Dates Drizzled in Honey

1 Sep

By Aiyana Spear
8th Grade

They say she doesn’t belong. They say that she’s a robot, and her therapist says that she has PTSD and should write about it. She doesn’t know, and honestly, doesn’t care. Most days she doesn’t want to wake up. She’s thought about suicide, but she resists the temptation, because her mother and father died saving her. Her alarm clock reminds her of the gunshots; sirens in the streets do too. People chattering loudly at school reminds her of her friend, her best friend who died when the soldiers set fire to their school. Her foster family tries to take care of her, but their daughter wrinkles her nose at her and bullies her, and the mother and father are both gone at work all the time.

Ami was named after her grandmother, a woman she never met, who didn’t have to live through the torture. Wars are terrible things, and even though it ended she can’t go back to her country. She must stay. England is not a terrible place to be, but it is not home. She wishes she could go home, even though it holds those memories: the memory of her father being forced to rape her little sister and then the both of them being shot in the head; the memory of having to hide in that vent, watching it, not being able to scream; the memory of screaming when they left, the blood pooling underneath the three bodies, the soldiers hadn’t even bothered to close the eyes; the memory of knowing what happened next, the soldiers burning her house; and the memory of not being able to do anything.

She ran into her and her sister’s room, and grabbed her locket and a box filled with all of her personal stuff. She closed their eyes, planting a kiss on each forehead, and took her mum’s pearl necklace and her dad’s watch. With a whispered goodbye, she left the house, and cloaked in shadow she ran. She ran and she ran and she ran. Past burning houses and dead bodies lying in the streets. She hid from soldiers passing by her, and ran silently past them when they surrounded a burning house and drank and sang raucous songs. These memories haunt her every day of her life.

Sometimes at night she climbs through her window and out onto the roof, staring up at the sky. She has heard people talk about heaven when she goes to church, and when she was little she was taught about the day of judgment. But she believes that her parents and sister are right up there, watching over her, not necessarily in heaven, just up there, staring down at her. When she goes out onto the roof, she can’t see the stars because of light pollution, but she can see the moon. The moon has always watched over her. When she was little her dad would take her out and point up at it, saying “the moon will always be there to watch you. Even when I’m gone, it will be there.” Every full moon she feels connected to her father, like she could reach out and hug him anytime she wanted.

When she lies on the roof, staring up, up, as far as she can see, is the only time she thinks about the future. She thinks about what she wants to do, about how she wants to do something, about how she feels that she has to do something good in the world because her family died for her. She knows that she wants to help those who helped her run. She especially wants to help the woman who got her from Tunisia to Italy.

The memory of that day is clear, she can still feel the roughness of her dehydrated throat, the pain in the blisters on her feet and the cuts on her hands, she can still remember the taste of the food the woman gave her. The store she entered first in that little Tunisian town smelled heavenly. She saw delicious food, and didn’t even notice the people who turned to stare the minute she walked in. Her eyes zeroed in on the dates dripping with honey, her mouth watering with desire. But before she could ask for directions, or a glass of water, a big, rough hand had grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and started to shove her out the door, ignoring her struggling feet. A deep gruff voice shouted curses after her as she fell on the dirt road, getting her face and hands even more scratched up, her hands even starting to bleed down her fingers and onto the gravel below. But she knew how to deal with it, her mum was a nurse after all, and she quickly wrapped her hands with fabric she had torn from her pants.

The next stores she went into were all the same.

Ami had given up hope by the time she got to the last store on the road. It seemed secluded, and outside there was a table with an umbrella though no one was sitting there. It looked forlorn, abandoned, exactly how Ami felt. She was tired, thirsty and hungry. She had not slept very well ever since before it happened, and she had already finished the water they’d given her at the camp. She dragged herself up the steps in front of the store, and slowly pushed in, a little bell tinkling at the opening of the door. The shops lights didn’t burn her eyes like the other ones did, it had colorful cloths draped over table lamps muting the light, and the room was homey. It reminded Ami of her home, the rug on the floor, and the fire crackling in the corner. It made her sad, and she was entranced as she walked further in.

A woman was sitting behind a counter that was filled with amazing foods. The woman was knitting, it looked like a sweater made out of dyed blue yarn, and looked very kind with dark, chocolate brown eyes and a motherly smile.

“Hello dear.” The woman’s voice was like milk and honey, calming.

Ami walked closer to her, the smell of vanilla incense hitting her, tears pricking in her eyes. “Hello,” she said, her voice rough from a lack of water.

The woman smiled and hurried to a different counter, getting a plastic cup and filling it with ice cubes that made a tinkling sound as they filled it, and then water was poured over it. Ami’s mouth watered, and she reached for it, but before the woman gave it to her she dropped a tablet into it, and let it dissolve.

“Drink up and sit,” the woman said, pointing to a stool on the other side of the counter from her own chair.

Ami nodded, and started to drink. She had learned in school that when you are dehydrated you shouldn’t drink all at once, so she took little sips. The woman smiled at her.

When Ami had finished half of the glass, she pulled out the backpack they had given her at the refugee camp, and pulled out a loaf of round bread. It was stale and burnt and very disgusting looking. Ami ignored this though, and pulled off a piece and was about to put it in her mouth when the woman stopped her.

“No no no,” she stated vigorously, turning and grabbing a bowl and spoon before dishing up some hot soup. Ami almost started crying again, because the smell that wafted towards her reminded her of the main streets in her town. The woman pushed the bowl towards Ami, as well as a small round ball of bread fresh out of an oven. “There. Eat.” The woman ordered, smiling.

Ami gratefully picked up the spoon and started to eat. It certainly wasn’t the best she ever had, but it tasted delicious after around 2 weeks of just stale bread and dried fruits. “Thank you,” she whispered, remembering to be polite and use the napkin that was given to her.

“You’re welcome. Now do you want to tell me what a young Libyan girl is doing in Tunisia without any escort?” The woman’s eyes bored into her, and Ami felt like she was being x-rayed.

“I-um, I need to get to the coast,” Ami replied, not answering the woman’s question because she knew not to trust anyone.

“Well my dear, my son happens to own a fish market in Jarjis and he comes to visit me every other weekend to bring me fish. He has just brought me fish today and is leaving tomorrow. Would you like him to take you?” The woman still smiled at her as Ami finished her food.

She was confused, she didn’t know if she could trust the woman or not, but she really did want to get to the coast. “I-uh-um, well…. I-I guess, yes ma’am, I would if that wouldn’t be too much trouble,” she stammered, twisting her hands together.

The woman smiled, and stood up again, grabbing two bowls this time and spooning something into them with her back to Ami. The woman turned, and walked back to her, placing one of the bowls in front of her, keeping one for herself. “I saw you staring at them…. They are my favorite too,” the woman said, whispering as though the two of them had a secret.

Ami stared at her, surprised, but smiled and started to eat.

The woman and her son helped her. They gave her a place to stay and bathe, and the son gladly drove her to the coast, and even paid for a ferry ticket so Ami could get to Italy. People helped her in Italy as well, but the Tunisian woman was the most helpful, even providing pepper spray as she was a young girl traveling alone.

Usually Ami falls asleep on that roof, the moon protecting her, and she isn’t able to hear the alarm clock that is supposed to wake her up but instead just gives her panicked dreams. Sometimes her adopted father comes out and sleeps next to her. Out of all of the people she knows in England, he is always the best.

***

So Ami went to school, and did all of those things teenagers are supposed to do, always plagued by memories, always called a freak. Her therapist who saw her every week tried to get her to talk, but she wouldn’t, not ever ever, tell anyone about what had happened. I was the only person who ever got her to tell her story.

The first time I saw Ami was at her school. I had been sent by my editor to learn about the amazing smart kids at this private school (that was when I was just a little above an intern). And Ami happened to be one of these amazing smart kids, which was surprising to everybody since she certainly hadn’t been in the best school in Libya, or that’s what everyone thought. I didn’t talk to her that day. I had been told about her, but when I sat in on classes she was always in the back, seemingly doodling on paper, and I didn’t interview her.

The second time I saw her, it was surprising to say the least. It was a Saturday, and she had come into work with her foster father, and it just so happened that Ami’s foster father was one of the higher ups at my newspaper. He actually came up to me and, as I was still only a level up from an intern, he asked me to give her a tour. I had always liked Mr. Anders—he was a kind man with grey hair and he always wore a bow tie with his suits—so I gladly did as he asked.

Ami was small. She had a dancer’s body and was around five-foot by my estimation. She was quite pretty, and she was wearing a Libyan military beret that she later told me was given to her by her father. At first she didn’t talk to me. But I talked to her as I led her all around the (really quite amazing) building that housed our newspaper. After a little while she asked me some questions. I jumped the first time I heard her voice. It was musical, and I had not been expecting it. “Was it you who came and interviewed people at my school?” and “where do the authors of the articles write?” and “Can we go somewhere?” I answered all of her questions. That last one surprised me, but I replied that I would ask her dad and see what he thought. He happened to love the idea.

I returned back to my desk, where I had left her to ask her dad, and she was typing something on my computer. I didn’t ask her what it was as I walked up. I told her we were allowed to go somewhere. She smiled, and we walked back to the elevator where I first saw her. We left and walked along the very busy road.

“Where do you want to go?” I ask, tapping her shoulder because she seems to be lost in her own little world.

She jumps and turns to me, a confused look on her face. She seems to be battling with herself about something. “Are you a writer?” Her voice is small, shy.

I smile down at her, and carefully place an arm around her shoulder, not wanting to scare her. “Well, I want to be… Not fiction though; investigative journalism, real true things.”

I see a coffee shop up ahead, and I steer Ami towards it, figuring she might be hungry. She seems to be deep in thought and doesn’t even notice. “What would you like?” I ask, leaning down to her as it is kind of loud.

She jumps again, “Um, could I just have some tea?” She seems to be leaning into me, hiding herself away from all the people.

“Of course.” At this time I have reached the counter and I order two teas, which are brought to us quickly. I hand Ami her cup. “Would you like to go to the park?” I ask.

She nods, blowing on her tea to cool it.

When we get there she seems to want to say something. I wait patiently, sipping my tea and watching people go by. “Tea is the only food here that is better than Libya,” she whispers.

I raise an eyebrow, I had been told she doesn’t tell anyone these things. “Oh? What kind of food did you have?” I don’t want to scare her off of telling me anymore, but I’m curious.

“There aren’t English words for it…My favorite thing is dates drizzled in honey.”

I smile, “Do they not have that here? It doesn’t sound too hard.”

“They do, but it’s not the same. There are spices that we use, that many English don’t even dream of using…At home, even at school, the food was delicious.”

I smile down at her, surprised and finished with my tea.

“If I told you about it…would you write it?” she asks, staring up at me with a hopeful look on her face.

“Y-you want your story told? By me?” I stare at her.

“Yes. I do.” she whispers.

I nod, and she starts telling me all about it, after I have grabbed my recorder and started to take notes.

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