I was on my way to the office after dropping Amy off at school when my cell phone rang. It was Tuti, she was crying and clearly distraught. She was so upset I had difficulty understanding her. I couldn't understand why she was so upset and I couldn't understand her replies to my questions of where she was. "Tuti, do you have the money I gave you?" I asked. "Yes sir," she replied. "Can you get to a taxi?" I asked. "I think so," she replied. "Get into a taxi and get him to take you to my house, if the taxi costs more than you have tell him I will pay the extra when he arrives," I told her. "OK, will you be there when I arrive?" she asked. "I will be there, can you tell me how long it will take for you to get to the house?" I asked. "I don't know maybe an hour," she replied. "Do you have your key to my house?" I asked. "Yes," she said, "But I'm frightened to be alone." "I'll be at my house in less than one hour, you get into a taxi right now, " I told her with some authority.
I spent 15 minutes at the office getting cover for myself before going home and waiting for Tuti. I spent an anxious hour waiting and then a taxi arrived at the gates and Tuti got out. I opened the gates and ran out to meet her. She ran to me and into my arms sobbing uncontrollably. "Baby, don't cry, I'm here now, everything's fine, tell me what's wrong?" I asked.
I got her inside, sat her down and got her a drink. I sat besides her and put my arm around her, she wrapped her arms around me like I was going to escape. She calmed down to just a sob. "Tell me what happened baby." "Mommy took me to this man's house and said he was going to marry me. He was old, and dirty and he smelled. He put me in a room with three other girls who were his other wives whilst my Mom spoke to him. The other girls looked frightened and they told me he makes them work hard all day and beats them all the time and they have horrible food and dirty clothes. Mom took me back to our village and I told her that I didn't want to live with that man. She told me I had to and that I would be marrying him later this week. She told me I had to stay with my aunt until I was married. I begged her not to put me with that man and she told me I was stupid and that no nice men would have a stupid girl and that he was the only man who would have me. I'm frightened, Mr Edward, I don't want to live with that man, I won't know what to do when he tells me and he'll beat me because I'm stupid."
"Tuti, you are NOT stupid, you are a very clever girl, you are pretty and kind and lots of nice men would like to marry you, I would be happy if you were my wife," I told her. "Will you marry me?" she asked. "I'd love to sweetie but I am already married," I said. "I could be your second wife," she suggested in desperation. "Ah . . . it's not that simple sweetie, in my culture we're only allowed one wife, otherwise I would love to have you as my second wife," I said. How do I get myself into these situations I thought. I've got a seven year old who won't stop until I'm in prison and a twelve year old asking me to marry her; the world's gone mad. "Tuti, I promise you I will do everything I can to protect you," I told her kissing her sweet forehead. "You jump into a nice warm bath and get yourself some clean clothes whilst I make some enquiries," I told her.
I telephoned an Indonesian friend who was a lawyer. I told him the circumstance and asked his advice. Of course I didn't tell him I was fucking her. He told me that her parents could do what they liked with her and Tuti had no rights and no say in the matter. He suggested that it was probable that the man was paying the mother some money for her to use her as cheap labour, effectively he was buying a slave. It was quite common practice especially if the child was disabled or mentally handicapped. He suggested that the only way to stop it was to bribe the mother. It wasn't much later when the phone rang. It was Suja, Tuti's mother. Her sister had telephoned her at her place of employment and told he that Tuti had run away. She was looking for her. I told her nothing but asked if I could come and speak to her. Her employer was out so she agreed.
Tuti was still in the bath. She looked so lovely soaking in the tub, her soft sallow skin covered in bubbles, her pert little titties looked like they were floating. "Tuti, I'm just going out for a little while, I'll lock all the doors, don't let anybody in," I told her not daring to tell her I was going to see her mother who was looking for her. "No, don't leave me I'm frightened," she begged. "Baby, I'm going to see someone about how to help us, you stay here and you'll be safe," I told her. I went to see Suja, I told her that Tuti was with me, how frightened she was and how upset I was as things were going so well with her job at school and her being my maid. Suja wasn't happy at having her authority challenged. She was angry at Tuti disobeying her and angry at me harbouring her. She argued that she was Tuti's mother and knew what was best for her. Because Tuti was mentally handicapped she would never get a good husband and as her mother she had to get the best she could for her. I argued that she could stay with me and work at the school. She wouldn't have it and I suspected it was because this man was paying her and she had the smell of foreign currency under her nose.
"Suja, my only concern is what is best for Tuti and I think she would have a better future as my maid, if you agree to let her stay with me I would be happy to give you say, US$100, to help you with your family," I told her. "Thank you Mr Edward, but I think she'll be better marrying Mr Tanatu," she replied. "How about US$200?" I offered. She paused for thought. "That's very kind of you but Mr Tanatu also gives her marriage," she said. "How about US$250?" I suggested. She paused for thought again. "I only want the best for Tuti," she said, "How about US$250 and you marry her," she suggested? "Suja, I'm already married, you know that." I replied. "Yes, but this is a Muslim country and you can have more than one wife," she countered. I was lost for words. I argued a little longer but in the end she wouldn't budge. The most I could get from her was 24 hours to think about it.
I thought about it on the drive back. Marrying a second wife was ridiculous and marrying a twelve year old was doubly ridiculous. I got back to the house to find Tuti wearing my robe and curled up on the sofa fast asleep. She looked so peaceful.
I called my lawyer friend back and told him the story. He was totally unfazed by the idea. His attitude was marry her and divorce her. Divorce was just a matter of saying, "I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you," three times. Marrying her was similarly just a matter of signing a piece of paper in front of the mullah. It is a different culture and different religion. Marriage didn't give the woman anything it just made sex with children lawful in the eyes of God. It wasn't uncommon for them to get married for eight months or a year and if the wife hadn't become pregnant in that period the contract ended and that was that. In fact it was possible to get married for 24 hours! A Muslim marriage was an entirely different type of commitment. The commitment seemed to be that the husband was supposed to provide food and shelter for the wife and the wife was supposed to do everything and anything the husband told her to do.
I was starting to rationalise what was a ludicrous idea. It's amazing how in a different setting, a different culture, and ludicrous idea can start to make sense. In the back of my head was a little man saying don't do it; you'll be sorry. I'd start to entertain the idea of taking her back to her mother and then I'd get a picture in my head of her crying and her mother dragging her away and this man beating her.
I looked at her curled up on the sofa. Why was she wearing my robe? She was obviously trying to cling onto something that smelt like security. Her little feet were up against my thigh. I tenderly held her feet, her soft, tiny feet and little girl toes. She started to wake and seeing me she reached up and wrapped herself around me, gripping my arm so hard it hurt. "Tuti, I have spoke to your mother about how we can help you," I said. She turned her face to, a look of expectation, anticipation and fear in her big black eyes still red and puffy from all the crying she'd done. I constantly had to remind myself that, in her head she was still a eight year old little girl. "I offered your mother some money to let you stay with me, she accepted but only on condition that I marry you," I told her. "Oh, please, please Mr Edward, I'll be so good to you, please let me stay, I'll clean your house and wash your clothes, I'll be so quiet, please let me stay," she begged. I cupped her little cheek in my hand and stroked her face. "Sweetie, I want you to stay here with me but in my culture marriage is different and someday I will leave this country and I can't take you with me," I told her. She started to cry, sobbing uncontrollably. I begged her not to cry but she was inconsolable.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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