Chapter 1: The Kite Must Fly!
I could hear the words loud in my head as I scurried away. It was a beautiful, warm June evening, but my body was shivering.
I was sprinting like a maniac, although I had no idea how, as though some gust of mysterious wind was dragging me along, like a flimsy kite on a string; the kite flies high only because of the wind, but descends lifelessly to the ground without it.
I alone could hear the silent screams in my head as I raced across the park toward home. And only I could hear the tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. It was still ringing in my ears. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Piercing through my head, in and out, around and around. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.
When I got to the front gate of our old, stone, terraced house, I stopped dead. They could not see me like this. I clung hard to the curls of iron at the top of the gate, the whites of my knuckles protruding, and dimming the redness of the scratches on my hands.
I wiped my tears with my sleeve, leant over and slowly opened the gate. I tentatively went up the two stone steps, and peered through the letterbox. Neither of them was in the hallway, so I entered the house, painstakingly quietly, and crept up the stairs. Just as I reached the landing, I heard my mum’s voice shouting from the bottom of the stairs.
‘Selina, you’re back already? You’re early today. Dinner is nearly ready, come down.’ Her voice was loud and motherly. She was wholly oblivious to the difficulty that I was in. ‘It’s your favourite, chicken haleem, and I’ve just finished the rotis so they are piping hot.’ As though that would make everything alright! A sob nearly escaped my lips.
I took another deep breath, which did nothing except make my head spin even more. I steadied myself on the banister, closed my eyes and shouted back, trying bravely to hide the quiver in my voice.
‘No, ammee, I’m not hungry. I’ve got a headache, that’s why I came back early. I’m going to go straight to bed; I’ll come down and eat later on if I feel up to it.’
I didn’t wait for her reply, but instead stumbled to my bedroom, locked the door, and with my back and long hair scraping all the way down against the door, I fell to the floor in a messy heap. I sobbed uncontrollably, but quietly, biting my hand hard. I could not help but cry, but was adamant that my mum and brother should not hear me. So, to accompany my copious, riotous tears were my deathly silent screams, stifled between my teeth and knuckles, with nowhere to go.
From the corner of my eye I noticed the deep red stain on my carpet. It made me jump; my eyeballs fixed upon it as though I had been hypnotized into staring at the bloody patch. The sight of it caused me to lapse into a quiet, heady panic, and I felt sick. I would have to wash it away, I thought, I would have to get it out. It had to go. It must go. In reality, however, it wouldn’t matter how hard I scrubbed, and how much I willed it to vanish. It would prove to be indelible. Cleaning the carpet could wait, however, for I had to see to myself first. But I feared that these stains would not wash away either.
As I stood under the steaming shower, my tears continued to run. They rolled into the hot water and became one long entity. Like the sweet river and the salty sea when they meet. There is no partition. Where does the river end, and the sea begin? They just meet and become one. Like my salty tears and the hot water. I closed my eyes. I wanted to see nothing, I wanted to feel nothing. I just wanted darkness, blackness, but my eyes kept dragging me back to it all. And still, all I could hear was the tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. I put my hands over my ears, desperately trying to banish the incessant noise that was on repeat in my head, to no effect. How was I ever going to get that sound out of my head? Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick tock….
‘Stained’ is British Asian lawyer turned writer Abda Khan’s debut novel. The novel was published in October 2016 by Harvard Square Editions in the USA.
The novel revolves around an 18-year British Pakistani girl who is raped by a trusted friend of the family. After the attack, she goes to extreme lengths to prevent bringing what she perceives as shame to her widowed mother’s door, and to avoid tarnishing the family’s honour and reputation. However, this leads her down a dark dangerous path from which there may be no return.
About the Author
Abda Khan is a British Pakistani lawyer with her own law practice. She was born and raised in the UK. Her parents moved to England from Pakistan in the 1960s. She was inspired to write the novel as a result of having come across many of the issues that are explored in the novel; in particular, the problems faced by women in the South Asian communities, and some truly shocking things that have either been done or endured, all in the name of honour. Abda lives in Solihull with her husband and children. Further details can be found by visiting her website at www.abdakhan.com