Zara walked amongst the rubble as fast as her tiny feet could carry her. The harsh afternoon sun was beating down on her. She was grateful her mother had cut her hair short. Zara had insisted on going out today and despite what her better judgment beseeched her to do she let her child go out. It was a ten- minute walk from their home. She wouldn't deny the child such simple pleasures when in all fairness she didn't know if their own house could be termed safe anymore. All she could do was pray for Zara’s safety.
A soldier was standing at a distance with a rifle swung over his shoulder. Girls weren't allowed to step out without a male member of the family accompanying them. He glanced in Zara’s direction and lost interest presuming her to be a boy. Zara quickened her footsteps. She wanted to reach her happy place faster. The one place that made her forget the chaos that she had grown up with.
She entered the basement which had been converted into a library. Her aunt was seated in a corner and graced her with a faint smile. If the soldiers got the slightest inkling it would be dealt the same fate as all the other buildings in Aleppo. It would be razed to the ground. Zara took out a book from the folds of her dress and placed it on the shelf before picking up another book she had her eyes set on for weeks. That’s when she heard it. The ear-splitting crash that had become a routine fixture in her life. She knew the drill. Her aunt was screaming at her to get down on the floor. But she didn't go through the motions like the always did. The direction from which the sound emanated from made her climb up a chair to peek out through the sole window in the basement. A queer coldness had begun to tighten its grip around the nine-year old’s heart. Her eyes fervently tried to locate the blue curtains that framed the window on the third floor of the building next to the leafless tree. Her home.
Zara stood by the dusty window, clutching a book to her chest with tears blurring her vision as she saw the faded sky-blue curtains flutter in the air momentarily before landing on the debris below which she had called home minutes before.