Forced Marriage

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Forced Marriage

It was a vivid Thursday morning when Soha jumped out of bed and raced to the bathroom. She pulled on some clothes swiftly not worrying too much about her hair. She was so excited as today, on the 9th of July; it was her final GCSE exam at 9.30am. “Bye mum” shouted Soha. Her mum also quick to reply, “Have some breakfast love”. The reply reverberated amongst the white hostile walls as the heavy wooden door slammed shut. Soha barely ever had enough time in the mornings to eat breakfast with her family. She wasn't the punctual of all.

Soha walked as fast as her legs could carry her. She leaped over empty crisp bags, curled onto the pavement, as her left foot stepped into the puddle from the previous night's rain. She lived on a council estate nearby the main road. The houses were cramped together in a diminutive space, layered in vertical columns. The traffic hollered past Soha as she stumbled to cross the busy road hesitantly. Beep. Beep, went a red bulky car that stopped next to Soha. The driver had his hair neatly combed in place as his grumpy face stared at Soha, indicating her to move off the road. A delay of seconds and the girl realised her mistake. She ran to the pavement, gasping for breath.

After a long walk from Close Avenue all the way to Butterworth Road, Soha was fatigued. She saw gangs of young children rushing towards the entrance. She knew she was almost late yet she stopped near the back entrance of the school. The entrance wasn't very appealing. It was secured by a rusty gate, once which was painted black. Years after, the gate seems to be tinted by a light shade of molten grey. Her brown eyes searched for someone.

“Soha” called a low pitched voice from a distance of about half a metre. A light smiled saturated on her face as she recognised the voice. She turned around hesitantly. There stood a young, light skinned boy. He seemed about a few inches taller than her in height. His hazel eyes reflected his feelings towards her. Soha pulled her heels off the ground to embrace him. She accused him of making them late but he shrugged his broad shoulders and placed his hand on her hip and started to walk in the direction of the main entrance.

Soha had met Manny a year ago in school. She was an average looking girl. Dark skinned and short, who loved a boy who was very attractive. Nevertheless, Manny was fully committed to his love. Soha felt extremely lucky to have a boyfriend as affectionate as Manny.

It was 1pm and the clouds drew closer together. The mid-day cold started to be sensed. The air felt bitterer than before. Soha and Manny had completed their final GCSE examination, unless of course they re-sat. At this point in time they didn't want to think of anything negative. Their blissful emotions took over everything. Soha was congratulated by her teachers. Soha was very interested into her studies until she met Manny. However, she still tried to commit to her studies as well as her romantic life. Almost 2pm and everyone met each other before the departure.

Soha had tears streaming down her face. She would miss the school, her friends and who would have thought, even her teachers! School was the one thing she looked forward to day after day. The responsive atmosphere and the misbehaving with friends would be greatly remembered. Manny consoled Soha. They walked hand in hand through the narrow alley ways. They hurled past bins and excess rubbish. Circumstances were such that when walking home, Soha and Manny had to hide so her father or any other member of her family wouldn't spot them. Soha hadn't told any of her family that she had a boyfriend. In fact she didn't want to, in case of her receiving a family lecture about the Asian principle of living. Soha hated her culture because of this only reason.

The council estate arrived and Manny kissed Soha goodbye. Soha stared at him, not knowing when she will be able to see him again. School was practically the only excuse to meet him. Her eyes almost full of moisture again as she waved continuously.

Soha returned to her house. The door creaked open with the slightest movement of hers, echoing within the white walls. Soha could hear her mum's voice from a distant. It seemed as though she was on the phone with a relative in Pakistan. Her tone of voice raised when in discussion with someone abroad. Her mum still wasn't aware of the improvement of technology. The progression of the phone meant that her mum didn't have to bellow over the phone to be heard.

Her mum put the phone down as the atmosphere of the house returned to normal. “Soha” called her mum. Soha went into the lounge where her mum was subsided into the leather sofa. Her face was painted with exhilaration. Soha paused. She thought of why her mum is looking so happy. What was the reason? Now she really wanted to find out. “Yes, were you calling me?” she asked. Her mum pulled Soha by the arm and carefully planted her beside herself on the couch. The conversation started off by her mum giving greetings to Soha on behalf of numerous relatives from Pakistan. Soha couldn't work out what was going on in her mum's mind. “Well, now that you have completed your essential studying, we think it's time” said her mum. Soha not understanding a word replied, “Time for what?” Her mum stood up cautiously, walking back and forth in one particular position. She finally revealed. “We think it is time for you to get married” abundantly alleged her mum. . .

Soha gripped the end of the couch as her mind stopped thinking. It was as though someone had pulled out her nervous system. Her initial reaction was a one to disagree with the suggestion. “No way!” yelled Soha. Soha could not believe that her mum would do this to her only child, though she had heard a lot about arranged marriages. Most of her cousins were married in Pakistan of their parent's choice, but Soha did not want to end up like them. Soha argued continuously with her mum, coming to no conclusion. Soha's mum had a mind which was still working with the cultures made hundreds of years ago by ancestors. She thought it would be of Soha's own benefit if she got married. Her mum gave Soha the lecture of respecting your elders and the prospect of following the Asian culture. But when she thought Soha's not agreeing to her she stated crying, beating her chest and calling out to God to take her away if her daughter didn't keep her honour. The anger began to stimulate outrageously in Soha's body as she ran out of the room in tears and straight into her bedroom.

Soha was convinced by now that her mum would do what she wants , though she has hope inside her that her mum might understand her. But she also knew that the fact that they were old fashioned in terms of marriage and culture. She too knew that sooner or later, she would be forced to get married to a complete stranger from the other side of the continent. But she didn't know that the time would come so soon. When Soha spoke about carrying on her studies even after her GCSEs, her parents would agree with her. On many occasions, her parents were the ones who would encourage her to achieve academically in her studies. Soha could clearly remember the times she had been in trouble from school, which meant coming home to listen to a monotonous lecture on how important education was in today's competitive world. The fact that a few months ago, her family backed her up to study and now suddenly they want her to quit that life and get married just wouldn't penetrate inside her.

She sat upstairs in her bedroom for hours, waiting for her father. She hoped that he would be able to understand her situation and maybe delay the marriage for at least a few years. 9pm. Soha heard her dad's car engine howl outside as he parked the car in an orderly manner. She felt a sense of relief. Half way down the steps, Soha heard her mum recalling the story of before to her dad. Her dad's voice suddenly rose louder, as he supported her mum. Soha felt the urge of loneliness as her hope was shattered. She darted back into her room, slamming the door as hard as she could.

Soha sat on the patterned carpet in the corner of her bedroom, weeping. The four pink walls that surrounding her, suddenly felt overshadowed. She cried and cried continuously thinking about the disaster which was still to come. It was 1am, and Soha had now drifted of into a painful sleep on the uncomfortable floor, where the slightest movement of a limb provoked the uneasiness of the situation. There wasn't a single whisper to be heard as the clock slowly ticked in the background . . .

The sun rise could be seen from Soha's bedroom window. Soha woke up and slowly picked her body off the floor where she had been sleeping. Her head still full of thoughts, she opened the heavy, pink curtains as light shone right threw the single paned window. Soha stood next to the windowsill for a few minutes, hoping that a new day would make the situations better.

Soha decided to take a shower and then got dressed. She tried to console herself in thinking that everything would get better, given enough time. She opened her bedroom door. Not a sound could be heard. She crept down the steps, trying not to make a sound. As Soha reached the lounge, she heard her mum saying, “Hope you've thought things over and made the correct decision”. Soha understood what her mum meant and replied back nicely, “yes mum, I have”. Soha, her mum and her dad sat around the kitchen table eating breakfast. It had been a while since the three of them ate together. Soha was shocked the way her parents were behaving, as though nothing had happened the night before. She decided to play along and pretend that she had calmed down. After a distinct silence of about 3 minutes, her dad spoke. He said, “I know you are a sensible girl and you will respect your parent's decision regarding your future”. Soha gave up, and began to picture agreeing with them. Even though Soha was against the will of getting married so soon with a stranger, she knew nothing could be done. She was emotionally blackmailed and as a result she gave her consent. In a light, sorrowful voice she said, “Yes, I am prepared to get married to whoever you wish me to”. Her parents applauded her, giving her a hug.

Soha knew that from now on everything would change, form her circle of friends to the quality of her quality of her life. Even though she gave her consent to the marriage, she was still forced. She was emotionally blackmailed and this made her give up.

Soha was depressed and couldn't think of what to do. She sat beside the scorching coal fire which lit the arrays of her future life into magnifying blisters. Only one person came into her mind. Manny. Manny. Manny. How would she face Manny again? She thought of him hating her after the decision she had made. But her heart still loved him. She knew that even after the force marriage, she would still love Manny. Her parents had left the house to go and spread the ‘so-called' good news. Soha was alone in the house. She dashed to the home phone and dialled: 07952867875.

Seconds later Manny answered the phone and Soha gradually telling the story of the terrible incidents which had occurred in the house from the past two days. Manny raised his voice into an angry tone. Soha had never heard Manny being angry before but she knew that his anger was justified. Manny hung up the phone leaving Soha disconnected.

It was now evening and the sun was setting. Soha spent the day cleaning her room and watching a bit of television to take her mind off things. The fact that Manny had also disconnected her made her feel even more forlorn. Soha hears the key turning in the keyhole as her parents walk in with an envelope in their hands. Soha didn't really pay attention to what was in the envelope until her dad handed her the envelope to open. Soha stared at the brown envelope, wondering what would be inside. She turned the envelope to see it half open already and scarred with creases. Not wasting any more time, she ruptured it open. To much of her surprise, she saw three air tickets for Pakistan.

Soha embraced herself as she glared at the tickets. She couldn't imagine anything worse happening to her. She thought to herself that her life was completely over and wasn't worth living for. But then again, she knew that it was her fault for consenting to getting married. The consequences as such were bound to happen, but she didn't think it will happen so soon. Her feeling dismantled all over the place, as she put a false smile over her face. She stood facing the interior wall, behind her stood her parents gleaming in happiness.

The tickets were addressed to Mr Khan, Mrs Khan and Soha Khan. The flight was from Heathrow Airport which was approximately 50km in distance from her home in Bendimshire, to the destination of Lahore Airport, Pakistan. Her mum told her to pack her things tonight as they would leave tomorrow morning. Soha wished minute after minute that all this was a bad nightmare and would end soon, but nothing as such happened. Soha waited for her parents to fall asleep. When they did fall asleep, after an hour and a half of waiting, she slowly crept up at the phone. She lifted the phone but then hesitantly put it back. After a minute of philosophy, again she clutched the phone close to her ear after dialling the phone to Manny. It was late at night and Manny was half a sleep when he answered the phone rubbing his eyes. Soha, in a light voice emerged his name and he, being Manny recognised it straight away, sitting up as she told him that she would leave for Pakistan tomorrow morning. Manny demanded on seeing her but she resisted. Before putting the phone down he said, “Don't worry, just play along and I will handle everything”.

Manny's words gave Soha a reassurance. Soha could still hear Manny's voice in her ears, even though the phone was disconnected. On one hand she was reassured, but on the other she was mystified on the fact of Manny's anger going away and him saying he will handle everything. What on earth was he going to do?

It was the morning of the flight, as Soha dressed in her churidar kameez, tight around the hips, loose around her waist, which her mum told her to wear, her parents met some neighbours and relatives, and said their goodbye's. Catching a taxi from the main road to drive Soha and her parents to the airport took about an hour or so. At 4pm, Soha was sat on the plane, worried. She didn't know what to expect, except for misery and heartache. She just wished that the plane had bigger windows that could open, and she would not think for a second before jumping off it and killing her self, it was better than getting married to a complete stranger she thought. The plane was ready to land as the pilot announced, “Please ensure you are wearing your seat belts”. This was the moment when Soha felt sick, as she heard the wheels of the plane screeching the runway. She could feel the air resistant holding them back, but there was no stopping. Just like her so-called marriage.

Soha and her parents had passed the security checkout area and were now walking towards outside. A crowd of people ran towards them and started greeting them. An old lady wearing big spectacles ran her hands down Soha's face very harshly and then kisses her cheeks leaving half of her slimy salivate on her cheeks which Soha quickly wiped with a tissue she was already holding near her face, so she can't inhale the horrible smell, like a perfume made out of burned rubber (Asian spice). Couple of men did the same precedeor until taking them to the minibus which they had hired. About five to six relatives had come to receive them from the airport. The sun was shining so hard almost burning the ground. Soha could see the polluted air surrounding around the vast crowd. She held tightly to her mum's arm as the crowd repelled her away from her parents. She just wished she was at home watching easterners and eating her favourite crisps Doritos. Immediately then an elderly man, wearing the Asian attire and holding clutches, approached to Soha. He was in a bad state. “Please feel mercy on me, give me some money”. He literally begged Soha. Soha was appalled seeing such an elderly man begging. She wasn't use to this atmosphere and felt uncomfortable. Soha felt sympathy for the man and asked her dad for some change. He asked why and when finding out why she wanted it, he abused the man telling him to go away. Her dad warned her not to take any notice of people like that to people like that.

As she carried on walking, Soha witnessed the overcrowdings of population in a small area. She saw children everywhere. All of them in rags, if they wore anything at all and some without shoes! Soha was horrified. She was in Pakistan, a country which her father and mother praised as their motherland. She thought to herself, is this it?

The minibus started as everyone sat inside. The noise of chattering was deafening to Soha's ear as her parents and relatives talked about the past, present and the future all at once. They drove past Anarkali road, ahead was in total darkness, the only light that could be seen was the headlights of the cars in front. Soha wasn't paying much attention to anything, as she stared out of the window. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a truck followed by a bus speeded past them. Soha moved her hand away from the window as she was convinced that at this rate of driving by fellow drivers would kill her.

Approaching Bataar, which was a relatively small village located in the eastern district of Pakistan, Soha started to look at the landscape. She noticed that the village was surrounded by dry land. For miles in each direction, all that could be seen was green land. Some land for rearing cattle and others for growing crops. The greenery stood out. The first house that Soha noticed was shabby and the walls were smeared with something that seemed like dung. Other houses were about of the same size located in a dirty slum-like area. To the right of the passenger seat, there was a lake. The colour of the lake indicated the amount of pollution that it contained. Women and girls sat in a horizontal line on their knees were washing clothes in the lake. Many of them seemed like children around the age of ten. The driver has to emergency break, as a herd of buffalo crossed the path of the minibus that Soha was in. To the left of the entrance to the village was a colossal palace-like building. It was surrounded by a gold-coloured gate which emphasised the superior of the palace. Soha heard her mum telling her that the palace on the left was hers. Although impressed, Soha was disappointed by the condition of the poor people. Fairness didn't seem to shine through at all.

The weather was scorching hot. It was mid-July and the sun seemed to burn everything it hit. Soha wasn't used to this kind of heat. Sweat lay on her forehead even after wiping it off twice. She seemed to be uncomfortable as the leather seats gave of heat as well as the hot window panels. Approaching to the house, the gold gates opened automatically as two security guards stood saluting the minibus that Soha was in. Soha never felt this honoured before. “Come on”, said Soha's mum as the minibus stood still. Soha quick to reply, “Coming”. Soha was lead inside by her relatives as other family members ran to greet them. A massive chandelier stood right above Soha, she gazed at it. Surrounded were luxurious sofas and couches. In the corner was a family photo tree, starting with the old photographs of relatives all the way to current ones. Soha stared at the photo tree, trying to recognise people she had already met. She was surprised to see herself in a photograph on the last column. The photograph of hers was from her high school, top button fastened up and her tie neatly done. She was amazed.

After the long and boring introduction Soha was tired and felt that she needed some rest. Her aunt that she had been getting along with showed her to the room. The room was big and the barren walls made the room look even bigger. She lay back for about half an hour. Until her mum excitedly came inside the room. “Soha get dressed quickly in your best attire” said her mum. “What?” replied Soha. Her mum told her that the man who her parents have chosen for her was about to come and see her. Soha was extremely worried. She didn't want to see the boy, no matter who he was. Soha didn't have much choice as her mum had opened her suitcase and had taken out a bright red salwar kameez. Soha didn't really wear much Asian clothes as she preferred the English wear. This bright red attire was so eye catching. Her mum forcefully made Soha wear the dress which was two sizes too big. It was 5pm, and the boy had arrived. He was wearing high belted black trouser which was over shown by a yellow buttoned shirt. His greasy hair was neatly combed onto one side which made him look like a chip shop owner. He gave a cheesy grin as Soha felt uncomfortable. He put forward his hand and Soha unwittingly shook it. “Ahmed” he said. She replied with a faint sigh, “Soha”. They talked in front the family for about an hour. Then Ahmed and his family got up and went home. Soha's mum had a faint smile on her face, a smile Soha dreaded. Soha knew exactly what her mum thought. “Wasn't he lovely? Perfect for our little princess” said her mum. Soha took her mum to the next room and tried explaining that she didn't want to marry Ahmed. She argued that she didn't have anything in common with, how would they ever start a conversation? Her mum stuttered for a moment of two, but then she said the thing which almost destroyed Soha. “Your wedding is held with Ahmed, next week at this time”. Soha collapsed to the floor breaking into tears. Soha knew that this was bound to happen but this soon she didn't know. She thought about trying to talk to her parents once more.

It was a new morning as the sun started to rise. Soha went into her parent's room shutting the door behind. They went to the basement and argued for a long time and then the basement door closed, bang . . .Her parents had locked her inside. Soha cried and thought that there was nothing to do. She couldn't think of anyone who could help. There wasn't anyone who could help, or was there?

Aunt Nasreen was walking past the basement when she heard Soha crying and banging on the door. She opened the door and Soha told her about everything. She was like a messiah sent from God to help Soha. The aunt and Soha got along pretty well since Soha had come to Pakistan. Aunt Nasreen was a figure of hatred to many members of the family, simply because she was the only person who got married to someone from her own choice. The marriage didn't last very long but at least she didn't face domestic violence. Aunt Nasreen clearly understood Soha's situation and offered to help. She told Soha, “Simply play along”. Soha was too depressed to ask what she meant by that so she nodded and slowly walked into her room.

In the evening, all the family members asked Soha if she was happy about the proposal, not that they would have listened but just sympathise a little. Soha looked at her aunt and then slowly nodded. She hoped that her aunt would have a plan in mind. Soha's mum was so happy so she decided to give her a hug. It was only seven days to the wedding, so all the family planned the arrangements. Soha didn't want to stick up to her aunt too much in case of anyone being suspicious. Four days had past by just like that, Soha knew that time wasn't on her side so finally she decided to go and talk to her aunt. It was 9am on a Friday, three days left to the wedding or disaster! “Morning Aunt” said Soha but weirdly her aunt ignored her. Soha decided to say something again but just as she did so, her aunt grabbed her by the arm and presented both Soha and herself in front of the family. Soha didn't have the slightest idea about what was going on. “Today, me and Soha shall make breakfast for everyone” said the aunt. Soha looked at her aunt, puzzled. As aunt Nasreen and Soha walked slowly towards the kitchen again, she whispered into Soha's ear “Go pack your bags and don't worry about the passport, I have got it”. Soha didn't know how to react, she was happy but more over she was scared thinking about the consequences that may arise if her parents found out. She crept upstairs and packed her belongings and threw the bag down from the back balcony as told too, where a young man picked it up and safely put it inside the car boot. She had never seen the man before, but presumed that he would be a friend of her aunt's. Soha, still not show about what to do, ran downstairs and back into the kitchen. Meanwhile, aunt Nasreen had prepared a full Asian breakfast. The smell of the food was so superior. Soha tried talking to the aunt but she just put a tray in between Soha's hands which contained a pile of rotis (Asian naan bread). Soha placed the food on the dining table. Everyone started to eat up when aunt Nasreen walked in and said “You are doing injustice with Soha”. Soha looked up at her aunt, shocked. What on Earth was her aunt saying? She was going to give the whole story away! Soha's mum pushed away the plate of food and stood up furiously and started to walk slowly towards the aunt, until suddenly she fell unconscious. Within seconds of delay, all the rest of Soha's family fell into a deep sleep.

Aunt Nasreen grabbed Soha's hand and ran for the entrance where a silver car was awaiting. The same car that Soha's luggage bags were in. Soha asked how everyone fell unconscious so suddenly, her aunt laughed and replied “sleeping pills honey”.

Include the middle passage here: running away, calling Manny and meeting him. Reaction of parents e.g. angry and didn't want anything to do with Soha. Where does the aunt go? Include these things.

Four years later. . .

Soha was destined to have Manny by her side even after all the trouble she had gone to be with him. She had a respective job as an accountant. She stood in the Bendimshire Mall and thought of everything that she had been through since the past four years. The jeans she wore were from Jane Norman: £33. The top she wore from Next: £17. Boots from Debenhams: £25. Purple coat from New look: £70. Life long scars on her reputation: A love marriage . . .

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