9. Forbidden!

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم

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Dear Basheera

Wa Alaykumus Salaam.

You already know my name is Layya. Wow, you are so big! I am only 13 years old. What is matric?

Do you know my mama catches me at least once a week and puts for me oil in my hair. She claims that no other oil besides olive oil will do as olive oil is the oil our prophet ﷺ would use, it is a source of protection against shaytaan and it’s a cure for 70 diseases.

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My Baba is Chinese and my Mama is British. I’ve lived in China all my life so you could say I’m Chinese through and through. My mother made sure that we all learnt and became fluent in English too because not only is it her native Language but a universal language.

I’m so sorry but I barely even know much about my own country. All I know is that I hate it. I’m the third and final child. In China you are lucky to be able to have a second child, leave alone a third. I basically don’t exist to the government because my family couldn’t afford the fine for having another child so hardly anyone knows of my existence.

For my own safety my parents have refused to let me step foot out of our house until my thirteenth birthday. That was only few weeks ago so haven’t seen much that I can describe to you. Sorry.

My favourite food is something I think y’all call dumplings. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. There are no likes and dislikes that I can currently think of. I also have two siblings. I have two brothers who are elder than me named Abbaas and Dihya. Your little brother sounds so adorable. Please write to me about him.

No I really didn’t know what to expect but I don’t think I could have expected a more fun pen-pal. You sound like someone with loads of hilarious experiences and words of wisdom to share.

What! Disappointed? I’m over the moon. I’m so excited and tried my best to write a mature and interesting letter so that you would continue writing to me. Please write back again. I truly am honoured. Who would have though I would get a letter from someone so far. Leave alone Africa, you come from South Africa, which according to google maps is right at the bottom of Africa!

I’m so curious what Africa is like. What sort of wild animal is your pet? Do you really not fright for those huge animals with humongous teeth? How advanced is South Africa? Do y’all actually have computers and stuff like us? Ok, I’ll stop with my 101 questions. Can’t wait to hear from you again.



I carefully placed the letter into an envelope and sealed it. Hearing the door bell ring I realised Layla was already here and Dihya would be here any moment. Pulling Layla into my room I made her talk me through the plan once more.

“Shh! Wait,” I whispered. “Dihya’s here!” My heart began beating faster, sounding like a thunderous echo in the quite and stillness that had suddenly enveloped. Hearing Dihya enter his room we slowly began creeping out of my room.

We were so high-strung that even the slightest sound caused our adrenalin levels to spike. We were having what we thought was the greatest adventure of our life. Just goes to show what a boring life we led!

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