There are some sounds I simply cannot abide.
My father's voice is one of them.
He was droning on and on about some important business dinner he and Tanya would be attending. Something about a promotion and wanting to suck his boss's cock - or impress him as he put it. I was struggling to pay attention - and judging by the bored look on Assef's face, he was having the same problem.
This is boring. What the fuck are you telling me this for? Do you think I care? Shut up, you stupid little man. Assef and I want to go out - stop interrupting OUR time together.
These were all the things I so longed to be able to say to my father - coupling each sentence with a hearty blow from a flesh slicing blade. Alas, I could do neither and would thus have to settle for imagining the joy I could get from killing him.
Mahmood, possibly sensing the lack of a fuck we gave, mercifully drew his speech to a close. "We'll be back later tonight. Assef, you're in charge. Take care of your sister and stay out of trouble, both of you."
He said it almost like a joke, but the irony of that command made me smirk. Stay out of trouble? Well, technically, we would - I bet Mahmood's idea of his precious angel getting in trouble would be me raiding the biscuit tin, not the violent sort of trouble I could and had gotten into without his knowing. Foolish man. If only he knew.
"We will, Father. Come on, Saria."
Assef took my hand, practically dragging me out the door. I struggled along behind him, my short legs failing miserably in their attempts to keep up. "S-Slow down!" I griped. "Slow the flying fuck down, Assef, what's the rush?!"
But I went ignored.
We continued to walk - or rather run (in Assef's case) and stumble like an idiot (in my case)- down the road, until Assef eventually stopped by the barracks. I pulled away from him and flopped onto an overturned crate, rubbing my ankles, which I'm sure had almost been twisted. I glared at my brother, eyes narrowing.
"The hell were you running like that for?"
Assef's eyes were almost glazed over. He dropped unceremoniously onto the crate beside me, one hand cradling his chin, the other thrown out to the side in a slightly nonchalant gesture. It was as if every bit of energy had been drained from him.
"Sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to drag you like that, kiddo. I just.. I can't be around Mahmood, you know? I hate him so fucking much."
He inched over, and without a word, put his arm around me. I leaned my head against his shoulder and he closed his eyes, sighing deeply.
"So fucking much," he breathed again, but something in his voice made me wonder if his hatred for our father ran deeper than even I knew.
"Kiddo." Assef was shaking me now. "Kiddo, wake up."
Wake up? Why is he telling me to wake up? It's the middle of the day, isn't it? What the fuck?
"Wha-?" I opened my eyes, groggily wiping them as the barracks, and Assef's face, swam back into focus. Oh great. I must have fallen asleep. Like a fucking toddler. I mentally kicked myself for it, then looked at my brother with apologetic eyes.
"You fell asleep." Assef kissed my forehead, smiling. "Hard not to with this heat. I was going to just leave you alone, but I spotted Faggot and Donkey, so I knew you wouldn't want to miss this."
The nicknames were drawing a blank with me. Assef tended to give derogatory titles to his enemies - more for shits and giggles than anything else - but he'd accumulated so many of them now it was hard to keep up with who was who. Wali? Kamal? Farsef? I listed off names in my head of who he could possibly be referring to.
Finally, when my memory had failed completely, I gave up. This was one guessing game I was about to lose. "Who?" I asked. "Assef, you're not being very specific here, I need more to go on than that."
Assef laughed, ruffled my hair. He had that mockingly exasperated, "do I have to explain this again?" look on his face. "Amir and Hassan, kiddo. Remember? Yusef Kalahari's son and his Hazara pet."
Amir Kalahari was, as my brother so "lovingly" put it, too gay to be normal. He was the type of boy who spent more time sitting on the sidelines and reading poetry than getting involved in sport - the way normal boys were supposed to. None of that was as bad, however, as the way he treated his servant.
My brother had told me once that Amir and Hassan behaved more like close friends, rather than master and servant. Amir would let the flat-nosed donkey play with him, indulged him with food and water, even spent money on cinema tickets for him. It was sickening. Just thinking about it made me want to throw up.
"They're here?" I couldn't help my curious tones. Any chance to harass someone - and especially a Hazara-lover like Amir - was fine by me.
"Coming this way right now, kiddo. Why don't we go say hello, hm?"
"You read my mind, brother."
He grinned at me. It was the look of the lion taking its cub on the first hunt, the cobra waiting to strike. The devil luring you into the darkest pits of hell.
It was a look I loved.
The first thing I noticed about Amir was the terror in his eyes.
The brown pupils widened like saucers, his thin lips quivering as he saw us approach. Hesitantly, he took a step back, almost tripping over his own feet. It made him look oddly attractive to me, a boy I could easily see myself controlling and moulding into the perfect man.
Of course, it helped that he was mildly pleasing to the eye, too. Short, dark hair, sallow skin, brown eyes that were a clear window to his poetic soul - the boy was a catch, in my view.
It was then, at the tender age of just eleven, I developed my first crush.
"Hello, kunis!" my brother exclaimed, throwing his arms aloft. Hearing the derogatory term 'fags' made me snigger. Somewhat immature, yes, but I couldn't help myself. Assef raised an eyebrow and smirked.
I.. I.." Amir looked as though someone had magically frozen him in place. He was looking back and forth from Assef's face to mine, as if scrutinising our expressions. I noticed his eyes lingering on my face and I wondered, then, if my resemblance to my brother was unnerving him somewhat. Our similar facial features, the way our blue eyes glinted with a hidden, lurking madness.
"Cat got your tongue, fags?" Assef laughed. The sound caused Amir to squeak in fear, again, and take another step backwards. It was... riveting, really, to see how much of an effect our mere presence could have on him. It made me like the boy even more. I could tell he'd be easy to control, the type of person who wouldn't give me any sort of trouble.
And I needed that. I needed power. I needed to be in control. Needed it as much as I needed air.
"W-What.." Amir's voice came out as little more than a whisper.. "W-What are you d-doing h-here, A-A-Assef...?"
"Oh well, y'know.. We were taking a little walk, saw you two and thought we'd say hello. You don't.. have a problem with that, do you?"
"N-No.. No, s-sir, I d-don't."
Sir? Someone's been taught well. Respect those worthier than you. I like that.
"Good boy." Assef's gaze left Amir's and travelled to where Hassan was standing, a protective look on his face, as though daring my brother to do anything that would harm Amir. What a loyal little dog. My brother's nose wrinkled in disgust, like he'd smelled dog shit.
I decided, then, I'd have to speak up about this. Hazara loving was a trait I could not, would not tolerate. Best to stamp it out now before it got any worse.
"What's he doing here?" I pointed to Hassan, glaring at the flat-nosed boy. "Servants aren't meant to play with their masters, Amir. You should make friends with your own race."
Amir looked at his feet, as though ashamed. "I don't.. have a lot of friends." He said it so quietly that, had I not been straining my hearing to listen, I wouldn't have heard him. The poor misfortunate could barely meet my gaze, so humiliated was he at having only a worthless Hazara for a friend.
I knew, then, that violence and threats would not be the way to go about getting what I wanted. No, it would be best if, like I had with Adia, I simply charmed and manipulated the boy into doing my bidding.
Okay, Saria, I thought. Time to put on the charm again. Be as sweet as sugar to that poor, lonely boy. He needs guidance right now and who better than you to show him the way? Time to play the game, Saria. And time to win.
"That.. that's too bad.." I left my brother's side and stepped forward, reaching out to put a gentle, understanding hand on the boy's shoulder. "I couldn't imagine not having anyone to play with, it must be awful."
Yes, yes, I know if we're being technical about it, Hassan does count as having someone - but I don't view him as human or worthy to play with anyway, so that's a moot point.
Amir, being about ten fucking inches taller than me, looked down into my eyes. He pursed his lips and stared at me, as though scrutinising every inch of my face, every pore, every freckle. I stared back at him, keeping my expression sympathetic, not daring to give any hint of my true intentions.
"I'm not..." Amir trailed off, averting my gaze now as he spoke. "I mean.. I don't.. I was just.. going to the market.. And Hassan.. he asked to tag along with me. I would have gone alone other than that."
I raised an eyebrow. What terrible, terrible lying. I could see right through him, like he'd gone transparent. "You don't have to pretend," I said. "I won't judge you for not having a lot of friends.. Besides, you don't have to worry about that anymore.. You have a new friend now."
I flashed a brilliant smile, teeth gleaming. Amir looked.. confused, shocked and somewhat unnerved all at the same time. Certainly not as happy about my announcement as I'd intended him to be.
Ungrateful little snot. I offer my friendship - what God himself would beg for - and this is how he repays me?! I should wipe that look right off his fucking face, maybe even slit him open too.. No. No, I can't do that. I like him. Guess I'll have to find some other way to teach obedience - and get back in the fucking real world, Saria, he's staring.
"So.." I smiled, masking my irritation. "You won't have to worry about people thinking that that.. uh.. I mean Hassan," I corrected myself, not wanting to seem too rude, "is your friend anymore."
"But he's not my friend! He's my servant!"
You could have heard a cricket chirping.
I was stunned by Amir's words, the harshness of his blunt revelation. Behind us, Assef snorted. "Faggot's got a mean streak.." he commented in German.
Amir himself didn't seem to know where those cruel words had come from. It was like a demon had taken over his body - the timid little boy standing before me had not the courage nor the cruelty within him to be so hurtful. Judging by the flicker of remorse that appeared briefly on his face, he didn't want to be cruel, either.
But it was Hassan's reaction I really wanted to see.
If Amir's words had stung, he was doing a fine job of not showing it. He remained quiet, pensive, as though taking it in, measuring the words for some level of truth behind them. It was almost like he didn't believe what he'd just heard. Or maybe he was just so loyal he couldn't bring himself to consider the possibility his precious master didn't like him as much as he wanted.
And how was I feeling about this, you may ask?
Very, very proud.
"Wasn't expecting that today, were you?" I asked my brother, hours later. We'd left the boys to their "playtime" and had spent the day skipping stones by the river bank. Now, as the sun set and children went in for tea and bed, we began to make our way home.
"Didn't surprise me. Kid seems easy enough to fuck with, you know? You could make him believe anything, if you spun it expertly enough."
"Which is exactly what I intend to do."
I smirked. "Change him."
Assef grinned, and began talking about how, with a bit of luck, we were going to change the world. Going to eliminate all the Hazaras and restore our homeland to glory. But I wasn't really listening this time. All I could think of was Amir.
My first crush.
And someone I intended to make mine.