Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part story. In part one, the protagonist, Zohra, a new mother living in her in-laws’ abusive home, feels alone. She goes to work and comes home to a harsh household where her earnings are taken from her and she is beaten by her husband.

Zohra would cry night after night, hoping things would get better, but each day was worse.

She was, however, an independent and caring young woman. She tried not to think about the darkness in her life and told herself she had to be patient. She felt that the small hands of her sweet daughter could help her have a good life. But she wondered why her husband would let her work outside the home, yet be so cruel to her.

She shared her stories with her colleagues at work, who would ask, “How can he let you come to the office?” Zohra began to wonder if there was something going on. Was it her husband’s love?

One day she had a bad argument with her husband and she left the house in shame. He had sneered and slammed the door. Outside in the road, she remembered her daughter was still upstairs sleeping, but she wiped the tears from her face, raised her arm for a taxi, and told the driver to drop her at her mother’s house.

Weeping, she hugged her mother. Her mother asked what had happened. Zohra told the whole story. She stayed there all day, imagining what her daughter might be doing. She hoped her husband would come and take her back home. No one came for six hours until her younger brother-in-law arrived. He gave her a smile that said they did not want to lose her.

Zohra’s sister’s husband went with her to her in-laws’ house. When they arrived she found that the money that was in her bag was gone. She now knew the secret, that the family allowed her to work because they wanted her earnings. She felt scattered, but she knew that her office was one place where she could be comforted and feel independent.

As the days went by, Zohra had good days and bad days, but always prayed to her Allah for patience and kindness towards others.

When her daughter was nearly three, Zohra’s younger brother-in-law got engaged and a month later was married. She thought that now she would have someone who would understand and support her; another wife in the house.

There is a saying in Dari: Zanhai ewar hech waqtai jor na mai ayand—”Two wedded brothers’ wives never manage to stay in one house and live a comfortable life.”

The new wife, Mariam, did not follow Afghan cultural customs of hospitality and greetings. Zohra always did what her in-laws told her to do, but Mariam never bothered. Zohra would welcome guests and be kind to them, while Mariam stayed in her room until the guests left. Zohra always behaved the way her in-laws and husband wanted her to behave. Mariam did what she wanted.

As time passed Zohra noticed changes in her own husband. Had he begun to realize that his brother didn’t beat Mariam, even though she was at fault? Zohra’s husband shouted at Zohra, but the younger brother didn’t say a single rude word to Mariam. The small things took on meaning for Zohra’s husband. He loved Zohra. They married because they loved each other.

He was disappointed that their life wasn’t what they had dreamed of or had promised each other. Zohra was an essential part of his life. He saw that he couldn’t just be rude and selfish. His parents were rude but she treated them kindly because of her husband. Zohra was his life partner. She was the sweetest person in his life. His behavior completely changed. He stopped beating her.

Now Zohra is happy because they are planning their life together. Her husband even allows her to raise her voice if she gets upset about something. Although he expects Zohra to respect his parents, she feels that if she has the support of her husband, she can cope with all the cruel and harsh people on earth, including her in-laws. What she needs is the shoulder of her husband. Zohra is happy that her patience won and life is now as sweet as it should be.

Zohra and her husband want to separate from his family and raise their daughter in peace. It is possible that they might be able to gain support from her family to leave the region or country, or move to India. Instead of crying tears of sorrow, now Zohra cries tears of joy.

By Pakiza