Aleppo Wedding Chapter 5

The next girl was called Ranya, and the proceedings were almost identical except that in this case one of his sisters had been to school with one of hers. The chief thing he remembered afterwards was that she was the one who dropped the crystal dish of sugared almonds while she was passing it round. It missed the thick Turkish carpet and shattered on the shiny marble floor, scattering sweets and splinters of glass over quite a wide area, and she ran out of the room and wouldn’t come back.
Lamisse was a pleasant surprise. She and her family all wore scarves, but she looked into his face and smiled as she served the coffee. Then she sat down by his mother and chatted politely to her, her hands folded in her lap and her ankles demurely crossed, but her eyes sparkling and her face animated. Nury was startled by her voice, which seemed to have a lot of Sarah’s cadences, and he began to concentrate on listening to her. Afterwards, under pressure from his mother, he admitted that she was the most attractive girl so far, and his mother, with a somewhat simplistic view of life and marriage, prepared to set the wheels of the great marriage-making machine in motion.
Before any more steps could be taken, that is, before his mother had phoned Lamisse’ mother and formally asked for her hand (she was not a person who could imagine anyone refusing), an aunt of Nury’s rang in great excitement. She wanted to tell them of the most wonderful girl – skin as white as milk and eyes as blue as blue. His more practical mother enquired if she was a well-behaved girl from a good family. By this she meant, as Nury already knew, that they were from the right social group, with no cases known of madness, alcoholism or congenital illness. His aunt was most emphatic:
“Of course. Would I want anything but the best for my own brother’s son? She’s from the Medni family. Don’t you remember, your uncle Ahmed married their Sabina? Well, her brother Khaled is married to this girl’s aunt. And then your uncle’s wife’s sister is married to one of her uncles. Everybody knows them.”
It was difficult for Im Nury (Nury’s mother) to stop the flow of family history, and she ended by agreeing, although reluctantly, to go with her sister-in-law to make an ‘informal’ visit, although she wouldn’t raise the girl’s hopes by taking her son with her. It would be a women’s meeting with the gloves off, where pertinent questions could be politely asked and answered, or discreetly sidetracked. They would cover important ground about her education, whether she wore a scarf and prayed, whether she went out in the evening other than with her family, where she got her blue eyes from, and all the general background of who had married whom between the two families and their connections, together with their addresses, jobs and children.
Nury might have been more interested in the discussions before his mother went to see this new girl – Rula, her name was – but the winter had arrived with fierce rainstorms and he was very busy at work. There was a sudden demand for cough mixtures and medicines for colds and flu, which he had to restock hurriedly, while the diarrhoea medicines, in demand all summer, had to be pushed into one corner of the shelves. Then on the evening of the visit he was out himself, having supper with friends, and when he got home everyone was in bed, so it wasn’t until the next morning that he had the chance to hear all about it.

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