Soraya glanced at the clock. It was almost three in the afternoon. Her husband would come home soon for lunch, then depart again for his office and return at nine for dinner. Shrugging off the blanket and shivering slightly, she gingerly hoisted her pregnant, aching body out of bed and padded into the kitchen and turned on the stove.
The door snapped open and Soraya heard her husband clear his throat as he kicked off his shoes and strode to the kitchen. He sat down at the table without a word, waiting for his meal. Soraya placed his plate in front of him and sat down across from him, her arms folded over her stomach. She watched him eat, her mind blank as the cooked lentils crunched between her husband’s teeth.
“I’ll return at nine,” her husband said, breaking the silence once his plate was clean. Soraya nodded. The man stood up, mopping the beads of sweat from his face with a napkin and striding towards the door.
“Wait,” Soraya said impulsively.
Her husband turned. “Yes?” he said.
Startled at her own forwardness, Soraya didn’t know what to say at first.
“What do you want?” her husband demanded impatiently.
Unlike most couples in Lahore, Soraya and her husband had married for love, not through an arrangement. But over the last few years, Soraya felt no different than if she had actually married a complete stranger. Gone was the lanky young man who wrote her notes on green paper because it was her favorite color, replaced by a sensible businessman; sensible but not tender, not the man Soraya had married.
When they were first married, Soraya recalled, her husband used to attend to her every whim, his affection overwhelming. But now she could hardly bring herself to ask him for anything. How could she? You didn’t ask strangers to indulge your fancies.
Finding her voice, Soraya managed to stammer, “I want some money.” It was almost painful having to say it. The look her husband was giving her, though far from chastising, made Soraya feel like a child caught behaving badly.
“What for? Don’t you have everything you need?”
Yes, Soraya had everything she needed. There were groceries in the house, she had plenty of clothes, her husband brought her new books and magazines he thought she’d enjoy and they went out to see a movie once a month. For the typical citizen of Lahore, Soraya had more than she needed, she was aware, as was her husband.
But while her mind knew she should be content, her impregnated body was making harsh demands of her. It wanted pomegranates.
August was the season for pomegranates, and street vendors all over Lahore were selling them at exorbitant prices because the sweet, juicy fruit was available only once a year. The potatoes and cauliflowers Soraya’s husband brought home from the local grocer were cheap, bland and available all year. She normally didn’t mind them, but her hormones were dominating. Her body ached just to think of the red fruit, the taste that was so sweet it was almost unbearable and the pebbly sensation of each hard little seed.
She wondered how to tell her husband. He was still staring at her curiously, and she couldn’t think of a delicate way to put it. “I have pregnancy cravings,” she blurted out, embarrassed at her outburst.
Slightly taken aback, her husband rallied almost immediately and replied, “What are you craving? I’ll bring it for you in the evening.”
No! I want pomegranates and I need the money because you’re leaving and I want them now! RIGHT NOW! Soraya’s mind screamed, but her restricted side stepped in firmly. “That will be fine. I would like some pomegranates,” she told her husband even as she raged against him on the inside.
Six hours! And that too while having to listen to the fruit sellers outside advertising their fresh, ripe, red pomegranates, every seed a ruby. Six torturous hours. She tried going back to bed, but only tossed restlessly on the duvet. Giving up, she rose and began to cook her husband’s dinner two hours early. When her husband walked through the door at three minutes past nine, Soraya was nearly trembling with anticipation.
“I’ve brought your pomegranates,” her husband said, handing her a paper parcel as he sat down to his meal.
The parcel looked small to Soraya, but she shook off her doubts. She eagerly tore away the paper and her eyes met with three small pomegranates, each smaller than her fist and yellowish-green. They appeared to have been picked unripe.
“Where did these come from?” she asked casually, trying to hide her dismay.
“The grocer we always buy from,” her husband replied. “They were the cheapest ones.”
Soraya stood still for a moment. He was her husband, he had brought her pomegranates like she had asked, and at least she had the luxury of having her pregnancy cravings fulfilled.
But something inside of her seized control of her arms and hurled the pomegranates across the kitchen, making the small, hard fruits scatter like ping-pong balls.
Her husband looked up in shock. “What’s the matter with you?” he demanded.
His words sent Soraya into a fury. She reached down, scooped up a fallen pomegranate and hurled it at the kitchen window. It didn’t quite have the effect she wanted, ricocheting off the glass and thudding unimpressively on the floor. This only made her angrier, and she hurled the second and then the third pomegranate at the window.
Her husband had risen to his feet and was gaping at his wife in shock. He had never known his wife to act this way and was unsure how to react, helpless against this furious harpy before him. More than anything, he feared for his unborn child.
“Soraya, Soraya!” he pleaded, holding up both hands in surrender. “What is it? What do you want?”
“I want pomegranates!” Soraya shrieked wildly, her hands desperately seeking something else to throw. Potatoes, a plate, her husband’s water glass; all were flung wildly at the window. “All I asked for were some pomegranates! You brought me crabapples, you cheap brute!”
Suddenly exhausted, Soraya burst into frustrated tears and darted from the kitchen to her bed, collapsing on it.
Her husband blundered in after her, gaping at her. “What was all that about? Why were you making such a fuss? And all over nothing!”
Why, why can’t he see? she despaired. She had waited and waited for hours, all for some pomegranates, and he couldn’t even bring her a couple of fruits? She hated her husband at that moment.
“You don’t love me anymore,” she accused.
“What kind of a statement is that?” her husband barked, anger beginning to rise in him too. “I bring you what you ask for, and you throw them around and then dare accuse me of not loving you? Pregnancy hormones or not, this is too much.”
“You don’t!” Soraya shouted, her chest heaving with sobs. “If you do then why are you so cheap? You can’t even bring me red pomegranates; you brought me sour ones because they were cheaper!”
There was no reply. Soraya glanced at her husband, wondering how he would react. His face was closed and his mouth a thin line. Without another word, he turned and left the room, leaving a weeping and suddenly frightened Soraya on the bed.
The man returned within fifteen minutes, carrying another paper parcel. Soraya sat up at his entrance, terrified as to how he might react to her earlier fit, but his expression appeared as anxious as she felt. He unwrapped it in front of her. It was a single pomegranate, already cut into halves.
“Here,” he said, somewhat nervously placing it on her lap. He scooped out the seeds with his fingers and held them up to her mouth. She tentatively opened her mouth and he placed the seeds on her tongue gently. He fed her the entire pomegranate that way. She regarded him with amazement. She had forgotten this tender side of him, forgotten how caring he could be.
He wrapped his lanky arms around her, stroking her head. “How could I not love you?” he murmured, his chin resting on her shoulder. “How could you ever think that?”