My grandmother lost her virginity at the age of fifteen. She was standing on a chair cleaning the display cupboard in her aunt’s living room one day, when she slipped and fell, legs open, on the protruding end of another chair and her virginity was no more. That was the official story.

I was fifteen when my aunt recounted this to my mother whilst, unbeknownst to her, her cousin shook her head behind her. My grandmother was saved from losing her honor as it had simply been a terribly unfortunate incident that could’ve happened to anyone.

Still, just to be sure, the adults conversed amongst themselves, deals were made and, before she knew it, she was engaged to my grandfather, her cousin. Just to be sure.

My mother never questioned the official story, nor did she ask the cousin for the real one.

“Whatever happened was between her and god, and she’s with him now,” she told me. An indication to keep quiet.

When I was twenty, I found out my grandmother had been adopted. No one knew where she came from or why, just that her so-called aunt had turned up with her one day and declared she was the child of her dead sister and husband who had, unfortunately, lost their lives in a car crash.

Her aunt never had a sister. No one knew where the child had come from, but no one said a thing.

Upon hearing this, I had a sudden urge to contact my extended family, to demand answers, to ask them to please, please stop keeping things hidden for the sake of honor and shame.

My mother saw the look in my eyes, “they won’t tell you, even they don’t know the full story, only the aunt does.”

“Well, where is she?”

“She died, not long after your grandmother.”

She had been gravely ill for a long time, bedridden and half blind for the last months of her life. When she realized, she didn’t have long left, and that my grandmother still hadn’t come to visit her, she had one last request: “Ask Nouara to forgive me, ask her to forgive me for everything.”

They didn’t have the heart to tell her she was already gone.

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