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Upended

A perpetual wave of anxiety washed over my entire body and although my arms and legs remained stationary it seemed as if I was no longer standing. Uncontrollable sobbing and gasps for air eked their way out as I struggled to remain upright. This was the moment I had been dreading and now my fears had been realized. Hurried footsteps plodded down the stairs and a small thin figure appeared before me. Foof was now a woman, no longer the feisty little girl who ran the length of the compound scraping knees, refusing to brush her hair or wear socks. The phone was taken forcefully from my hands, the call was ended and the device tossed to the couch.  An imposing and formidable entity towered over me, holding my hands, pulling me forward.  In a determined tone I was reminded that years of abuse were not love and that we were now safe and free. I struggled to stay standing in a rumpled heap of confusion and sick silence. I had assumed this day would come and yet it felt like another unimaginable blow to my very core. I mouthed the words to her finding no way to actually state the obvious. She shook her head and told me it was better this way, his marriage was now real and we could quit worrying.

The news of his second wife had thrown me off, bringing new symptoms of anxiety and panic.  After years of dutiful service it had come to this, a woman and possibly a family. I did my best to move forward and told myself that I was no longer married, a piece of paper meant nothing and I was not part of this insanity. I wavered between two directions making an effort to accept what I could not change and was unable to legally extricate myself from and the unstoppable fury that took hold when I realized I had been thrust into a life of polygamy.

On good days a new kind of happiness and freedom brought a measure of relief. A cessation of phone calls, emails and stalking made room for other emotions that had been stifled by fear and tyranny.  Preoccupied with his bride, a well-educated divorcee 18 years his junior, he no longer had time or energy to deal with our family.  He offered to buy a home and resume financial support and I reluctantly agreed.

I knew the incessant nature of this lifestyle and had watched numerous friends in Saudi as they accepted a string of wives and children. Each time they grew more distant until they eventually withered away and became a shell of duty, a facade of piety. The journey seemed never ending, filled with degradation and shame.

No amount of scrubbing, cooking, shopping or laughing would remove the stain of humiliation that now tarnished my daily life. I found myself in a state of constant upheaval that would not abate. I had come this far and now once again it seemed I had no control over my own life. I went to bed at night thinking about him and his wife, about their future and a possible family that might be formed. The rage and disbelief that lay concealed amongst anguish and sorrow continued to plague me until it finally spilled over into nightly dreams.

A golden light enclosed the scene and a foreshadowing of what was to come. She was soft and gentle, everything I felt I was not. She sat silently, her dark hair flowing gracefully over back and shoulders. A self-assured expression traced with purity and light, a welcoming smile crossed her face as she played cards with my children. Her Maroon sweater fit snugly around her belly exposing what had been hidden for four months. The idea of a new baby had been nagging at my brain since I was made aware of his marriage and was the hardest part of this new situation. I could not imagine my husband of 30 years marrying someone other than me or having a baby with another woman.

I woke from this foreboding dream with renewed strength and determination, knowing that it was time to have an answer.

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