Dancing queen


The familiar shadows hung over me once again. Something about 3am haunted me most nights. The window had a few splatters of rain and the branches shadowed by the street lights scraped back and forth across the patterned wallpaper. Feeling restless I pushed back the covers peeping out of the window. Some instinct nudging me towards my coat.
The streets were quiet. A few clouds  crawling across the night sky. I made my way to the end of the road, being careful not to slip on the leaves. Lights shone brightly from a window and the faint hum of music called to me, I turned towards it. Standing on the street I looked up at the windows. Shadows of people standing, dancing. Sounds of music, voices blending through chatter and laughter. The door suddenly swung open and a familiar hand waved me forward. “Come on, you’re late!” I shook my head and gestured down to my clothes “I’m not..” my words faded away as I looked down at my favourite jeans and high heeled sandals. Bright Red matching my painted toes. He pulled me close, kissing my cheek. “Come on. I’ve been waiting for you”. My cheeks flushed with pleasure, we slipped through the party crowd and into the throng of dancers. Bouncing with the music and shouting along, to the song of our time ‘Dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen’. Drink in hand. Favourite songs. Favourite friends. Laughter bubbled around. Words punching through the stereo as songs move along from one to the other.
My feet are now aching and those familiar hands tug me close. We are gently swaying together. Eyes closed, my face pressed into his shoulder. “Marry me” the words gently drop down and sit in my ear.

My eyes snap open but the party is gone.

The branches are still swaying their shadows along the wall. The rain drops still cling to the window. Those red Sandals are long gone, as are those jeans.  A small smile tugs at my lips as I remember it all. I push myself up from my bed and ease onto my frail legs. The house is silent and empty. I shuffle along catching a glance of myself in the mirror, startled as a lined face looks back at me. Still caught in the memories of dreams. How does this happen? Within the blink of an eye the whole world changes so drastically yet everything stays the same. It has moved on and left me an aged body with that girl trapped inside.


My name is Sara.

I live in Raqqa. That’s Syria. With my family. I’m snuggled close to my  Baba. There is no electricity. We are reading by candlelight. In our room. We read through the Quran together. Baba and I.

I startle at the loud boom. As the first bomb drops. Baba raises his voice. Mama rocks Leena. Another one drops. We can hear the engines passing overhead. Mama rocks Leena and asks God to keep us safe. The planes fly over. I don’t know why they want to hurt us. We are just a family. Living. In Raqqa.

I look around. Everything looks the same. The frames on the wall. Shutters closed over the windows. Red curtains with Tassles. Mama loves red. Her black hijaab hangs near the door. The flowers on the dresser in a sparkly vase. It shakes and rattles as bombs continue to fall.

I try not to cry as the noise gets louder. “Don’t be frightened.” Says Baba, pressing a kiss to my head. “They didn’t come to kill us.” His eyes go back to the Quran and he reads once again. I’m asking myself “How do they know, who lives here?”