Spring was almost there, and Aaliyah looked at the blooming daffodils and tulips by making a small crack on the bright red curtain that covered the glass windows. She wanted to go out and touch them and smell the heavenly blend of the fresh fragrance of the different flowers which she has never seen in her country.

It was breathtakingly beautiful, she looked outside again with wide open eyes and wished if Ajman could come soon and open the door of her one-room house.  It was almost going to be two pm. He might come for lunch, or maybe not.

Aaliyah couldn’t understand why he always insisted on locking her inside the house and made sure that he drew all the curtains before he went away for his ‘work’.

Aaliyah didn’t even know what kind of work he did, where he worked, and why he was hiding her in that old one room house.

When Ajman and his parents came to see her, they told her parents that he had an excellent job in the UK and as soon as the nikah is over, she can fly to that beautiful land and stay in a big house with Ajman, which she only saw in pictures and Hindi films.

Aaliyah didn’t even have a passport. Though she was only sixteen, Ajman somehow acquired a passport for her with her date of birth changed, so that she is now nineteen in the official records.

But what excited her more was the possibility of going out and see the beautiful landscapes and grasslands and sheep and cows and horses that frequently came in Ajman’s sister’s conversation with her. She said to her that though she has never been to the UK, Ajman used to tell her everything about the beautiful life over there.

It has been two weeks since she came here and Ajman never told her the name of the place they were living or took her anywhere to see the ‘beautiful’ landscapes her sister mentioned.

Aaliyah has never seen Ajman in a good mood once she came here. Just like the other girls in her village, Aaliyah didn’t know anything except Urdu, and in that old house, even the television which had three channels showed only programs in English that made no sense to her.

She knew it was spring outside. But the house was cold. She pulled her sweater tightly around her. The heating was terrible, and the landlord allowed only to have hot water one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. She went to the sliding kitchen partition to put on the kettle. Ajman has warned her not to use gas and electricity unnecessarily as it costs much in that country.

She didn’t know how to switch on the hob, so whenever cold felt unbearable, she switched on the kettle to make a hot cup of tea. With the freshly made teacup in her hand, she tried to give some warmth to her frozen palms.

There was not much furniture in that portion of the house. A well-worn couch which had a damp smell along with two or three long tears was the only big thing where she could sit and lie down.

She sat and switched on the television again. I should have brought at least some books, she thought. She watched quietly at the moving figures in front of her, slowly sipping the tea, while it spread inside her and gave her the warmth she craved.

Ajman had already bought groceries for one week, and cooking was not at all an issue for Aaliyah. After all, it was just for the two of them. She wished to meet Ajman’s friends and their wives and kids and talk non-stop in Urdu and to eat and be in a familiar atmosphere.

Sometimes she took courage to open the window a crack and fill her lungs with the fresh cold air. But one day she forgot to close it, and Ajman was angry at her for being such a careless woman.

She didn’t understand what was the big deal in it, but after that incident, she never dared to repeat it. Neither she didn’t have the permission to open the windows, nor didn’t she had a spare set of keys to go out to take a walk.

The only connection she had with her parents in her village was the three minutes Ajman allowed her to talk to them using his mobile phone, every week. Aaliyah had only some money with her which she brought from her home and which she realised was of no use here.

She wished if Ajman smiled a bit more and talked to her more than in monosyllables and took her outside even for at least a ten-minute walk.

Last Saturday she took some courage to ask him to let her out for a while (when she felt like a locked dog). But when Ajman yelled “Why? For what do you want to go outside?”, her kohl filled eyes went damp, and she shrank herself into the sliding kitchen partition again.

She had heard Ajman talking to his friends in English, Hindi and Urdu, and that was the only time his voice sounded happy and light and joyful.

Every week when her mother asked how life is in the UK, she glanced at Ajman with a scared look and told her it was all nice and well, and she is delighted in living with him. That made his mouth curl, and without even a slight crack in her voice, she lied steadily about the beautiful life Ajman has given her.

Later, she would hide her face in the pillows silently crying into them, while Ajman will be watching his favourite English television shows. She wanted to tell him to teach her English so that she also can understand them.

But Ajman seemed to be very strict with her. He was already fifteen years elders than her, so she didn’t dare to ask him anything, which might make him angry.

Three more weeks passed, and now she could see that spring was in full bloom outside. It was during then she suspected that there was something wrong with her. She felt very tired, and one day she almost fainted while bringing tea to Ajman.

Ajman bought a home pregnancy test, and all she could do was to pee on it when Ajman waited for the blue lines to appear. Aaliyah didn’t know how it worked, so she nervously looked at Ajman.

After it felt like hours, when it was really three minutes or so, she saw a big smile across Ajman’s face.

“You are going to be a mother! I will take an appointment with the GP, and she will help you with everything afterwards. I will ask Hamid’s wife to accompany you. She will help you with the language translation. They already have three kids.”

Aaliyah caressed her tummy through the salwar she was wearing. It felt normal. But if Ajman says, maybe it is right. Aaliyah wished if she could talk to her mother. But still, she was too scared of Ajman’s mood swings.

That afternoon Ajman went back to work with a smile on his face.

Aaliyah felt sleepy while looking out into the fully bloomed trees, which looked like chicken feet, just a month ago.

She had slipped into a dreamless sleep when she heard Ajman calling her name from a distance.

“Aaliyah, Aaliyah wake up, look what have I bought for you!”.

She jumped up from the couch and was sure that Ajman would be very angry at her for sleeping in this evening.

She looked sheepishly into his face expecting another outburst. But there were two small flower pots in his hands.

One was with long stemmed lavender coloured flowers and the other with the brightest yellow flowers she has ever seen in her life.

Aaliyah’s eyes widened with pure happiness. Flowers… the ones she always wanted to be with.

She looked at them, and Ajman told her “This lavender coloured one is the hyacinth and the other is daffodils. I know you loved these flowers.”

For the first time, Aaliyah wholeheartedly hugged Ajman, who was standing with flower pots on his two hands.

“Like wildflowers; You must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.”― E.V

– Swathi Sasidharan

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