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.
The pregnancy sickness didn’t help, especially when cooking. I had a strange craving for jalapeños.
“Here you go, Madam, more jalapeños,” laughed Hassan as he handed me a bag full from the grocery store. “I’m off to a mate’s house; will be back late.”
I looked at him and said to myself, What a strange relationship you have, Mehreen. You’re married, but it’s like you’re single. Your husband is hardly home, and when he comes home your conversations are about his friends, both male and female. . .
I feel safe when Hassan is home, but as soon as he leaves I feel lost and insecure.
I stand munching on an apple in the kitchen when Henna walks in.
“Is that all you do all day long, just eat and eat?” she says.
“I’m eating for two now, remember?” I smile nervously.
“Yeah, whatever, just calm down. This food costs money, which, if you remember, doesn’t grow on trees,” taunts Henna.
She’s done it again, drained my emotions. I walk into the garden with the half-eaten apple.
I pause and look at the apple with her words swirling in my mind. I sit on the lawn chair and break down into tears.
What am I supposed to do? I need to feed my baby. The apple drops from my hand and rolls into the dirt.
“Are you crying again?”
I look up. It’s Pam. I stand up immediately, like I’ve seen my mama calling me, and walk quickly towards her. She hugs me tight and I feel so much comfort.
“Oh Pam, I don’t know what to do. I should be happy that I’m pregnant, but my circumstances are making me sad. . .”
I was getting bigger and heavier, but the work didn’t decrease, and neither did the taunts.
I would often go into a daze whilst washing the dishes in the kitchen, just so that I could find my own sanity and happiness for a few moments. I’d imagine how it would be when my baby arrived–would the unpleasant atmosphere change with the presence of a new born?–and how I’d hold my baby close to me and protect it.
I sometimes sing songs and read stories to the baby in my belly. They say they can hear you and it soothes them.
Hassan sometimes laughs at me when I waddle. Hassan. My husband, my friend, but so strange. If only he would stand up for me or take me away. I want my baby to be free from these difficulties I face. But Hassan is in a world of his own.
“Ok, Mehreen, we are off now,” shouts my mother-in-law from downstairs.”Don’t forget to make the atta.“
“Yes Mama, I will. Have a nice time,” I call down.
The house is so empty. It’s peaceful and quiet for a change.
I go to the kitchen and get some jalapeños and Doritos. Munch time for me and baby.
Me and baby sit and watch TV, which is not a privilege I get often. The program starts, followed later by the news
“In today’s news, we talk about the new laws on domestic abuse,” says the lady on TV.
They show an interview with a woman whose face is concealed for her identity. I start crying when I hear her story. It’s as if it I am the one talking. At the end of the segment, they show a telephone number for the domestic violence helpline.
The front door opens. It’s Henna! I panic, as she was not due home yet. I quickly shut the program off as she walks in.
“What are you doing watching TV?” she yells.
“I was having a rest. I’ve finished all the cooking and cleaning,” I say.
Henna looks slightly intoxicated, something that occurs quite regularly when her parents are out.
She stomps over to the couch.
“Get up,” she screams in my face.
She grabs my arm and drags me to the kitchen
“Where are the keys for the back door?” she shouts.
I point at the drawer, and she takes them out and opens the back door. It’s pouring rain and so cold.
“Get out and stay out!” she screams, shaking my hair.
“No!” I scream, struggling, but she doesn’t listen to my plea.
I’m outside in the garden, screaming in the cold rain.
“Open the door! Please, Henna! Please, I’m cold—my baby, my baby…”
Late night conversations with Hassan were something I looked forward to. They were very rare, but joyous.
Tonight was one of those nights: Just me, Hassan and baby.
“Hassan, are you looking forward to the baby”? I ask him.
“Of course, what makes you question that?”
“It’s just that we have such a strange relationship. I don’t get to see you much, and when I do either something has happened at home, or our conversations are about your friend’s parties.” My heart palpitates, waiting for his reaction.
He sits up and looks at me, “Listen, Mehreen, I’m not going to lie to you. I wasn’t ready or willing for this marriage, not because I didn’t like you or anything. I felt rushed and wanted to explore my options after uni, but Mum and Dad said I had to get married and started emotionally blackmailing me.”
I feel unwanted and out of place. My stomach tightens, a normal tension when mums are stressed. I breathe and pat my stomach, turning to gaze out the window.
Hassan walks over. “Please, Mehreen. I didn’t want to upset you, but you asked me and I didn’t want to lie.” He puts his head down as if in regret. “I know I’m not perfect and haven’t been a good husband, but I promise I’ll try harder.”
I turn around and smile, taking his hand. Hassan stands next to me and we look out the window at the lights from nearby houses. Maybe my future won’t be that gloomy. Yes, tomorrow will be a new start.
The next morning I wake up and head downstairs. I hear my mother-in-law crying on the phone.
I walk into the living room to see what’s going on. My father-in-law who turns his head away sadly.
My mother-in-law says, “Mehreen, beta, come here. Your aba wants to speak to you.”
I take the phone. “Hello, Aba?”
My heart beats really fast and my stomach tightens again.
“Mehreen, beta, your mother is no longer with us,” he says through tears.
Time stands still. My father continues to talk, but I cannot hear anything he is saying. I fall to the floor and can only hear everyone shouting my name
“Mehreen! Wake up!”