Mr. Manning's Consumation Ch. 02byA. Amalgam©
Alec woke to the whistle of the tea kettle and music from the radio. He looked around, shut his eyes, and then opened them again. It hadn't been a dream. He noticed a tray laying next to him with a small bowl of yogurt, an orange, and a cup of tea on it. Breakfast was served.
He looked over at the girl, who was now brewing more tea. It was the first time he'd seen her, or any Arab woman for that matter, wearing anything other that the veil and baggy robes. But then again, those cloths were for guests while they could wear whatever they want in front of their family.
"Thanks Honey, or wife, or whatever." He looked down at the tray with the plain white yogurt. I guess there's no fruit at the bottom or anything."
"Well, there's fruit on the side" Laila answered.
Alec took a moment, "Hey! You can talk! I mean you can speak English!"
"Yes, for some time now."
"Well why didn't you say anything last night?"
"It was late, I was tired, and you were too busy trying to spare the feelings of your innocent bride."
"Very funny! Seriously though. . . okay, wait a minute. What's your name?"
"Laila Al-Shirani. By the way, it is our custom that the wife keeps her family's name, but is it correct that in the West the wife takes the family name of her husband after they're married?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on! Don't even go there! Technically we shouldn't even be married!"
"Technically according to whom?" she asked.
"Well, the rest of the world! What do you think?
"Because, in the eyes of my family and friends, we are now married that is why."
"Yeah but I didn't know that! I was kidnapped, made to read something on camera and then carted off to some crazy ass shotgun wedding."
"I know you weren't willing, that was obvious on our drive here. But that's behind us now and we must make the best of this situation."
Alec stood for a second, stumped by Leila's acceptance of the situation. "Why do you want to be with a guy who doesn't love you?"
"You don't love me? But I gave you a humongous boner last night."
Alec paused, realizing what he'd done and how it must have looked to her. "Yeah. Look, that was before. . . well I said that. . . "
"Before you knew I spoke English?" she smirked. Alec shrugged and took a sip of his tea.
"Why are you so afraid of marriage? Am I not pretty enough for you? Didn't your parents want you to marry? I know a lot of American couples don't like the ceremony even though many have children together."
"No, that's not it. Hell, my parents love marriage. They love it so much they've both done it twice. Dad's even demolishing his second marriage as we speak so he can do it all over again."
Laila nodded. "I see." She then took a spoon and fished out the teabag from her mug and threw it away.
Alec watched her, waiting for her to continue but she didn't say a word. She then came out of the kitchen and sat next to him. "Sorry we don't have any cream or sugar."
"No problem." He then took another sip of his tea. "What did you mean by 'I see'?" He tried not to stare at her again, which was difficult. She wasn't wearing anything particularly interesting, only jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals. But the way the cloths flattered her full breasts, hips, and legs, made him put his right hand back in his pocket yet again.
Laila found a comfortable position and continued. "I mean that I understand why you fear marriage."
Alec paused for a moment trying to not get upset with her statement. "I didn't say I was afraid of marriage, I just resent being kidnapped and forced into one."
"I understand. I was obligated to obey my father and marry you so neither of us have had any choice."
"So why are we arguing? I mean, why are you so willing to go along with this?"
"Because you're my husband now, and we must make the best of it."
"Yeah, but don't you want to meet some nice Iraqi guy who loves you than be with some guy like me who doesn't?"
"But now I can't marry a nice Iraqi guy."
"Why the hell not? Don't you guys have divorces or annulments??"
"You can divorce me, yes."
"Great! What do we have to do? I mean, do we need a lawyer or something?"
"No. All you have to say is "I divorce you" three times."
"No paperwork? No alimony?"
"None of that. But if you divorce me, it's unlikely I'll be able to marry a nice Iraqi guy."
"Like I said, why the hell not?"
"Most men want to marry a virgin. I'll be a divorced woman."
"But we haven't done anything!"
"It doesn't matter what we've done during our time here, only what people think. In everyone's mind I am no longer pure and therefore unfit for marriage."
Alec shook his head. "Oh that's just great!"
"Why? You are free to divorce me as soon as we get out of here."
"Yeah, but—well, I don't want to screw you out of finding somebody either! That's completely unfair. Aren't there any ways to prove we didn't do it?"
Laila nodded. "But there is still. . . what is the word? A cloud? A sign?"
"Yes! Stigma. I'd be a virgin, but a divorced one."
"That's so stupid!"
Alec leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling, wondering what he should do next. Laila patted him on the shoulder. "I think I saw a bag with your old cloths in them. I'll wash them for you so you can change. Just relax, have your breakfast, and we will talk more later."
As she left the den he sat up and quickly wolfed down his yogurt. He'd been so absorbed by the events of the past two days that he'd forgotten how hungry he was.
As he peeled the skin off his orange he began to think of a way out of this mess. He knew he absolutely couldn't touch that girl no matter what. Alec reasoned that if he didn't consummate then it never really happened no matter what she said. After all, he said to himself, I'm an intelligent person, not some stud horse they could pen up with a mare and expect nature to take its course. It was just a matter of mind over hormones. All he had to do is not think of how that t-shirt draped over her breasts, or how her jeans fit her perfectly round, firm---
"Oh shit" he said to himself. It was going to be a long damn week.
For the rest of the morning and early afternoon he sat on the couch listening to the radio and drinking tea trying to figure a way out of his predicament. Laila continued the slow process of doing their laundry in the bathroom. After listening to a news report on militants getting into the country he got an idea and ran to Laila.
"I figured out what we should do" he said.
Laila sat up and turned around from her work in the bathtub. "What idea?"
"I know how we can get out of this mess we're in!"
"This mess we're in?" Laila repeated quietly.
"Well, yeah. Here it is, when we get out of here I'll take home as my wife. Once you're in we can go our separate ways, nobody here has not know anything."
Laila looked at him emotionless. "So, you're plan is to have us lie to my family, take me to a foreign country and abandon me?"
"No! Well. . . not exactly. I mean . . . you make it sound worse than it is!"
"Alright" she muttered.
"Alright? So you think this is a good idea or are you just so pissed you don't know what else to say?"
Laila stared at him for a moment. "I am your wife. I'll do as you say."
"Hey, look! I'm---"
"I'm going to lay your cloths on the chairs in the living room. I'll also open the windows and door so they'll dry faster."
"Look, I didn't mean to—"
"Please, I need to finish this."
Alec realized any apology would have to wait to make his case to her so he left her alone for the rest of the day. They kept to opposite ends of the house. Alec stayed in the kitchen listening to more music while Laila kept to the bedroom trying not to cry as she lay on the bed, wishing for the day to be over and cursing herself for believing his refusal the night before was anything other than a desire to abandon her.
She woke to the smell of food. The room was dark, only lit by the lamp on the night stand. Alec sat against the wall facing her, eating a plate of spaghetti and meat sauce from one of the military rations her father had stocked the pantry with for their honeymoon. She looked down at the floor and saw another plate of spaghetti waiting for her.
"I don't know who stocked your cupboard but we got about two weeks worth of MRE's in there. I guess someone ripped off a truck of them."
"My father has a basement full of such things. I don't ask where he gets them. You should've awakened me, I could have fixed dinner."
"Well, I think I've put you through enough today. Besides, I'm a big boy I can heat up spaghetti all by myself."
She picked up the plate and sat up on the bed. As she began eating she noticed he was again trying to not stare at her body, yet his eyes kept darting from his food to her body every few seconds.
"Can I ask you something?" she said quietly.
Alec shrugged. "Sure."
"I see the way you look at me, and you've been very considerate to me. I also understand that you fear marriage because of your family's situation. But why won't you even try? I'm educated. I wouldn't be a burden to you, and I wouldn't make any unreasonable demands like I've heard a lot of American women do to their husbands."
"Ever think maybe you should make a few unreasonable demands"
Laila paused for a moment while swallowing a mouthful of pasta. "Like what?"
"Like maybe your husband should have some decent job lined up for one."
"You already have a job with a foreign aid agency."
"Yeah, I do. But it doesn't pay squat. It's not what I went to college for."
"What was your degree?" she asked while scooping up some of the meat sauce and mixing it back in with the pasta.
"It was in computer programming."
She nodded. "That's good."
"Well, it was a good idea to get a degree in it back when I got into college and the dot com industry was going like crazy. I took that major because it was the degree to have if you wanted to make money. By the time I graduated the industry had tanked and I couldn't find a decent job. A friend I had from college who was always into charities hooked me up with this job. If I get out of this, the only thing I have to go home to is a ratty little apartment, a twelve year old Honda and a pile of rejection letters in my mail box. Do you want that? What do you expect from a husband?"
Laila put down her plate and thought for a moment. "I want a husband to not presume that because I'm his wife I have to clean up after him, feed him, and lay underneath him when he wants me to. I'd like him to consider my feelings and my thoughts, and perhaps even fix dinner occasionally."
"Yeah, I've heard that's hard to get in an Arab country. Women have to be everything and don't have any rights if her husband kicks the shit out of her. You guys have definitely got a raw deal."
"Oh, so America has no bad marriages or abusive husbands?"
Alec nodded. "Yeah, you got me there."
"There's more to the world than what you see and read on your news."
"I'm slowly figuring that out. You're done with that plate?"
Laila looked down at her empty plate, then over at Alec's empty plate. She immediately got up to take them both but Alec resisted. "Don't worry, I'll take care of this" he said.
"You've already done enough, let me."
Alec stood up and faced her. "Got an idea, I'll wash and you dry. How's that?"
She smiled and nodded.
As they cleaned the dishes they began talking about their respective college experiences, their favorite classes, and their favorite (and least favorite) teacher. The conversation went on for another hour while they listened to the radio. Laila would translate the lyrics to some of the songs Alec found interesting, and he educated her about the latest in American music and television. By the time she went to the bedroom and he took his place on the couch he felt more relaxed than he had in days. The idea of being with this girl wasn't as frightening as it was the night before. And that, ironically, kept him from sleeping again as his urge to join her was stronger than ever.
As he sat in the garage, listening to the militia commander's loud, rambling speech, Aazim wondered if Al-Shirani's daughter was really worth all this trouble. For the last day he had to keep Baber from panicking as the commander talked about the impending attack, he had to keep up the façade of an enthusiastic Sunni holy warrior, and he had to endure the stink of motor oil and gasoline that was seeping into his clothes. The only thing sustaining him was the memory of the last girl he took. She was ripe, trusting, and completely surprised when he made his advance. Best of all, she never told anyone. So, he reasoned, she enjoyed it. Even while sleeping between two stinking men he could remember how her weeping and pleading was almost as good as the act itself.
The only thing that kept that victory from being even better was the ease of the girl's surrender. Laila Al-Shirani wouldn't be so easy, and that excited him. It would take more time, prolonging his pleasure and making the inevitable victory even sweeter. Even though he couldn't afford a wife the idea of being able to share such spoils with the men who followed him made Aazim feel richer than any government official. He shut his eyes and imagined how those fierce, defiant eyes that had looked at him with such disdain would eventually wilt under his will.
He was jolted out of this pleasant dream when one of the militiamen touched his shoulder and motioned for him to follow. He went with the lieutenant to the small office where the commander had set up his maps and supplies.
"So, Sabir said you and your men are volunteers from Syria?"
"Yes" Aazim answered.
"Good. It's nice to know our peoples are finally united in this worthy cause. For too long-"
"I'm sorry sir" Aazim interrupted, "Is there a particular mission for me and my men?"
"Oh yes! Forgive me. I've been so frustrated for the last year. I need you and your men to set up a post at this intersection." He pointed to a circled area on the map. "We believe the Americans will try to use their tanks to push into the center of the city and try to cut Falluja in half. Your team's job will be to use our RPG's to cripple their tanks and block their access."
"Understood, sir. I'll go wake my men. Do you have a copy of the map?
"Unfortunately no. But Ilam knows the way and will guide you to your position." The commander pointed behind Aazim, who turned to see a skinny boy no more than fourteen standing at the doorway. His overly-stern expression amused Aazim. He couldn't decide if the boy was trying to hide his fear or was so enthralled by the commander's speeches that he didn't fully understand what he would be facing.
Aazim turned to the commander and nodded. "He should do well."
"Excellent," said the commander. "You leave in half an hour. We already have a car ready with the supplies. You must be in position before daybreak."
"Absolutely. With God's help we'll teach the Americans the same lesson they failed to learn in Vietnam."
The commander beamed. "Yes! Praise be to God!"
Aarif sat in the corner of the garage, studying the various men in the makeshift base. He stood up when Aazim came to him from the office. "Is it time?" he asked.
Aazim nodded. "Wake Jasim, and Baber. You'll drive. We'll also be having company so keep your knife handy." Aarif nodded and smiled slightly at that news.