The air was thin around her and she felt her stomach churning. The worst thing that could happen to her in this place was to be caught. She had seen what happened to Mina, her former roommate. There was no mercy here.
Kazim’s eye found hers and it spoke louder than words, asking a whole bunch of questions.
“We will make another example of this person for you all to see. You can all go, meanwhile, Zara, step forward” XC said, the guard turned to leave too.
“What?” This couldn’t be happening; her heart was beating out of her chest as she moved towards the podium. Kazim was standing right beside XC, wondering what on earth she was called for. The entire camp dispersed quickly.
“Kazim, go. I must speak with her alone”
“Are you deaf? Leave this place”
Reluctantly, he turned to go, but not before sending a message to her, with a quick sign, pointing in the direction of the oak tree at the corner of the palm yard.
Zara nodded slightly and turned her attention back to XC, avoiding his eyes. He had known her since she was ten, and she knew he could read her mind like a sign post.
“You called me sir”
“Yes, move quickly” He said with a frown on his face. He grabbed her right arm and pulled her harshly along with him.
“Shut up and move” Others stole glances at them as everyone returned to their rooms for the only free hour they were given for that day.
Moving in the direction of the general cafeteria, he made a left turn towards the new unfinished building along a lonely path.
“Where are we going?”
“Just keep moving” he said, his face still squeezed in a disgusting frown. As they moved he noticed another squad leader moving in their direction. They both nodded slightly to each other and kept moving.
Zara got to the building with XC and stood in front of the door, the building was just lacking in windows and the exterior hadn’t been painted.
“Go in first”
She hesitated a little but he pulled her into the first room space in the building
“Zara I need to tell you something”
She felt XC hold her hands and she turned towards him, she noticed his expression had changed. He was smiling at her.
Kazim couldn’t concentrate as he waited behind the oak tree, he had the new boys class to teach at 2am, and they only had an hour to rest, he had to go soon, this was 1.23am already. As he sat there, he remembered Zara’a face when XC made the announcement about the traitor, had she already started out on her plans? She didn’t tell him when it was to be done, in fact he hadn’t understood it properly. And now she might have been discovered even before she did anything.
“Hope she hasn’t done anything stupid already” he whispered to himself. He feared for her life, XC was not one to listen to apologies, no one here would. He looked round and the whole camp was quiet, everyone usually hurried for this extra rest because that was all they would get today.
“Where is this girl?”
As he sat on the floor anxiously waiting for Zara, he felt a hand on his back. He jumped up only to see Milan, the newest girl in the camp, she had been introduced to everyone about a week ago, eight years old, standing on that podium, with swollen eyes from crying so much.
It reminded him of the day Zara stood on that podium, he was 14 and had been there three years, or so he was told, her eyes were red and swollen, but she wasn’t crying. She had probably emptied her entire drum of tears. He had met her at the only place boys and girls were allowed to chat, the cafeteria.
“Aren’t you hungry?” He had asked after noticing that she had no food with her on the table
“You better eat, that’s all you get for the day”
“I’ll die then”
“Well, you can die tomorrow, but not today”
“And what’s wrong with dying today”
“First reason, I’m here, and second reason, the better day to die is tomorrow, tell yourself that everyday”
He had gotten her to eat that day and they ate together every other day.
Kazim looked over at Milan, with a concerned look on his face, wondering what she was doing there, everywhere was dark but for the little lamp at the yard, he could only see a side of her face.
“Milan, what are you doing here, why are you not in your room?”
“I’m lost, I don’t know the way to my room”
“Why didn’t you go with the other girls?”
“I don’t see so well sir, it was really dark”
He was more confused than ever, what if he left and Zara came looking for him, he knew the girls quarters were forbidden for him to go, but leaving this girl out here was even worse for her. These men here were animals, pure animals, and if anything remotely close to what Zara told him happened to this girl because he left her out here, he would never forgive himself.
“Uhmm, Milan, this is a tough decision, but you can wait here with me, my friend will take you to your room when she comes”.
She sat beside him and held onto him, visibly shaking. He held her close, in an attempt to ease her fears, while he prayed that Zara would come before anyone found him with this girl here. She relaxed in his arms and in five minutes, she was asleep.
Confused, Zara raised her head up to XC, “What are we doing here, and why are you smiling like that?”
“Zara, I don’t know how to say this but, uhmm…” As he held her hands, she noticed they were sweaty. “He must be nervous” she thought
“I have seen you grow from a tender young child, till now” he continued “and from the first day you came in here, I knew you were special”
“Just tell me what you brought me out here for, I’m sure the little time we have to rest is almost over”
“No one will bother you, I’ll let you rest for as long as you want in my room when you hear me out”
She looked at him squarely this time
He kept talking, his voice in heavy whispers “I have loved you from the day I saw you, even when nothing was showing on your chests. I waited to say this because I think this is the right time. You see, this building we are in is my gift from the commander, nobody knows that it’s mine yet, but when he comes today, everyone will know, and I want to be with you here, you won’t struggle like the other ladies anymore, all you have to do is say yes”
“What are you saying?”
“I want to marry you”
“Never” She blurted out before she even thought about it. He didn’t take no’s too well.
“What did you say? Never? Never what?”
“Uhmm, no o, I said uhmm, Never have I ever been asked such a question” she stuttered, afraid that he was getting angry, she had to tread with caution, no one was ready for an angry XC.
“You make me weak Zara. You know I can’t help myself anymore. I’m all alone here and I need you”
“But you are married, why don’t you bring your wives”
“My other wives are in a different state and I don’t care even a little bit about any of them. I swear to you, you are the one I want, they won’t be a problem to you”
“What state are we in”
“That’s not for you to know, don’t try to change the topic”
XC was elderly, in his early fifties, but he had a young face and strong body that could pass for late thirties.
“Can I have a few days to think about it?”
“I’m afraid you don’t”
“I have to give the commander an answer when he arrives today”
“This can’t be… give me a few hours atleast”
“Okay, but first of all come here, let me give you a taste of what you’ll get from me”
He leaned in quickly and kissed her, appalled, she took a step back.
“What’s the problem, it’s not like I haven’t done that before”
“I’m not ten anymore”
“Ooooh, I totally agree” His eyes gazing lustfully at her, from her legs all the way up to her lips “you taste even better”
“Let me go, I told you I’ll answer you soon”
“Just one more”
He grabbed her shoulders and pushed her to the wall. Her mind battling between using her strength or playing weak. As she thought of what to do, she sighted a piece of paper in his back pocket. It was the paper the guard handed over to him during the midnight assembly. There was only one type of paper in camp, so it was difficult to know.
Those may be mine. She thought
She knew she had to get them from him, and there was no way she could do that if she resisted him now. This man was influential in this place. She needed his favour, or at worse his ignorance of her abilities. He leaned forward and she let him kiss her. He devoured her lips with his tongue that tasted of alcohol, and her eyes were filled with tears as she stood there, knowing she had to play this game. She reached out to touch the back of his pocket when she felt his hands move all the way to the buttons of her overall, she grabbed his hands quickly.
“What is it girl, you allowed the others” He said, panting hard
She held herself together “Please, no. Not now”
“That’s not an answer”
He held both her hands to the wall, she couldn’t take it anymore, she wasn’t going to go through this today, not again. She hit him hard in the groin and silenced him with her head slamming on his forehead. Taken unawares he screamed in pain and his hands fell from her. Opening the door, she ran as fast as she could.
The branches on the narrow pathway slapped across her face, bruising her as she ran back toward the palm yard. Her heart racing so fast as she remembered the paper she was to get from his pocket.
She slowed down when she realised he wasn’t chasing her. She had to leave this place as soon as possible, she had to tell Kazim now, about what XC wants and everything about her plans that just might be in XC’s back pocket.
From a distance she sighted Kazim behind the oak tree, but he wasn’t alone, she couldn’t see clearly but he was holding someone in his arms.
“What’s he doing, what risk is this?” She whispered to herself with utter concern.
As she tried to move closer to him, she suddenly retreated behind a tree when she sighted two guards moving towards Kazim.
“Oh shit, this is not good”
Kazim grew impatient and decided to leave the little girl sleeping behind the tree, everyone would soon come out and he would be damned to be seen with a girl in his arms. As he moved to lay her carefully on the floor, he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“What are you doing here with her, get up and come with us!”
The second guard carried the little girl who had woken up and begun crying again.
“What!! I’m not doing anything with her! She was lost!”
“Yeah, we can see, lost in your arms”
“You don’t understand, I’m telling the truth”
“That changes nothing, we know you now”
“Are you messing with me, I’ve never done anything like what you’re implying!!”
“Well, your friend says otherwise”
“What?!!! Which friend!” As he got pulled away, not believing his ears
“How many do you have”
He sighted Zara standing behind a tree
“What have you done!”
To be continued… 10th December, 2017
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