Nury was nearly thirty years old, five foot eight in his socks, with wavy
brown hair and a good-tempered face. He was quiet, but pleasant and often
amusing company so he had had no difficulty picking up the threads of schoolboy friendships since his return four years ago from studying in England. His life revolved, quietly but very comfortably, round his own small pharmacy, his parent's home and those of his relations, and the coffee houses where he met his friends to drink coffee, gossip and play backgammon.
The only changes which the last year had made to his routine had come about because one after another of his friends had abandoned the male stronghold of the coffee house and got married, whereupon they had taken to spending their evenings at home. His mother was also beginning to eye him speculatively, and he knew she was looking out for a suitable girl for him to marry. As for himself, he could appreciate the advantages of having a wife to come home to, but his imagination refused to make the leap from the general idea to any particular girl. There were plenty of pretty girls about, but none of them had yet triggered in him the rainbow-in-the-sky-accompanied-by-heavenly-voices reaction, which he secretly believed would herald the arrival of True Love.
He did not dare to discuss his feelings with anybody for fear of being laughed at, so in the end he did not positively object when, over lunch one day, his mother announced it was time he got married. He looked at his father to see his reaction, but Abu Nury, who had a forkful of food half way to his mouth, continued to eat, carefully chewing, swallowing and finishing with a sip of water before acknowledging the idea with a non-committal 'Humph'. His two unmarried sisters were watching him with interest, and he knew that as soon as lunch was over they would be telephoning his married sister to spread the news and to start discussing potential candidates for the job.