Dusk to Dawn

Updated: Jun 17

Owls were howling, the wind was standing still, and the moon had camouflaged itself beside dark clouds. It was unbearable for it to witness that blank face and slopped demeanor of the daughter of Eve, who was standing on the threshold of a street.

An eerie silence was around her, but she knew that it was the silence before the storm. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the street, and with it, waves of memories rippled in the grooves of her subconscious.

Clad in Burqa, twelve-year-old, bearing the sharp glances of street boys.


Seventeen-year-old, sitting in front of a family who had come for the sake of marriage. Their rapacious stare and hushed comments were causing a shudder of fear to course down her spine.


Receptionist Bride feigning a bright smile, now and then giving resounding laughter at nothing in particular. Her laughter sounded like a suppressed sob.


Eighteen-year-old, she got slapped by her husband for burning the shirt.

Her chest heaved and fell with the strong escalating beats as her steps approached her destination. Tears were clogging in her throat, and her form was shivering as her trembling fist raised to knock on the dark door of the house. As soon as the door was opened, clouds started weeping, and owls started wailing. With everything being in a lamented state, Mashal entered into the living hell.


………………………..


"What happened? Why have you come like that?" Abeeha bombarded her with questions.


"I got divorced," Mashal said in an emotionless tone, but her words wreaked havoc in the house.


"How did it happen? "


"You should try to save your house! "


"You should try to please your in-laws! "


"Useless girl! "


"What would we say to society now? People will mock us! "

All were busy in their own lamenting and thoughts, giving less attention to the victim. Mashal sealed her lips and stared at the concerned faces of the house residents.


……………………..


The dark and lamenting night was followed by a dark morning. Mashal was standing in front of the washroom mirror, splashing water on her face. Instantly, her eyes caught a reflection of a man in the mirror.


"I don't like your being in my room! Avoid coming in front of me! "


His voice echoed, causing her to cover her face in between her palms.


"I will never come. I will never come." She murmured while running away from the washroom. She bolted the washroom from outside and stepped toward her bed.


"A woman was raped on the motorway yesterday night. Her two children were also there with her."


The newscaster's voice was coming into her bedroom, and this news caused a wave of anger in her veins.


"Two children? Innocent children! Ahh! The lady! "


"What was she doing on the motorway at night time?! Uff, today's women have lost their senses! "Voice of her father came into her ears, causing her mind to go numb.”


"Switch off this disgusting thing! And call your daughter who had come yesterday with a stain of divorce on her character." Her grandfather's voice echoed, causing fear to rush in her veins.


Her hands started trembling due to anger, fear, and helplessness. She quickly stood from her bed and went toward the dressing table. In the mirror, she again saw a reflection of a man.

"I don't want such a useless wife who can't even bring enough dowry for me. You are trash which I've been bearing for the last six months. But enough is enough. I give you divorce, divorce, divorce! "


With trembling hands and red-shot eyes, she picked the scissors and cut her long, brown hair. Her hands kept on doing this action till there was a knock on the door.


…………………………..


"Why did he divorce you? What have you done?" Family court was being held in the lounge in which the victim had to defend herself.


"He wants more dowry, which you refused." She murmured.


"More dowry? I have spent a hefty amount on your marriage and upbringing." His father bellowed as if it was her fault.


"If you would be a decent wife, he would never leave you. Which man wants to leave a caring and beautiful wife?" Her grandmother snickered.


"Those men to whom society gives golden choices. But alas! The same society snatches away the peace and harmony from women's life."


She was not able to speak those thoughts. Her mouth was zipped, and her mind was locked in darkness.


………………………


"O the most Merciful, Please have mercy on me! O the most Beneficent, show me the path! O my Allah, help me in this crisis. I'm tired and want Your help. O listener of prayers, listen to my prayers." Mashal was weeping and murmuring these duas when her ten-year-old nephew came into her room.


"Aunty, should I tell you what I read today in my school?" Moeez asked with excitement. Selfless and innocent souls of children bring colors to the blank canvas of life.


"Yes, sure" Mashal wiped her tears and tried to smile at the enthusiastic child, the only person in the house who still talked to her.


"Today, my teacher told the story of a tortoise and rabbit. Rabbit always mocked the tortoise that its pace is slow and it is useless." Mashal's mind roamed toward the instances of her life when a patriarchal society was telling her that she was useless. And when she herself believed that, with minimum resources, she couldn't reach anywhere in life.


"One day, the tortoise got angry with the rabbit, and they both decided to race." Memories rippled in her mind when she also got fed up with this patriarchal system, but she didn't dare to go against them.


"Race started, and the rabbit started jumping at full speed while the tortoise remained at its slow pace. After covering a lot of distance, the rabbit decided to have a nap as it was sure that it would win the race. Tortoise kept walking, walking, and walking. And you know Phopho, who won in the end?" She knew the answer but kept her silence. Something was intriguing in her mind.


"Tortoise won Phopho! Because it kept on walking. It didn't stop, and the rabbit remained asleep. It gave us the moral lesson that 'slow and steady wins the race.'" After telling the whole story, he looked at Mashal with expectations to get praised. But Mashal, she kept on staring at the child with wide eyes, full of emotions. That simple childhood story had clicked something in her mind, leading her toward a new thought and destination.


"Moeez, there is another lesson in the story which is much stronger than this one. That lesson is of self-love and self-belief. If we don't love ourselves, we will always be teased by the rabbit. We will always be afraid of the rabbit without even trying to compete with it. We will never realize our strength and will always be a coward without even trying." Mashal murmured with something shining in her eyes.


"No, This is not the moral lesson of the story! My teacher has told me the real moral lesson, and she also explained that. So your moral lesson has no valid explanation." Moeez protested, but Mashal was engrossed in her thoughts. Divine love has been showered upon her, showing her the illuminated path in the dark forest of life. Childhood stories and cartoons can do wonders if we listen and watch them with eyes and ears of wisdom.


She took a pen and paper from the side drawer and started writing something on it.


……………………


She was standing in front of the dressing's mirror and was murmuring something to herself. Then, finally, she took a pause, cleared her throat, and spoke in an audible voice.


"Assalam o Alaikum! My name is Mashal Hameed. I have done intermediate from Govt. Girls College, and now I want to apply for the job. I... I will…." In the end, her voice started waving, and her body started trembling. In the mirror, her nightmare's reflection appeared.


"You are useless and an ugly being! A pathetic girl who can't do anything correctly. I'm happy after getting rid of you."


She closed her eyes and started murmuring. "I'm strong, I'm strong.” Tears were soaking her cheeks. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes to find no reflection in the mirror. She took a deep sigh of relief and again started her rehearsal.


After a few failed attempts, she took a deep sigh and glanced at her hair which had an unequal cut.


"I should give them a nice cut to have a decent look."


She took the scissors but glancing at them, different bitter memories flashed in her mind, again causing her to tremble. So, she left everything there and rushed toward the bed. She wanted to sleep to escape the bitter realities of life.


……………………….


Again, she was standing in front of the mirror with scissors in her hand.

"I can do it! I'm strong! I have to fight with my demons! " She was chanting it while cutting her hair. Instantly, again that reflection appeared in the mirror.


"Pathetic and useless girl! You are nothing but a piece of trash."


Her hands started trembling, and she was going to drop the scissors, but then she stopped. She realized that if she didn't fight with this demon, her whole life would remain locked in the dark. To let the light in, she has to remove this hurdle.


"No! You are a pathetic and weak man who can't support his family. All your power is always focused on beating the woman because you are unable to support her. I'm happy...I'm happy that I got rid of you. My life was hell with you. Thanks to Almighty Allah that I got free from your evil clutches."


Her chest was heaving high and low, and her breath was escalating while speaking those words. Eventually, that reflection went away, making her smile at her victory. She took the scissors and started giving herself a decent haircut.


…………………………


"What is this? Why have you cut your hair? " Her mother noticed the difference and asked her with surprise and rage in her tone. A wave of nervousness and fear rushed in her veins, and she gulped the saliva before answering.


"To have a change of look," She murmured, causing her mother to narrow her eyes at her.


"Why? A divorcee doesn't need these luxuries." She commented in a sharp tone.


Fury tore through her. "Why? Where has Allah said in Islam that a divorcee should live life like a corpse? Where has Allah prohibited us from loving or caring for ourselves? Tell me, and I will stop doing it." Her tone rising with each word. Her mother stared at her, open-mouthed and speechless at her outburst.


"Your father will answer you when he comes back. Be ready for it!" Her mother rebuked after a brief pause and went away. Her heart pounded so hard at her mother words, it felt as if it would shatter her ribcage any moment.


…………………….


"What do you want, Mashal? " Again, family court was being held, and she was the guilty one in front of them. But now, she was confident and was ready to defend herself.


"To light up my path of life." She replied while gazing toward them. Her heart was thudding, her legs were trembling, but her face was composed, and her voice was strong.


"What is all this rubbish? Just because of you, I'm not able to face the society. Everyone is rebuking us because a woman in our house has got divorced. " Her brother bellowed, causing her to flinch internally.


"That is not my fault. I am not responsible for society's narrow-mindedness." She replied, causing them to glare at her.


"Building a family and relationship is the duty of women! " Her grandmother said in a sharp tone.


"It is the duty of both the spouses. The wife and husband both have to put efforts in the relationship to make it successful. If a car is not supported equally from both sides, it will lose its balance. And the side which was bearing the most of the weight will also be crushed under the weight. Relationships are also like cars which need equal support from both sides." She took a deep sigh and prepared her frenzy nerves to calm down.


"I have come here to tell you all that from tomorrow; I'm going to find a decent job for myself. And with it, I want to start a private BA."


"How can you take such big decisions on your own? " Her father asked with wide eyes.


"Why can't I take it? If others can take life's destructive decisions for me, I can take life's beautiful decisions for myself." She replied with an angry tone.


"Why do you need to do this? Studying hard and doing jobs is not a cakewalk." Abeeha, her sister-in-law, said. She smiled bitterly at her comment.


"Marrying a stranger, bearing his tortures, facing the rude comments of society was also not a cakewalk. But I have faced all these harsh circumstances. No?”


"I will not allow you! I will kill you! " His brother stepped toward her, causing her eyes to widen. He slapped her twice, causing her to stumble on the floor.


"Stop it!” Her father bellowed, causing her brother to stop.


"I will deal with this situation! You have no right to speak on this issue." Her brother stared at her father with furious expressions and walked out. Behind him, his wife also went away.


"Do whatever you want! But do remember your limits. I will not tolerate any more problems from your side." Finally, her father allowed her, but with stern expressions and a harsh tone. She nodded her head while rising from the floor. Her father also went away but with a heavy heart. His heart felt a sting when she told them about the tortures. No father wants his daughter to suffer to this extent.


…………………………..


"We will give you a job as the teacher of playgroup class. Your first month will be a demo month. After that, if you find you competent enough, we will give you a permanent job and will discuss your salary at that time." The principal said to her, causing a smile on her face.


"Sure, ma'am! Thank you." She replied while rising from the chair.


On her way back home, she stopped at the stationery shop to buy BA books. She was determined to give the exam this year.


Sun was shining brightly, and birds were chirping. Children were playing and laughing, and flowers were waving because of the breeze; she passed the street with a confident demeanor and determined gaze. She knew that these flowers also have thorns with them, children's laughter can turn into weeping, a breeze can turn into a cyclone, and the shining sun can be replaced by dark night; she was ready for all these hurdles, for all these issues. The weather of life keeps on changing till our death, but we have to determine how to react to it. Clouds of happiness and gloom will keep floating in the sky of life from time to time, the sky will keep on changing its colors, but we need to hold our ground under it for this metamorphosing sky is the only constant in this temporary world.


…………………………...


 

Laiba Akhtar has recently completed her graduation in English Language and Literature. Passionate about writing and reading, she has written various novels and short stories, which are present on different social media websites. She is also an editor in Causerie E-Magazine and a humanitarian writer in The Digital Desi. Her short story "Dusk to Dawn" has been published in Perspective Magazine.


Instagram: @freelancer_laiba


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