Adom, whose Egyptian name meant receiving help from the gods, sat looking down from the balcony over-looking the small garden filled atrium two stories below. His father’s harsh cough reflecting off the four brick walls that enclosed the garden below; a floral sanctuary protected by the back side of the four tenements that surrounded their home, an enclosed oasis that had protected his family for generations.
He sat contemplating his father, watching him work row by row, plant by plant, cough by cough, working diligently, exhaustingly to the dim light of the moon. The evening hours the only time left to him, after spending the long day begging tourists for money along the edges of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Ain shivered quietly in the few rags she called cloths. Her dark four year old eyes, glassy with grieve and hunger, huddled as she was against the wall just behind the hotel where she thought her mother worked. It had been days since she had seen her last. Days of wondering the streets with the other street urchins, as so many thought of them. Ignored as if they did not exist, ignored until caught blocking or begging within the doorways of a shop or restaurant where the rich tourists came for holiday.
Sleep came fitfully, frighteningly, a fever of fear that peaked and burned at every new sound within the dark. The alley, home to others of her kind; children in every way, but for the nature of a parents love to sooth the savage hunger of being alone, while scared in a world that moved as if they were not there.
The men were here again, the smell of need on their breath, the smell of violence at every touch. They came as hunters, even as she and others ran as prey, furtive rabbits hoping not to be seen, she a mesmerized beast with only hope to come her way in turn.
Ain looked around, her flight in fear had driven her further back into the dark, a hole in the wall, a darkness within the dark, a sewage drain filled partially with dirt, a haven of sorts, her only way to run.
“Come here little girl, I won’t hurt you.” The man saying this as he rocked back and forth, drunken hunger in his eyes, he had used her the night before, and would this night again she knew. He teased her, yelled at her to come out of the dark, while the others tired of the game, used what they needed of the others and disappeared into the night.
“Don’t make me come get you!” Yelling threats where feigned kindness had not. She screamed as he grabbed at her, touching her leg, even as she squirmed back further into the hole. Further into the wet, dark earth, a cloying like smell, roots and dead leaves touching her head even as she wept for hope, which she knew was not hers to have. Crying she curled up in a ball, a priceless rag doll needed and wanted by the evil at her door.
Adom looked back at his mother, crying in the dark, crying and praying for the return of Ain; her priceless one, the beauty of what her named meant to them all. Below his father could hear the echoes of his wife’s cries of anguish. The hope of his daughter now all but gone, one more tragedy that seemed to be Allah’s will.
“Adom! His father called up to him.” “I need your help to carry water to the corn.” Sighing Adom limped to the stairs, stopping as he heard a shout from outside. Father and son looked at each other, knowledge of the gangs they knew so well. The ones that had taken Ain they thought.
In that moment they each heard a girls scream coming from the metal box, that supported the drainage pipe leading out of the garden. Mother, father, and crippled son raced to pull the rusted metal gate from the wall. The screams of Ain, the crying whimper their only guide to where she was. “Ain! Ain! Papa’s here,” saying this as he dug through the muck and mud that filled the hole. His child reborn into his heart, thanking Allah even as they each held onto her for a moment, Adom’s eyes in tears, the smile on Ain’s face bright white in contrast to the mud on her face. There was still pain, but for now, salvation.