“I want three”, she shrieked as she handed the little silver coins she had gathered from her old piggy bank and the balloon-man handed her three Red balloons as she desired.
Overwhelmed, she could not wait till her siblings returned so she could play with them. With the threads of the balloon clenched in her little hands, she stood at the high wall that her Papa had once told her that kept ‘Satan’ out. The little kids of Aleppo, the colored balloons and their laughter made the place look like a little gala but the only person looking all glum had been Hajer who had several times wanted to run around with her balloons like her friends but had not because she waited for her two brothers’ return.
“Why don’t you hand me the two balloons and go play”, the old lady who looked after the children had asked her, ”I will give it to your brothers once they are here”. The little girl had refused because she wanted to take care of the balloons for them.
‘They will soon be here and we can run around far far away in the meadows then’ she told the balloons with a giggle trying to reassure herself that she could still wait after so many hours had passed.
Hajer looked at the sky, the clouds were getting darker and she was getting terrified. The other children had flown in for shelter because the old lady had warned them of a heavy shower.
“They must have lost their way home”, she cried to the lady as her eyes drenched in tears. “Let us wait inside, my dear. Your brothers will be here very soon” the old lady had convinced Hajar and taken her in for shelter.
The poor girl could not sleep that night. She tied the three balloons to a stone and left it beside her little mat before she had slept.
‘They will be here by morning. Papa will guide them home. Please don’t fly away’ she told the three Red balloons as a prayer and closed her eyes.Next morning she woke up to look at her balloons. She noticed that they were not big and beautiful like they were the previous day. ‘They will be here already’, she exclaimed as she untied the three Red balloons and ran outside, back to the wall.
Hajer decided to quickly hide the three Red balloons behind her as she noticed many vehicles entering the village. ‘They are here!!’ she cried as she ran near a vehicle in which she guessed her two brothers must be. To a young man in white she asked, ‘Are they here?’ with a wide grin and the balloons still clenched behind her back. No sooner she had asked, a loud wail took Hajer aback in fear and excitement. Confusedly she watched many women running toward the vehicles.
‘Give me back my son alive!!’, a woman cried as she hugged the blood stained body of her little son in a stretcher. Hajer, still confused, stood on a rock, trying to take a better view of the vehicles that were now crowded around by many women. The three balloons swayed with the wind blowing fast but she did not let them go; they were clenched stronger then just like the hope she had in heart heart to see her brothers again. She got off the rock as she noticed some more men getting off another vehicle.
‘There they are!!’, she screamed as she ran towards them. She stood near the vehicle and waited for her brothers to get off. ‘C’mon! I have a surprise for you two. Hurry up!’ she laughed. Four men got off the vehicle, a pair carrying a stretcher in hands from both sides. Hajer looked at the stretchers. She noticed familiar faces and recognized it to be her brothers. She took a deep breathe, more excited now than she had been. With the grin still stuck on her little face, she moved further towards them.
‘Look at these when you wake up!’ she giggled in joy as she took in front of their blood-stained faces, the three Red balloons.