The Glory of Bastige
Growing up, Iskanda would always try to make me laugh. She would tease too, sometimes, and poke fun at how my limp made me so slow, but usually she was on my side. She protected me from father, too, or tried as best she could. He was always so angry, and blamed it on the gods cursing him with nothing but daughters.
Ismet was married off first, to a chubby man with a fat dowry, and he lived close so we still saw her even as her belly grew with child. Sailah should have been next, to a kind, quiet man, but she fell ill and didn’t survive, so Lihna took her place, and he swept her away to another city. Then it was Iskanda’s turn. She laughed and smiled and joked up until the day she met him. I was there by mother’s side when he came in, not ugly or foul, but much older, and something in the way he looked at us was…strange. Later, Iskanda whispered to me that he’d touched her as soon as they were alone for a second, and it was in a bad way, and he’d told her something awful. She repeated it to me but I didn’t understand it, and she couldn’t explain before we we were sent to bed.
She stopped laughing after that.
The weeks passed by and she seemed sad all the time, and didn’t joke anymore. She barely spoke to anyone. Sometimes she’d ask what I thought of her husband-to-be. If I could be with someone like that, who stared at girls like meat. And after a while she started to talk about my leg again, but not so much teasing as stating it. Sister, you’re too slow, she’d say. You can’t keep up.
Late one night, she hugged me close and told me to be strong because she wasn’t.
The next morning, she was gone. She never came back. And I took her place.