Oedipus Complex - To Have and To Hold

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Naila, Saira, and Lolita are best friends who are trying to keep each other together as they go through various hurdles of life. Throughout the story, each friend shares her experience in marriage, specifically with her mother-in-law. You will also learn how their friendship develops and how friendship keeps them together.

Submitted: July 06, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 06, 2017




This story is based on many different real life experiences I’ve seen various girls go through. The story is not a complete analysis of a specific culture or religion. These are common aspects I’ve seen amongst people, albeit culture, race, and religion. I hope to make a difference somewhere through this story. I hope that people who read this story will try to recognize these practices in their lives and will then try to fight them to make a better living for themselves and others. Share your thoughts.

I’ve also tried a different approach in writing this story. I’ve written it from both third person and first person perspective. Because I think, humans are complicated beings who think from both perspectives. Do share your thoughts. Have a good read.


Oedipus Complex - To Have and To Hold

Lolita could hear sunlight wanting to come in her room through the heavy curtains. She wasn’t ready to open the curtains and have her room be filled with blinding sunlight. She shut her eyes tighter. She was having an amazing dream before the sound of sunlight woke her. She was walking hand in hand with Ashok. They were strolling in a park, simply enjoying each other’s company. She could feel the warmth of his hand on hers. She wished she could go back in her dream. She tried to shut her eyes even tighter, she didn’t want any tears forming or coming in her eyes. She rolled over to her side and reached her arm towards her husband’s side of the bed. Hoping, against all hope that he’ll be there. He wasn’t. Like every other morning. She buried her face in her pillow and gave into tears.


Saira cleared her throat. She needed to tell her husband that she’ll be coming home late tonight and that she won’t be able to take his mother to her appointment. She knew he wouldn’t mind but she still didn’t want to make it seem like she wasn’t interested in taking care of his mother. Saira had met Allan through his mother. Mrs. Krowlikoski loved seeing Saira volunteer in the community church. She was pleasantly surprised when she learned that Saira was a practicing Christian and “not some other South Asian religion”. Saira had found that ignorant statement offending but had ignored it. She never realized that Mrs. Krolikoski would one day be her ignorant mother-in-law. She cleared her throat a little louder so her husband will actually look at her and not the television. All in vain.

“Allan, what’s so interesting about that tea ad that you can’t even hear me?”

“Sorry honey, I had no idea you were calling me.” He finally looked away from that blasted big screen and looked at her mockingly.

“You could hear me perfectly well, you just like teasing me,” said Saira with a scowl.

Allan chuckled. “You make the best breakfast.”

Smiling to herself, she prepared herself. “Listen Allan, I have my night class tonight, so I won’t be home until about ten o’clock.”

“Ok. You do that every Wednesday, why do I need to know that today,” said Allan getting up from the sofa and walking towards the kitchen.

“Well because your mother doesn’t have a doctor’s appointment every Wednesday. She asked me last night if I can take her; more like told me that I am to take her to her appointment.”

“Ok, but her appointment is around three in the afternoon, you’re free that time. You often come home during that time anyway. Why can’t you come today?”

Saira knew he’d ask that. She took a deep breath before answering. “I can’t come today. I have an appointment I made with my professor last week. And the professor only comes to school on Wednesdays. I need help with my paper.” She hated lying to him, but she had to.

“Hmm, ok. Let me see what I can do. Don’t worry. You go to your meeting” he smiled.

“Your mother won’t say anything, right?”

“Of course she will. But that’s beside the point” he smiled again and hugged her. “I know you care for my mom. And I know she’s not the easiest woman to be a daughter-in-law of. Don’t worry though. I’ll take care of it.”

Saira hugged him back. “Thank you, Allan.”


“Lolita better have a really good reason asking us to skip school today. Like a really good one,” said Saira putting her bag on a chair and sitting beside Naila.

Naila continued to fix her lipstick in the little mirror she held in her fair slander hand. Off all three of them, Naila was the most delicate. She had such a slender and fragile stature; it often amazed Saira that Naila was such a strong woman.

“Are you done?”

“Sorry. Almost,” said Naila, without looking at Saira.

Saira rolled her eyes and wondered why she was sitting in the food court of her university and missing her class only to wait for one friend to arrive and the other to finish fixing her make up.

“You know we have a test coming up, right? A test that’s worth, oh, only like, fifty percent of our mark. No big deal!”

Naila sighed, put her mirror and lipstick away, and finally looked at Saira.

“Don’t look at me like that Naila, you’re scary when you look at someone with such a blank but I-can-see-through-you look.”

“Saira, exactly what is your problem? Why are you fidgeting? Like what the hell is wrong woman?”

Saira sighed. “Nothing. I just don’t like lying to Allan. I mean he wouldn’t say anything if I told him I’ll be spending the day with you girls but I also don’t think he needs to know that something is wrong.”

“Okay…and?” inquired Naila with the same blank stare.

“Well…what if he comes to school and goes to one of my classes and doesn’t find me there and…”

“You need to just shut your imagination, gurl,” said Naila cutting off Saira’s wild imagination.

“He isn’t coming here. I’m sure he trusts you enough to not spy on you. Plus he runs a business, woman, he doesn’t have time to come after you. And to be honest not enough brains to send someone after you.”

“Naila!” Saira was ready to give her a piece of her mind for insulting Allan, until she saw Naila’s eyes laughing at her.

“He married you Saira,” said Naila bursting in laughter, “he can’t possibly have brains.”

She loved making fun of Saira, just because Saira was easy to get all worked up.

Wiping tears of laughter, Naila turned rather somber and sighed.

“You know how I wake you guys up every morning by calling you and being your alarm? It’s sad I still have to do that. I guess old habits diehard. Anyway, point is, you guys disconnect my call and I know you’re up. Well Lolita took my call today. Which is odd because the last time she did that was back in high school and she had been crying because her parrot had died.” Naila sighed again. She was always able to talk in a manner, which calmed people. No matter how upset or terrible of a day they were having.

“She didn’t cry. She didn’t sound sad. She didn’t seem upset. She just said ‘Hello’ in the most deadpan voice. I knew something was wrong. I asked her if she was ok and she said ‘Dandy’.”

“She did not!” said Saira. Lolita only ever uses that word when something is either really bad or really bothering her. And usually it is a big deal, at least for her, even if not for the rest of the world.

“Well yes. You see my point. Without asking her anything I told her to meet us at the food court nine o’clock sharp. Didn’t give her the option to say yes or no. Told her to let her mommy-in-law and husband know that she won’t be able to come till late at night because she has to study for her up-coming midterms. I texted you and then texted Ashok saying that we need Lolita to help us study and if he can let her stay. I restrained myself from saying that if he didn’t let her stay then I will personally come in his dream and castrate him.” Naila gave a big smile. “I do love Lolita and I don’t think she’d appreciate me saying that or even doing that to her husband.”

“No, I don’t think she will,” said Saira chuckling. “What do you think it is?”

“My guess is it has everything to do with the dearest mother-in-law. And it has nothing to do with the mother-in-law at the same time.”

Saira knew what she meant. They both sighed. She knew now why they were here and what they will be doing for the rest of the day after Lolita joined them.

“She’s never going to be on time, is she?” asked Naila irritably. “I don’t know why I still bother telling her whatever o’clock sharp.”

“That’s her. Besides it’s only 9:15. She’ll be here in another fifteen. Are we taking your car?”

“Yes. Have you had breakfast? I’m starving. Let’s get some Tim’s.”


I met Naila in grade four. My family had just moved to a new neighbourhood and I was excited to make new friends. It was a sad and lonely feeling when no one wanted to be my friend because they already had friends. That’s when Naila had come up to me and had asked shyly if I would like to join her in colouring. I loved colouring! Naila was very particular in her colouring, so I had to learn to be disciplined in colouring a scenery. I didn’t mind.

Naila had moved to a new city after her mother had died in a car accident. Even though Naila was in the car, she hadn’t gotten a scratch, whereas, her mother had died even before the ambulance had gotten to them. Naila’s maternal family blamed her father for their daughter’s death. How? I still don’t understand that. In grade eight I saw Naila go through the pain of losing her father to cancer. Naila never complained about taking care of her father, doing household chores, or even getting a part-time job.

After her father’s death she lived with her father’s brother, his wife, and their four sons. She has a personality that makes you love and trust her, and her uncle’s family did just that. They loved and cherished her, at least until her uncle decided to get her married. She was only finishing high school and as her graduation gift she was presented a diamond ring on her left hand. She was never a burden on her uncle but he also thought that he ought to fulfill his responsibility of getting her married as soon as possible. Her aunt was never happy about the decision but she never argued with her husband about it, like she did for many other things. Naila got married to a newly graduated and employed engineer. Lolita and I were mad or may be a little jealous that she was starting a new and exciting life while we were stuck going back to school in the fall. Before Naila’s marriage, my only exposure to marriage was my parents’. To me they were in a perfect marriage. As I learned about Naila’s marriage, I also learned many things about my parents’ marriage; the idealist view of marriage; and the types of twisted people there are in this world that make marriage and life an impossible test for no reason.


“How may I help you?” asked the girl at Tim Horton’s.

Naila had already looked at her nametag. She was a new hire, must be in her first year. She looks young. Everyone looks young in their first year. Going to school, enjoying a carefree life without worrying when your mother-in-law might walk into your room and call you a whore for sleeping with her son.

Naila shook away the thought, looking at the girl and her innocent face. “Hi, Andy. I’ll have everything bagel toasted with garlic cream cheese please,” she said smiling. The girl has stunning eyes. They are like sky blue crystals that could pierce the soul and see through you. Probably not that deep. Naila’s imagination could take her to places she possibly couldn’t go to in reality. 

“Anything else?” the girl asked, smiling. She had a pretty smile too.

“Yes. I’ll take a medium coffee with three sugars and four milks, please. And I’ll be paying with debit.”

“Alright. You can pay whenever you’re ready.”

Naila tapped her card on the machine. It made a beeping sound and said approved.

“Your order will be on the side. Have a nice day. Thank you.”

“Thank you,” said Naila as Saira came up behind her to give her order.

Naila stood by the counter on the side, waiting for her order to arrive. She saw another girl take an everything bagel, cut it in half, put it in the toaster, and move on to make a sandwich for someone else. Naila smiled. She remembered waking up early as a young bride to make breakfast for her husband. He was surprised the first time she woke up to make breakfast and lunch for him. Both of them were young, shy, and inexperienced in first love. The memory was both sweet and painful. Naila looked away. She didn’t want Saira reading her mind and making any comments about it.

Saira walked to the side where Naila stood waiting for her order.

“You know, she might be even later than 9:30. I mean it is 9:30 right now and I don’t hear her high heels announcing her arrival.”

“Saira, she won’t be here before ten. If I wasn’t already concerned for her…”

“You wouldn’t do or say anything,” said Saira laughing. “How many times have you given her lectures about punctuality? Like a million times already. Being late is just her thing. She was late for her wedding.”

“Everything bagel and medium coffee with, umm, three sugars and four milks” announced the girl.

“Oh it’s me. Thank you,” Naila smiled and took her order.

“You’re disgusting you know that? I don’t know how you drink that disgusting coffee with three sugars and four disgusting milks,” said Saira making a throwing up gesture.

Naila smiled. “It’s a habit. It has nothing to do with the taste anymore” she said smiling. She didn’t want to tell her that the way she takes her coffee at Tim Horton’s is one of the many habits she got into because of her husband. And although she has managed to get rid of many habits, some have stayed and some will take time dying off. “Instead of commenting on mine, look at your choice of food, woman. You take black Earl Grey and a country style bun with extra cream cheese and extra bacon and extra cheese. Now that is disgusting.”

“Perspective, Naila. All perspective,” said Saira with her nose in the air acting all snooty.

“Let’s find a place and eat. Did I mention I’m starving?”


Lolita parked her car in the university parking lot, cut the engine, and put her head on the wheel. She needed to gather her courage. She would need courage to face the girls. They would take one look at her and would know she’s been crying and is miserable. That is, if they didn’t know already. Naila wouldn’t call a day off at university for no reason. She knew after the morning phone call that something is up with Lolita.

I met Naila in high school. Our homeroom French teacher had put us beside each other, so that was hint enough that we should be friends for life. We compared our timetables and it turned out all our classes were the same. Naila told me about her best friend Saira and how sad she was that Saira was not in any of her classes. I couldn’t have cared less, really. I had my older sister in grade 11 and apart from her, I knew no one in the school. But I liked Naila; even at that age she had a personality, which sucked people into her aura. You couldn’t help but like her and be mesmerized by her. I knew we’d be good friends. I met Saira during lunchtime and the three of us became inseparable after that.

As the years went by, Saira became my party buddy and Naila became our crutch to depend on, no matter what went on in life, from boy crushes to exam panics to fights with parents. Naila lived with her uncle and his family. Her cousins doted on her. They are the only family she has, apart from Saira and I, and our families. When she got married, oh was I ever jealous? Her marrying an engineer and starting this colourful magical happily ever after. Her marriage was anything but that. I feel like I should have learned something from Naila’s experiences. I guess it’s different when you have to deal with similar situations yourself. I wish I could be as strong as Naila. May be I need Naila to put some sense in me and Saira to just sit there and look at me like I have a million heads and not one with brains.

When Naila wasn’t able to tell us about her life and the pains she had to deal with every day, I used to get furious. Because how hard can it be to share something, anything with your best friends. It’s hard. I realize that now. It’s hard because I don’t know where to start, I don’t want them to judge Ashok or criticize me. I need courage to face them today. Sometimes the smallest things can require the most courage and strength from us.

Lolita took a deep breath, undid her seat belt, picked up her bag, opened the car door, and got out. Her flats hit the ground and without making any sound of her arrival, she started walking towards her friends. She walked towards confrontation with herself.


 “Saira! I think I’m going to die of waiting for her,” said Naila in frustration.

“It’s only 9:45,” Saira said, yawing. “Let’s just sleep until we hear her heels.”

“Yes, let’s do that…”

“If you girls were going to sleep,” said Lolita walking up to her friends and sitting on a chair across from them, “why did you ask me to come?”

Naila and Saira looked at Lolita. No, they stared at her in disbelief.

“You both alright?” asked Lolita.

“Umm, who are you?” asked Saira without blinking.

“And what have you done to our friend Lolita?” asked Naila piercing Lolita further with her eyes.

“You’re both crazy or something?” asked Lolita.

Naila and Saira looked at each other. The issue was more serious than they thought. They couldn’t believe that in all the years they’ve known Lolita she was wearing flats today. The only time she didn’t wear heels was when she worked out.

“Are you pregnant?” asked Saira “Or did you get hurt somewhere? Or all your heels just happen to break at the same time and you had to borrow Ashok’s shoes? Let me see your shoes, I’m sure they’re Ashok’s ugly shoes.” Saira bent down to look under the table at Lolita’s shoes.

She looked up in disbelief yet again. “Did you even own flats or you just bought them before coming here.”

“Saira stop,” said Naila trying not to laugh.

Lolita rolled her eyes. “Saira, your imagination will take you to places. No to all your questions.”

“Lolita, you must understand our position. We’ve never, and I repeat never, seen you wear anything but loud-noise-making heels outside. From high school to like 50 feet of snow outside, last winter,” said Saira exaggerating.

Lolita didn’t say anything. She didn’t know why but she was hurt by Saira’s question about being pregnant. Of course Saira didn’t mean to hurt her but it still hurt. She sighed and looked away from her friends. Their surprise was genuine, but no matter what Lolita told herself today, she just couldn’t cheer up enough to wear her signature high heels. She sighed again.

“Lolita,” someone called her name from far away. Someone with concern and love called her name. It wasn’t Ashok. She wondered why wasn’t it Ashok?

“Lolita,” Saira called her softly. Lolita looked at her.

Saira got up from her seat, put her bag on her shoulder, and trying to fight the tears she touched Lolita’s shoulder. “Lolita,” she smiled sadly, “let’s go. We’re going to have a girl’s day out today,” she smiled again.

Lolita saw the concern and love for her on her friend’s face, quietly got up from her chair, and took her bag. She looked at Naila, wanting to ask if she was coming. But Naila’s poker face stopped her from asking anything. Lolita walked away with Saira as Naila looked away from her friends.


Saira didn’t know how she was going to do it, but she had to bare the pain this friend is going through the same way as her other friend did before.

About six years ago Naila was trying to put up the same façade Lolita put on today, and both had failed equally. For seven years after Naila’s wedding, Lolita and I rarely saw Naila. We were busy going to school and starting our careers, while Naila was busy being the good wife and daughter-in-law or so we told ourselves. Naila’s husband used to work on a field somewhere out West in Alberta and she lived with her mother-in-law most days here in Toronto. A widowed mother-in-law who couldn’t stand that there was another woman in her son’s life than her. The wicked old woman thought that just because she prays to God all the time and pretends to be nice to people, she’s all pious. The fact that she locks her daughter-in-law outside the house in winter or at night, that she gets jealous of her daughter-in-law being loved by a man, that she talks bad about her daughter-in-law behind her back is all fine. The jealous miserable woman had turned my Naila into a walking dead. Naila never complained to her husband who was either clueless or just didn’t want to see the cruelty of his mother. He would come home during his vacation and, finding Naila all happy and hunky dory, never said anything to his mother coming and sleeping in their room because she was fucking scared on her own. Naila didn’t share anything with her family or us in the beginning. Our only contact with Naila was her calling us every morning as our alarm. That was perhaps one thing that kept her going. One day she asked us if we could meet. Lolita and I were surprised but we agreed. And after seeing that painful sigh and look in her eyes we knew not everything was well. That was when she broke. Or perhaps gained more strength. I can’t forget the way Naila had cried that day, or the day after, or the day after that. It took a lot for Naila but she was able to stand back up again. I don’t know how Lolita is going to do what she needs to do. I just know that she needs me now, more than any other time we’ve been friends.


“Lolita, dear you want to sit down? Have a seat and I’ll bring you some water,” said Saira.

Lolita clears her throat. “Saira I will walk to Naila’s car. I know where she parks. You can bring water there.” She looks at Saira and smils. “I’ll be fine.”

I need to get away from her, at least for a moment. I know Saira needs to gain her composure and I need to gain mine. Each of us needs our calm today. I need it to be able to accept my situation, Naila needs it to relive her past, and Saira needs it to keep us together. When Naila went through her ordeal, Saira was always able to handle her better then I. No matter how hurt she was for Naila, she never shed a tear in front of her. Saira thinks she’s the weak one amongst us three, but she doesn’t realize that if Naila is our strength, she is the sticky glue. I am…I don’t know what I am.

My feet seem to know the way to Naila’s spot because I find myself staring at her red Beetle. She has put those big car eyelashes on her headlights. The sight of them makes me smile. That’s my Naila, full of life even after all the pain. She has a pair of tiny red Swarovski heels hanging from her rearview mirror. The sight of them makes me sad. She owns a pair of heels just like the ones hanging. They’re red too. She never wears them. Probably has them sitting somewhere deep in her closet. Ahmad had given them to her on their first anniversary. He loved seeing her in heels. She never wore them because her mother-in-law had told her that women, who look taller than their husbands, are trying to pin them down. So Naila stopped wearing any sort of heels, even when her husband didn’t mind. He just never told off his mother when she was saying that, much like Ashok. He never says anything to his mother and when he does, it’s often too late. I sat down on the cold parking lot floor. My back resting on Naila’s car. I wonder where Saira is. I really could use some water.


Naila looks away from Lolita. She has seen that sadness before. She knows it well. She saw it every day in the mirror for many years. Naila shut her eyes. She never realized that the pain of the past could come back and hurt her in the same manner it did all those years ago. She covers her face with her hands. She doesn’t want anyone to see her painful memories roll down her cheeks.

I was so incredibly happy when the doctor told me I was four months pregnant. I was a mother! What a beautiful feeling it was. A mother of a tiny little heart beating inside me. I was witnessing a miracle with in me. A human, living and forming, within a human. It was nothing short of a miracle. As I had sat in the car, I thanked Allah as tears of happiness rolled down my cheeks. In my excitement I called Ahmad, he was coming home that night but I couldn’t wait to tell him the news. I speed dialed him. With each ring, my heart skipped a beat. He finally picked up the phone.

“Hello Mrs. How are you?”

“I’m pregnant. Four months pregnant to be exact.”

“Naila! That’s…that’s amazing news. Why are you crying?”

“Because I’m happy. Because I wish you were here at this moment. And because I’m not sure how your mother is going to react.”

“She’ll be happy, of course. Naila we’re going to be parents.” She could hear the happiness in his voice. “My mother would be happy to know that she’s going to be a grandmother. You just take real good care of yourself. Ok? I’ll be home soon.”

“I will,” she had smiled. “I can’t wait for you to be home.”

“No more crying either. Ok? We’re going to be parents,” Naila could hear happiness and excitement in his voice. “Thank you, Naila. For such a special news and gift. I’m boarding now. I will see you tonight.”

“Have a safe flight.”

“I will. I love you.”

I had smiled shyly at his confession as the phone disconnected. We had been married for a year, but she still blushed every time he told her that he loves her or compliments her. It was perhaps still new to her to hear such words from a man who had taken control of her heart in such a short amount of time.

She had dialed another number, another person who would be more than happy to hear the news. Perhaps she was avoiding going home and telling her mother-in-law. She hadn’t been sure why she had such a bad feeling about telling that woman such happy news. Instead, she had called her aunt.

“Hello Naila. How are you beta?”

Chachi, I’m pregnant. The doctor just told me. Four months pregnant. Chachi I’m so happy. I told Ahmad too. He’s coming home tonight. And Chachi, I’m so nervous. What if something happens? Can you imagine Chachi, me being a mother? I’m really happy Chachi.”

Mashallah, Naila beta that’s great news. I can tell child that you’re happy and I can see you being a great mother. I’m going to pray and thank Allah. Drive carefully. I will see you tomorrow. I would have come today, but I don’t think your saas will like that much. She will be happy. May be she won’t have such a sour expression on her face at tomorrow’s party after all,” Chachi had said laughing.

“I will. Take care Chachi. I will see you tomorrow. In sha Allah.”

I had driven home after, the excitement and happiness slowly fading into worry and anxiety. I hadn’t been sure why. I now know why. I had gone home, had cautiously walked to my mother-in-law stitching something, and talking happily on the phone with her sister. I walked with some noise so she would know I was home and would stop talking about me to her sister. She said goodbye to her sister as she heard me come into her room.

Ma jii, how are you? How was your day?”

“Oh, you know beta. I woke up with such a headache. Seema just called as you walked in and I told her I can’t talk because of this headache. I’m just trying to stitch this shirt for the past one hour and because of the headache I can barely even focus on the needle.” I could hear pretense in her voice through and through; however, being the naïve girl I was at the time, I asked her to rest.

Ma jii, you shouldn’t focus on the needle when you’ve such a headache. Here let me put this all away for you. Lie down on the bed and I will massage your head.”

I had put her things away, as she got up from the carpet and went towards her bed.

This is a happy day Naila, I had told myself, no need to doubt her happiness towards you. No need to think badly about her. She will be happy. For you, for her son, and for herself. I kept telling myself that she would be happy. I kept deluding myself that she would be happy.

“How is Seema Auntie? Is her fever alright now?”

“What fever?” Ma jii asked. So that was a lie as well. How much does this woman lie? If she didn’t want me talking to Seema Auntie, she could have just said so. Anyways, let’s once again pretend she didn’t lie.

“You told me yesterday, when I asked if I could talked to Seema Auntie about something, that she had a high fever. How is she feeling now?”

“Ohh yes, yes, she did have a fever yesterday. I’m getting old beta, I forget. Yes, her fever is all gone now. She’s fit as a bull.”

What a thing to compare your younger sister to? Fit as a bull!

I cleared my throat. Something was telling me not to tell her the news until Ahmed was home. I should have listened to my conscience. I didn’t. What a big mistake that was?

Clearing my throat again I had proceeded to tell her. “Ma jii, I’ve a news for you. I just got back from the doctor. She told me I’m pregnant. I’m four months pregnant Ma jii.” I could hardly contain my happiness and excitement. Ma jii, however, didn’t react for a few seconds. And when she did react, I wished she hadn’t.  

She removed my hand from her forehead, “get me a glass of cold water.” She asked for water with such contempt in her voice, I was scared if I had hurt her forehead. I was always scared of her. I left the room, prepared a glass of cold water with lots of ice, and brought it back for her. She was sitting bolt upright on her bed, her stitching material back in her hands, and such hardness on her face.

“Just put the glass on the side table and bring me my sewing machine” she ordered like she usually did. But this time the order had come with hatred. Why? I still don’t understand. Sometimes, I believe humans just have contempt and hatred for others for no particular reason. They want to hurt others for no apparent reason. I don’t even think they get pleasure out of hurting others, but they do it regardless, perhaps to try and find some twisted form of peace.

Ma jii, you have a headache. Rest a little first and then you can finish this later. Let me arr…”

“I said get me my machine. And this plastic table is wobbly, bring the wooden table from the living room for the machine to be put on.”

“Okay Ma jii.”

I wasn’t sure what I could’ve done to make her so upset. Didn’t I tell her the news every mother would want to hear? She was to become a grandmother! Apparently the news had offended her.

I hated picking up that wooden table. It was solid wood and heavy. Ahmed never let me pick it up. Only if Ahmed had been there…

It took a lot of effort to pick up that table. It took even more effort to bring it all the way from the living room into the hall way and then to Ma jii’s room. By the time I brought the table to Ma jii, I was lightheaded and a cramp was starting in my stomach. I didn’t feel good. I wanted to sit down. Instead I picked up the heavy, old-fashioned sewing machine Ma jii had inherited from her mother and brought it to the table.

Ma jii watched me do all this and as always never offered any help.

“Anything else Ma jii?” I had asked trying not to let her see that I was getting dizzy.

“Yes. We have company coming over tonight. I want you to prepare for dinner.”

Really! She really invited people today?

“Ok, Ma jii.”

As I walked away, the cramp got worst. I went to the washroom, put the lid down on the seat, and sat on it. Cold sweats and haziness engulfed me. I woke up with a start, feeling something hard and cold against my cheek and something wet between my legs. I got up from my cold washroom floor, opened the door with fumbling hands, and using the wall to keep balance, walked into my room. I knew what was happening. I just needed to call 911 so someone would come to help me. I got to my bed, picked up the cordless phone sitting on it, and fell into oblivion.


“Here you go,” said Saira while giving the water bottle to Lolita.

Lolita gulps the water and tries not to choke on it. I look away. I saw her shaking figure as she tried not to cry out loud in a public parking lot when I entered the parking. I don’t want her to see that I sort of understand her pain. She would know something I wasn’t ready to share. At least not yet.

Naila opens the door into the parking lot. Her face is taut. Ghosts of the past are visiting and taunting her. Such a wonderful day we’ve had so far and a whole lot of wonder to look forward to. I’m positive we’ll drive to Lolita’s house and Naila is going to beat Ashok to pulp. He deserves it. But then Lolita will get angry and will leave us as friends. No, I don’t want that to happen. I’m sure things won’t get…

“Snap out of your imagination Saira,” snapped Naila getting in the driver’s seat “whatever that might be.”

Lolita is getting in the car too. She has a smirk on her face. Blast these two! Blast me too! I always get carried away with my thoughts. I sigh. I get in the back seat.

“You get this dazed look when your imagination is running wild,” Naila informs her with that all knowing tone.

Annoying! I want to tell her to just shut it. I take a deep breath. Not sure why I’m getting irritated. Even with painful memories coming over, Naila is able to lighten the current atmosphere amongst us and here I am getting all worked up for being so transparent to my friends.

“Naila, I’m never making another cheese cake for you. My final decision.”

“Ya, ok. You’ve been making that your final decision for some years now, so come up with a new one,” she says with a small smile.

Lolita smiles. All three of us sit there for a while just relishing the peace that is about to be broken. It will be Naila who will break it. She will. She can. She must. Before the peace loses it’s value and it’s importance.

Naila closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and puts her head on the wheel.

“You both know I suffered miscarriages. You don’t know how many. You don’t know that for the first one I had laid in my bedroom, bleeding and unconscious, for some seven hours before 911 was called.”

The information is new and as it sinks in, is horrifying.

“But, I thought your M-I-L was in the house with you, wasn’t she?” I hear Lolita’s shaking voice.

Naila gave a small chuckle. “Yes. She was. She just never bothered coming and looking for me. She didn’t come until Ahmed came home from the airport. He had been waiting for me to pick him up. When I didn’t show up, he called my cell, and then the home phone, which didn’t ring because I had it on before fainting. He came home and that’s when I was taken to the hospital. Doctor later told me that having suffered the trauma and not being treated for it in time, my uterus lining might have trouble holding a fetus next time. I never was able to hold a fetus. Guaranteed my MIL didn’t help much.”

What a bitch! Ok, so my M-I-L isn’t that bad. Mind you, she’s bad enough, always referring to Adam as her Adam. As if he’s her property. But then she refers to both her sons like this and likes neither of her D-I-Ls. Katrina, my sister-in-law, reckons that if our M-I-L could, she’d marry both her sons. What a disgusting image. YUCK!

“Point is Lotlita,” Naila’s voice break through my thoughts again, “my M-I-L was jealous of me being her son’s wife. Beats me why. It’s like Freud had it all wrong. It’s not the child who wants his mother; it’s the mother who desires her son. Or whatever you want to think. I endured all of her misguided logics for Ahmad and her love for him. What finally made me leave was her pushing me away from Ahmad so hard one day that I fell hard on the floor. Ahmed had come home late from work. I was expecting again. My M-I-L didn’t know. I just wanted to hug him because his mother had been nothing but miserable to me all day. When she saw him hug me back….”

Naila’s voice is breaking. She takes deep breaths, looks up from the wheel, and opens her eyes.

“When she saw him hug me back, she pushed me. So hard I fell on the ground. Ahmed stood there like a wall. Didn’t say anything to his mother. And she went on saying how I had no shame hugging my husband in front of an elder. And how Ahmed had no respect for his mother. Instead of coming and taking his mother’s blessing he’s romancing his barren wife. Ahmed just said ‘Ma jii my wife isn’t barren. She was pregnant. And as we speak she’s suffering yet another miscarriage.’ He picked me up then, put me in a car, and took me to the hospital. He remained quite while I was in the hospital and didn’t say anything to his mother after we came home. Just was quite!”

Naila takes another deep breath. I can’t imagine Naila’s pain, and to relive that pain for the sake of her friend. Perhaps she lives that pain every day, every time she sees a happy couple or a pregnant woman.

“Lolita, I packed my things when I felt a little better and left. I had reached my limit. In seven years of marriage, I had suffered eight miscarriages. Each one made my body weaker than the last one and my M-I-L in one way or another promoted each one. There were many other things she has done but losing my babies will always come on top. Anyway, never did I feel that Ahmed stood up for us justly. He tried but was always rebuked by his mother or sisters or aunts and uncles for treating his widow mother in an ill manner for his wife. The emotional blackmailing never ends. So the choice is yours now, Lolita. Do you want to suffer this miscarriage in vain and let your M-I-L rule your life until you break and leave your husband like me? Or you take some action right now, tell your husband to smarten up, get his shit together, and take care of his mother’s attitude before you get some legal sources involved in this. Or whatever. What I mean is: DEAL WITH THIS NOW! Don’t sit their moping and letting your husband slide away from your hands. He’s your fucking husband, why the fuck is he sleeping in his mother’s room? Why isn’t her fucking husband sleeping with her?”

“You’re screaming Naila.” I tell her calmingly. Naila never shared this information with us. I guess it is too painful to share, even with your friends, that you suffered the pain of becoming a mother but incompletely. Cruel world.

“My F-I-L was kicked out of his room a long time ago.” Lolita starts speaking, in the most deadpan tone. “The husband and wife are weird. They sleep in separate rooms. Apparently they need their space after 35 years of marriage. Ashok doesn’t sleep in his mom’s room. She’s created so many misunderstandings between us that he sleeps in his father’s room.” Lolita stops. She looks at Naila, then at me. The absurdity of the situation is such that all three of us burst with laughter.

Trying to catch my breath, I say “Lolita, you need to clear those misunderstandings and you leaving him alone isn’t going to help. Ask us to help, your sister-in-laws, your F-I-L even. Seduce the man! How can he resist such a stunning wife and once he’s satisfied in one department, satisfy him in the misunderstanding department.”

“Saira, does Adam not take care of you enough?” Naila asks trying not to laugh again. “Why is sex always the first thing in your mind.” She gave into her laughter. Lolita joins her.

“Naila, I think we should set her and Adam up with a room. With her M-I-L walking in on them at night, she probably doesn’t get enough time with Adam.”

“Wait, what?” Naila asked appalled

“Ya. My M-I-L owns a key to our house. She, umm, comes in and goes as she wishes. Adam has finally changed the locks, just last week.” How embarrassing. “It’s like living Everybody Loves Raymond. I don’t know how people found that show funny?”

“You found it hilarious,” Naila mocks me.

“Ha, ha. Yes, I did. I don’t anymore,” I sigh.

We all sigh. Naila starts the car, backs it up, and zooms through the underground parking lot like it’s an empty road.

“You know I just realized something. All these moms suffer from Oedipus complex. Like, wasn’t it his mom who asked him to marry her? All these moms can’t stand some other woman in their sons’ lives. Some are as amazing as your M-I-L, Naila, and some are like mine. Some are like Lolita’s who kick their husbands out, like what hell?”

Naila takes the exit to the HWY 401. We all sit quietly. Letting the road, more like our driver, take us where she may.


“I’ve tried many times to clear the misunderstandings. But Ashok has more time to go out with his friends then to talk to me,” I tell the girls.  

“I tried talking to Ashok at home. I made his favourite food, asked him to come home early, and prepared myself not to get emotional when talking to him. He came home late because he couldn’t get out of a meeting at work. He ate some sandwich from Tim Horton’s because he was really hungry. He went to see his friends after because he needed to freshen up.”

I’m not going to cry, I tell myself. I have to say everything I want to say…if not to Ashok then to the girls at least. If I cry now, I won’t be able to stop. I swallow a lump of tears.

“I cried when he did that but then I tried to get to meet him outside. To no avail. He’d rather ignore me than solve the issues between us. Isn’t that nice?”

I take in a deep breath and exhale. I can feel tears forming in my eyes again. I shut them. Tight.

“You can cry you know.” I hear Saira’s voice. Her sympathetic and understanding voice. I want to tell her to shut up. I take another deep breath. She’s my friend and she’s right. I can cry with them. But I don’t want her to feel sorry for me. Yet I do want her to comfort me. I don’t want her to pity me but I want her to understand my pain. I don’t know what I want. Why are feelings so complicated? Perhaps it’s the language that restricts us from expressing our feelings. It doesn’t have the words for what a heart can and does feel.

“I read somewhere that ‘Our heart has an infinite capacity to love,’ I think they should also insert ‘others’ in that quote somewhere. Because many hearts just infinitely love themselves,” declared Naila.

We sit in silence. Each one lost in her thoughts.

Love comes easy when it ought to come. It takes a lot out of you because it hurts easy too. It’s hard for love to leave. Painful too.

“Naila,” I hear myself addressing her. “You know, Ahmed did care for you. He still does.” The words roll my tongue before I realize what I’m saying. I guess my unconscious mind is finally telling her what it has been thinking for many months. “He cares and loves. If he didn’t he wouldn’t have told his mother that you’re not barren because you were having a miscarriage at the moment. He also wouldn’t have tried to make contact with you over the last two years.”

I look at Naila as I say this. She stares ahead on the road with her poker face. But I see the pain and hurt cross her eyes. She can’t hide everything from us. At least not from me at the moment, since I can see her while Saira sits in the back, as always, listening to us and half the time losing herself in her own thoughts.

“Saira, you there? Or you’ve gone far away somewhere again?”

“Huh?” says absent minded Saira.

“I’m here. I agree with Lolita, Naila. And Lolita maybe you don’t need to try so hard to meet with Ashok. Maybe if nothing is working then speak to him the moment you see him. Ask your F-I-L for help or your sisters-in-law. Or tell your F-I-L that he can step outside the room while you speak to your husband. Don’t try to be nice and set things up for him. Just take action! Do everything you possibly can without feeling sorry for yourself. Cry! Bawl! Scream! And when you’ve tried everything and still nothing changes, then do one of two things. Either accept that nothing will change and because you can’t live without him, you’ll continue to live this sorry ass life. Or leave him! I’m sure he still loves you.”

Saira is such an unpredictable personality even after years of friendship she surprises me often. She’s a mellow person, often lost in her thoughts and her wild imagination. People who know her love picking on her, because she gets worked up easily. She delivered her little speech in a calm and serene tone, keeping the level of her voice to barely audible, yet every word was heard clearly. She says everything with a definite tone. It calms me, for some reason. Even the thought of leaving Ashok doesn’t seem so absurd, may be because the thought of living a painful and meaningless life seems more ridiculous.

“Where are we going exactly, Naila?” asks Saira. “We’ve been going straight for about half an hour now.”

Naila startles us with a sudden laughter. “I’ve no idea. I got on the highway as a habit. I’m driving on it because I’m not sure where to go. There isn’t much traffic.” She keeps laughing. Saira and I look at each other and all three of us burst with laughter.

“I will,” I tell the girls. “I will do what needs to be done. Naila, go back to Ahmed. At least give him a chance. Saira, stop feeling guilty all the time, that you’re the weakest amongst us. Know your worth, enjoy Adam, and pray for us. And whatever it is that you don’t want to share with us right now, know that when you want to, we’re here. Just like you are.”

“Not all M-I-Ls are like this though, right?” Saira inquires. “There are good ones too?”

“Haha. Yes, there are. There are good and bad in all relationships. But we’re not dealing with the good ones, are we now? So we have to figure out, as best as we can, how to deal with the bad ones. May be they aren’t even bad, they just don’t know any better perhaps,” says Naila.

I smile. Yes, mine sure doesn’t know any better. To her, since she went through this pain and suffering from her mother-in-law, so now it’s only fair that I go through it.

“Let’s go have some bhutta and chaat and falooda,” Naila announces.

All three of us smile as Naila takes the exit for Gerrard Street – the place loaded with all sorts of South Asian flavours. Place where we will live the flavours of life that will make us forget the bad ones…for a while at least.


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