Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Before Dawn By Nat Statton

Her dreams were filled with blood and girls screaming. She woke, staring into the darkness. It had never disturbed her before. She had been proud, when she was growing up, to be born to take on such an important role. She had been proud, when she was grown, to continue the work of the women of her family: her mother; her grandmother; her grandmother’s grandmother. It was an important position, an important calling. She had been proud as a girl, after it had been done to herself and she had recovered, to know herself a woman now and pure and proper and fit for marriage. She had been proud during her marriage and to do it for her daughter. To know her daughter would be fit for a good life.

But – But what good life was it? Her husband was long gone and now her daughter was with him: there were always some girls who did not recover. Who did not live to be pure and proud. But to have this happen to her daughter! Perhaps it was merely grief causing such thoughts. But lately, in her dreams and the darkness, she could not stop thinking of the pain: the pain of everything, of walking, of squatting, of unmentionable acts, of bleeding in an agonising trickle each month. She had been told the pain was the pain of living. She had repeated these words as a comfort to other mothers, other girls, too many to count. The pain went hand in hand with purity, with pride. But lately, in her dreams and the darkness, she had seen her daughter, hands held out to her as they had been before they were held down, begging her not to do it, begging her to stop.

She had not cried then. She had refused to cry after. Some girls did not recover: it was the way of it. She didn’t dare let her dreams follow her into the daytime: she refused to show her indecision, her doubt. She would not let her hands shake, as they wanted, or to question, to ask why. Would her husband have loved her less if it had not been done to her? Of course, she thought. So she had been told. Would he have treated her badly? Would he have married her at all? Which would be better: for her daughter to have died or not to have been born? She turned over onto her side, as if movement would help to banish such thoughts. She had heard some mothers ran away, smuggling their daughters with them before it could happen. Took them to other countries, disgracing them and condemning them to ruin and shame. So she had been told. But now, in her dreams and the darkness, she wondered if they were the ones who should be proud. If, when day came and it was light, she could smile gently at the next girl to come before her and to put down the knife.

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