Written by: Sophie
Below is a story I wrote about domestic abuse. Before beginning, I would like to emphasize that there are different types of abuse, and that abuse can happen to anyone, male or female, from any community or background. This particular story is about a girl who is mistreated by her in-laws after arriving from abroad.
Please note the characters and incidents in the story are not real. If anything is similar to real life, it is purely coincidental.
I hear a voice and turn around to see a lady waving at me from the garden next door. I put the washing down and wave back uncertainly. “I’m Pam, your neighbor. You must the new bride!” She sticks out her hand to shake mine.
“Hello, my name is Mehreen. I’m Hassan’s wife,” I say shyly.
“Oh yes I know Hassan veryyyyy well.” she looks at me with a pause and is about to say something.
“Mehreen, what are you doing? Haven’t you finished putting the washing up? ” My mother-in-law walks over to me.
“Hello Mrs. Akhtar. How are you?” Pam waves.
“Im okay, thanks,” my mother-in-law says shortly as she pulls me by the hand back to the washing line.
“Now hurry and finish what you were told to do. We haven’t got all day.”
My husband walks towards the garden and my mother-in-law bumps into him. They pause and talk, glancing over at me. I put my head down and take some more clothes out of the bucket to hang. A shiver runs down my spine.
This is such a wonderful atmosphere, I think to myself. The wedding CD and photos have arrived, and we all gather around to look at them.
“I look so handsome, don’t I, Bhabi“? says my brother-in-law, who is only 17 but so sweet. “Yes, of course you do!” I laugh and reply.
“Actually, I look the best.” preens my sister-in-law Henna, and pauses when looking at me. I smile faintly and continue to look at the pictures.
Later that evening, my mother-in-law says we need to go the supermarket to purchase a few items. Luckily, my husband is home, so I ask if he will take us.
“But we need to get some items,” I say.
“Well, why don’t you bloody walk? You have legs, don’t you?”
“Yes, but Mama wishes to come too. I can’t make her walk, that would be wrong.” I smile and look for a positive answer.
“Acha, quick then, as I need to go out with my friends later.”
We go to the supermarket. It’s big, so it takes us some time to walk around. My mother-in-law purchases a few extra items.
“I bet you never saw supermarkets like this in Pakistan, did you, Mehreen?” She picks up a fresh loaf of bread from the shelf.
“Actually, Mama, I have. There are lot of shopping centres that have been built in Pakistan.”
She looks at me suddenly, and ushers me on, “Don’t talk back.”
“No Mama. Please don’t think I was talking back! I respect you dearly,” I hug her and she relents, “Ok, ok.”
After we pay for the items, we take the trolley back to the car. My husband is talking to a woman in another car next to his and laughing.
She looks at me from the steering wheel and smirks. “So you are Mehreen.”
“Hello. Yes, I am.” I’m nervous as she looks me up and down and then looks back at Hassan, asking, “You coming to the party later, then?”
My husband looks at me and his mother.
“I’ll call you later, yeah,” he says to her and smiles. She drives off.
“What you looking at?” he says to me and opens the car boot.
I turn around and see my mother-in-law waving her hands. She yells, “Hassan, stop this nonsense or else!” He says, “And what Mama, what are you going to do? I did what you said.” He looks over at me, “Let me do what I want now, too.”
Its 3am now and I can’t sleep. I keep thinking about the incident in the supermarket car park. I roll over and feel the cold pillow next to me. Hassan still hasn’t returned home; he must be having a good time with his friends.
I try to brush the negative thought from my mind and wait for the call to morning prayers. Besides, today will be wonderful. My cousin Sara will be coming from Bradford. I was very close to her when we lived together back home, especially during our college days. She was always getting into trouble, but stood up for me when I was bullied. “Mehreen, let me see to these idiots,” she would say. “No, aapi, leave them,” I would reply and she would hug me, saying I was too soft. My thoughts linger on my Mama and Aba, and I whimper slightly.
Later that morning, the kitchen smells of the wonderful food we are preparing. I make fresh samosas and mithai. My mother-in-law likes my cooking and tells her friends about this all the time. I prepare some tea for her and myself and we discuss how much rice to cook.
Henna enters the kitchen. “Mum, I’m going out. I’ll be back later.”
“But Henna, you know we have a guest coming later. You are not going,” says my mother-in-law.
“Listen Mum, Sara is not my cousin, so it’s not important. Ok?” She looks at me with her arms folded. I turn away and open the hot tap to wash the dishes.
“Henna, that’s enough. I said no, or I will tell your aba.”
“Aba, what’s he going to do? Um, not much, sitting in that wheelchair.”
“Uff, what am I going to do with you?” My mother-in-law walks towards the pantry to get the rice. I turn around, saying “Henna, please stay. It would be nice. Besides, you haven’t met Sara; you’ll like her.”
Henna grabs my hand and places it under the hot running water, “Listen, don’t tell me what to do. I know you are trying to get all friendly with my mum, but it won’t work with me!” she snarls in my ear. My hand is so hot I gasp, and my younger brother-in-law walks inside the kitchen and sees what is happening.
“Henna, what are you doing, you mad cow!” shouts Amir. Henna leaves the kitchen.
My mother-in-law walks back in the kitchen with the rice in a bowl. “Mehreen, you haven’t washed the dishes yet?” I look at my hand and open the cold tap “Ji, Mama, I will do that now.”