Writing

Short story: ‘Yasmin’

Photo by David Leo Veksler

YASMIN

The young woman shimmied across the floor. Bumping her hips to make the coins on her belly belt jingle, she executed a perfect, sinuous camel move, the undulations of her lithe body casting a spell on her audience. She glimpsed the slack mouths and vacant eyes of the watching men as she brought her finger cymbals together with a rhythmic click click, keeping time with the drummer on his darabuka. The music and drumming rose in a crescendo, many of the men clapping along in time. It spurred her to dance faster, spinning around until she finished with a dramatic sweep of her long filmy scarf, before letting it fall to the floor.

She flung her arms out, head high, gleaming hair cascading down her back. Bowing low, she swept up the scarf and disappeared through the curtain, out of sight. The men, she knew, would awaken from their trance and turn back to their meals, order more drinks, perhaps even speak to their wives. They were like small boys, so easily bewitched by female flesh and a sparkling dance costume. She despised them and pitied them in equal measure.

In the small space between kitchen and bathrooms where the dancers and musicians gathered before each performance, she drank a glass of water as her breathing returned to normal.

Zamir grinned at her as he put down his drum.

“Your dance sizzled tonight!”

Yasmin smiled at the compliment, and then grimaced.

“Those men… no respect!” she complained. “Some nights it’s like a—what do you say—strip joint?”

Zamir let out a shout of laughter. “No strip joint ever had a dancer like Yasmin to entertain the audience. You are the queen of dance out there.”

Yasmin sighed. “Thank you, my friend. I know you appreciate the dances. As I enjoy your beautiful darabuka playing. I wish only that our audience were more… more…”

“Civilised?” Zamir supplied helpfully, and it was Yasmin’s turn to laugh.

“Yes, civilised! If only they knew a little about the richness of the music and dance we perform for them, they might not slobber as they do. Now,” she stood and collected her coin belt and bag, “I must go. I promised my little Rana I would be home in time to read a story before her bedtime.”

Hurrying through the darkening streets, she held close the hope for her daughter. Rana would not have to dance in a restaurant to earn a living. No, she would have a good job in this new country. Yasmin would make sure of it. She had a plan.

Yasmin’s eyes widened when she saw the envelope in the mailbox and its sender: Macquarie University. Once inside, she opened it and read through the document once, twice, then gave a deep sigh and looked up at the ceiling as tears gathered in her eyes.

An offer to study for a physiotherapy degree next year.

At last, here it was. Her plan. Her new life.

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