Today was the day Aisha was getting married. She and her bridesmaids and her mother all gathered in a single room, hovering around a mirror. The bridesmaids looked amazing, but they were more interested in making sure Aisha looked perfect for her special day.

Aisha hated dresses and loved breaking traditions, so she wore a wedding outfit tailored specifically with steeplejack styled pants that had a more delicate touch to them. Ruffles were lined down the side of her legs, laced with red accents.

Her fiancé didn’t approve, but she and her family loved it. Her mother cried tears of joy as she helped Aisha with her hair and makeup. Her dark hair rolled over her shoulders in elegant curls and she wore red lipstick and eyeshadow that popped against her dark skin. Another thing her fiancé complained about. It looked too flashy to him, much too informal for a wedding. He said he wished for something a little more virginal, perhaps white eyeshadow instead.

Aisha laughed his displeasure off, like she usually did when someone disapproved of something.

She stood outside of the ceremony hall, waiting for the cue to enter and walk down the aisle. With her arm locked with her father’s, she couldn’t have been happier.

Her father could have been, however. He was passive with his disapproval, never outright telling Aisha that she could have done better. Aisha, of course, always knew what he thought.

“You know it’s not too late to stop this, Aisha,” her father said. “You don’t have to settle for him.”

As backhanded as her father’s concern was, she tried to smile through it. “I’m not settling for anything.”

“I just want you to be happy.”

“I promise you I am. If I ever end up unhappy with him, you can beat him up for me.”

Aisha meant this jokingly, but she had a feeling her father would definitely take this seriously and bring along some of her cousins to do the job.

After the ceremony, Aisha tossed her bouquet into the air as she exited the church. She didn’t bother to see who caught it, as in the midst of the excitement, her now-husband swept her off her feet and carried her.

During the small dinner reception, when she sat beside him, he leaned over to her and said, “I’m sorry I said I didn’t like your outfit. Or your makeup. You look very beautiful. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

“It’s okay,” she said and kissed him once on his cheek, then once on his lips.

“I should’ve known not to say anything about it, really. The outfit really brings out who you are. You know, your fire. And that’s why I married you.”

She shushed him. “You don’t have to apologize. It’s a happy day. We don’t need to have any worries.”


A little under a year after they were married, Aisha’s husband announced that they were going to be moving to Arnau. It was a farming town, but he was most definitely not farming material. He was far too clean to deal with a rustic lifestyle, so she wondered what he could possibly be getting himself into.

Aisha was too confused to be excited for her husband’s new career prospects. As much as she loved surprises, this was far too sudden.

“How soon are we leaving?”

“In two months. I already started packing.”

As if the short notice was startling enough. Aisha loved her hometown far too much to leave it behind without having enough time to say proper goodbyes. But the two months quickly passed and she said her goodbyes to her family and friends with promises that she’d call whenever she could and try to visit whenever she had time to.

Whenever Aisha tried to ask him what his new job was, he’d brush her off with an outlandish comment or the promise of making her the happiest woman alive. She was already happy, and almost said that knowing that what he was doing with his life would have made her happier. If anything, it would quell her fears of moving to a completely new town and not having the means to support themselves.

But he found new ways of surprising her daily. When they finally moved to Arnau, her husband guided her with his hands over her eyes as they walked down a cobblestone road together. She laughed and kept asking about whatever he was trying to show her.

“Is it a farm?” She laughed. “If it’s a farm, I’m not going to be milking any cows, you know. I’d rather die before that happens.”

“No cows, I promise.”

“So it is a farm!”

“It’s not a farm, Aisha.”

They laughed together down the road until finally, they stopped. He turned her slightly, then asked, “Are you ready?”

“I’ve been walking down this street with your hands over my eyes the whole way,” she giggled. “I’m not sure how ready I should to be.”

He finally lifted his hands from over her eyes. She blinked a few times as her eyes adjusted from being in the darkness for a while.

Before them stood a house, surrounded by a white picket fence and a gate. It was gorgeous, two stories of slate blue brick with vines growing up the sides. The front yard was lush and green, but boring – at least for now. Aisha imagined she could spruce it up with some splashes of color from a homegrown garden. Oh, she could line the front of the house with mums and lilies, maybe some daffodils as well.

“This is amazing!” She bounded from the edge of the road and leaned against the fence. “How did you get something this nice?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said as he wrapped his arms around her waist. He gave her a tight squeeze, making her squeal. “This is all for you, you know. I want the absolute best for you, Aisha.”

The move to Arnau was sudden, too sudden. But her husband was so accommodating to make the best of the inconvenience. So far, the house was the absolute best and she didn’t have too many difficulties in settling into a new town.

She was able to find a position teaching children in town. It was a little harder to make friends in Arnau, considering how almost everyone seemed to be obsessed with the teachings from the temple in Aeson City. Aisha hadn’t denounced the teachings, but she didn’t have any interest in finding solace and comfort in religion when she could pave her own path just fine without it. It was almost amusing to hear almost everyone she passed by give praise to the Goddess of Life for blessing the land and the God of Wind for providing perfect farming weather.

Her lack of faith was something else her husband disapproved of, but as usual, she shrugged off his opinions on the matter.

Living in Arnau was decent, but quiet. After only a few months, Aisha longed to see the family and friends she left behind in her hometown. She frequently called old friends on the teleprism in their living room after she came home for the day, but one night, her husband complained.

She went to the bedroom after talking to one of her closest friends and as she was brushing her hair at her vanity, she heard him say, “You talk to her way too much.”

Aisha snorted back an ugly laugh and reached for her bands to tie her hair back. “Please, she’s my best friend. I don’t talk to her enough.”

“Yeah, but you can make new friends here.”

She shrugged. “Make some new friends, keep the old. Occalia just had her baby, you know. I want to go back and check on her soon.”

Her husband didn’t comment on her friend’s new child. Instead, he said, “We should have a baby.”

“I don’t think I’m ready for that.” Or ever would be, she decided not to add.

“No better time than the present.” He got up from the bed and walked over to the vanity. “You like kids. You’re a teacher. What kind of primary school teacher doesn’t have children of their own?”


“But wouldn’t it be strange to be one of the few married women in town without a baby? People would probably talk about us.”

“Let them talk.”

“And what about when we’re old and grey?” He drifted closer to her and rested his hands on her shoulders. “You’ll regret not having a baby. And we wouldn’t have anyone to take care of us when we’re sick.”

She wasn’t concerned with what other people might have thought about her lack of maternal status, but he was raising interesting points. She never would end up regretting the decision that she didn’t have a child, but the idea of growing old and feeble and not having anyone to care for her was slightly terrifying.

“If you’re worried about not being able to take care of the baby, you know I’m here to help,” he cooed in her ear. “You will be the happiest woman alive. I promise.”

Aisha wasn’t one to relent so easily, especially on such a serious topic. But her husband was so obsessed with the idea of making sure she was happy. He bought this amazing house, surprised her with gifts very often.

Maybe having a child wouldn’t be so bad.


A girl.

Aisha had a daughter, during the rainier stretch of spring. The delivery went smoothly and the months leading up to it were pleasant. She was worried that her husband wouldn’t find her attractive when she was deeper into her pregnancy, but he showered her with love and treated her like a goddess.

A week after they managed to compose themselves, Aisha finally thought to call her family about the baby. She sat in bed nursing her daughter, who she hadn’t named yet. She was having an incredibly hard time settling for a name, trying to substitute a name she liked for another, then dropping it later on. She wondered if it was supposed to be this hard to name a baby. Did her own mother have this much trouble?

Her mother. Aisha almost panicked. She had completely forgotten to call her family and let them know about the delivery. She felt horrible for forgetting to tell anyone, but it wasn’t like she had very many people in town to tell.

When she told her husband that she needed to call her mother, he said. “They don’t need to be here.”

Aisha narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. “I want my parents here. This is their granddaughter we’re talking about. Of course they need to be here.”

“Don’t you think this should be our moment?”

“It is our moment, but I want to share it with other people.”

“Alright. I’ll call them.”

Aisha’s parents raced up to Arnau as quickly as they could, arriving almost a day after the call. Her mother and father couldn’t have been happier to see their daughter, and now, their granddaughter.

Her mother asked, “Have you named her?”

Aisha turned to the window. It was a nasty grey outside, but the raindrops rolling down the glass looked strangely beautiful.

“I want to name her Rain.”

“Rain?” Aisha’s husband grimaced and shifted in his seat. “That’s rather plain, don’t you think?”

Before Aisha could get offended, her father did for her. “I think it’s a lovely name.”

Her husband seemed to step down, almost become smaller, when her parents were around. He didn’t argue further about the name she chose for her daughter.

“Rain it is, then.”


Four years later, Aisha was feeling the sting of monotony in her life. There were far too many moments where she was longing for something different. Her husband left town a lot, likely to go to Aeson City for this mystery career opportunity that she was still never told about. She liked to fantasize that it was something amazing. Otherwise, how would they have been able to live in this amazing house? The income of a primary school teacher was hardly anything to support a family of three with.

As much as she was happy that things were going well for him, throughout the years, Aisha felt like he hadn’t completely kept the promise he made to her when he convinced her to have a child. Rain was a mellow girl, thankfully, but beyond the first year, Aisha didn’t see very much help with taking care of their daughter.

Well, it was amazing when they first moved into it. She loved the house. It was big and there were a lot of rooms, more rooms than they would have needed when it was just the two of them and their daughter. Sometimes when she walked through it and talked, she could have sworn she heard an echo.

Though, her husband expressed interest in expanding their family. On one of the quieter nights, he rolled over in bed and pulled her close. Aisha gave him a kiss on the forehead.

“You know how much you’ve always wanted a son.”

You’ve always wanted a son.” She almost mentioned that she never wanted children to begin with, but she loved Rain. It was an unexpected love, but one she would never deny.

“But don’t you think it’d be nice to have a strong boy?”

“It would be nice. But I don’t want one.”

Over the next few weeks, he frequently dropped hints about how wonderful it would be to have a second child and how beautiful she looked when he was pregnant. He made sure to mention how much she was going to be taken care of, which was a trap she had fallen for when Rain was born.

But maybe it’d be different this time.


The second pregnancy didn’t go as well as the first. Aisha miscarried at the mark of the tenth week of her pregnancy. She went numb for days, trying to convince herself that she had no reason to be upset over a child that hadn’t even been born.

It was only ten weeks. She was just barely showing signs of her pregnancy. She hadn’t named the baby, she hadn’t cradled it in her arms.

But there was a love for the unborn child that she couldn’t quite define. That love made the loss very real. When she called her family, they were saddened to hear the news. Her cousins wanted to travel to Arnau to see her and make sure she was alright, but her husband interrupted the call and said they had everything under control. One of her more feisty cousins started to protest, but she ended the call before an argument erupted.

About a month or so later, while Aisha was washing dishes from their dinner one night, her husband walked into the kitchen. He stood at the edge of the counter and said, “We can try again, you know.”

Aisha avoided all eye contact and kept washing. “I don’t want to.”

“Why not?”

“You have no idea how horrible that felt to lose the baby.”

“No idea? That was my child too.”

She kept scrubbing a single plate. It was already clean, but she was trying to put her mind elsewhere. “You weren’t carrying it.”

“What makes you think I’m not upset over this? Just because I wasn’t carrying the baby myself doesn’t mean I didn’t feel anything for it.”

“I’m not trying to tell you that you don’t have the right to be upset. I just don’t want to have another baby.”

“I’m not saying we don’t have to try right away. We can wait until you’re ready.”

Distracting herself with the dishes was not enough. Aisha set the grimy old sponge and the plate she was washing down in the sink and walked past her husband without another word. She grabbed her favorite coat from the hanger and wrapped it around herself as she headed for the door.

He grabbed her by her arm and tugged her closer to him. He hissed in her ear, “Where are you going?”


“I’m not done talking.”

She ripped her arm from his grasp. “I am.”

“Your attitude is getting very annoying, Aisha.”

“Funny,” she sneered. “You said that my fiery attitude was what you married me for.”

In an unexpected turn, he pushed her against the wall, causing one of the framed pictures to slant. Before she could shout in protest, he delivered a slap to her face. The loud smack echoed in the large, empty house.

Instead of taking the hit and leaving it at that, Aisha shoved him back. He appeared to be so astounded by her audacity to fight back that he stared at her. It was a gaze of livid disbelief that his caged bird was biting the hand that fed. Aisha’s intentions were just to ward him off, but he likely saw this as a chance to assert his dominance.

He shoved one of his feet between hers and kicked one of her feet from under her. Aisha lost her balance and fell to the floor. She didn’t have time to prepare for the swift kick her husband dealt to her belly.

She gasped and tucked herself into a tight ball, hiding her face as best as she could. He kicked and stomped until she begged him to stop.

Aisha never begged. She hated begging. But here at the mercy of this man, she did.

His rage subsided when he heard her plea. He left her crying and writhing on the floor. She lied there for several minutes before crawling helplessly to the living room and falling asleep on the couch.

Aisha woke up with a quilt draped over her that she hadn’t wrapped herself in the night before. Her husband was gone for the day, so she retreated to their bathroom and looked into the mirror. She pulled her gown off and stared at the ugly black and blue bruises on her body. Seeing them only made her cry harder, nearly to the point of vomiting.

How had things gotten this bad? What had she done to deserve this? The miscarriage wasn’t something she could have controlled, so why was she forced to be the punching bag for her husband’s stress relief?

Eventually, Aisha removed herself from the bathroom to find a single pink carnation placed delicately on the bed, likely as an apology.

It found a new home in a rubbish bin seconds later.

In the evening, she remembered the promise she made to her father on the day she was married. She didn’t want to mention that she had been beaten and left on the floor, but she was unhappy and wanted to go home.

Aisha started tapping her parents’ signal into the teleprism. She waited for what felt like ages for the signal to go through, but once it did, she almost wished it hadn’t.

Her father was projected on the face of the prism, and she choked back tears, swallowed words. He looked like he had just been woken up by her call, and was probably not very attentive to her own appearance.

“Aisha, it’s past midnight. Are you okay?”

Before Aisha could say anything, she heard the front door opening. Quickly, she severed the signal to her father and stared at the dimming prism in front of her. She shifted the panels on the prism face to ensure that if he called back, the signal wouldn’t reach.

Her husband came into the living room and stood behind her. Aisha was frozen in place, staring, shaking.

“Who are you calling?” he asked.

“No one.” She took a deep breath and anxiously tucked her hair behind her ear. “I’m just checking for old messages. Had one from my father.”

“You don’t have to tell anyone what happened.”

“I wasn’t.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”

Her first thought was, Then why did you do it? Instead, she mumbled, “I know.”

“Come to bed?”

“I’m sleeping down here.”

“Then I’ll stay with you.”

Too tired to argue, Aisha surrendered and ended up joining her husband upstairs in their bedroom. Before he turned off his bedside light to sleep, his fingers went over one of her bruises. It had gotten much uglier as the day went on, as she recalled this particular bruise being a slight hue of purple. Now it was dark and splotched with blues.

He apologized. Aisha didn’t accept it, only telling him that she knew he was sorry. She knew he was sorry, but she also knew that didn’t change anything.


Aisha’s husband hadn’t laid another hand on her since that one night, but the fear that he would hurt her again was ever present in her mind. The fear, along with disappointment and mourning over her lost child was leading her to darker thoughts. Thoughts she never had before.

And she was going to act on them.

In the morning, on a day that her husband had left for Aeson City and while Rain was still asleep, she went to the town apothecary and asked for a nodding potion. They were meant to aid those with insomnia or general issues in getting proper rest.

As the apothecary reached for the potions on the shelves, he asked, “You’ve been having a hard time sleeping? What’s the issue?”

“I’ve just been having a rough time.” She pawed through her bag for money. “I get too worried to fall asleep, you know.”

“I understand,” he shoved the potion in front of her on the counter. “Just be sure not to take more than a teaspoon.”

“I’ll be careful, no worries.”

Immediately after paying, she walked out to the lake with the potion in her hand. The lakeshore was desolate, which wasn’t a surprise for the dead of winter. Usually during the spring, summer, and early September, people liked to spend lazy afternoons here.

Not more than a teaspoon. Aisha stared at the green potion as she recalled the apothecary’s warning, then at the muddy grey lake ahead of her. She walked into the water, her bag still hanging off of her arm. When the water was just above her knees, she stopped. With the nodding potion still in her hands, Aisha sipped once, then stared out into the distance.

The potion was strangely sweet at first, then there was an acrid aftertaste that lingered on her tongue and in her throat. She licked the inside of her mouth with each sip, but eventually threw her head back and gulped down the entire potion. Certainly more than a teaspoon.

Aisha released the bottle and didn’t watch it sink as she swam out further. Soon, she let go of her bag as well. How long would it take for her body to succumb to the effects of the potion?

Through the fog, Aisha could just barely make out the edge of lake when she looked back. She thought of things she could have done to make this easier on the people she loved and the person she thought she loved. Aisha could have written a letter, telling her father not to cry and her mother not to blame herself. She thought about how she could have found a way to weigh her body down so that she could spare her family the trouble of seeing her bloated corpse.

Aisha felt herself getting dizzy after a while. Her vision blurred. She felt herself becoming one with the water. As she watched the rippling lights on the surface of the water above her, she felt strangely at peace.

But the peace didn’t last forever.


The humming of medical charms was the first thing Aisha heard when she woke up. She woke up. She wasn’t dead.

The second thing she heard was a voice she didn’t want to hear.

“Aisha, darling, can you hear me?”

No, no, no. It was him.

She heard her husband, but she couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even nod. Her body was sore and it felt like she had swallowed an entire box of nails. He kept trying to get her to speak, to say anything. She wished she could roll over to ignore him.

After a while, a doctor came in and spouted off medical drivel about how Aisha was so lucky to be alive and how it was a miracle that she was even awake. Even with their most advanced medical magic, she probably should have died.

It bothered Aisha deeply that she wasn’t dead, and not simply because she had failed at her attempt to end her life. If she hadn’t drowned, she should have succumbed to the effects of a massive overdosing of the nodding potion.

She couldn’t speak or move, so all she did was sleep. She slept a lot over the course of two weeks until she was able to speak. But even when she did speak, she only said short sentences. She disclosed the fact that she had attempted to end her life and her husband cried when she told him.

“Is this because I hurt you?”

It was one of the reasons, but not the sole one. Years of dissatisfaction with her life had taken its toll on her. Aisha was lonely and exhausted with her daily life. Her husband was likely excelling at whatever he was doing with his career choices that she no longer cared to ask about.

Aisha would never admit it though. So she stayed quiet, feigning intense exhaustion to remain as such.

At least for a moment. It dawned on her that it was odd that her husband was the only one at her bedside. If her family had known about this, they would have rushed to Arnau and never leave her.

She stared at him sternly. “Did you tell my parents?”


“Do my parents know about this? Do they know I’m here.”

“Of course not. They wouldn’t let me hear the end of it. They’d take you away from me.”

Without skipping a beat, she said, “I wish they would.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“I do.”

“After everything I’ve done for you?”

As much as she loved this man – loved – Aisha failed to realize how much he had been trying to tame her. She was wild and vivacious before she married him, but the entire time, he was slowly trying to strip away her freedom. She wasn’t ambitious and she never wanted to pursue a career that would make a massive societal impact, but she wanted to be happy. To have friends. To have a life that she could genuinely say she loved.

“Yes,” she said. “I mean it.”

“You don’t.”

Aisha was getting tired of her husband trying to tell her what she did and didn’t want, but she was also getting tired of fighting back. So she didn’t.


Several weeks passed before Aisha could be released from medical custody. She hadn’t fully recovered physically from the effects the nodding potion had on her. The overdose had destroyed the lining of her stomach and left her with more than just an uncomfortable emptiness in her belly. Her appetite was nearly nonexistent, but when she did eat, she often threw it back up hours later.

Most days, Aisha stayed in bed. It was hard to sit upright or walk without getting dizzy. One particular day was no different… or at least she didn’t think it would be.

Her husband attempted to assert his role as a loving caregiver by frequently checking on her and making sure she received the attention that she needed, but didn’t want.

As he was trying to feed her one day, they heard a few knocks at the door. This was strange for both of them, as they rarely had visitors.

He answered the door, and from downstairs, she heard an exchange of hellos, then a soft voice saying her name. Aisha sneered when she heard the way her name rolled off of this visitor’s tongue, with a long A sound at the beginning. They were not someone that she knew. She made sure people knew exactly how much she hated when people said her name wrong.

Still, having someone visit was so surprising. What few friendships she hadn’t severed were not strong enough to warrant a sympathy visit.

For a moment, Aisha considered shouting with what little strength and emotion she could muster, telling them that she wanted to see no one. But, she was genuinely curious to see who this visitor was, this person she was sure to chase out of her life immediately to avoid her husband’s eventual jealous rage. So she stayed quiet and waited to see who they were.

Her husband guided the visitor, a woman, up the stairs and to the bedroom. She had dark skin, darker than Aisha’s, but there were patches and splotches of skin devoid of melanin on her face and hands. She looked almost like a living galaxy. Aisha thought she was pretty.

“This is Ms. Ivalee,” her husband said. “She’s the one who found you in the lake and saved your life.”

The woman was pretty no longer. Aisha’s heart sunk and she stared up at Ivalee, her supposed savior.

Saved her life. Aisha felt fire in her throat, poison in her mouth. Had she the strength to, she would have unleashed a flurry of vitriol and venom upon this woman.

Saved her life? There was so much Aisha wanted to say, so many different ways that she wanted to tell this woman she hated her. Pulling her from the brink of death was an act of heroism to some, but as far as Aisha was concerned, Ivalee was the villain of her story.

Saved her life. Aisha stared at her, trying to hide her obvious disdain behind the blankets. She concealed her mouth at first, then tucked her entire head beneath the shelter of the covers.

“I don’t want visitors,” she said calmly. Too calm. Calmer than she would have liked.

“Aisha, didn’t you hear us? She saved your life.”

“I don’t want visitors,” Aisha repeated. When she heard her husband pipe up again to argue, she said it again. “I don’t want visitors.”

“I’m sorry,” he apologized to the stranger. “She’s being very difficult.”

“Not difficult at all,” Ivalee said. “I understand she’s been under a lot of stress with this entire ordeal. I only wanted to express my greatest sympathies and see if she’s been doing better.”

Aisha wanted to tell the woman not to come back, but a part of her wanted her to return. She wanted her to come back when she had gathered all of her strength, every ounce of it, and she wanted to scream and spit and scratch at her for thinking she had the right to save her life.

When she heard her husband and the woman leave the room, she poked her head from beneath the covers. Aisha cried in their absence and wiped her nose and cheeks dry with the blankets. She never stopped to wonder who had pulled her out of the lake, but now that she had, she wished she never knew.