#tuesdayuseitinasentence : In the Safe Zone

Refugee camp

Image : Pixabay

They called it the Safe Zone.

We’d been told to go there when the village was evacuated, Mama pulling the trailer packed with bottles of water, what food we had left, blankets. She’d tied a blue nylon rope around the towbar then looped it around her chest to take some of the weight off her arms. As we walked it carved a dip in her shoulder deep as my finger.

After a few hours we passed a man  going back the way we’d come. His eyes were dark, hollowed, his face creased like folded paper. He had no shoes, only strips of stained fabric wrapped round his feet. He and Mama talked in whispers, the man shaking his head, sad eyes flicking to me then away. Mama’s head dipped and the man squeezed her arm. Then he shuffled over to me, laid a knobbly hand on my head. His breath smelled bad, like pigs or cows in a barn for winter. Then he was gone, hobbling along the road.

I said, ‘Who was that man? What did he say?’

Mama just kept her head down, eyes on the path. ‘Have to get there before nightfall. Bandits out here.’

As we crested the hill, saw the makeshift town of tents and metal sheet huts laid out like toys on the sun baked dirt, Mama stopped. The trailer bumped to the ground as she lifted the rope free.

‘Sit,’ she said, giving me a handful of dates. She bent over the trailer as I ate, pulled free a bag, an old shirt and her scissors.

‘Aren’t we going down?’ I said. ‘There must be water, maybe showers. I’d like a shower.’

A shot rang out across the valley, the sound bouncing until I couldn’t tell where it had come from. Mama tried to smile I think, but her face stayed stiff.

‘We’re going to play a game while we’re in the Safe Zone, yes?’ She began to cut the shirt into strips until it looked like bandages. ‘And we need to cut your hair.’

At the guard post the man looked at Mama, looked down at me. ‘Names,’ he said, pen resting on his clipboard.

‘Yana,’ she said. ‘And my boy’s name is Ali.’

The shirt bandages felt hot and itchy round my chest, but I made myself not scratch as the man nodded us through.


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventures’ #tuesdayuseitinasentence, today the word is ZONE. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

14 thoughts on “#tuesdayuseitinasentence : In the Safe Zone

    1. Sadly, I was thinking more that the man on the road had told mother about the dangers in the so called ‘Safe Zone’. There are stories from refugee camps where the conditions – especially for children – are barely safer than those they’ve left behind. The mother hopes her daughter will be safer dressed as a boy – let’s hope she’s right. Thank you for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great story, Lynn. It’s a dreadful situation, that I’m sure is far too common in the world, when femininity has to be hidden to protect against men who view women as being less than them. I hope they manage to stay safe in the ‘safe zone’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true, and you’re right, all too common. Some of the tales that came out after Katrina and the dangers faced by children in camps such as the recently demolished ‘Jungle’ in France are frightening. Thank you very much for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having worked for an organization that deals with children’s right (and specifically girls) I’m well aware of what your story evokes powerfully. Thank you for a story that unfortunately reveals the reality of many places yet. Teary-eyed. Good think I didn’t read it at work 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Stephanie. I’m truly glad you felt it hit the right tone. Yes, some places of ‘safety’ can be anything but for the vulnerable. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Bill. They can be scary places, especially for the young and vulnerable. I read a few articles about the Jungle refugee camp in Calais – little water or food, the hygiene dangerously poor, untreated infections and wounds, the women in fear of assault. You’d hardly credit it all happened in the developed world in the 21st century.

      Liked by 1 person

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