A Forgotten Feast
Karima woke with a start. She looked at the calendar, smiled, and jumped out of bed, pushing her stuffed dog aside. She ran into the living room, her padded socks plunking the floor.
Her brunette hair was spewed out in various directions. Bedhead, her brother Hashim would have said with a roll of the eyes. He was much older than her.
In the living room, she found her father sitting on the couch, his knees up to his chin, his forehead crinkled. He wore the same clothes he had worn the day before and the day before that.
She looked where the tree had been two years before.
“Again, no Christmas?” as if a surprise.
Hafez stared out the window as the sky lit up. His frown grew deeper, deeper than she thought it could get. She leaned in and wrapped her arms around him.
“It’s okay, papa.”
The light show was getting closer.
Hafez shook his head. There was nowhere to go.
“We could leave today, papa.”
“We wouldn’t get out alive.”
“Yes, we would. Grandma said you have to have faith.”
“And look where that got her, your mother, and your brother.”
Her mother, brother, and grandmother had dined at the neighborhood restaurant two New Years past, while Karima had stayed home and played cards with her father. She was only seven then and her father believed her too young to celebrate so late. He was also a worrier and there had been many attacks of restaurants. Every day, it seemed.
Bombings had become a regular event. “Boom” and gone was a whole neighborhood.
And so it had been for her family. “Boom” and the restaurant was gone. “Boom” and her mother, brother, and grandmother were gone.
“We will get out,” she said, her nine year voice sounding more and more like her mother’s. “And who would take us?” he asked.
Karima stood back and looked out the window. She thought of all the celebrities she saw on television or the magazines she had read about quiet cities, quiet people.
False light scattered the horizon, ruining the beauty of first sun. Damascus was a fireball all around them, a sunrise she would never forget.
She sat with her father through the morning. She heard no celebrations. The earth went “boom,” a few buildings went “boom,” and mid-day arrived.
They ate lunch in the dark of the basement. Her father lit candles and they played cards. Christmas was over before she knew it and not one cake had been served.
A week later, when the house was struck and her father went missing, Karima snuck out of the neighborhood and ran until she found the embassy her mother had once shown her.
There, she met a foreigner and through a series of miraculous events and the compassion of strangers, she made it out alive.
She never saw her father again in person, but she saw him in her dreams. He was dressed in red and white. He was singing Christmas carols. He was with her mother, her brother, and her grandmother and they were having a ball.