My daughter, Julie, the redhead who’s fierce and fiery and not afraid to challenge me to be a better person, showed me the short story she wrote for her grade 12 English class, and I was so proud of her I asked if I could share it. (She got 99% – missed a couple of typos.)
Killed for Allah, Killed for Honor
Short Story by Julie Laurendeau
I think I’d always felt slightly different. I was never able to put my finger on it, though. Never able to admit to myself why I felt the way I did. I don’t blame myself, however, for my blissful childish ignorance. How could I have known? Never once did I know that what I am was even a remote possibility. There was no such thing as being “different” in my community. I just assumed I was a defect – broken, maybe. That I would grow out of it – see that this was just some silly phase while I grew up. Maybe every girl passes through stages of the same feelings, right? Maybe it was some unspoken universal journey through which every adolescent girl went through, which would make me completely normal. I know now that none of that is true. It all makes a lot more sense now. I am finally able to see the full truth of who I am. I am writing this while I wait here – wait for the unknown. This is my life. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me anymore, and I’m scared… but I know that there are little girls out there who felt the same way I did. So I’m writing this for them. Please, share my story. I know in my heart that this deserves to be told.
I was almost 16 when the fighting got the worst it had been in years. We stayed in our homes most of the time, and just walking in the streets was considered to be a dangerous activity – especially for a young girl like me. The militant men roamed the streets like predators, just looking for reasons to lash out at innocent civilians. Kabul was no longer a place of beauty – it was being slowly destroyed by war. School was no longer considered an option, as desperately as I longed to go. Instead, I sat in my room, watched the far-off fighting through the second-story window and listened to my parents bicker downstairs.
I stop writing. I can hear him behind the door – he’s being loud, as always. I can barely move now, the bruises have gotten so bad. It’s dark in here though, so I can’t really see how badly broken I am, but I can feel the pain like a fire that is swallowing me. I’m getting hungrier by the minute. My mother’s been crying off and on since I’ve been here. I can hear her. Sometimes she sits right by the door, and I’ve heard her been dragged away once by him. I’m so scared. I wish I wasn’t, but I am. I’m trying to be strong, Allah, I really am. Please save me. God, Allah, whoever you are. Save me, save me, save me. I know I must continue to write.
My mother, bless her heart, had been trying desperately to convince my ridiculously patriotic father to move away from the fighting for months. She had her heart set on America, as she’d seen how beautiful and promising it was in all the movies we’d seen while we burrowed in our home. My father, however, was the 10th generation in his family to be born and raised in Kabul, so he wanted to ride out the war. He was hardheaded and stubborn, to say the least. And traditional. Yes, he was a stickler for old-time tradition. My mother, a tiny feisty little dark-haired woman, was less so, but she was never really given the chance to voice her opinions. I had always had a rocky relationship with my father, but day-by-day things seemed to get worse. I was the only child and I knew he had desperately hoped I would be a boy. I loved him dearly- because he was my blood, but I feared him terribly.
I pause for a second since the pain has gotten so bad. I’m weak. I haven’t eaten for around two days. I don’t really know how long exactly, since it’s dark here and I have no way of telling. How could you do this to me, Allah? I’ve been praying for days, but you’ve stopped answering. Have I sinned that badly? Is what I’ve done really that bad? I think I’m dying now. Forgive me, please forgive me, Allah. I must continue to write.
My father finally agreed to move the same day I turned 16. After much discussion and bartering, he consented to my mother’s dream of leaving for America. About a year ago his brother had moved there as well, so we had planned to meet up with them. I was conflicted on how I felt towards our upcoming relocation. I was scared, if I’m being honest. Kabul, and that small little home right on the outskirts, was all I’d ever known. I knew my English was decent, and much better than both my parents’, but I had no idea how to live in their way. All I’d ever seen of America was what was shown in movies, and I had a feeling that my experience wasn’t going to be like what I’d seen in “Sex and the City.” At least I hoped not. I was excited, however, for the change in scenery. I needed somewhere that I could stretch my legs and get away from the militant, strict, lifestyle I had now. I needed a break from tradition – I thought maybe America would be good for me in that way. I knew it was nothing like the life I’d lived before, but maybe that was a good thing! I always had felt like a bit of a fish out of water in my own family and in this culture, even. I had never thought I was cut out for the typical life of an Afghani woman, so maybe this was the opportunity I needed to save myself from that. I knew 16 was considered prime marrying age, but nothing had ever scared me as badly as the thought of marriage. I had spent whole nights crying myself to sleep after my father brought up the idea of possible suitors. I think I knew, even back then, that that life would never be for me.
My body has forced me to stop for a minute. It’s getting hard to breathe. I think I’m either going to die here, or he’s going to kill me. I’m not sure what I’d prefer, at this point. Whatever is quicker, I think. I’m ready to go. All this silence and loneliness has forced me to come to terms with myself and with my God. I no longer know if you exist. I know that’s a sin, to even think that, but I’m past the point of caring. You’ve abandoned me here. There may be no afterlife for me to look forward to, but anything would be better than this. I am ready to die, but I must continue to write.
I won’t bore whoever finds this with the details of the preparations for our move or our long journey. It was tedious, and seemed to take forever, but by June – 4 months after my birthday – we landed in a place called Seattle. That is where my uncle had moved his family, so that was where we went. My uncle scared me a little as well, and so did his two sons. They were tall, lanky, boys who were raised in the traditional Afghani way to believe that they deserved whatever they wanted. I had always been afraid as a kid that I would be forced to marry one of my cousins, but my mother disliked them too much to allow that to happen. I hated my father even more when he was around his brother. He became scarier, and more power-hungry.
I hear noises, so I pause. The younger one taunts me from behind the door. I guess they’ve come to join him in torturing me. “You chose this, Adeela! You brought this on yourself. You’re a freak, unnatural. Allah hates you.” I hear him spit on the door in disgust. Please, Allah, even if you hate me – just take me from this life. I am broken, but I must continue to write.
I’ll cut to the chase and get to the real story. The day I started school in America was the scariest day of my young life. I was excited though, to finally get to go back to school, but I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, we came right around the start of the “second term” so I would be able to start completely new classes. The first class I had in the morning was English Language Arts, so naturally I was terrified. I knew I was considered an able writer back home, but this was different. The class stared as I walked in, but that was to be expected. As much as I felt like a fish out of water back home, here I was a total outsider. I moved quietly to the back as my new teacher introduced me to the rest of the class. I picked an open seat next to a girl with the ends of her hair dyed blue. She smiled at me as I put my notebook down on the table, and I’ll never forget how I felt in that moment. That was the first time I’d ever gotten butterflies.
My stomach feels like it’s caving in on itself. I get nearer to death every second. I’ve stopped crying. There’s no use. No one’s listening. I can feel the words pouring out of my chest, so I must continue to write.
She’d introduced herself as Charlotte. “But everyone calls me Charlie. I think it suits me better,” she’d told me with a tinkling laugh. She asked for my name and I told her it was Adeela. She had trouble pronouncing it at first, but after the third try she got it right. I remember how much I’d admired her for trying. Twice that day I’d already heard the phrase “Can I just call you Adele?” and I hated it. Charlie asked to see my schedule to see if we had any other classes together, and my heart skipped a beat when she said she’d show me to my next period Biology even if it was a little out of her way. Charlie and I spent the rest of the period whispering and laughing to ourselves in the back of the class. I remember vividly how much I liked it. I also remember how guilty it made me feel.
I hear the doorbell ring twice, but no one answers. I think to myself that maybe it’s Charlie, and my heart feels as heavy as an anchor. I can’t believe I’ll never even be able to tell her goodbye. The pain is getting worse again, but I’ve stopped being able to cry at all. All there is to do is wait. If you’re out there, God, please just pity me. I am sorry for what I’ve done. I need to keep writing.
After English Charlie fulfilled her promise to walk me to biology. As we navigated the halls, she introduced me to her friends and showed me places I should know. I could tell that she was liked by many, which made it feel even more special to be in her presence. I couldn’t help but stare at her in awe as I followed behind her quick steps. She paused outside the door to my Biology class and wished me luck. She told me she’d save me a spot at her table at lunch – no words had ever sounded as sweet. I spent all of Biology and 3rd period Math waiting for the lunch bell to ring. Charlie had done this to me. I was utterly confused about this feeling that sat in my stomach, but I never wanted it to end. The afternoon passed by in a blur.
My hands have gotten shaky. Can you hear me, Allah? All my life I’ve thought you were listening every time I bowed and prayed to you, but I doubt that now in what I expect will be my final days. You have left me here. You have left me here to die. What kind of God would do that to his daughter? I must continue to write.
The entire night after that first day was spent with Charlie in my mind and a pit in my stomach. I was terrified to even look at my father – I thought he’d see things in my eyes that would give me away. I still didn’t know at that point what I was feeling, but I knew it wasn’t right. Still, I couldn’t wait to see her again in the morning. Each of my dreams that night were tinged with blue and all involved girls named Charlie…
I hear yelling outside the door. It doesn’t faze me anymore. I will sit here and wait for Death to come for me. I will embrace him when he comes. I must continue to write.
The next day passed by relatively the same way as the day before. Charlie and I talked and laughed in English class, she walked me to Biology, and saved me a seat at lunch. My heart fluttered the exact same way every time she tossed her mid-length hair over her shoulder and laughed. I was standing at my new locker at the end of the day when the real excitement happened. My heart stopped when Charlie asked if I wanted her to come over and have her tutor me for biology. She said we couldn’t go to her house because her mother ran a daycare, so I agreed to go to mine because it meant I got to spend more time with her.
For the first time in hours, I begin to cry again. My chest unleashes sobs which feel like floods. Please don’t let me die here. I take it all back. I do not want to die. I must continue to write.
As we walked to my house, Charlie told me about her life. I listened intently. I loved the way her voice sounded and I adored her silly little laugh. She spoke of her two little sisters and how she’d grown up in Chicago. She told me of the summers of her childhood spent in a little beach house off the Eastern coast, and all the movies she loved. There was a magic about her – an undeniable beauty about how she was unabashedly herself. No one was home when we arrived at my new little house tow streets past school, so I showed her around before we decided to go to my room. Charlie flopped right onto the bed when we walked in, and immediately announced that she was going to have to do something about the plain walls. She told me it didn’t represent my beauty well enough, and I thought my heart would explode.
The tears will not stop coming now. Kill me Allah, kill me. I have been your faithful servant all these years. I prayed to you 8 times a day and never said a bad word about anyone. Please, if there’s one thing you can do for me after all this time – just kill me. I refuse to die at his hand. I fear that I will not have much more time, so I must continue to write.
After only a half hour of studying, I could tell that Charlie’s mind was somewhere else. Even after only knowing her for two days, I felt like I had developed an ability to tell when something was wrong with her. She also wasn’t very good at hiding her feelings. After a couple minutes of visible anxiety, Charlie threw her book down.
“So were you ever planning on telling me how you feel? I can see the way you look at me, Adeela. Don’t think I haven’t noticed,” she said with a sly smile from underneath her hair.
My heart stopped beating, and I felt my stomach drop to the floor. I was mortified. But then she continued.
“You do know I’m gay too, right?” She said, looking me fully in the eyes now.
I felt my entire heart stop when she uttered that sinful sentence. I hadn’t even been able to think the word to myself, let alone say it aloud. I had heard of others who’d been… gay, but they were shunned forever or changed themselves back into being normal again. Never had I once thought of myself as… one of then. Sure, these feelings were… confusing, but surely they weren’t this. Surely this was nothing but confusion, right? Surely I’d grow out of it? And then suddenly, Charlie had made up the two feet of space between us and was kissing me, and everything, all at once, seemed to change.
I can hear him outside the door, loading bullets into his gun. He’s playing music, as if this was a normal day to him. He’s singing along. Show me strength, Allah. My hands are getting weaker and my eyes are going dry, but I must continue to write. Not much time left.
I had never tasted anything as sweet as Charlie’s lips on mine. She pulled away way too quickly, just to gauge my reaction. I can’t even imagine the look she must have seen on my face, but she didn’t see it for long since I kissed her again after just a second. Our lips moved in synchronization for a few minutes while the butterflies in my stomach went crazy. My bedroom door opened then, and all of my worst nightmares seemed to come true simultaneously. There stood my father, still in his work clothes, with the most terrifying look I’ve ever seen on his face.
My final moments on Earth are being spent in a dark basement in a city I barely know in a country I never got to see. Do I deserve this? I may never know the answer to any of the questions that fill my mind, but at least I can share my story. I must continue to write.
After a minute of pure shock he started screaming in Arabic. The only words he got out in English were two words shrouded in disgust hurled across the room at my beautiful Charlie. “Get out.” I knew my father, so I could tell that surely a violent outburst would follow his verbal rage. Charlie looked at me like she would do whatever it took to save me, but I whispered at her to just leave. She mouthed goodbye to me and ran down the stairs, books in hand. My father picked up a lamp and aimed at my head. I took one final glance at Charlie’s fleeting figure.
I’m so weak now. I long for peace. I know now that it will only be brought in death. I believe that Allah will accept me in his kingdom. At least My Allah will. No god I believe in would turn away his daughter. I must continue to write.
“What is wrong with you, Adeela?” hissed my father in my direction. “You have invited the devil into your body… Allah does not approve of your choices you stupid cow!”
I could feel my heart break. I’d known it all along, hadn’t I? I was always just too afraid, too ashamed to admit it to myself let alone anyone else. This is why the life of an Afghani woman had never appealed to me – because the thought of a man had never appealed to me either. I’m gay. My name is Adeela Ahmadi, and I am gay. While I came to that realization, something inside of my father snapped.
Death will not have to wait much longer. I must continue to write.
“You deserve to die for the shame you have brought on this family, Adeela!” he yelled. My name had never sounded like an insult until that very moment. He grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me down the stairs with him until we were on the main floor. I think I was probably crying out for help, but it all seems to be a bit of a blur. I do remember vividly however, the look on my mother’s face as she walked in the door from doing her errands. She ran to my side and did her best to get him to let go, but it was no use. He had never listened to her before. My father threw me down the basement stairs. He shut off the lights and whispered once more “You deserve to die.” I heard the door lock.
Please, just let this all be quick. I continue to write.
I have been here for nearly three days, I believe. Time has stopped having a meaning. I can’t sleep any longer, and my lungs are struggling to fill. I know not whether what I have done is a sin, but I am prepared to die now. I do not regret my choices. This is who I am. I can hear him unlocking the door. My mother is shrieking in her native tongue, trying desperately to stop him from doing what he’s about to do. I love my mother. She was never made for this life either. I can hear them struggle for a minute or two, and then she falls silent. I can see a crack of light as he pries the door open. There is nothing more to write. I am about to die.
He walks down the stairs, slowly, all the while hissing prayers at me. He stops when he gets to the bottom where I am laying. He kneels. I can feel the cold barrel of the gun pressed to my temple. I am no longer afraid. Allah is here with me. I decide to do the only thing I’ve ever known. I close my eyes, and I begin to pray.
Praise is only for Allah, Lord of the Universe.
The most Kind, the most Merciful.
The master of the Day of Judgement.
You alone we worship and to you alone we pray for help.
Show us the straight way,
The way of those whom you have blessed.
Who have not deserved your anger,
Nor gone astray.
Take me home.