My fairy tale wedding
I couldn't tell him that in my fairy tale he did not have a place. I could not tell him that he couldn't marry me.
I stand over the remnants of tea and pastries, the window creaks open and the wind howls. How did this happen? I close my eyes and my mind takes me back a couple of hours, to the beginning of the evening.
“Oh darling!” exclaimed my overjoyed mother, “You look so beautiful!”
She circled my chair for the millionth time, brushing imaginary specs of dirt and creases off the jamawaar kameez I was wearing, and adjusting a curl or two. I looked at my reflection in the floor-length mirror; as miserable as I was I had to admit, I did look beautiful. Almost like a princess from the pages of a fairy tale.
But looking beautiful did not add an iota of happiness to my mood. My face might have exuded loveliness, but my expression reflected my actual feelings - my expression was ugly and so was the feeling in my gut.
My fingers trailed the open pages of the Grimm brother’s book on my lap.
As a child I had imagined running away into those parchment fairy tales, I eventually abandoned the idea, but today I wanted to run away again.
It all started three days ago, when I had come back from a friend’s house. I walked home, my hair a damp mess, mascara running down my face; it had rained and I was drenched. I dragged my soaking self up the stairs, past the dining room and into the hall. And that’s when the unimaginable happened.
My mother embodied the picture of a scheming sweet little old lady in a ginger bread house. We were alone in the house, she had already talked my father into leaving; she was good. But I knew that there was a reason for that malicious smile on her face.
“Come here, my dear,” she said as thunder rolled outside.
A storm was coming.
“Come come,” she smiled like the big bad wolf, signalling poor little Red Riding Hood to come closer.
I went into the dining room, my wet shoes squeaking beneath me.
This was no fairy tale - it felt like a page out of Grimms’.
A car horn at our gate brought me back to the present.
Suddenly, “They’re here!” seemed to be the only phrase existing in the English language.
I lifted the navy lehnga like the bane of my life, and stomped out of my room, followed by my extremely overjoyed mother.
I sat like a marble statue, with a back so straight that even the queen would have envied my posture. My eyes were fixed on the ground, safely tucked away from those belonging to my future husband - not from being shy, rather from clear and unmistakable spite.
My mind then went back to that fateful night in the dining room.
Pictures of ‘handsome young men’ were lying sprawled on the dining table and among this never-ending blanket of photos, one was missing.
My mother was holding it.
I understood and the knowledge annoyed me.
“Amma!” I exclaimed, “I already told you, I don’t want to get married!”
With that said, I spun on my soaking heels, and was walking away when she started again.
“But sweetheart,” she said in a voice that was as sinister as it was charming, “You are getting married. But don’t worry, I’ve already taken the liberty of picking him out for you.”
And just like that, I was wrapped in a shimmering blue dress and bestowed to a stranger. No, worse than a stranger, a cousin whom I had known my whole life as a “big-brother”, one who had lifted me the day I was born.
Now, I’d have to live with him, to bear him, and even like him?
I looked at the man I was being forced to spend the rest of my life with.
The white of his starched shalwar kameez contrasted with his black moustache. He was one of my “village cousins” who I’d met as a child. As we grew older he took over the lands of his forefathers and grew into the feudal part of my family.
I was brought to Karachi with my parents, where I lived, laughed and convinced myself that I was in charge of my own destiny. Unfortunately, the norm I didn’t realise was that some families teach you to fly and then once you get the hang of it and realise the beauty of freedom, they clip your wings.
My mother clipped mine the day she decided that I had had enough freedom for a girl.
I was told to show my ‘future husband’ around the house. Irritated I got up and huffed my way out of the room, he followed closely behind.
He looked to the wall showcasing my father’s guns.
“Do you shoot?” he asked, trying to find some sort of similarity between us.
I smiled knowingly and admitted,
“I love to hunt.”
He continued to ask me about how my interest in hunting arose and what I would hunt for. So in not too many words, trying to keep the conversation as bland as possible, I stated that I would hunt because as unfortunate as it is, it is also necessary at times.
Confused he looked to me for clarification.
I replied sweetly, imitating my mother’s tender pretentious lulling voice,
“You either hunt, or are hunted.”
A gleam of pride sparkled in his feudal eyes and I could feel the joy emanating from my mother who was standing beside me.
On examining the guns, he found an empty slot,
“One of the pistols is missing,” he noted.
My mother looked to the wall and waved her hand dismissing his worry saying,
“I’m sure my husband misplaced it,” she said absently.
“I’m so happy,” said my typical mother-in-law, “she’s such a doll!”
I looked up at this, right into his eyes.
“Of course!” cried my eyes, “to you I am just a doll.”
As much as I tried to get the message across through my eyes, he did not comprehend my emotions; after all, one cannot expect the other to understand everything you want them to know. We are given a mouth to speak and form the words, mine however was taped shut the second my mother handed me his photo.
My future ‘mother-in-law’ and mother, conveniently, plopped themselves back on the sofas, satisfied with their little joint venture.
I stood in the hallway, finally alone with the man who was to be my husband. He stared intently at the wall of guns, expediently ignoring the chattering voices of our mothers from behind us. I stood behind him, my eyes boring into his back, longing for him to understand my plight.
I don’t want to marry you. To you I am nothing but a gun you can showcase on your wall.
I don’t want to be bound by your restrictions.
Can you hear my eyes speaking to you?
Can you feel the emotions they have pouring out of them?
Can you sense the loathing?
I hate you!
Do you hear me? I hate you!
But my eyes got no response. He did not turn around and tell me that everything was going to be alright. He did not turn around and tell me that if I did not want to marry him, he would not force me to.
I could not tell him that he should save himself from me; I was not the right girl for him.
I could not tell him that he needed a girl who never tasted the sweet drops of freedom.
I could not tell him that my mother was cheating me out of my own destiny.
I could not tell him that I believed in fairy tales and that my prince charming awaited me somewhere in a far off forest.
I could not tell him that in my fairy tale he did not have a place.
I could not tell him that he could not marry me.
I could not tell him that our wedding day was never to come.
I could not tell him that I was the one to have stolen the gun from the wall and that I was pointing it towards his back- straight at his heart.
I could not tell him that I was going to kill him.
I could not tell him…
Read more by Ushah here.