Broken Mirrors – 1

by Owaiz

Writing Prompt: Broken Mirrors

I wrote this a while back and haven’t gotten around to finish it. The story gets far too complicated for me and I can’t do it justice just yet, so I’m leaving it at that. Let me know your thoughts.

“You’re beautiful,” she said to her reflection in her thick Pashto accented English—it was one of the few sentences she knew in the language. Then she planted a kiss on the mirror, leaving a garish orange stain.

Palwashay had always known she was beautiful. She was a princess, she was sure of it. She certainly dressed like one. She owned more clothes than anyone in the family, had more cosmetics, and even had photos of herself. She had dolls as well, cheap knock-offs. Being the youngest sibling and the only girl among nine siblings, she had been everyone’s favorite.

They always dressed her in princess-y dresses of all colours: dull green, bright blue, flashy red, plastic pink, fire orange, etc. She never went to school, and when she asked why that was, she was told that princesses don’t go to school. The answer satisfied her and she never really asked again. Why wake up early and go to school when you can watch princess movies on the CRT TV? Even her TV was grand, unlike those flimsy and small flat screens that others had. She had a huge collection of cassettes of Hindi dubbed Disney movies.

Her parents loved her, her brothers doted on her, and all the relatives brought something for her whenever they came. The calendar, the clothes, the kajal, the dry fruits, the bucket of ghee, the carpet, the shawl, the topi, etc., were all hers. Everything, masculine, feminine, and neutral that was brought into the house was hers. Of course, she didn’t always get to use that stuff, but it was all hers.

She ‘knew’ she was a princess because that’s all she had ever heard in the supposed castle she lived in; a castle she had never set foot out of, much like Jasmine. But Jasmine had run away once, a mistake that Palwashay knew, without ever being told, would have grave consequences.

She was a princess until she turned twelve. She was hitting puberty, her body was changing, and the men in the house had started avoiding her. Her brothers no longer let her sit with them and watch tv, her father no longer wanted her around when he sat in the courtyard with his friends, and her mother never wanted her setting foot outside the front door.

As years went by, the rules kept getting stricter. She had started to understand why Jasmine fled, but since she had started watching things from real life on the tv, she knew the world she lived in wasn’t as safe as Agrabah. Her mother told her to stay away from the windows; her brothers told her to get away from the windows whenever they saw her near one; they were kinder at first, then bland, then harsh.

The house started filling up as her brothers got married, and by the end she was sleeping with her mother in the living room. She saw her new sisters welcomed into the family, treated like princesses in the beginning, allowed to do their own makeup and wear nice clothes—another thing she was no longer allowed to do—and then succumb to the castle, to this harem.

The shy smiles were soon replaced with a blank expression, the makeup with bruises. The clothes they had brought would no longer fit so they had all settled on simple, loose dresses, and it was better that way—easier than always shuffling clothes that wouldn’t fit a stomach that changed shape all year round, every year. The new home always becomes ordinary eventually, and it no longer matters what you wear inside.

She had seen them all, every one of them succumb to the same fate. The smiles, the happiness, the disappointment, the hurt, the pain, and the bland expressions until they all finally resigned themselves to fate. Palwashay had a lingering feeling her future would be no different.

She used to watch Fashion TV, back when she was allowed to watch TV, and she knew that faces like hers were rare and exotic; all the models looked like her. But then similar faces had filled her house and she was no longer so rare.