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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)

TITLE: Running Away With Rehana
By Jeannie Morse
03/04/09


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Running Away with Rehana

Kathleen tucked the black robe and scarf closer to her as she scanned up and down the street. Hoping no one recognized her, she slipped through the wooden door determined to visit Rahana, a woman forbidden to leave her apartment, or even have visitors. She tripped on an uneven step in the windowless stairwell and wished her husband, Dan, had joined her.

Dan taught at a medical school in Karachi, Pakistan. For eighteen years she and Dan had worked here in Pakistan’s over populated port city.

Rehana’s in-laws, the Samejas, had once lived in a traditional one-story house with a red slanted roof. Muslim customs required brides to move into the groom’s home and produce heirs, male children. To accommodate the extended families, the Samejas had added rooms then built a second and, finally, a third floor above the old walls. Clotheslines decked their flat roof.

The stairway lit up as a door above Kathleen opened. Rehana glided down with silent steps, a finger to her lips. “Auntie, come quick. My mother-in-law is below. If she sees you she’ll be angry. I can’t live in this house another day. She took all my gold, bangles, earrings, even my wedding ring.”

Kathleen smelt mutton roasting in curry and garlic as they climbed quietly to the third floor.

Rahana whisper, “Omar drove our two daughters to their cousin’s marriage ceremony, but my mother-in-law stayed home to cook for the wedding party.”

Inside the apartment Kathleen noticed dark bruises on Rehana’s arms. She drew back. “What have they done to you?”

“My father-in-law beat me, this time for asking to attend the wedding. He says I’m too forward.”

Kathleen tenderly touched a red lump on Rehana’s forehead.

“What my father-in-law has planned next month is far harder than a beating.” She motioned Kathleen to sit by a plate of yellow bhajihas, spicy fried potato patties. Rehana removed her head scarf. A thick black braid fell to her narrow waist.

From an Arab tea pot she poured milky chai, steamed with cardamom, through a strainer and into little matching cups. “My father-in-law has arranged a second wife for Omar, an uneducated sixteen-year old.”

“Where will she live?”

Rehana paused. Would Auntie, a foreigner, understand the custom? “The new wife will live here. She’ll use our furniture, gifts given at our wedding. They’ll sleep in our bed.”

“What about you?” Kathleen fingered her ring.

“The pantry off the kitchen is wide enough for a small bed.” Rehana swallowed. “I’ll be told to cook and clean for her as well as my in-laws.”

“What does Omar say about this?”

“What can he say? He doesn’t blame me for not having sons, his father does. But to gain honor and respect he must obey his parents. His family is his life, and he’s worked twenty years for his father.”

“Doesn’t Omar love you?”

Rehana shook her head. “You people, who believe Isa, Jesus, always talk about love. What benefit is love to a woman like me?”

“If Omar truly loves you he’ll do anything for you. The greatest love is when a person is willing to die in the place of another.”

“I will never be loved that much.”

God, help me explain your perfect and deep passion for Rehana. Kathleen prayed silently and then asked Rehana, “Do you care for Omar?”

“I’ve begged him to move us away but he is silent.” Rehana’s chalky skin indicated depression. “If he left with me he’d lose all his money and inheritance, and his parents would disown him.” She wiped tears from her hollow eyes. “I must leave him.”

“Dan and I have a guest room. We want to help you.”

“I would have to leave my daughters here. No, I can’t...”

“Would Omar help the three of you run away?”

“Omar says he loves me but I don’t trust him,” she sobbed.


Two days later a truck loaded with furniture hooted at the gate. Dan ran to open it. Omar, two girls and Rehana jumped out. Omar shook Dan’s hand. “I ran away with Rehana. Will you help us?”

Dan clapped Omar on the shoulder. “You’re always welcome here.”

“We won’t stay for long. Within a month I hope to find a job and a flat. For now I have no inheritance or money, no car, and no job.” He reached for Rehana’s hand. “I’m willing to give everything to keep her.”

Tears of hope swelled in her eyes.

He smiled. “I love her.”


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This article has been read 384 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Norma-Anne Hough03/06/09
Well done on a very controversial subject. I enjoyed this entry.
Josiah Kane03/06/09
Incredible. No-one should have to live in such crushing servitude. Well done for showing how much it happens, and how important love is in overcoming such problems.
By the way, don't forget to read some of the other stories in Intermediates and leave feedback. Let's all help one another
Mildred Sheldon03/06/09
It is sad that people in different parts of this beautiful world must obey such beliefs and be chattel only. This story tells the truth and I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for telling a very true story of how others live in this world.
Jana Kelley03/06/09
Great story and well written. Thank you for this entry!
Karlene Jacobsen 03/09/09
This story is very sad yet hopeful in the end.
There is one thing I noticed. It's minor really; just the spelling of Rehana's name shifted to Rahana a couple times. Other than that, I thought this was a great story.
Gary J. Borgstede03/10/09
I really liked reading the story especially because of it's happy ending to the sad situation in the beginning. I was left a little hanging though when Kathleen asked God to help her explain His perfect love for Rehana, but she didn't actually explain anything about His love to her. However, I did like the way His love was shown to her through Kathleen and Dan when they invited Rehana and her husband into their home as house guests until they could make it on their own. Great story!
Lyn Churchyard03/10/09
Wonderful story. So very sad that this still happens. You have done an excellent job with this. I have to admit, I was so taken up with the story, I didn't notice the change of name :-)
Loren T. Lowery03/11/09
Love the way you were able to open the window to show the reader another world. Great job with customs, emotions, descriptions, all of it! I like the way, too, you were able to link the Christian Faith to the meaning and understanding of love. The apostle Paul does this so well, but it is often overlooked by people who have grown up in a Christian community.

One suggestion (to help you with word count) your title does not need to be included in the body of your article when you are submitting.