Two be the Same

February 12, 2010
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Leila moved her lips closer to Ahmed’s, and with the pretense of affection and duty, he submitted, though it was merely seconds before he backed off with an almost unnoticeable frown. But of course, she saw it. She always did. The slightest of signs, the shrugs, the inattention, the suppressed disgust—each and every clue brought her closer to the cold certainty that he would never, for even the briefest of moments, love her. It didn’t matter that they had been married for three years. The ring meant nothing at all.

She should have been a happy woman, for Ahmed was the only thing she had ever truly desired. And she had him, though the nature of her possession was the most deceptive of illusions. In Ahmed, she longed to kiss each and every beautiful feature, craved to hear his intellectual-sounding opinions, and wanted to read with awe the beautiful poems that she sculpted in the middle of the night…the nights when he was never with her.

But her love remained unrequited, and of that, she was sure. Marriage was nothing more than a convenience to him. How could he have turned down the daughter of the richest man of Arabia when he himself was nothing more than a humble poet? Before marriage, Leila had begged her father’s approval and aid, and despite her own father’s warnings, she pleaded with such intensity that even the richest of men was brought down to the beggar’s knees.

“Please consider this,” her father had asked Ahmed, with a business man’s eloquence but a guardian’s passion, and consider, he did. Three months later, they were married with a traditional Islamic wedding; it was the three years after in which she tried almost everything to actually win him.

Whether it was getting up before dawn to prepare every possible convenience for her husband to the late nights in which, despite her own exhaustion, she never failed to press her husband’s feet. Each and every action was nothing more than the tokens of a dutiful wife, madly in love with her husband, a husband who never once turned to ask if she too had aching feet.

Regardless, nothing would have changed his mind when she came around. It was a day that Leila would never forget, the most painful of memories that would follow her to the grave. He had entered their home quietly, and at first, Leila worried that he was ill. No, he answered curtly. Please sit, and so she did. By the time he told her he was getting a second wife, she had crumpled to the floor.

“But you can’t--,” she had whispered, though the argument failed to convince even her. Under Islamic law, the blessed gathered wives. It was the cursed wives, the plural, which suffered silently.

And so she came, beautiful in the most subtle of ways. Even Leila, who now shared her roof with this stranger, was taken in awe by the grace of her enemy. Never once did she have to wonder what Ahmed admired about her. He was ever-ready to share.

“You’ll never be like her,” he had taunted. “She is so beautiful, so intelligent, so brilliant!”

And Leila stood silenced, continuing the role of the loving wife, though inside, she had become nothing more than a raw series of calculations. Now, it was only a matter of time before her final attempt…

When the first day of Eid-Al-Fitr came around, Ahmed had gone to the market with a promise to return with armfuls of baubles for his love. With shaking hands, Leila had slipped the knife into the pockets of her burqa, an attire that both wives had donned earlier that morning, and by the time Ahmed had returned, both lay motionless upon the floor. The only explanation was a simple note propped against the door:

“You were wrong. In death, we are both the same.”

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