father orders, "Sultana, pick it up!"
grabs the book and stares at the cover. He gasps a deep,
ragged breath and then turns to me. "What is this,
am paralyzed with fear. My heart stops beating. I sit and
listen, longing for the life-giving thump.
out of control, Kareem drops the book to the floor, grabs my
shoulders, and shakes me like a rag.
again feel the familiar heartbeat, though I have a childlike
thought a moment of sorrow that I did not die on the spot
and so burden my husband's conscience with lifelong guilt.
hear the muscles of my neck snapping from the force of
father yells, "Sultana! Answer your husband!"
the years evaporate. I am a child again, at my father's
mercy. How I long for my mother to be alive, for nothing
less than maternal fervor can save me from this vicious
feel a whimper forming in my throat.
have told myself many times in the past that there can be no
freedom without courage, yet my courage fails me when I need
it the most. I had known that if members of my immediate
family read the book, my secret would be discovered.
Foolishly, I had felt protected by the fact that in my
family, only Sara reads books. Even if gossip of the book
had spread throughout the city, I assumed that my family
would take little note of it, unless mention was made of a
particular incident they would recall from our youth.
ironically, my brother, a man who scorns the mention of
women's rights, had read the book that focused attention on
the abuse of women in my land. My demon of a brother, Ali,
had foiled my precious anonymity.
I look around the room at my father, my sisters and brother.
Together, as if they had practiced, their looks of surprise
and anger slowly forge into a united hard stare.
only one short month, I am discovered!
my voice, I protest weakly, blaming my deed on the highest
authority, saying what all good Muslims say when caught in
an act that will bring punishment on their heads. I thump
the papers with my hand. "God willed it. He
willed this book!" Ali is quick to retort,
scoffing, "God? Not so! The devil willed it! He willed
it! Not God!" Ali turns to my father and says with
perfect seriousness, "Since the day of her birth,
Sultana has had a little devil living inside her. This devil
willed the book!"