The Girl in the Mirror
by Dave Potter
Exclusively for the ‘Tales of the Veils’ website
Sarah looked at herself in the full-length mirror in the bathroom as she had done so many times over those last two years. She was still attractive. She had a slim, lithe body and her blonde hair fell down like silk past her shoulders. Her skin was pale and white. Who’d have thought that she would still have such a complexion after living in the desert for so long? How was it possible? That at least would become clear over the next few minutes even if so much about life continued to be a mystery for her. Her cornflower blue eyes sparkled and she could see why Hassan had fallen in love with her. She smiled and a tear trickled from one of those eyes. She wiped it away and then steeled herself for the task ahead: dressing.
First she put on her underwear, expensive designer lingerie that Hassan had bought her for her last birthday. Made of black lace and incorporating a G-string it was incredibly sexy. Wearing this she could be a model or a porn star ready to seduce and corrupt the world. But beautiful as it was, this lingerie was not to be seen by anyone bar herself and her husband. And so, after putting it on it was hidden, by long black gloves of stretchy cotton, opaque black tights, a black baggy shirt and black drawers then were tied with laces at the wrists, waits and knees so that nothing showed. Then she took out a black underscarf, like a little cap almost and hid her beautiful golden tresses with it. Only her face was now on view to the world and Sarah looked at it with curiosity. With everything else hidden it drew it more into attention and to her mind the cut of the clothes rendered it almost like the faces of the women in those 17th century Dutch paintings by Vermeer. How had those girls lived? Like her in some ways? She felt a bond of sisterhood stretching across the years.
Then she lifted up her hands and turned them in front of her. The gloves were her favourite part of the outfit. Before meeting Hassan she had never worn gloves except for skiing in Switzerland, but for the past two years they had been mandatory, she had never left her room without wearing stretchy cotton ones like these for that is what is expected in the strict Al-Nuri family. She however, had grown to love them. Although they made activities such as typing and writing a little more difficult, she loved how the material stretched over her hand like a second, smoother and more elegant skin, blank black save for the feminine flower embroidered on the back of each one. They warmed her hands oh-so-slightly, made everything she touched less real, distant and they made her movements and appearance so more elegant. She couldn’t imagine a life without gloves now and yet… yet…
Sarah picked up the boots and fitted them on her feet. They were expensive, reached up to her calves, made to measure of the finest leather and, like all her clothing, in black yet very feminine. Hassan had always enjoyed seeing her walk in heels so all her boots had heels of a staggering four inches. At first they had been difficult to walk in, particularly with all the other restrictions, but she had got used to them and come to revel in the way they made her walk, tiny steps, swaying hips, elegant, graceful, alluring. Again she was there to seduce, but to seduce only her husband, the man she loved so much…
Then she picked up her skirt. Again in black and very narrow, it had to be unzipped down the side and then, when on, zipped up tightly. Along with the boots, this really restricted her gait. Her mother-in-law said that women didn’t need a long stride and so, in the Al-Nuri family, they never had one. At first, like so much else, it had been hard having to mince around everywhere, struggling to keep up with the menfolk. Now, as with everything else, it came as second nature to her. Running was for on the exercise machine, alone in her room.
She took out her abayah from the cupboard and draped it over her. It was a butterfly abayah, tight around the neck and with holes for her gloved hands to poke through. To confirm this more modest look she grabs a black scarf and wraps it around her head, securing it with a pin. Already she is heating up slightly but she knows well that this is only the beginning: she will be getting a lot hotter later on.
Now came the bit that would shock her friends back home. It shocked her at first, so much so that she tried to refuse and when it was in, she tried to remove it. Now though, it is normal, as too are the restrictions that accompany wearing it. She picked up the black ball bag and buckled it tightly around her head. Is it modesty or is it fetish? Perhaps a bit of both? Whatever the case, being silent is the norm for Sarah and all the women of the Al-Nuri family. They are pious and modest and that includes voice modesty. If she needs to communicate then it has to be in notes. Once the gag is in she feels better, for her feelings of fear and revulsion have been replaced by one that can almost be described as love, certainly comfort. Having that ball of black silicon in her mouth reminds her constantly of who she is, who he is. When her husband is away on business or visiting she is reminded of him by sucking on it, squeezing it, a friend in an intimate place, imagining that it was him. Before she’d worn a gag she’d never understood why babies like their dummies so much. Now she knows; this is her dummy, her source of comfort, her reminder of her hallowed status as a modest and hidden woman; a woman loved dearly by her husband. Well, loved dearly until very recently…
Fastening the gag behind her head she remembers that conversation they’d had in her flat all those miles and years ago. “I love you, Sarah, I love you with all my heart, but I fear we can never be together.” But why not? What was preventing it? He loved her and she loved him; God meant for them to be together! She’d hugged him tight and never wanted to let go. “You don’t understand; where I come from it is different to here. I have to return to Saudi, Sarah, to take over my father’s business!” She’d told him that was no problem, that’d she’d follow him to the ends of the earth, but he had shook his head. “You don’t understand! You don’t understand!” Then he’d shown her the family photo, the women only featureless cones of black cloth. “And there is more; under that they are gagged and restricted. To them it is normal, but for you…”
She’d understood his concerns and that night she’d tossed and turned in her bed. She loved him so much, he was so marvellous, but could she live like that? One part of her being was repulsed by the thought but the other… the other thought of being covered, silent, restrained. It reminded her of those BDSM stories she’d read, of some of the strange toys in the erotic shops that she’d dreamt of trying. A chance to do all that for real, forever and have the man she loved… The next day her voice had trembled when she’d told him that she still wished to become his wife even if it meant becoming a silent black ghost. Looking at herself in the mirror, her mouth filled by the large black ball of silicone, she smiled inwardly. Modesty or fetish? Yes indeed, definitely a bit of both!
Next came the object of so much debate. In many Western countries it is banned, as a symbol of oppression forced upon women. Was it forced upon her? In a way yes, and in a way no. She was not forced to marry Hassan two years ago but once they were married and living in Saudi, it was always clear that the veil was mandatory, both insides and out. She tied it behind her head and let the layers fall, one, two, three. This third layer is only for outside use but she is going outside so it must stay down. Then she took her final item, a knee-length khimar with a face opening which she put over her head and fits. It seals the three layers of veiling in, removing the temptation to flip one or two of them back. Behind them her face heated up but she loved it, the fabric moving in and out as she breathed, the smell of the cloth blocking out those of the world, reminding her that she was safe in her black cocoon.
Sarah looked at herself in the mirror again, for the very last time. She can’t see a lot now, just a blurred black cone of cloth, anonymous, silent, hidden. That is how she has been for two years now. That is how… She turned around and made her way to the table on which the bell sits. She rang it and within a minute the door opened. It was Aminah, their maid, who had served her ever since she first arrived in Saudi. “Are you ready to leave, Mrs. Al-Nuri?” she asked. Sarah nodded and Aminah lifted the khimar. She fitted the padded outdoor gloves onto her mistress and then tied them together using clips at the wrists. Sarah is now secured in her black cloth prison; she can’t remove her clothes by herself, she is totally dependent on Aminah for everything. She shuffles out of the room and down the stairs. In the entrance hall they are all waiting, all the Al-Nuri women, her mother-in-law, three sisters-in-law and two nieces. She goes up to each one in turn and rubs cheeks with them. Then she leaves.
Outside it is dark and she is blind. Aminah leads her out of the house and into the car. Once in the car she fastens the belt and then places the note on her lap. Then with a last rub of the cheek, the door is shut and the car moves off.
Sat there in darkness, with only the hum of the engine for company, Sarah thinks about her situation. Two years ago she entered a new life, the life of the silent, veiled and pious wife of Hassan Al-Nuri, a life totally different to that which she had known before. But three weeks ago her beloved Hassan was killed in a motor accident on the highway. They had agreed to wait several years before starting a family so she has no children, no ties to keep her to this place. She has no Hassan, the one thing she valued and loved above all else in this world, but she does have money. He left it all to her as his only wife. When she left she was a penniless student, now she is a rich widow.
Sarah has dressed in her full regalia for the very last time, as a display of modesty and respect for both her husband’s family and her dead love. She is being driven to the airport now, ready to return to her homeland where her mum and dad wait for the daughter that they thought they’d lost forever. She won’t veil there, she will be just another normal girl again. Whatever normal is. On her knees is a note instructing the maid in the hotel to unchain and remove her padded gloves once she is in the room of the airport hotel. There she shall spend her last night in Saudi. Then in the morning she shall dress as a European again and leave the pious, veiled life for good.
Copyright © 2012, Dave Potter