1. Forbidden!

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم

Nĭ hăo. My name is Layya. I live in China. I am the 3rd child. I repeat, I live in China and I’m the third child. The forbidden child.

Not only am I the forbidden child, I am non-existent. I was not born in a hospital. I was delivered secretly in my house by my aunt who is a mid-wife. The government does not know I exist. If they find out, there will be dire consequences.

In all the 13 years of my life, I have not stepped foot out of my house. Today is the day when I will be setting foot out of my house for the first time. I am quite tall so I can pass for an adult but to be on the safer side my parents made it a condition that I wear niqaab when stepping out of the house, that way it will strengthen this.

I am terrified and excited at the same time. My cousin and best friend or should I say only friend, Laila, is my only source of information of the outside world. Today is the day I get to witness it with my own eyes.

My family have never told me much about the outside world out of fear that it will increase my yearning to explore it. Thus Laila was my only source of information. I’ve always envied Laila. We have so much in common, from our unusual grey eyes to sharing the same birthday. We have so much in common that I could practically be her and often wish I was.

I hated the fact that she was an only child and was free to actually have a life, while I was the third child so circumstances have forced me to be a forbidden non-existent child. In fact, I would really be non existent if anyone knew about my mothers pregnancy before I was born.

I have heard a few horror stories, via Laila of course, of women who have been forced to abort their child because they couldn’t afford to pay the heavy fine imposed by the government in order to have another child.

“You ready?” the eldest of my two brothers, Abbaas, questioned. “Bismillah.” I said glancing into the mirror at that foreign woman in niqaab with familiar eyes. It felt absolutely weird to be wearing niqaab and looked even more weird to see my niqaab clad self staring back at me.

I took a deep breath and exited my room as Abbaas followed a step behind me. Catching sight of me Dihya, my other brother, walked towards me and grabbed my hand and squeezed it saying, “I can’t wait to show you all there is out there.”

I smiled gratefully as he jolted me out of my thoughts. Both my brothers were extremely protective and caring over me but Dihya just got me as compared to Abbaas. It’s probably because we are closer in age.

I stepped out of the house with my right leg and my brothers on either side of me as bodyguards. I was so excited to be able to read the dua when leaving the house. I’ve revised this dua at least 5 times a day for the past three months in anticipation of this moment. I read the dua aloud and made my brothers recite it after me. They just smiled and humoured me…

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