The next morning he found himself sitting across from her at the breakfast table. He stared at her continuously until her mother came in to clear the table. He tried to say something several times, but could not manage the right words. Finally, he uttered, “Sarwat!”
But she quickly got up and said, “Let’s go.”
“Let’s go,” she repeated. “Get up.”
He said good-bye to her mother and followed her out of the house.
“There’s been a letter from Jawed,” she informed him. “He’s coming next week. This time he wants to take mother along. You know what that means? The house will be empty. Perhaps we’ll lock it up … or rent it out.… The sun is so cold this morning!”
“There, look! Those girls have taken a nasty fall from their bicycle. Why must two girls ride on one bicycle?”
“No, Naim, no!” she implored in a drained voice. “Please don’t say another word.”
He kept quiet, but went on staring at her.
“Shall we walk … or take the bus?”
“Whatever you like.”
“Let’s walk then. It isn’t all that far.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Futile! Stupid! Worthless!”
“No, it isn’t! Sarwat, listen to me … ”
“You men, how shabbily you treat us,” she said, feeling miserable. “Well, there’s my house.”
He started and stopped short. When he proceeded with her towards the front door, she turned quickly around and said in a resolute voice, “You can go now.”
“But Sarwat …”
“No, Naim,” she said, “you must go now.”
Inside she found Mahmud slouched on the sofa reading the newspaper.
She sat down in a chair, and leaned her head over the back of it, closing her eyes.
A little later, when she was fixing lunch with her husband seated close by, still buried in his newspaper, she smiled with some effort and asked, “What’s the matter—you haven’t gone to the office today?”
Abdullah Hussein is among the foremost fiction writers of Pakistan. He has published many collections of short stories and three novels. He writes in both Urdu and English. He received the Adamjee Award on his first novel, “Udaas Naslen”, which he later translated as “The Weary Generations”, published by UNESCO in its “Collection of Representative Works”. He is also author of an English novel “Emigré Journeys”. After living for over twenty years in London, he moved back to Pakistan some years ago.