|I knew something was wrong when Suri stopped taking my calls. I had known Suri since we were toddlers. She didn't speak English back then but we communicated as only little kids can.
"I am to marry." I didn't understand when she told me. I asked the sort of questions you would of a western woman - who, when, how, why? "It is arranged." I didn't know then the implications of that statement. My best friend was to marry a man she had met only once. He was considerably older but he was wealthy and that seemed like the only necessary qualification.
The wedding, three months ago, was an elaborate affair spread over several days. Since then I had seen less and less of my friend. First there was the month long honeymoon in Pakistan. I anticipated the return of a tanned, excited bride anxious to regale me with photos and tales of her former homeland. What I got were excuses.
I ran into Suri last week in the supermarket. I almost walked past the figure wrapped from head to toe in black. What happened to those bright almond eyes I had known all these years. Now they were dead eyes looking from that tiny slit.
"Don't." Her eyes were down. She looked from side to side. "Must go." She hurried away. What was happening to her? I tried my best to understand but I was walking in the dark.
It's Thursday today. Every Thursday Suri and I would breakfast in the little cafe near the bus station. Then I would hop on my bus and go to my job in the next town over. Suri would be waiting when I got off the bus later and we would get a chicken dinner before seeing the latest movie.
I went to the cafe this morning in the hope she would be there. I waited an hour then I went to leave. The black figure hovered by the door. As I reached her she looked away but I felt her hand place the slip of paper in my pocket.
Two simple words that said it all. Of course I would help, but how? I didn't know what was happening to her. Well, I knew she was being controlled but how? I thought about who I could ask, who would understand? The Imam? No, he would see nothing wrong. The police? They're probably just as ignorant as I am.
Instead of going to work I went to the library. An English translation of the Koran explained the wearing of the burka. Protecting of modesty, okay, I get that. But why the fear? Was that an Islamic thing? Or was it simple abuse? If Suri was scared to talk to me how could I help?
My understanding of her situation came from a TV program this evening, 'The Handmaid's Tale'. Everything that was happening to my friend was there on the screen. The man my friend had married saw her as an object to be owned, a slave, a baby-making machine. And all in the name of God. Or should I say Allah.
I had to get her away from this man. But to do so could put her life at risk, and possibly my own. It would take planning and not a little cash, but better to walk in the dark with my friend than to walk alone in the light.