allow you to continue studying abroad. No power on earth can stop this marriage; I told him that you'll be his wife. The discussion is over", he added critically.





I didn’t take his words into consideration because I had already decided to commit suicide; getting married to Abdullah.





My father told my mother that he can do nothing to stop this wedding since Ahmed gave a word to Abdullah that I will be his wife; he couldn’t break his word.





I didn’t want to wear the white dress or put on makeup at all, and I told my mum and Sarah that I don’t want any guests for my wedding;





"I will go to my future home wearing my pajamas; with this pale face!";I told them seriously.





My mom got out of my room without saying a word, but Sarah stayed with me. She told me that they wouldn’t invite anyone for my wedding, but with one condition; if I decline, they would invite hundreds of guests. I was put in front of very harsh choices. After a deep thinking, I found that I have to accept their condition.





Sarah chose me a long off-white dress for my wedding when I accepted her condition which was either I accept wearing the white dress and putting on makeup, or they would invite as many guests as I can't imagine.





"We'll invite them to laugh… You will be like a clown among them!", Sarah threatened me using her index finger.





I have only one picture of myself as a bride. My wedding dress was traditional, breathtaking, elegant, ultra-feminine, floral beading, the flower on the side; thin white braided V-neck, the back has a low V-backed style, with a short veil. It made me look very bridal, skinny, totally gorgeous, and awesome. I really didn’t want to look pretty, but I was.





I won't talk about my first night with Abdullah because I spent it crying in the bathroom. I couldn’t even look at him. I didn’t allow him to take Alex's strong cologne that still embraced me; I didn’t let him place his hands on my arms as Alex did; I didn’t want him to do me anything that Alex did because I was all his, and I will; forever. If not physically, it will be emotionally.





"Aisha, are you okay!"; Abdullah said gentlemanly.





I couldn't reply to him; I was burying my mouth with my hands to muffle out the little noises I kept making; I was dying in great despair. I was in turmoil, knowing, I was about to lose every single wonderful dream I’ve ever had; losing my real self. I can't live without Alex, my goals, and without realizing the things we dreamed of doing together.





"Aisha; I promise that I will give you everything you want. I do love you…I really do!"; Abdullah added kindly.





I didn’t say anything, but kept on crying thinking of my future and of my father's promise he had made to me when I was a child;





"… I promise I will take you wherever you want and allow you to be with anyone you want to be with!"





But this time; I couldn’t stay calm anymore as I broke down entirely and sobbed like a child. I collapsed on the floor; hugging my knees like if I wanted to hide my face from the coming storm. I felt weak, powerless, and devastated. I was screaming out in agony, my eyes bleed with pain; my tears flowed down my face like a river. Fortunately, Abdullah got out because I didn’t hear him saying or trying to do anything to help.





My happiness was buried that day, in New York City, at the airport five years ago. I lost myself, my feelings, my heart, my being, my dreams, my ambitions, and my soul, even when Alex had left me, he had taken everything with him including my smile.





I didn’t like the idea of going back to finish my college degree; I knew what might happen; I could make more mistakes. I was afraid. I will be called a cheater and a damn liar. I preferred to stay home; cleaning Abdullah's house, cooking him dishes, washing dishes; and doing nothing more. Rather than being a stigma. I had stopped dreaming, stopped thinking of reaching for the stars; I lost the taste of life; of being alive. Even my writing had become bland. I have become a cold body with a dead soul.





Abdullah is a kind man who had a crush on me for a long time; he had told me many times while I was in high school that he loved me. He is always trying not to let me down or making me cry. He is an understandable and a caring man. At first, he was patient with me, but during these four years, he had changed a lot





"Tell why not, Aisha? Tell me!" Abdullah wondered nervously.





"I love him, Abdullah"; I wished I had said that. But as usual I kept silent; gazing at the television.





But still, his love for me is crystal clear. I respect him a lot, but I will never love him as a man; ever.





Four years after the wedding, I had my son, Youcef, who looked like Alex, exactly the same, his wide eyes, with medium length soft black hair, and a milky white skin. I don’t know how this happened, delusions maybe, as every second of my life, is spent imagining Alex’s face.





Every time I look secretly into Abdullah's face, I wish that he was Alex. I said "secretly" because to this day I don’t look at him as wives and husbands do. Abdullah obliged me to do many things I didn’t want to do.





"He's taking everything he desires forcefully, mama!"; I really wanted to tell my mum this but I couldn’t.





Even though he destroyed me by his uncivilized behaviors, but he was not able to erase Alex from my mind, and couldn’t make me regret the moment I told my mom;





"I love him; mama! I love, Alex!"





"After giving birth to my son five months ago, I started feeling extremely tired, losing weight, having a strange itchy skin, unusual bleeding from some parts that normally don’t bleed, having strong fever that doesn’t go away for a long time, I am suffering from unexplained aches that have persisted now, for more than a month, doctor”

It seems these symptoms correspond to a dangerous illness,'‘; The doctor replied with a worried look.





He asked me why I took so long to get help, but I could not reply. He then asked for urgent blood tests, he warned me how urgent my situation was. No one knew about this appointment with this doctor. Two years have passed since having seen the positive results; it was blood cancer. I went alone to weekly blood dialysis and no one knew a thing.

"It seems to be spreading; it needs urgent treatment. Have you spoken to your family about this yet?", the doctor commented





"I don’t want to do it; I don’t want to be healed", I replied.





I don’t want to live like a machine; cleaning, cooking and washing then get forced to do things I felt disgusted to do. I don’t want to live more than that. May Allah forgive me!





My mother cries whenever she sees me;





"Let's consult a doctor; Aisha!", she begged me whenever I visited her.





I am always convincing her that I don’t need a doctor.





"Abdullah wants me like that, mama"; I told her whenever she complained that I was getting skinny.

Last Entry

I pushed myself against the wall like a lightweight butterfly that was aching all over from a sensation running through every single part of my body; the pain was radiating nonstop. The pain in my stomach was as if a billion knives were sinking in, blood dripped down the floor, and I felt exhausted as if I had been in labor for years. I wanted to scream out in anguish but I couldn’t because Youcef was sleeping in front of me. My face was ashen, my lips were pursed, I was grimacing, I couldn’t bear that pain, but I resisted it!





I have been feeling this pain for so long; I was dying but it could not be compared to the pain I felt when I had lost Alex!





No one knew that I had blood cancer until now, only getting worse; I had asked Abdullah to take me to my family home. It’s my end; and everything about me will be fading away soon…





I put the diary down devastated, broken, and could not stop crying.

…We're so sorry, Aisha!





I am so afraid for not being by your side when you needed me the most. I understand now… I will never forgive myself; ever!

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