Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tenuous Ties

A Short Story By Amy Bovaird

“I want to see my baby! My BABY! Don’t take it away from me even before I get to hold it!” The nurse whisked the preemie to a waiting incubator. She knew it was crucial to move the baby to a safer environment, even if it meant taking her away from her own mother’s arms. Fatima dropped her outstretched arms in defeat. That was nearly a week ago. She still ached to hold her baby, an ache that hurt more than the physical pain she endured to have her.

She now focused on the four gray walls that surrounded her.
She gathered her thick, black hair to one side and let it drop. Through the thin, flannel gown, she felt the rough patches of her belly where monitors had been placed in her own hour of need.

Three days ago, she was strong enough to walk with her mother’s assistance to the Special Care Baby Unit, and peered into the incubator to see Noora, a tiny wrinkled form connected to tangled tubes and wires. Wafts of antiseptic nauseated her; and the trembling hum of the strange machines weakened her knees. Fatima reached through an opening and stroked a dry, chapped leg. “Allah,” she cried, as she reached out for her mother.

Ayesha took charge, “Bas. Enough.” She led her away. From that day on, her fears ate at her. Would Noora live? She must! But what if she didn’t? What would Hamed say?

recalled when she first met Hamed on their wedding day. She was eighteen. He cast an appreciative eye over her. She noticed a tall, broad-shouldered man with dark, intelligent eyes, a full beard, and a moustache that emphasized his firm mouth. He wore a gold linen thob, fancier than the white robe grooms sometimes wore. She thought him very handsome, and smiled shyly. Pleased, he reached for her hand.

She prayed that he would treat her with respect and they would soon find love. But more importantly, that she would bear him many children. After all, becoming a mother was every woman’s duty. To be a mother was to be a queen.

“Mama, why don’t they give me news about my baby? Tell Zafar to find the consultant,” Fatima pleaded. “After all, since Father isn’t here, it’s Zafar’s duty to carry out these things as the oldest son. Mama, I’m begging you! This is urgent!”

Ayesha rose, and issued a command and Zafar left the room.

Soon, the curtain parted and a nurse’s face poked through. “The consultant is here,” Fatima donned her headscarf and made sure the blanket covered her legs. “Let him come.”

After the traditional greetings, the doctor directed his comments to Zafar, as was customary.

“I hear Fatima has asked about her baby,” he began.

“That’s true. What is the news?”

The doctor cleared his throat.

“Please. Fatima is crazy with fear! Speak, man.”

’s eyes darted back and forth between the two men in front of her.

! May God protect baby Noora, Ayesha invoked, to prevent The Evil Eye.

’s rapid glances targeted each of the faces surrounding her. Everyone is so solemn. They’re not telling me something. Allah!

The consultant spoke. Fatima’s baby died yesterday morning. She had hemorrhaging to the brain and great difficulty in breathing. It’s to be expected.” He shrugged. “Some premature babies make it, but that’s rare.”

stared. Her dry-throated voice cracked. “…my baby … died?”

The nurses nodded. The consultant, a thin man with glasses, looked away.

“I see,” Fatima whispered, “I see.”

After the consultant left, Fatima let out a series of thin, cracking, high-pitched squeals and began to thrash in bed. Her worst fear had become reality.

Ayesha ran to tend to her daughter, “Call Hamed,” she urged her son. “May Allah grant us mercy.”

“Oh Mama, I caused The Evil Eye to fall on my baby. I was too happy. Who would be jealous enough to inflict this tragedy upon us? Fatheyya? Aziza? Nadia? How could this happen? Allah!”

Her mother shook her, “You mustn’t ever question Allah! Do you hear? This is God’s Will.”

Ay… my life lies in Hamed’s hands…” She began to groan and yank at her thick tresses until some hair came out by their roots.

Fatima, stop that!” Her mother stilled Fatima. “These are dark days, yes. But all is not lost. Rest.”

After Fatima fell asleep, Ayesha considered the consequences. “Allah, this could ruin her life.” She smoothed Fatima’s blanket, finally letting the tears fall.

The silence unnerved her after the commotion earlier. To fill it, Ayesha listed the positives. “Hamed loves Fatima. He is a fair man. Fatima is a dutiful wife. She’s strong, and will bear him more children, Insha’allah, God willing.” She pulled the prayer beads from her pocket to calm herself. The round marble beads slipped between her fingers and gave her strength as her biggest fear assailed her, “God forbid that Hamed divorce her.”

Ayesha was dozing when the hospital door swung open and Hamed stepped inside. “How is my wife? Thank you for seeing to her.” He dismissed his mother-in-law with a curt nod. Ayesha left at once.

Hamed sat down on the bed. “Wake up, Fatima.” When she saw him, she buried her head in his chest, unable to face him.

He lifted her face toward him, “Look at me,” he commanded. “It’s true then?”

She nodded, her face crumpling.

His eyes fell upon the raw spots where she had yanked out her hair. “What is this? What happened to your beautiful hair?” He knew then, the extent of her grief. “Never mind. I’m here now,” he whispered as he kissed her wet eyelids.

“Our baby is gone. I failed you.” Fatima whimpered.

He didn’t respond, so she braved her question, “Hamed, will … you … divorce me?”

He paused, as if thinking it over. “Don’t be silly. You are my wife. Get well. We will try again next month, and the one after that. However long it takes. We will have another. Insha’allah,” God willing.

Together they embraced. Fatima smiled as he held her in his arms. She was lucky this time. But for how long? She wondered what their future would bring. What if the same thing happened again? Would Hamed be as patient? Or would he blame her? Demand a divorce, or worse, take another wife? “Allah, please give me a strong womb, let me be a mother, a good wife… Ma’ash’allah. May God protect me.”

No comments:

Post a Comment