By Dana Husam Abdullah
November 23, 2014
“Thank you for inviting me to your home, Nadia,” Sawsan said, greeting her with a kiss on both cheeks. “This foyer alone is the size of half my apartment.”
“Oh, not a problem. Wow, look at you with the hijab, so different!” She replied, touching a loose strand. “I’ve instructed Kiria to make pepper steaks and risotto; I hope you like it.”
“I sure do,” Sawsan said, looking around at the paintings. “Show me around. I understand you used the services of an interior design company?”
It was when Nadia was showing Sawsan the children’s rooms that Sawsan felt a jolt of envy, wishing she had kids who had rooms like those. Younis had a bed shaped like a football, a bright yellow carpet, a wall covered from top to bottom with posters of cars. A shelf was lined with superheroes. Sawsan only recognized Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Adham’s room had stuffed animals hanging from the ceiling, a football-shaped light and curtains with the Madagascar cartoon characters. A cage with a squawking parrot inside stood on top of a cabinet. Next to the bed was a treasure box-shaped toy chest.
“The kid begs me to get him a puppy or a cat,” Nadia told her, smoothing the duvet, “but their nanny has a phobia of all animals. All creatures, actually, even pigeons. Can you believe that? Kiria is the one who takes care of the bird. The other one won’t go near it.”
“My aunt is scared of animals too,” Sawsan said, feigning a smile. I have a feeling that I shouldn’t tell her I’m planning to buy a dog soon.
The walls of Sara’s room were half pink and partially purple. There was a row of oil paintings of princess portraits side-by-side on one wall. There were dolls, plastic and porcelain; a large wooden dollhouse; a rocking horse; and a chiffon sash lined the top of the wardrobe.
It was the moment Sawsan’s eyes landed on the sleeping 7-month-old that she thought she would give anything to trade places with Nadia.
“Mashallah,” Sawsan said, after a minute of watching her sleep, sincerely hoping not to jinx the baby by giving her the evil eye Islam warns against. She quickly turned her face away, hoping that Nadia will believe that Sawsan wasn’t interested in the child at all.
“Her eyes keep changing color,” Nadia chattered, leading her out the bedroom. Her manner wasn’t merely that of a proud mother. Her entire attitude was that of superiority, what with her own palace, luxuries and seemingly picture-perfect life. “One minute Sara’s irises are gray-green and the next they’re blue. The pediatrician says that this is common among young babies. I hope they will stay blue, though, like my maternal grandfather’s. He was a Turkish native.”
Sawsan then tuned her out, nodding without listening, while imagining all the possibilities if Sara were her own daughter. You were right, dad. I think I do want kids. But even if I had a partner, it would be challenging for me to get pregnant. She knew that the second she would get back to her empty home, she would cry tears of jealousy and remorse.