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Rubaan danced in the rain and then she never danced again. She had danced that night, despite warnings of a nearby bombing. Didn't she know that little girls in Syria had lost all rights to feel rain pouring through their golden hairs, The Summer rain wasn't theirs to treasure anymore but Rubaan didn't take heed.

Stupid Rubaan, Hurt Rubaan, Dead Rubaan!

The coffin wasn't as heavy as her Papa Yehya’s heart that day. He walked with slow, shuffling, deliberate steps. He wished that the distance to the grave increased. Somehow it made him feel she was still near him but holding her in a coffin was different than holding her in his arms...and when they lowered her into the tiny grave designed for a 5-year-old, it rained heavily. Rubaan loved the rain and the rain loved her in return.

"There's a God who lives somewhere in the skies as the old scriptures say, the God of the skies!’ Couldn't he have stopped the bomb splinters from hitting her.? He was right there in the skies…!" No one could console him. Yehya’s grief was beyond repair and then how could anyone overcome such an immense loss. She was the girl who grew up in his arms, on his shoulders, skipping and jumping in the very garden where he gathered pieces of her. There were so many of them that they had to stitch them up to form a recognizable human shape..!

The cold winter wind blew in hushed tones through the barricaded train window near which the 35 year old woman sat huddled in a brown shawl. Small wisps of snow had settled on her black hair which appeared a bit frizzy in this strong weather.

This was a nearly empty compartment given the time of the year when not many opted for a visit to a hill station and as this late November train sped past  quaint Indian villages in the extreme north of the country well past dusk.. Tania drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

She had been deciding upon this trip for a few months now and something or the other had kept delaying it. A trip that had been planned for early September when the apple orchards were laden with fruit had stretched into gloomy November when most of the valley began preparations for a harsh winter ahead.

The train screeched to a halt at a lesser known station and a tall heavily built man clad in a thick overcoat entered her compartment. He brought a gush of very cold air with him that Tania felt harshly despite the half open window. His face was partially covered by a muffler but she could see his eyes. Thick tufts of dripping blackish hair fell over his forehead. He was carrying a small dark brown handbag that he placed overhead before taking a seat exactly opposite to her.

Short Story

The third daughter is like a blunt knife, she tears more than she cuts,” thought Naji, looking away from the child’s face.

On the bed next to him lay his wife, Maryam in deep sleep after nineteen long and tedious hours of labor pains. He had expected a son for the last two labor pains had been like hot butter melting on warm toast, and both had been daughters.

“This child has to be a boy,” he remembered telling his wife the day before and now his words hung like icicles on a frosty morning. He didn’t care to notice the look on her face as she went into panic on hearing those words and then labor had made her forget everything else. Daughter or son, it didn’t matter as long as this terrible pain would just come to an end. She simply wanted it to be over.

The child, a mere four and a half pounds in weight purred incessantly as she came out of the birth canal, ripping it at a place or two. And then the thick, twisted purplish umbilical cord detached from the seed where it had been sown nine long months ago, the reddish brown placenta, which, maybe cats would eat up later on and now she slept peacefully. Things would eventually sort themselves out in the next few days and life would go back to being normal.

‘A third daughter,’ Naji smoked fiercely as he lay down beside his wife that night. The other two daughters were with their grandmother and the third one was here, on the bed next to him, huddled in a small blanket between the two parents.