2012 Winning Story: Kismet - English Department Writing Contest
“The illusion of art is to make one believe that great literature is very close to life, but exactly the opposite is true. Life is amorphous, literature is formal.” –Francoise Sagan
Information about the English Department Writing Contest.
by Laila Khan.
She packed her belongings and stared out the window, waiting for the village's one street light to turn off, covering her in a blanket of darkness. This was the night she had planned for, starting the day her mother married that ruthless, sorry excuse for a man, the same day she overheard him coercing her poor mother to consider marrying her daughter off to the old widower down the street. Maesha had seen him; she knew what they said about him. He needed a slave and was offering a modest amount of money—just enough to buy a few bottles of alcohol for her darling stepfather. Buying a slave and calling her his wife, what a charming fellow, Maesha thought as she looked out the window. She was to be wed to him the day after next and was not asked this but merely informed and that is when 18-year-old Maesha knew she had to escape.
Three months ago, her best friend left their small village and went to the city to find work. She was not the first in her village to go; however, the town talked about her and all the evils she would face. Maesha wrote to her friend often and looked forward to reading all the exciting stories of the city life. In her last letter she told her friend what was being planned and Nisha in reply sent her a one way train ticket and directions to her home. She didn't know what she would do there. She hoped there would be tailor shops. She knew how to sew. What she really wanted to be, though, was a teacher, to teach what was written in books, to share her passion with students who would be just as passionate to learn as she was. That was her dream and she hoped that it was written in her books—her destiny. She dreamed constantly of what her destiny held for her. She would write "kismet" all over her notebooks and wherever she got a chance. She believed greatly in destiny and would always pray for a good one. One day she lost her diary which was very dear to her heart. When she found it again, there was a note written on the inside cover. It said "Create Your Own Destiny." That was when Maesha decided she was going into the city.
Maesha was getting anxious. It was already midnight, the light was supposed to turn off by now. The excitement was hard to contain throughout the day. Maesha kept her face sullen whenever her parents were around but when she knew she was alone she couldn't help but grin widely and openly. She had one person to share it with and that was her father. Earlier that morning, at day break, she walked to the graveyard and knelt by her father's grave whispering the secret she kept so safely. She felt someone's gaze on her and looked up to see a young man watching her. She had noticed him before, but she knew he was not from the village. He was far away so she was almost positive he didn't hear her. She had seen him once before, watching her while she moved across the labyrinth they called a market place, while she was closely following her mother. He was the son of an elderly couple that lived near the edge of the village. He was sent to military camp at the age of 10 and returned 10 years later, now standing distinct from everyone else. At the market place, she saw his eyes gleam with interest as she slumped behind her mother holding her school books in one hand and a basket of vegetables in the other. She looked at him for a brief moment before her mother piled on more vegetables. So this is the heartthrob all the girls are crazy about, she thought. Maesha understood why, but she was different. Her head was too busy with literature and poetry and funny thoughts about the sun and then moon to care about finding her soul mate and being in love like the other girls. The local theatre—a white sheet tied down near the river bank—played one movie every two weeks and more often than not it played the movie "Titanic." The village's youth squealed with excitement every time it was announced. Maesha preferred to stay home. She knew what would happen. The boys from her school would prance around her repeating the dubbed dialogue of Jack in attempt to capture her attention. She used to go with Nisha as her bodyguard but now that Nisha had left, Maesha saw no point in going.
She stared mindlessly watching the streetlight and thinking about the soldier from that morning. He was a skinny fellow, but well-built. She observed him at the graveyard in small moments, looking at him every few minutes for a few seconds each time. She got a glimpse of his fair skin, his big, brown, surprised eyes, his thick eyebrows, strong jaw line and soft pink lips. That day he was wearing a beanie covering his hair and ears. She was wearing a traditional shalwar kameez with a shawl around her head covering half her hair. He was caught staring at her each time she looked up, yet he attempted to play it off by looking to his left—it was always to his left. Maesha said a small prayer over her father's grave and ran off before her mother and stepfather woke up. She looked back once, her anklets jingled and her curly hair bounced as she turned around and gave him a smile. It was her last time in that village and she thought she would never see him again or this place again.
She started reciting her favorite poem in her head to pass the time, when she noticed someone walking by her window. It was him. Should I duck or should I stand here, she wondered. Will he say anything? He was right under her window now, looking up into the window where Maesha stood with a look of suspicion. "Hi," he said. He handed her a letter he was holding. Maesha didn't know what to say so she just stared at him. "It's for you," he said. She took the letter, suddenly feeling really shy. He started to walk away, but turned back and gave her a smile. She opened the letter to find four words: "Create Your Own Destiny." Suddenly she felt like she was blindfolded. She blinked twice and almost screamed in excitement. The light finally turned off. She grabbed her bag and worked her way out of the window, as she had practiced. Slowly and carefully, she swung her legs over the ledge and tip- toed away. She left a rose for her mom, hoping she would understand.