“I can’t take this any longer! When will we find her a husband?” Aasia sank down onto a conveniently placed chair.
Her husband patted her shoulder sympathetically. “It is getting quite tiresome. Perhaps Iman is just not ready for marriage?” He eyed the girl in question speculatively and Iman had to fight the urge to gag.
“Of course she’s ready! She’s twenty two, for God’s sake!”
Iman was twenty but she knew pointing this out would make no difference. “Maybe you’re not looking in the right place?” she suggested, trying to seem helpful.
Aasia frowned at her in confusion. “Where else should we look? I’ve spoken to my friends and your father has spoken to his colleagues. There’s no one else.”
Step father, Iman corrected silently. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “But my grandfather might.”
“Your… grandfather?” Aasia made a face like she’d just bitten into a piece of rotten fruit.
“He does know a lot of people,” Iman pointed out, trying to seem off-hand. “I could ask him?”
“Alright,” her mother agreed slowly. “You might as well. I doubt he’ll find a suitable candidate though. The people he associates with are far beneath us.”
“Thank God for that,” Iman muttered.
“What was that?” Aasia asked sharply.
“Nothing. I’ll go call him.”
Iman was halfway up the stairs when Aasia called her back. “Go and stay there,” the woman instructed. “I don’t want you around, you’ve made me very stressed these past few weeks.”
Iman hid a smile. “I’m very sorry,” she said humbly. “How long will it take you to recover?”
“A week,” Aasia decided.
“A week?” Iman repeated gleefully.
“Actually, make it three days,” Aasia corrected.
She’d been too excited, Iman realized. “Thank you so much for not making it longer,” she gushed, trying to rectify the situation.
She packed for a week, hoping that her ploy had worked. Sure enough, as she was lifting her suitcase into the trunk, Aasia came tottering down the driveway on her heels.
“I changed my mind!” the woman called, a vindictive gleam in her eyes. “Stay for a week.”
Iman nodded submissively, waiting until she’d gotten into the car – and driven a good five minutes for good measure – to let her glee show. A week! Seven whole days where she wouldn’t have to watch what she said or listen to an endlessly long list of her faults.
A week of freedom. And, if they plotted well enough, that week would soon turn into months.
“I want to get married,” Iman announced to her grandfather that night over supper.
Ibrahim choked on his mouthful of coffee and began to cough. “You want to what?” he asked incredulously.
Iman handed over a glass of water. “I want to get married,” she repeated calmly.
“You will get married,” Ibrahim assured her, beginning to calm down. “In five or ten years, we’ll find you a lovely boy to settle down and make my grandchildren with.”
Iman rolled her eyes. “I want to get married now,” she clarified.
“No,” her grandfather said simply.
“What? Why not?”
“Never mind why not, I said no. That’s it.”
“But -” Iman began.
“No buts.” Ibrahim put down his cup. “Now, let’s change the subject, hmm?”
“No,” Iman insisted stubbornly. “This is a good idea. Will you just listen?”
“A good idea?” Ibrahim repeated. “What do you mean a good idea? Marriage isn’t an idea, it’s a life choice. You see, you don’t even know what it’s about. You’re far too young for these kinds of things.”
Iman huffed. “I know that. I meant, it’s a good idea to get me away from my mother.”
Her grandfather stared at her, speechless.
“It’s a terrible idea and I won’t allow it!”
“Then she’ll just marry me off to someone she wants!” Iman snapped, fed up. She crossed her arms over her chest irritably and glared at the table.
“What do you mean?”
Iman sighed. “She’s been trying to find me a husband for the past three weeks. I’ve already met twelve different guys. And they’re all terrible! I’ve been trying to drive them off but they take one look at me – and my step father’s bank balance – and they’re already halfway to proposing! It’s getting harder and harder to find a way to repulse them.”
“Why didn’t you tell me as soon as this started, Iman?”
“You know my mother reviews the camera footage. I didn’t want her to stop me from coming to see you.” Iman tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I just thought that if I got married, it might make things better. And if you helped me find someone, I could make sure I wasn’t trading one set of chains for another.”
“Surely it isn’t that bad?” Ibrahim asked worriedly, reaching out to cup her cheek.
“It is sometimes.” Iman looked at the floor, unable to bear seeing the heartbroken look on her grandfather’s face. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have told you.”
“You should have told me a long time ago,” Ibrahim corrected in a thick voice. “You were trying to spare my feelings, weren’t you?”
Iman nodded. “So, do you agree with me?” she asked hopefully.
“I need to think about it,” was the non-committal answer.
Iman’s face fell and Ibrahim reached out to poke her cheek. “I didn’t say no,” he reminded her gently.
“You didn’t say yes either.”
Ibrahim nodded, getting to his feet. “It’s a complicated situation, sweetheart. I won’t say yes or no until I’ve thought about all the possibilities. You should know that.”
Iman did know that. Her grandfather had always been the type to analyse every situation to death before making a single move.
“Could you hurry?” she asked impishly, copying the response she’d always given to explanations of this sort when she’d been little.
Ibrahim laughed, recognizing the line. “Of course,” he agreed, putting an arm around her. “You’re here for a week, right?”
Iman nodded happily.
“Well, you’ll have an answer by the end of the week then, alright? Now, let’s talk about something else.”
They spent the rest of the evening trying and failing to discuss the book Iman had just finished reading. Eventually, Iman gave up and made her excuses, resigning herself to an early night spent worrying about her future.