One Secret Summer
– until now. How had Saira found it? This was a different city to the one she’d come to know. Here there were
     no coffee shops or smart, expensive boutiques. The buildings had none of the opulent glamour of the 1st Bezirk where Ayanna
     lived, or even the modern apartment blocks of Simmering. Here the buildings were run-down and industrial-looking, the streets
     were narrow and crowded, made even more so by the makeshift kiosks and market stalls that lined the roads. Nigerians, Ghanaians,
     Turks, North Africans … and Somalis, too. Her mother moved from one shop to another with ease, stopping to chat with someone
     at this stall, tasting fruit at that one, exchanging a bit of gossip with a woman in a headscarf who smiled fondly at Niela.
     ‘Don’t you recognise her?’ Saira asked,prodding Niela in the ribs. ‘From home. Mrs Qureisha. No, you don’t remember her?’ Niela shook her head, bewildered. How had
     her mother found out about Meidling, and why hadn’t she said? Saira chatted excitedly to the women who owned a fabric shop
     halfway down the street. Yes, she was about to be married, Saira said, looking proudly at her only daughter. The women smiled
     at her, equally proud. ‘He lives in Munich,’ Saira said, pronouncing the word with some difficulty. ‘A good man. A relative
     on my husband’s side.’ They nodded knowingly.
Yes, a good match. So difficult these days. The young girls … their heads get filled
… They looked from one to the other.
What can we do? So far from home. You can’t control what they get up to
. Saira’s grip on Niela’s arm confirmed that her own daughter would do no such thing. Niela listened to them, her head swimming
     with fear.
    The flat was cleaned, swept, polished and cleaned again. For two days, Niela and Saira did nothing but dust and wipe, making
     sure that every surface was spotless, every square inch gleaming. Niela threw herself into the task as a way of distracting
     herself from what was about to come. She watched herself going through the motions of getting up, getting dressed, getting
     on with the day as if she were watching someone else. Saira’s food preparations began – sacks of rice appeared in the kitchen,
     along with bags of onions and cartons of chopped tomatoes. Hassan came home on the Thursday before Hamid’s arrival with bloodstained
     packets of meat that he’d crossed town to the best halal butcher to get. Korfa was recruited to help him cut it up; Niela
     walked past, a lump the size of an orange in her throat, making it impossible to speak. One of Saira’s friends from Meidling
     arrived on the Friday … from the tiny kitchen came the smells and sounds of home. Uncle Raageh appeared that night for supper.
     He was unable to look Niela in the eye. Hamid would be staying with him, as was the custom. Niela ate supper that night alone
     with Saira and Mrs Qureisha, listening to the sound of the whisky bottle being opened and closed as Hassan and Raageh celebratedthe upcoming match. She went to bed with tears in her throat. Saira’s awkward attempts to placate her had failed. She lay
     in bed that night, unable to sleep or think of anything other than the fact that her life, as she knew it, was over.

    Hamid Osman and his sister Fathia were ushered deferentially into the living room. Niela was seated alone in the dining room,
     separated from her parents and the two visitors by the bookcase that divided the small room. She caught the briefest glimpse
     of a short, rotund figure dressed in white as they passed. Korfa and Raageh were in their room – after the introductions had
     been made and the business of marriage had been concluded, they would be called to come forward and eat. She could hear the
     sister’s high, nasal voice. Her heart sank. She’d overhead her mother telling Mrs Qureisha that at least Niela wouldn’t be
     alone for the first few years of her marriage. Fathia Osman had recently joined her brother in

Similar Books

Butterfly Kills

Brenda Chapman


Hao Yang

Vegas, Baby

Sandra Edwards

Whatever It Takes

Dixie Lee Brown

Laid Bear

Marina Maddix


Jory Strong

Say You Will

Kate Perry