Marriage Of Convenience

By: Cher Etan

Leila opened her mouth to return the greeting but it just opened and closed like she was a baby bird waiting for its mother to put a worm down its throat. Before she knew it, she had collapsed against Sheila, her whole body shaking with repressed sobs; all the time aware her mother was just down the hall. And she slept very lightly.

“Oh, baby,” Sheila said patting her on the back and sides and anywhere else she could reach. “Shhh….shhh,” she said even though Leila wasn’t technically making a sound.

Leila raised her head to stare desperately at Sheila. “It's bad,” she whispered. “It's really bad.”

Sheila stared commiseratingly at her but didn’t say a word. What was there to say after all? She just rubbed Leila’s arms and led her back into the house, closing the door behind her.

“Let’s get you in the bath,” she murmured leading Leila to her room. “Have you eaten? How about I make you a nice chicken salad?” she continued to murmur nonsense words at Leila who was clearly not paying attention anyway. She got her undressed, as she ran the bath with fragrant bath salts. Once the water was nice and hot and nearly overflowing, she led Leila into the bath and sat her down, lighting some scented candles and handing her a book.

“Now just relax and catch up on your reading. I’ll be in the kitchen making you some delish food okay?” she said soothingly as she left.

Leila lay back, reading the book cover she’d been handed; “Between Death and Heaven”, it said. Leila grimaced…not exactly what she wanted to think about right now. She opened it anyway, to see how bad it was. It began with a sex scene so maybe not as maudlin as she’d thought. She lay back in the bubbles, uncaring if her hair got wet, and lost herself in the story.


The chicken salad was great, but the company was better. She tried to make Sheila go home but she wouldn’t hear of it.

“My first class is at like…eleven o’ clock. I got plenty of time to get home and get to class.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to. Really.”

“Really. I know,” Sheila said with a smile, picking up Leila’s phone casually.

“Oh no you don’t! I just finished redoing my audio profile so the ringtone goes back to “Keep their heads ringing’ so you are not going to fuck that up with your fucking Shaynaynay nonsense,” Leila said snatching it back.

“Shaynaynay rocks,” Sheila protested.

“Weren’t you like two in the nineties? There’s no way you even remember the original Martin,” Leila said.

“Hey, first of all, I wasn’t two, second of all, I was a precocious child,” Sheila said.

Leila laughed which is what Sheila wanted. They watched a few episodes of the sitcom which Leila had on DVD anyway, laughing at Shaynaynay and Martin’s shenanigans before going to bed. Leila woke up almost every hour to check on her mother so by morning she was still exhausted.

“Maybe you should skip work today,” Sheila proposed bringing her coffee.

“Are you kidding me? We have this huge charity event and guess who’s the chief organizer. There is no way in hell I can miss another day of work without serious repercussions.”

“You know what your problem is Leila?” Sheila said handing her some toast.

“I’m sure you’ll tell me,” Leila’s answer was wry.

“You’re too conscientious,” Sheila said.

“Oh dear, I knew it was something serious like that. What is a girl to do about it?”

“Slack off a little bit.”

“I’ll take it under advisement.”

“There you go with the lawyer speak. You know I’m an Art Major right?”

“I know you pretend not to understand a lot of things,” Leila countered.

Sheila laughed, “Touché.”


Leila arrived at the offices of Venture-GRAD, a non-profit that gave scholarships to high school and college students as well as provided support and encouragement to ensure that as many students as possible finished college. She went straight to the conference room where she was scheduled to meet with vendors who were to participate in the charity event she was organizing. She had three days to pull everything together while worried sick about her mother, but luckily, most of the work was done.

Her assistant came hurrying toward her as she approached the conference room.

“Leila, how are you? How is your mother?”

“She’s ill Martha, do we have the RSVP’s all in?” she asked briskly, not wanting the lump to return to her throat.

“All except ten invitees have confirmed attendance. I’ll be calling up those ten today and making a final push.”

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