I winked at Jawayriyah and Rehana and waved to them. They grinned from ear to ear and started racing towards me with all the might that two four year olds could muster. They jumped over broken walls like skilled athletes jump over hurdles; then again, it wasn’t new or surprising for them. They had played “Dodge the bomb!” for as long as they could remember. Swiftly they reached the doorstep of my home, if a couple of shattered windows and hardware pieces can be called a home, and clung to my legs.
“Eid Mubarak, Deeja!” They shouted at me and started pulling me down to their face level so I could properly hug them.
“Eid Mubarak, my little friends!” I cheered with them, “Don’t you look absolutely lovely!”
Both of them shied away from me then, smiling at their torn shoes and fiddling with the ribbons on their battered pink dresses. They might have been wearing clothes more suited to homeless and poor situations, but their faces glowed radiantly with the joy of eid. I fished a couple of sweets from my back pocket and placed them onto the scarred, bruised hands of the girls. Eyes shining excitedly, they quickly pulled off the wrapper and popped it into their mouths, savouring the sweetness and then giving me a big, toothy smile.
“Thank you”, they angelically said, and ran back to their makeshift rooms under the big advertisement board that said “Coca Cola” with a 3D bottle of coke. I leaned against the shaky doorframe and watched them, smiling after what seemed a century. They were so adorable; I could see them rummaging through a pile of bricks and pulling out a ragged old doll with one eye. Laughing, they skipped outside and started playing, Rehana pretended to be a police officer while Jawayriyah was her assistant officer.
‘Jawayriyah, lock this old girl up!’ Rehana ordered in her girly voice, ‘How dare she speak against the Jews!’
‘Sure, officer,’ Jawayriyah replied, ‘she has been a bad girl.’
Each of them took an arm of the doll and threw her into rubble of glass, stones and pieces of wood. My eyes opened wide, horrified to see what they were imitating. Determined to finish this game, I walked to them and called out,
‘Hey! Let’s play catch with the doll!’
They screamed and ran towards me with the doll, and started to throw it to each other. One of my neighbours came out with her month old baby in her hands, and she stood watching us.
‘Eid Mubarak!’ she shouted. We shouted back at her, too.
In the midst of our happy game there appeared a tiny, black ball. Mesmerized, Jawayriyah and Rehana moved towards it, but I pulled them back. I peered at it with narrow eyes, but I couldn’t do so. They started to sting horribly, and while I rubbed my eyes and tried to breathe in the oppressive cloud that had appeared, I could hear the girls screaming and choking. I followed their voices and covered them with my jacket, then ran to the nearest shelter.
“My baby! No, my baby!” I heard the woman screech as she ran towards us. She bumped into me, and started begging.
“Deeja”, she used my nickname, “Do something! My baby, he can’t breathe… I can’t hear him! No!” she screamed as it dawned on her that her baby was no more, “No! My baby…” She fell down, crying wildly.
“Deeja, I hear something”, Rehana choked. I could hear it, too. It was like a plane flying too near. It seemed to come closer and closer.
‘Rehana! Jawayriyah! Baji! Run!’ I grabbed the girls’ hands and fled – I could hear the shelter blowing to pieces and then Jawayriyah couldn’t walk anymore. A couple of bricks from the explosion attacked us and hit Jawayriyah, who was already short of breath. She fell down and hit more rubble, her already blood stained face now a bright, oozing red. She looked at me with the eyes of angel as she asked for my hand.
‘It’s okay, Deeja, it’s okay.’ She said to me as she held my hand, ‘I’ll tell God everything. I’ll tell Him Eid Mubarak from you too, Rehana. I’m going to Mama.’ She closed her eyes.
Rehana and I buried our little sister on Eid, with the ragged doll with one eye.