This is an ongoing, ever-evolving piece of fiction. There’s a list of “episodes” at the bottom of the post if you’d like to start at the beginning. Not into fiction? Want to read my personal writing instead? Check out my first ebook: Becoming Tasoni.
When we last left our friends, they were at the cusp of a perilous conversation.
But first a recap for all you new fans out there.
Jane, a Coptic woman in her late 20s, is dating a doctor named Shane. Not Coptic. Atheist. Maybe agnostic. Maybe lapsed something else. They don’t talk about it. She doesn’t know.
On the other hand, she’s a Sunday school servant in her local church, with a brother (John) whose love life is a mess in its own way, and parents who can still get overbearing sometimes. (Let’s just say although they all live in the same city, Jane and John each have an apartment away from the family home.)
After an awkward start, Jane tells her brother John about Shane who initially grills her about his background but quickly settles down to learn just how she got herself into this mess.
Before she gets a chance to figure out her feelings and desires, her father catches a glimpse of fairly innocent but clearly loving texts from Shane and confronts her over dinner. At the very end of the last episode, we hear her father asking flat-out, “Who is Shane?”
“What did you do, ya Murad…” Jane’s mother murmurs sorrowfully shaking her head.
“What! What did I do, ya Manal?” Jane’s dad pushes his chair back from the dining table.
“You drove our daughter out!”
“I just asked the questions a father is entitled to ask! What would you have me do seeing as your daughter is wandering around with an agnaby*! Is that respectable!”
“Oh dad, dad,” John gets up shaking his head.
“And you! Some older brother you turned out to be! You knew and didn’t say anything!”
“I just found out recently. But dad, Jane’s a good girl. She wouldn’t–” John trails off.
“Wouldn’t, huh? We were all good little boys and girls, weren’t we?! Nothing to worry about,” Jane’s father gets up and tucks his chair in so hard it rattles the dishes. “Well, I have a board meeting at the church. We have a situation. Situation at church. Situation at home.”
He walks off grumbling. “All I said was who is this guy, and they all attack me! Mazlom ana*! Who’s going to ask if not me!”
He slams the door shut as he leaves John and his mother to stare at each other.
With a loud sigh, Jane’s mother looks up at her only son and says, “Check on her, will you? Make sure she drove home safely.”
I’m more worried about dad, John thinks, as he dutifully sends a text to his sister.
Sure enough, an hour later, emptying the dishwasher for his mom, John’s phone rings.
In the midst of a heated discussion with the board, his father nearly collapsed. The doctors on the board attended to him (there were two of them), and it was agreed they should drive him to the hospital, just in case.
“Meet us there,” the uncle murmurs through the phone line.
As John pulls on his shoes and settles his mother and her frozen face in the passenger seat, he wonders to himself, When did my life turn into a mosalsal*?
“Have we gotten that old, Murad, that you would think to leave me?” Manal leans over the hospital bed and brushes strands of hair off his forehead. “Ya 3adra*!”
“I would never,” he replies. He sits up supported by pillows, with an IV in one arm, and monitors beeping intermittently.
John stands awkwardly to the side witnessing this unusually public tenderness between his parents. He’s turning his phone his hand wondering when the right time to text Jane is and how to word it.
Although the doctors assure them everything is fine, seeing his father like this is too much for John. He isn’t ready to be man of the house. He isn’t interested in being man of the house. That’s dad’s job.
He steps out of the room to call Jane from the waiting room when he runs into her coming through the double doors at the end of the hall.
As Jane spots John, she begins to motion wildly with her hands, her hair flying, absolutely livid.
“You didn’t call me! Dad went into the hospital, and you didn’t call me?! What were you thinking??”
“I was thinking, ‘My father is in the hospital.’ I was thinking, ‘I hope mom doesn’t faint.’ I was just coming out to call you anyway,” John’s eyes narrow, all the fear of the last three hours coalescing into anger to mirror her mood. “What were YOU thinking, Jane, dating a guy for months without considering the long term effects to this family! What were you thinking trying to hide the relationship from mom and dad!”
“That’s cruel, John!! I am not the reason dad is in the hospital!!”
“You need to figure out your priorities, Jane, and fast.” John lurches forward to leave the room, but Jane grabs his arm.
“Don’t you ever get lonely?? Don’t you consider going back to just dating around?” Jane pleads.
“Of course I do. But I know exactly what I want out of life now, and I’m not wasting any time with half-hearted relationships.”
“Shane is a great guy.” Jane’s eyes bore into her brother’s.
“You keep saying that. Where is he right now? Did you tell him dad’s in the hospital? Or are you still keeping that wall between your two lives. Cool Jane and Religious Jane. Which one will win out in the end, I wonder?”
He jerks his arm away and walks out.
Jane’s mom has opened the door and spots her.
Jane turns to her mom, her face in anguish. “Is he in there?”
Her mom nods and pulls open the door.
Jane rushes in.
(to be continued)
*agnaby = foreigner
*mazlom = unfairly blamed
*mosalsal = telenovela = soap opera
*Ya 3adra = Madre de Dios = the Virgin
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