Surprise, Surprise

Salamiyah, Syria

One day, Nour’s sister-in-law showed up to her house while her husband was on a four-day business trip and told her that her brother was going to divorce her in a couple of days. She warned Nour that she was telling it to her in confidence and asked her not to disclose who she had received the news from to anyone. She assured her that she had decided to inform her because she liked her and thought she had a right to know in advance.

“Do you know why he might be doing this?” She asked her.

“No,” Nour replied, “I actually can’t believe he’s doing this to me! How did you find out? Did he tell you?”

“No, I heard him talk to someone over the phone. I heard him say he’s going to take you to the Shmemis castle, to the same spot where he proposed to you, to serve you with divorce papers. You’re sure there’s nothing you can do to make him change his mind? Come on, you must have had an inkling that it might come to this at some point. If, looking back, we can establish when your marriage started to tumble, we may be able to come up with a strategy to make him reconsider giving your relationship another go.”

“I am trying really hard to remember any point in time in which I felt we were growing apart, but, for the sake of me, I can’t think of one. There has been no change in our daily life that may justify this decision he’s making. I have been feeling a little bit under the weather as of late, but that’s been it! That’s no reason to dump someone, is it?”

“Of course not, but resentment can slowly build up over time. I’ll leave you to reflect on it and, please, if you get to talk to my brother about this, remember: you didn’t hear anything from me.”

Nour showed her sister-in-law to the door. Once alone, she sat down on a chair to digest the news. How was it even possible that she hadn’t had a clue as to what he had been up to? Was he really such a dick, that he would go away to arrange everything so that he could, upon his return, divorce her and leave her high and dry? Nour stood up and started pacing up and down the room. Men were such pigs! No way she was letting him screw her over, though. She intended to empty all of their bank accounts and move with all her most prized possessions to her parents’ house before he came back from his trip.

On the next morning, she packed her stuff and got on a bus leaving for Homs, which is where her family lived. They were surprised to see her arrive and started grilling her immediately after she told them the reason behind her visit. Her mother saw she had some bruising below one of her knees and asked her whether he hit her. Both her sisters blamed her for his decision. The older one ascribed the breakdown of Nour’s marriage to her bad temper, and the younger one, to her wish to delay getting pregnant for the third time. Nour’s neighbor assumed he had fallen in love with one of his work colleagues. Her neighbor’s mother suggested he might have even married her on the side. Nour’s friend surmised she had caught him redhanded with some floozie in their bedroom.

Three days later, Nour’s husband returned home from his business trip. Seeing that she wasn’t there, he called her on the phone, “Where are you? I was so looking forward to seeing you. I got a surprise for you!”

“Don’t bother telling me. I know all about your little surprise! You want to divorce me, you …!”, Nour blurted.

“Divorce you? Why on earth would you say that?”

“Listen, …”

“No, you listen,” said her husband interrupting her. “I have managed to get you transferred to another school, one closer to home, so that you don’t have to get up so early every morning and drive all the way up to Hama to teach there. Did I not promise you I would make it happen? Instead of telling you right away, I thought of breaking the news to you in a more romantic setting, like the Shmemis castle where I proposed. Sorry for spoiling the surprise.”


Written by Ebaa Khatib.