“Stay inside of me,” she said.
Her thoughts were racing, from idea to idea. Oh would he marry her, and she knew he wouldn’t. She had been taken by so many men; could have given herself to him so much more pure.
“Now turn off the lights,” she said.
“No, let’s go out in a minute. Let’s go in the garden and look at the flowers.”
In the garden he even held her hand. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “If you have strange thoughts, remember it’s the bhang. Be happy.”
“Well, it’s warm,” she said. The sun beat down, the dust on the roses seemed heavy, under a banyan tree the grass didn’t grow. She kicked off her shoes, felt the cool earth.
“Lie down here,” she said, “next to me, hold me.”
And though they might have been seen, he did.
All the afternoon they walked around together, even in the house, looking at the paintings, the furniture. Rafik wanted to sit with the drivers, but she said no, she wanted to be with him alone. Hassan banged around the kitchen, he had eaten too many of the samosas.
That evening she said to Rafik, “I’ll be back in half an hour.”
She went to her own room. Her husband lay on the bed, on his pills, twitching his fingers.
“Look,” she said, standing over him. “You’re a mess. You’ve been a mess for two years. Now I’ll never sleep in your bed again.”
He began to cry, his emaciated face, his long yellow teeth. This she hadn’t expected. He sobbed, real tears. She sat down on the broken chair in the corner, looking at the shelf on which she kept her few things, a metal jar of eyeliner, a tin box thrown out by Kamila that once held chocolates.
“Will I still get my money?”
Then she stood up again. “Yes, but if you ever say one funny word, that’s it.”
She took some clothes, and when she hung them from a nail in Rafik’s room he said nothing. She held him all night, his face in her breasts.
Only once, waking, she thought, That was our marriage feast, drugged samosas, and she felt sad and worn and frightened.
Now she slept each night in Rafik’s bed, leaving her husband to his addiction. Fall and winter came, the leaves fell, at night they slept under a heavy quilt that the managers at the farm sent to Rafik as a present. She slept naked, which still after five months disturbed him. Rafik woke before dawn, to say his prayers, then went into the kitchen and had tea with Hassan. The sahib woke early, and Rafik had duties until mid-morning. When he came to wake her, she would pretend still to be asleep, face hidden in the quilt—she always slept with her head covered. He would bring a cup of tea and some toast.
“Come in with me,” she would say, moving over in the bed, leaving a warm spot, and sometimes he would. Her long hair hung down, and she would brush it, while he told her about the guests who had come for bridge, or about some feud in the kitchen. He read the Urdu paper New Times, sitting in the morning sun, wearing ancient horn-rimmed glasses with thick lenses. She bought him a warm woolen hat and carefully washed and mended his clothes. She wanted everyone to see how well she cared for him. She said, “You wear me on your back, and I wear you on my face.” Her face had softened.
She missed one period, then a second, but said nothing to Rafik.
They had finished making love one afternoon, and were talking, her head on his shoulder.
He was stroking her belly.
“I might as well tell you. See how I’m bigger? I’m pregnant.”
He pushed her head away and sat up. “That’s bad.”
Excerpted from In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin. © 2009 by Daniyal Mueenuddin. Excerpted by permission of W.W.Norton & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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