Posted by Zubier Abdullah on 16-02-2020

Originally published : in August 2014.

The girl in the pink tortoiseshell glasses eyed the class. She wore a smile, a casual grin that held no hidden meaning and which put the rest of her classmates at ease. She had not been seen for a week and some of them, especially the gawky boy who sat in the third row, had missed her during that time. She looked innocuous but behind those eyes there was a steely glint of determination; a cold, cruel sense of purpose.

It was biology class; an after-school affair where she learned nothing but which she had to attend because of her friend Afrida. She caught Afrida’s eye who mouthed at her to come over quickly and who too was surprised by her absence. The girl lifted her bag, making sure that people would not notice that the bag was heavier than it seemed. There was purposefulness in her movements, a grace that seemed practiced but was no such thing. She wanted no one to suspect anything. She sat down next to her friend, taking out her books and pens while surreptitiously taking careful note of the position of everything in the class – how the chairs were arranged, who was sitting where and so on.

Time passed immeasurably the way it does when two people closer than blood talk. Stories were shared, jokes were made which were inscrutable to anyone overhearing, but underneath the small talk there were secrets. Afrida asked the girl where she had been for the past week and why she hadn’t answered any of her calls. There was a brief flicker of hesitation on the part of the girl, a heartbeat’s pause before she answered that she had been home. She was mildly depressed but things were better now, she said. She explained to Afrida that it was the kind of depression that passed over one’s soul like summer storms in Dhaka, sudden and torrential but leaving soon after, with nary a trace. She told Afrida that she was all right and that was not true.
The teacher entered, eyeing the crowd of thirty students with thinly-veiled disgust. His greasy black hair shined in the late afternoon sunshine and she could see the tobacco stains on his teeth. He was late. He was always late and he never apologized for it. She felt a dull murmur in the pit of her stomach; the coiling and unwinding of a malicious snake deep inside her. His shirt was riddled with sweat stains all over, as though he had just completed a marathon. She knew better. She knew exactly why he was late to class and sweaty when he came.

She took a deep breath. Not yet, she told herself, not yet.  He looked at the girl with curly hair, noting her return, licking his lips lasciviously, a cruel smile spreading across his face . The girl in the pink glasses smiled inwardly, slyly. Afrida caught it out of the corner of her eye but did not understand it. Even on her deathbed, many years down the line, the events of that day would play out in slow motion and Afrida never quite understood the serenity behind that smile. It spoke of certainty.

The girl was handling her bag absentmindedly with one hand, stroking it as though it were a lover. She turned to Afrida and in a tone of voice that she had never used before thanked Afrida and told her that she would “see her on the other side.”

The curly haired girl got up. Smiling. Her diminutive frame in that last instant looked majestic in the sunshine. Dust motes seemed to dance around her, like an ephemeral halo as she bent down to lift her bag. The teacher stood with his back to her, thinking cruel thoughts of the time the week before when he had cornered the girl after class. He did not see her coming.

She spoke, her voice heavy with emotion when she was just behind him.   “It’s time to learn some anatomy, Sir.”

The axe made a swishing sound, a keening whisper of pain seeking justice, as she buried it into his back.

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