Chapter 1: The Long Awaited Arrival

I don’t really know the year I was born in, or the day, or even the month. We took a guess though, and I celebrate my birthday in August. Where I was born doesn’t really matter either, I don’t think, but who I was born to makes all the difference in the world. 

My mother, Rashida, was the second wife of the middle son of a family of landowners. The vegetables came in fresh from the fields and there was milk from the cows and a year’s worth of rice and grains in the storage trunks. There was a big stone house and everybody got a room – my father’s elder brother, his wife and their kids, my dad’s younger brother who wasn’t yet married and one for each of my dad’s wives. 

They say my father hadn’t wanted to get married the second time around even though his first wife couldn’t have kids. They say his younger sister had him marry in secret. I’ve even heard his first wife’s brothers stormed into our house with axes to take my father’s life when they found out what he’d done. 

All that was before my time though, so I can’t say one way or another. What I do know is that he survived, and he had me. I wasn’t a boy, so I wouldn’t carry on the family name, but at least now everyone knew the second wife was fertile. Maybe next time, there’d even be a boy. 

To be fair, my family celebrated my birth with enthusiasm. Everyone in the whole village got sweets and my aunts and uncles fought with each other for a chance to hold me. For months, the stone house rang with clamoring voices every evening as heated arguments broke out over what to name me. It turned out that I was known by a lot of names at first.  Sajda and Safia were at the top of the list for a while but they didn’t last. Somehow, none of the fancy names ever did stick. I ended up with the one that just kind of happened: Smile. 

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