A/N: Outtake from my story 'Papercuts', written before I changed the plot, this corroborates with the story up til chapter 10. A scene from Reyna and Hassan's married life (if they had gotten married the first time round). One-shot so far, though I do have the following chapter somewhere too. Not sure if this can count as a stand-alone though, hopefully it won't be too confusing for people who haven't read the story.
There was something very heavy crushing my arm. I tried to push it off but to no avail. Finally, after a few minutes of struggling, I opened my eyes.
My right arm was flung out into the middle of the king-sized bed. Hassan had rolled onto it in his sleep. He was facing me and snoring ever so lightly. I had no hope of regaining possession of my limb without waking him up, so I whispered urgently at him:
He muttered in his sleep and went right back to snoring.
'Hassan!' I said more loudly.
I prodded his shoulder and all but yelled, 'Get up!'
He cracked an eye open and smiled sleepily, 'Reyna.'
And then he snuggled into his pillow and tried to go back to sleep.
'HASSAN!' I shouted into his face.
This time he opened his eyes, looking alarmed. ' 'S something... the matter?'
'Yes, you huge...man! GET OFF MY ARM! You're hurting me!' I cried out, exasperated.
He sat up almost immediately. I retrieved my arm and cradled it in the palm of my other hand.
'Sorry about that,' he said blearily, rubbing the back of his neck.
'It's okay. No permanent damage done,' I deduced after examining my arm. 'Just try and remember that you're heavy and I don't like being crushed to death by my own husband.'
He grinned, 'Won't forget now, wifey.'
I smiled and shook my head at the latest addition to his unconventional nicknames for me. He fell back on the pillows with a soft thump and I made to swing my legs over the edge of the bed when he caught my wrist.
I tried to shake him off. 'Let go, Hassan.'
'Where are you going in the middle of the night?' he mumbled.
He'd pulled me back so I was leaning against his chest. 'It's not the middle of the night. It's almost 6 and the sun's up already.'
'B-But it's a Sunday!' He said, horrified.
It was so relaxing, so comforting just lying there. I wished I didn't have to get up. Even as I thought that, I drew away from him. 'I have to study, Hassan.'
'Aw, you're no fun,' he said accusingly. 'Sunday's are for sleeping in.'
I gently extracted my hand from his and clambered over his legs to get off the bed. 'Do you not want me to get my degree, Hassan?'
He surveyed me sleepily through half-closed eyes as I looked around for my slippers. I saw one slipper peeking out from under Hassan's side of the bed and bent to retrieve it. I managed to bump my head into the bedside table as I emerged, eliciting a laugh from Hassan.
I glared at him when I straightened, jamming both feet into my slippers and rubbing my abused head.
'There you go, losing brain cells again,' he joked then said, in a more sober tone, 'Just come back to bed, Rey. A few more hours of sleep couldn't hurt. God knows, you need it.'
I was not going to let him persuade me out of this. He was enough of a distraction as it was.
I yawned. 'Can't. I'm already way behind as it is.'
He muttered something like 'Suit yourself' but when I looked back at him as I paused in the doorway to the bathroom, his eyes were closed and he looked altogether too peaceful.
I closed the door behind me softly and flicked the lights on. After I was done brushing my teeth, I looked at my reflection in the mirror and understood what Hassan had meant.
I looked and felt exhausted.
I'd always had dark circles under my eyes but they were more pronounced now. And my face looked washed out. My hair was sticking out at odd angles. All in all, I looked a sight not to be seen so early in the morning.
I pushed aside the acerbic voice wondering how Hassan could stand me, in the mornings and otherwise, when I treated him this way. I didn't have time to think like that, not when my Final Year exams were looming so near. The pre-wedding preparation, the actual wedding, and the honeymoon had all taken up much of my time as it was. Now with only two months left, I had to get back on track on the studying front.
I stepped into the shower and let the jets of water wipe away all other thoughts, except the work that lay ahead.
Four and a half hours and much revision later, I looked up from my seat on the carpeted floor wedged in the space between the coffee table and a large couch. Hassan entered the living room, running a hand through his dishevelled hair and trying to be as quiet as possible.
He turned his attention to me at the cheerful greeting. 'Morning, Rey.'
He came to stand beside the coffee table, which was littered with books, notes, highlighters and two coffee mugs.
'How's the studying going?' he asked thoughtfully.
I concentrated on the notes in my hand and not my shirtless husband. 'Okay. Still have a lot of work left.'
'Good, good.' His voice seemed to come from behind me, so I turned my head to look.
He had climbed onto the couch and stretched out, resting his head on the arm rest. His eyes were closed so I assumed he meant to go back to sleep. I picked up a green highlighter and underlined the important points, deciding to ask him about breakfast later.
Twenty minutes later, I heard movement behind me.
'Don't,' I snapped.
'What? How'd you-?' he asked, confused.
I half-turned around to tell him, 'You can watch TV in our bedroom. I'm studying here.'
His hand was still frozen in mid-motion, fingers lingering above the remote on the side table. Upon seeing the pointed look I shot him, he withdrew his hand but made no move to get off the couch.
'Not even if I mute it?'
'No. It's distracting. I'll end up watching it in the end. And it's hardly any fun for you either, watching without sound. You can just watch it inside, if you want,' I said, not unkindly.
'I don't. Is it too much to ask to want to be in the same room as you?' Hassan said, grimly. 'I swear, I seem to spend more time alone now than before we got married.'
'I...sorry,' I tried to make amends. 'I just thought you'd get bored. Stay if you want to.'
I sighed, not wanting to address the actual issue he'd brought up, and went back to studying.
Hassan simply lay there, in a state midway between wakefulness and sleep, judging from the sound of his breathing. When I leaned against the couch and propped the heavy book against my knees, he absentmindedly began stroking my hair softly.
Normally, I'd have told him to cut it out. But he was right. I was too hostile. I wish I could be the loving wife he deserved, instead of a cranky psychopath I had turned into since our wedding.
His hand dropped onto the sofa several minutes later and I could feel its warmth just behind my neck. His breathing evened out; he must have dozed off. I smiled to myself and began reading out the text softly.
I'd nearly finished the chapter when he stirred. I waited a few minutes while I finished the topic and closed the book.
'Up for some breakfast?' I straightened and tugged down the front of my white and blue kameez.
He sat up and grinned sleepily. 'Sure.'
Hassan made a detour to the front door to retrieve the newspaper and then followed me into the kitchen. He tossed the papers onto the table and came to stand beside me.
'What can I do to help?' he asked eagerly.
'You can just sit there. Away from everything. It's safer this way,' I said gently, with a nod towards the kitchen table. Despite his good intentions, he usually ended up making more of a mess than actually helping. Besides, a shirtless Hassan was more of a distraction than anything else.
He scowled, but nevertheless did as I said. Grabbing a black pen from the pen holder in an alcove housing a few recipe books, he sat down and opened up the comics and games section.
He never bothered reading the front page news or the sports headlines until after he'd finished the Sudoku puzzle. Sometimes we argued over who got to solve that day's Sudoku, but he almost always got to it before I did. This one took him all of five minutes and he threw down the pen triumphantly, a smug look on his face as he moved on to the rest of the papers.
I busied myself preparing breakfast while he read the papers, reading out bits he found interesting.
The doorbell rang while he was recounting a recent suicide bombing in NWFP and his voice trailed off.
'I'll get it,' he said and stood up.
Instead of heading straight for the door, he went to the bedroom first and emerged wearing a grey shirt before answering the door. The doorbell had rung twice more in the meanwhile.
'It's Turan, Rey! No need to let him in, right?' he yelled from the front door after a moment or two.
'Don't be silly, Hassan,' I admonished lightly. 'Don't keep the poor guy waiting.'
He grumbled something I couldn't hear but I heard the door opening and Turan's voice. The dog barked happily, from where he was tied up in the corridor, at seeing the familiar face. They came into the kitchen, bickering playfully all along the hallway.
'Hullo Reyna,' Turan greeted. 'Whatcha cooking?'
'Hey Turan,' I said with a smile. 'It's just eggs and parathas. Want some?'
'Yes, please,' he said excitedly, nodding fervently.
I laughed at his eagerness. He was a frequent visitor; deciding to drop over anytime he fancied a meal.
This had happened so many times; Hassan walked to the fridge and took out more eggs without my asking him to. Handing them over to me, he frowned. 'I honestly don't know why we put up with you. Dropping by at whenever you please. Coming by when you're not welcome. Eating our food-'
Turan cut him off good naturedly, 'I don't see Reyna objecting. You just want all the food to yourself.' Then, as it had just occurred to him, he added more seriously, 'You don't mind, do you, Rey?'
I smiled. 'No, no. It's all good. Do you want an omelette, Turan?'
He nodded at the same time as Hassan, leaning against the counter nearby, complained, 'How come you never ask me what I'd like, Rey?' Then swiftly turning to face Turan, 'You- You get your own wife!'
And with that, he strode out of the room before either of us could say anything.
Turan chuckled as he sat down at the table. I scooped out his omelette onto a plate and placed it before him, along with a paratha.
'What's so funny?'
'Hassan. I've never seen him so riled up at such a small thing,' he said, shaking his head. 'How come you don't you ask me, Rey?' He imitated Hassan and I couldn't help but smile. 'Attention deprived, I tell you. Lost his mind.'
And with that conclusion, Turan proceeded to gobble up his breakfast while I turned the stove off and waited.
I gave him ten minutes to come back before going after him myself. He returned, looking sheepish with his hair damp and changed into jeans and a shirt, just as I was about to leave.
I crossed my arms as he came to stand before me. 'I don't ask you because I know you like your eggs fried and sunny side up. His,' I jerked my head in Turan's direction, 'preference keeps on changing.'
His expression softened. 'Er, sorry about that.'
I lit the stove once again and began cracking eggs for his breakfast when he said in a low voice, that nevertheless carried across the quiet room, ' Look, we need to talk.'
Turan was trying his hardest to pretend he wasn't there. Hassan turned and gave him a look.
Turan immediately got up, having finished his food. 'I'll be going then.'
'Good, about time you realised it,' Hassan said.
'I meant to the living room,' Turan clarified. 'To uh, you know, give you guys a little privacy.'
'Turan!' Hassan growled. His best friend was a little on the oblivious side. It was fine by me if he stayed, but Hassan clearly had some objection.
'You guys talk things out and then we can play a few matches, eh? I need to get back at you for beating me last weekend!'
'Not today, Turan. Some other time. Rey's studying in the living room,' Hassan said, in an exasperated voice.
'Oh. Okay. I'll just go. I know when I'm not wanted,' he joked. 'Bye, Reyna.'
We heard the front door close behind Turan.
I started in on him. 'You didn't have to be so rude to him, Hassan.'
'It's just Turan. He won't mind,' he shrugged.
I flipped a paratha over and brushed against Hassan as I turned towards the eggs.
'Listen, Rey. We seriously need to talk. That is, if you can find time to talk to your husband.'
'It's not like that!'
'Then what is it?'
When I didn't answer, he offered, 'If you really want to make this work, let's go out for lunch. Just you and me, no books or TV or anything.'
'I guess, I can take a study break then,' I said hesitantly, my hand clutching the spatula shaking.
He took the spatula from my hand and encircled my waist with his other arm. 'You go and sit down. I can finish up.'
'O-Okay,' I said weakly and left his side to sit down at my usual place at the table.
Hassan brought the food over and the meal passed in silence.
As soon as I saw Hassan was done eating, I hastily got up from my chair and began gathering up the plates, if only for the sake of doing something. I couldn't remember the last time there has been such an uncomfortable silence between us.
I twisted the faucet at the sink and stared at it in fascination, my thoughts somewhere else entirely. I felt a tug at something in my hand.
Hassan was trying to take the plate from me. 'Here, let me. I'll do the dishes.'
I refused to let go. 'No.'
He continued pulling it out of my hold gently. 'Reyna, it's fine. You can go study.'
'NO!' I jerked it away. And that's when it happened.
I lost control.
Of my temper. Of some semblance of calm. Of the damned plate.
I watched as the plate plummeted to the wooden floor in long drawn out seconds and then shattered upon hitting it. Sometime before it hit the ground, Hassan had swiftly dragged me to one side. The shards flew everywhere, several coming to rest several inches from our bare feet.
I slid to the floor, trying to pick up the pieces, as if that would make everything all right.
His hands drew mine away before I could.
'No, you don't understand. The whole set's ruined. There's supposed to be six. Now there will only be five. The whole set is ruined!' I told him hysterically.
'Reyna, it's okay. It's okay,' he said, concern lacing his voice. 'There's only the two of us anyway. We don't need more plates.'
'You don't understand!' I cried out as he carefully pulled me up by my hands.
'Reyna, it's perfectly all right. Just an accident, nothing else-' he said calmly.
'No, no, no! It's all wrong. Everything's wrong. I'm all wrong. Nothing seems to be right. And your mother hates me,' I choked out, bursting into tears pathetically as everything just spilled out. 'B-Because I don't cook for you. Or take care of you like I should. I should, but I don't. You're always getting takeout and doing the chores and your family comes over and they don't like it. That I study and you go to work and then help with the house work too. And my own family always complains about the same things. How selfish I was. How selfish I am. And I thought things would be different. But they aren't. And now you must hate me. I'm all wrong for this. And you're just miserable. I can tell. I can't stand it! A-And I don't know what to do!'
Somewhere between my sobbing admissions, Hassan had wrapped his arms around me and I had buried my head in his chest.
It was a while before I was done crying but he seemed to understand I wasn't capable of a coherent discussion just then and didn't say a word. He just moved me so that he was half-hugging me with one arm while he stretched out the other one to grab the tissue box from the counter behind him.
'Here,' he offered me the box when I lifted my head.
Embarrassed beyond belief at my outburst, I dried my face and said apologetically, 'I'm better now. Just let me do the dishes from now on.'
'No, you're not,' he contradicted, hugging me closer for a second and then holding me by the shoulders at arm's length.
'Why don't you ever say something? You don't have to keep everything bottled up inside,' he said gently, looking me straight in the eye.
The tears just wouldn't stop coming; a few more slid down my cheeks. 'I...it's just small things. And Sara's too far away; I can't talk to her constantly.'
He sighed. 'If they bug you so much, they're not small things. And I mean, tell me. Not Sara.'
'But I tell her everything and she's the only one who cheers me up-'
'Yes, but that was before. There's a lot of stuff we have to work out on our own. Just you and me. I don't tell Turan every little detail of our life.'
I stared at him. He was so sensible. Why didn't I listen to him more?
He went on, 'Listen to me, Rey. No one hates you. How we go about our lives is nobody's business. Not your family's or mine. You need time to study and if I can make it a little bit easier for you, then why not help around? If I needed someone to do the housework, I'd have hired someone. You're not my servant, you're my wife. And we don't need to explain ourselves to anybody.'
'You're okay with all this?' I gestured helplessly.
'I'm not miserable, no,' he smiled. 'We have our problems, I'll admit. Huge problems. We'll deal with them-'
'I don't have the time! I have to sit my exams soon and I need to pass them. Because of the wedding and everything, I'm not prepared at all! And I don't have the heart to deal with our issues because I'll just get upset and you'll leave me and I won't get my degree and-' I spoke desperately, wanting him to understand. I just needed some time to get used to married life and I wanted to do it after I was done studying.
He looked astonished; he didn't understand at all.
Or maybe he understood a little too well, judging from his next words, 'You're right. Of course. Let's just forget you said anything at all. We'll chalk it up to a momentary lapse of judgment. You go on keeping everything to yourself and let me know when I'm wanted.'
It was probably one of the few times I saw Hassan angry; the first time he was angry at me. I took a step back from him unconsciously and he let go, becoming more furious by the second.
He jerked his thumb in the direction of the sink. 'You know what, you can do the bloody dishes today.'
'Let me make it easier for you, here, now you won't have to worry about the precious set being ruined,' he said suddenly. Before I knew what he meant to do, it was over. He had pulled out the remaining plates out of the sink, and smashed them against the counter. I cringed as two more from the dish rack met the same fate. Blue and white broken pieces littered the floor at his feet.
He looked at me, and backed away, stepping over a jagged piece as he did so. I winced, out of sympathy, but he didn't even react.
'You're bleeding, let me clean-'
'No,' he said stubbornly, turning to leave.
A heartbeat of silence. His shuffling footsteps. Inexplicably weightless, I clutched at the chair for support.
'I guess the lunch's out of the question now,' I said, matter-of-factly.
'I guess so,' he said quietly.
He gave me one long searching look over his shoulder, as if expecting something and then limped out of the room. I tried not to stare at the trail of dark red he left behind.
A door opened and closed softly -Hassan was not one to slam doors unnecessarily- and the TV blared to life. Almost instantly, the volume was turned down but I could still hear snatches of sound.
He didn't bang thing unnecessarily either, except today.
I slumped into a chair and held my head in my hands, glancing every so often at the finished Sudoku grid close by.
It was some time before I stood up, cleaned up the mess, cleared the table, washed the mugs and went back to the empty living room.
A/N: The title- I must have had surgery on my mind recently, that's my excuse. But I think incision part tied in with the 'Papercuts' title and is also the term for the injury Hassan got in this, and the drainage is to drain out the bad stuff remaining, which is what Reyna did with her outburst.