By Marzia Rahman

When the air smelt like an empty cookie jar and the lampposts shed yellow lights on the streets, she came out of her hut. Wearing a glossy sari with slim zari borders and red high heels, she walked past a dog, lying under a lamppost. The dog raised its head, howling. 

A car sped by; a motorbike stopped. A middle-aged man lit a cigarette, looked here and there and waved at her. 

A little bargaining, and the rate was fixed. 

The bike raced past the bright lighted shops and the half-lighted medicine stores, and her hair flew in the cool late-night breeze. And she imagined herself a newly married woman, holding her husband gingerly. 

The calmness of the night made her weave dangerous dreams. It, however, took only a wild night and a few scars and bruises to bring her back to reality.

Standing in a packed morning bus, she looked for a seat. After a few unwanted touches, she swore; the dirty words spilling from her mouth shocked the gentlemen. The old bus conductor frowned.

An empty seat promised nothing, but she took it anyway, yawning and dozing off. A mud hut in a small village, two young sisters chasing each other in a big green field, a teenager running away with her lover who promised the world before selling her in a brothel for one thousand and one taka. 

The bus came to a sudden halt, jerking her up. And for a brief moment, she couldn’t remember where she was. What she remembered was a movie where the young heroine in a brothel sang sad songs at night and wrote long letters to her family in the village but never posted them.  

As she got down from the bus, she hummed the only happy song she remembered from the movie. 

Marzia Rahman is a Bangladeshi writer and translator. Her flashes have appeared in 101 Words, Postcard Shorts, Five of the Fifth, The Voices Project,, WordCity Literary Journal, Red Fern Review, Dribble Drabble Review, Paragraph Planet, Six Sentences, Potato Soup Journal, Borderless Journal, The Antonym, Flash Fiction Festival Four and Writing Places Anthology. Her novella-in-flash If Dreams had wings and Houses were built on clouds was shortlisted in the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award Competition (2022).

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