Just a child, happy with the lights and the music – everywhere she looks, there are signs of celebration. The celebration of a girl entering into the union of marriage. She runs with her brothers and sisters until the last moment, just a child playing.

Her heart is light, and she is wearing one of her new dresses, showing off to her friends and sisters – for the dresses are many, and they are accompanied by perfume, hair adornments, shoes – you name it, she has it. It had been a present from her fiancée, and he even asks her if there is anything else that she would like – and she wracks her brain and asks for this and for that.

“I am so happy – for I have lovely, colorful dresses, shoes, and even some jewelry to wear, I must be the happiest girl in the world.”

But what does she know about the world out there – nothing – simply nothing. For she is but a ten- year old child, and a child at heart she is. Even physically, she is not yet fully developed, but she feels so grown up as they bathe her and dress her for the ceremony.

She is in her room as the contract is signed, as money changes hand from her husband to her father. Even in her white dress, she is scampering and playing, she is not worried for she knows not the word or what it means.

Little Manuela has not yet seen her groom, but that is neither here nor there, he did get her so many beautiful things, and her father seems so happy.

She does not understand her mother, for she is happy and smiling as she gets her dressed along with all the women of the family, but sometimes she glimpses the tears she tries to hide in her eyes.

The celebration soon goes out of the house, and Manuela is placed on a horse, camel, or a cart.  And from her father’s house to her groom’s, the celebration continues along with music and dancing.

The dancing lasts well into the night, even after she is in her husband’s house, in his bedroom.

The music is loud, for it has to cover up the sound of her screams – she now knows what a fate worse than death really means – and she cries well into the night and screams to the accompaniment of the music.

Her childhood is gone, and it had not even started, had it?

Soon, too soon, she will be ‘a child with child’ – just a child.

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