I heard a report on the radio today of how some countries have banned people from recognizing St Valentine’s Day. How can anyone suppress the true meaning of love, for oppressive political or religious purposes and reasons?
I was reminded of a short story I wrote some time ago.
Let Us Fly to Paris
The postman was coming and Aisha’s heart began to race. She jumped off the swing and ran. She had to meet him before he could deliver the letters. Would he tell anyone, if she received a Valentine’s?
Last year she hung her card in her bedroom window for the whole world to see, the red ribbons, the roses and declaration of eternal love. They sentenced her to twenty lashes that were to save her innocence from the evils of seduction. Mother cried to take the blame so they whipped her. Father cried for the 150 ringgits he paid for cream and bandages.
Aisha checked that her hijab covered her designer jeans. She pulled her scarf over her head and neck in case her sultry red lace inflamed the postman’s dignity. She bowed her head. His hold lingered for contact over the gate as she gripped the letters for her father and a small brown parcel. She bowed her head again and stared at his feet. He gave the bundle a tug, but Aisha held on and just stared at the ground. He muttered something about the intense heat and the Monsoon weather, before he let go and left.
It was sensible of Pascal to wrap their secret in brown paper. Hidden like her emotions growing wildly in her dreams. Among the travel books in the library he had whispered about going to Europe. They would climb the Eiffel Tower and kiss. That’s what they did in Paris and no one cared because you were in love. Poor Pascal, he has yet to climb the garden gate. How will our feelings ever go beyond the magnolia trees that grow inside the garden wall?
Aisha sat on the swing with the parcel on her lap, to and fro. What’s the point of roses and ribbons; what’s the point of words of love, what’s the point? What use is happiness locked in a cupboard, wrapped in paper? Aisha pulled the string loose and unwrapped the box.
Two white doves where held in a net, they shivered and blinked in the daylight. How cruel. Each had a ring, on one of their legs, printed with a name. Two doves called Aisha and Pascal. Inside was a note.
Her mother heard Aisha’s screams and came running into the garden. The doves flew past her head to the top branches of the magnolia tree, where they sat bobbing. Free. On the swing Aisha was flying high, back and forwards. She laughed and then slipped off the seat and jumped onto the ground.
‘What is it Aisha?’ Her mother grabbed her hands. ‘Why are you laughing? Not so loud.’
‘Look at the doves Mother, look in the tree.’
‘Shoo shoo.’ Her mother waved her kitchen cloth and the doves flew off. ‘There now, they’ve gone.’
‘Fly, you little doves, fly.’ Aisha waved to the birds. ‘They left a note, Mother. Read this.’
“Let us be free, let us fly to Paris”.