She was twelve, with big sunken and lusterless eyes. Her scrawny face had a yellow hue, and her hands were swollen from too much work. Her body was tiny, and reminded me of trees in Autumn, which had barely survived the summer's drought.
She would work with her mother in the homes of others, and every evening she would return crooked and limping. The entire length of the street on her way home, she would ring the door bells of her friends' homes, inviting them to play doll.
Several days had passed and I hadn't seen or heard from her. Every time I got up the courage to ask her mother where Fati was, I would be dissuaded. A voice within me kept me from asking the question. Hours, days and weeks passed and there was no sign of her. Her playmates too did not have any news of her, until one day her mother, Golin Khanom, came to inform me that her daughter had married and had been taken away to the groom's home. I felt an instant knot form in my throat!
- Can a 12 year girl be married off? I asked.
- We have entered her into Sighe (temporary) marriage, until she reaches legal age, at which time she can enter into permanent marriage. You know, my son in law is experienced. He is forty years old and is financially well off. When he came to ask for Fati's hand in marriage, we were nervous that if we made him wait, he would grow to regret his decision and then we would be stuck with Fati. So we sent her to her husband's home, the home of her fortune.
- Did you ask Fati if she wanted to get married or if she loved the suitor?
- Oh, Mrs. Fati can't understand such things. Now we have one less mouth to feed. It's better this way.
- She went straight from hell to her grave..., I thought out loud.
Every day I would see Golin Khanom who would pass by me with a sweet smile on her way to work in the neighbors homes. Three months, four months, five months passed and there was no news or sign of Fati.
One day she passed by me with a nervous expression on her face. Her smile was bitter and she had a hurried step. In the afternoon the news of Fati's illness had spread throughout the neighborhood. She was staying in her mother's home.
I rushed over to Golin Khanom's home. There she was. Oh my! There in the corner of Golin Khanom's small room was Fati lying on the ground, like a piece of crumpled up paper. There was nothing left of her, except for a protruding belly. A group went to call an ambulance and another went to the community health center, and I sat at the bedside of this ill-fated pregnant child. Her eyes had no luster. She was delirious and speaking nonsense. She didn't recognize anyone. After an hour the ambulance arrived. But it was late, too late, very late. The infant survived and they took it straight from Fati's belly. My tears froze.
From under the thin blanket, covering Fati, a faint sound could be heard: "Come children, let's play doll!"
... Payvand News - 09/19/08 ... --