A woman slave is set free and learns to love.
| After a month, Mahtab was fully recovered and radiated with health. The doctor wished he could give her some drug to make her ill enough to stay, but he also wanted to see her healthy and free.
"Congratulations, Mahtab! You can get out of the hospital today!" Her eyes looked wildly at him but she tried to put on a facade. "Do you want me to call someone and let them know you are okay and can leave?"
"No, "she said in a barely audible tone.
"Do you want me to take you back to your home?, " Dr. Azizi insisted.
"No," she said in a wilder, louder tone.
"Do you have a home?"
"If that is what you call it."
"Please, Mahtab. You must tell me. I can help you." He closed the door and locked it. He sat down. She looked out of the window to the distance. Her voice trembled, "I was brought here from my homeland. Cut away from my family. Sold to my husband, a horrible old man. I had children, but he sold the girls and sent the sons to work before he died. I don't know where they are. He died and I am at the mercy of his brother. I had been living at his brother's tent. His brother is worse. He lusts for me. He raped me several times. His wife wants to kill me. I am nothing. But I wish to see my children again. That is what keeps me strong. Maybe I can work. I have no education. I can't read. I am alone, but God is with me. God is my witness, and I am looking for the day I die to meet my Maker."
The doctor stood up and with tears in his eyes he took her hand, "My dear. Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I didn't want you to find my brother-in-law. I don't want you to go near him. He is a wicked monster, just as his brother was."
"Please Mahtab, please, marry me, and I can make all of this evil go away. I can protect you."
"Don't. You will be hurt or killed."
"I will take that risk for you." He looked at her gently face to face, eye to eye. He felt strength arise in him. Suddenly he felt her body go limp in his arms. He lay her weak body onto the bed and kissed her forehead.
He unlocked the door and went straight to the nurses station. He ordered Mahtab to stay and put the ward on lockdown. No one in and no one out until he came back. He called his friend, Naseer, at the police station and told him this situation and his plan. The friend said he would offer all the help he could. In one hour there would be a brigade of police at his service. The doctor went to his bank and withdrew a significant amount of money. He got paper and pen and wrote this contract:
This is to acknowledge that Dr. Emir Azadi has bought Mahtab for the sum of __ million afghani. After this purchase no member or affiliate of her deceased husband's family can revoke this purchase or harrass Mahtab or her children. They promise never to contact her again.
He would try with peaceful means to buy her though he loathed the idea of "buying" her, but he would give her her freedom; though he longed for her to stay and love him, but he would not oppress her.
Why was he getting himself involved? He could have any woman in this country with his money and power, but her innocent eyes filled with tears could bring him to his knees. He thought it ironic that he was buying her, but yet he was her slave.
He walked to the police department. His friend and their company were waiting. He told them of his plan. He would go in a bargain for the woman, but if events turned sour, the police would be called in. Yet he was afraid that with force there would be retribution.
"Oh no!" he said aloud when he realized he didn't know the address. He would have to take Mahtab. He went back up to the ward. He told the nurses lockdown was over and Mahtab could be released. They dressed her in her tattered clothes and the doctor's blood boiled as he heard the nurses talk about her clothes and how poor and uneducated she was. He thought how lucky he was to have Mahtab as his charity case. He noticed the burn marks and slashes on her arms. He would kiss those scars away.
She was now dressed in her tattered blue burqa, He saw the fear in her eyes. As he walked her out of the ward, he whispered, "Everything will be okay, inshallah. You will be free, and you will see your children again."
Many of the nurses and some of the younger doctors were lining the hallways and whispering in confusion, but Dr. Azadi did not think of his reputation. His mind was focused on how to get Mahtab out of her terrible situation. He walked out of the hospital slightly in front of her and led her to the back seat of the police car, the one which his friend sat in the driver's seat. After settling her comfortably in the back seat, he sat in the front seat, and upon closing the car door he asked Mahtab to lead them to her brother-in-law. At first Mahtab was reluctant and mumbled over and over that she was afraid for the doctor's life, but Dr. Azadi reassured her that he had the police with them, and they would be protected.
Eventually Mahtab directed them to the city's northwestern slums. Without getting out the car, she instructed the doctor which abode was her brother-in-law's. It was not a tent nor a house, just makeshift walls with a tin roof. The police stopped a considerable distance and spread out so as not to draw attention. Mahtab pointed to the group of tents and makeshift houses. Her hand trembled as she pointed the way, and once again she pleaded with the doctor not to go. His life was important. Hers wasn't. If she died or lived it would make no difference in this world. The doctor looked at her sternly and said it would make a difference to him and her children.
There upon Naseer understood the nature of this visit and how important it would be to help his friend in this struggle.
The doctor and Naseer got out of the car. The friend changed into plain clothes and commanded another officer to look after Mahtab, not to let her out and to watch out for trouble. Mahtab watched as their two figures vanished among the poor populations of women buying and selling vegetables, men loitering and smoking, boys running in and out of people on the streets and girls carrying water or younger siblings in their arms.
Mahtab sat helplessly but remembered her strength. She prayed. Dear God All Powerful, our lives are in your hands. Protect the doctor and his friend. If he is successful, I swear I will be grateful to him and to you. I will be your servant and help others as you have helped me. Amen, ya rabbal alamin.
The doctor went toward the tin roof that Mahtab had pointed out. He inquired where he could find Ahardaj. They found him in the makeshift shelter and called for permission to enter. Ahardaj agreed for them to enter. His frail, dark wife sitting hunched over, turned her back as they stooped to enter. Ahardaj was the epitome of greed: obese, greasy and lazy-looking with active eyes looking for chance.
Doctor Azadi spoke up, "Hello, I am Dr. Azadi from provincial hospital. I have come to purchase a woman from you. Her name is Mahtab."
"Mahtab? I thought she was dead. She didn't come back."
"No, she was very ill. She says she is your slave. I want to purchase her to use as my housekeeper. If you agree, seeing she is not a virgin and is somewhat old and ill, I will give you 2 million."
"She is somewhat old and used, but Hey Hey she is still useful in bed," Ahardaj snickered wickedly.
"Sir, I have come to use her for working purposes only. I have my wife and family. She is no use to me in that respect. I am a busy man."
"You think so, but she is wicked. She will use you, and you will want her when you see her."
"What is your price then?"
"That is a hefty price for a woman who is no use to you."
"That is the price I could get for her body parts."
The doctor could barely contain himself with anger. "We will make our final offer: 4.5 million. Take it or leave it," the doctor said as he made his way toward the exit.
"I'll take it. The wench is no use to me. Just another mouth to feed."
"Here is the contract."
" I can't read. You read it for me."
"I Ahardaj agree to sell Mahtab to Dr. Azadi..." and you agree never to trouble me or Mahtab or any of her children, or you will face the death penalty by law."
"Hmm. I agree."
"The doctor reluctantly reached out his hand to shake with Ahardaj. He felt the sickening, greasy, sweaty palm against his.
Ahardaj signed the contract after the doctor, and the doctor handed him the money. Ahardaj's wife snorted from beneath her hijab, a snort revealing disgust, happiness and regret.
The doctor gave a copy of the contract to Ahardaj and took a photo of the interaction. He bid adeiu to the filthy man and his wife and left the tent with his friend by his side.
"So, dear friend, you have a slave, what are you going to do?"
" I loathe the thought that I had to buy her. Would that I could buy her with my love for her, that I could be her slave."
"My dear fellow. All this for a woman. Have you gone mad?"
"Perhaps. But the first thing I will do is set her free. We are all slaves to Allah. Now one is better than anyone else. Then I am going to reunite her with her children; even though she may have hatred for her dead husband, a woman always loves her children. She can do whatever she likes, and I will help her stand again."
"Dear friend. You have the most beautiful heart."
" I must do what is right. This is right."
They went back to the police car. Mahtab sat silently with her eyes closed. She was afraid for what might happen.
As he opened the door he said, "My dear Mahtab. You are free." He took out paper and pen from his pocket and wrote in big, visible letters, ' I, Dr. Azadi, have this day bought Mahtab for 6 million.... at this moment, I am setting her free.' He signed and dated the decree, noting the time also.
"Here Mahtab, take it. But if you take it, please know you are taking my heart with it."
"Agha, I am not an educated woman. I have never known freedom, only as a child, but I want to say I owe you my life. I will do anything for you.If you tell me to poke out my two eyes, I will do it."
"Mahtab, I just want you to be free and happy. Since it is difficult for you and you have no place to go, you can come to my house. I have a little house on my property. You can live there in peace while you recover. I will not bother you."
"Please Agha, do not talk so sternly. Whatever you want, I will do."
"No Mahtab! You must think what you want. Not what I want. You are free. I will get a tutor for you. You can learn to read, and in the meantime, we will find your children."
Upon hearing this, Mahtab sobbed profusely from under her burqa.
Dr. Azadi's heart melted.
Naseer drove them to the doctor's house. Dr. Azadi kissed his friend one time on each cheek and opened the door for Mahtab. Mahtab stepped out and looked up at the clear blue sky. She took a deep breath. She followed Dr. Azadi as he led her to a small house to the side of his garden. There were roses and other flowers she had never seen before. She breathed in the fresh air. He opened the door for her. She looked inside. There was a cloth sofa with a hand-woven rug laid out in front of it. to the side there was a room and a bathroom. There was a small kitchen with cabinets and a bowl of fruit on a small wooden table with other foodstuffs to each side of the fruit bowl.
"This was my housekeeper's house, but since she got married, no one has lived here. You can live her under my protection." He asked her if she needed anything. Even though she was hungry, thirsty and tired, she replied that she had more than she needed. He closed the door and went to pray his afternoon prayers before he ate his lunch. With every bow, his heart felt light. He had done his best to help Mahtab and had succeeded. God was on his side. He felt it.
His cook had prepared his meal. He sat down lonely in his dining room wishing Mahtab was there to eat with him, but he reminded himself that he would not bother her, just protect her. But he kept wondering if she was hungry and if she had everything she needed, so he got up and went to the garden house to check on Mahtab. He looked and saw that Mahtab had passed out on the sofa, exhausted. He softly opened the door and knelt by her side, "Mahtab, Mahtab please get up and come and dine with me."
Mahtab got up in a startle, confused by her surroundings.
"It's going to be okay, Mahtab. Please come and eat something in my house."
She put on her veil and followed him into the house. He introduced her to the cook and the housekeeper as his distant cousin who had come for help after her husband died.
He ordered them to obey her commands, but he knew she was not the type to command. They set a plate for her at the other end of the table, but he went to sit next to her. Just sitting next to her made his heart beat faster. She started the conversation, "Agha, where is your family? Just you live by yourself in such a big house?"
"Yes, my wife divorced me years ago. She didn't like living here with all the wars, but I felt it was my duty to stay. She was nice, but became very greedy and demanding. She lives in America now with my two children. Well, they are all grown, not children anymore.
"Agha, do you miss her?"
"I can't say that I miss her, but I miss having a woman near me. This house needs a mistress," with this he looked at her and gazed into her eyes and felt himself fall into the deep sea of her eyes. His heart felt as if it skipped beats. Time seemed to stand still in that instance. He wanted to hold her hand, to pull her into his arms, but he smiled instead.
"Agha, you are a good man, are you not? Why didn't you get another wife?"
"I am busy with my work. Many women don't understand that. I didn't think about marrying again, until you came into my life." He stole another glance. Instead of looking away, she stared straight at him and asked directly, "Agha, why do you like me? I am used and filthy."
"No Mahtab. You are clean. Others have tried to make you filthy, but you are clean still. You are an angel sent straight to me. I love you. I kiss the ground you walk upon. Others tried to drag you down, but you are destined to do great things. God is with you. I have this feeling."
"Agha, if you feel this way, I will do whatever you say. I will study. I will help others. I will learn to love."
"Can you learn to love me?"
" I do not know exactly what love feels like, but I often think this feeling I have for my children, to give everything I have to see them happy, this should be what love is, and if that is love, then, yes, I think you will be easy to love."
"I know I promised to give you freedom and not bother you, but having you so near to me is burning inside me. Will you marry me? I will protect you forever."
"If you so desire, Agha, I will agree."
"Please, Mahtab. Do not agree out of duty. Please agree out of my love for you."
"Agha, I do not understand why you say you love me, but if it makes you happy for me to be here with you, then I agree to marry you."
The doctor got up. He was shaking all over and was drenched in sweat. He went out to the garden and picked a single rose and brought it back to Mahtab. He wanted to make up for all the terrible things that had happened to her. He wanted to do everything right for her.
"With this rose I promise to love and make you happy forever. I will prepare the wedding at once."
Mahtab took the rose and went slowly and quietly back to the garden house, trying to absorb all that had happened in this one day.
The doctor first called the hospital to divert his patients to other doctors and to ask for a week off. He called Naseer to tell him the good news. He called his lawyer to change his will. He called his two older sisters to have them help with arrangements.
The sisters came immediately and ordered sweets, music, and caterers. They took Mahtab to buy clothes and wedding outfits. They wondered and worried if this woman would be suitable for their brother, but Mahtab's simplicity,sincerity and gratefulness won them over.
In two days the wedding was ready. They had invited guests and on Thursday night their small cirlce of acquaintances and friends came to the house decorated and overflowing with happiness. Mahtab in her long-sleeved white, western--style wedding dress sat quietly in a chair as a pearl sits in an oyster.
Doctor Azadi stood up and proclaimed, "Whatever happened before doesn't matter. A new day begins! A new chapter in both of our lives. I am honored to have this woman agree to be my wife. I am unworthy, but she has looked beyond my faults. I am asking everyone to pay respect to her as you do me." The Imam read the nuptials and rituals with verses from the Quran. They were officially married. Afterwards the celebration with food and music began, and with the music, the dancing began. Dr. Azadi went up to his bride, "Please, will you dance with me." "I am sorry Agha, I do not know how."
"Just stand up and hold on to me closely." She stood up and he held her close. He forgot about everyone else there. He could only think of her. Just her. Ahardaj was right. He was under her spell. He didn't notice the time had passed so quickly. His friends interrupted his dancing with their farewells. He asked them to excuse him from seeing them off properly. They laughed and joked with him and told him to wait a few months later and things would be different as new love slowly wore down. He ignored their jokes and kept dancing slowly holding Mahtab long after the musicians had stopped playing. His sisters sent off the last guests and made the crude remark to him to stop dancing and take his bride to his room to consummate the marriage. But even though this was the body he had once touched during surgery, he dared not touch her pristine body as they were suggesting. She was after all his precious pearl locked up for years and piled with dirt until she shone. He dismissed the housekeeper and the cook, and locked the door, looking at Mahtab standing there in the middle of the living room.
He spoke up, "My darling bride, this house is yours, I am yours. I do not expect anything from you. Please don't feel you must sleep with me tonight. It is enough to have you in front of me."
"But Agha, I am your wife now. I owe you everything. I am willing to sleep with you as your wife Agha, as you wish."
"Really, I am not worthy of you, Mahtab. I am scared of God's punishment if I cause you any harm"
"No, Agha, you have acted righteously, and Allah will reward you with children from me, inshallah.
"But your body is weak. I have no wish other than your happiness."
"Agha, let us go to your bedroom as husband and wife. There is no sin in our act. God is our witness."
He took her hand and gently led her to his bedroom where they found tea and sweets prepared at the nightstands next to the bed covered in rose petals.
He turned to her and held her in his arms. "I just want to hold you, nothing more."
She smiled sweetly and said, "Agha, men have their needs too. Let me help you. She unbuttoned his shirt and helped him take it off. She sat him on the edge of the bed and went around to massage his shoulders. He hadn't felt a woman's touch like this in fifteen years. He turned around and drew her lips to his. He hadn't remembered the taste of his ex-wife's lips, but he was sure he would remember Mahtab's. She took off his glasses and kissed his eyes repeatedly. He looked into her eyes and held back tears as he said, "I am sorry all those bad things happened to you, but I am glad you are here now with me."
He helped her out of her wedding gown. In the soft light he saw the burn marks and other scars on her body. He kissed everyone wanting to make them disappear with his kiss. He gazed upon her naked body and swore if he were a painter, he would paint this moment for eternity.
After they had completed the consummation of marriage, he lay next to her, holding her in the stillness, in his heart thanking God over and over for her. He never thought he could ever feel this way. Now he understood all the words to every silly love song. It all made sense now. He had for once let his heart rule over his head and he liked the refreshing feeling love brought.
"Mahtab? Thank you. I am your slave forever. Are you alright? Are you happy?"
"I am happy Agha. I feel at home. I feel this is where God wants me to be. Thank you Agha. You show me what is means to be loved. My first husband came and took what he wanted. He never talked to me. He never said he loved me. Just in and finished and then he hated me when children came. He beat me hoping the child inside of me would die. But all things worked as God planned. I pray I may have your children."
" I am so old to have young children."
"Children made in love are gifts. God will bless us. I am sure. Now let's get up, bathe and recite our morning prayers. There is much work to do." Mahtab's fear had been slowly fading away, and now this vibrant determined soul emerged.