Selma and Max were having dinner in the kitchen with their grandparents, enjoying their summer vacation in Hungary as they did every year. Their mother looked somewhat distraught, yet relieved, when she joined them at the table. In a quiet voice, she informed them in Arabic that she had something to tell them after they finished their sausages. The first word to pop into Selma's head was "divorce", though she didn't know it's meaning, she felt it somehow described her mother's expression perfectly. Her grandparents eyed their daughter suspiciously, feeling excluded from the foreign conversation. Ever since she had moved to Cairo, about a decade ago, their daughter had never seemed herself. They were glad to have their young grandchildren at their home every summer, but they dreaded to see them go back at the begging of September. With each passing year, they hoped their daughter would move back and leave behind her trail of bad choices and life altering mistakes behind, but their waiting and wishing hadn't payed off. Upstairs, in Selma's uncle's room, the only one with a computer, their mother informed them of her planned divorce from their father. To a young girl of six, it should've been sad news, but Selma was indifferent. She wasn't sure what this meant, but she was sure whatever it was, it wouldn't make much difference in her life. She barely saw her father anyways, who always stayed in Egypt when she and her brother went on vacation with her mother, so she simply nodded and went on with her evening without a second thought on the matter.
Max held the remote in his hand and was watching with interest the movie on screen, oblivious to his younger sister's sudden unexplainable fear. Selma felt her tummy squeezing, her face wet from tears, and her body shaking involuntarily. Somehow, the guns and soldiers on screen were making her scared, and she begged her brother to change the channel in a sudden outburst of emotion. She began to scream and her breath caught in her throat when her brother refused. Taken aback by his sister's strange breakdown, he relented and changed the channel, only managing to watch two minutes of colourful dancing blobs that had succeeded in calming down his sister before the power cut. This was common in Egypt, but with her parents just gone out for the evening, Selma clutched her brother's hand and screamed for her mother in the dark. Only having made it halfway down the apartment block's stairwell, the children's parents hurried back up in the dark, knowing that the youngsters would be terrified alone. They hadn't planned on taking them, but with the power out and Selma throwing a tantrum, they had no choice. Max tried to distract his sister as they sat on a bench outside the office which his mother and father had entered a few minutes ago. The door was on the other side of the room, and it was open. Selma pestered her brother with questions about where they were and why her mother looked so upset, but her brother just changed the subject and told her to be quiet. She fell asleep on the bench a few hours later, her mother and father still fighting in the office across the room.
Many weeks had passed since the divorce, but Selma's father was still living with them, claiming that the Quran stated that a man was allowed to live with his ex-wife, even after divorce, if he had no place to stay. It was only many years later that Selma would learn that her father used her mother's ignorance and submissive personality to his advantage, and had been doing so for as long as he'd known her. Their life stayed the same, only with minor changes. Her mother cried more, her brother didn't want to play as much, and she saw even less of her father. And at times like these, for some odd reason, Selma was reminded of the confident, mysterious young man that had spoken to her about strawberries and the colour red.
As she held her mother's hand on the walk home from school, Selma thought happily about the shiny wrapping she had seen inside the pink plastic bag her mother was clutching. It was chocolate. Galaxy. Her favourite. That handsome stranger had bought it for her earlier, and told her mother to give it to her. Suddenly, Selma spoke up, curiously looking at her mother:
"Mommy, if you're so sad that Dad is gone, why don't you marry Uncle Ahmed?" her question was innocent and her curiosity genuine, but she had no idea what consequences such a suggestion could have. Her mother chuckled nervously and waved away her question.
"Oh don't be silly! That's not going to happen!" she replied quickly, although her voice seemed disappointed as she said it. Selma thought it over.
"Why not?" she reasoned, unable to find a cause for her mother's sudden nervous tone.
"Well, for one thing, he's 8 years younger than me!" she said, shaking her head at her daughter. Selma shrugged.
"So what?" she questioned. Her mother just looked into the distance and tightened her grip on the young girl's hand. She didn't reply this time. Selma knew her mother was just as fond of the mysterious man as she was, and being a child, she could find no reason why her mother shouldn't marry him. Little did she know of what her father's warning had been to her mother about this man..