It was my twenty-second birthday. I had never conceived the thought of being a mother of two at this age. In high school, I was known for being a feminist, an advocate for what I had called “unmanned independence.”

“Zainab and her husband are coming for dinner tonight, said, Hassan while checking on the fading charcoal on his hookah.

I hated him with passion, but the kids loved him because he bought for them everything they wished for. I tried to escape from his possessiveness, his chauvinistic nature, but I realized that things would be worse in my childhood home. Someone knocked on the door and I was unprepared to open it. Hassan never opened the door for guests, even if they were just men. He was never jealous because he thought I was ugly.

“Well, hi, Zainab!” as she gracefully walks into my house. “Come on in, Ahmed,” said Zainab as she sharply looks at me, “Zainab is covered.”

“Is this part of your growing scheme? You have gained so much weight, didn’t you?”

I slowly looked down at her shoes only to find that they were mine. She was jealous of me ever since we were school mates. That’s how I met her brother. I hated every bit of her voice and toxic soul. I despised them all. Hassan forcefully patted Zainab’s husband on the back as he brought another hookah to the living room. “I hope Chelsea wins this time!” yelled Zainab’s husband. I was alone with Zainab. It was an awkward encounter. All she did was tease me about how much my children looked like her brother.

She used to be my best friend. We grew apart when I became her brother’s wife. I don’t miss her. I don’t miss her ill spirit. I was just jealous of her because she did not deserve to be treated like a queen. She is a beast. Her husband did not know it. “So tell me, how did you gain all that weight. Are you expecting?” I quickly poured sugar into her tea and sat down.

“Drink your tea, Zainab,” I said. I don’t know how I usually contain myself around her and her brother. They have the same ghostly spirit.

Hassan let out a big roar as he was jeering for his team.

“The bastards lost!” Zainab’s husband shyly looked at me. Hassan always swore, even in front of the children. “Yes, the bastards lost!” said Zainab. For years, I was in the captivity of their dreams and expectations. I wished this were all a nightmare. I was the brainchild of their narcissism. It was Hassan’s fault; he blindly listened to his sister.

As Zainab walked over to her husband, she sat on his lap and reached out for the hookah. I quickly took my children to my room and put on the television.

“Your wife is not kind to her guests,” said Zainab. She was so loud that I heard the echoes of her unpleasant and squeaky voice in my room. “She is not hospitable,” added Zainab.

I could not contain myself anymore. I was engulfed with anger. I was inflamed. I had the last straw. I ran out of patience.

I quickly and unconsciously put Ziad in bed and ran over to the living room. I felt the rush, the adrenaline, as if I was still part of my track team in high school. I felt the tense air amalgamate into the apple flavor of the hookah.

I forcefully reached out for the hookah. I held it up high and dropped it on the floor. I stepped on the shattered glass with my feet so hard that the glass came through my slippers. I started to bleed. “You too! I am not going to let you step all over me again. Five years is enough.” I felt like my high school spirit was back. I saw my shattered fear disappear with the crumbled glass.

“Mama!” screamed Ziad.

“Mama, come.”

I quickly ran over to my room only to see my son’s face covered in blood. With the instinct of a mother, I staggeringly carried my son into the living room. I had never felt this sense of urgency before. I had never felt like I needed Hassan.

“Hassan, Ziad is bleeding so badly! Let’s take him to the hospital!”

“The bastard broke my trophy!” said Hassan as he entered my room. “How dare he?!” Ziad’s fading features were still vivid and I could see in him the face of his father in the hospital room.

I hated Hassan even more. I saw Hassan’s face. Everything became muffled, it felt like a dream.

“Wake up, Najlaa, it’s me, your mom. We took you to the hospital.” Hassan quickly lit a cigarette and started smoking.

“You fainted and now you’re feeling better. Let’s go, your kids are waiting for you.” said Hassan. My mother quickly let go of my hand.

Hassan tried to hold my hand to accompany me to the car.

“Let go of me!” I said. I was back; back to his captivity, to his greed, to his hateful face. I felt it all, my high school track spirit, my adrenaline rush, my contained courage. I was back, to the love-hate relationship, to a life filled with empty dreams.

I was back, back to the broken glass, Zainab and the nasty hookah. I was back, to the husband that I wholeheartedly despised.

I was back…