A cinderella story

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Mama, one more story please. " Miriam had pleaded that night.  She had desperately wanted mama to read out the story with pictures of the beautiful princess in big blue dress and shiny glass shoes from the pink book.
" Later sweetie, when daddy gets home." mama had said kissing her forehead.
Daddy never got home.  Miriam was pulled out of her bed late that night,  half asleep, the pink book clasped tightly and carried into the dead of the night by a very distressed mama. The following morning, Miriam woke up in the back of a goods truck, cradled in her mother's arms. Miriam looked at her mother with questioning glance.  All her mother told her was- " no matter what happens,  Miriam, keep running." She kept repeating it over and over,  till the truck slowed down.  That was when mama pushed her out. Miriam wailed as the truck rumbled on it's way with Miriam crying on the dusty road. Miriam clutched the tiny book closer to her heart and ran wherever her feet guided. As days went by,  Miriam grew thinner and so did the book. One cold December evening, she traded some pages with pictures of a castle for a slice of bread from a nasty looking girl. The following week she used some pages to light a fire when her palms went numb with cold and one particularly rainy night,  she had eaten away the pages with pictures of candy,  roasted turkey and a cake in hope of silencing her pangs of hunger. Under no circumstances however did she give up the story with pictures of the beautiful princess in blue dress and shiny glass shoes.
A couple of years after separating from Mama, Miriam was captured and forced to work as a slave girl for a cruel militant and his brutal wife. That was when she had to tear out the pages of the princess story, fold them into tiniest possible folds and hide it under her headscarf.  It ached to leave the book behind but it was impossible to carry it as she escaped through the narrow sewers. By the time Miriam came to the camp, the pages were adorned with creases, smudges and blotches that obscured the now faded pictures but Miriam held on to them. She hoped to someday know the princess's story. For hours she would stare at it, moving her lips,  believing that if she pretended to read long enough,  she may succeed.
Working as a journalist in war torn Syria, I met Miriam. Sheepishly, she asked me if I could read out loud her pages. I nodded and we sat down in the dirt, surrounded by glum and desperation of the camp; Miriam's green eyes taking in every single word as I read-" Once upon a time there lived a beautiful young girl named Cinderella….. " Six years and  a bloody war later, the princess in blue dress was finally ready to tell her story.


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11 Comments

  1. Your story tugged at my heartstrings. War is not a good thing for anybody and its children who suffer the most. Lost childhood, separation from family members, forced child labour – you have portrayed all these very well!

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