The main part of this story takes place a few years after my first Trisban story ‘Sense of Determination‘ but reading it is no prerequisite for this story.
One of Mayassa’s favorite memories from her childhood was the time when she heard her father play the piano. She had no idea what song it was but it was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. The moment her father finished, she jumped on his lap and asked him to teach her to play. She wanted him to teach her the piano then and there.
Her father laughed. She still remembered the exact words he said to her, “Little Flower, music is not for women. Look at your mother over there.” Mayassa did and saw her mother standing at the corner of the room. As usual, she was wearing a long burqa that reached her ankles. Her whole body was hidden by the black burqa which was plain except for a simple embroidered grill for her mother to see through.
“One day Little Flower, that will be you.” Mayassa looked back at her father who was smiling brightly at her. “You will be the faithful wife of your husband. You will scrub, clean and bear him many children and when you have a son, you will be a mother loved by him. That way you will always have a man to protect you. You will be a proper lady. That will be your destiny.”
Mayassa didn’t understand what her father meant but looking at his bright smile, she couldn’t help it but replied, “Yes daddy!” To her young mind, she would be the proper lady her father always wanted her to be.
“Put your backs into it girls! You don’t want the men and boys to see a dirty floor do you? Scrub harder!”
Mayassa did as she was ordered. On her hands and knees, Mayassa was currently scrubbing the corridor on the third storey of “The Academy of Modesty and Traditional Behavior”. A school that promote the return of traditional Trisbanian values, The Academy was modeled after schools in the rest of the world that teaches its females students the value and skills necessary to be a good wife.
One of the skills needed was the ability to scrub and clean floors.
Side by side with 3 other girls, Mayassa was part of a team who had scrubbed most the third floor of The Academy already and they only had about 15meters more to go. Mayassa knew that they had to finish the entire third floor before the school closed for the day. Women must be able to finish their chores by the time allotted but more importantly, they were students of The Academy and no one wanted to stay back after school to finish their cleaning duty. Her thoughts were disturbed by the sharp sound of the cane cutting through the air and by the unmistakable sound of a strike on the ass of one of the girls.
“That means you Junaidah!” Mr. Abdrabbuh barked. “Harder! Put your back into it!”
Mayassa ignored the hit, just concentrating on the cleanliness of the ground in front of her. However she didn’t miss Junaidah’s grunt of apology. Like Mayassa, Junaidah’s mouth was gagged and a grunt was all she could do to apologize to Mr. Abdrabbuh. It was just as well because one of the lessons the girls learned at The Academy was that no proper lady of Trisban would speak to a man who was unrelated to her in some way.
“Faster! All of you!” Mr. Abdrabbuh barked again.
Mayassa scrubbed faster and was glad to hear the other girls doing so as well. They had an hour, period, to scrub the whole of the third floor and by Mr. Abdrabbuh’s tone, time was almost up. As they reached the end of the floor, Mayassa maintained her position on her hands and knees. She knew the girls had finished on time as the bell hadn’t ring yet but there was one final hurdle the girls had to clear.
“Tardy work!” Mayassa’s heart fell at Mr. Abdrabbuh’s words. If Mr. Abdrabbuh wasn’t happy with their scrubbing, the girls had to go one more round over the third floor. The bell rang for the end of the day and Mayassa waited for the order to continue their scrubbing. “However I guess no one could expect anymore from weak girls like the 4 of you.” Sighing dramatically, Mr. Abdrabbuh then gave the order for the girls to stand up and follow him.
Silently glad, Mayassa stood up slowly and picked up her brush and bucket. Along with the other 3 girls, she fell in line following Mr. Abdrabbuh down to the second floor of The Academy. Mr. Abdrabbuh led the girls to a large storeroom where they kept their buckets. After putting her bucket and brush in the room, the girls were quickly dismissed and Mayassa rushed up to her locker.
Located on the ground floor of the school, it was here that Mayassa put on her proper attire. At school, Mayassa had been wearing a long-sleeve blouse with a pair of pants that reached her ankles. Her hands were covered by a pair of rubber gloves and her feet were covered by a pair of soft shoes. Everything was in black, including the hood that is covering her head. Made of rubber, the skin-tight hood covered the head totally except for holes for her eyes and nose. A zip goes across the mouth and that zip was locked with a small padlock that only the teachers and her parents had the keys for. That was why even when hit with a cane, Junaidah was unable to make any sound outside that of a grunt.
The school attire was designed to totally cover the girls yet also allowed them to do their work at the school. However this attire was unsuitable for the Trisbanian public. Mayassa took out her burqa from her locker and put it on. With the skull cap atop her head, the burqa flowed over her body hiding Mayassa’s body from public view. Only a small grille allowed Mayassa some limited sight.
Mayassa quickly turned and walked towards the gates of the school. Her brother was to pick her up at the gate of the school and the last thing she wanted was to keep her male guardian waiting. As she stepped outside the building of the school, Mayassa could already hear the sound of the protests outside. Since the “Condor Point Scandal” a few years ago where some Trisbanian women were discovered to be wearing see-through burqas, there had been a lot of public debate about the history and traditions of Trisban and how Trisbanians had forgotten about them.
A few rich Trisbanians decided to pool their resources together and start a school to uphold old, traditional Trisbanian values. Located at 2 separate locations, The Academy of Modesty and Traditional Behavior would teach young Trisbanians the “right values of a Trisbanian”. Being a girl, Mayassa of course was studying at the girl’s school of The Academy and the protest outside the school was a weekly occurrence. Unlike most other girls’ school in Trisban, “The Academy of Modesty and Traditional Behavior” concentrated more on preparing their girls to being good wives than studies. Modeled under the school curriculum of the nation of Songhan, at The Academy girls like Mayassa were taught the skills for cleaning, cooking, child caring, obedience and social knowledge.
However some women in Trisban were against the idea of training young girls to be good wives. Arguing that The Academy was teaching girls to be second-class Trisbanians, some women had been staging loud noisy protest at The Academy on a weekly basis. It was women like them that made Mayassa believe her father made the right choice enrolling her into The Academy.
Mayassa stepped out of the school gate and immediately noticed the female protesters at the side. Powerless to stop the protests outright, the police had designated an area for the protesters that were in view of the school gate, but at the same time far away that they would not come to any confrontation with the students and teachers of the school. Mayassa saw some of the signs they were holding up like “STOP THIS”, “NO VEILING BEFORE 18”, and “WOMEN SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK”. She would have laughed if she could. She had an idea on why these women were so angry but to her, these women were just being silly. The fact that women should be subservient to men was a simple historical fact in Trisban and protests like the one the women were holding do their cause more harm than good.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a small cough. It was only then that Mayassa noticed her brother, Bashar, standing beside her. Totally embarrassed by her lack of attention, Mayassa immediately fell to her knees. Bashar patted her head like you would a puppy and Mayassa stood up. Her brother walked towards their house and Mayassa followed 3 steps behind with her head bowed. By social convention girls in Trisban had to be chaperoned once they reach sexual maturity and even though he was younger than her by 3 years, in her family Bashar had the duty.
Her brother set a good pace and they were soon at the door of their house. Mayassa came from a well-to-do family and her father’s house was located at an affluent sector of the city. Mayassa waited for her brother to open the door and stepped in after him. She was surprised at the sight of her father and mother. Her father was dressed in a tuxedo while her mother was in her best sky-blue burqa.
Mayassa stepped forward and fell to her knees in front of her father. A pat on the head gave her permission to stand and as Mayassa did so, she was careful to keep her eyes on the ground. At the side, she glanced and saw her mother on her knees before Bashar. Like their father, Bashar gave their mother a pat on her head, giving her permission to stand.
“You guys going out father?” Bashar asked.
“Yes, we are,” their father replied. “Dinner is ready for both of you, so remember to feed you sister this time.”
“Of course, don’t worry!” Bashar gave a nervous chuckle as he took Mayassa’s key from their father. One time when he was given responsibility for her, Bashar became too engrossed on a video game and forgot to feed her. When their father found out, he went into a rage and forbid dinner for Bashar, giving him a taste of what’s it like to go without dinner. It was the first and last time Bashar forgotten his duty to his sister, but their father made a point not to let him forget it.
After the family car went out of the driveway, Bashar turned to Mayassa. “Burqa off sis!” Mayassa took off her burqa as ordered. The burqa might be required to provide modesty in public but here in the privacy of their home, it was not needed. “Get dinner ready! I want it ready by the time I finish my shower.”
At his command, Mayassa turned to the kitchen. Her mother had cooked everything already and dinner was still hot. As Bashar stepped into the shower room, Mayassa went back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room. When Bashar stepped out of the shower room, the dishes were all ready for him on the dinner table.
Bashar handled his wet towel to Mayassa and sat down on the table. As her brother took his dinner, Mayassa took a step back from him. She was still wearing her long-sleeve blouse and pants from school and she knew she stinks. She did not want to affect her brother’s appetite with her smell so wisely stood further away from him.
Half way through his meal, Bashar gave Mayassa the order she was waiting for. “Get your bowls sister.”
Mayassa gave Bashar a bow for thanks and went into the kitchen. Her mother had prepared 2 bowls for her and Mayassa took both out to the dining room. She laid out the wet towel Bashar gave her earlier on the floor and placed both bowls on the towel. She then knelt before the bowls. Bashar stood up and went to his sister. Using the key he got earlier from their father, he unlocked the zip of the skin-tight hood Mayassa had. Her mouth finally freed, Mayassa worked her jaw to get some feeling back into them. She didn’t have long to do so.
At Bashar’s command, Mayassa bowed down and started eating. She wasn’t allowed any utensils as she wasn’t allowed to use her hands. She had to eat with her mouth to the food like an animal. Even her food was different from what Bashar and her father had. Mayassa’s bowls consist of plain water and porridge. Although some women would complain, Mayassa didn’t. She knew this was for the best. It was further training for the time she would be a loyal traditional wife.
Mayassa ate quickly and finished before Bashar. She stayed there on her hands and knees after finishing, awaiting her orders from Bashar. She heard Bashar standing up and leapt up when she heard her orders. “Clean up sister and go for your bath.”
Mayassa’s stomach made a protest as she cleared up Bashar’s unfinished dinner. Mayassa silently chided herself for her body’s rebellion. As usual, her porridge wasn’t enough to satisfy her hunger but one of the things she learnt at The Academy was that keeping women slightly hungry was one of the best ways to motivate them to work hard. So Mayassa had been taught that women should always keep themselves slightly hungry. If they ever found themselves full, it meant that they had overeaten. That they were fat, lazy pigs who were unfit for duty as wives and mothers. Being hungry was a good thing for a woman!
Mayassa washed up the dishes and began to get ready for her shower. After a long time of sweat and grind, it was something she was looking forward to. She went into her room and took out her new clothes. Everything was similar to what she had on now except for a long skirt and a niqab. She took everything in hand and went out to the living room where Bashar was watching a drama series on television. She knelt before her brother and raised her clothes to him for inspection. Bashar checked everything, including her bra and panties to make sure they were all approved by their father. Mayassa and her mother weren’t allowed to wear anything too racy, soft or smooth. There was no silk or satin for them, all their clothes were cheap and made from inferior products that reminded them of their inferior status as women.
At Bashar’s orders, Mayassa turned around. On her knees with her back to her brother, she felt Bashar unlocking her hood. Every morning, Mayassa laced up her skin-tight hood herself and to ensure that she did not take it off, her father would lock the hood in place. The small lock was the same as the one for the zip on her mouth.
Bashar must have the lock opened already. Mayassa bend over to her hands and knees and awaited her kick. A tradition her family took from Vippon, Bashar gave Mayassa a hard kick on her buttocks. Grateful for the signal, Mayassa stood up and walked to the shower room. Mayassa quickly took off everything, especially her hood, and stepped into the shower. At the blast of the water, she could finally relax and her mind wandered to the past on how things in her family came to be this way.
There was a time when Mayassa and her mother were allowed to sit and eat at the table using forks and spoons like the men but after the “Condor Point Scandal”, certain sections of Trisban came to realize just how lax Trisbanian society had become when it came to the duties of the Trisbanian woman. Newspapers came out with articles detailing the lives of women in other countries and how easy Trisbanian women had it. In Vippon, women were traditionally not allowed into higher education. In Jorea, women were caned weekly for any mistakes they make at home or at work. In Nordker, women were bound, gagged and chained from the day they were born. In Trisban, some women didn’t even know how to cook!
After some public soul-searching, some Trisbanians wanted to set back some of the more liberal laws concerning women in Trisban; to make sure that although Trisban was one of the earliest countries to adopt universal suffrage for women, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that a woman’s place is at home and in the kitchen. However any laws concerning women need to go through the Trisnette, and any legislation to row back women’s rights were firmly defeated at their chamber. This went on for a few years until some Trisbanians basically gave up on passing laws through the Trisnette. Some families like Mayassa’s decided that they weren’t going to wait for laws to change but would change themselves.
Even though they were always a conservative family, after the horror of the “Condor Point Scandal”, Mayassa’s father began to worry that he had been too lax on the family. He came into contact with some other men who shared his concerns and it was through their suggestion that both Mayassa and Bashar were enrolled in “The Academy of Modesty and Traditional Behavior”. He also installed rules for both women like the eating arrangement at home, the kneeling to greet males and that neither woman was allowed to speak in public. Whereas once they were expected to be servants to the males in the family, now both Mayassa and her mother were considered slaves.
However Mayassa’s father wasn’t alone nor was he terribly harsh. After the shock of the “Condor Point Scandal” had passed, many families tighten rules concerning the behavior of their women. Mayassa knew of some families whose women weren’t allowed to pick up the phone, listen to the radio or watch any television. Even they were better off than some who were never allowed out of their house without escort. These women were confined to their homes and her father had told the family that some of the women who were involved in the “Condor Point Scandal” were rumored to be even worse off. Mayassa decided she did not want to know the details but slowly but surely, like most Trisdanians, she could feel the gradual social changes that were happening in their society.
She stepped out of the shower and put on her clean clothes. Instead of a hood though, this time she wore a niqab. When she came out of the shower room, she went to Bashar and knelt beside him to watch the movie.
It was a foreign-made fantasy movie about a princess who became the third wife of a barbarian chieftain in a political marriage. She found happiness in her marriage even though she, like all the other women in the tribe, was nothing but a slave. When her former kingdom attacked the tribe, she gave up her status of princess to help her master in maintaining the independence of the tribe.
Mayassa liked the movie. Even though it had battles and warfare, the main story was about a woman who gave up everything for her family. Even through she was but a slave at the end, she had found happiness and the movie showed that true happiness for women came in servitude and sacrifice, not in lording over men or women. Movies and television series with such themes had become more and more popular recently and it was a trend that looks to be gaining steam.
Bashar turned off the television after the movie finished and went to his room. Mayassa followed close behind, ready to be of any service should it be required. As Bashar sat down at his study table and started to do his homework, Mayassa quietly knelt beside the table. Occasionally, her brother would require something like a glass of water or a book from his bookshelf and Mayassa would take it for him. Otherwise, Mayassa quietly knelt beside the table. The Academy didn’t exactly give their female students any homework but it did require them to serve the male members of their family like a servant. It was considered training for the girls and the families of the students needed to give a monthly report to The Academy on the work the girls did. The report was used as a reference on the work of the girls and punishments were given accordingly at school for the girls who failed to satisfy the requirements of their families.
Hours passed when Mayassa heard the front door opening. Bashar walked out to the living room and as usual, Mayassa followed. Their parents were back and as Bashar and her father exchanged greetings, Mayassa stepped forward and fell to her knees in front of her father again. Her father gave her a forgetful pat on the head and Mayassa stood up.
As she did, her mother came forward and gave her a hug. Mayassa realized something was up. This was confirmed when her father sat on the sofa and asked her to kneel before him. Mayassa knelt and saw that her mother had taken a place behind her father. This was unusual as usually her mother would be kneeling beside her, not standing behind her father. Whatever the news was, it was for her alone. A curious Bashar was standing by one side. Whatever the news was, he didn’t know about it. Her father began
“Little Flower, I do not know if you remember this. Once long ago, I told you that one day you would be the silent slave of your husband. You will serve him and bear your husband many children. That you will always be his silent servant and that he will always be your protector. I told you once that it is your destiny to be a proper lady. You are young and it came earlier than I had expected but I just received a marriage proposal from a business partner for your hand in marriage. My partner is rich and is one of the backers of The Academy. He has a son, who is older than you by 2 years, and wishes for a proper daughter-in-law with traditional values. He knows of your results at The Academy and proposed this marriage to seal the business relationship between him and our family. To my knowledge, my business partner has a family that is highly conservative. Everything we do here in this family, they do as well but they have other rules like weekly caning for their women, heavy veiling at home where even your eyes must be covered, and not being allowed to use the same bathroom as the men.”
“What?” Bashar exclaimed and their father explained.
“It’s some Jorean thing they picked up. Men and women used different bathrooms to minimize the “pollution” of the women.” Her father turned back towards Mayassa. “Little Flower, I know you have been taught that such decisions should only to be made by your father but I would have you make this decision yourself. Would you marry this man?”
Mayassa’s heart leapt. She was honored that her father would ever give her a choice in this matter. The rules of the family sounded horrible but there was no question of her answer. This was for her family. This was her chance to serve and to sacrifice for them. Mayassa bowed her head to the ground and said “Yes.”