Although I was happy that I could see Saif again, I still felt my body shivering whenever anyone touched me. I kept thinking of the look on Abu Ashour Face as he stood in the dark doorway, and every time I did I could feel my heart heaving in my chest and my eyes welling up with tears. I didn’t know what he wanted from me, and I couldn’t stop thinking of that either, except when I was with Saif, which made me wake up before dawn everyday waiting eagerly to go to school and see him.
But that morning there was something different at school. There was a new girl that the teacher told us had moved in to the village recently. I’d heard about her family earlier as one of the neighbors was telling my mother that a new family had come to the village. She said that nobody knew anything about them, but they looked suspicious because they kept to themselves and rarely left their house. And when they knew their daughter was to attend my school, I was specifically instructed to befriend her to see what I could learn about her.
I didn’t like making new friends. Saif was my only friend and I couldn’t imagine having a third person that would enjoy the same things we do and understand the things we talked about. I was glad that Saif too didn’t care much about having many friends. Sometimes I felt like we were two castaways, living in our own world that no one’s allowed into.
We left school that day as usual and raced to the water spring. By the time we were panting we realized that we had company. The new girl was watching us from a distance, and she was panting too. She’d followed us from school. I felt a sting in my chest when I saw her, and I wondered why she hadn’t chosen to chase someone else. I turned my head away as if no one was there, but Saif was already walking towards her.
“I saw you playing with pebbles in the school yard” She said before we asked her anything. “I thought it was fun than what the other children were doing.”
“Nobody thinks it’s fun.” Replied Saif, smiling.
“They are boring and stupid, all of them.” Replied the girl.
“You can come play with us, we come here everyday.” Said Saif. I didn’t like the idea.
“Thanks. My name is Siwar.”
“Yes, we know that” I blurted out, although I just remembered her name the moment she mentioned it.
“You are Laila, and you are Saif.” She smiled shyly when she talked to Saif. “Everyone seems to like you but you don’t talk to anyone much.”
I felt my chest tightening like I was going to suffocate, so I walked a few feet away from them towards the water spring. I could hear them talking still; I couldn’t bear the sight of them two standing alone so I hurried back and stood beside Saif, hardly keeping myself from clutching his hand.
W spent the rest of the day by their as Siwar told us stories about their hometown. She wasn’t like the other children, she was like us, and that’s scared me the most. Saif was listening to her stories and laughing as I watched him all the time that I hardly paid attention to most of what she was saying. Something made me afraid and I couldn’t tell what it was, but the more Saif laughed, the more I wanted that day to end.
We spent a few days like that, the three of us playing and talking by the water spring. I was starting to like her, but I felt guilty, because the more I liked her the more I wanted her gone, because I knew Saif liked her too. I hated that she was there all the time, I knew it was selfish of me to want Saif to spend his time with nobody else other than me, but that’s the way it has always been and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I had often thought of the three of us growing up and him going away with her and leaving me alone and each time I felt as if my heart was going up in flames. it was my worst nightmare.
I kept grappling with my thoughts, one moment I would think of the most cunning ways to drive her away or to make Saif hate her, but then I would feel ashamed of myself for even thinking of doing something so vicious like that. For the first time in my life I wished I was like Nora; I thought that perhaps if I were here I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment and I would have Saif all for myself without feeling the slightest bit of remorse. I thought that maybe If I told Nora she would tell me what to do and I would find some encouragement, but I just didn’t feel like I could trust her with anything anymore. But I was torn, and just when I was about to give in and act against my better judgment, Siwar gave me the chance to do so on a silver plate.
It was one day after school that Saif told us that he had to go home to help his father with something before he would join us at the water spring. So, Siwar and I went there alone ahead of him. It was strange because when the two of us were alone we didn’t speak much; it was as though Saif was the bond that connected us. She must’ve noticed that I didn’t care to talk to her because she tried to start a conversation several times but I would just nod and walk along.
We reached the water spring, she stood by the spring, throwing pebbles in the water. I watched her from a distance where I was sitting on a rock, absent-mindedly plucking out a bunch of dandelions. I felt like shouting at her to stop playing our game, and each time a pebble rippled in the water I heard a ringing noise in my head.
When she grew tired of throwing, she turned to me and all of a sudden she had a dumbstruck look on her face. “The eye of Satan!” She yelled.
I looked at the dandelion in my hand and then at her. “You mean this?”
“Yes!” She said assertively. “Don’t you know that?”
The thoughts in my head were starting to clear up. “No, I didn’t know about this.” I lied.
“My mom told me that Satan has many eyes that he send them everywhere to watch people and make sure they do bas stuff.” She said with even more assertiveness.
“Do you believe that?” I asked, trying to sound less doubtful that I really was.
“Of course I do. Look how scary they look. Don’t you believe it?”
“well, It looks very true to me” I lied again. “I don’t think Saif knows about this either. He must be so intrigued if we tell him about it. I want to tell him first!”
And with that I ran off as if trying to beat her to Saif’s house, and just as I expected, she took the bait. She was running, trying to catch up with me, and screaming that that wasn’t fair and that she should tell him that because she knew it first. Just before we reached Saif’s house I slowed down a little, pretending that I was too tired to run anymore. Saif was helping his father cutting pieces of firewood. I stood in my tracks to watch Siwar as she approached him with the dandelion in her hand. I watched as her excitement faded away into disappointment when she saw the look of disdain on Saif’s face, and I found myself smiling triumphantly as he walked away, leaving her alone, holding in her hand what I, for the first time, felt was the eye of Satan.