Aman thought herself very lucky. She had known Kazim since they were children and had always liked him. Now that the time for getting married was nigh, she only had eyes for him, and he for her. Their families were relatively progressive, and neither Aman nor Kazim’s parents insisted on a different husband/wife for them. The two mothers, though, were determined that the rest of the normal wedding tradition be observed, and the young people acceded to their wishes.
The engagement party was a grand affair by the small town’s standards, the food prepared by one of the best chefs in the region, a cousin of Kazim’s father. When they slipped the engagement rings on each other’s right-hand ring finger, Aman looked deep into Kazim’s eyes.
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul; Kazim was a good person, Aman knew, and her belief in him was confirmed in a deep, sincere brown. She also saw a glimpse of the future in his open face and gentle smile – a life of kindness and warm companionship, insha’Allah. At that moment, she realised that her childhood ‘liking’ for this person had turned to love.
Over the next few weeks, Aman helped her mother with the wedding preparations: booking the wedding and reception rooms, the musicians, the food. The engagement party had been so well received by the guests that Aman’s mother was afraid the big day might be an anti-climax, but Aman reassured her, and together they worked to make this wedding one that the town would never forget.
On her Henna Night, two weeks before the ceremony, Aman sat with her best friend Mufidah while a local woman painted their hands with intricate designs. Mufidah was already married, and very happily so.
“Mufi, can I ask you something?”
“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. If he’s gentle, it won’t hurt and you’ll enjoy it.”
Aman laughed at her friend’s easy perspicacity.
“But what if I don’t please him?”
“Listen, my little flower petal. I know Kazim. And I know that you love him very much – a person just has to look at your face when his name’s mentioned. If I were you, I’d just trust him – to give you pleasure, and to understand if you’re a little awkward at first. After all, you’re just a beginner.”
Aman slapped her friend playfully on the arm with the hand that had already been painted. Mufidah leaned in to whisper to her.
“But I can give you some detailed tips, if you like …”
They laughed together now, enjoying each other’s company and excited about the evening of dancing ahead of them.
It seemed to Aman that she spent the rest of the days before the wedding in a constant state of bliss, and the rest of the nights dreaming of Kazim, and their children, and their home.
The wedding day dawned warm and bright. Light, spring air wafted through the family home as her mother and Mufidah helped Aman to dress. Outside on the patio, a lark perched in an almond tree in blossom made its melodic contribution to the special day .
A day that seemed to pass in an instant: Aman’s head span with the brilliant colours decking the hall, the trilling zaghareet made by the women guests, the deafening rhythms of the zaffa procession, and the extreme and exquisite emotion of the most important day of her life.
Finally she found herself sitting next to Kazim on the dais in the hall. Sharbat was passed around to all the guests and glasses were raised to toast the couple. They moved their rings to the left hand and exchanged warm smiles, their hearts soaring with satisfaction and expectation.
There was no time for Aman’s life to flash before her when the bomb exploded; rather, her life disappeared in a flash of searing heat, nails and bolts. Kazim and Mufidah, too, were ripped apart, their scorched, shredded bodies, along with those of family and guests, transformed into a kind of gruesome confetti that fell and plopped on the floor of the hall and the tables.
When the concussion of the explosion subsided, what remained of Aman lay in the centre of the hall where she had landed, her dress no longer the purest white but a sickening scarlet.
Blood shed because of a centuries-old religious dispute. Blood type O.