“How long have you lived here?” they asked.
And each time she gave a different answer.
At the end she would realise she had been somewhere else.
She had been a young girl eating pomegranate. Gouging out the sour red seeds with her fingertips. Red juice running down her elbows. Sap from the fruit’s peel leaving sticky areas on her skin. The seeds were bitter and the juice astringent. Her tongue pressed hard up against the roof of her mouth. Eat a pomegranate and you know you are living. At the bazaar, men had a device that crushed the fruit until scarlet juice poured from a galvanised iron spout. They would call you over to buy a sticky glass of the fruit’s lifeblood.
There is a name given to girl children which means “pomegranate flower”. Anargul. You have to live in a land of pomegranate trees to give a name like that. You have to understand the pomegranate flower is the most beautiful of all blossoms. It opens out red from the bud like a woman shaking out the wrinkles of a silk skirt.
And then the time would come and he would grunt and push harder and maybe cry out and it would be over.
And she would wait for him to dress.
She would lie in bed a little longer, looking out the window at the borderless clouds of a forever overcast sky. But if he still tried to touch her she would get up and start to wash in a pan of water.
Alone again, Rahima would look in the mirror. How much had she changed?
Sometimes she barely noticed.