THE VENOM OF HONOR • by Cheryl Heineman

I heard footsteps come into the house. Then, silence. As young girls, after we helped plant vegetables in the garden, my older sister Ammara and I would fill our straw baskets with mangoes and climb to a high place on a hill that looked down on our small stucco house. We could see distant green hills and small figures of farmers digging in abundant earth, planting fruit trees. We let the sweet mango juice run down our faces while we shared dreams of happy homes and future children running about.

As is the custom where I live, when Ammara turned fifteen, our father chose a husband for her, but in defiance, she swore, her dark eyes blazing, that she would never marry that fat, old man despite his money, and then she ran desperately from our house. But, father, surrounded by other fathers, found her, dragged her home, and locked her in her room, tied to her bed.

A few shadowy nights later, I lay in bed and heard what sounded like muffled cries from Ammara’s room. Fear paralyzed my throat and legs as though I were tied with the same rope that must have bound my sister. The sounds moved outside, then under my window. I heard shovels digging. Ammara’s disobedience had brought shame to the family. My dutiful brothers were carrying out my father’s decreed sentence. It had to be done. My beloved sister, a shamed girl, was being buried alive. An honor killing. I did nothing. My mother did nothing. The local police would look away. I am an old woman now, but one hundred times a day I beseech Allah to shed light on the belowground intention of honor.

Cheryl Heineman graduated in 2017 with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. She also has a master’s degree in Jungian Psychology and has published four collections of poetry: Just Getting Started, something to hold onto, It’s Easy to Kiss a Stranger on a Moving Train and Future Comings.

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