Chapter 1: The Forgotten Date Night (Unpaid)

Sarah looked up at the wall clock again. She watched as the small clock hand gracefully moved towards the number eight.

Late again, she thought to herself.

He said that he was going to be home at six tonight. Sarah bit her lower lip as she reflected quietly.

Maybe he forgot about our date night. I assumed he would just remember.

She let out a loud sigh. It was pointless. Her husband was always forgetting. A feeling of increased tension immediately crept on to her shoulders at the thought of her husband’s irresponsible memory record.

Geez, how hard is it to send a reminder email to himself? Surely there must be a way for him to stop his bad ways. Can’t he just get his act together? He should just…

She suddenly paused. She remembered their marriage counselor, Mrs. Bradley, saying something about not trying to change the other person – that it was a fundamental key to forming a great relationship. She tried to rack her brain for the exact piece of advice.

Oh this is hopeless! She doesn’t know my husband. How can you not try to change someone when they need to change?

The sound of a car door slamming interrupted her thoughts. He’s home!

She jumped up and rushed to the front door. She passed by a full-length mirror and caught a quick glimpse of her outfit: his favorite hijab along with his mother’s specially chosen top from Pakistan. Not her personal choice but she was willing to do anything to make this marriage work after having two kids.

And deep down inside, she knew that she wasn’t just trying for the kids’ sake. She was also tired of feeling lonely in her marriage and longed for a better friendship with her husband.

Sarah heard her husband, Ahmad, stick the key in the door and fumble around to open it. She waited anxiously as he calmly opened the door and walked inside the house.

“Assalamu alaykum,” he said in a deep voice. His gaze set upon her. He looked her up and down, and said nothing.

“wa alaykum assalam,” she replied, opening her arms wider so that he would notice her outfit.

“I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?” he moaned.

“Nothing. I haven’t cooked. We were supposed to have a date night tonight. It’s the third Friday of the month today, remember?” she quickly replied, trying to hide any hint of disappointment in her tone.

“Oh man. Has the time flown that fast? I completely forgot. I’ve been at the office all day trying to crack some new website codes for that big deal I was telling you about. It’s been a long day. Should we order in at that halal joint?”

Sarah flinched. She was sick of being at home. Leaving her career as a doctor to homeschool and raise her two children was a decision that she consciously made for herself, but it definitely had its consequences. Couldn’t he understand the sacrifices she was making? All she was asking for was to spare one night a month!

“Well, I thought we should go out,” she began.

“Yeah but I’m tired,” Ahmad retorted.

“Well, so am I, but maybe if we went to the restaurant we would feel better. You know, get some fresh air and experience a new atmosphere,” she replied, hoping to convince him that he needed to go out as much as she did.

“I can’t be bothered. I’m happy staying at home. Hey, how did Abdullah do on his exam?”

Sarah lowered her shoulders. It seemed like all they ever talked about were the kids.

“Yeah fine,” she muttered, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Great,” Ahmad replied, oblivious to her change in demeanor. “So what did you decide for dinner? Ordering may just be the easy thing for everyone.”

“Yeah whatever,” she muttered again.

“Okay let’s get the usual then. We can spend the night catching up. We don’t need a restaurant to do that for us,” Ahmad said brightly.

Sarah sighed, caught between her feelings of sadness and disappointment. “Yeah, okay. Sure, whatever you want.” She turned away and slowly walked towards the kitchen in defeat.

Eight years gone and two kids later, this was their everyday marriage. Even though she was unhappy, Sarah knew divorce wasn’t an option for her. She always wanted to marry and fall in love, but it seemed like her husband was clueless about how to keep the romance alive.

Her mind wandered as she quietly reminisced about her marriage. The first year was easy. Married life was literally a breeze. She was sure that Ahmad and her would lead a promising relationship together.

They were both university educated, career-driven individuals. She studied to be a pediatrician and continued to work the first four years of their marriage, but when their second child came into the picture, things began to change.

She couldn’t handle a full-time job any longer. It wasn’t about putting in the hours; she could easily do that. But it was managing the guilt that she felt whenever she handed her son, Abdullah, and her daughter, Yasmine, over to her in-laws for babysitting. It didn’t seem right that they were raising her children, especially during these crucial years.

Being at work was double torture. She always felt a stab of pain when her little patients smiled happily at their mothers who were dutifully by their sides.

After much deliberation, Sarah made the difficult choice to leave her career and dedicate herself to her family as a full-time stay-at-home mother. This was a hard decision for her, but she didn’t regret it, not all the time at least.

Ahmad was supportive. He came from a traditional Pakistani background where the males were generally the main breadwinners, but he liked that Sarah worked, and it was what initially attracted him to her.

He wanted an educated woman who could contribute to the family welfare. Yet, after the birth of Yasmine, he secretly desired for a better home life for his children. When Sarah mentioned that she was considering leaving her job to stay at home, he whole-heartedly agreed and promised to take on the role of the sole provider.

Sarah was definitely happy with spending more time with her children, but the dynamic in her relationship transformed with her husband in the process. Her annoyance at his flaws grew now that she had the time to pay attention to them, and her ability to be patient and control her irritation when he let her down was at an all-time low. Managing two children was hard enough as it was, and she didn’t have the willpower to raise her husband along with them.

Ahmad followed her into the kitchen.

“Where’s the menu? What do you want to order?”

“Whatever. I don’t care,” Sarah said, avoiding his eyes.

“What’s with you? Just tell me what you want.”

To go to the restaurant, she thought to herself.

“Nothing. Whatever. I’m fine. I’m not hungry anymore,” she said stubbornly, half-hoping that he could read her mind.

Ahmad slammed the menu on the table. “You’re going through one of those moods again! It’s so annoying. You’re ruining our night.”

Sarah felt her cheeks get hot as her anger rose. “Me?!” she gasped. “You’re the one who forgot about tonight. AGAIN!” she stressed the last word in a sarcastic tone.

Ahmad could barely contain himself. “I’ve been working all day. How am I supposed to remember some stupid date night with all the responsibilities I have? What do you have to worry about when you’re at home all day – which detergent to use for the laundry?”

That was it. Forget the marriage counselor. Sarah exploded.

“It has nothing to do with your work responsibilities. When I was working, I could remember the kids’ needs, a date night, and a lot more than that. My job was more stressful than yours. All you do is write website codes. Maybe if you applied yourself better, you could write a memo to yourself and be less forgetful.”

Ahmad angrily pushed his chair back and stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the door harshly behind him.

“I’m just trying to help!” Sarah yelled out behind him. She felt the urge to cry but held back her tears with every ounce of strength possible.


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