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Farida, Farah, Nariman 23 Sep. 2010

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05 November 2007

Double Trouble

DOUBLE TROUBLE

A fiction,
By Hoda Nassef


She was 45. Then years now since they got divorced, when she was only thirty-five and he, 60. He left her to marry a girl who was 25! That marriage didn’t last five years. It serves him right, she thought. He was sixty then, and the “other woman” was thirty when she left him. What did he expect? And now that he was 70, he was trying to win her back. Why? To be a wife, or act now as a nurse or maid for him? She would never forgive him for leaving her in the prime of her youth – and marrying someone young enough to be his daughter. Even I was young enough o be his daughter! I was 25 when we got married, and he was exactly fifty. TWICE my age, she reflected. And NOW he just wants me to “forgive and forget”? NO WAY, she thought angrily. Not after he took the best years of my life – then spoilt the rest of it for me.

Their marriage was a big mistake to begin with. A “traditional marriage”, arranged by her parents and his family. She knew that he was twice her age when he proposed, but she didn’t mind. At twenty-five, in those days, she was considered an “old maid”. All her friends and cousins were already married; some even as young as sixteen or seventeen, and already had three or four children.

She knew that some of these “salon” marriages worked out well, even with bigger age gaps between husbands and wives. She thought she’d “fall in love” with her husband later, as some of her friends or cousins did. But, love and passion never bloomed. Not knowing any better – with no previous experience to compare with, she supposed that all marriages were the same, and continued to accept their routine lives without any real joy, nor any real regrets.

The only good thing that came out of her marriage was her daughter Rasha. Their relationship was more like sisters, than mother and daughter. In fact, they almost did look like sisters. They dressed alike, had the same friends and the same taste in music, food, and even in men. Their tastes were similar in almost everything, including sports, books, films and art.

Rasha was twenty – and a 2nd-year university student in the Faculty of Medicine. She was bright, cheerful, and fun to be with. Her friends varied in types and ages, from six to sixty, and she got along well with everybody. But, she considered her mother her “best friend”. They always had long discussions about all sorts of subjects, and often gossiped and giggled together like schoolgirls. She kept no secrets from her mother, although she had none really to keep – and confided in her all her “adventures” of the day.

Rasha knew that her father wanted to re-marry her mother, and at first objected to the idea, almost as strongly as her mother did. She didn’t hate her father, but knew that he gave her mother a rotten deal, and knew also of her mother’s strong antipathy towards her father. It wouldn’t be fair to expect her mother to live the rest of her life in misery. She deserved better, thought Rasha. But, what if I get married one day? Mama would be even more miserable. She’d be so lonely without my companionship, reflected Rasha.





Maybe it would be better if Mama DID return to daddy, she mused, with a worried frown distorting her lovely features. She then resolved to try to convince her mother to return to her father, and, if that didn’t work, then she would just have to find a husband for her!

“Rasha, honey. I know of your good intentions, and what you’re trying to do,” she told Rasha one day.

“It was all a mistake to begin with, and returning to him won’t rectify that mistake,” she added.

“The mistake wasn’t in that he was twice you age, Mama. Many girls marry men twice their age, and even older. But, they marry out of love,” Rasha said.

“No. A girl who marries a man twice her age nowadays, means only one thing: she’s after his money, or his social status; just like that woman he left me for,” she added bitterly.

“But Mama, the mistake wasn’t in the age gap,” insisted Rasha. “It was in his AGE. Haven’t you all asked yourselves why he waited to get married, for the very first time, at fifty? What was he doing before that? And, how could grandfather and grandmother have accepted?” she asked.

Her mother reflected on her words, and had to admit to herself that Rasha had a point. But, out loud, she only asked: “Why all the sudden concern about the pros and cons of marital age gaps? Are you trying to tell me that I should return to Daddy?”

“Not really, Mama,” answered Rasha. “But, what if I get married one day? I don’t want you to be alone,” said Rasha.

“Don’t worry. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” smiled her mother.

And so, life went on as usual, with Rasha going to the university, and her mother going to the office where she worked. It was a small job, but it kept her busy and ‘useful’, with something to talk or gossip about at the end of the day with her daughter. In the meantime, Rasha kept an open eye – and ear – for any suitable eligible man for her mother. She didn’t tell her mother that she was searching for a “new husband” for her! On the other hand, her mother told her about the man in her office who was making googoo cow’s eyes at her, and about the ‘flirt’ at the club who said he wanted to marry her.

“Well?” asked Rasha laughingly. “And will you marry one of them?” she teased, but seriously wanted to know.

“Cow’s-Eyes is too silly, and not really my type. As for the one at the club – he’s already married, and I’m certainly not going to marry someone who already has a wife!” she exclaimed.



“You’re right. How disgusting! Maybe he really loves you though, and is divorcing his wife or intends to, if you agree to marry him?” Rasha inquired.

Her mother answered: “If a man leaves his wife after twenty or thirty years of marriage, and the mother of his children, what’s to prevent him from leaving his second wife, with no past ‘history’ together? Besides, I still have you! Where would you go if I got married? You get married first, then we’ll think about me!” she laughed.

Taking this as a sign to go ahead with her plans, Rasha decided not to be secretive anymore, and arranged for a “coincidental” meeting the following weekend at their club, with her new friend Lamia, and lamia’s father, Dr. Mohsen.

“Mama, this is my friend Lamia. Dr. Mohsen, her father, is a professor at my university where he teaches chemistry. Actually, I’ve known Dr. Mohsen longer than lamia, since the Professor was in one of my first term classes,” explained Rasha.

They hit it off immediately, and got along splendidly. For weeks afterwards the foursome became inseparable. They swam, played tennis, and often had lunch or dinner together at the club. Dr. Mohsen was always attentive, cheerful, and the perfect gentleman. She really liked him. He was her ‘ideal’ man.

Puzzled, one day she asked Rasha, “How old is Dr. Mohsen?”

“He’s only forty-two. Why?” inquired Rasha.

“Because he’s been a widower for several years now, and I was wondering why he never remarried. He’s so nice,” she said.

“Yes,” agreed Rasha. “Everyone likes him. He also comes from a very good family,” she added unnecessarily. “So, you approve of him? Really?” Rasha asked, holding her breath. “Tell me what you think of him … as a husband,” she whispered.

“He’d be a great catch for anyone,” answered her mother with an involuntary sigh.

“You honestly think so? Oh Mama, I’m so happy! By the way, he wants to visit us at home, to answer your question PERSONALLY!” she emphasized.

“What?! You don’t mean …?”

“Yes! I do!” interrupted Rasha, laughingly.

They set a date for tea at their home the following Thursday. The mother was in a panic, and unlike her nature, she bossed everyone around, until the house was spotless land gleaming. She, herself, went to the hairdresser after making sure that the table was set perfectly, with her best hand-woven lace tablecloth, her best china and silverware. Pure silver, from her ‘ancient’ trousseau – appropriate for the occasion, she concluded happily.

Dr. Mohsen brought with him a crystal bowl filled with Swiss chocolates, and offered the mother a beautiful bouquet of flowers, exclaiming with sincere appreciation that her beauty outdid the beauty of the flowers. Flustered, her heart skipped a beat when he bent gallantly and kissed her hand while complimenting her.

After tea, with Lamia and Rasha in silent anticipation, he gently told her, “I’ve never remarried after Lamia’s mother died, because I’ve never met the right woman for me – for both of us, until recently.”

Tears welled in her eyes when he pronounced those endearing words. Then, he added: “Would you give me the honour of granting me your daughter’s hand in marriage?”

Her heart fell to her feet, and the silent tears spilled over. With anxious eyes, Rasha beseeched her mother to accept, at last misconstruing her mother’s tears to be tears of joy. Reassuring her mother, she added, “Please don’t tell me I’m 20, and he’s twice my age! This is different – we both love each other very much. You TOLD me you approved of him, didn’t you?” implored Rasha relentlessly.

Silently, her mother nodded her head. Then, as carefully as she could, with as much dignity as she could muster, she stood up and told them that she had to make a phone call first.

Phoning Rasha’s father, she cried: “Abdallah, I have some … good news for you. Rasha is bringing over her fiançé for your approval.”

Listening passively for a while to the other end of the receiver, she sighed in resignation and finally said, “Yes. Let’s. Let’s make it a double wedding.”



- The End -

H.N.

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